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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  18:20:32  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/an-interview-with-harry-collins

Interesting reading.

The attitude that anyone's opinion on any topic is equally valuable could spread, and there are some indications, such as widespread vaccine scares, that suggest it is happening. A world in which there is said to be no difference between those who know what they are talking about and those who don't is not one that anyone who thinks about it wants. Such a society would be like one's worst nightmare, exhibiting many of the characteristics of the most vile epochs of human history.


(edited to make the quote work)

Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth

Edited by - Dude on 09/06/2008 18:23:47

Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  18:58:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
With regards to the sciences, I have seen people put forth arguments that either 1) only authors of peer-reviewed articles can be called experts and 2) lending weight to an expert's judgement is simply an argument from authority. Point 2 is wrong but I wonder how you would judge (sort of objectively) the expertise of a non-published person (e.g. Collins interactional expert)...

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  19:49:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think there has to be a range of expertise. You'd be ok learning basic biology from a grad-student teaching the class, but you wouldn't want a medical diagnosis from him/her.

The problem is that people seem to be disregarding the advice of legitimate experts in favor of, well, bullshit. The article mentions vaccines as one example. Its a good one because a lot of people are convinced, despite evidence to the contrary, that vaccines cause autism.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  19:54:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The "argument from authority" is typically abused in that way, Hawks, by people who simply don't want to acknowledge someone's expertise. The proper formulation is "argument from inappropriate authority," as in someone who pretends to expertise in a subject. For example, a microbiologist holding forth on the finer points of bridge construction.

That's not to say that a microbiologist cannot be an expert in bridges, only that if you're talking bridge construction, you would expect the first citations to be to people who build bridges for a living.

Of course, approaching it from the other direction, there are certainly a few microbiologists who are full of crap when talking about microbiology. Appealing to an appropriate authority is no guarantee of correctness. Which is why a reasonable person appeals to consensus knowledge where it exists, and not just one guy. After all, experts (scientists especially) should be in competition with one another (for grant money, Nobel prizes, etc.) and so if nearly everyone in a particular field agrees on something, there's a very, very good chance that that something is true (contrast science, where everyone agrees on the basics but should not, with religion, where few people agree on the basics but all should).

Now, as to who should be called an expert, I only found out a few years ago what degrees "really" mean (I haven't been to college myself). A bachelor's, I'm told, means that you've got enough knowledge to begin a career in your chosen field. A master's degree means you've got enough knowledge to teach people who want to get bachelor's degrees in your field. A doctorate means that you have actually added to the knowledge base in your field, meaning that you've learned enough to go out and find something new to learn that nobody else has. People with doctorate degrees are experts (though their field may be rather tight, at times).

(How tongue-in-cheek that explanation was when I heard it, I honestly can't say. But the people I know who've been through most of the process have told me that it's about right.)

In the U.S., at least, to get a doctorate your thesis must actually go through a form of peer-review and publication. And that is an attempt (not always successful) at an objective standard for expertise.

How could a non-degreed person demonstrate that he/she has enough knowledge to be considered an expert, also? Seems to me that the only way to do that is to have them go through some sort of peer review. If nothing else, you get a bunch of acknlowedged experts to hammer away at the person with questions, until they all say, "yeah, she's at least as expert in this subject as me."

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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  21:03:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
Now, as to who should be called an expert, I only found out a few years ago what degrees "really" mean (I haven't been to college myself). A bachelor's, I'm told, means that you've got enough knowledge to begin a career in your chosen field. A master's degree means you've got enough knowledge to teach people who want to get bachelor's degrees in your field. A doctorate means that you have actually added to the knowledge base in your field, meaning that you've learned enough to go out and find something new to learn that nobody else has. People with doctorate degrees are experts (though their field may be rather tight, at times).

(How tongue-in-cheek that explanation was when I heard it, I honestly can't say. But the people I know who've been through most of the process have told me that it's about right.)

As a rough guide, that might be about right. Humble master's degrees might also add to the knowledge in a certain area, however, as they typically involve a fair amount of research. I wouldn't say the the addition of new knowledge necessarily makes you much more of an expert really. The main reason is more likely to be found in the references that are included in a thesis - you have to read and understand HEAPS of background material (i.e. previous papers published) in the field where your research in concerned. The new knowledge produced during a thesis is generally quite small compared to this.

