What precipitated this post more recently is a reaction to the “non-maskers”. These are people who believe that wearing a mask in public is not only useless, but an infringement on their constitutional rights. However, this ideology, if I can call it that, is only the most recent symptom of a larger trend. What I want to address is the disparity between practicing knowledge and academic knowledge.
The Dunning-Kruger effect often is referenced in situations like mask-wearing. Essentially, the Dunning-Kruger effect(DKE) posits that those with inferior knowledge inflate their understanding of subject matter, and those that have superior knowledge tend to underestimate it. A further reading into this research will reveal that it is a mixed bag. The original research posited that those with less competetancy would score themselves higher on aptitude rankings. Those with higher competancy supposedly scored themselves lower. The data becomes more nebulous upon further inspection, namely that when adjusting for other factors, those with less competancy rate themselves similarly to those with higher competancy. The DKE has become a default tool of the left to describe the anti-science and anti-evidence position of the right in response to new concerns. The left will and should reconsider the evidence in response to the updated research.
The problem then for the social scientists who would readily blame scientific ignorance on this effect, rather than other factors – we have to address other concerns. Evidently we have to look elsewhere.
Anti-science, and anti-education is not a new movement in the U.S. It has roots in a long standing evangelical tradition in the U.S. To give this movement credit, they are consistent – Covid-19 or otherwise, there is no scientific solution to this pandemic which will satisfy the tenets of evangelicalism. Adherents to this cause are obstinate in their reaction to basic health dictates- wear a mask in public and maintain social distancing.
To be clear, the left marshals an incredible amount of world-class talent in the areas concerned with respect to the pandemic. Further, the left commands the brightest minds in public policy, economics, and public health. Unfortunately, there will be no ticker-tape parade for those charged with public safety. These are the unsung heroes of top-tier policy making.
Despite the ingenuousness of the left using the Dunning-Kruger effect for their own purposes, there is a right and wrong to the approach meted by professionals. There is professionalism, which granted, can only take you so far. But there is also duty, which clearly any public policy professional will tell you, comes above all. We exist in an environment where those public policy professionals have to carry out their duty, politically neutral, and are scorned for it. A robust bureaucracy is the life-blood of well functioning government, and I hope that we can give the support needed to make sure they feel validated for their continued work.