Do Your Own Research? Yes (2022 Feb)

by Barry A. Liebling

On any important topic there are established experts who are eager to give you advice, instructions, and interpretations of events. Sometimes their pronouncements turn out to be accurate, but there are also endless examples of official experts who make assertions that are later revealed to be false. How should you decide when to follow mainstream “expert opinion” and when to reject it? You have to Do Your Own Research (DYOR), and perform some investigating by yourself.

In the past few years the acronym DYOR has become increasingly popular. There are a large number of skeptics – generally unsympathetic to establishment directives – who use the term as a rallying cry and are proud to be part of the DYOR trend. And countering this attitude, elite members of the dominant culture (the leftist crew) regard DYOR enthusiasts as conspiracy mongers who are foolish, uneducated, and wrong-headed.

People have always been investigating important topics on their own. Why is there a pronounced uptick in both the activity itself as well as renewed praise or contempt for the action? In the past few years important “official expert” assertions on vital issues have been exposed as mistaken.

Catastrophic global cooling was the panicked scream of experts in the 1970s. Then the same “authorities” stoked fear of ruinous global warming which they were certain is being caused by human industrial activity. Disasters were sure to occur before the end of the twentieth century, but it did not come to pass. Certainly the ice on the poles would melt and flood major coastal cities early in the twenty-first century, but it did not happen. Polar bears should have become extinct. “Climate change” replaced “global warming” as the preferred term of the alarmists because everyone knows that the climate is always changing, and therefore everyone should be alarmed.

More recently the world was struck by the Covid pandemic. There is no question that it is a dangerous disease that requires serious, sound advice. The “experts in charge” said, do not wear a mask, then insisted you wear a mask, then wear two masks, followed by wear only hospital-quality masks. They warned us not to trust any vaccine that is developed when Trump is president, but they had full confidence in the same vaccine when Biden assumed the office. Lockdown restrictions are necessary, whether or not they get better results than lenient public policies. Who knows what the experts will command you to do tomorrow?

Here are two important lessons. First, even if the authorities’ advice was given in good faith – if they sincerely believed what they said – their assertions have proved to be unreliable. You cannot depend on establishment experts to discern what is true. Second, expert advice can be obtained from individuals of any political persuasion. But the cultural elite in the United States today is composed almost exclusively of committed leftists. So mainstream advice coming from the legacy media, the most prestigious schools, the largest businesses, famous celebrities, and the most powerful government bureaucrats is usually (but not always) in service to the woke agenda.

Recently the New York Times published an opinion piece by two well-know professors at prestigious universities on the “problem of DYOR.” The academics acknowledge that official experts are often mistaken, but they caution that your own research is likely to be less accurate than that of the “experts.”

Specifically, they warn that “when it comes to technical and complex issues like climate change and vaccine efficacy, novices who do their own research often end up becoming more misled than informed – the exact opposite of what D.Y.O.R. is supposed to accomplish.”

Pull back and consider the significance of what these professors are saying. They know that both “climate change” and “vaccine efficacy” are not merely technical topics. The topics are major political themes that are being pushed by the woke cabal. To the esteemed professors being “misled” signifies taking on beliefs that are in defiance of the leftist agenda.

In what is an attempt at gentle persuasion, the academics are telling their readers (mostly “progressives” but also the uncommitted and contrarians) that it is too risky to question official authorities because a “non-expert” might reach conclusions that are mistaken. They go on to write, “There should be no shame in identifying a consensus of independent experts and deferring to what they collectively report.”

Note well the professors’ choice of language. You can be sure that “independent experts” are not independent at all – but are committed to leftist politics. The word “deferring” signifies obedience and submission. It has an authoritarian connotation that is distinctive from a neutral phrase such as “agreeing with.” And the term “collectively report” gives their game away because doing anything collectively contradicts the concept of “independent.”

What should you do when presented with “expert advice?” You have a choice to be part of the cattle that goes along with the herd, or you can DYOR. Note well, this is not a call to ignore the experts or assume that whatever they say is mistaken. If you are paying attention you will see that sometimes the authorities are correct, and sometimes they are completely wrong. Your default action should be to question everything and investigate as best as you can. You will make errors, and with practice you will make fewer errors and get better at figuring out what is true. Thinking for yourself is a vital virtue that you should treasure.

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