We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Bainbridge on the Vioxx verdict, juror ignorance, etc., here.
In any case, in her WSJ op-ed McCaughey offers an alternative that would retain the juries that Beldar praises, while still strengthening barriers against junk science and support for good science; namely, specialized courts:
The jury's verdict shows that our system is failing to provide justice reliably in medical cases. The remedy? Specialized state medical courts, where judges stop lawyers and hired-gun witnesses (for the plaintiff or the defendant) from misleading juries with theories disguised as science, something Judge Ben Hardin failed to do in the Ernst case. ...
Evolution, Religion, Cultural Matters
Lee Harris at TCS has written one of the most thoughtful pieces on this subject - a subject which I have been avoiding because I see no conflict between evolutionary theory and Christianity. But that is just me. Harris has many things worth saying about knowledge and culture. Excerpt:
Left unmentioned in the movie, however, is (Wm Jennings) Bryan's actual motive for coming to Dayton. He came not to defend his own theological creed, but his political creed. He believed that the people of a community should be permitted to control what their children were taught; he believed it was wrong for an elite outside of a community to come into that community and to commandeer the education of the children for its own purposes and to promote its own agenda; he believed that human beings had a fundamental right to imagine the world as they saw fit, and to teach their children to imagine it in the same way.
Before we scoff at this position, let us make a thought experiment. Suppose that tomorrow aliens of a vastly superior intelligence were to land all over the world. Because they have mastered technology that is far beyond our ken, and because their science is (literally) light years ahead of ours, there is no one on the planet who is in a position to evaluate or assess their enormous fund of knowledge. Would we, the human community, be willing to turn over our schools to this alien elite, and let them decide what to tell our children about the universe and our place in it? Would we say to ourselves, "Look at their superior knowledge-it makes ours look shabby and pathetic. Let's abandon our scientific tradition and simply adopt theirs, lock, stock, and barrel. So what if we don't understand it. So what if we can't even begin to understand it-at least, by taking it on blind faith, we will be able to believe the right things, even if we cannot hope to know them for ourselves."
But even this analogy is not strict enough. Because the alien elite in my thought experiment would also have to tell the leading authorities in our scientific community, "What you think you know is all wrong. Your so called scientific tradition is a joke, and should not be treated with seriousness or dignity-it just needs to be junked."
If an elite group of men enter into a community and claim to possess a truth that no one in the community can judge for himself, by the standards of common sense that the community normally falls back upon to make judgment calls about the ordinary questions, then this elite group may be said to possess a gnosis-a Greek word that we shall use to indicate a special source of knowledge that gives cognitive authority to those who have it, and where those who lack this knowledge are in no position to be able to evaluate it. For example, if you tell me that a long series of numbers add up to 123, and if I can check your addition by adding these numbers for myself, either in my head, or on paper, or by means of a calculator, then we are not dealing with gnosis, because we each are capable of adding the sum, and because we both recognize the legitimacy of the other's method: if our tallies conflict, we both agree that one of us has made a simple error in our calculations, and we will redo them until we find the error and are thus able to come to an agreement.