Trusted Sources of Information
October 1, 2021
Who do you want operating on your liver? A surgeon or a politician? Who do you want flying your airplane? A pilot or a politician?
Who do you want guiding you through a climate crisis? A climate scientist or a politician? Who do you want guiding you through a pandemic? A public health expert or a politician?
There have been two very contradictory trends in our society that have been thriving in recent years.
On the one hand, we have attained extraordinary faith in science.
How many of us walk into an elevator in a panic that maybe there are faults in the science on which elevator technology is based? Not many of us. We just get in the elevator and go to our floor.
How many of us get on our phone and wonder whether we’re really talking to the person on the other end?
At the same time that we have developed an extreme trust in science, many of us have somehow also decided to stop believing in science and instead to put our faith in people who gain political and financial power by denying scientific consensus.
I’m not saying modern science is always right. The story of science is one where each new crop of scientists proves the previous crop wrong in so many ways. The quest for scientific truth often sends people down dead ends and leads to false conclusions.
But people still need to look critically at their sources of information. If the scientists, who in general could be making a lot more money in other careers, have come to a consensus on a particular topic, then that consensus should at least be heard.
When politicians and commentators dispute scientific consensus, one should also hear that dispute. But I am asking you to ask two questions:
What are the qualifications of that politician or commentator? Does that person really understand that scientific topic better than those who have dedicated their lives to that scientific discipline and those who have risen to the top in that scientific field?
What are the motivations of that politician or commentator? Is that person speaking truth or trying to score points?
History has plenty of evidence of supposed experts getting things wrong. But history also has ample evidence of people getting things wrong because they are proclaiming knowledge of something about which they are ignorant.