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Critical Thinking & COVID-19 VII: Argument Against Expertise

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In a previous essay I went over the argument from authority and the standards to use to distinguish between credible and non-credible experts. While people often make the mistake of treating non-experts as credible sources, they also make the mistake of rejecting credible experts because the experts are experts. This sort of fallacious reasoning is worthy of a name and the obvious choice is “argument against expertise.” It occurs when a person rejects a claim because it is made by an authority/expert and has the following form:   Premise 1: Authority/expert A makes claim C. Conclusion: Claim C is false.   While experts can be wrong, to infer that an expert is wrong because they are an expert is obviously absurd and an error in reasoning. To use a geometry example, consider the following:   Premise 1: Euclid, an expert on geometry, claimed that triangles have three sides. Conclusion: Triangles do not have three sides.   It must be noted that there are rational grounds for doubting an expert—as discussed in the essay on argument from authority. When a person rationally applies the standards of assessing an alleged expert and decides that the expert lacks credibility, this would not be an error. But to reject a claim solely because of the source is always a fallacy (usually an ad hominem) and rejecting a claim because it was made by an expert would be doubly fallacious, if there were such a thing. Since experts are generally more likely to be right than wrong, this sort of reasoning will tend to lead to accepting untrue claims. While this is a bad idea in normal times, it is even more dangerous during a pandemic. In the case of COVID-19, there are those who use this reasoning to reject the claims of medical experts. This can, obviously enough, lead to illness and death. Because the fallacy lacks all logical force, it derives its influence from psychological factors, and these are worth considering when trying to defend against and respond to this. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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