Saturday, March 31, 2012

Webs Of Trust

Chris Hayes cements his reputation with me as one of the smartest folks in television news these days with this discussion on the way we try to discern what is true or not in areas outside our own expertise:

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[As always with such clips, I've left their link titles untouched. They do not represent any endorsement by me. MSNBC is a commercial entity, and they must make a profit to continue.]

The panelists include Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and Oxford emeritus professor, Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology and cognition at Harvard, Susan Jacoby, a journalist who often discusses anti-intellectualism in America, radio host Jamila Bey, and journalist Robert Wright, who writes about both politics and science for The Atlantic.

What I found interesting was the problem Hayes put to the panel, which is what do you do when you work all day, and then come home to a discussion on climate change, evolution, or any other topic about which there is both a great deal of information and a seemingly equal pile of misinformation? How do you, as someone who is not an expert in the field nor even terribly familiar with it, determine what is true and what isn't?

It's a question I've thought about rather often, especially when even highly educated friends try to convince me of complete nonsense. One can't know everything, and it's probably not even possible to know things to a sufficient degree to be convinced of one's decisions on such subjects.

Anyway, it's worth a look if for no other reason than that here is a rare spectacle of people having an intelligent discussion that lasts more than three minutes on a television news show.

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