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In a time when the Oxford English Dictionary has named “post-truth” as its word of the year (2016), Dr. Gleb Tsipursky avers that we can create a mechanism for differentiating the liars from the truth-tellers, ensuring the veracity of public information.

The Pro-Truth Pledge
An Effective Strategy for Skeptics to Fight Fake News and Post-Truth Politics

by Gleb Tsipursky

How do we get politicians to stop lying? How do we get private citizens to stop sharing fake news on social media? Deception proved such a successful strategy for political causes and individual candidates in the UK and US elections in 2016 that the Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” as its word of the year, with the definition of “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The extensive sharing of fake news by private citizens led Collins Dictionary to choose “fake news” as its word of the year for 2017, meaning “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.”

We are facing a nightmare scenario. For many years now, traditional gatekeepers for ensuring the veracity of public information—news media, civic leaders, authorities on various topics—have been trusted less and less. Social and digital media have only accelerated this trend, exemplifying the potential of technological disruption to undermine our democracy.

Fortunately, if we can create a mechanism that differentiates the liars from the truth-tellers, we have a hope of protecting our democracy. At the same time, tilting the scale toward truth requires addressing the psychological factors that cause people to tolerate untruths. Using research from behavioral science research about what causes people to lie and what motivates them to tell the truth, a number of behavioral scientists (including myself) and concerned citizens have launched the Pro-Truth Pledge at ProTruthPledge.org, which combines our knowledge of behavioral science with crowdsourcing to promote truth-oriented behavior.

The pledge is meant for both public figures and private citizens to sign. So far, thousands of private citizens across the globe and several hundred public figures and organizations signed it, including globally-known public intellectuals such as Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, Peter Singer and Michael Shermer. You might be especially surprised that many dozens of politicians have signed it as well. […]

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Grimoires—Part I
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 142

Episode 142 of MonsterTalk continues its special series on Magic as it examines the history of Grimoires in Western culture. State Department Archivist Jerry Drake, PhD, discusses the history of magic books, magic writing and how it fits into the history of science. This is the first of a two-part interview.

Grimoires—Part II
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 143

Episode 143 of MonsterTalk

MonsterTalk continues its series on Magic with Part II of its coverage of Grimoires. We continue our interview with researcher Jerry Drake, and focus on the view of magic books in various magical traditions of Western Europe.

Get the MonsterTalk Podcast App and enjoy the science show about monsters on your handheld devices! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Subscribe to MonsterTalk for free on iTunes.

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