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Zondartul t1_j194jbh wrote

If an expert offers an opinion in an area that he is not an expert in, then he does not offer an expert opinion.


thenousman OP t1_j19557s wrote

Yep, that’s why it’s called epistemic trespassing and why novices are vulnerable to get harmed.


[deleted] t1_j19fuhz wrote



thenousman OP t1_j19hm7v wrote

A random person on the street? We are talking about an expert, not a random person. General expert? What does that have to do with this, no one is claiming to hold any given expert as a general expert. It sure sounds like you’re missing the point. In order for it to count as epistemic trespassing, it must involve an expert who then passes judgment on a question in a field in which they have no expertise and it’s wrong because people, including the expert, may be ignorant that that is happening. Hopefully that helps clear up any confusion.


[deleted] t1_j19ihsx wrote



godsonlyprophet t1_j19npsc wrote

Maybe you didn't read the article? If is referring to expert testimony in courts. Those 'experts' are somewhat defined in their jurisdictions by law. You may have seen that discussed in movies like My Cousin Vinnie.

While I'm not a lawyer the article seems to discuss an actual problem. Being in a court of law it seems reasonable for a pediatrician to quote a well understood statistic in the field. What seems outside of expertise for an average pediatrician is to modify or attempt to refine a well known statistic themselves without also being an expert in statistical methods relevant to that field.


VersaceEauFraiche t1_j19tlw8 wrote

I think the issue is that the topic of "Epistemic Trespassing" isn't limited to just expert testimony in court. Yes, that is what the article is talking about in particular, but in wider national discourse the phrase is used to silence dissenting opinion in regards to policy proposals, ie covid lockdown regime. In fact that is the first time I've ever seen the phrase used (which is tangentially mentioned in the article). In such discourse the phrase is used in regards to accusing laymen of ignorance and lacking education in the face of people crafting policy that often adversely affect said laymen. People who are affected by policies ought to have a say in the creation and implementation of such policy.

"Who will watch the Watchers" yida yada. But the truth of the matter is the Experts are people like the rest of us and are prone to error and using their position as a vector to implement their personal politics (which is unavoidable, but manifests in egregious ways in particular instances). Also, their credentials and position allow them to buffer themselves from the negative consequences of their actions/inactions. Relying on your credentials is always a sign of lacking a proper argument/case/judgement.


godsonlyprophet t1_j1bej5b wrote

And there's the crux, no? Epistemological Trespass isn't about credentials, it is about epistemology. Your rebuttals seem more like blaming medical stitches for causing the wound those same stitches seek to address.

What is Epistemological Trespass if not a caution against overly trusting credentials or status?

>In such discourse the phrase is used in regards to accusing laymen of ignorance and lacking education in the face of people crafting policy that often adversely affect said laymen.

Were they misinformed?

>"Who will watch the Watchers" yida yada. But the truth of the matter is the Experts are people like the rest of us and are prone to error and using their position as a vector to implement their personal politics (which is unavoidable, but manifests in egregious ways in particular instances)...

Who do you propose, those out of the field with next to little training or the tools to understand? Where is epistemological consensus in this?


thenousman OP t1_j19lys3 wrote

I don’t know what specifically makes someone an expert in whatever particular field, but in the context of epistemic trespassing that person is considered by others in and outside of their field to be an “expert” in their field, and then that person passes judgment on some question outside whatever field that they are considered an expert in. That’s why it’s trespassing and if they abuse their expert authority, which most people might not know that they did that, is why it’s wrong.


supersecretaqua t1_j1an8dq wrote

What fucking world do you live in that even if we removed the court context here and just compared what someone would be more likely to listen to, an expert in one field talking about another, or a high school student.... And you're trying to say you'd be similarly impacted by the high schooler?

Do you even realize what you're saying?

Some weird vacuum you have created and it doesn't even work contained like that either... Genuinely flabbergasted, like how do you process this and then share it


iiioiia t1_j19xg8y wrote

> Any advice either comes from someone who knows what he's talking about, or it does not.

Is "knows what he's talking about" a True/False binary:

a) in fact?

b) in appearance?


thedeafbadger t1_j1bx0hv wrote

As a bartending expert, my opinion on fresh juice vs super juice would be an expert opinion, but my opinion on the proper method of preparing demiglace would not be.


