This article was posted by CrystalWind.ca.
When To Disagree With Apparent Experts
Category: Shifting Perspectives Written by Nimue Brown
My default position is to listen to and respect experts. I’m interested in substantiated theories, evidence, lived experience and other variations on a theme of people knowing what they are talking about. I am deeply uneasy at this ongoing thing in British politics and media of treating experts as intrinsically suspect, and treating uninformed opinion as being as valuable as expertise.
People pretending to be experts are amongst us. Check out their qualifications, and if you aren’t sure what those mean, a quick internet search will tell you if that’s even pertinent to the subject matter. Some experts do make the mistake of talking outside of their areas of knowledge and that can be problematic. Being an expert doesn’t make you good or kind, and a person can have a lot of qualifications and still have awful ideas. Jordan Peterson has qualifications.
Challenge experts when they haven’t given you enough information or been clear enough. Being an expert doesn’t automatically make a person a great communicator, so flagging up what needs a better explanation can be a very good idea. They should be able to direct you towards their evidence.
Check out their funding, if you can. You aren’t going to get objective facts on climate science from someone hired by the fossil fuels industry unless they’re turned whistleblower. One of the things to be alert to is speakers who come from Think Tanks – these often have impressive sounding names, but think tanks are often fronts for big business and people with obscene amounts of money. They often don’t represent the people they claim to. When people from think tanks make it into the media you don’t tend to get much information to frame what their think tank is really about, and all you have is the persuasive and impressive title to go on.
Lobby groups and pressure groups can sound like a source of expertise, but these can also be misleading. For example, The Tax Payers Alliance in the UK purports to be a grassroots movement representing the concerns of ordinary people. Its funding isn’t clear, and it campaigns for low taxation – which usually benefits the rich and corporations to the detriment of ordinary people. LGB Alliance claims to represent lesbian, gay and bisexual people but in a recent court case was obliged to admit it has a 7% lesbian membership having previously implied that it was a mostly lesbian organisation.
People can be experts in the theory of things and have no lived experience of it. This is a major issue for neurodivergent folk and for people living long term with illness and disability. It can often be the case that your lived experience is deeper than their ‘did a module at university’ experience. People who have looked at things from the outside should not be talking over people who actually have to live with the thing.
We cannot trust mainstream media to put experts into a context. When 99% of scientists agree on something, and we get to hear from one of them alongside one of the 1% who disagree, we’re being shown a really misleading picture. We can’t trust the people who tell us they are experts to be as good as they say they are, and we also can’t afford to trust the people who undermine the work of genuine experts. This is exhausting and demoralising at the best of times. It isn’t easy to navigate through all of this, although the simplest indicator I’ve found so far is that genuine experts tend to be cautious and tend not to speak in absolutes. Genuine experts point to their evidence rather than asserting that it exists.
About Nimue Brownp; Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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