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Quotes to ponder: Steve Fuller and the cult of the expert

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From Steve Fuller, who has studied the intelligent design controversy, “Brexit as the unlikely leading edge of the anti-expert revolution,” European Management Journal:

At this point, we confront one of the big canards perpetrated by defenders of expertise, namely that anti-experts are anti-intellectuals who privilege ignorance over knowledge and would treat all opinions as equally valid. All that this exercise in misdirection does is to cover up the reverse tendency, namely that our trust in experts in modern democracies has led to a moral dumbing down of the population, as people are encouraged to let authorised others – starting perhaps with the general medical practitioner – decide for them what to believe, even when the consequences of those decisions directly affect people’s lives and sense of self. In effect, modern democracy presents a paradox. At the same time, we enfranchise more of humanity into the political system, and indeed provide people with the education needed to function in that system; we are also discouraging them from exercising their judgement, given the increasing normative weight invested in expertise.
The result is that we are breeding a culture of intellectual deference, a ‘soft authoritarianism’, if you will, whereby education ends up functioning in a counter-Enlightenment manner. Instead of individuals learning how to expand their powers over themselves and the wider world, they are being taught simply to discover and respect the limits of those powers.More.

In North America, it’s just not working very well. Yet, instead of hearing from people who want to find out honestly why it isn’t working, we keep hearing from researchers with gimcrack methods for getting us all to believe information when we distrust the source, often with good reason.

What the experts really need right now is a less survival-oriented human population.

See also: Steve Fuller: Brexit, the repudiation of experts and intelligent desire

Quotes to ponder: Education does not determine acceptance of science consensus

and

Prof claims to know how to slam dunk creationists

28 Replies to “Quotes to ponder: Steve Fuller and the cult of the expert

  1. 1
    rvb8 says:

    This is starting to sound like the ‘snow flake’ left, who desperately want you ‘woke’, so that you can be as clear sighted as they.The ‘snowflakes’ here, attacked by facts and reality at every turn, are NEWS and co, the ‘woke’ are ID supporters??

    Anti-intellectualism has a long history in the west. We have people demanding second and third opinions concerning babies that are clearly brain dead, and demanding the impossible. Rather than accepting the neuro-surgeon’s diagnosis that the child is bereft of humanity,they demand a miracle cure. That is to be expected I suppose, from those who actually think the reversal of natural law, or nature, (a miracle by definition), is possible.

    I question scientists, but I also listen to them. But, just as I accept my auto-electrician’s diagnosis concerning my Triumph TR3, I also accept my doctors verdict, that I actually have a hangover, not a tumor.

    Tell me! What is your solution to us who face an ocean of crap science? Believe the quacks. When I see, PHd from Harvard, Oxford etc, in Evolutionary Biology, or, Climate Science, I generally believe there opinions to bemore reliable than those of a, ‘concerned mom’, or graduate of Bob Jones University.

    If achievement in academia means nothing to you, visit an astrologer, or better still, read Klinghoffer at evolutionnews, to get, “the facts”.

  2. 2
    rvb8 says:

    D_f_O,

    don’t know the quote, but I do know ID supporters.

    Let me make an educated guess; the quote is out of context; Feynman was actually supporting science rigour, but using an anecdote; you left out large sections of quote; you can’t really remember where you heard this quote??

    After years of reading creationists dishonestly using Darwin quotes, and misleading people with barely concealed missquotes, I’m not putting much faith (‘faith’ Heh:), in your quotes.

    And to your post @2,

    All I can say is, “increasing in ignorance”, does not actually become anyone.

    But who knows, some areas of human activity actually encourage ignorance. If these areas of human activity did not ‘increase ignorance’, their patently absurd ideas about reality would be exposed.

    Now, what area of human activity could possibly encourage ignorance? You have one guess. Heh:)

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    D_f_O,

    but the thing is, the answer that sprang to your mind, and the answer that springs instantly to everyone’s mind is, ‘religion’.

    The reason for this is because the religious understand that they actually have no physical evidence for anything, and therefore know naturally, that their belifs are based on faith; which is fine.

    It just means when the above question is asked, they, atheists, agnostics, and the spiritual all fall to the default answer; ‘religion’. 🙂

    Also, the Feynman quote. Was I right? Were you being disengenuous?

  4. 4
    drc466 says:

    rvb8,

    Now, what area of human activity could possibly encourage ignorance? You have one guess. Heh:)

    That one’s easy – liberal politics. Liberals want conservatives to shut up – conservatives want liberals to keep talking. Evolutionists would be a good second choice – they’re also pretty fanatical about preventing people from hearing any contrary facts and theories.
    And G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and Sir Isaac Newton and the founders of the universities of Europe would be fascinated, I’m sure, by your, um, special insight on how religion encourages ignorance.

