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Why experts need to be challenged:


In Everyone, Even Jenny McCarthy, Has the Right to Challenge “Scientific Experts,” science writer John Horgan challenges colleague Chris “war on science” Mooney:

I had a similar reaction when I spotted the headline of a recent essay by journalist Chris Mooney: “This Is Why You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts.”

Similar, that is, to his reaction to a naive student. He goes on,

But the history of science suggests—and my own 32 years of experience reporting confirms—that even the most accomplished scientists at the most prestigious institutions often make claims that turn out to be erroneous or exaggerated.

Scientists succumb to groupthink, political pressures and other pitfalls. More than a half century ago, Freudian psychoanalysis was a dominant theory of and therapy for mental disorders. The new consensus is that mental illnesses are chemical disorders that need to be chemically treated.

This paradigm shift says more about the financial clout of the pharmaceutical industry–and its control over the conduct and publishing of clinical trials–than it does about the actual merits of antidepressants and other drugs. That’s why I was so stunned when that Columbia student said peer-reviewed “facts” could speak for themselves.

Actually, two other things worth noting here:

The best way to turn a gifted scientist into a fatuous ass would be to insist that non-experts mustn’t challenge him. For one thing, who is and isn’t an expert is not always clearcut. People without formal training may in fact be experts because of years of experience. CF Sissy Jupe:

‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl?’

‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.

… Let me see. What is your father?’

‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’

Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.

‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, does he?’

‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.’

‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’

‘Oh yes, sir.’

Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.’

(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)

‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’ …

‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’

‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’

She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennae of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.

See also: The depressing facts about “biologizing” psychiatry

America was founded on taking on experts. As Churchill said BRING IN MORE EXPERTS. When he thought they were wrong. They are not experts but human beings who can be wrong and bettered by other human beings. If its science experts then these experts easily should prove their points by showing the science.Robert Byers
March 22, 2015
09:43 PM
There is nothing wrong with challenging the experts. But when the challenge is made with false information, the consequences can be dangerous. Jenny McCarthy's false claims have resulted in a return of several diseases the were previously eradicated in North America.not_querius
March 22, 2015
08:39 AM

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