Should we trust experts to guide us concerning matters in their field?

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We can also evaluate the merits of a scientist. We tend to trust those who have demonstrated that they know what the hell they are doing.In summary, the conversation discusses the credibility of 'climate scientists' and their expertise in the field of climate research. It is suggested that their opinion should be trusted more than someone from a different field, such as food science or botany, when it comes to climate-related matters. However, there is a disagreement on whether this logic should also be applied to other fields, such as astrology and AGW. It is argued that scientists can be biased towards the prevailing theory in their field and that it is important to critically evaluate information and not automatically trust experts. The conversation
  • #1
Al68
Moderator note: discussion split off from https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=361853
xxChrisxx said:
A 'climate scientist' is anyone who primarily studies the climate...I would trust their opinion on something climate realted more than someone who has studied food science or botany.

Just as if I had a food related question, I would go to a food scientist, not an astronomer or someone with a PhD in maths or w/e.
So if you were wondering if astrology were legit, you would ask an astrologist, then? I've been wondering if palm readers can really tell my future, now I know who to ask.
 
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  • #2


Al68 said:
So if you were wondering if astrology were legit, you would ask an astrologist, then?

No, I would ask a scientist, like an physicist or astronomer.
 
  • #3


Al68 said:
So if you were wondering if astrology were legit, you would ask an astrologist, then? I've been wondering if palm readers can really tell my future, now I know who to ask.

Astrology isn't science.
 
  • #4


xxChrisxx said:
Astrology isn't science.
I think you missed my point. Which was that those who work in a given field are biased toward believing the prevailing dominant theory in that field is correct.
 
  • #5


Integral said:
No, I would ask a scientist, like an physicist or astronomer.
Why not apply that same logic to AGW? Ask a scientist that hasn't made a career in the subject field.
 
  • #6


Al68 said:
Why not apply that same logic to AGW? Ask a scientist that hasn't made a career in the subject field.

Are you saying that an astronomer is not a professional concerning questions about stars?
 
  • #7


Integral said:
We need to listen to and be guided by the experts in the field. Unfortunately it seems that may lay persons have come to see the experts in a field as "biased" and therefore not a reliable source of policy. Sad and frighting.
What's frightening is the idea of being "guided by the experts in the field". Those that work in any field are biased toward the prevailing theory in the field, whether it is correct or not.

Sometimes it's not (like astrology).

Being "guided" by experts in a field is only a good idea if you've already determined that the prevailing theory within that field is correct.

Astrology is an extreme and obvious example of why.
 
  • #8


Integral said:
Are you saying that an astronomer is not a professional concerning questions about stars?
No, I'm saying that an astronomer doesn't work in the field of astrology, so would be unbiased.
 
  • #9


Al68 said:
I think you missed my point. Which was that those who work in a given field are biased toward believing the prevailing dominant theory in that field is correct.

Your point is crap. Scientists in a field don't stick to the status quo. Their goal is to make everyone who came before then look like an idiot. If they can prove a new theory they will.

New theories don't come from scientists external to the field, they come from upstarts who have new ideas WITHIN the field. Eventually if the new idea has merit, it displaces the old theory.
An analogy:
You think in the 50's when the steady state model of the universe was widely accepted, all the scientists sat back and said 'our work is done!'.

It's was the tea lady that come in and said 'what about an expanding universe'.

NO. It was other scientists looking at the same area.

The term 'big bang' is acutally meant to mock the expanding hot beginning universe idea. It was Hoyle that came up with it iirc.
 
  • #10


Al68 said:
What's frightening is the idea of being "guided by the experts in the field". Those that work in any field are biased toward the prevailing theory in the field, whether it is correct or not.

Sometimes it's not (like astrology).

Being "guided" by experts in a field is only a good idea if you've already determined that the prevailing theory within that field is correct.

Astrology is an extreme and obvious example of why.

I see, so having knowledge on a subject disqualifies one from guiding others.

So how little do you need to know about something before you should be listened to?
 
  • #11


xxChrisxx said:
Your point is crap. Scientists in a field don't stick to the status quo.
Not always, but sometimes they do.

My point isn't that AGW is right or wrong, it's only that we shouldn't automatically trust members of a given field just because they are in that field.