  5. 5
    gpuccio says:

    rvb8:

    “Towards the end of his talk to the National Science Teachers Association, Feynman noted from his own experience that science is neither its content nor form. To just copy or imitate the method of the past is indeed to not be doing science. Feynman says we learn from science that you must doubt the experts: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. When someone says ‘science teaches such and such’, he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach it; experience teaches it” (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, p.187).”

    From:

    https://philosophynow.org/issues/114/Richard_Feynmans_Philosophy_of_Science

    But, of course, there is no need to agree with Feynman only because he was an expert! 🙂

  6. 6

    Also, the Feynman quote. Was I right? Were you being disingenuous?

    It is rich irony indeed that this comes from someone whose whole purpose here is to try to insult people with the “anti-science” slur, as he runs screaming from any physical evidence presented to him. The insults are what is important, not evidence. Moreover, he doesn’t even mind people watching him run from evidence on these pages. Again, that’s just evidence of the type of ideologue he is — and evidence has no meaning.

  7. 7
    soundburger says:

    “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” is a terrific quote! It is witty and insightful. It is perfect just as it is, and it is silly of rv to imagine that it has been taken out of context. What is wrong with the quote? It is just saying that science reaches and questions, but in a humorous way.

    That rv would use this eloquent quote as yet another excuse to take cheap shots and make unfounded accusations says a lot. About him.

  8. 8
    ET says:

    rvb8:

    The reason for this is because the religious understand that they actually have no physical evidence for anything, and therefore know naturally, that their belifs are based on faith; which is fine.

    That just described you and yours. Nice own goal.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    rvb8: Now, what area of human activity could possibly encourage ignorance?

    Willful Ignorance: The Mismeasure of Uncertainty

    …the past success of statistics has depended on vast, deliberate simplifications amounting to willful ignorance, and this very success now threatens future advances in medicine, the social sciences, and other fields.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    Even trolls have their uses.

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    Feynman and his sceptical view of past discoveries is true, and useful for science. Perhaps ID can get beyond creationism by listening to him.

    We have relativity, and quantum physics because scientists thought Newton was on to a good thing, but that he did not have the whole story.

    D_f_O @11,

    “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

    Dean, this only tells me one clear fact. One unimpeachable reality. One truth that is glaringly obvious to even the dimmest of readers.

    That fact Dean, is not that there is a God; we can never know or prove this. It does not tell me that there is eternal life, a reward for servility, or a heaven for the chosen: No, Dean this Bible verse only tells me one, true and irrefutable fact!

    This verse Dean, tells me, that even in the days of Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jeremiah, that there were Atheists.

    That’s right! Even as God was burnng in his tedious bush, or scaring people with localised flooding, there were people like me, who said, ‘Big deal.’

    Your Bible verse is not deep, profound, or awe inspiring. It is tedious fear mongering by those in power, wishing to instill fear into their credulous, ningkonpoop, followers.

    Grow a spine, learn to be curious, and trust science. Religion is a very poor substitute.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    The Feynman quote comes from a talk
    Presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, 1966 in New York City, and reprinted from The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6, 1969

    Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish–especially in teaching–the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, “We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that.” You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers.

    We have many studies in teaching, for example, in which people make observations, make lists, do statistics, and so on, but these do not thereby become established science, established knowledge. They are merely an imitative form of science analogous to the South Sea Islanders’ airfields–radio towers, etc., made out of wood. The islanders expect a great airplane to arrive. They even build wooden airplanes of the same shape as they see in the foreigners’ airfields around them, but strangely enough, their wood planes do not fly. The result of this pseudoscientific imitation is to produce experts, which many of you are. [But] you teachers, who are really teaching children at the bottom of the heap, can maybe doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

    When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”

    It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.

    In a field which is so complicated [as education] that true science is not yet able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom, a kind of definite straightforwardness. I am trying to inspire the teacher at the bottom to have some hope and some self-confidence in common sense and natural intelligence. The experts who are leading you may be wrong.

    What Feynman was emphasizing is that science is a process. It exists in the practice not the teaching. He is arguing that we should not rely entirely on the word of experts as, being fallible human beings, they may be wrong. That is unexceptionable but there is a practical problem.

    Suppose you suspect you have colorectal cancer. Do you go to a doctor to find out if you are right? Most people would. But why trust the doctor? He’s just another expert after all. Why don’t you yourself repeat all the medical research – all the experiments – that have led to our current understanding of the disease? That way you wouldn’t be relying on experts. You don’t for one good reason: even if you had the relevant knowledge and facilities, you would probably die of the disease – if you had it – long before you could complete all the research.

