God Save the Expert – She Ain’t no Human Bein’

The core of this post I almost drafted some months ago, but thought it might have been a bit sour grapes, a bit jealousy even, certainly patronising. Honestly patronising. Whenever I’d have written it, it would have been honest, but sometimes you have to ask yourself, speech may be free but is it always worth it. Keep counsel, choose your time, choose your battles.

Triggered to post today because I found the same person is guilty of sharing/liking fake information on social media and, as I write this, not having noticed or retracted, not even acknowledged, let alone apologised. I’m not bitter or anything.

A young mum of twins, post-doc science researcher making her way in some branch of particle physics. Drawn to her originally because of her catholic taste across many different branches of science, already rubbing shoulders with a few “greats”, focussing on public “sci-com” blogging it seemed, already being picked-up and quoted in other media. Good luck to her. Seriously, I wish her well. Patronising, I know. No, I’m not bitter.

Recently as well as her “Back Reaction” blog feeds into her social media channels, she also has a personal channel where she post and links political and social content. You know – liberal, anti-Trump – aren’t we all? This is the context where today’s fake-post gaffe arose. So, interestingly, within minutes of her re-tweeting this post:

She liked the fake tweet version of this story:

I replied pointing out her gaffe, but as I say, no ackowledgement so far.

However before today, I had already stopped trying to interact with her – over a year ago – on alternative physical and philosophical views of particular science stories, when it became clear her echo-chamber was reinforcing her (scientific) prejudices, and her attention was drawn to her own growing audience. The accepted position was received wisdom. Total scientistic rejection of the value of any philosophical thinking or questioning. No point my simply being a pain in the ass. Only so many hours in the day to address “somethings wrong on the internet”. And I’m not bitter.

Having withdrawn when I did, I missed this “Talk to a Physicist” move. She had some freetime between assignments, so she set herself up as an on-line consultant to answer lay-person questions – for a fee – on physics. Great creative entrepreneurial move. Other “experts” should do it. There is of course a platform – Quora – built on exactly this idea, but without the fee. I would have taken her up on it, since I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is, to get a few moments of quality-time attention. Quality attention matters. I have skin in this game too. The game of honest science, and good knowledge generally. But I missed it. Bitter, who me?

It was when she posted the “findings” of her expert-for-a-fee exercise that I very nearly made this post. Aparently all autodidacts with alternative physics and philosophy ideas are sad middle-aged white guys with sheds, and so their ideas are without formally publishable objective evidence, and are worthless. I made just one passing reference to her “autodidact” report, here. Really, I’m not bitter.

Nothing personal, but this is archetypal, prejudiced, self-reinforcing, confirmation-biased, echo-chamber garbage. She is no expert in any valuable sense of the word. Also today she’s just shared this (and I responded):

And she’s just the example I’ve picked to illustrate the problem – seriously, nothing personal. Science really is as politically compromised as any branch of entertainment, political or cultural media. As compromised as any win-lose debate. As compromised as any election.

The expert is dead, long live the expert.
What we need is love, and trust.
Come on Sabine, we can sort this out.

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