That's why I used astrology for an example.
 
  • #12


Al68 said:
Not always, but sometimes they do.

My point isn't that AGW is right or wrong, it's only that we shouldn't automatically trust members of a given field just because they are in that field.

That's why I used astrology for an example.

We should never trust anyone outright without checking the facts for yourself. However when you have to ask for someones opinon, you are better asking someone who knows what the hell they are doing.

It's like asking who's advice should you take on designing the foundations for your house.

Do you ask the civil engineer, who has had traning in designing foundations for a house? Or do you go and ask someone who had had no traning in the field of engineering what so ever?
 
  • #13


Integral said:
I see, so having knowledge on a subject disqualifies one from guiding others.
Absolutely not. But it doesn't automatically qualify them to lead people around, either.
 
  • #14


Al68 said:
No, I'm saying that an astronomer doesn't work in the field of astrology, so would be unbiased.

Astrology claims to understand how stars effect our lives, an astronomer studies the stars and their effects. The difference one is using the scientific method the other not. Astronomers ARE the experts, so yes they are biased, they KNOW that astrology is BS based on scientific method not ancient belief.
 
  • #15


xxChrisxx said:
We should never trust anyone outright without checking the facts for yourself. However when you have to ask for someones opinon, you are better asking someone who knows what the hell they are doing.
Well said.
 
  • #16


Integral said:
Astrology claims to understand how stars effect our lives, an astronomer studies the stars and their effects. The difference one is using the scientific method the other not. Astronomers ARE the experts, so yes they are biased, they KNOW that astrology is BS based on scientific method not ancient belief.
I think you're taking my analogy further than it was intended. It was only intended as an example to show that we shouldn't automatically trust those who make a living at a given field.
 
  • #17


I wouldn't trust a bunch of astologists to tell me whether Jupiter was in the house of Venus. Instead, I would take a survey of fortune tellers from many different fields. A palm reader wouldn't necessarily know whose house has who in it. But at least they're in the biz, so their opinion must count for something, right?
 
  • #18


Integral said:
So how little do you need to know about something before you should be listened to?

I think what Al68 is actually trying to get at here is that we should all listen and believe what he thinks about the situations at hand. If for instance you asked your general practitioner about climate change and they told you some crack-pot theory and you came back here and reported to him he would still be hostile towards it, unless it's that crackpot theory that you believe in of course... It's like he's trying to say don't believe in the scientists you believe in, they aren't trustworthy! Believe in mine because I do too!

Anyways as for the original question:
Who cares if AGW is wrong? Will it be considered a bad thing that we took care of our planet for once? Sure some of the scientists whos life work this is may of course be a little off-put, a few may even try to continue to prove that AGW does exist... so what? Scientists are wrong everyday, at every level. I do not think there should be any needed attempt to 'save face' but it will probably end up being a hostile attack on all supporters of AGW from the skeptics.

Anyways, humans are definitely contributing to global warming so what's the point of asking the question 'what if AGW is wrong?'. Can I go ahead and start another thread 'what if Napolean won the Napoleonic Wars?'

Recently I have seen many, many threads here just being started to bash on AGW and climate science. People claiming they 'want to be different and outside the box and not believe the mainstream because it's oh so poltical', well I'm pretty sure that all the climate science bashing IS what's mainstream and it IS very political, actually it is ALL political right now (because of those e-mails.)
 
  • #19


Al68 said:
I think you're taking my analogy further than it was intended. It was only intended as an example to show that we shouldn't automatically trust those who make a living at a given field.

But I do trust the SCIENTIST in the field, that is the astronomer. Astrologists are not scientist so their input is of no significance.

A good example of non experts overruling the experts is the on going encroachment of cougars in human communities. A few years back the PETA types decided that the then accepted methods of hunting cougars was not fair. Through various initiative petitions they succeeded in passing laws against the practice of using dogs to hunt cougars.

The experts (Fish and Wildlife folks) claimed that the dogs were a necessary part of successful hunt. The city living housewife's got their way.

Result: In many areas it is no longer safe for women and kids to walk in the woods.

