Science Fact Distorted: An Economist's Perspective

1997 Nobel Laureate in Economics
Member of the National Academy of Sciences
Professor of finance at the Harvard Business School


There have always been controversies over scientific theories and the empirical studies to support them and especially so when those theories are used to support public policy choices. There has also always been a market for unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and fake information. Today, these two are coming together with enormous speed and widely influencing impact. Such is causing scientific conclusions, which are largely agreed upon within the professional communities surrounding them to be declared false. These declarations come from political leaders, firms, advocacy groups, but also from unidentified sources operating through the internet without review.

Observations are offered on the process and impact of distorting scientific facts to influence individual behavior and public policy decisions through three questions:

1. How are science facts distorted?

2. Why are science facts distorted?

3. What are the unintended social consequences of the distortion of science facts?

A series of examples taken from finance and economics are used, although the principles illustrated are universally applicable.

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