1LizardWizard t1_j1afpnh wrote

cough cough Neil deGrasse Tyson


zoinkability t1_j1bp90c wrote

Ahem Jordan Peterson


1LizardWizard t1_j1bq9t9 wrote

Not enough throat clearing in the world for Dr. JBP. I think charlatan is more apt than simply “non-expert”


hydrOHxide t1_j1b9aqc wrote

You miss the concept of having teams whose research one person communicates.


BigNorseWolf t1_j1cw8a7 wrote

He's at least going to get on the phone with the actual expert and get the pointers.


Batoiii t1_j1a31v8 wrote

Isn't this what Thomas Sowell was going at Noam Chomsky for?


hydrOHxide t1_j1b9sg1 wrote

Thomas Sowell is a pretty good example of it himself.


sQGNXXnkceeEfhm t1_j195wsi wrote

Good article. The POV espoused here is not a common one, and I think it’s important, even if I don’t think you should take it too far.

There’s two simple ways I think you can take it too far: muzzling yourself completely, and not intervening in the epistemic trespasses of others.

If you’re very aware of this issue, it becomes very easy to — very quickly — believe that you have little right to talk about anything except whichever narrow areas you might claim expertise in; even then, with enough humility, you might feel you have no expertise to claim at all. This completely destroys your self-confidence (in my experience), and inhibits personal growth. Instead, moderation is a better approach.

The other issue is that if you’re keenly aware of this issue, you will often be the best equipped person in the room to call others out for this or to spot issues in their novice arguments. An abject refusal to weigh in on issues you are not an expert in may become an abdication of responsibility.


thenousman OP t1_j197l7t wrote

Yeah and I should just reiterate that epistemic trespassing can only be done by someone who is an expert and that it can be considered wrong when it constitutes an abuse of expert authority that neglects novice vulnerabilities.

Here and, in everyday, we aren’t normally going about our lives (and certainly not in all matters) as experts so I don’t think such concern is warranted.


noonemustknowmysecre t1_j19x14q wrote

Here in our everyday lives we go to places like /r/philosophy and pretend to be experts on everything. I don't think the scale of the stakes matter.

I had some dude claim "as a biochem engineer, I know frogs' sex is determined by their Y chromosome", when frogs don't have a Y chromosome. People try to appeal to (their) authority all the time.


sQGNXXnkceeEfhm t1_j19hyqp wrote

In the context of an expert though, where do you draw the line on confidence?

I agree that, in the courtroom case, it is obviously too far (and generally have no patience for doctors with absolutely NO grasp of statistics). But I do see how we get here: a doctor has to guide her patients through decisions. If she has to give advice that she is only 99% certain of (say, telling a patient they likely have 6 weeks vs 6 months to live), at some point they have to make the call themselves and not consult a statistician.

So basically, I think that the position of expert encourages this, as they will become more and more confident in their non-expert area over time.


iiioiia t1_j19un96 wrote

> In the context of an expert though, where do you draw the line on confidence?

I say: at drawing conclusions (upgrading propositions to facts). It is not necessary to categorize something as a fact before taking action, it is only a cultural norm. The world runs mostly on mere belief, it just doesn't appear that way.


thenousman OP t1_j19q4iu wrote

I dunno, it’s an active area of research. But I agree about human nature tends towards overconfidence.


iiioiia t1_j19u6yt wrote

> Yeah and I should just reiterate that epistemic trespassing can only be done by someone who is an expert

As described in this article (you're the author I think?), but all people can engage in opining on matters without epistemic soundness, which may not be the exact same thing, but if considered comprehensively may very well have more causal importance.

> Here and, in everyday, we aren’t normally going about our lives (and certainly not in all matters) as experts

"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one", though I'd say you are technically correct as it currently is, in the aggregate.


zoinkability t1_j1bq6hx wrote

I think the point is about ensuring that there isn’t a mismatch between the claims of authority you employ (or, if you have any degree of fame/recognition, the degree to which you temper any public perception of authority you may have) and the actual degree of expertise you have on the topic being discussed.

Here on Reddit, unless you claim expertise you are just another rando commenter, and even if you do claim expertise people are likely to be skeptical due to the anonymous nature of discourse here.

But using your academic credentials or public recognition as an expert to bolster your standing — particularly in non-anonymous settings — despite lacking direct expertise in the topic is another matter altogether.


