Thursday, December 18, 2008

Expert Opinions

But, of course, standing by your opinions and staking your reputation upon them has its difficulties as well...

An 'expert' doesn't so much argue the various sides of an issue as plant his flag firmly on one side. That's because an expert whose argument reeks of restraint or nuance doesn't get much attention. An expert must be bold if he hopes to alchemize his homespun theory into conventional wisdom. His best chance of doing so is to engage the public's emotion, for emotion is the enemy of rational argument. And as emotions go, one of them -- fear -- is more potent than the rest. The super-predator, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, mad-cow, crib death: how can we fail to heed the expert's advice on these horrors when, like that mean uncle telling too scary stories to too young children, he has reduced us to quivers?
-- Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics


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