Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Revisiting the Subject of Argument by "Expert Opinions":

I have written on this subject many times before but for the sake of time constraints will limit myself to only three such references chosen at random from the archives of this weblog.{1} In the meantime, as this matter comes up from time to time when engaged in arguing a position with people, it seems appropriate to revisit it at various intervals and I intend to do that now courtesy of something I wrote last year in the combox of someone else's weblog and saved for a possible later posting. Without further ado...

So often major discoveries have been made by “non-experts” who have not limited themselves to what the “experts” have said cannot be done. The example of the Wright Brothers vs. the Esteemed Lord Kelvin of the British Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge is only one of many examples. And as you will see if you read Lord Kelvin’s file on Wikipedia, he was a brilliant highly credentialed man and an inventor/innovator of his own right. But in some areas he had some blind spots -the statement he made on the impossibility of machines heavier than air flying (made in 1895) was one. He also claimed in 1897 that “radio has no future” which we all know is patently false. Then there was his 1900 claim that “[t]here is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement” -a statement made five years before Einstein’s famous 1905 paper on relativity was published.

I note this example because Lord Kelvin was a physicist. And he is far from the only “expert” to have been seriously disproved in one or more areas within their own fields of expertise by upstarts without their credentials or pedigree. I posted back in January of 2007 in one of my “points to ponder” threads a slew of “experts” whose “authoritative pronouncements” were later disproved by non-experts. This is why opinions and conclusions should never be accepted uncritically by anyone regardless of their “expert” status. [Written on August 25, 2008]


{1} Here they are in order from most recent to oldest:

On the Appeal to Authority and Distinguishing Between Valid and Invalid Usages Thereof (circa March 8, 2007)

Points to Ponder on Logic Being a Special Preserve of the Learned (circa February 11, 2006)

On Proper and Improper Approaches to Argumentation (circa May 14, 2005)

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'El no habla': Obama jumbles Cinco de Mayo salute

They called President Bush a "dummy" when this sort of stuff happens. I wonder if the late night comedians will mock President Obama mercilessly over this or if they will ignore it. The late night comedian presidential double standard -much as with the mainstream media presidential double standard- undoubtedly will continue.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Briefly on Ethics and Modifying Past Posts to This Weblog's Archives

Though I do not delete things from the archives of this weblog, there are at times modifications made to older threads. When said modifications are in the area of either fixing spelling mistakes or grammatical glitches, I do not say anything about it but when major additions are made to something, it is my custom in the thread so revised to note these things in the form of an small update or clarification of some kind.

With that in mind, I was perusing a thread written years ago today before sending a link to it in an email circular because I needed to remind myself of what I wrote then so I could be prepared if necessary to defend it. In doing so, I noticed that I overlooked in the sequence of sources one document I was to deal with in a commentary in the month following the original publication of that series. I do not intend to link to it here or even to the series in question but I wanted to note here that as is my wont on this weblog when changing past postings beyond simple grammar or spelling fixes that I added a couple of citations from the previously overlooked source at the very beginning of the post involved, wrote some necessary segues to integrate it fully into what I originally wrote, and have linked this clarifying note to the beginning of the aforementioned modified thread in the interest of greater clarity on that matter thereof.

My notation of these actions in a brief musing at this time is in the interest of disclosure. I view as ethically necessary to clarify a principle I have always followed but not to my knowledge ever said much explicitly about at least publicly.

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