GhastInTheShell t1_j19cgyh wrote

An abdication of responsibility? Who are you/I to be responsible for other people’s issues? Just because you think you might be the brain in the room doesn’t mean anyone asked for your input. If anything I’d say you only have a responsibility to try to not do anything that obviously makes someone’s life worse, but no responsibility to go out of your way to improve someone else’s life; that’s their responsibility. This sounds like you’re encouraging activism.


sQGNXXnkceeEfhm t1_j19nhfk wrote

Context matters. I’m not advocating sticking your head into a conversation on the subway; I am advocating calling your friend out if they make an argument you’re pretty sure is wrong on a topic neither of you know a lot about.

I am ESPECIALLY advocating that in a setting like at work, you don’t allow your own humility to prevent you from being a voice at the table.


BirdieHo t1_j1cr1r8 wrote

whats so wrong about activism?


GhastInTheShell t1_j1fggo0 wrote

It should be kept separate from philosophy.


thenousman OP t1_j1fsois wrote

My reply started getting long so I’ll just blog about this in the new year.


TheDuckFarm t1_j18zr6b wrote

I feel like it would be wrong for me to comment here.


[deleted] t1_j1915oc wrote



TheDuckFarm t1_j1925lx wrote

I meant that as a joke :)

The article was good and pointed out a problem with experts in a very high stakes situation. In a forum like this where the penalty for being wrong is minor it would be more appropriate for someone to muse outside their expertise.

One way to learn, is to operate outside your lane but to do so in a situation where it’s understood that we’re not claiming to be experts and we’re open to correction.


Strato-Cruiser t1_j191ilv wrote

I get the message, but it feels too binary to me. In their example, I agree that an expert in statistics would be more appropriate especially in a high stakes environment where someone’s life and freedom is at risk. In general, I have no problems with experts speaking on topics in which they are not experts in. Their insight could be valid and correct, not because they are an expert in another field, but they used a methodology that got them to a valid conclusion. I think it’s important for the recipient to know they should evaluate and scrutinize a conclusion from an expert in a differing field. To not accept it because they are an expert in another field, and to not reject it because they are an expert in another field.


thenousman OP t1_j191zrm wrote

The problem is “Everyone said well that’s fine, he’s an expert”. They were, like it or not, vulnerable novices and the expert abused his authority, intentionally or not, and with serious consequences, like the mother being convicted of murdering her children.


Strato-Cruiser t1_j195dgq wrote

Yes, the doctor over evaluated his intelligence in understanding statistics because he’s an expert as a doctor, and the jurors took him for face value, so yes, that’s a problem. I don’t think, and there is research to show this, but intelligent people are no so aware that they are over estimating conclusions and understanding. However, the doctor not being an expert in statistics still could have reached a correct conclusion because he is capable of understanding statistics. It would be wrong to dismiss him because he’s not an expert in statistics and it would be wrong to accept him because he is an expert as a doctor. Recipients of the information need to scrutinize the methodology of how a conclusion was reached. Now I admit that may be a tall order for people in a jury pool. However, there is another expert there, the defense lawyer, who’s job is to scrutinize everything and consider how jurors take in information. That defense lawyer should be calling an expert in statistics.

In general, in one’s day to day life. It is not good to dismiss someone because they are not an expert in a field, and it’s not good to accept a conclusion because they are an expert in a different field.


thenousman OP t1_j196kuu wrote

Yep, nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism. And it evidently was a tall order, and so therefore an abuse of expert authority that neglected novice vulnerabilities.


Strato-Cruiser t1_j1975tk wrote

Yeah, and I don’t think any malice from the doctor was intended. A defense lawyer should understand jurors and the information that they need. Because jurors are subject to making short cuts in thinking like, this person is an expert doctor, he must be right about this medically related statistic. That’s lazy reasoning, but it is how our brains function. A lawyer should know these things through experience and get another expert to add insight for the jurors.


[deleted] t1_j197wnl wrote



Strato-Cruiser t1_j1986ae wrote

Yes, the myth of the rational voter.


[deleted] t1_j1994an wrote



Whalesurgeon t1_j19uvt9 wrote

Because avoiding responsibility for the political direction of the country is moral?

Even irrational, ignorant beings can surely still assert their own values upon politics without there being anything wrong with it, I think.


iiioiia t1_j19w5uq wrote

[Apologies: I am taking out my general contempt for humanity on your comments, which are for the most part, more or less fine.

> Yes, the doctor over evaluated his intelligence in understanding statistics because he’s an expert as a doctor

Does a piece of paper declaring that someone "is an expert" [1] cause them to become able to reliably (say, > 90% correct) understand any question that is posed to them?

Possibly relevant:

> ...It would be wrong to dismiss him because he’s not an expert in statistics

Agree, though it may be prudent to be skeptical of any pronouncements that involve statistics, which is what happened in this story.

