Experts and Heretics

There were two pieces in the NY Times recently on completely unrelated topics that I think have a surprising connection.  The first was by Nicholas Kristof and could have been titled “The Tyranny of Experts”.  The key take-aways are that in general experts are not more successful in predicting outcomes than non-experts and the experts with the best track record tend to be the most centrist and least doctrinaire.

The other piece was on the legendary physicist Freeman Dyson.  He is a global warming skeptic and that has, to say the least, not gone over well with many people who used to admire him.  It is a remarkable fascinating story.

It further bolstered my believe that Global Warming and Environmentalism is  a religion with a rather medieval theology.  Those who deny The Truth are heretics who must be destroyed.  Dyson, however, is a mild mannered elderly man whose place in academia and scientific history is assured.  Thus Global Warming High Priest Jim Hansen is reduced to sputtering that Dyson

doesn’t know what he’s talking about

and

if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework — which he obviously has not done on global warming.

It was at this point in the article that I thought back to the Kristof piece.  We have the extreme expert, Jim Hansen, attacking the moderate expert Freeman Dyson.  Jim Hansen strikes me as a NY Times reader.  I wonder if he realized Kristof’s story could have been about him.

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