When is an expert expert? This question is becoming of increasing public interest. Our reliance upon specialists is growing rapidly due to—among other factors—ever more complex technological and social developments. It seems that we must constantly defer to expert judgment in our everyday affairs, but our dependence on expert judgment is more obvious when things go wrong. For example, at this time there is much public concern in the United Kingdom about the safety of eating beef from herds infected with “mad cow disease.” “Expert” scientists have been called in by the government to reassure the public. However, not all experts agree that the disease cannot be conveyed to humans. Two quotations from the newspaper The Independent of 18 May, 1990, illustrate the point:
The committee [which] advises the Ministry of Agriculture on bovine spongiform encephalopathy … said there was no scientific evidence to support calls for a ban on breeding from the offspring of BSE cattle.
Agriculture ministers yesterday blamed alarmist reporting for public anxiety over “mad cow” disease (BSE) and … hoped the BBC and ITV would ask those whom it proposed to interview as “experts” whether they had published the evidence in journals their peers could check.
KeywordsExpert System Decision Support System Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Expert Judgment Cognitive Conflict
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