Tag Archives: The Doctor Analogy

Paging Doctor Analogy

Perhaps there’s an academic paper in what we might call the “Doctor Analogy of Epistemic Competence.”  The basic thought is to treat any epistemic claim as if it were a claim made by your medical doctor.  You undeniably have a personal interest in the accuracy and competence of such claims, so a history of failure or incompetence in this regard is relevant to you.  Here’s an example:

“The analogy I’d draw is the following: You go to a doctor, who diagnoses an ailment and prescribes drugs and surgery,” Landay said. “The diagnosis, however, turns out to be disastrously wrong and as a result, the drugs and surgery leave you crippled for years to come. Are you going to go back to that same doctor to diagnose your next illness? No, you aren’t. In fact, you probably sued him/her for malpractice after the first go-round. Unfortunately, we can’t sue Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Feith and the others for malpractice. But we can stop listening to them.”

Naturally, the virtue of Dr.Analogy is that it’s measurable: certain kinds of outcomes can be assessed very directly.  Yet, somehow, the Doctors who predicted or diagnosed the Iraq situation correctly are virtually invisible, while the ones who got it wrong are everywhere.