Guest post: We’re all forced to take shortcuts

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Putting ideology before science.

I think when it comes to medical or other technical subjects, we’re all forced to take shortcuts and rely on some heuristics. It’s just not possible to become an expert in gender medicine, climate science, evolutionary biology, and virology and infectious disease, to name just a handful of science-related controversies. So we look at things like what side do most of the credentialed experts take, how good are the best arguments made by their critics, what are the economic incentives and biases of the disputants, who seems to be arguing in good faith, etc.

And a lot of the time, this works quite well. You don’t have to look very hard at evolution/creation arguments before you notice that creationists tend to offer an argument on Tuesday that is shown to be an outright lie that even they don’t bother to defend, only to make that same bogus argument on Thursday to a different audience. And that they’re almost invariably arguing in support of a religious agenda, even when they try to hide it (“no, we’re cdesign proponentists!”) Etc.

And yeah, one of the criteria you might look at is who seems to be the “good guys.” Which can absolutely go wrong.

On gender medicine, you have a significant number of credentialed experts who insist that the science is settled, and they just want to help people live their lives, and a nontrivial amount of the opposition comes from religious right types who seem motivated by disgust and hatred rather than good faith intellectual disagreement. Sure, if you take a not-very-deep dive into the details, it becomes apparent that there’s a lot more going on, but very few people do that.

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