Difference between revisions of "Epistemic Learned Helplessness"

From ScienceForSustainability
Jump to: navigation, search
(change category Opinion to Editorial)
Line 1: Line 1:

Revision as of 02:52, 15 February 2020

"Epistemic Learned Helplessness" is the title of an essay by Scott Alexander in which he argues against accepting arguments about anything one isn't an expert in, because it is impossible to distinguish between correct arguments and those which sound convincing but are wrong. Alexander cites as an example that he read and was convinced by the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky (who claimed that Earth had suffered catastrophic close contacts with Venus and Mars in ancient history) but the principle can be applied to arguments put forward regarding climate change, and mitigation solutions.

Alexander advocates that instead of listening to arguments on a subject in which one is not a world-class expert and trying to make up one's own mind:

The medical establishment offers a shiny tempting solution. First, a total unwillingness to trust anything, no matter how plausible it sounds, until it’s gone through an endless cycle of studies and meta-analyses. Second, a bunch of Institutes and Collaborations dedicated to filtering through all these studies and analyses and telling you what lessons you should draw from them.

In the context of climate change and mitigation the "bunch of Institutes and Collaborations" are obviously the IPCC, IEA etc.

Of course Alexander's essay is, itself, advancing an argument ...