Ep.51 David Robert Grimes: COVID-19, vaccines & conspiracy theories
David is a physicist, cancer researcher, and science writer. His work encompasses everything from how tumours use oxygen to why conspiracies tend to fail. He has a strong focus on public understanding of science and medicine, contributing to BBC, RTE, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Irish Times, and PBS and he was the recipient of the 2014 Maddox prize.
In this episode we cover:
- David's background and achievements
- How David made the transition from physics to cancer research
- What spurred David to learn more about science communication and disinformation?
- What are the different types of false information and what negative effects can they have?
- Why does disinformation spread so quickly and why do people hold onto such ideas so strongly?
- How does disinformation or conspiracy theories play on human emotions?
- The general population's lack of ability to "research" anything online (hint, it doesn't involve a google search)
- What are the character traits of people who actively spread conspiracy theories online?
- How many individuals buy into conspiracy theories out of fear
- The risk of blindly following the ideas of individuals just because of their position or reputation
- The damage the anti-vax movement has done to public health and the spread of previously declining diseases
- The inability of the public to determine the risk of catching a disease in relation to the risk of vaccinating against it.
- The risk of asymptomatically spreading disease to someone who may suffer serious consequences
- How can we help people to identify disinformation on a society-wide level?
- What is information hygiene?
- Some tips form David on how to identify a health-related conspiracy theory
- The importance of empathy, skepticism and admitting the limits of our own knowledge when speaking to people about their beliefs
- The limits of what social media companies will do to stem the spread of disinformation.
- David's book, The Irrational Ape