6.16.2011

The Truth Foundation

Maybe such a thing already exists, but if not, here's an idea I've had in mind for awhile - The Truth Foundation. A nonprofit foundation that publishes tables of consensus, amongst experts in several fields for consumption by nonexperts. One of the problems in our society of 'low information voters' is that the media presents all arguments as essentially two-sided. Click on the news and almost any issue is debated by two talking heads, giving the perception that the arguments (no matter how ridiculous) are of equal merit. That is most often not the case. A simple way to determine the consensus (or range of opinions) amongst experts in a field and the money trail associated with various opinions might be helpful.

Many professions already have editorial groups, like the old medical 'Parkland Papers', where the state of the art is presented in a manner that obviates the need for everyone to review all the available literature.

What would the foundation publish? A couple of examples might help. Take evolution for example. A poll of people with Phd's in biology could be conducted. A simple table could be constructed, and to be factored into the table, all relevant survey questions would have to be answered. The numbers of non and incomplete responders would be published as well. The table might include the following:
  • Evolution: fact - x% ; Religious affiliation - ; source of funding
  • Evolution: Probable - y%; same
  • Evolution: unlikely - z%; same
  • Nonresponders - a%
  • Incomplete responders - b%
Or what about climate change? Poll experts in weather and climatology.
  • Human caused climate change: fact - x%; source of funding
  • Human caused climate change: Probable - y%; source of funding
etc.

Such a clearing house of data wouldn't hurt. It would tell nonexperts what the consensus among true experts is, any philosophical biases they may have, and where the money comes from that might bias supposed dissension.

11 comments:

Jared said...

There is the tongue-in-cheek Project Steve, but to my knowledge, something like this doesn't exist yet for all "controversial" topics. Pew and Gallup try very hard to do that, but they often put more emphasis on the "non-experts" in their poll results. Something that polled exclusively experts in the field concerned is a remarkably good idea. I can think of several dozen other things which would be amazing for this sort of data.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

We should float this among the science blogs. See if it sparks any interest.

Big Mark 243 said...

I thought there was a Florida paper that does a 'polifact' thing where they gauge the accuracy or 'truthiness' of politicians assertions...

... but even if there was easy and widespread access to unbiased information, it would still be a matter of the horse drinking, wouldn't it?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

You are right about leading the horse but I think there are enough true independents out there who might benefit. Also it could educate the press. I've read politifacts but I've not seen a science construe site.

Michael Lockridge said...

Hmmm. Interesting. Source of funding?

Harvey said...

The obvious "elephant" in this room would be how one defines "expert". In medical terms, this might be professors or others with "literature". It seems, however, that this would not be so easy outside of recognized scientific issues.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

All good thoughts. Mike, for funding it would have to be donations and grants. Harvey, I think this would be limited to scientific fields only.Expertise can therefore be determined by level of technical training - PhD's prof's etc.

Harry C Pharisee said...

Perhaps TED could be a means of popularizing this idea and getting it off the ground?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I don't have any experience with TED - interesting idea.

Harry C Pharisee said...

Yeah, I don't know the process to get the go ahead for an official TED talk, but you do have some TEDian credentials.

Maybe Jared has some insight.

Jared said...

http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/73
All the information on speaking at TED and how to become or nominate a speaker, etc.