The Experts Can Be Wrong

The Experts Can Be Wrong January 3, 2014

The inanity of the frequent refrain of peddlers of pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship that “Even the experts can be wrong” is perhaps best illustrated be comparison with expertise in another domain.

Even professional musicians can play wrong notes. But that doesn’t make all players of instruments equal, nor does it make it equally or more likely that amateurs will get those same notes right.

By way of illustration, here is Valentina Lisitsa playing one of Rachmaninov’s Etudes Tableaux:

When someone asks me if I play the piano, I always try to respond by saying “It depends how broadly or narrowly you define the word ‘play’.” I do play – but do not have the skill or the cultivated ability of those who devote their lives to it.

If you are not devoting your life to something, then you can dabble, but for real precision you need to defer to those who do.

Here is Evgeny Kissin playing my favorite of the set:

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  • arcseconds

    If we’re to suppose with many YECists that the scientific community is obviously wrong about evolution, then to extend the analogy, it’s not just as if they must claim that, say, Benny Goodman or Anthony McGill are constantly playing wrong notes. They have to claim that all woodwind players constantly play wrong notes, and that virtually every other professional musician either fails to notice this or is complicit in some kind of cover-up.

    But a small group of amateur chorists, along with perhaps the odd professional percussionist, hear these wrong notes as plain as daylight…

  • I make this point quite often with creationists. I am not a scientist and neither are they. My background is theology and computers. I can, at times, speak authoratatively on these subjects, but I don’t know everything. The other day a family member asked my advice on a computer issue and then totally ignored what I said. I told them, next time don’t bother asking me. They later had to do exactly what I told them they needed to do. (And it cost them more money)

    When it comes to science, I trust people who are experts in their respective field. I do get irritated when scientists who have no theological training attempt to speak authoritatively on theology. All of us need to stick to that which we know and leave everything else to the experts in their respective field. This doesn’t mean I blindly trust experts. Since I was a creationist for almost 50 years, I am at a huge disadvantage when it comes to science. I read and encourage my grandchildren to think scientifically. Can’t do much about Grandpa, but I can try to make sure my grandkids grow up to be skeptical, rational freethinkers. I do hope at least one of them will become a scientist some day. It is with their generation the fundamentalist curse on our family can finally be broken.

  • happy

    Here’s a brilliant one from Deepak Chopra’s twitter page:

    Andrew “pseudoscience” is a term frequently used by those intellectually challenged look at data @PaxMagisteria @rudytanzi @richarddawkins

    I think we can safely translate that as, “pseudoscience” is a term frequently used by those who think Deepak Chopra does pseudoscience. (Deepak is always trolling Richard Dawkins on twitter for some reason.) Deepak the master of incoherent hand waving and ambiguity. (Note his use of the word “frequently” so he can be deliberately ambiguous and not be cornered by counterexamples of people obviously legitimately using the term “pseudoscience”.)