Imagine that you are expert in field A, and a subject in field B comes up at party. You know that there may be others at the party who are expert in field B. How reluctant does this make you to openly speculate about this topic? Do you clam up and only cautiously express safe opinions, or do you toss out the thoughts that pop into your head as if you knew as much about the subject as anyone?
Instead of tossing out speculations, wouldn't the more useful practice be to ask lots of questions? Sure, people often prefer being ignorant to showing it, but isn't that what we should be striving to overcome?
> ...people who’ve studied more about the details of something usually know more about it.
I would add the constraint that the expert in the other field probably knows more about their topic than you if they're confident/clear enough to offer testable predictions (at least conceptually testable, I understand it's often impractical or unethical to actually run the experiments). I've met too many so called "experts" who will twist their claims to the point of unfalsifiability.
This generalizes to "Believe that experts know more about their field than you unless you have excellent reason(s) to believe part of their reasoning is broken."
i'm not an academic, so what do i know, but it seems to me that long-term prestige more or less corresponds to level of abstraction. if true, that would imply that higher prestige fields contain (math contains physics, physics contains chem/bio, etc.) lower prestige fields and thus more prestigious academics really ought to be granted more conjectural freedom than their lower prestige colleagues. that doesn't mean they'll be reliable generators of worthwhile hypotheses, but being less likely to violate known general laws when speculating probably improves the accuracy of your guesses by, i don't know, a lot.
with that said, these days it's just hard to say anything interesting about any subject at all without knowing a lot of subject specific facts, so i agree with the thrust of the post and appreciate the reminder.
I think that when someone implies expertise superior to an actual expert who's present, affront is usually intended. Robin's correct inasmuch as such affronts are delivered as displays of status or power by those with high status.
You make a good point asking whether some subjects are simply more likely to be discussed by people, period. In reality that's probably part of the equation and it's up to Robin to show to us whether his status theory is a more dominant factor or not. It is however not necessary for a generally agreed upon hierarchy to be public knowledge. Individuals can create such rankings in their own heads and if they use similar reasoning and sourcing their rankings can overlap quite a bit without there ever having been coordination, just like people learn most of their vocabulary from sources other than dictionaries and still manage to understand each other most of the time.
I would like to go back to a more basic issue. Robin stated many times that "social scientists know lots" but he never ventured to identify those things in particular. I'm still skeptical. There should be a dedicated post to that (maybe a list of key insights?).
I said nothing about social scientists, but am still surprised. Do you have a link?
Is there some generally agreed upon hierarchy of field status that people can refer to? Is it just common knowledge for academics how they stack up to all other academics?
I don't go to parties with academics much, but I do notice that people with all sorts of backgrounds will discuss things that fall within social sciences. Does that mean that social scientists are lower status than everyone, or does it just mean that people like to discuss certain topics and always have, and some of those topics are studied by social scientists. I also notice that people like to talk about movies. Does that mean they feel they are higher status than Stephen Spielberg?
Anyway, like many OB posts I feel like I would have a better sense of what Robin was saying if he put in some examples rather than leaving it completely abstract.
I don't see your inference. I'll bet three status points, even odds, he's not.
That notwithstanding, global-warming denial seems apropos. Applying RH's analysis, can we conclude that nonexperts feel free to deny global warming because climate science is a low-status discipline?
[Recall that endeavors demanding cross-field expertise are low-status, presumably because they're hard to credential.]
Relevant XKCD: http://xkcd.com/793/
That's probably explained in large part by the former's better command of language.
The Verbal IQs of physicists are higher (on average) than those of any social scientists.
And the model for wisdom is simplifying climate change to a simple for or against and making ad hominem attacks?
How comes I can't paste text into this thing (with Firefox 31.0 for Ubuntu 14.04)?
Do you have any example of “if Field B is lower status you feel free to speculate”? If the difference is as vast as A = physics, B = astrology I might agree, but for more moderate differentials I'd be cautious even if B was lower status. Am I falling prey to the typical mind fallacy?
It sounds like you're a lousy listener. You may be "smart", but not wise. Odds are you're a global warming denier.
Consider, say, astrology, theology, or homeopathy. "Experts" in these fields are only experts on the *internals*, on what practitioners in the field claim, what the terminology is, etc.; they aren't experts in such *external* matters as -> truth-finding <-.