Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Fighting misinformation – The Debunking Handbook

This isn’t going to be much of a diary. I came across this ‘handbook’ today. I thought some others might find it useful.


Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these “backire effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation.


It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence  of  misinformation  is  a  difficult  and complex challenge.

A common misconception about myths is the notion  that  removing its  inluence  is as simple as packing more information into people’s heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it’s known as  the “information  deicit  model”.  But that model is wrong: people don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

The last thing you want to do when debunking misinformation is blunder in and make matters worse.  So  this  handbook  has  a  speciic  focus – providing practical tips to effectively debunk misinformation  and  avoid  the  various  backire effects. To achieve this, an understanding of the relevant cognitive processes is necessary. We explain some of the interesting psychological research in this area and inish with an example of an effective rebuttal of a common myth.

The handbook comes as a pdf. You can get it here –…

Hunting Galileo: The Right's War on Science (Part I)

While Waxman may have accused Republicans of presiding over the “most anti-science” Congress in history, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tells Mother Jones that his colleague’s characterization doesn’t even go far enough: “This is the most anti-science body since the Catholic Church ostracized Galileo for determining that the earth revolves around the sun.”

Mother Jones, emphasis added

I wish it were possible to collect information about all the wrongdoing of the GOP into one diary, but even a series of books would probably find such an endeavor impossible. Even fully covering a specific topic is, realistically, far beyond the scope of any single diary. In trying to provide an aggregate summary of any currently relevant topic, the best I can give is a brief overview of the most recent and egregious Republican transgressions.

Today we address in brief (kind of) the GOP’s war on science.