Expertise Under Assault

March 4, 2021 ☼ sciencedisinformationhistorypopulism

Source: CQR - Link

Distrust of government and scientific experts has taken disturbing forms recently — from the violent attack on the Capitol by a mob that refused to believe election results, to conspiracy theories about the supposed dangers of vaccines. A society that does not believe the same set of facts cannot hold together, some experts warn. If more people are not persuaded to trust the coronavirus vaccine, the nation might not be able to achieve the “herd immunity” needed to stop the pandemic. Some blame social media and echo chambers of like-minded users. Others point to populism and its disdain for elites. Yet mistrust of the establishment has also been positive — leading to movements for social change in fields ranging from medicine to environmental protection. Americans have long been pulled between suspicion of experts, when it comes to regulatory controversies that threaten their values, and confidence in the technology upon which they depend. In recent decades, trust in scientists has fallen among conservatives, while liberals still rate scientists highly.

This is the crux of the issue. What can you believe in if you don’t believe experts. Any trust, of course, has to come with some skepticism. That’s what training in “critical thinking” is supposed to do.