Thursday, March 21, 2013

How do you know who to believe?

  That's a topic that has come up here before; and it's one of the enduring problems of human existence. How do you know who is telling you the truth- when two or three or more opinions all clash, and claim expertise?  (Read Part 1, and Part 2, if you want to get the whole thing.)

  There's an excellent case in point today, from the NYT: Weapons experts raise doubts about Iron Dome.

   One of my deep secrets, I've actually been involved in technical discussions on the possibilities for "anti-missile" weapons since Reagan launched Star Wars.  I know a little about it- one thing being, you have to go a long, long, way to find any academic scientist who thinks shooting one missile with another is ever- EVER going to work.  From physicists to statisticians- they'll show you graphs and charts on why it's just plain not possible.

  The crux of the NYT article- multiple real experts say they can find little to no evidence that the Israeli "Iron Dome" missile defense worked.  Maybe not at all.  Ever.

   If you're interested- read the story.  Then think about this: who says what; and where is the "vested interest"?

  It turns out this way; the people claiming "it worked!" are either the makers, who are pocketing huge profits, and want more; or the soldiers shooting them- who humanly want to believe they're doing some good (but no, they didn't see it happen, of course; and they've been extensively coached by the makers); or the politicians who are appropriating the dollars.  They have multiple reasons.

   The people claiming "it didn't work" - are pretty uniformly genuine experts in their field, who don't work for the missile manufacturers.  And who aren't getting paid to stick their necks out.  Oh- and the police in Israel; who report far more damage on the ground than the military thinks should be possible.

   Besides the "facts" presented: yes; you have to comprehend the human motivations working behind the scenes.  They're always there.

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