Sometimes a "bias" is a very good thing especially when that bias comes from research and the scientific method.

When bias is based on ignorance, emotion, or tradition it is a bad thing.
 
  • #20


Sorry! said:
I think what Al68 is actually trying to get at here is that we should all listen and believe what he thinks about the situations at hand. If for instance you asked your general practitioner about climate change and they told you some crack-pot theory and you came back here and reported to him he would still be hostile towards it, unless it's that crackpot theory that you believe in of course... It's like he's trying to say don't believe in the scientists you believe in, they aren't trustworthy! Believe in mine because I do too!
LOL. That's funny, since I haven't once even mentioned what I think about AGW. I've only commented on the logic of automatically trusting those who financially gain (or lose) depending on public opinion.

It's not very nice to make false claims about other forum members. :smile:
 
  • #21


Ok this is all getting out of hand now.
 
  • #22


Integral said:
But I do trust the SCIENTIST in the field, that is the astronomer.
That's my point. The astronomer isn't working and making money in the field of astrology, but has knowledge of the subject nevertheless.
 
  • #23


Al68 said:
That's my point. The astronomer isn't working and making money in the field of astrology, but has knowledge of the subject nevertheless.

You are comparing science to non science.

One draws conclusions from evidence (if you are an honest scientist, which most are), the other is mystic handwaving and making stuff up.

VERY poor analogy.
 
  • #24


xxChrisxx said:
You are comparing science to non science.

One draws conclusions from evidence (if you are an honest scientist, which most are), the other is mystic handwaving and making stuff up.

VERY poor analogy.
Sure it's a poor analogy taken that way, but that's not the way I was using it.

The analogous part is automatically trusting someone who makes a living in a field about its subject matter.
 
  • #25


Al68 said:
Sure it's a poor analogy taken that way, but that's not the way I was using it.

The analogous part is automatically trusting someone who makes a living in a field about its subject matter.

So you think that the income of a climate scientist is based or depends on his belief in AWG?

I would bet the major players in the field are tenured, so their income is completely independent of the out come of their research.
 
  • #26


Integral said:
So you think that the income of a climate scientist is based or depends on his belief in AWG?
No, their livelyhood depends on public opinion on the issue, not their own.
 
  • #27


Al68 said:
No, their livelyhood depends on public opinion on the issue, not their own.

Huh? Public opinion has NO effect on the income of any academic. You really need to start working from facts rather then opinion.
 
  • #28


Integral said:
So you think that the income of a climate scientist is based or depends on his belief in AWG?

I would bet the major players in the field are tenured, so their income is completely independent of the out come of their research.

I would point out that the climate scientist who support the current theories regarding AGW would most likely be better received than one who proposed an alternate one. You have to agree that right are wrong the "politically correct" decision for a scientist if he wants more funding is to conclude in favor of AWG.

I think that one way or another, good will come of this. We will clean up or act as a species in this regard and it will be for the better in the long run. I just hate seeing science used to push unrelated political agendas.

Seriously, if we are at the "tipping point" how is a right to pollute payment plan going to make anything better. It will just line the pockets of the managing organization and its political supporting party.

Was Katrina really directly caused by global warming or was it a lucky shot by Mother Nature? In reality, it was just another hurricane, but you have Al Gore posting it on the cover of his DVD as if he knew all along. He used a natural event as a scare tactic to push his agenda right or not.

I don't mind discussing how to improve our atmosphere, but I hate being talked to like an idiot.
 
  • #29


Pattonias said:
I would point out that the climate scientist who support the current theories regarding AGW would most likely be better received than one who proposed an alternate one. You have to agree that right are wrong the "politically correct" decision for a scientist if he wants more funding is to conclude in favor of AWG.

And don't you think that Science or Nature would love to publish the paper that debunks the entire business?

We rely on the process, not the people. If one wishes to reject the scientific process, which beyond irony is often done in this forum, then unless you are a qualified expert on the matter, that is a statement of faith. The scientific process is the objective guiding light for modern civilization. If we reject the best estimates of our best experts on this one, we put everything at risk.
 
  • #30
Note to all! This is NOT a global warming thread. Please post your discussion about climate change or GW in one of the several threads on that topic.

