Your humble author has often challenged supposed “experts” who put ideology above discipline. However, these attacks have been first and foremost upon factual inaccuracy and ideological warping and mischaracterization of facts. The belittlement of their claims to being right due to credentialing is an attack on the idea that a mere credential, per se, bestows any magical ability to always be right or that lack of a credential indicates the opposite.
However, some seem to take the flip version of this claim as gospel truth, with the Coronavirus (AKA Corona-chan AKA the Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague ChiCom Bio-Weapon of Doom*) Such is the case with a recent opinion piece be author Sarah Hoyt in which she not only peddles inaccurate information, but expresses a broad anti-credential bias. ‘Tis worth a fisking.
“Someday 2020 will be behind us, and we’ll tell our kids and grandkids about the year we were smitten by the plague.
“By which I don’t mean COVID-19, which is at best a nasty disease with death tolls the equivalent of a bad flu year – if we accept the numbers we’re being fed by an establishment desperate to cash in on the cash bonus for each COVID-19 diagnosis – but the plague that has laid this country low, destroyed our economy and brought us to a place that no external enemy could have brought: this plague of experts.”
Aside from the obvious sarcasm of the opening sentance/paragraph, the opinion piece starts out with a well discredited lie: That the Coronavirus is just the flu, assuming that that social distancing made no difference in limiting the disease, thus resulting in experts who are destroying the economy out of either stupidity or malevolence.
“Or perhaps I should say “experts” since most of them have behind them only a long string of failed prognostications, followed by promotion within the “civil servant” echelons.
“Yes, I am talking about Doctors Birx and Fauci. I’m already seeing people pointing fingers at the president and complaining that he’s relied too much on these ‘experts.’”
Except many of these models were indeed fairly accurate for what limited information we have, with the claims that these models were false due to sinecured idological idiots or evil scientists being based on either inability to understand scientific literature and predictive modeling, or willful ignorance.
“In fact, some months ago I saw people complaining in the comments at one of the conservative sites that the president hires ‘establishment’ people which he then has to fire. Why can’t he hire the people who will be good and not beholden to the – largely left – political establishment?
“Which brings us to the real plague of experts.
“Sure, what happened in 2020 and taking our economy down to protect us from what will emerge in retrospect as a not particularly lethal illness is a problem.
“If we survive – we’ll survive, right – and there is still a Republic at the end of this, we’ll need to talk about the plague of experts as a systemic problem.”
Ah, so after attempting—and failing—to establish that “experts” are wrong, there is an assertion that they are much more dangerous than the Coronavirus. What you see is that this is setting up a strawman to fit a pre-conceived boogieman of “credentialed” hooligans who play with other people’s lives for s**ts n’ giggles.
“You see, just like COVID-19 is a virus similar to those that cause the common cold, this overreaction to COVID-19 bears a strong resemblance to ‘expert-directed’ faux pas in everything from aviation to business to healthcare to, yes, politics.”
So, people with an engineering degree in aeronautics create “expert-directed” faux pas should be trusted less than an uninformed (or misinformed) amateur when it comes to aeronautic design?
This bring us to an opening point noted above: If you are going to criticize a “credentialed” “expert”, you’d better know what you’re talking about and be able to point out their errors without needing to appeal to emotion, pre-conceived ideology, or rhetorical tricks.
“In the early 21st century – largely because of a hyper-litigious society, in which everyone and anyone might sue you for discrimination – we’re faced with the inability to judge merit or competency.
“Because you cannot simply test someone and see if they can do the job – if you do that, and you happen to hire more men than women, or you fail to hire the population-representing numbers of some minority – you have to rely on what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, ‘credential factories.’”
It is true that many of the intelligence tests were abandoned due to fears that those tests could be used to engage in racial or sex discrimination, but that was in large part because such tests were used for such purposes.
Instead, standardized testing and demonstration of competence were used because they were far more objective. Many of these, most notably a college degree, was around for a long, long time. Actual “credential factories” are gone after and shut down.
While hard-progressive ideology has crept ever increasingly into academia, and a good chunk of academic disciplines are overwhelmed with idiocy, that doesn’t mean that any degree from any college or university is just a meaningless scrap of paper from a “credential factory”.
Even in many previously venerable fields, there are those who learn and study enough to be able to be able to capably lay bare the progressive ideological obsessions and biases. Beyond that, there are many fields, both inside and outside of academia where competence must be proved because people could be harmed if they listened to fools (or accept Mrs. Hoyts arguments).
“The problem is that the credential factories are not very good because they also can’t test anyone, but must rely on externally quantifiable proofs of merit.”
Oh, wait, she was being serious.
“It used to be that a high school diploma was worth something, but more and more all it means is that you’ve spent 12 years warming various desks and have failed to do something so heinous as to get expelled.
“So, we moved on to a college degree as a credential, which is why you find ads for the most ridiculous things requiring a bachelor’s degree.”
She does realize that a high school diploma is just as much of a “credential” as a bachelor’s degree, right?
“As someone who has taught bonehead English 101 to college freshmen, let me disabuse you of the impression that the majority of them enter college capable of writing a simple sentence or expressing the most straightforward of meanings.
“But it gets worse. Because instructors are evaluated by their students, you can’t – unless you have tenure – fail everyone that needs failing. So you pass them on ahead, to be someone else’s problem.
