CIRCE aims to advance the science of mental immunity and develop humanity's resistance to epidemics of unreason.
Propaganda and disinformation, divisive ideologies and political extremism: these things account for a sizable portion of human misery. But how do we keep these "mind parasites" from proliferating? Cognitive immunology points the way: we can study mental immune systems, work out how to strengthen them, and together inoculate willing minds. CIRCE works to impart herd immunity to cognitive contagion.
CIRCE is the brainchild of philosopher Andy Norman. Early in his career, Andy became interested in how people use reasons to test and refine their beliefs. That interest developed into a lifelong quest to understand how bad ideas take root in human minds. Combining philosophy and cognitive science, Andy began to see bad ideas as mind-parasites which literally infect minds, just as viruses and bacteria infect bodies. CIRCE was founded with the goal of promoting a better understanding of mental immunity and the application of cognitive immunology to our most persistent and pernicious social problems.
The following people have contributed meaningfully to the work of cognitive immunology and serve CIRCE as collaborators, advisers, and fellow workers in the fight against polarization and misinformation.
Public philosopher Lee McIntyre, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He is the author of Post-Truth and How to Talk to a Science Denier.
Novelist and philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Ph.D., was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. The citation reads "for bringing philosophy into conversation with culture. In scholarship, Dr. Goldstein has elucidated the ideas of Spinoza and Gödel, while in fiction, she deploys wit and drama to help us understand the great human conflict between thought and feeling."
Michael Shermer, Ph.D., is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the podcast The Michael Shermer Show, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain. Follow him on Twitter @michaelshermer.
Maarten Boudry is a philosopher of science and current holder of the Etienne Vermeersch Chair of Critical Thinking at Ghent University. His most recent book is Science Unlimited? On the Challenges of Scientism, co-edited with Massimo Pigliucci. He published more than 40 papers in academic journals, and several popular books in Dutch on critical thinking, illusions, and moral progress. His academic research deals with cultural evolution, irrational belief systems, atheism, and naturalism, evolutionary epistemology, reasoning fallacies, and conspiracy theories.
Steije Hofhuis is cultural historian at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, who became intrigued by the idea of “mind parasites”. In his own research he examines European witch persecutions as an example of a virus-like cultural phenomenon that spread at the expense of its human hosts.
David R. Samson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. His research focuses on the link between sleep, health, and cognition in human and non-human primates.
Joe Velikovsky, Ph.D., is a writer, filmmaker, and information scientist. His doctoral research centered on Movies, Story, Screenwriting, Culture, Transmedia, & Bio-Cultural Evolution. He applies evolutionary principles to understand culture.
Cognitive immunology as a field and CIRCE as an organization both owe a great deal to the thinkers, researchers, and writers who have been doing the work of inquiry all along. Here are some of the key figures who have provided invaluable guideposts for the work of CI.
Note: Of especial importance is Oreskes' Merchants of Doubt, a brilliant expose of how powerful interests have “hacked” our culture’s immune response to the threat of climate change through weaponized doubt.
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