Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Epistemic Trespassing

A bit of an aside, from the talk by Lee Jussim I mentioned below.  He used the phrase epistemic trespassing to refer to people who have expertise in one area moving over to make pronouncements in areas they know only superficially.  He points out that this is one of the dangers of a field like social psychology not being rigorous. When the core elements of a field, the summary findings, the introductory course assertions, are not particularly accurate, it becomes especially dangerous when pontificators from other realms come in and spread those assertions more widely. Thus educators, pastors, historians, or doctors, people who have competence in some field and thus some credibility, speak about Stereotype Threat, or Implicit Bias, or Microaggressions as if they are known truths.  While it is fair that they should have been more cautious, more disciplined, and (gulp) more honest about what they do and do not know to be true, sloppy research seeking to uphold a narrative does rather put the bad information out on the buffet for others to take. In all eras, most especially our own, the preferred cultural narrative will be widely shared. Many educators or pastors want very much to believe that these things are true, and are over-willing to accept them at face value as Established Science. 

I long ago wondered why people who went to seminary believed themselves to be somehow knowledgeable about economics and international relations, compounding the error by assigning moral weight to their inaccuracies.  Education schools are rather notorious for borrowing from everyone at a superficial level, and it is nearly a job requirement for journalists now. Yet small wonder, as those entrusted as guardians of the truth in their own fields have made it so easy for them. Yes, yes, you can take this to the bank.  All the best people over here agree that it must be so.

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