On Doing Your Own Research | The Weekly Sift – Doug Muder talks about how experts can be wrong, but doing your own research can be even worse, depending on your own knowledge base. In agreement with Doug, I think having a PhD certainly helps, because you understand what it’s like to understand something that only a few people in the world understand, and you also understand the kind of biases and mistakes experts make. But what strategy could I recommend to most people who don’t have PhDs? Are you just epistemically SOL?
I know what scientists are like, and that makes scientific conspiracy theories extremely unbelievable to me. On the other hand, scientific frauds, persistent errors, and plain miscommunications are far more believable. I’m reminded of an article in Wired that traced the 6-feet rule about COVID to old irrelevant arguments about the transmission of measles. I can’t vouch that this story is 100% accurate, but it’s very true to my understanding of scientist behavior. While the scientific ideal is to update your theories with the evidence, in practice scientists are financially incentivized to expound upon the value of their previously published work, even if that means perpetuating error. And this causes a whole bunch of problems, most of which are far too mundane to ever make it into the news.