Ever hunted for pheasants? I haven’t. I’m not much for killing animals. But ideas? You bet. That brings me back to The Atheist Missionary’s criterion for discerning which experts to listen to. As I noted last time around he claimed:
“The best experts are those with no vested interest in the outcome (or preconceived notion of the outcome) and just go where the evidence leads them.”
Bullocks. I pointed to Raul Hilberg, the doyen of Holocaust historians. By TAM’s criterion we should be skeptical about Hilberg’s scholarship because he was Jewish and, as a resident of Vienna in the 1930s, was directly impacted by the Nazis.
TAM replied by qualifying:
“Mr. Hilberg may be an eminently qualified expert in his field. However, if he was offering an opinion on a contentious issue relating to the Holocaust, I would be more suspect of his opinion than the opinion of an equally qualified expert whose family had not been slaughtered by the Nazis. That is just common sense.”
I couldn’t help but respond:
“You just repudiated your criterion as stated. Mere personal investment/concern is apparently not sufficient to thrown into question one’s reporting on a given issue. Now we require personal investment and divergence from a field of experts. Thanks! You just showed that we shouldn’t accept Mr. Price’s findings because he clearly has a personal investment as an avowed, irascible and very outspoken secularist, and he regularly diverges from a field of experts!”
Now I’d like to deal the death blow to this revised criterion.
Imagine for the moment that you and I go to the university for a public debate on the Holocaust between Goldstein and Smith. The debate is on a specific point of Holocaust history on which Smith represents the majority opinion while Goldstein represents the minority opinion. We listen to both sides in the debate and find that they both present a strong case for their interpretation.
The lights go up in the lecture theatre and cards are handed out with five boxes.
A. I believe Smith is definitely right.
B. I believe Smith is more likely right than Goldstein.
C. I have no opinion.
D. I believe Goldstein is more likely right than Smith
E. I believe Goldstein is definitely right.
I am about to circle C. Then you whisper in my ear. “By the way, Goldstein is Jewish.” (Yeah, no kidding.) “And his grandparents died in the concentration camps. But Smith has no personal link to the Holocaust.”
If TAM’s criterion is correct then based on that information I ought to check box B. But that seems false to me. I’d be interested in the opinions of others.