Friday, February 19, 2016

The Death Of Expertise Is Really The Death Of The Narrative

I encountered a meme at work. My interlocutor did not know it was a meme, but I was suspicious, so I googled.

The Death Of Expertise, by Tom Nichols, who thinks he is an expert in social science and public policy. Written two years ago. Of course, there maybe something written earlier, but this was one of the first hits, and indicative of what I heard being emoted in realspace.

He is very unlikely to be practicing the methodology that Von Mises set down for praxeology. His entire field is currently suffering a complete lack of replicability. There is a never ending reprise in public policies that don't work- like Krugman constantly arguing the Fed hasn't done enough- because people like Mr. Nichols either don't know or refuse to believe the expert on methodology for anything involving human action.

No, what he has, what really pays his bills, is the narrative:

This isn’t just about politics, which would be bad enough. No, it’s worse than that: the perverse effect of the death of expertise is that without real experts, everyone is an expert on everything. To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.

Occam's Razor being what it is, it is more likely the transient immunity provided by the vaccine went away, and a foreigner from a country where they still have whooping cough came into the neighborhood. This happened with measles. I also think is has happened right in the heart of government country- the D.C. area- where a lot of people have to get the flu vaccine. Pretty sure there was an outbreak of a particular flu despite the population being inoculated against it only two years before. Sure, I could do the research, but you aren't paying for that research. You are paying for the narrative.

But there are experts. If you want to follow the measles story, you can eventually get down to studies showing the how long immunity tends to last. Pretty straightforward biological testing. No fancy statistics. Also, only damaging to the narrative, not to vaccines themselves. If you are pro-vax, but not narrative bound, then presumably you are not arguing with science right now, and are instead scheduling your vaccination update appointment. You may need to bring the studies to the doctor to prove to him you are not a nut. You can thank the narrative for that.

He then ponders about how conversation became exhausting. Yes. I supposed it can be even worse if you have a head full of sociology. For me, it was Katrina. I finally realized that there is a subset of people who will just never understand. They can't see that debacle and realize they shouldn't rely on government. Instead they call somebody racist and then double down on relying on government, presumably so they can get even more screwed when the next racist gets into office.

I guess the upside to running into this meme is that I now know why libraries will, generally speaking, continue to buy the library version of bread and circuses rather than get serious about making sure we have quality knowledge on various subjects. Good knowledge that doesn't fit the narrative from the past has been pushed out. Good knowledge from now will only make it in if it is popular, for library bureaucrats have decided that they will point at circulation statistics as the satisfactory metric of success. By pretending the demise of narrative is actually the demise of experts, they don't then feel any responsibility to go out and acquaint themselves with those who have superseded the old narrative peddlers. They can also pretend that the old channels through which they get books is still somehow more legit than Amazon, when mere statistics alone dictate that we will need to be able to engage with the new publishing systems in order to get good information about many subjects. It gets even more complicated in the future, as more good experts go to direct download video.

The narrative is dying. More and more of us notice the injustice of the narrative. It isn't just that it's wrong, its that it has pushed a lot of us out from where we should have been. I didn't bring up the fact that you aren't paying me for research just for snark. This is a legitimate problem. There was no way I could become and/or make a living as a climatologist, for example. Funding is contingent on the narrative. You do not get good researchers and you do not get good science under this regime. Unfortunately, it appears you don't get good a good justice system either, since the frauds aren't in jail like they should be.

So, what happens? Trumpenf├╝hrer. In Europe, it's going to get violent. It isn't just a backlash; it is a result. The narrative is not an accurate map of reality. People who follow an inaccurate map tend to get lost and bump into things. Additionally, since they are perpetrating injustice on their own people in order to continue the narrative, they now have justice against them. Attempts at justice- via the courts- were a proxy for violence. When the courts are subverted for the narrative, the people take to violence to seek justice.

But there are experts. Hopefully some of them will still be around for the rebuild.


George Goerlich said...

We haven't gotten our son vaccinated. I had some second thoughts when he got a pretty bad stomach bug (possibly rotavirus?) but the upside is now he should have real, lifetime immunity to it. My uncle remembers his parents purposely exposing him to measles, and that it really sucked, but he's extremely healthy for being almost 70. I remember purposely being exposed to chicken pox, but just because the company invented a vaccine that sounds a lot like forbidden crime-think now. That said, I know a mother whose kids got the vaccines, and then immediately came down with a very bad case. So... yeah.

I tried to do a statistical analysis, and after 6-months it looks like fatalities for all those diseases in the US have been 0 or near 0 for a long time. So obviously the smart think to do is for a mom to stay home with and breastfeed the newborn for at least 6-months, and keep it out of childcare, etc.

The only vaccine where the fatalities appeared to outweigh the reported vaccine side effects (and these are virtually suppressed, only being reported to a specific database that isn't considered scientifically verified) was tetanus.

It might also just be genetics, but I've our son has been in the 90th percentile for height and weight for quite some time. We're both average heights/weights. He also is one of the most "hyperactive" kids I've seen among the parents I've come across, tons of energy.

George Goerlich said...

Also a family member who is extremely pro-vaccine has a son with autism. Probably just a coincidence, but yeah...

August said...

I think breastfeeding is the best practice too, but then the mom has to make sure she's actually immune or get a vaccine herself so that she can pass the antibodies on to the child until the child's immune system is robust enough.

If we stopped treating vaccines as a special class of product, and the companies were liable like other products, then it would be more clear. They'd get the questionable stuff out of them, and tell you up front how long to expect to be immune. Then folks could do a clear risk/benefit analysis and decide what they want to do.

August said...

How do you deal with things like schooling, where there are so many requirements for vaccines?

George Goerlich said...

We're considering homeschooling, but he's only preschool age right now.