↑ comment by gjm ·
2015-08-21T15:23:11.467Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
normal non-pedantic use of English language
So far as I can tell, that's just what I'm engaging in, and I think you can only portray me as doing something else by reading me much more uncharitably and, frankly, unfairly than I am reading you. I would prefer you not to do that, however useful it may be as a rhetorical technique.
I am not saying "no one has used the literal exact words you specified" or anything like that; I am saying the following things:
- I do not see lots of people making improper claims of authority in the way you describe, implicitly or explicitly.
- The examples you yourself have selected don't look to me as if the people involved are doing so.
- I do see people claiming scientific authority when they make scientific claims, saying explicitly that their scientific expertise doesn't entitle them to make policy, but not taking really heroic measures to stop people weighing their political opinions more highly because of their scientific expertise. I do not think there is anything improper in that.
- I'm not even sure that if their listeners do that they are making a mistake. Expertise on the underlying facts should confer some extra credibility on opinions about policy. What would be wrong is giving more credence to a scientist's policy opinions than you would give to those of someone else equally well informed about the science. Maybe people do do that, but it's not obvious.
- (I wasn't formerly saying this out loud, because I'm mostly a polite sort of chap, but it is in fact my opinion:)
- I uncharitably suspect that what is actually happening is that you regard merely being a scientist and talking about global warming as claiming scientific authority -- at least when what the person in question is saying clashes with your own political position.
I repeat: my disagreement with you is not a matter of observing that no one has used the exact words you put in quotation marks. It is not even a matter of observing that no one has said anything equivalent to those words. We apparently disagree about whether anyone does anything that could without grotesque unfairness be described using those words.
The discussion, recall, was about abuse of scientific authority. To be abusing scientific authority, it is not enough to be a scientist and express strong opinions. Nor even to say "I am a scientist", talk about the science in which one is an expert, and express some opinions on the way. What constitutes abuse of scientific authority (it seems to me) is going out of one's way to encourage people to weigh your opinions more heavily than they would because you are a scientist. And that is what I think you are wrong to claim is commonplace in global-warming debates.
(I have the impression that you're suggesting not only that it's commonplace in those debates but that it's particularly common on one side of them. At any rate, all your examples just happen to come from one side. My own impression is that people on the other side are at least as likely to exaggerate or outright misrepresent the scope of their expertise, but I have no statistics to back that up.)
many ways of asserting authority [...]
Sure. But only some of the things I think you are characterizing that way are in any way abuses of scientific authority, or in any way dishonest.
If all you're saying is that climate scientists talking about global warming will not usually go far out of their way to stop other people thinking they're credible on policy because of a general halo effect around science, then I think you are being grossly unreasonable in picking them out as an example. It is very unusual for anyone to go far out of their way to discourage other people from thinking them more credible than they should.
On the other hand, if you're saying that they go out of their way to encourage other people to give them more credence on policy matters than they deserve, then I repeat: Show me some concrete examples.