Global warming is an increasingly common subject in our political realm, and the opposing sides seem to be farther apart and more contentious than ever. In his article at NYTimes.com, “On Experts and Global Warming”, Gary Gutting argues that given the nature of the arguments this should no longer be the case. The use of experts as evidence for each side’s belief, he suggests, takes the argument out of the hands of “nonexperts” and places it within the climate scientists’ domain. While this is the example he uses, Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, makes it clear that this isn’t the only forum where his idea applies.
Gutting’s idea is simple, if the two sides agree that a certain topic falls into the area of expertise of a given group, then they must accept the consensus on the subject of that group. He uses Global Warming as an example of a current issue that exemplifies his idea. Gutting points out that both sides have recognized “climate scientists” as the experts on this subject since both use studies and statements from this field to support their beliefs. Since the opposing parties have agreed on a field of expertise, Gutting argues that the consensus of that field on the topic should be accepted by each. “As long as they accept the expert authority of the discipline of climate science, they have no basis for supporting the minority position” (Gutting, 2011). Being “nonexperts” themselves, opponents are in no position to reject the conclusions of the majority, leaving only one other option. “It follows that a nonexpert who wants to reject [anthropogenic global warming] can do so only by arguing that climate science lacks the scientific status needed be taken seriously in our debates about public policy” (Gutting, 2011).
This question of the purpose of experts in a democracy, as Gutting points out, has been around since the beginning of democracy itself. More recently this idea has been grabbing headlines again, specifically around the idea of Global Warming. As the first Republican primaries approach, the differing views on the reliability of experts between the potential presidential candidates are becoming clear. One Candidate, Rick Perry, as an example was recently quoted in a CBSNews.com article as having the following to say about climate scientists, “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects" (Montopoli, 2011). These recent events along with the general election itself are the clear exigencies for Gutting’s argument.
Most of the arguments and debates around the topic of Global Warming are occurring primarily in the political sphere. Gutting even suggests that it is the voters who inevitably decide who should be listened to by our government,...