As of this evening, Donald Trump continues to challenge the consensus of 17 security agencies that the Russians were behind the DNC hacking to the end of influencing the 2016 election. Why does Trump deny this? Here’s his latest tweet:
Need it be said that this is a foolish tweet? Trump knows nothing about the extraordinarily complex and diverse work of the many security agencies that, after careful and extended investigation, have drawn a measured conclusion based on abundant and varied evidence.
It is certainly disturbing to think that a PEOTUS can cavalierly dismiss the consensus of experts with such bracing ignorance.
But let me tell you what is more disturbing: the fact that this kind of behavior is common. I see it all the time. Let’s start with the basic template:
Now you just need to fill in the blanks. In the first blank you can insert “climate change” or “evolution” or “the age of the earth” or “Jesus existing” or any number of other topics. And in the second blank you can insert some asinine observation.
For example, you could take aim at the climatologists:
“So how and why are they so sure about climate change if they never even considered that Alberta is having a brutal winter this year? What is going on?”
Or perhaps the New Testament scholars and ancient historians:
“So how and why are they so sure about Jesus existing if they never even considered that the Gospels were anonymous third hand legends? What is going on?”
Or maybe the evolutionary biologists:
“So how and why are they so sure about evolution if they never even considered that there are no transitional fossils? What is going on?”
Or how about the geologists:
“So how and why are they so sure about a local flood if they never even considered that the Grand Canyon was formed in a few days during a global catastrophe? What is going on?”
Needless to say, the point is not to believe experts (intelligence officers, climatologists, ancient historians, evolutionary biologists, geologists) blindly. Of course a consensus can be wrong. And we do need iconoclasts every once in a while who can challenge the consensus. The point, rather, is that these iconoclasts need to know what they’re talking about. They need to have done their homework. They need to ask intelligent questions and make provocative points.
It isn’t enough to ignore a consensus of expert opinion simply because you don’t like it, because it doesn’t fit your assumptions about the way the world should be.
And yet people do it all the time. So don’t blame Donald Trump. He’s merely the product of a culture in which the cavalier, irrational dismissal of experts has increasingly become the norm.