“Mendacity!” Big Daddy repeatedly exclaims in Tennessee Williams's classic drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “Do you know what that is?” he continues in his deep Southern drawl. “It's lies and liars!” Big Daddy was talking about hidden family secrets, but he might just as well have been talking about anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, or other purveyors of public disinformation. The discounting and outright dismissal of facts has become big business of late.

The process of finding and confidently ascertaining facts is central to science. But also outside of science. For example, investigative journalists probe current events, often seeking newsworthy information that certain interests try to hide from public view. Military intelligence experts seek credible testimony and evidence about national security risks. Grand juries hear from witnesses and assess evidence in pursuit of criminal justice. They all rely on the same methods as science – to justify claims...

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