Proposal: It's time to reboot the relationship between expertise & democracy

#1
https://aeon.co/essays/its-time-to-reboo...-democracy

EXCERPT: [...] Experts get things wrong all the time. The effects of such errors range from mild embarrassment to wasted time and money; in rarer cases, they can result in death, and even lead to international catastrophe. And yet experts regularly ask citizens to trust expert judgment and to have confidence not only that mistakes will be rare, but that the experts will identify those mistakes and learn from them.

Day to day, laypeople have no choice but to trust experts. We live our lives embedded in a web of social and governmental institutions meant to ensure that professionals are in fact who they say they are, and can in fact do what they say they do. Universities, accreditation organisations, licensing boards, certification authorities, state inspectors and other institutions exist to maintain those standards.

This daily trust in professionals is a prosaic matter of necessity. It is in much the same way that we trust everyone else in our daily lives, including the bus driver we assume isn’t drunk or the restaurant worker we assume has washed her hands. This is not the same thing as trusting professionals when it comes to matters of public policy: to say that we trust our doctors to write us the correct prescription is not the same thing as saying that we trust all medical professionals about whether the US should have a system of national healthcare. To say that we trust a college professor to teach our sons and daughters the history of the Second World War is not the same as saying that we therefore trust all academic historians to advise the president of the US on matters of war and peace.

For these larger decisions, there are no licences or certificates. There are no fines or suspensions if things go wrong. Indeed, there is very little direct accountability at all, which is why laypeople understandably fear the influence of experts. How do experts go wrong? There are several kinds of expert failure....
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#2
Quote:Chomsky is regarded as a pioneer, even a giant, in his own field, but he is no more an expert in foreign policy than, say, the late George Kennan was in the origins of human language. Nonetheless, he is more famous among the general public for his writings on politics than in his area of expertise; indeed, I have often encountered college students over the years who are familiar with Chomsky but who had no idea he was actually a linguistics professor.

I didn’t know that. Wikipedia has him down as an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist.

How the Scientific Peer Review Process Works

"We don’t embody science in experts.  The concept of experts is an authoritarian concept. Priests, for example, are authority figures.  When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, it is held by Catholics to be infallible.  Well, in science nobody is infallible, not Einstein, not Feynman, not Newton, not Darwin, not anyone.  So, it’s not embodied in the people.  It’s embodied in the methods."
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#3
(Jun 14, 2017 02:43 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote:
Quote:Chomsky is regarded as a pioneer, even a giant, in his own field, but he is no more an expert in foreign policy than, say, the late George Kennan was in the origins of human language. Nonetheless, he is more famous among the general public for his writings on politics than in his area of expertise; indeed, I have often encountered college students over the years who are familiar with Chomsky but who had no idea he was actually a linguistics professor.

I didn’t know that. Wikipedia has him down as an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist.


History once seemed kind to polymaths before the 20th century who after initial schooling often seemed to achieve that status via their own autodidactic efforts. But then again, they didn't have today's technology assisted micro-scrutiny poring over their works for errors and waywardness, either.

How the Scientific Peer Review Process Works

Quote:"We don’t embody science in experts.  The concept of experts is an authoritarian concept. Priests, for example, are authority figures.  When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, it is held by Catholics to be infallible.  Well, in science nobody is infallible, not Einstein, not Feynman, not Newton, not Darwin, not anyone.  So, it’s not embodied in the people.  It’s embodied in the methods."

Thanks to "reckless iconoclasts" like Bem, even the procedures may have rust spots in their stainless steel.

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#4
(Jun 17, 2017 09:00 AM)C C Wrote:
Quote:We don’t embody science in experts.  The concept of experts is an authoritarian concept. Priests, for example, are authority figures.  When the Pope speaks ex cathedra, it is held by Catholics to be infallible.  Well, in science nobody is infallible, not Einstein, not Feynman, not Newton, not Darwin, not anyone.  So, it’s not embodied in the people.  It’s embodied in the methods.

Thanks to "reckless iconoclasts" like Bem, even the procedures may have rust spots in their stainless steel.

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True.  

The instrumental process designates those activities dominated by an attitude which, if put in words, would be somewhat as follows: “Let us first examine the facts, and draw only such conclusions as the facts warrant. If no conclusion is warranted but some conclusion is necessary-since life does not wait on certainty-then let us hold the conclusion tentative and revise it as new evidence is gathered.” Scientific method, therefore, approximates the essence of the matter; but the instrumental process is a larger concept. The origin of scientific method falls within recorded history, but the instrumental process is as old as man. It was a momentous event in this process when one of our remote forebears discovered by accident that fire can be maintained indefinitely by adding dry wood; but few persons would care to label this as science. The continuum of tools extends unbroken from the first flint knife to the latest atom-smasher, and this continuum is at the very heart of the concept; but, again, the instrumental process designates something more. Technology is usually taken to mean material artifacts, but the discovery and use of conceptual tools is an essential part of the instrumental process. It includes the differential calculus as well as the flying machine, the diatonic scale as well as the microscope. It includes, also, art, both fine and applied. For art, as all artists know, is a problem solving activity in which answers are achieved by taking pains, not by revelation from on high or seizure by a muse. This is not to deny the existence or importance of chance insight or inspiration, either scientific or artistic; but chance, as Claude Bernard has remarked, favors the prepared mind. The authority of the instrumental process is rational, deriving from its demonstrable usefulness to the life process. The final appeal is to the evidence.

