Here’s one issue that drives a lot of my research: How should we inquire if we want to reach truth and avoid error? We are sometimes bad at figuring things out—and we don’t even figure that out. Instead, we end up overconfident or dogmatic, unable to listen to other people or learn from new ideas. What’s so interesting is that we are eager and quick to judge others’ defects, but not our own. Wisely assessing our own beliefs and intellectual capacities doesn’t come easily. How can our intellectual self-scrutiny be more serious and rigorous?Madhukar Pai, “Pandemic Or Not, Experts Need To Be Self-Aware And Humble” at Forbes
Ballantyne is known for the concept of “epistemic trespassing,” where a scholar, convinced that his thesis explains the universe, invades other disciplines like the mad bull charging into the literary tearoom:
Ballantyne: Public intellectuals in the limelight make me a little nervous, to be honest. They’ve got impressive jobs and awards. Maybe they advise world leaders and captains of industry or appear on talk shows. But I worry some of them haven’t done serious work in their fields recently or kept on top of the rapidly expanding knowledge. They merely appear to be experts. And then they’re asked to speak on really broad issues—ones that maybe no single person or field can really be said to specialize on—and it seems nearly impossible for them to avoid trespassing, unless they just shrug their shoulders or speak in hedged terms about what might possibly be true. But modest talk doesn’t make for good sound bites or viral tweets.
I often think of this funny sentiment from an eighteenth-century French writer named Nicolas Chamfort: “If you want to avoid being a charlatan, you must flee podiums, for if you get on them, you are forced to be a charlatan or else the audience will stone you.”Madhukar Pai, “Pandemic Or Not, Experts Need To Be Self-Aware And Humble” at Forbes
So you can be a charlatan or get stoned—or be smart and bloom where you’re planted.
See also: Protein chemist Doug Axe nails self-image problem in biology. Did Darwin make it intellectually fulfilling to be an egotist?