    We rely on experts because there are times when we have no choice That doesn’t make them infallible or entitle them to some sort of special status but it would be both foolish and arrogant for me to deny that there are subjects about which some people know a lot more than I do. While I might be fully entitled to tell an oncologist who told me I had colorectal cancer that I didn’t believe a word of it, it would also be remarkably stupid of me to ignore it. Yes, he might be wrong but I wouldn’t want to bet my life on it.

  13. 13
    rvb8 says:

    Oh thank you Seversky.

    So, D_f_O, you were quote mining. You were using the age old creationists ploy of misusing a great man’s statements to the service of a disreputable end. Maligning the character of scientists (that would be >95%), who espouse evolution, and man made climate disaster.

    Big surprise. You know in atheist circles we have a phrase for people such as yourself, giving half truths, and incomplete quotes;

    We say they are, ‘Lying for Jesus’. Please remember lies of omission, are still lies.

  14. 14
    ET says:

    Grow a spine, learn to be curious, and trust science.

    That is too funny coming from someone who doesn’t even know what science entails.

  15. 15
    soundburger says:

    ET (#20), nor does he seem to understand what ‘quote mining’ means. 😉

  16. 16
    rvb8 says:

    To all,

    no, ‘quote mining’ is a tried and tested Christian/Creationist approach to argument.

    Lady Hope was a trail blazer, and now we have Wells, Dembski, you people here, and of course the wonderful Ann Coulter. Apparently Ken Ham is also less than honest; who could have thought it, from one so close to God?

    Any death bed conversions?

    Please try to write shorter posts. No one reads them, and you could succeed in getting any point you have, more sucessfully across. Heh:)

  17. 17
    Granville Sewell says:

    I tend to trust the experts more when they tell me something that isn’t idiotic. Although I tend to distrust experts who use bullying tactics to silence critics, global warming is not an idiotic idea, the alarmists could be right, and I take their warnings somewhat seriously. But when the “experts” tell me that the struggle for survival can produce human brains and human consciousness, that is the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science, no matter how many otherwise intelligent experts believe it.

  18. 18
    Seversky says:

    Granville Sewell @ 23

    I tend to trust the experts more when they tell me something that isn’t idiotic. Although I tend to distrust experts who use bullying tactics to silence critics, global warming is not an idiotic idea, the alarmists could be right, and I take their warnings somewhat seriously.

    For the record, I don’t approve of bullying tactics or trying to suppress dissenting views by the threat of legal action either. That is not how science should proceed

    But when the “experts” tell me that the struggle for survival can produce human brains and human consciousness, that is the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science, no matter how many otherwise intelligent experts believe it.

    Granted that science has thus far been unable to map out a detailed pathway between the observed phenomena of evolution and the human brain and consciousness, do you have a better idea? Any God or Intelligent Designer posited as being capable of creating all this from scratch must be vastly more complex than the human brain we find so incredible. Explaining its origins would be even more difficult by orders of magnitude, assuming you would be curious about it at all.

  19. 19
    Granville Sewell says:

    Seversky@24

    I’m trying to think if there is any other scientific theory where its proponents think, our theory is pretty implausible, but the only other explanation anyone can think of is not really scientific, and even more far-fetched, so let’s require our theory be taught as established fact in all our schools, let’s ban any textbooks which raise questions about our theory, let’s fire any teacher who raises scientific doubts about our theory, if any state passes laws protecting such teachers, we’ll say those laws are promoting the other, unscientific theory.

    How about just being honest and admitting we don’t have any idea how brains and consciousness came about??

  20. 20
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    Granted that science has thus far been unable to map out a detailed pathway between the observed phenomena of evolution and the human brain and consciousness

    No one can map out a detailed pathway between the observed phenomena of evolution and the anatomical and physiological DIFFERENCES observed between two allegedly related species like chimps and humans. And given there is only an alleged 1-2% genetic difference between chimps and humans that is beyond pathetic. It’s as if the transformation didn’t happen!

    Any God or Intelligent Designer posited as being capable of creating all this from scratch must be vastly more complex than the human brain we find so incredible.

    So what?

    Explaining its origins would be even more difficult by orders of magnitude, assuming you would be curious about it at all.

    Again, so what? If you and yours had something then no one would even care about ID. But you and yours don’t have anything but to attack ID with ignorance.

    And that just exposes the vacuity of your position. Nice job

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    > How about just being honest and admitting we don’t have any idea how brains and consciousness came about??

    Wait. You want anti-ID critics to be honest? But that would mean no more anti-ID critics.

  22. 22
    Origenes says:

    Dean_from_Ohio @11

    Thank you for your post. Especially the following part:

    The reason they never conduct self-examination is that there is a moral law that will speak against them if they do, and they know it. Their consciences must never be allowed to speak, lest it say what they know it will say. In addition, they do not allow anyone else’s conscience to speak, lest it have the same effect on those who hear.

