Thursday, June 29, 2006


Who Do You Trust On Climate Change?

An "expert" is someone presumed to know more about a given subject than the average person. They are the egg-heads that sit at the front of the class. Or the doctors that tell you that eating a pound of bacon everyday will kill you. They're the poindexters trying to ruin all your fun because they "know best".

So it's no surprise that populists and contrarians relish in taking these know-it alls to task. Steven Levitt pretty much dedicates his entire book, Freakonomics, to mocking the mistakes of "experts" in one way or another. Orson Welles does the same in his movie "F is for Fake". But is the moral of their stories that we should ignore "experts" all together?

Our time is scarce. And most of us don't have the time, interest, or ability to investigate how a heart beats, what the moon is made of, or how the economy works. So what should we do when we have important questions relating to these subjects? Take pride in our ignorance? Guess? Or ask an expert on the subject?

I would assume that on many questions, most of you would prefer the latter. This brings up the question of choosing a credible expert and the problem of asymmetric information. This is a particular problem in the Global Warming debate. If you aren't trained in Climate Science, who should you trust? How do you know?

What do you all think? How do you decide who to trust on Climate Change?

I generally have an opinion on things and tend towards an expert that legitimizes my opinion.

I suppose I should be a clean slate that never really holds an opinion (because of constantly changing opinions, studies, and evidence).

It's just not my reality.
Best answer, ever. :) I wasn't expecting anyone to be that honest. Kudos Chris.

That's how I pick as well. I have some pre-conception of what sounds reasonable and I gravitate to experts that confirm that pre-conception.

I am trying to make a conscious effort not to do that. But to a certain extent it's what one MUST do given time/ability/interest constraints.

We'll see how things work out.
I enter into most controversies with an already formulated opinion, but I have learned, the hard way, how to be willing to be wrong. Actually, I savor being effectively refuted. I have decided to never become an expert, but to always remain a "Student." Perhaps it is the teacher in me, like Danny's father in The Chosen, that enjoys this so much.

As for choosing sources, an inspection into the existing incentives and methods of collecting knowledge can be useful tools in discerning who to listen to and who to ignore. Though, by practice, most of us can identify someone who is BSing from someone who knows their stuff.
Similar to Chris and Student, I tend to listen first to the person I agree with on most everything else--their opinion on a topic that is new to me is usually very helpful.

For example, 9 times out of 10 that I would hear/read a new idea, I would ask Roy at the JLF what he thought. That at least was a good place to start.

It turns out that Roy is probably the loudest global warming skeptic/critic this side of the Mississippi, so now I'm one, too--just not as loud.
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