The acceptance of a doctorate over a master's thesis is much harder, as well. You have to defend your doctorate thesis orally, typically, in front of a few professors (peer review in itself). For a master's thesis it is generally up to your supervisor to fail/flunk you. Also, a doctorate typically takes twice as long as a master's and you generally have to be more independent while doing doctoral research.


METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 09/06/2008 :  21:41:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The way I see it, a Master does not necessarily have to design his research (some masters are in fact obtained purely through classes) while a PhD normally design part of his own research.

Of course, your own mileage may vary, but, I think, that it is supposed to be the main difference between the two; the PhD knows his field well enough to know what questions still need answering. And he is experienced enough to know how to answer them.
It is not such a requirement for a Master student.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
Edited by - Simon on 09/06/2008 21:41:23
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chefcrsh
Skeptic Friend

Hong Kong
380 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  04:19:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send chefcrsh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wait, it is an argument from authority, but as with most logical fallacy it is not always wrong, just always a poor replacement for pure logic. An argument from authority is only a logical fallacy when it is pitted against contrary evidence. Or is left to stand on its own without at least presumed robust support.

We must take a lot of information in life on appeal to the authority of others. I do not have the expertise or time to go and grade my own beef to be USDA Prime. Ultimately I rely on the authority of the beef inspector who has expertise in the criteria and has the duty to determine if the specific side of beef fits the criteria ( I also place some trust in the method and framework).

Much the same is true with many of our advanced sciences. Even one specialist in science must take other sciences at the authority.

The real problem to me is that as the borderlands of scientific knowledge becomes more esoteric, and as the media reports on every shift in the assumed knowledge, without, themselves understanding, or communicating the complicated process, that it becomes more and more easy for the layman (to dismiss the expert as just another wild guess.

It is not just a problem of science as it becomes more bizzare and inexplicable, it is in part the result of secularisation - lack of godlike authority of a church, with very poor skeptical skills to the general public to do the critical thinking homework and arrive at the probability of if the given authority is making a reasonable claim.

I think I may have said too much.


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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  07:12:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
chef, as Dave_W said, the proper way to describe the informal fallacy we are discussing is "argument from inapropriate authority".

If, when discussing chemistry, I cite Pauling... I am arguing from authority and it is not a logical fallacy. If, when discussing the best daily intake of vitamin C, I cite Pauling... I am arguing from authority and it is a logical fallacy.

The way the term is most often used, "argument from authority", implies that your authority is inapropriate. So it isn't really used to describe a situation where you properly cite an expert.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  09:13:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

chef, as Dave_W said, the proper way to describe the informal fallacy we are discussing is "argument from inapropriate authority".

If, when discussing chemistry, I cite Pauling... I am arguing from authority and it is not a logical fallacy. If, when discussing the best daily intake of vitamin C, I cite Pauling... I am arguing from authority and it is a logical fallacy.

The way the term is most often used, "argument from authority", implies that your authority is inapropriate. So it isn't really used to describe a situation where you properly cite an expert.
Right. Here is a great example of the appeal to authority that was used in an email debate about skeptics and atheists alleged Paradigm Paralysis
William F. Fechter:
Two great scientists Oliver Lodge and William Crookes in
England used critical thinking, skepticism and the
scientific method to study the paranormal and came to the
conclusion that consciousness survives death. They were
even able to obtain physical evidence such as locks of
hair and finger prints of manifested entities but the
scientists still were unable to believe them.

Snip
Me:
But first, let me say something about the logical fallacy of an “appeal to authority.” Yes, Crookes was a scientist of note. Yes, he could speak with authority about his discoveries in chemistry. Yes, he probably deserved all the honors bestowed upon him. But it should be noted that every one of the honors were in the field in which he was an expert. Just how exactly did his expertise in chemistry make him an expert in the investigation of the paranormal? Did he have any degrees in psychology? Did he have the expert eye of a magician who knows how to spot trickery?

