Sustained, Relevant Enquiry
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
We may feel a duty to "think for ourselves," but in practical terms, we believe far more than we can possibly become genuinely informed about. Since there is so much to know about, and so little time, our understanding of what's true and false is ultimately dependent upon who's opinion we rely. But how do we know whether they know? Is there a way out of this labyrinth?
Sure there is. If someone has done their apprenticeship, practiced their trade, and learned how to make a reliable water-tight seal on a horizontal drain pipe, it's not irrational to defer to their expertise on whether to use ABS cement or a mechanical-joint connection. It would be foolish to do otherwise. The plumber's expertise on selecting the correct type of junction is a product of sustained relevant enquiry..... in the field of plumbing.
Here we put our finger on a widespread problem of misplaced trust and mistaken beliefs. The default setting of the human mind is building associations. It's natural for us to associate expertise in one area with authority in another, even when there is no logical reason to do so. Our plumber might right about pipe junctions but wrong about cannabis legislation. He knows about joints, but he could still find himself out of his depth.
Climate scientists have put in the work of sustained relevant enquiry regarding the cause and cure for climate change. They overwhelmingly agree. Opponents of those conclusions encourage people to "think for themselves."
Epidemiologists have put in the work of sustained relevant enquiry regarding the cause and cure for exponential infection. Opponents of those conclusions encourage people to "think for themselves."
The Ninja move is to encourage people to think for themselves about who has devoted sustained relevant enquiry to the topic at hand.