I hate to break it to you, gentle reader, but fake facts are nothing new. We are designed by evolution to invent fake facts, fervently believe in them, and even defend them to the death. Still, there is something about the current epidemic of fake facts that should scare us into action.

Imagine grading everything you ever said according to two criteria: 1) How well it corresponds to what’s actually out there, and 2) what it causes you and others to do. These can be called factual realism and practical realism, respectively, and they are so familiar that we use the word “realistic” in both senses without needing to think about it. If we’re at an art gallery and I comment on how a portrait is realistic, I mean that it corresponds closely to the person being depicted (factual realism). When you outline your latest get rich quick scheme over lunch and I call it unrealistic, I mean that it probably won’t work out well for you (practical realism). All of us are experts at toggling between factual realism mode and practical realism mode as warranted by the situation.

Read the essay at the source : The Evolution Institute.

3 thoughts on “Facts

  1. I would say that more than creators of fake-facts, we create stories. It is stories that move us. The idea of a god without a story is nothing. We invent stories and stories affect our behavior. This is what I understand from the article. But we don’t have to believe the story is true to be affected, like with a play or a movie whose message is deep and moving, But I am wondering about evolution’s contribution here: language and story telling first and its effect as a byproduct? The inclusion of God in the courts is certainly a way to force truth telling, but the “invention” of a deity might not have had anything to do with a deliberate intention to cause specific effects on people.


  2. Stories are important! I agree, Laura. In fact your comment led me to do a search on this Blog and, as expected, I found many posts on story. One that intrigued me is this one by the Reverend doctor Lex Crane, another of Bob’s friends. Curious to know how you respond to it!


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