In Scientific American, John Horgan defends celebrity Jenny McCarthy’s right to publicly question and challenge scientists on vaccinations. Horgan criticizes a Mother Jones article that argued otherwise, and points to modern psychiatry as an example of the dangers of simply deferring to supposed scientific experts.
One of Horgan’s points is that scientists often aren’t any more rationally based in their arguments than anyone else.
“But the history of science suggests — and my own 32 years of experience reporting confirms — that even the most accomplished scientists at the most prestigious institutions often make claims that turn out to be erroneous or exaggerated,” writes Horgan. “Scientists succumb to groupthink, political pressures and other pitfalls. More than a half century ago, Freudian psychoanalysis was a dominant theory of and therapy for mental disorders. The new consensus is that mental illnesses are chemical disorders that need to be chemically treated. This paradigm shift says more about the financial clout of the pharmaceutical industry — and its control over the conduct and publishing of clinical trials — than it does about the actual merits of antidepressants and other drugs.”
Everyone, Even Jenny McCarthy, Has the Right to Challenge “Scientific Experts” (Scientific American, March 19, 2015)