> However, there is another expert there, the defense lawyer, who’s job is to scrutinize everything and consider how jurors take in information. That defense lawyer should be calling an expert in statistics.

They should probably also be nicer to their friends and family, eat better, exercise, not drink/smoke, inform themselves accurately before voting or even supporting the political system one grew up under, etc - just as we all should, including me. Yet, it seems people tend not to do all that they "should" - rather, most people seem to have extremely strong aversions to such things, despite regularly claiming with complete sincerity otherwise.

[1] which technically, no doctor actually receives, calling into question the very claim of them being "an expert", whatever that means


zlance t1_j19kjd8 wrote

It's like my dad, an expert mathematician and software engineer has goofy ideas about medical field.

Domain expertise is absolutely necessary in reasoning on a topic with a degree of authority. It's great that one can learn of logic and calculative tools by being in expert in one field, but while thoes skills translate to a large degree, they don't protect one from making an error in setting up the model to reason about.

EG. I read a paper by a PhD in Business that reasoned that vaccines are causing autism. It found that if you take autism and speech disorders and lump them together as one, there is a positive correlation between the two values over some time. Of course it was torn down by subject matter experts who said that you can't reason that the two disorders are in the same class. But hey, this person probably does know math well, and probably business too.


hacksaw001 t1_j19ilta wrote

The opinion of an expert on a topic outside their field is a layman's opinion, since they're not an expert in that field.

Being an expert means you're a regular person who has advanced knowledge on a specific topic. This doesn't imply some kind of general aptitude, or advanced reasoning skill which could be applied to other fields. Certainly both of these could make attaining expertise easier, but they aren't prerequisites for expertise. The main prerequisite is the willingness and ability to spend a long time on a specific topic.

Therefore the opinion of an expert outside of their field of expertise is not likely to be more valuable than any other layperson's opinion, especially as the topic moves further from their field of knowledge.

A layperson's opinion could be valid and useful, or it could be incorrect and harmful. The problem is that neither the layperson, nor their audience knows which one.


Strato-Cruiser t1_j19ks0a wrote

I agree with you. To me there is a scale of how more likely I will scrutinize an expert outside of their expertise. If we use the example in the article, the understanding of that statistic is not highly advanced, it’s perfectly plausible for an intelligent doctor to learn enough about statistics without becoming an expert, it’s just this doctor did not, other doctors will have a better understanding maybe because statistics is an interesting topic. For example, it wouldn’t surprise me for a medical doctor to understand the physics of how a wing on a plane provides lift, even though he is not an expert in physics. If he were to explain it, I think he could be quite capable. If he started to explain the physics of a black hole, I would be more likely to scrutinize that. There is a degree of how far one is diving outside of their expertise and how far they’re diving into another.


iiioiia t1_j19wksg wrote

> The opinion of an expert on a topic outside [their field] [is] [a layman's opinion], since they're not an expert in that field.

layman: a person without professional [or] specialized [knowledge] in a particular subject

Some people have competence in more than one field.


hacksaw001 t1_j1bfrtl wrote

Yeah, you can be an expert in more than one field, for sure!


iiioiia t1_j1ivuip wrote

Demonstrating how easily casual language can be misinformative - "Being an expert means you're a regular person who has advanced knowledge on a specific topic" could easily be (and very often is) interpreted to mean that if someone isn't ~formally identified as "an expert" then their opinion on a subject is necessarily inferior to that of an [declared to be] expert.


PurpleSwitch t1_j1a9rkt wrote

I agree that it seems overly binary. I'm a biochemist who spends a lot of time debunking anti-scientitic rubbish like anti-climate change stuff, or anti vaccination rhetoric. I try my best to stay in my lane but it's difficult to gauge what counts.

My background means that I can speak more authoritatively on vaccines than on climate change, but also knowing about the development of mRNA vaccines in recent years doesn't help to dispel misinformation. Sometimes knowing more complicates things more. The challenge often is in simplifying something so that someone who isn't a scientist can follow it, and that takes a different set of skills than the biochemistry itself.

A lot of what I do is deferring to people who are experts, but that's still wielding a sort of authority over people, because it often involves TL;DRing scientific literature that they don't have the skills or experience to read, but otherwise how do I explain why they should listen to these guys as opposed to the kinds of people at sites like naturalhealthyliving dot com


Strato-Cruiser t1_j1aj1f5 wrote

It can be a fine line. As I commented in another spot you have to gauge how far you’re pushing into another field. What I don’t like about the article is that it appears to put too much responsibility of the expert to stay in their lane so they do not accidentally lead people astray. Rather, I would put more responsibility on the layperson to question the methodology of a conclusion by the person making the claim.

