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The second because the specific study cited wasn’t the one that failed to replicate and Harford’s thesis might be that it was different enough from the original that it’s probably true.

And the third because the documentaries were just one idea meant to serve a broader goal of increasing “scientific curiosity”, a construct which has been shown in studies to be helpful in getting people to believe true things.

And in this wider context, part of me wonders if the focus on transmission is part of the problem.

Everyone from statisticians to Brexiteers knows that they are right.

He thinks maybe we can inspire scientific curiosity by linking scientific truths to human interest stories, by weaving compelling narratives, and by finding “a Carl Sagan or David Attenborough of social science”.

I think this is generally a good article and makes important points, but there are three issues I want to highlight as possibly pointing to a deeper pattern.

It’s a desire to take a degenerate case, the rare situation where one side is obviously right and the other bizarrely wrong, and make it into the flagship example for modeling all human disagreement.

Imagine a theory of jurisprudence designed only to smack down sovereign citizens, or a government pro-innovation policy based entirely on warning inventors against perpetual motion machines.

And I don’t want to condemn this too hard, because it’s obviously true up to a point.The National Institute of Health can make an engaging human interest documentary about a smoker who got lung cancer.And the tobacco companies can make an engaging human interest documentary about a guy who got cancer because of asbestos, then was saved by tobacco-sponsored research.His key example is tobacco companies sowing doubt about the negative health effects of smoking – for example, he talks about tobacco companies sponsoring (accurate) research into all of the non-smoking-related causes of disease so that everyone focused on those instead.But his solution – telling engaging stories, adding a human interest element, enjoyable documentaries in the style of Carl Sagan – seems unusually unsuited to the problem.

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