The Cult of Expertise

Telegraph Columnist Charles Moore in The Game Is Up For Climate Change Believers:

The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won’t last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America’s natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome’s work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.”).

I think this passage is about right. But I wonder if the ‘cocktail’ can be boiled down to some purer essence.

And that essence may simply be fear of change. The industrial revolution, which started in Britain circa 1750, and later in other countries, brought profound change. Population growth also entails change. Increases in wealth also bring change. Colonialism (which pre-dated industrialisation) also brought profound global change.

Living in the western world (and in fact, living more or less anywhere) for the past few centuries has meant living with continuous change. Nothing stays the same for long. And perhaps many people find that exhausting, and want to go back to a world that was simpler and also relatively unchanging, as life used to be a few hundred years ago.

There might also be the sense, as changes come faster and faster, of being aboard a runaway train that is about to be derailed.  Hence the sense of impending catastrophe from a multitude of possible causes, ranging from nuclear war and resource depletion to pandemic disease and global frying.

It is perhaps also that, the faster that change takes place, the more rapidly the world becomes unintelligible. And the only people who understand this changing world are the experts who design the jet aircraft and rockets and spacecraft and computers. The less that ordinary people understand how things work, the more they must place their trust in people who do. And so we have a Cult of Expertise. And World Government is really all about placing government in the hands of experts, and taking it out of the hands of stupid, ordinary people who don’t understand anything about anything.

If that’s the way things are going, then we are set for top-down authoritarian government everywhere. In fact, we’re already there. If we have smoking bans, it’s because Health Experts have demanded them. And if we have measures to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it’s because Expert Climate Scientists have been demanding it. In fact, one might even suggest that, whenever governments act these days, it’s always upon Expert Advice of some sort. The Experts are in charge. Governments merely do their bidding.

And if you are one of the new Priesthood of Experts, you’ll be living very well, flying off to conferences in Bali and the like, before giving your expert opinion before TV cameras.

However, this cult of expertise would seem to be more based on wishful thinking than anything: the wishful thinking that there is someone somewhere who knows what’s going on, and what needs to be done.

The same kind of wishful thinking underlies most conspiracy theories – because conspiracy theories always involve conspirators who know exactly what they’re doing, and who have planned everything in advance.

But surely, in a world which is changing so rapidly, it is more likely that fewer and fewer people understand what is happening, and what needs to be done. For while one expert may understand how something works – whether it be a stock market or a nuclear power station -, he will most likely not understand it once it changes into something else, as happens when stock markets get computerised, or nuclear power stations get flooded by tidal waves, or where jet airliners take off and completely vanish.

I’ve been an ‘expert’ several times in my life. But I was never an expert for very long. About 6 months seemed to be the average duration of my expertise.

But if fewer and fewer people really understand what is happening, some people are all too ready to take upon themselves a mantle of expertise, even if they have none. Dick Puddlecote has a great example of one of these:

Cyril Chantler is a paediatrician, we are told. As such, he’s not really someone who can be called an ‘expert’ in assessing the accuracy or otherwise of economic research into illicit trading of tobacco – it’s just not something covered in kiddie medical school, for some mad reason.

But he has installed himself as such anyway.

Well, somebody has to do it. Somebody has fill the role of Expert. And if there are no real experts, then make-believe experts must suffice instead.

The reality, it seems to me, is that there are no real experts in anything any more. If the EU is a failing political innovation, it’s because the experts who designed it weren’t as expert as they pretended. And if the global economy is sliding into depression, it’s because the economic experts aren’t too good at economics. And if the global temperature hasn’t risen for 17 years, it’s because the climate scientists don’t understand climate. And if one person in three now gets cancer, it’s because the medics don’t understand what causes it (and it almost certainly isn’t smoking cigarettes).

But there’ll always be a few chancers – or perhaps that should be Chantlers – who are prepared to pretend that they know everything. And these are the only people that are left these days.

And sooner or later – and most probably sooner – people are going to realise that all the ‘experts’ have only been pretending to be experts, and don’t actually have the first clue what they’re talking about.

At which time the Cult of Expertise will come to an end.

Anyway, that’s what I reckon. But then, I’m no expert.