The instrumental process is bound to reality. Facts are facts, it seems to say. Ignoring them is of no avail. One doesn’t have to like them, but he who would gratify his needs and secure himself from peril had better take them into account. Reality can be altered, particularly if it is closely observed. Indeed, the better one understands it and the more tools one has to deal with it, the more radically it can be changed. But it’s there, for better or for worse, and the only way to make it better is to attend to it. The instrumental process is generally disparaged as mere problem-solving; for the security it creates, though real, is limited.

The institutional process is bound to human desire and fear. Wishing will make it so, it seems to say. It is unbearable that no one should care; so there must exist a heavenly Father who loves us. Activities of the institutional process do not, objectively, gratify any need or guard against any danger; incantation does not cause rain to fall or game to be plentiful. But such activities may engender a subjective sense of security, and this has always been a fact to be reckoned with-and, indeed, to be exploited. Honor and prestige accrue to the institutional process; for the security it creates, though illusory, is unlimited.

Clearly it is not reason that has failed. What has failed as it has always failed, in all of its thousand forms-is the attempt to achieve certainty, to reach an absolute, to bind the course of human events to a final end. Reason cannot serve such a purpose and yet remain reason. By its nature it must be free to perceive emergent problems and meet them with new solutions. It is not reason that has promised to eliminate risk in human undertakings; it is the emotional needs of men, fastening onto the products of reason, which have made such promises. The vision of a state of universal peace and happiness, to be achieved by reason, is quite transparently the same old heavenly city which was to have been reached by faith and repentance.

At the beginning of Modern Age science did, indeed, promise certainty.  It no longer does.  Where we now retain the conviction of certainty we do so on our own presumption, while the advancing edge of science warns that absolute truth is a fiction, is a longing of the heart, and not to be had by man.

Certainty is not to be had. But as we learn this we become not more moral but more resigned. We become nihilists.—Allen Wheelis

So where does that leave us?
 
We can no longer pretend.  The cultural cloudiness has been blown away.  We can see clearly in our consciousness that we stand naked in the world.  Nietzsche is said to have run in the streets, crying: Fall on your knees and weep, for God is dead!  An after him the preeminent philosopher of our time Jean Paul Sartre, looked out on the street of science.  And Sartre saw that science too was dead!  So after all of this, man is alone, desolate, forlorn.  He has nowhere to turn to find out how to be.

What shall we do?  Shall we turn out the clergy, depose the scientists, shun the psychotherapist?  

Nihilism and pessimism, ennui and despair are one answer.  Frantic and frenetic activity to drown out consciousness is another.  Or we can go on with myths of religion and our myths of science, playing a game with our consciousness to the effect that we really don’t know what we know.

Yet still another way exists—or is it ways?  Paul Tillich called it the Courage to Be.  It is the willingness to look at man in full consciousness. It is the acquisition of new ego-coping skills not dependent on certainty and truth.—Religious Systems and Psychotherapy

I would say that quiet a few of the personality traits of the Commander fits you.

Quote:Rather than finding this process taxing they are energized by it, genuinely enjoying leading their teams forward as they implement their plans and goals.

I know why I come here.  Although, I, too, may be chasing the dragon of those ah ha moments of certainty, I want the freedom to explore without social or moral constraints.  To understand more—more about myself.

I can understand why Stryder maintains SciVillage, but you, you have put in a lot of effort, as well.  Tell me why, C C.  What do you want from this place?
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#5
(Jun 17, 2017 03:30 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote:

[...] At the beginning of Modern Age science did, indeed, promise certainty.  It no longer does.  Where we now retain the conviction of certainty we do so on our own presumption, while the advancing edge of science warns that absolute truth is a fiction, is a longing of the heart, and not to be had by man. Certainty is not to be had. But as we learn this we become not more moral but more resigned. We become nihilists.—Allen Wheelis

So where does that leave us?


I guess I'm just an eclectic, in the end. It's tempting to identify with some supposedly "new" ripple like metamodernism (below), but it kind of resembles a revamping of Hegelian clichés. There's more than just the oscillation of opposites, there's the interplay of obtuse and acute dissimilarities which don't neatly contrast in straight and right angle relationships.

Metamodernist Manifesto (this one actually seems crouched in the arts, but cut-off at the point where it begins specializing in that)

1. We recognise oscillation to be the natural order of the world.

2. We must liberate ourselves from the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological naivety and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child [postmodernism].

3. Movement shall henceforth be enabled by way of an oscillation between positions, with diametrically opposed ideas operating like the pulsating polarities of a colossal electric machine, propelling the world into action.

