Can we have informed public discourse about complex topics?

Total Posts:  1
Joined  13-04-2018
13 April 2018 13:34

I noticed that most of the current public debate following Sam’s podcast with Murray seemed to have been about race and IQ and not about the topics that Sam intended (e.g. free speech or identity politics). And it seems painfully obvious that the quality of this debate was (and still is) absolutely terrible. Surprisingly, this seems particularly true on attempts to talk about the validity of mainstream scientific facts. This should have been the easiest part of the debate.

To me this shows at least two major underlying problems:

1. The public is not fit to discuss complex topics: It seems enormously difficult to have an informed discussion even about mainstream scientific facts outside of the scientific system (e.g. climate, medicine, intelligence). This can be seen even in this very forum: To e.g. conclude “black people are dumber than white people” is a false and dangerous oversimplification of complex research. Yet, this seems to be the main takeaway within the public discourse after The Bell Curve and even among ourselves in this forum. If this experience has shown anything, then that it is not easy for us to discuss complex science on a common level that is good enough.

2. Playing unfair trumps serious attempts of discussion: This inability to discuss complex topics makes it enormously easy for interest groups to manipulate the public even on facts. It is astounding to me, how easy it is nowadays to get away with misconstruing facts, muddying the waters, or blatant lies. Examples of this in the context of Murry’s research are sadly both, its successful instrumentalization by white supremacists, as well as the dishonest tactics that VOX and others used trying to counteract this.

So (how) can we have informed public discourse about complex topics (at all)?

This could be an interesting topic for a coming podcast. Do you have any idea who Sam could invite as a guest on this topic?

[ Edited: 14 April 2018 00:38 by Brunos]
Total Posts:  117
Joined  20-09-2012
29 April 2018 20:17

Good faith in the person presenting an argument.
Examination of the argument, not the mammal that happens to be uttering it.
The most important is education - the ability to assess competing truth claims and to hold ideas as pending.

Not sure which guest would be suitable to talk about this - probably Neil deGrasse Tyson (who’s already been on).