You can learn more about the logical fallacy of “appeals to authority” at:

http://skepdic.com/authorty.html
I think that after the strawman argument, this fallacy is the most common one that we see around these parts.

For those selling a dubious product or idea, the appeal to authority is probably the most commonly used fallacy. There is a doctor in a lab coat in almost every diet informercial. Real doctors who have been paid to say shit, which is why it's important to look at what the consensus of doctors have to say. One doctor with all the right credentials is not an appropriate authority until he convinces the medical community to change the consensus view. But then, the doctor who does that, and there have been many, is probably not hawking products on television.

Edited to add: It's really the style of the presentation that people need to recognize and not necessarily the merits of the claim. That doesn't require any great talent or a vast knowledge of the use of critical thinking. Just a bit of education will do.


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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chefcrsh
Skeptic Friend

Hong Kong
380 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  17:05:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send chefcrsh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I disagree.

And as rebuttal I'll use an argument from authority.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

As suggested above, not all Appeals to Authority are fallacious. This is fortunate since people have to rely on experts. This is because no one person can be an expert on everything and people do not have the time or ability to investigate every single claim themselves.

In many cases, Arguments from Authority will be good arguments. For example, when a person goes to a skilled doctor and the doctor tells him that he has a cold, then the the patient has good reason to accept the doctor's conclusion. As another example, if a person's computer is acting odd and his friend, who is a computer expert, tells him it is probably his hard drive then he has good reason to believe her.

What distinguishes a fallacious Appeal to Authority from a good Appeal to Authority is that the argument meets the six conditions discussed above.


The point is that even trusting the appropriate expert is arguing from authority. No way around it. And science (especially medical) history is rife with significant authority on a given subject, even broad consensus authority, later being proven entirely wrong.


Edited by - chefcrsh on 09/07/2008 17:09:59
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  17:14:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chefcrsh

I disagree...

[snip]
What distinguishes a fallacious Appeal to Authority from a good Appeal to Authority is that the argument meets the six conditions discussed above.
Those six conditions:
  1. The person has sufficient expertise in the subject matter in question.
  2. The claim being made by the person is within her area(s) of expertise.
  3. There is an adequate degree of agreement among the other experts in the subject in question.
  4. The person in question is not significantly biased.
  5. The area of expertise is a legitimate area or discipline.
  6. The authority in question must be identified.
We've been talking about the first three.

Your disagreement seems to indicate that there cannot be any experts at all, because as soon as someone calls himself an expert - or even deigns to teach - he's setting himself up as an authority.

Does that mean that looking at your videos, chef, is an inappropriate appeal to authority if I know nothing about cooking?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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chefcrsh
Skeptic Friend

Hong Kong
380 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  18:04:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send chefcrsh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I refer to the second third and fourth posts where there was no mention of inappropriate authority, but rather a discussion of if relying on expert testimony is or is not an appeal to authority. My point, supported by most logicians (appeal to authority) is 1. Yes it is. 2. Not all appeals to authority are wrong or fallacy. There is nothing wrong with admitting an appeal to authority in terms of using experts. It is only wrong if the expertise is used to refute stronger contrary data.

Be honest do you vet all expert testimony through all 6 (especially 3, 4,and 5) for everything you know? I guess not. Thats fine, and normal but it is an appeal to authority. I just don't see the sense in skeptics trying to deny it. We will only get caught out by the inadmission. I think we would do better by stating that yes in many cases we take appeals to authority but if that authority is called into question we are prepared to abandon it in favor of more robust reason.

Its not that there are no experts, thats kind of ridiculous, its that expert testimony is an appeal to authority no matter how you slice it. And that appeal to authority is always of potentially lower status than more pure forms of logic. Just as induction is of lower order than deduction.
Edited by - chefcrsh on 09/07/2008 18:06:09
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chefcrsh
Skeptic Friend

Hong Kong
380 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  18:53:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send chefcrsh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Does that mean that looking at your videos, chef, is an inappropriate appeal to authority if I know nothing about cooking?


This seems looks similar to the "humor" you were using in the food thread...hmmm...Am I missing the joke?

