We rely on experts in every field. Yet from economists to climate scientists they hold wildly disparate views. Might the very idea of objective knowledge be illusory and expertise be simply a form of institutional power? If we were more sceptical would it lead to democracy or bring chaos?
In this issue of IAI News the very notion of expertise is under fire. Writer, broadcaster and former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris, argues that the “rule of experts might be considered a threat to democracy”. He urges us to be more sceptical – especially of the social sciences and psychology.
By contrast, former government advisor David Nutt argues for a rational, scientific approach to drugs policy. Policy should be based on evidence, he says. We need to listen to the experts. Philosopher Nicholas Maxwell goes one step further. He argues that science does not just provide us with knowledge and know-how; its methodology, he argues, may provide us with the key to wisdom.
As if to undermine the point, however, two philosophers unpick how our so-called scientific experts have still not managed to solve the mystery of consciousness. Both John Heil and Daniel Stoljar attack the old models by which science has tried to explain the problem: Heil advocates a reconciliation between materialism and dualism, while Stoljar proposes a radical new model of consciousness.
Image credit: Steve Jurvetson