John Russell highlighted, on Twitter, an article about why Americans have come to worship their own ignorance and suggested that I might particular like the end bit. The article was really an interview and one of the final question elicited a response that did indeed resonate and is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot myself. I haven’t quite solidified my own views, but thought I would simply quote the response below.
Part of what I argue as a solution to this is experts need to get out and go to those town halls, take their lumps and forcefully engage the public back. This is something experts are inherently uncomfortable doing because people who work with knowledge and information tend to come out of institutions with collegial norms of discussion and very clear rules of debate. Scrapping with the public over what’s true or false is very uncomfortable for most experts, but they need to do it because, otherwise, that space gets filled by charlatans and demagogues. Experts are going to have to re-engage the public with patience, with fortitude, and with an absolute insistence on empiricism and rationality. And humour—did you see those doctors on Jimmy Kimmel? “Remember that time you had polio? No, you don’t. Because your parents got you f—king vaccinated.”