Wordish Wednesday: Anti-intellectualism

Source: facebook.com/beingliberal.org

This quotation really resonates with me.  Perhaps because I’m a scientist, I am an expert in my field and I find it atrocious that my years of training are discounted in favor of lay people with little to no training, but the gall to question issues with a clear consensus within the scientific community.  (This can be anything from global climate change to vaccine safety.)

I’m never certain why people doubt those who are experts in their field as if they are on equal intellectual footing.  I don’t tell my plumber how to fix my toilet, I don’t tell my lawyer how to write my will, I don’t tell my doctor what medicine to prescribe.  While I may seek second opinions from another plumber, I wouldn’t doubt their solution if their opinions concurred.

Why do Americans have such an unhealthy amount of skepticism when it comes to trusting those with immense knowledge?

A few months ago Emily Willingham, unequivocally an expert in her field, wrote about the issue of the media quoting celebrities on scientific issues (ie Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy as an expert on autism and vaccine safety).  What struck me was Emily’s calculation of just how much time and effort it takes to develop expertise in science.  Her admitted underestimation (since she assumes students finish grad school in only 5 years and post-docs only work 40 hours per week) was that it took “at least 15,200 hours of study” to earn a PhD in science.

How could a lawyer turned politician or waitress turned actress or any American who isn’t a scientist possibly debate points of science or question an issue that has been put to rest by a consensus in the scientific community?  It baffles me.

1 Comment

Filed under Scientist, Wordless Wednesday

One response to “Wordish Wednesday: Anti-intellectualism

  1. It fills me with rage as well. A healthy skepticism is one thing (“Your toilet needs a new computer chip.” “REALLY?”), and asking for a reasonable explanation is one thing, but total denial of data? Especially without actually looking at any of the data? AAAAAAAARRRGH.

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