I read an interesting letter recently, using the “climate change” debate to affirm a pro-expert position, postulating that a scientific “expert” in some discipline is better positioned to make a more intelligent and useful argument concerning their area of “expertise” than a “normal” person. That sounds like unassailable advice — were it not for three things.
1. Science changes. Advancements in knowledge are continual, and not all experts are on the same page at the same time. Concerning climate change, much of the information we hear from “experts” is based on computer models, which are no better then the information fed into them. Faulty or incomplete basic info (and who knows everything to start?) results in skewed results, not necessarily correct.
2. Agenda: Humans can digest knowledge and assimilate information according to basic prejudices. For example, an economic expert, with emotional concerns about, say, economic “justice,” might express their “expertise” in a way favorable to Marxism, in spite of the tedious chronicle of successive failures that system has imposed across the spectrum of human history.
3. Honesty. Unfortunately, “expertise” can be bought and paid for. Often, grant applicants or foundations might find it expeditious to favor the aims and goals of their moneyed benefactors, presenting and/or withholding their “expertise” to color an “expert opinion.” This would include supporting partisan political goals — perhaps, for example, using climate change to influence broad resource redistribution. It may not be the science we’re hearing, but the agendized scientist.
In the end, healthy skepticism always seems to be the best philosophical basis for making determinations — that and trusting your gut.
Richard La Motte