About Frank Davis

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41 Responses to The Cult of Expertise

  1. Harleyrider1978 says:

    I think the stupid ordinairy people understand freedom better than anyone in the world!
    Its the little people who should be in charge of government for they expect so little to begin with except just to be left alone and be free!

    Think of a world where government exists but actually doesn’t do anything at all,it doesn’t meet to pass more Bullshit laws which really are nothing but new carbon copies of old laws. A balanced budget is the law of the land and the government exists only within that income and provides nothing more than essential services.

    Peace and tranquility will surely be the end product.

    A world devoid of criminal politicians and power hungry political rats and friends…………….

    A world where your money is well worth money and government created inflation is no more!

    A government where the people learn that they can no longer vote themselves money from the treasury to enrich themselves. Where real contract bidding for those essential services truly happen! Graft is actually punished and imprisoned!

    Anyway I was watching Alice in Wonderland……………………….

    • Harleyrider1978 says:

      They say Chivalry is dead but to those whose hearts stand for freedom and liberty they are the teachers of the future. A future filled with honesty,integrity and humility. Many have succumbed to the Tyrants in the past only to follow our lead and fight back. We have given them inspiration to reclaim their lives and freedoms to bow down to no government or to any agenda.

      We have fought the Battles thru the past years and did not waiver in our pursuits. The enemy is vanquished yet they do not concede the day yet. But their tommorros are surely numbered and are days closer to that death we have pursued them with!

      Our tomorrows are bright and the sun shines upon those who do not surrender their will or their freedom to Bigots,Governments or World Orders that would subdue them!

  2. waltc says:

    Today’s “experts” in every field are also overspecialized. Like the blind men groping the elephant, they only have one small piece of a large puzzle and fail to see the whole, or even to relate one part (trunk, ears, size, weight) to another. You notice this in medicine where the specialist in hangnails doesn’t seem to note the melanoma on the wrist and will carelessly prescribe a hangnail remover that aggravates the pre-existing schizophrenia. (What they all know, of course, is that Smoking Is Bad and that’s all they need to know.)

    On conspiricies, my favorite quote would be this: “Never attribute to clever conspiracy what could equally be attributed to individual stupidity.” I don’t know that it’s always true, but it’s a really good line.

    Here’s a link to the Dept of Transp’s original airline cabin/ smoke study. Legacy again but get past the cover page and it looks like it’s smooth sailing.

    • nisakiman says:

      Thanks Walt. Yes, after the first couple of pages it’s pretty good. At 360 odd pages, it’s going to take a little while to sort through, but it all seems to be written in plain English rather than gobbledygook, so should be easy enough to pick out the salient points.

      • waltc says:

        That’s what I think the (ex) Forces article did (pick out the salient points) but if you find discrepancies, I’d be curious to know. Though at 360 pages, I won’t expect a final report till Christmas eve. (No need to wrap it.)

    • Frank Davis says:

      “Never attribute to clever conspiracy what could equally be attributed to individual stupidity.”

      That’s exactly my view.

  3. castello2 says:

    Who is funding the global warming conspiracy?

    • Henry Crun says:

      All our governments

      • castello2 says:

        Is Big Solar paying off our MPs?

        • Harleyrider1978 says:

          Big Solar in America is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT………Just down the interstate from me they were building the biggest solar panel factory in the world. It never even got completed before it was CANCELLED. They made such a big to do about it even pre-hiring 1500 folks 2 years before it was even going to be open! The media Blitz was that big and all financed by Obama’s green initiative. Theres thousands of these so called Green initiative projects around America that all failed and were started but died! Then the stupid locals who got involved with the projects got stuck holding the bag for varying degrees of matching the federal funds used to bring the project to their doors.

          A small Business Industrial Park by the interstate from here was named FIELD OF DREAMS Business Park………Another Owebama Community project that didn’t get further than cutting a dirt road thru itself and having a couple of signs posted by public works in it and even named the road field of dreams Blvd. Today the city got stuck with it and the tax burden by decree to cover the federal matching funs part a 20% higher rate than anywhere else in the same location. There is one building that actually started going up in it and its another Federal Grant Funded Business from what I can see even though theres no name to what it is or who is building it! The contractor just got the contract to put up a building and that was it!

          Meanwhile we have EMPTY Industrial Parks all over America sitting empty or abandoned old and new alike!

