An article about experts, and joining Heterodox Academy

Any followers of this blog who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter might be interested in this article I wrote about expertise and its limits.

In related news, I have signed up as a supporter of Heterodox Academy, a group advocating viewpoint diversity in academia as a bulwark against groupthink both within specific research areas and in the greater academic community. If you know me, you probably know that I used to be quite left-wing and a supporter of all the popular causes that academics tend to be enthusiastic about. Over the last 18 months I have become disillusioned and frustrated with much of this. If someone says something popular but false (or at least debateable), it shouldn’t require bravery to openly question it. But it does, and that’s the opposite of a good strategy for pursuing truth.

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About Brendon J. Brewer

I am a senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics at The University of Auckland. Any opinions expressed here are mine and are not endorsed by my employer.
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6 Responses to An article about experts, and joining Heterodox Academy

  1. I’ve signed up too. Although the problem is most prominent in politics and the social sciences (“our research proves conservatives are stupid”) it is also important in some sciences, particularly when there are political implications, such as climate science.

    I was intrigued by your recent tweet

    and was wondering if you could expand on what you mean by it, perhaps in a blog post?

    • I am happy to elaborate a little but will be deliberately vague.

      There are some people at my workplace who are concerned that the proportions of people from various demographic groups in senior jobs at the university is not the same as the proportions of people in those demographic groups in the country as a whole. Among left wing circles, the only allowed explanations of this are ones that involve moral melodrama (bias, discrimination, etc). While these phenomena are real, there are other reasons why demographic ‘gaps’ exist and from my reading, in modern times and in free societies these other explanations usually explain the bulk of the differences.

      However, in order to “fix” the “problem”, someone recently proposed we enact rules that people appointed to certain roles in universities must satisfy quotas. This is authoritarian in the sense that third parties not involved in the decisions (people who would bring in quotas) are saying that other people’s judgements (i.e. the people who do the appointing) are automatically wrong, when the third parties are far removed from the information they would need to make a good decision (i.e. the characteristics of the actual individuals who might be selected for a role).

      I hope this is clear enough.

  2. Brendon, thanks for clarifying. I don’t know if this story made it to your part of the world: a few weeks ago, Kevin Roberts, someone high up at advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi dared to suggest that perhaps a lot of women didn’t particularly want to fight for the very top jobs. For saying such an outrageous thing, he lost his job. So you are forgiven for being a bit vague!

  3. Pingback: Markets and Auckland Housing | Plausibility Theory

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