Shut Up and Color
According to Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, that means the rest of us have no option other than deference.
How can we, nonexperts, take account of expert opinion when it is relevant to decisions about public policy?
To answer this question, we need to reflect on the logic of appeals to the authority of experts. First of all, such appeals require a decision about who the experts on a given topic are. Until there is agreement about this, expert opinion can have no persuasive role in our discussions. Another requirement is that there be a consensus among the experts about points relevant to our discussion. Precisely because we are not experts, we are in no position to adjudicate disputes among those who are. Finally, given a consensus on a claim among recognized experts, we nonexperts have no basis for rejecting the truth of the claim.
These requirements may seem trivially obvious, but they have serious consequences. Consider, [AGW]. All creditable parties to this debate recognize a group of experts designated as “climate scientists,” whom they cite in either support or opposition to their claims about global warming.
The corporate view among climate scientists, outliers notwithstanding, is that Gaia is getting hot under the collar, and human activity is responsible for this onslaught of fever. Sure, there is some expert dispute, but since the consensus has decided upon AGW, and we non-experts are in no position to arbitrate, then it is crayons for us.
As long as [non-experts accept there is such a thing as expertise in climate science], they have no basis for supporting the minority position. Critics within the community of climate scientists may have a cogent case against A.G.W., but, given the overall consensus of that community, we non-experts have no basis for concluding that this is so. It does no good to say that we find the consensus conclusions poorly supported. Since we are not experts on the subject, our judgment has no standing.
From this it follows that non-experts, hereafter referred to as The Great Unwashed Masses (TGUMs), cannot argue against The Consensus; instead, those among the TGUMs who dispute AGW must argue that:
… climate science lacks the scientific status needed be taken seriously in our debates about public policy. There may well be areas of inquiry (e.g., various sub-disciplines of the social sciences) open to this sort of critique. But there does not seem to be a promising case against the scientific authority of climate science.
So, to summarize:
Once we have accepted the authority of a particular scientific discipline, we cannot consistently reject its conclusions. To adapt Schopenhauer’s famous remark about causality, science is not a taxi-cab that we can get in and out of whenever we like. Once we board the train of climate science, there is no alternative to taking it wherever it may go.
In other words, Shut Up and Color.
But does this conclusion follow?
On the face of it, contradiction should be hard to come by. After all, Dr. Gutting as a philosopher is a certified expert in constructing philosophical arguments. By definition, his expert argument on the expertise of experts must be immune to the inept pesterings of a TGUM.
His insistence upon accepting the consensus of experts does seem to accord reasonably well with experience. We take our cars in to mechanics — experts in the science of car repair — and rarely contradict their opinions on which framitz needs defargging. Similarly, faced with some significant malaise, people routinely get a second, or even third doctorial opinion; should those opinions coalesce into consensus, then we assume whatever position is required, and take what medically expert consensus sends our direction. The list goes on nearly without end: deference to physicists, accountants, and geologists in the realms of physics, making sense of IRS regulations and where to drill for oil goes without saying.
Therefore, failing to defer to climate scientists must be a singular case of irrationality.
Unless, of course, our expert philosopher has created an argument that assumes, conceals, neglects, or is ignorant of, rather a lot.
He assumes that since climatologists are doing sciency things, their product is science. However, in order for a hypothesis to qualify as a scientific theory, it must have deductive consequences. For example, a deductive consequence of naturalistic evolution is that inheritance must be particular, not blended. Unfortunately, climate science is so devoid of deductive consequences that it explains everything. In so doing, it is indistinguishable from religion: by explaining everything, it actually explains nothing.
Going one long step further, he also assumes (although implicitly insists is probably closer to the mark) that climate science is so arcane that its content is beyond the ken of TGUMs. This insistent assumption is striking. I have a book that convincingly explains relativity to TGUMs, thereby justifying its experts. Surely, climate science can't be more difficult to apprehend than the singular intellectual accomplishment of the modern era.
Then there is the matter of judging the experts' performance. If my mechanic tells me my framitz is fargged, when all along the wishbone was whacky, then his expertise is something less than total. Except as a contrived exercise in post hoc reasoning, climate scientists routinely fail to meaningfully predict actual climate trends. That alone is no source of comfort; after all, they could be wrong in not being right enough. However, their predictions have, at best, uniformly exceeded subsequent observations. Harold Camping assured us the apocalypse was to happen on May 21st. In the late 80s, Dr. Hansen assured us that NYC's West Side Highway would be underwater by now. Based upon the evidence, I have no more reason to suspect that Dr. Hansen's expertise in climate science is any more elevated than Harold Camping's is in apocalypse science.
TGUMs have no need to acknowledge expertise simply because a self anointed group claims it for themselves. Rather, deferring to that claim, when reality has so relentlessly contradicted it, and the costs of doing so, both in terms of economics and freedom, are so high would be irrational folly of the first order.
Dr. Gutter's insistence on our submission to the god of consensus isn't philosophy, it is theology.
Oh, by the way, stay inside the lines. Or else.