When you’re debunking something, if your methodology is trust me, I’m a biochemist, that’s not good enough. It appears that is not what you do. It appears you try to understand things to the best of your ability, and your expertise may help you understand things a bit better that are outside of your expertise. I find it very obnoxious when someone will dismiss me because I’m not an expert, even though I have consumed a hefty amount of information on the topic.

One of my favorite examples of why you should analyze the claim and not the person, is the Wright brothers. In particular Wilbur Wright. No training in math, engineering, or physics. Never went to college. At that time, a betting man would have put their money on Samuel Langley, the scientist, the expert, and the Wrights beat him at a fraction of the cost. Langley became too focused on a problem that Wilbur saw was not a problem, and Wilbur was correct and focused on the correct problem that was keeping planes from flying.


iiioiia t1_j19v3xw wrote

> Their insight could be valid and correct, not because they are an expert in another field, but they used a methodology that got them to a valid conclusion.

By "valid", do you mean necessarily and comprehensively correct?


Fluggernuffin t1_j19u8ft wrote

This is an interesting debate, and one that I feel is missing a key component. In general, we expect experts in a field to be knowledgeable, but even then, an expert's opinion is only more valid than a layman's because of specialized knowledge or experience; either learned from another expert, or observed directly.

If a so called "expert" made an assertion without presenting citation or evidence, I think it's perfectly reasonable to challenge that assertion. If a layman made an assertion and did provide evidence, I would consider that compelling enough to at least speak to an expert about it.


HoldenCoughfield t1_j1a86pm wrote

My issue with this is somewhat akin to your points: being knowledgable is not the same as being intelligent, deductive, thoughtful, etc. There are plenty of SME’s who are just knowledgable. This is where the knowledge only carries itself and doesn’t lead to discourse that can be resolving or productive


EditRedditGeddit t1_j1blemc wrote

Yeah. Experts are better-trained to navigate evidence and context, but if they are put on a pedestal then they can easily mislead us with their own flawed reasoning too.

There has to be universal standards with reasoning, and experts still need to be able to explain themselves. I guess this gets a bit tricky though, because if a statistician is explaining to someone why their probability calculation is wrong, I'd still want them to defer to the statistician rather than their own instinct.


bildramer t1_j1d727v wrote

Yes. Expertise is not a synonym for "is accurate about topic", it's (ideally) better knowledge, better practices, experience, familiarity with arguments. Better epistemic practices are also alleged, but I think you should generally doubt that. That all indirectly leads to accuracy, but if they have an opinion, you can still ask them "why do you think so?", and they should be able to answer. A plumber may be able to give me more informed reasons about whether I should go for copper or plastic pipes (or something), and may favor an option. However:

If you have good reason to believe you know what exact process someone is using to answer your questions, that "screens off" expertise. If you know someone is just regurgiating the standard textbook advice, well, now you know he's exactly as good as the standard textbook advice, and your potential to do better increases. If you know an electrician is not considering pros and cons you yourself have considered, but going with the cheapest option, his expertise doesn't matter for that particular decision. And so on. Don't get too cocky, though.


iiioiia t1_j1jhcgd wrote

> but even then, an expert's opinion is only more valid than a layman's because of specialized knowledge or experience; either learned from another expert, or observed directly

Another problem: "an expert's opinion" can be considered from various perspectives, like on average, or also on a per opinion basis - and, one can (at least in theory) take complexity into consideration (say: multi-variate causality), or ignore it (and thus perceive that it does not exist).

> If a so called "expert" made an assertion without presenting citation or evidence, I think it's perfectly reasonable to challenge that assertion.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to challenge all "expert" assertions, though doing so skilfully is not our strong suit.


PussyStapler t1_j1915a0 wrote

I find this an ironic/appropriate perspective in a sub on philosophy. My impression of undergrad intro to philosophy was that it was rife with epistemic trespassing. Some issue would be brought up for debate, and scientific or economic details would be conveniently omitted for the sake of argument. Or people would argue about an issue that could probably have been resolved if either party simply knew more about the issue.

I see it on this sub as well, plenty of people that seem very intelligent, making otherwise cogent arguments that are made completely undermined or irrelevant by deep knowledge of the subject matter.

