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How to Be an Objective Consumer of Science [or Expertise in General] (Salmieri)

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Here‘s the lecture.

Below is my outline. Please don’t hesitate to point out errors. Also, in brackets are my own contributions. Finally, Dr. Salmieri topically jumps around a few times so I placed them in the outline where they should be topically for cognitive organization and ease of understanding.

Does anyone have the redacted Q&A?


How do we decide between competing claims?

I. Testimonial knowledge

A. Types

1. Witness: Perceived something we didn’t

2. Expert: Completed specialized intellectual work

B. Challenges

1. Types

a. Lying

b. Mistaken

i. Rudimentary mistakes involving the misapplication of knowledge are easy to catch by competing experts

ii. But we don’t automatically know the right method and standards for each science and thereby, mistakes of method and standards are [relatively] difficult to catch

c. Biased

i. This is a major problem affecting both witnesses and experts—including whole fields of science

(a) The more intellectual work is required, the more opportunities there are for bias

(b) Teaching institutions are biased (especially a problem for experts)

(i) The teachers could all be biased

(ii) Admissions selection criteria could be biased

(c) Cultural biases

d. Politics (extent of freedom vs. force)

i. Insofar that there is [the initiation of] force, the more difficult it is to identify expertise and act on the best options

II. How can knowledge be communicated when knowledge is a [personal] process?

A. Chronology of the work involved in the process of knowledge

1. Perception

2. Form concepts based on perceived significant similarities

3. Make judgments identifying existence by applying concepts to them

4. Keep track of epistemic statuses of judgments

5. Integrate concepts and judgments into consistent whole

B. How to divide up process of knowledge

1. Mistaken approaches

a. Slavish following of authority, i.e., authoritarianism

i. Types

(a) Insistent/militant

(i) Example: “95% of scientists say X so how can you challenge it? Who are you to challenge it?”

(b) Passive: Takes for granted that what was learned in school or people in general is true because everything thinks it

ii. Proper approach instead of authoritarianism: Take what one learned [claims] as unprocessed content and assign it an epistemic status when relevant to do so

(a) Familiarity [i.e., knowledge of claims] vs. expertise

b. Faux independence

i. Types

(a) Universal Google/Wikipedia/newspaper/magazine/etc. Scholarship: Reads a few things on an issue and concludes that one is on intellectual par with experts

(i) Proper approach instead of such “scholarship”: Present these things to an expert [or experts] to integrate

(b) Illegitimate appeal to personal experience (i.e., perception or low level conceptualizations, e.g., “It’s hot in here”) and ordinary knowledge (i.e., knowledge that is available without specialized knowledge)

(i) Examples: “Of course there’s global warming: It was hot yesterday and Hurricane Sandy was awful”; “There’s no global warming: It was freezing yesterday”; and many medical self-experimentation [by laymen]

(ii) Proper approach instead of such illegitimate appeals: Ask an expert [or experts] on how to integrate one’s personal experience and ordinary knowledge because such integration requires expert knowledge

2. What we need from experts

a. Evidence of expertise

i. Evidence of the field’s legitimacy

ii. Evidence of the expert’s proficiency in the field

b. Specificity of claims and level of certainty

c. Relevant context that one needs to assess the expert’s judgment (this includes the status of his claim in his field)

d. Outlined [epistemological] reduction of claims

e. Respect for one’s intelligence, context, and intellectual independence

3. After getting what we need from an expert [or experts]

a. How does one know that the claim is true? What’s the epistemic status?

i. “I judge the <proposition> with having <epistemic status>. Here’s why: <Proposition> is a matter that would have to be determined by a certain science. How do I know that? <Proposition> requires specialized knowledge and this science is the relevant specialty. <Expert> is a reliable expert in this science. How do I know that? He has the relevant qualifications. How do I know that? I have every reason to think that he’s honest and none that he’s dishonest. I have every reason to think that he’s an objective thinker as shown by his respect for my cognitive needs. <Expert> asserts <proposition> with <epistemic status> on the following grounds: <Outlined [epistemological] reduction>.”

(a) Essentially: I have reason to think that he’s an expert and he says it for these reasons.

4. How does one assess that the person is an expert, that the field is valid [i.e., legitimate], and that the argument that requires expertise to make is a good argument if one doesn’t have the expertise? How does one judge the outlined [epistemological] reduction?

a. Ignorant -> educated -> expert

b. What enables one to make the assessment and judgment is being educated in the field

i. Most generally, one is an objective thinker (e.g. knows the principles of logic) -> more specifically, one is knowledgeable on how much one knows about the methods and standards of a field, as well as knowing when one needs to supplement that knowledge

ii. Example: ScienceBasedMedicine.com [sic; it’s actually dot org]

5. Consensus

a. It’s arbitrary to favor one expert when the evidence of expertise is equivalent among other experts

b. One must integrate, not ignore, the presence of conflicting expert opinion

c. Awareness of consensus is essential [to being an objective consumer of expertise]

d. Authoritarianists use consensus to justify their claims

i. But historically, most consensus was wrong

ii. One needs evidence that a field is not pseudoscience because nonobjectivity in cutting edge science is the norm per history, mistakes, and biases. One needs evidence of the exception.

iii. There are degrees between pseudoscience and legitimate science

(a) Example: Evolution (race theory and eugenics were based on evolution and advocated by good scientists)

III. Alternative science: School of thought that is rejected/marginalized by the consensus of experts (i.e., consensus of people in the culture that deem who are experts) in the relevant field

A. Examples: Skeptical climate science, creation science, revisionist history, alternative medicine/nutrition, Austrian economics, Montessori education, the Theory of Elementary Wave, Bohmian mechanics [and Objectivism]

B. Tends to directly appeal to the public rather than go through the usual channels

C. Valuable to have in the culture as a check. A healthy culture will have alternative sciences. There is something wrong if a culture doesn’t have alternative sciences.

D. Challenges

1. For experts in the alternative science, it’s more difficult to maintain objectivity

2. It’s easy to develop a persecution complex, making one defensive to criticism

3. Social isolation from reviews from critics with different views because alternative science experts cluster together due to no one else wanting to talk about the alternative science [and this applies to Objectivism too]

4. It’s more difficult for non-experts to acquire positive knowledge from alternative science

5. Objectivism is at high risk of crackpottery [and I can attest to this, especially on Facebook]

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9 hours ago, RupeeRoundhouse said:

5. Objectivism is at high risk of crackpottery [and I can attest to this, especially on Facebook]

David Kelley also became awake to that when he first began his independent organization for study and promulgation of Objectivism. Slide over to about 34 minutes in this link

A case like that came up here yesterday. A newcomer to the site laid out particulars of their paranoia and psychosis here where the proper name Objectivism is within the name of the site and pervades its discussions. (Of course, the poster may have been someone hostile to seeing Objectivism taken so seriously as it is here and by such manifestly intelligent people that he or she feigned psychosis in their post to help run down quality of this site in public perception.) I don't know why it is that Objectivist online discussion spots should attract any crackpots. I'd think their subjectivism would rather incline them to stay clean away from a place such as this. Maybe its just that the internet-posting medium gave more of those mentally ill and those of very low intelligence a free soapbox for broadcasting their views than was available before this medium of communication, and some might try every forum they find available for sharing their very poor quality of mind.

Edited by Boydstun
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/1/2023 at 4:13 AM, RupeeRoundhouse said:

2. Expert: Completed specialized intellectual work

Credentialism ought to be deprecated.  Too much of "intellectual work" is memorizing and conforming rather than understanding.

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