Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 8th, 2011

 

Is it the “human factor” behind credibility of an expert opinion?

J. Krishnamurti wrote: “If you depend on books (of the left, of the right or on sacred books), then you depend on mere opinion, whether of Buddha, of Christ, of capitalism, communism or what you will. They are ideas, not truth. A fact can never be denied. Opinion about fact can be denied. If we can discover what the truth of the matter is, we shall be able to act independently of opinion.”

The last sentence key opinion is “If we can discover what the truth…” and in my opinion, we cannot discover truth of anything: We have an idea or a feeling of what opinion means, but can we ever know what truth is?

This article is NOT about discriminating among: Fact, observation, experience, experiment, expert opinion, consensus opinion,truth… I have already published several posts on that interesting topic.  This post is about differentiating among “expert opinion” types.

We can differentiate between expert opinions delivered in court of justice and expert opinions disseminated by the “talking heads” in the news media; you know those in the rosters of the news media who are supposedly considered experts in particular political, financial, economic, or social “Hot Topics”.

Both kinds of experts earn a living from their opinions and they have a long CV of credentials, but they differ in their levels of “professionalism” and activism.

For example, the courts admit forensic experts (professional in engineering related fields) because their opinions resolve 90% of the cases before they are brought to justice:  Those expert mediators help reduce congestions and backlogs in courts.

What contribution could talking heads bring to mankind?

For example, most will agree that the expert opinions of Egyptians who are demonstrating and marching in the last two weeks, in every city  of Egypt, are far more convincing and carry higher weights and values than the opinions of Mubarak, his oligarchy, the western media, or the “moderate Arab” dictators, monarchs, theocrats, and one party regimes.

You can also agree that a forensic expert, ready to face examinations and cross-examinations in court is more convincing than a talking head opinion who is not willing to face the firing squad of a dictator for his opinions.

It boils down to the equation: “How much an expert is willing to challenge opinion takers by his actions, perseverance, activities for a cause, and versatile knowledge?”  It is a matter of “human factor” behind the opinion that makes a difference in credibility and acceptance of an expert opinion.

For example, if a community decides to have a blackout on cosmology, in learning, and pictures of planets and stars, then you can be assured that the new generation will believe as Facts that earth is the center of the universe, that the sun revolves around earth, and that earth is evidently FLAT.  The horrifying part of my conjecture is:  “It is very easy to test it“.

What we already know for facts are related to institutions transmitting these facts on a consistent basis.

Institutions, even oral customs for educating children in communities with dying languages, are purposely established to disseminate consensus opinions by the standing power that is running the community.

Professional organizations in all fields of leaning and practices are examples of institutions with objectives of  keeping alive opinions agreed upon to be facts.

Professional organizations and institutions are the last defensive barriers or bastions against the onslaught of paradigm shifts in the fields of knowledge.

Even personal experiences are not immune to changes and to be revisited, as life progresses in varied experience and knowledge:  Experiences that were considered to leave landmark impacts on our impressions, our views, and opinions could be toned down later on, and even literally forgotten. And vice versa with personal experiences that were not judged of much impact in matter of lasting impressions and effects.

Anyone who believes that facts are “stand alone” truths (not in a legal sense) is missing the powerful reality of how life processes can change and alter most of everything, in our knowledge and sets of facts and opinions.

In general, it is the youth and the lazy in the mind who hold absolute conviction in their positions and opinions.

Statistics are not facts and are not neutral:  They are funded and backed by interested parties.

Statistics are fundamentally biased, no matter how “scientifically conducted” the technique is claimed.   You have to realize that the scientific community has set up rigorous rules and set of regulations on how to conduct “peer-reviewed” experiments or research.

Basically, a consensus opinion among the majority of the professionals who have standing power established the scientific procedures and rules to claim which results are facts.

Not only the design of the experiment has to be satisfactory, but the procedures and processes of running the experiment, collecting data, and controlling the confounding variables that may affect the results.  You have to use a statistical computer package to statistically analyze the data, which means you have to agree that the mathematical model is representative of the intended research, you have to take account of the level of significance relative to the seriousness of research, and then you have interpretations that are expert opinions in the final analysis. 

Tell me, how many research can pass all these stringent guidelines in order to claim that the results express facts?

There is a controversy for selecting the 5% significance level to claim that results cannot deny the hypothesis to be very plausible.  It appears that the notion of level of significant is very complex and demanding that researchers include a section explaining their selection of level of significance would be troublesome.

What if the “Claim is extraordinary”, wouldn’t it require extraordinary evidences?  We know that the most dangerous and important events are those falling at the extreme end of the bell-shaped probability:  Thus, if the claim is extraordinary then, the level of significance should be in the 1% range and a special section in the research paper must explain it.

All it takes is a biased step in the experiment in order to have doubt on a proclaimed fact.

Who is to investigate every experiments?

What profession can claim to have the means and the will to double-check the procedures of every experiment or repeat the experiment with an independent team of researchers?  In that case, it is a matter of expert opinions, even if the results were supposed to be accepted as facts.

If you cause is to support the rights of people, you better test again the methods used to taking the statistics and formulate your own framework for controlling the variability.

No facts come the easy way; and they are not “stand alone” immutable facts that time and effort cannot alter. It takes purposeful efforts, time, and determination to untangle complex interactions among human associations.

Facts are the work of willing people in their drive to change current opinions and consensus that disfavor the majority of people in their survival and dignity.

Someone commented on Krishnamurti quote saying: “My view is that all books are written from a point of view, movies are worse, but books telling us about Christ, Buddha, Krishna… Teachings were not written by them, so there’s truth in their teachings but the books can add or delete some views.” This comment is confusing and not standing up properly; since when teachings, not written by the concerned people, may harbor truth, particularly since teaching is a point of view? Most probably, the comment was meant to be read “so there isn’t truth in their teaching…”

Facts are too boring and uninteresting to people; besides, even when someone claims that what he stated is a fact or an observation, people do not believe him unless he shows his “credentials”, meaning that he is close to be recognized as a prophet…

People are far more interested in opinions so that discussions are heated up.

People want to communicate impressions and feeling.

People throw around pieces of facts just to start a dialogue and impress the audience.

There are no “stand alone” facts and opinions:  They are dependent on the “human factors”.

It takes bribing a “credible” eminent personality to express some hesitation to a fact and then enticing an ignorant to vehemently second the credible person for doubt to taking roots.

Professionals who disseminate falsehoods appreciate this technique and apply it consistently.

How many people have the necessary knowledge to read research studies and criticize them judiciously as appropriate for enhancing knowledge?

Who has the patience to critique every article stating that “it is based on facts”?

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adonis49

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