I'm probably doing it now, since I also don't have deep knowledge of philosophy.


noonemustknowmysecre t1_j19wanu wrote

Eh, not the best example. I would certainly expect a doctor to know that some things are genes. And siblings you know, share genetrics. He just fucked up the statistics of something within his field of expertise. This was his lane and he rear ended this lady.

But the irony of having this topic broached on /r/philosophy of all places. Do you know how how often people here pretend they're experts on anything scientific? As soon as science enters the discussion, this place goes to pot.


ashessnow t1_j1cdpvs wrote

Then you don’t know current conversations in philosophy.


noonemustknowmysecre t1_j1clktf wrote


ashessnow t1_j1ifq1t wrote

This is clearly related to the concept of epistemic justice, which, while many black and feminist scholars have talked about this since at least the 60’s, picked up steam when Miranda Fricker’s book, Epistemic Injustice, came out in 2007. Following Fricker, Jose Medina has also done some incredible work.

What I am saying is this conversation has been important for scholars for decades, and just because you didn’t know that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been happening.


noonemustknowmysecre t1_j1is0zj wrote

> This is clearly related to the concept of epistemic justice,

No, nothing about that is clear. Your obsession is showing. Not everything revolves around your personal pet topic of interest.


stevedorries t1_j19o7cu wrote

This is the precise reason why people shouldn’t listen to programmers about anything other than programming. We’re all idiots with God complexes because so much of the world has computers in it these days, but make no mistake, we’re all idiots


iiioiia t1_j19xaa5 wrote

> shouldn’t listen to programmers about anything other than programming

> [We’re all] idiots with God complexes [because so much of the world has computers in it these days]

As a computer programmer, I am curious about how you've acquired omniscient knowledge of the capabilities of all people, as well as causality.


HowOffal t1_j19suua wrote

Ooh, I recently read a paper on this: Mark Satta’s “Epistemic Trepassing and Expert Witness Testimony” in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.


thenousman OP t1_j1az1pf wrote

Got his paper, really good work actually by both him and DiPaolo. One day I hope to be as good of a philosopher and writer as these two. Also, I love applied epistemology.


Desmond_FanClub t1_j1as8rx wrote

Epistemic humility is a thing of the past

Just a reminder reddit; Technocracy is explicitly anti-democratic


shami1kemi1 t1_j1d05pz wrote

>Just a reminder reddit; Technocracy is explicitly anti-democratic

Well yeah, that's the entire point of it. This can be seen as far back as Plato's Republic, where the idea of the Philosopher-King can be seen as a proto-technocratic idea of having leadership come not from military might or plebiscite, but from wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence.

Of course nowadays with the increased complexity of possible decisions, this idea would be replaced by having multiple experts from different fields making decisions about things that their field gives them the competency to decide on. Say, a military strategist or a veteran general would do defence decisions or an economist would do economics decisions for example. I'd even argue that this would increase epistemic humility and reduce the chances of epistemic trespassing, because unlike in a democracy where a voter needs to be knowledgeable in most things to be able to make a good decision, in this model the expert really needs to only know about their own field, and would refer to their peers from other fields.


adamsky1997 t1_j1awzp1 wrote

I enjoyed reading your article and I think the point made is a very important one. I feel we get this more and more in the public discourse, with people like Joe Rogan (or L. Fridman, Andrew Huberman) inviting guests to their podcasts and discussing topics way way outside of their field of expertise. Because of large listening base, these people start spouting their own uninformed opinions on variety of topics, and un-critical listener will think they are listening to experts...


thenousman OP t1_j1b41f4 wrote

Thanks! Indeed, that is concerning. I also know people who have become vaccine hesitant after listening to various athletes promoting vaccine skepticism on social media and that was deeply concerning!


iusedtoknowsuffering t1_j1dig4s wrote

Isn’t there a difference between a comedy podcast like Rogan’s and an “expert testimony” in a court of law? If I’m listening to a comedy podcast, I always have a giant banner in my head that says “these are idiots who are providing you with entertainment, and everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.”


adamsky1997 t1_j1divhh wrote

Of course there is, but the audience is not the court of law but the general public who then go and vote in elections.

