No, Not All Opinions Are Equal—We Need Elites with Expert Knowledge

Elitism has come under fire since the recent wave of populist politics. But when we don't listen to experts, we end up listening to politicians' lies, says Richard Dawkins.

You want expert pilots to fly your planes, top doctors to perform your surgeries, the finest musicians in your orchestra, and for the same reason, you should want experts leading the nation, says Richard Dawkins. There has been a backlash against expert knowledge amid the rising wave of populist politics, but Dawkins doesn't think elitism is the dirty word that people are implying. He contends that not all opinions are equal, and that the leaders of the UK were profoundly misguided in allowing a referendum on Brexit to occur. No average citizen—not even Dawkins himself—was fit to decide on whether to leave a federation of states with so much economic and political importance, and decades of complex history attached to it. And much like the 2016 US presidential election, it was a political movement fueled by misinformation. A representative democracy is one thing, where citizens entrust experts to make national and local decisions, but a referendum democracy seems to Dawkins extremely ill-advised, particularly given that the top Google search in the UK the day after the Brexit vote was 'What is the European Union?'. Dawkins isn't shy: he's an elitist, but a rational one. He affirms he would never want a world where your IQ determines how many votes you get, but he sees the clear benefit of making political decisions based on knowledge rather than emotion or misinformation, deliberate or otherwise. Richard Dawkins' newest book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

Politics & Current Affairs

How to Filter Nonsense from Your Newsfeed—and Your Life

Your brain stops at the most comforting thought. The truth is somewhere beyond that. Using scientific skepticism as a guide, astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss outlines the questions that critical thinkers ask themselves.

Strange answers aren’t inherently wrong, and satisfying answers aren’t inherently right, says Lawrence Krauss in this critical thinking crash course. The astrophysicist explains how principles of scientific skepticism can be applied beyond the laboratory; it can be a filter for the nonsense and misinformation we encounter each and every day. Here, he establishes a handful of core questions that critical thinkers ask themselves, which can be used to challenge your misconceptions and sense of comfort, question inconsistency, and think past your brain's evolved biases. Piece by piece, you can systematically remove nonsense from your life. Lawrence Krauss' most recent book is The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far: Why Are We Here?

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Mind & Brain

The Basis of Education Should Be Questions, Not Answers

Can democracy remain vibrant if the public, and especially children, don't have the tools to distinguish sense from nonsense?

"You can can get more information in your cell phone now than you can in any school, but you can also get more misinformation," says American-Canadian theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. And he’s right: we’re in an era where any human can access a previously unimaginable wealth of knowledge. This access has grown faster than our ability to process it critically, however, and what we lack is any decent filter to weed out erroneous or partisan information. Children are the most susceptible to this, and Krauss argues that teaching children how to question information—essentially, how to make children skeptics—may save humanity from a dumbing-down. Lawrence Krauss' most recent book is The Greatest Story Ever Told -- So Far: Why Are We Here?

Videos

How a Quick Lesson About Vaccination Can Help Stop Fake News

Is misinformation causing outbreaks of diseases long thought curable? A recent study found that just a simple "heads up" about fake news can help save thousands of lives. 

An infant receives a measles vaccination in Berlin

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Culture & Religion

Researchers Find a “Vaccine” for Climate Change Skeptics

The spreading of misinformation and doubt has undermined support for climate change. Despite broad consensus from climate scientists that humans are largely responsible for climate change, only 27% of Americans think there is agreement. New research points to a possible way to "vaccinate" against this misinformation. 

Misinformation often spreads like a virus. Is there a vaccine?

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Culture & Religion