“Science is most ill-served by its ostensible friends who declaim its authority the loudest.”

"One can fully grant the existence and usefulness of experts and expertise, yet also recognize from whence skepticism can derive. The problem is this: while credentialing experts solves one 'cheap talk' problem, it creates another, less recognized cheap talk problem. It’s the latter from whence skepticism derives." - Law & Liberty

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dcbii's picture


This was a very good article, well worth the time to read.

Here's another good quote from this article that highlights what many of us face expressing opinions these days, e.g. with coronavirus policies:

"The public often senses something isn’t exactly right, but with the simplistic dualism of “expert or nonexpert,” the public often has difficulty articulating their skepticism without seeming to be attacking the idea of expertise itself. This invites the response that skeptics are “anti-science” when they are in fact responding to the possibility of overreach of experts as a group."

Here is another [bold emphasis mine]:

"Much of the American public’s current skepticism towards expert opinion does not derive from their belief that these experts are not truly experts. Rather it derives from the belief that experts are abusing the deference their expertise is due. The skepticism derives because of the suspicion that experts are trussing up fully debatable value judgments as authoritative expert opinions.

Experts exist, and expert opinion merits due deference. But expert overreach—either on their own account, or as a result of allowing the media to paint expert insights in bolder colors than the science actually merits—carries with it its own cost. To be sure, there may be a portion of the American public who resist any recognition of expertise. But experts also must recognize that their own actions, and that of their ostensible friends, has itself invited much of the skepticism now being manifested by the American public toward expert opinion.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture


Yes, I appreciated the evenness of it. There is a very similar message in Nichols' The Death of Expertise if one gets far enough into it. I'm on the last couple of chapters now, and he has a lot to say about how experts have contributed to the problem.

But he does emphasize, and I think he's right, that we won't achieve a better balance until the masses (not his term) stop cherry picking experts to indulge confirmation bias... among other things. In my view, the root problem is politicization of everything. There used to be more apparent effort in media, etc., to at least appear to be nonbiased... and there used to be more openly and intentionally nonpartisan efforts to solve problems.

Along with unbridled confirmation bias and out of control politicization, there's the cultural phenomenon of despising egg heads, a tradition of proud ignorance and simple mindedness. So a big part of the cure, if one can be achieved, is a cultural shift back toward curiosity and love of learning vs. love of "winning" fights.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.