Lex Fridman is really vile, he asserts himself as a scientists, computer researcher etc, and his podcasts were first about that. But then he expanded to psychology, politics, sociology, topics which he has zero authority in


iusedtoknowsuffering t1_j1e0n7p wrote

Does Fridman make assertions in the fields of psychology/politics/sociology? Or does he invite experts from those fields onto his podcast and interview them with curious, probing questions?


redsparks2025 t1_j1b8a4t wrote

Interesting article that identifies an issue but does not really provide a solution, but only sows division. I don't pretend to be an expert in anything and therefore my inquiring mind treads wherever it wants. However when asked my views I would be honest and state I am no expert in [Insert Topic]. So what is the solution? Being honest with oneself and humble.

If you cross into my lane, indicate first your intentions and be prepared to give way.


thenousman OP t1_j1bc63k wrote

Yep, epistemic humility is crucial for open and honest discussion. One bone I have to pick is the charge of sowing division. We need experts and knowledge is so specialized that whoever lacks it must depend on experts. I don’t think most experts intend on trespassing, or that they are bad people, but that it’s part of human nature. Nonetheless, some caution is advisable on their part and our own.


FrankieCrispp t1_j1bcgk0 wrote

I work in a hospital and see this extensively every day. Considering the venue its a little disconcerting, yeah? Doctors (med and psych), nurses, social workers, physical/occupational therapists, almost every day I can see one of them answer a question in another disciplines absence or speak with certainty about something outside of their field. Sometimes people think they know. Sometimes theyre afraid to say "To be honest sir/ma'am, I cant really answer that but will direct it to someone who can". Even if they are correct it's still dangerous. I'm a social worker and I couldn't imagine answering a medical question. Even if it's something common or that I'm certain of, you won't catch me in a professional setting talking out of my ass. I have no problem saying "I don't know" to a stranger.


PussyStapler t1_j194cr9 wrote

To reduce any more redditors committing epistemic trespassing with regards to this case, the proposed case is about Sally Clark and a more detailed breakdown of the case can be found here. There were other problems with the case, including the prosecutor's fallacy and ecologic fallacy.


noonemustknowmysecre t1_j19y51z wrote

Whohoho, bringing real world facts into /r/philosophy? Stay in your lane buddy, this place is for made up make-believe.


Drekels t1_j19kzph wrote

There are other problems with the statistics in that example that the author doesn’t mention. One in 73’000’000 seems like a low likely-hood, but there are other factors.

First of all, courts exist to pass judgement on exceptional circumstances amongst a large population. 73’000’000 is pretty close to the population on Great Britain, so we would actually expect this to happen to someone, possibly even 2 or 3 people if they are unlucky.

The other problem is combined probability of everything strange that might happen. If we start using this kind of reasoning in court, every possible unlikely occurrence could be considered a crime. Even if each are extremely unlikely (like one in 10 billion) the chance of any one of them occurring accumulates to also become rather inevitable. One in 10 billion occurrences happen all the time, perhaps just not the particular one you’re thinking of at the moment. So we can’t just say that we will convict on every 1 in 10 billion occurrence that raises criminal suspicions.


brandco t1_j1a7afl wrote

Expertise is not binary. Experts often have false beliefs within their areas of expertise. And it takes expertise to determine if another person is in fact an expert.

Trespassing implies a “title” to knowledge, a right to the exclusive dominion and control. Thinking of knowledge as a titled asset, like real property, implies there is only one way to gain knowledge, via some chain of custody. This is the same logic behind the gate keeping and credentialism that is responsible for so much economic injustice. And the epistemic errors are similar. It’s a shortcut, sure, but to where?

Telling people to only listen to the “real experts”, is not good advice. It’s much better to promote rigor, logic, skepticism and parsimony as a reliable path to knowledge.


thenousman OP t1_j1anu1u wrote

No one recommends that people only listen to experts. Experts make mistakes and also can be guilty of epistemic trespassing, all of which should make you skeptical about fully entrusting experts always. Healthy skepticism is advisable.


SirPentXX t1_j1ak0v6 wrote

The damage done to a novices understanding is exponentially inhibited every time an expert commits Epistemic Trespassing. Thus the novice is left at sea with a false map and left for dead.


redditknees t1_j1attfk wrote

Epidemiologist here: this is so incredibly common in public health. Every healthcare professional, colleague, family member, and friend is now an expert post-pandemic. 🙄


Cultural_Tie9002 t1_j1b3mdw wrote

That's just appeal to authority, to make whatever restrictive conditions apply to have someone called an "expert" and then nobody can talk about anything. Enjoy living with a boot on your neck that's how you lose free speech.