    Wanting atheism to be true is evil.

  23. 23
    Granville Sewell says:

    Seversky@24

    It’s obvious that the laws of physics in this universe, clever as they are, are not clever enough to produce human brains or a designer of human brains; but I don’t know anything about the laws outside our universe. And I don’t feel I have to understand who created our designer to recognize design in living things.

    But in any case, I would be delighted if other Darwinists were as honest as Jason Rosenhouse and you are about the real reason Darwinism is widely believed:

    https://evolutionnews.org/2015/09/an_honest_asses/

    i.e, “as far-fetched as our theory on origins is, the only alternative (ID) is even more far-fetched.” But unfortunately, those who write biology textbooks for our young people are not nearly as honest: “problems with Darwinism, what problems?”

  24. 24
    cmow says:

    Origenes @ 29, D_f_O @ 11 et al,
    Leo Tolstoy struggled with the ideas expressed in 29. He wrote the following in his ‘Confessions’ (forgive the lengthy quote):

    I realized that in asking, “What is my life?” and then answering, “An evil,” I was entirely correct. The error lay in the fact that I had taken an answer that applied only to myself and applied it to life in general; I had asked myself what my life was and received the reply: evil and meaningless. And so it was: my life, wasted in the indulgence of lusts, was meaningless and evil, and the assertion that life is meaningless and evil thus applied only to my life and not to life in general.

    I understood the truth that I later found in the Gospel, the truth that people clung to darkness and shunned the light because their deeds were evil. For he who does evil hates the light and will not venture into the light, lest his deeds be revealed. I realized that in order to understand the meaning of life, it is necessary first of all that life not be evil and meaningless, and then one must have the power of reason to understand it. I realized why I had been wandering around such an obvious truth for so long and that in order to think and speak about the life of humankind, one must speak and think about the life of humankind and not about the life of a few parasites. This truth has always been the truth, like 2 x 2 = 4, but I had not acknowledged it, for in acknowledging that 2 X 2 = 4, I would have had to admit that I was not a good man. And it was more important and more pressing for me to feel that I was a good man than to admit that 2 x 2 = 4.

  25. 25
    Origenes says:

    Dean_from_Ohio@ cmow@

    Dean, I must say that I prefer your view on conscience over Budziszewski’s.
    The connection you made between conscience and blindness rings a bell, although it’s still a bit sketchy.
    How often do we see self-referential blindness in the writings of our atheistic brethren? And is it not so that atheism/materialism is in essence self-denial?
    Cmow’s Tolstoy quote #33 also links a bad conscience to blindness, darkness and wilful denial of truth. Exactly what I was thinking about.

    When I wrote “wanting atheism to be true is evil” I was thinking about the famous incomprehensible Thomas Nagel quote:

    I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

    I cannot understand Nagel’s wish. I imagine him sitting at the deathbed of his daughter, not wanting her to go to the light — wanting her to fall apart; hoping that she “really” dies.

    Wanting atheism to be true is evil, and the bad conscience which ensues has a profound blinding effect.

  26. 26
    rvb8 says:

    Origenes @34,

    Nagel’s wish is perfectly comprehensible, and mirrors my own, though he states it more elequently of course.

    I also wish there to be no God for the simple reason that I have no wish to be survile, to anyone, or anything.

    Bowing the knee to kings, emperors, and popes, was humanity’s lot for a considerable period of our history, it generally worked out bad.

    We slowly removed these tyrranies and invented new idols to worship, the ‘strong man’ if you will, to fill the self destructive void of servility, which is so much a part of humanity; we replaced the popes and kings with dictators, and started worshipping Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos.

    Seeing this was largely another self destructive tendency ,we generally let them go and settled on representative democracy, mostly, and with some success. The world, despite some people’s reservations is safer now than in the deep past.

    But that last one, God, still hangs around our necks. We still have a deep craving to kneel, prostrate ourselves, beg forgiveness, flagellate, and generally act as crawling slaves before the one false idol we haven’t yet shaken; God.

    So, I understand perfectly Nagel’s position.

  27. 27
    Origenes says:

    rvb8 @35

    I also wish there to be no God for the simple reason that I have no wish to be survile, to anyone, or anything.

    Do you also not bow to logic, truth and natural law?

    We slowly removed these tyrranies and invented new idols to worship, the ‘strong man’ if you will …

    Yes I know. Darwin, Dawkins … “science”.

  28. 28
    ET says:

    rvb8:

    I also wish there to be no God for the simple reason that I have no wish to be survile, to anyone, or anything

    Free will- look it up.

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