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An illusion of knowledge May 13, 2019

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason, Science.
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“How can you eat Genetically Modified foods!? They’re untested and unnatural!”

“Actually, the scientific consensus is that they’re tested, safe, and as ‘natural’ as any of our crops.”

“You’re so naive and gullible. The ‘scientific consensus’ has been wrong before — and every so often it changes! I’m not betting my life on a science experiment.”

“When the scientific consensus does change, it’s because of new or better evidence that comes to light. At any given moment, shouldn’t we base our decisions on the best available data, analyzed by the relevant experts? What are you basing your position on instead?”

“I’m not stupid, if that’s what you’re implying. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about science and health. Mostly it’s just common sense.”

“Let me tell you about an interesting study. Researchers asked people for their opinions on GM foods; then asked them to self-assess their level of knowledge on the subject; and then asked them some true-or-false science questions to see how much they actually knew. They found that

as extremity of opposition to and concern about genetically modified foods increases, objective knowledge about science and genetics decreases, but perceived understanding of genetically modified foods increases. Extreme opponents know the least, but think they know the most.

“The authors also noted that

people tend to be poor judges of how much they know. They often suffer from an illusion of knowledge, thinking that they understand everything from common household objects to complex social policies better than they do.

“Based on this information, don’t you think that basic psychology, statistics and logic would require you to reevaluate your position?”

“Actually, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about psychology, statistics and logic — and I think I’m going to trust my own judgement here.”

“I’m getting a queasy feeling…”

“Probably from eating too much GM food!”

"The Fall of Man" by Lucas Cranach the Elder

(via Jesus and Mo)