Saturday 20 January 2018

We should listen to experts - they know what they're talking about

Professor Brian Cox believes experts should be listened to, not laughed at
Professor Brian Cox believes experts should be listened to, not laughed at

Straight Talking - Darragh Clifford

Another week, another host of car crash moments from Donald Trump. A relatively tempered display - by his standards anyway - in the Middle East soon gave way to some very awkward exchanges with EU leaders in Brussels and Sicily.

And while the handshakes with French president Emmanuel Macron and the 'shove' on Montenegro Prime Minister Duski Markovic attracted immediate attention, it is Trump's split with the other G7 nations on climate change that is likely to have the most long-lasting and worrying ramifications.

Trump's current stance on climate change reflects a growing trend across political discourse around the world where expert opinion and analysis is casually dismissed for the sake of cheap political gains.

The amount of solid scientific evidence supporting the urgent need for action on climate change is mind boggling, yet in some political circles this is not only ignored, it is scoffed at with an ignorant 'experts, what do they know?' point of view.

And it is not just climate change where experts are being ignored and derided. Look at the Brexit campaign last summer, where economists were queueing up to warn the voting public of the dangers of a Leave victory.

But in the days and weeks leading up to the Brexit vote, and in the months that followed, an 'anti-expert' mood could be detected across the UK. According to leading Conservative MP Michael Gove, 'the people have had enough of experts'.

I'm sorry, but if someone spends the majority of their adult life studying and working in a particular field, dedicating thousands of hours to research, then we should listen to what they have to say.

Professor Brian Cox, who was in Dublin last week, claimed being 'anti-expert' is the way back to the cave, and he's right. We should be celebrating intelligent, critical thinking, not scoffing at it.

We have been guilty of ignoring sound advice in this country too. When a large chunk of Ireland was drunk on cheap credit and 100% mortgages during the Celtic Tiger, our government of the time, led by Bertie Ahern, sneered at people like David McWilliams, who was crying 'stop' at every available opportunity.

But no, Bertie in his wisdom believed McWilliams and his band of merry economists were simply talking the country down, talking the economy down and should have stopped being so negative and enjoyed the ride.

If only Bertie had paused for a moment to consider the sound advice McWilliams was giving. I can only hope that in 20 years time, we are not saying the same about Trump and climate change, because if we ever reach the stage where the scientists are saying 'we told you so' it will already be too late.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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