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Opinion >  Letters

Science vs. ‘gut instinct’

Mr. Quinn criticizes columnist [Shawn] Vestal for advocating that we “blindly trust the experts” (“Done listening to Vestal,” May 6).

“Blindly trusting” is the opposite of what Vestal values and, in fact, exactly what Mr. Quinn is promoting under the rubrics of “gut reaction” and “common sense.” The evolution of the human capacity to reason was not a quirk or anomaly of nature. It evolved precisely because gut feelings, common sense, did not provide a sufficiently reliable basis for human decisions. And those who practice reason systematically, i.e., scientists, are those whom Mr. Quinn derides as “experts.”

The very basis of science entails questioning, being aware of the distortions in perception arising from feelings (i.e., “gut feelings”). Can scientists make mistakes? Of course, which is why their conclusions are always couched in probability terms, never in “blindly trust.”

While it is Mr. Quinn’s prerogative to like and dislike anything he wants to, in order for those sentiments to merit consideration by anyone else he would need to present reasons for and against, systematically. In other words, he would need to think scientifically, and become what he disparages: “an expert.” Otherwise, he is just another guy grousing about what his gut tells him.

Peter Grossman



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