How to Beat Science and Influence People: Policymakers and Propaganda in Epistemic Networks

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1157-1186 (2018)
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In their recent book, Oreskes and Conway describe the ‘tobacco strategy’, which was used by the tobacco industry to influence policymakers regarding the health risks of tobacco products. The strategy involved two parts, consisting of promoting and sharing independent research supporting the industry’s preferred position and funding additional research, but selectively publishing the results. We introduce a model of the tobacco strategy, and use it to argue that both prongs of the strategy can be extremely effective—even when policymakers rationally update on all evidence available to them. As we elaborate, this model helps illustrate the conditions under which the tobacco strategy is particularly successful. In addition, we show how journalists engaged in ‘fair’ reporting can inadvertently mimic the effects of industry on public belief. 1Introduction2Epistemic Network Models3Selective Sharing4Biased Production5Journalists as Unwitting Propagandists6ConclusionAppendix



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Author Profiles

James Weatherall
University of California, Irvine
Justin Bruner
University of Arizona

References found in this work

Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.Heather Douglas - 2009 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
Science, truth, and democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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