A new podcast hosted by Josh Barro, who formerly hosted Left, Center, Right:
This episode discussed the nature and treatment of experts. I don’t agree with their assessment of what an expert is – I think
I’ve repeatedly written previously about what I think a genuine expert is:
The last part of this episode discussed Tom Nicholls status as an “expert”, and it was so frustrating to listen to “expert” be treated as a binary status, akin to a medieval cleric. Apparently Nicholls sometimes writes about nuclear weapons (where he claims to be an expert) and sometimes writes about pop culture (where he does not claim to be a particular expert).
Rather than deferring to experts on the basis of their eminence, science should be based on actual evidence. Sometimes, good experts are wrong. Sometimes, bad ignorants are right. Arguments shouldn’t succeed or fail based upon who makes them, but rather, based upon their merit.
If we agree with the very mundane and uncontroversial view that arguments should be judged on their merits, there’s no need to defer to experts or ignore morons. Instead, we can just judge ideas on whether they are good, or bad. That allows Nicholls to write about nuclear weapons, and also allows Nicholls to write about pop culture – and either way, his views can be judged on their merits. Just because Nicholls is right (or wrong) about James Bond does not have any reflection on whether Nicholls is right (or wrong) about nuclear weapons.