Star_x_Child t1_j1bnz8e wrote

I liked the blog post. I would argue that there is some gray area of expertise here. A general statistician may not necessarily know the specifics of SIDS as well as a pediatrician. Often times people who are experts in their field must offer some fringe knowledge on a subject and so should probably consult with experts who overlap in knowledge, especially when the opinion they are providing could impact the livelihoods, safety and health of others. I think the pandemic was full of a bunch of nonsense, it was weird to watch people on both sides of the perceived fence argue that their specific expertise (in statistics or in public health or in politics or in economics or in medical specialties of infectious diseases or emergency medicine) talk about the pandemic as if their one area of expertise entitled them to making broad sweeping statements to all around that the pandemic should be treated in their preferred way. Yet, at least on a local level, no one I knew was willing to talk to people in other specialties Bout the same issues or figure out how they could come to an agreement or even just an understanding about the different needs based on their expertise. I think this phenomenon you refer to happens at every level interpersonally.

Like I said, good read, thanks!


Zvenigora t1_j1c4ag8 wrote

The issue is related to argumentum ad verecundiam: an argument based on appeal to false or fraudulent authority. Famous example: it has been argued that megadoses of Vitamin C must be beneficial because they were recommended by Linus Pauling, a Nobel Laureate. But he was an inorganic chemist, not a nutritionist; and his prize had nothing to do with Vitamin C.


Sanguiluna t1_j1cty1v wrote

In my classes, I’ve called it “Peterson Syndrome.” I would never go to a political scientist for therapy, so why the fuck would I go to a clinical therapist for political wisdom?


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cowlinator t1_j1a8qp7 wrote

The example is given that the jury trusted the pediatrician for statistics but wouldnt for engineering.

I think that sometimes people have a hard time even identifying which concerns fall into which disciplines in the first place.

The article states that pediatricians are novices at statistics, and frankly this surprised me. I did not know that a medical degree involves little knowledge of statistics. I would expect that a doctor should understand the principle of independence since it affects diagnosis.


After-Statistician58 t1_j1ak8ru wrote

i want to say though, I would much more trust a pediatricians opinion over a construction workers on statistics, simply because of their general reasoning skills— I see how they can be wrong, but I think they would also be right more than the average person. I get why you wouldn’t want to use this in court— but in everyday life it might be best to take someone who is at least an expert in something with reasoning and logic to find the truth.


skyfishgoo t1_j1b5qj6 wrote

in your example the defense is at fault for not objecting to the testimony at the outset.

and or the prosecution is culpable for leading the witness into testimony they were not qualified to give.

probably why the whole thing was over tuned on appeal.

it's not up to the Dr to censor themselves and 'stay in their lane", as you put it, it up to the other actors in the court to discern what the hell is going on.


thenousman OP t1_j1baqqg wrote

I agree with a lot of the above, however, I also think that it’s an intellectual virtue to know the borders of one’s knowledge and expertise and, most importantly, when to keep quiet.


dannywitz t1_j1bm139 wrote

TLDR the article, beyond the headline, and the comments for context… so forgive the ignorance I might be about to display about the extent of the concept.

I think we can separate logic from epistemic trespassing, though.

As philosophers, we can identify good and bad arguments, regardless of whether they come from experts or not.


fjaoaoaoao t1_j1ccr3n wrote

Epistemic trespassing is necessary for interdisciplinary work or the creation of new fields. But it is only beneficial if the expert is purposeful in establishing expertise in the interdisciplinary space or the new field. Epistemic trespassing can create significant problems for fields that have been undergoing significant change or have been perennially perceived as loosely defined by non-experts such as race relations.


phyromance t1_j1dfimg wrote

There was an experiment I saw before where a chess board was displayed with pieces positioned in some pattern (like in some random chess game) to both normal chess players and grandmasters, and they were asked to recall their positions later. As you may guess, the masters did it perfectly and every time, whereas average players scored average.

However, the experimenters repeated the experiment with a positioning pattern that could never occur in a real chess game. Guess what, both grandmasters and normal players scored the same, "Average".

This shows that, even chess masters who can recall any game or piece positions in a game they played with enormous precision, score the same as any person in memory tests. Which only indicates that their good memory is not transmittable to other fields, and that calling someone an expert without specifying the expertise, is just a fallacy that our society feeds on. You can't even obtain a skill in one field, and claim with certainty that you can apply it as an elite in other fields, even the most basic ones like memory.

Nevertheless, I don't think this is always true because the skills and knowledge you gain in one branch of science might be helpful for other branches. Especially in Mathematics, where this helped many mathematicians prove major theorems using prior concepts and theorems in other maths' branches.