Monday, October 17, 2011

How to assess whether a commentator is credible? One simple way

If the communication is about science, listen and see if it's sprinkled with these misleading terms. And, if you can, ask the commentator: do you feel you'd be better at assessing the evidence than 97% of the experts in the field?

(Updated Oct 18 "misleading terms", expertise, doing-vs-using, and minor edits)
(For commentators who do think so, & who hold contrarian views, it might be worth asking followup questions, to see whether they're aware of the arguments against their position (including a "position" of doubt); for doing this, if the subject is climate science, some preparation with will help you.)

(Also, if they haven't been telling their audience what the vast majority of experts in the field do think (the best Q for assessing this: is their regular audience unaware or confused about the state of the field?), you should probably take their communication with large quantities of salt.)

Other things to watch for: do they make a distinction between experts with actual, relevant expertise vs. "experts" without? and do they see a distinction between how best to do science (as a scientist), and how best to use science (as a citizen)?

Democracy doesn't work if people don't know what is going on.

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