1. Looking at my video means nothing.
2. Appealing to some testimony that I have imparted in one of my videos, on the grounds that it is from me a noted chef is an appeal to authority regardless of your cooking expertise.3. It is also so regardless of how right or wrong I happen to be on that subject. 4. Practicing one of the memes attested to in my video and seeing the results for yourself is not.
Example:
For a coons age chefs and cooks have believed and attested that searing meat "seals" in juices. I have argued against this hypothesis with many chefs, some far more accredited than I. Even many of the cookbook heroes we know and love believed in this myth. But the fact of the matter (regardless of either my or their authority) is that Harold McGee has conclusively proven with empirical evidence that it is not at all so.

Was I right because of my authority on the subject? No. Was James Beard right because of his? No. Were we both (at least reasonably assumed to be) expert on the issue of cooking meat? Yes. Our authority gave us no credibility in our pronouncement, only that data did. The fact has shown time and again that I was right and James Beard (a god of cookery) was mistaken. But still when I argue with anyone (it goes on even today) within my field they are far more likely to appeal to Beard as the superior authority, but the test will show time after time that Beard was clearly wrong.

Argument from authority is common, and just very week evidence.


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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  19:02:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The problem is that those who are trying to deny something will trot out "appeal to authority" for any citation to any expert, and "anecdote" for everything else. And technically they would be correct. But this is what that gets you:
Arnie: ...so because force equals mass times acceleration, we see...
Ben: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Force equals what? Can you prove that?
Arnie: Well, according to Isaac Newton...
Ben: Don't you have anything better than an argument from authority?
Arnie: I measured it myself in this case, would you like to see the data?
Ben: That's just anecdotal. Where is your proof that "F=ma" is true?
Skeptics, in other words, are damned whether they admit to appealing to authorities or not. So why muddy the waters by admitting it up front, when the real problems are going to come from the smart-ass contrarians who already know that a citation is nothing more than an appeal to authority?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  19:09:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chefcrsh

1. Looking at my video means nothing.
2. Appealing to some testimony that I have imparted in one of my videos, on the grounds that it is from me a noted chef is an appeal to authority regardless of your cooking expertise.3. It is also so regardless of how right or wrong I happen to be on that subject.
The very act of learning something from someone else rests upon your assumption that they are more of an authority on the subject than you are.
4. Practicing one of the memes attested to in my video and seeing the results for yourself is not.
No, that would be anecdotal. It could be that your recipes are all screwed up but I followed the instructions poorly and so just accidentally improved the dish.
But the fact of the matter (regardless of either my or their authority) is that Harold McGee has conclusively proven with empirical evidence that it is not at all so.
What's so special about Harold McGee that you think he got the evidence correct? Isn't that just an appeal to his authority?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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chefcrsh
Skeptic Friend

Hong Kong
380 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2008 :  19:28:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send chefcrsh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.So why muddy the waters by admitting it up front


Honesty. And tidiness.

Originally posted by Dave W.
The very act of learning something from someone else rests upon your assumption that they are more of an authority on the subject than you are.

So we agree.
Originally posted by Dave W.What's so special about Harold McGee that you think he got the evidence correct? Isn't that just an appeal to his authority?


As I said McGee provided empirical evidence.

It is a rather simple test:

Take two equal pieces of meat (cut, weight, breed, animal)
Two identical cooking methods.
Sear one do not sear the other.
Cook to the same core temperature and for the same amount of time.
Weigh both at the end. There is no variance, which there would be if searing locked in the juices.

He also provided the biological and chemical framework that explains the real phenomena: Muscle tissue expels its liquid content at a specific heat, regardless of seared outside. It is when the particular fiber reaches that heat that it contracts and forces out its juice. This also has and can be been empirically demonstrated.

And he provided a biological and chemistry grounded explanation of the apparent phenomenon: Browned enzymes have been shown to directly fire more of the taste sensations in the human mouth this firing of taste nerves causes the salivary glands to activate more quickly and with more abundance on a browned piece of meat, giving the sensation of juiciness.

To put it plainly McGees theory answered all the data. The searing hypothesis only answered one small piece and that in opposition of the other known mechanisms.




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