RSS 2.0 Feed

» Welcome Guest Log In :: Register

    
  Topic: Why fallible expertise trumps armchair science, Q&A with sociologist of science Collins< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 18 2008,13:33   

Quote
If you take scientists at their word, human-induced climate change is well underway, evolution accounts for the diversity of life on Earth and vaccines do not cause autism. But the collective expertise of thousands of researchers barely registers with global warming skeptics, creationist movie producers and distrustful parents. Why is scientific authority under fire from so many corners? Sociologist Harry Collins thinks part of the answer lies in a misunderstanding of expertise itself. Like Jane Goodall living among the chimps, Collins, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, has spent 30 years observing physicists who study gravitational wave detection—the search for faint ripples in the fabric of spacetime. He's learned the hard way about the work that goes into acquiring specialized scientific knowledge. In a recent book, Rethinking Expertise, he says that what bridges the gap—and what keeps science working—is something called "interactional expertise". Collins spoke recently with ScientificAmerican.com about his view of expertise; what follows is an edited transcript of that interview.


http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-know-better-than-you

   
Louis



Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 18 2008,14:06   

Quote (stevestory @ May 18 2008,19:33)
Quote
If you take scientists at their word, human-induced climate change is well underway, evolution accounts for the diversity of life on Earth and vaccines do not cause autism. But the collective expertise of thousands of researchers barely registers with global warming skeptics, creationist movie producers and distrustful parents. Why is scientific authority under fire from so many corners? Sociologist Harry Collins thinks part of the answer lies in a misunderstanding of expertise itself. Like Jane Goodall living among the chimps, Collins, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, has spent 30 years observing physicists who study gravitational wave detection—the search for faint ripples in the fabric of spacetime. He's learned the hard way about the work that goes into acquiring specialized scientific knowledge. In a recent book, Rethinking Expertise, he says that what bridges the gap—and what keeps science working—is something called "interactional expertise". Collins spoke recently with ScientificAmerican.com about his view of expertise; what follows is an edited transcript of that interview.


http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-know-better-than-you

From an otherwise pretty standard exposition of the more sensible end of "science studies" (a field that usually sets my teeth on edge at the more po-mo froo froo trixibelle la la dipsy time for tubby bye bye end) I get a great big:

{sigh}

Quote
That seems like it cuts both ways. Are evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins fanning the flames in the way that they engage creationists?
Once scientists move outside their scientific experience, they become like a layperson. I'm not a religious person, but if I want to talk religion with someone, it won't be a scientist; it will be with someone who understands theology (who might be either an atheist or a believer). I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle. They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.


Courtier's reply.

I find it "interesting"* that anyone who, perhaps very correctly and properly, seeks to elevate/equate/stop discounting the "layperson's" view of a technical subject (an egalitarian sentiment I highly and heartily support, good ideas are good regardless of their source) still seeks to ring fence religion to some extent. Why on earth is a theologian more qualified to talk about the subject of religion than is, for example, a philosopher? Why is a theologian more qualified to talk about the evidence supporting a claim that deity X exists, or the logic underpinning such a claim, than, for example, a scientist? I'm sorry but they just aren't. Period. End of discussion.

Theologians might be more qualified to talk about the THEOLOGY, that I not only cheerfully acknowledge and accept but glorioiusly revel in. If I want to know about theology I go to a theologian. They might (in fact in my experience undoubtedly are) more than qualified to talk about philosophy and such matters relating to theology, but I would argue that they are NOT uniquely privileged to talk about religion which is an altogether more multifaceted beastie.

And, sorry, since in the case of many theologians, the credulous Kool-Aid has been drunk, the old saw about "intelligent people being more able to rationalise their irrational beliefs" comes into play. In my limited experience of it (and I confess it IS limited) the bulk of theology I have encountered can be, if not dismissed as obviously fallacious, at least placed in the philosophical "pending" file. There's work at the coal face to be done before the exciting stuff at the top gets done, and it is that coal face work that is missing.

Dawkins' "God Delusion" arguments are NOT highly sophisticated, not only obiviously but self confessedly by the man himself. They don't need to be. What they reveal is the staggering lack of simple, coal face, bottom, data needed to support the claims of theologians. This wasn't news to anyone, least of all the theologians, even minimally aware of the philosophy underpinning various religions. It's like the "Life of Brian" all over again, disagree with what's being said by all means but don't simply dismiss it out of hand without analysis because you don't like it or don't have an answer for it. Discussing the building, the interior decoration and the facilities (theology) is all well and good, but when someone comes along and points out that your shiny house of many wings and rooms (both traditional and modern) has no fucking foundations (evidence), listen!

Rocket science it ain't, and pandering to archaic nonsense it is. These "sophisticated" theological arguments and bending over backwards dismissive appeasements seem to be curiously absent when discussing scietology don't they? I wonder why. ;-)

Louis

*Read that "interesting" any way you like it. I know what I mean! ;-) Some people seem unaware that not only can someone get it completely but also realise it is utter crapola. Applies to much of "science studies" and "religion". Take your pick.

--------------
Bye.

  
  1 replies since May 18 2008,13:33 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

    


Track this topic Email this topic Print this topic

[ Read the Board Rules ] | [Useful Links] | [Evolving Designs]