  4. Frank Davis says:

    Call to quicken Zero Carbon Britain

    A leaked draft of the latest IPCC report from Working Group III, being discussed this week in Berlin, calls for radical emissions reductions globally which will require “large-scale transformations in human societies.”

    The IPCC report calls for a reduction in emissions of 50% (from 2010 levels) by 2030 for developed nations such as the UK.

    Commenting on why we in the UK might need faster emissions reductions than the IPCC top line figure of 50% by 2030, Alice Hooker-Stroud, Zero Carbon Britain research coordinator sais, “Any greenhouse gas we put into the atmosphere from now or risks people’s lives and happiness as well as ecosystems. It isn’t yet clear how likely these levels of emissions would be to increase temperatures by more than two degrees in the latest model, or how the IPCC have divided the responsibility for cutting emissions between rich and poorer nations.”

    “Both of these things are important moral questions relating to climate mitigation which the report will have to make a judgement on.

    What is clear is that radical action is necessary. Our judgement is that as a rich nation with a long history of high emissions and therefore particular responsibility for the climate problem, we should be doing everything we possibly can to limit climate change impacts around the globe, remembering that all future emissions carry a risk.”

    “Additional benefits to implementing such measures include creating 1.5million jobs, improving population health and increasing the UK’s energy and food self sufficiency, while helping us adapt to climate impacts, such as flooding, that are already in the pipeline.”

    • Harleyrider1978 says:

      Lord have mercy on their souls……………you brits may have to kill them before they kill you!

    • beobrigitte says:

      Call to quicken Zero Carbon Britain

      A leaked draft of the latest IPCC report from Working Group III, being discussed this week in Berlin, calls for radical emissions reductions globally which will require “large-scale transformations in human societies.”

      HUH?????????? WHAT exactly ARE these “large-scale transformations in human societies.” ?

      Ah, global warming. I am reading a lot about it as I read about our planet and how it wobbles through space. Just a little thought: The core of our planet is dense, consisting largely of molten metals. Our planet does not wobble steadily, apparently it “jerks” occasionally . Surely the heavy core takes more time to adapt to this – the changes in magnetic field could be a sign of that.

      Perhaps we could invest into measures of adaptation rather than wasting money into pursuing something non-existent.

  5. smokingscot says:

    In addition to what Henry – correctly – stated.

    It’s a complex one with outfits like Greenpeace and the WWF in on the act:

    Specific charities have bubbled up:

    The Pew Centre on global climate change

    Climate Reality Project


    Nature(dot org)

    (actually the list is genuinely endless, so let’s just say specific and fake charities, most of which fund vanity research to prove some point, based on four fifths of bog all).

    Then there are the seriously rich philanthropists.

    Tom Steyer, a billionaire who set up the “Next Gen Climate Action” (an indication that all the good URL’s have gone on this one) and plans to spend $100 million trying to pressure governments into adopting tough climate change legislation.

    On the other hand there are powerful vested interests opposed to the climate change activists – and they’re sort of tarred with the same brush as the tobacco companies. Our Frank would be described as a denier, the Koch brothers are simply seen as evil incarnate, as are the foundations set up by petroleum companies and so on.

    Reasonably balanced blog on this:

    Nice question Castello, interesting 15 minutes running this up. Very superficial, but hopefully it’ll help.

    • Frank Davis says:

      From that billmoyers link:

      Fred Wertheimer, a long-time advocate of campaign finance reform, tells the Times that a political world where billionaires set the agenda is not a democracy.

      Quite so.

    • castello2 says:

      It seems obvious to me that Big Oil have way more to gain by denying man made climate change than do greens etc. There is no big solar or big battery lobbies to speak of. The scientists have not been paid off!?

      • garyk30 says:

        “There is no big solar or big battery lobbies to speak of. ”

        Just the US govt that has spent billions of dollars on this stuff.

      • beobrigitte says:

        There is no big solar or big battery lobbies to speak of.

        This is not correct. Any government has pledged to contribute (however little) to people installing solar panels on their roofs. It takes a solar panel lobby to achieve that, although no-one answers questions with respect to e.g. lithium batteries.
        The questionable windmills have been lobbied by the “greens” – who apparently give a monkey when it comes to the rare – radioactive – components required in order to make windmills fractionally worthwhile.

        Quite often these days “big-this-that-and-the-other” lobby = a persuaded political party.