I am simply deleting all posts discussing global warming.

Please read the topic of threads before posting. This thread is about the distrust of experts in their field.
 
  • #31


xxChrisxx said:
Your point? It's always happened, so it's fine?
Huh? I said it has always happened, so the fact that it happens isn't disputed.
 
  • #32
Integral said:
Note to all! This is NOT a global warming thread. Please post your discussion about climate change or GW in one of the several threads on that topic.

I am simply deleting all posts discussing global warming.

Please read the topic of threads before posting. This thread is about the distrust of experts in their field.

Indeed it is, shame really as I'm quite pleased with the last couple of posts. Hope you soft deleted it, that way you can pm it me so I can stick it on one of the other threads.

To be ontopic: Yes, trust experts over someone who doesn't know what they are talking about.
 
  • #33


xxChrisxx said:
When you start behaving like a crackpot and dismissing or accepting ANYTHING out of hand, you've left all realm of science behind. AGW is NOT accepted without evidence. There is NO debate as to the warming, there is some dabate as the the level of human involvement. However when it is made out that the ENTIRE FIELD is corrupt and doing it 'for the cash' is in no way a scientific discussion.
It is quite possible for someone to have a genuine belief on the subject (in either direction), perhaps due in part to personal benefit, and allow that belief to influence their work and interpretation of evidence. It is a phenomenon which has been scientifically observed and has been something scientists have been enjoined to avoid since long before it was a proven phenomenon.

The idea that scientists may be influenced by opportunities for funding and research projects is not a direct allegation of corruption. And of course I have never seen an AGW proponent blush at calling the skeptics out and alleging that they are just "doing it for the cash". Any one would be right to question the veracity of science from those who seem to lack dispassion in their subject matter from either side of a debate and we have seen plenty of passion on both.
 
  • #34
There's a nice little paradox inherent in this topic. I'll phrase it like this:

Trust the experts, because the experts don't.

What makes technical subject work is not a population of experts who are all completely trustworthy; but a population of experts who don't trust each other and double check everything for themselves. A non-expert could try that as well; but they usually are not as good at it. As you develop your own expertise, you can get better and better at checking the experts for yourself, and trust becomes less important.

I've got a long standing interest in the matter of how science works and cases where there is widespread popular distrust of experts in some field of science. The peer review system depends on the capacity of experts to check one another; when experts are distrusted then so to are the scientific publications peer reviewed by experts.

One of the amusing things that can happen is when some community that is at odds with conventional expertise tries to set up a kind of parallel world in which they can look like experts without being continually rejected by the journals they distrust. There are some fascinating examples of journals, in a range of different fields, which have been set up to look like a science journal and give scope to publish stuff on a particular topic that has a bit of trouble getting into the real journals.

I've documented a number of examples of this in my PF blog: https://www.physicsforums.com/blog.php?b=1476 . The journals considered cover a range of areas, and I'm soliciting additions to the list.

Cheers -- sylas
 
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  • #35


TheStatutoryApe said:
It is quite possible for someone to have a genuine belief on the subject (in either direction), perhaps due in part to personal benefit, and allow that belief to influence their work and interpretation of evidence. It is a phenomenon which has been scientifically observed and has been something scientists have been enjoined to avoid since long before it was a proven phenomenon.

Wanting desperately to be right about something, and falsifying/doctering/not reporting/fuzzing/whatever evidence to mislead people are two worlds that are very far apart.

Any expert who takes to becoming less than 100% honest in their work, should be kicked out. As people (the public) has to have faith that you will not try to mislead them for your own gain. When it comes to light that one 'expert' has done thins, it tarnishes everyones reputation.

TheStatutoryApe said:
The idea that scientists may be influenced by opportunities for funding and research projects is not a direct allegation of corruption. And of course I have never seen an AGW proponent blush at calling the skeptics out and alleging that they are just "doing it for the cash". Any one would be right to question the veracity of science from those who seem to lack dispassion in their subject matter from either side of a debate and we have seen plenty of passion on both.

Yeah.

Speaking of passion I've got to stop posting on GD. It is going to get me banned sooner rather than later. I'm just glad its a forum so I can take time to mull things over before posting them.
 

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