Who To Believe

Looking for a flying instructor? You'll do well to find one who is respected by his peers.

Looking for a flying instructor? You’ll do well to find one who is respected by his peers.

We can’t know it all. A doctor who learns to fly an airplane won’t go to another doctor, he’ll go to a flight instructor. He’ll do his own research, alright, but he’ll do it to find a good instructor. How does he do that? The best way is to ask other flight instructors who they respect. He could also ask other students but they will only have their own singular experience whereas an instructor will know other instructor’s success with manystudents. In the same vein, when we’re asking questions about some topic that we’re not experts on, we have to find someone to trust. That’s why we go to the experts. And doing your own internet research and reading books does not make you an expert! We can become knowledgeable but that’s a far cry from spending decades in the field.

Consensus

Many claim to be experts. How can you tell them apart? The best way is to ask their peers. It says a lot if an expert has the respect of his peers. A great source for finding respect in the science realm is peer-reviewed scientific journals. If the journal is respected by most scientists, it’s likely to be a good vetting tool. Just because someone writes about a topic on a fancy website or sells a lot of books doesn’t make them an expert. In fact, it’s frequently the opposite because going through peer reviewed journals is time consuming and carries the annoying baggage of needing reasonable logic backed up by evidence. So choose the sources that enjoy respect of their peers. Be extremely leery of those who must resort to the claim that science is “owned” by the privileged few or that it’s corrupted by big government, pharma, business, etc. While indeed there will always be a few corrupt scientists just like there are in other disciplines, most are altruistic sorts seeking truth. More importantly, they will not all be corrupt. If scientists, the world over, generally agree on a fact, then it’s the safest bet available to call it a fact.

Competition

Scientists are a competitive bunch. They get notoriety for either coming up with a new theory that proves true or disproving existing theories. That’s good because it means that questionable theories eventually get jettisoned when they’re falsified. Science speaks in international languages such as chemistry and physics so the competition is global. It crosses race, religion, nationality, ethnicity and so on. That’s one of Science’s great benefits. If an experiment in China validates some theory then a scientist in Russia can duplicate the experiment to confirm it. If it can’t be confirmed, the results are considered suspect at best. True scientists making real revelations seek out confirmation. They want to be first, for sure, and to be acknowledged, but they know that comes with successfully duplicated experiments. It’s an extremely healthy process that has proven to be an important part of our incredible period of human discovery.

Choosing

So be discriminating on who you believe. Make sure their peers, respected sources themselves, can agree that the scientist in question is doing good science, not quackery. There is a lot of pseudoscience out there, it sounds scientific but is not. Be discriminating.

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