  6. carol2000 says:

    “The same kind of wishful thinking underlies most conspiracy theories – because conspiracy theories always involve conspirators who know exactly what they’re doing, and who have planned everything in advance.”

    It’s not just wishful thinking. The health fascists are motivated by power-lust to meddle in other peoples’ lives. So, they selectively embraced the beliefs which would rationalize their doing so. Namely, their pseudo-science of lifestyle questionnaires that ignore the role of infection, while pointing fingers at chemicals (of which smoking and pollution are subsets) and genes. Blaming chemicals appeals to those who hate technology, and their wishful thinking that all they have to do is eat the right magic foods and exercise and not smoke, and they’ll be healthy. It also appeals to the elites, who want to re-make the common people in their own image. Blaming genes particularly appeals to the elites, who like to imagine that they have better health because their genes are superior rather than that they’re less exposed to pathogens for socioeconomic reasons.

    And health fascism is the class ideology of the people at Harvard and Yale (and Oxford and Cambridge), so they used their connections to government to funnel tax dollars into their charlatans’ pockets to manufacture their propaganda. They stonewall and ignore the new knowledge about the role of infections because it would expose their lies and throw a monkey wrench into their schemes.

    And anti-smoking, etc., didn’t start with “Big Pharma.” That’s the crap those elites want people to believe. They’re the ones who pulled the strings to establish the US National Cancer Institute, which was back in 1937. And the public phase of their organizing efforts began way back in 1913, with the American Society for the Control of Cancer, which is the former name of the American Cancer Society.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think health fascism operates quite openly, much like the equally fascistic EU project. And I see it as an eugenic programme, with eugenics having been renamed “public health”. I agree it didn’t start with Big Pharma, but they’re fully engaged now.

      • carol2000 says:

        They exclude the real scientists and all their works from their fraudulent proceedings, and the public never hears about that.

        • Harleyrider1978 says:

          That statement is factual and I whole heartedly agree! Sammet the slut puppy of Junk Science seems to have his hand in everything today and well yesterday too!

        • carol2000 says:

          By the way, “Samet” only has one m.

      • carol2000 says:

        The nature of their activities obviously isn’t clear even to many smokers, who imagine that the Cancer Society is fighting cancer in good faith, and obediently toddle out on Cancer Walks to raise money for them. They think it’s just Stanton Glantz or one of his ilk that they need to worry about. Nor do the multitudes whom they’ve brainwashed with their specious pseudo-science question their received notions that infection couldn’t be to blame for any significant proportion of diseases blamed on smoking. And know-nothingism doesn’t question anything. It just surrenders the field of knowledge to them without a fight.

  7. Rose says:

    It just occurred to me, with you not having a TV, have you seen this yet?

  8. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Branded cigarette packets to be banned – but only after ANOTHER review
    Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

  9. beobrigitte says:

    Nicely summarised:
    The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government.

    Apparently global warming will lead to a “mini” ice age. The question is, what caused the last ice age? Hunter-gatherers hardly can be claimed to be the cause.

    To be a nature lover does not equal being anti-industrial. Common sense can harbour both. All we need to avoid is Yuppie induced “bubbles”. They do burst and cost!

    Post-colonial guilt? In what sense?

    A hatred of population growth. This was actually the first thing I came across as a child. I became friends with a girl when starting school, who was an only child. Her parents believed that people should have only one child in order to reduce the world’s population growth. In sweet innocence I said: “But…. so many people are ill and die!” – and found myself being shut up with the sharp words that I was too young to understand. I thought a while about it – but I always hypothesised that our population cannot grow indefinitely – there are accidental deaths as well as new diseases and the old ones coming back.
    (Much to the parents’ dismay – their only child went on to have 3 children!!)

    The “revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth” is experienced and peddled by the wealthy – it dents their self-worth when admiration for their wealth no longer exists as it has become “the norm”.

    The most worrying thing, though, is this belief in world government. Balance in everything until now was achieved by different governments co-operating/warring. You take this away and you find that a world government = dictatorship. Let’s face it, what would the level of corruption be?

    It’s a pity that ideology kills common sense.

    • Harleyrider1978 says:

      Don’t forget they hate their own white skin and heritage…………….I couldn’t fathom hating myself so much to outlaw me! But those dirty bastards will.

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