4. We acknowledge the limitations inherent to all movement and experience, and the futility of any attempt to transcend the boundaries set forth therein. The essential incompleteness of a system should necessitate an adherence, not in order to achieve a given end or be slaves to its course, but rather perchance to glimpse by proxy some hidden exteriority. Existence is enriched if we set about our task as if those limits might be exceeded, for such action unfolds the world. [...]


Quote: know why I come here. Although, I, too, may be chasing the dragon of those ah ha moments of certainty, I want the freedom to explore without social or moral constraints. To understand more—more about myself.

I can understand why Stryder maintains SciVillage, but you, you have put in a lot of effort, as well. Tell me why, C C. What do you want from this place?

SciVillage reminds me somewhat of an online coffee shoppe slash "mindmill lounge" or two we'd hang-out at in bygone times. A place where somebody might drop an interesting tidbit or a topic to chat about. Degrees of relaxed freedom for exploring something without necessarily the accompanying loads of histrionics dumped over the cliffs at other old mattress pits.[*]

Also an intermittent excuse to just look at what's going on in the pop-news, essay, and review world (which oddly enough, I'd usually not keep much track of).

I got tired of philosophy forums, preferring a mix of sci-tech, philosophy, and "eccentric". SciForums is often either too constricted by the usual "only science is meaningful" tropes or has its spasmodic history of runaway binges in banning. Sometimes the countryside cafe has its slow-paced perks.

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[*] Ogden Standard-Examiner, Saturday, September 20, 1969: It all started one Thanksgiving when folk singer Arlo Guthrie decided to dump Alice's garbage over a cliff and got arrested by officer "Obie" for littering. Guthrie turned it into an 18- minute blues ballad called "Alice's Restaurant" which chronicled his arrest and trial in Stockbridge, Mass., and subsequent rejection by the Army on moral grounds.

The record was a smash hit, and now there's a movie of the story using most of the original characters. Only now Alice Brock and Stockbridge Police Chief Obanhein are good friends. And here they both were in New York for interviews. Alice, attractive, 28, wearing mod pants and ropes of pearls trailing down her shirt, and officer Obanheinn staid, taciturn pillar of New England law. Alice confided: "He's very shy and it's hard for him to handle, coming down to New York and meeting the press."

Just then Obanhein walked in, wearing a conservative blue suit and shirt. He said he'd lost 30 pounds playing himself in the film. He glanced at Alice's herring in cream sauce with a plate of raw oysters on the side. "For a girl who wrote a cookbook, Alice, you sure do eat strange things."

"I had hesitations about doing the role," he explained. "Most people in town didn't care one way or the other, but the staunch Yankees didn't like it. "My life is the same, but my attitudes have changed. I realize that kids with long hair and weird looking clothes can be basically nice people."

The story began when Alice and her former husband, Ray Brock, bought a dilapidated church in Stockbridge which became a home away from home for Alice's young hippie friends, many of whom she had taught previously in a local private school....
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/29960432/


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#6
I know that you said before that the word "interesting," is a synonymous with entertaining, but I see it as thought provoking.  

My grandmother is a centenarian and a famous author on transactional analysis.  We used to butt heads a lot.  I would call and ask, "How are you?" She would say, "I hate when you ask me that.  It’s just an extension of hello.  It’s not a sincere question."

It was a brief conversation because she pissed me off.  I decide to call her back, tell her that she’s projecting, and that I am sincere when I ask her.  I want to know more about her before she dies.  I want to know what it's like to be her age.  I hung up on her without saying goodbye.

Bless her heart...(talk about bygone times), I get a three page hand written letter.  Dearest (well, you know my name).  She goes on to tell me what it’s like to be 100 years old.  How difficult it is to even write this letter.  It was precious—something that I will always treasure.  When I visit her now, we don’t talk much.  I kiss her on the check—tears roll down hers, and all she can say is, "Oh, honey."

So, C C, that was an interesting answer!  I sincerely enjoy following the little trails within your replies.  I had never even heard of Alice’s Restaurant before, or Arlo Guthrie for that matter, and it’s based on a true event.

Quote:The term "massacree," used by Guthrie in the title to describe the whole scenario, is a colloquialism originating in the Ozark Mountains that describes "an event so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are almost impossible to believe." It is a corruption of the word massacre (itself of French origin, possibly from the now nearly extinct Missouri French dialect) but carries a much lighter and more sarcastic connotation, never being used to describe anything involving actual death.

I’m sure you know that his father wrote "This Land is Your Land", but did you know that even though his father supported the war, he tried in vain to avoid the draft by joining the Merchant Marines?  Not really a smooth move, considering that they had a higher casualty rate with 1,554 of their ships being sunk, and he ended up getting drafted anyway.

Quote:Guthrie sent a demo recording Alice’s Restaurant to his father Woody Guthrie on his deathbed; it was, according to a "family joke," the last thing Woody heard before he died.

Thanks, C C!  Smile
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