While I consider myself to be far from qualifying as an "expert" in any topic field that we at EvC discuss, I feel that I can judge and compare different scholars and determine which ones are most trustworthy. There is always bias to be sure, but I want to throw this question out to the forum:
What criteria make an expert?
As an example, many Bible scholars that I have read agree that Moses is the author of both Genesis and Deuteronomy. Our own resident Bible answerman, Arachnophilia, disagrees. Who is the expert? What criteria are used? Is there two sides to this? Is no agreeable conclusion possible?
This message has been edited by Phatboy, 12-03-2004 02:59 AM
If you are simply interested in expert testimony then the most importnt criterion is their standing with their peers. But we also have to knwo when the expert is talking as an expert or when he is simply expressing his own opinions.
There is a problem with Bible Scholars, though, in that religious orthodoxy can take priority over good scholarship. To the best of my knowledge the atribution of Genesis and Deuteronomy to Moses rests solely on a tradition of unknown provenance. There is no signfiicant evidence that Moses wrote either.
I concur with PaulK, and would add that the desire to put one's trust in experts seems similar to wanting to put one's trust in leaders or ministers. Science or any field of intellectual endeavor doesn't work by asking, "Which expert should I trust?" It works by assessing the evidence.
Regarding Moses as the author of the Penteteuch, it wouldn't matter if there were a million experts expressing this belief. None of them can offer any relevant evidence, and a stylistic analysis indicates at least 4 authors and two primary tradition sources.
quote:Science or any field of intellectual endeavor doesn't work by asking, "Which expert should I trust?" It works by assessing the evidence.
Ideally this is true. However, the unfortunate truth is that there is some "star worshipping" even among scientists. Given the collaborative nature of science, the first or last author on a paper may not have been the originator of the underlying idea being tested. However, they will tend to be treated as "experts" upon publication..especially in a high impact journal. The entire impact factor measure is also reflective of the disease of promoting people over science. Thus, really creative and good scientists are sometimes run out of science (not enough publications etc.) and complete morons can become professors (a particularly acute problem in Germany where an intricate system of nepotism compounds the problem).
But overall, science and scientists even under current conditions emphasize the evidence regardless of the personalities involved. Thus, frauds like the recent case of Hendrik Schoen, go from being regarded as experts to being stripped of their Ph.D. On the flip side, a complete unknown student may make a major discovery and leave their mark on science if they have solid evidence.
I'm not convinced that the term 'expert' is either meaningful or useful in science and other investigatives fields (history, etc.) - it strikes me that there is no clear way to define an expert, and no reason to suppose that even if a person is an expert that there opinion or testimony is correct. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the term expert is an entirely social label.
When an individual has demonstrated a good track record it might save time and effort in less crucial cases to trust them on other issues. When you pick someone, what you pick on and who you pick is a personal matter and will vary with the area of study.
In any case, if it is important or controversial, the evidence trumps the expert and you would make the effort to dig deeper in cases of consequence.
In earlier days, there were two and only two criteria: 1) having a tray of 35-millimeter slides and 2) being more than 100 miles from home. I presume that now one must have a PowerPoint presentation instead of the slides.
I would say that Expert is simply a label and not a position, and that it is always realtive. It also may or may not correlate to correctness. One important point is that almost every expert gets left behind, often within his or her own life span.
But experts can be wrong as well as right. The weight of evidence always trumps the Expert.
On the Biblical/Moses issue, there are several major schools of thought. I would imagine there are as many or more experts that agree there were mutiple authors as those that think Moses wrote it. But again, the weight of the evidence seems to favor those who support the multi-authorship. The sole-authorship crowd seem to have nothing but tradition supporting their position.
Hi, Ned, it`s interesting how the fame of forensic experts goes before them, so that now the 'expert' IS the evidence. We had a notorious case overturned in Australia after the famous expert from England had his evidence refuted after the case was over.Likewise the link talks of two famous FBI scientists who cribbed the evidence to sustain their record. http://www.law-forensic.com/cfr_gen_art_17.htm In view of the widespread use of DNA as identification, it seems the legal profession has already found a possible weakness with their approach to the prosecutor`s fallacy and the defence attorney`s fallacy. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/sc/sc.nsf/pages/Wood_May2002