Courtesy of the Times, a look at post expert society.
Education properly teaches us how to reach conclusions through a measured examination of data. Since the 18th century, intellectual rigour has been acknowledged as a core virtue within western civilisation.
Yet a conference was held in London this week under the title The Evidence Initiative, sponsored by The Economist and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Its convening was prompted by fears that “evidence-based decision-making is threatened by growing political polarisation, fractured media and the accelerated pace of technological change”.
Two significant recent books address the same issues. In Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over The World, William Davies, who teaches political economy and sociology at Goldsmiths, discusses the phenomenon that many people now esteem emotion and instinct over rational assessment. He writes: “The nervous system, which produces pain, arousal, stress, excitement, becomes the main organ of political activity. It is as feeling creatures that we become susceptible to contagions of sentiment, and not as intellectuals, critics, scientists or even as citizens.” An equally alarming 2017 work by the American academic Tom Nichols is entitled The Death of Expertise. Nichols explores the fashion in which many people are turning their backs upon specialists, whether in the fields of medicine, science, economics or foreign policy.
In 2014 a Washington Post poll asked Americans whether the US should intervene militarily in Ukraine. Only one in six respondents could place Ukraine on a map but that did not prevent them enthusing about action, most keenly those who supposed the country to lie in Australia or Latin America. Three years ago, Public Policy Polling asked voters in US primary elections if they favoured bombing Agrabah. Nearly a third of Republicans said they did, versus 13 per cent who opposed it, with percentages reversed among Democrats. Yet Agrabah does not exist. It was invented for the 1992 Disney film Aladdin. Nichols writes that ignorance, as opposed to established knowledge, is now seen as a virtue: “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites, and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.”
Access to Google and Wikipedia fuels delusions that these sources endow citizens with a sufficiency of knowledge, and indeed wisdom, to offer judgments at least as valid as, and probably more than, those of experts. Such misplaced confidence, together with a flood of online misinformation, powered the anti-vaccine movement among parents. A few years ago, the Prince of Wales bullied health ministers into diverting funds towards alternative therapies, spurning the rage of doctors who pointed out that NHS cash was thus allocated to treatments for which there is no scientific basis. Across a range of issues, the prince advocates following feelings rather than boring old logic. Nichols notes that it is a measure of intelligence and education to recognise the limitations of one’s knowledge — to display intellectual humility — while it is often a symptom of stupidity and ignorance stubbornly to cling to indefensible positions.
TheThinWhiteDuke likes this
“To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for (some) to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites, and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.”
Modern Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in a nutshell there maybe?
Many people are still pretty medieval with their thoughts.
The Renaissance? The '1960's counter cultural revolution? The Information Age?
It's like none of this happened for some people.
All just distractions from truth according to certain cults.
Maybe they're right?
I'm sitting on the fence and playing a game of ignorant, agnostic, lawful(ish)/good personally.
I reckon the Wife of Bath has it: 'Experience, though noon auctoritee were in this world, is right ynogh for me.' By all means read all the books and hear all the words, and you might lean on them once in a while, but don't bow to them; be your own judge.
'Pass the cow dung, my dropsy's killing me' - Heraclitus
is that gospel according to granny slater then.
Al1967 likes this