“Which means – I suspect – that these days there’s little hope that someone with a bachelor’s degree in anything will be able to express himself in writing in a way that would have satisfied an early 20th-century elementary school teacher.”
Oh, I’m sure that in the humanities and “social sciences” it is harder to have objective criteria, but objective criteria, even for English, can be established, even by someone without an education degree. As for the sciences and engineering, establishing strict and objective criteria is very, very easy. And not, a handful of whining students do not spell doom for someone seeking tenure. Experto crede.
“If the problem were only with our education, it would be bad enough, though the U.S. still has – thank heavens – the ability for citizens to educate themselves if they so choose. There are enough courses online, and various courses of study from serious to frivolous, where you can learn what the schools failed to teach you.
“But unfortunately, this problem, of substituting the credential for the competence, is everywhere.”
Oh, learning outside of schools is absolutely important and a moral duty. But how does one differentiate between apprenticing under a master in some field and some ignorant fool who buy’s Mrs. Hoyt’s opinion piece?
She ignores that the point of a credential is to demonstrate a base level of competence. That some joke degrees and other previously venerable degrees have degraded does not mean that some type of credential or degree is orthogonal to competence.
“In medicine, for instance, doctors are told to practice ‘evidence-based medicine.’ Sounds great, doesn’t it?
“Except that it’s not really ‘evidence-based.’ It is ‘studies based,’ i.e. your clinical practice has to conform with whatever the latest studies dictate. The problem is that most of these ‘studies’ are weak and done to a predestined result, and are, frankly, irreproducible.”
I can practically guarantee that I’ve read far more peer-reviewed articles than Mrs. Hoyt has, by many factors of ten. She seems to share the misunderstanding that most “non-experts” seem to have.
What peer-review does is require that a journal submission be submitted anonymously to referees (reviewers) familiar with the subject material. The referees could say to publish as is, but this is very, very rare. At best, most people can hope for a call for minor corrections and resubmission, which if made, the editor can decide on their own satisfies the objections of the referees. Most of the time, the referees request major changes, which will cause the authors to completely re-write their paper and/or add additional evidence/research/&c. Even scientists who have won tenure, awards, and were otherwise treated with reverence had this happen to them.
The idea that Mrs. Hoyt seems to accept, that incompetency is just accepted and passed along when it comes to academic degrees like it was a title of nobility or royalty passed on to some inbred handicapped fool, is beyond any semblance of reality.
“However, once they are published they are considered ‘evidence’ which must be followed in treating illness. This is, just in case you wondered, why for so long we were told we should be eating all carbs all the time and that this is what would make us slim.
“Unfortunately, this applies to practically everything.”
That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
A peer-reviewed paper is not secular scripture. No one within the field that it was published thinks that this is true. I’ve openly called out and belittled “findings” and conclusions that I knew from by own “credentialed” experience were a total pile of horse pucky, both within my field and outside it. I’ve called shenanigans on others and others have called it on me, including with those I acknowledge as being far more accomplished than I.
Heck, even when it comes to government approvals, you can’t just slap down some peer-reviewed papers and get approval.
That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
“This ridiculous nonsense is why we have people banning straws, when most of the plastic waste in the world comes from China. Or why we have a generation of kids shaking in their boots because they’ve been told (and shown pretty models ‘proving’) that in twelve years the Earth will burn up.”
That some people who filter actual science through their ideological filters does not mean the science itself is such a joke that one ought to be deferential to the author of an opinion piece on a political website over actual scientists.
“And it is why Trump can’t find anyone to hire with the right credentials – and you know if they don’t have the right credentials he’ll be crucified for it – who isn’t corrupted by a system in which you collect tokens by being a good little boy or girl and parroting back/behaving in the right way. Which, in point of fact, in most establishments, from scientific to political, means the left way.”
And finally we get to the strawman laid bare in all its fallacious glory… and the authors fallacious worldview.
Clearly, Mrs. Hoyt believes that the Progressive Left is so synonymous with any and all institutions, licenses, and other credentials. To believe that any scientist, engineer, or doctor with a “credential” and any recognition at all is a corrupt sycophant that parrots back what they are told is a conspiracy theory that makes P’Lod and Batboy groan in dispair.
“Sure, there is still merit out there, but considering how hard the establishment punishes non-conformity, Trump would have to search for people with some very strange credentials indeed.”
Like being an author who published an opinion piece on a political blog?
“I would like to say that we’ve been inoculated to this nonsense after this most ridiculous shutting down of the economy on the word of experts who were probably themselves not badly intentioned so much as trying to look at the work of other credentialed experts, like those at the Imperial College of London, say.”
“But we probably haven’t.
“Just like a virus takes over a healthy cell, eviscerates it, and turns into a factory to create more viruses, so the plague of experts has taken over all our systems of science, education and even the arts, and turned them into factories to turn out more phony ‘experts.’
“We have a disease, and unless we let in sunlight to illuminate the problem, Western civilization will die of it.”
It is sad when the topic of a deadly disease is reduced to some false choice fallacy that makes “The Golden Bough” look like a compendium of science in comparison.
Kickin’ back at home with a Corona beer can help defeat Corona-chan, but nothing can beat willful ignorance.