We’ve been looking, over most of this semester, in great detail at what went wrong in Flint and DC during their lead water crisis, and at the flawed rules for lead in water safety. We’re getting one model of expertise and interaction with the public, but is it a complete model?
Looking at the discussion of how Rachel Carson prepared “Silent Spring” was a revelation. Here we have a technical expert who had a goal, and a clearly calculated model for sharing her knowledge of the subject with the public. (I’ve realized that I really need to read “Silent Spring,” even if the scientific information is not as relevant anymore.)
The interesting thing is Ms. Carson might not be considered an expert in the scientific sense- she had no major discoveries. She was, however, a skillful synthesizer of what was discovered by the scientific community. Does that make her a truer “expert,” in the sense that she did not have an agenda of pushing her own work? Are masterful science writers or science policy makers experts, publics, or somewhere in between?
There’s the case of climate scientists, who are at the opposite extreme from the experts we’ve been looking at. Instead of scientists refusing to take knowledge from non-experts seriously, we’re dealing with non-scientists refusing to take “expert knowledge” seriously, Are these just the result of a failure to message as effectively as Ms. Carson did? Or is somehow the flip side of the expert/non-expert divide we’ve been working around?