Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Science, Political Ignorance, and Deference to “Authoritative” Experts"

A great post:
"Scientific truth cannot be established by the endorsement of an authoritative body such as the NAS or the CDC. And if people start to take the pronouncements of such expert bodies as gospel, there is an obvious potential for abuse."
We're about a hundred years into the "abuse" part. Hopefully it's not too late to fix the problem.
"Given the near-inevitability of deference to experts, can we avoid the pitfalls Friedman rightly emphasizes? There’s no perfect solution. But some rules of thumb can help. First, deference to expertise is more warranted in cases where there is an expert consensus that crosses ideological lines. Like the rest of us, experts are prone to ideological bias. Thus, if experts of differing ideologies converge on the same conclusion, that’s a sign that the resulting opinion is really driven by expertise rather than bias. It doesn’t prove that the experts are right, of course, but it does justify a stronger presumption in their favor. When, on the other hand, experts do split along ideological lines, that suggests the issue is more disputable, and that bias may be influencing their judgment. It doesn’t mean that the experts are wrong or that their expertise is useless. Their views are still probably worth listening to more than those of laypeople. But it does mean that we should be more cautious about concluding that an expert pronouncement must be correct simply because the person or the institution making it has impressive credentials."
Read the whole thing.