Social Skeptics do not meet the standards of credibility incumbent in pronouncing the judgements they pretend to be qualified to make.
The qualifications which merit categorization of an opinion as that constituting expert opinion are clearly delineated by professionals who deal in matters of material fact, in the Federal Rules of Evidence.¹ Social Skeptics position themselves towards the media as the go-to resource for expert opinion on a panoply of topics on behalf of which they seek to block access to science. Nothing could be further from the reality of the nature of material evidence and issues of fact. The opinions of skeptics in general, not to mention Social Skeptics in particular, do not qualify as expert opinion under Federal Rule VII. 702. And in the event that they do qualify, under the strictures of Federal Rule VII. 703, general prejudicial opinions of skeptics constitute the least reliable testimony, meriting a clear ranking of last behind the four recognized types of testimony; which are by rank of strength, Eyewitness, Expert, Defendant and Character testimony.
A skeptic’s expert opinion is immaterial to the issue of fact in a disputed case, if any one or more of the following apply:
a. There exists direct evidence as to the issue of fact, or
b. There exist one or more Eyewitnesses to the issue of fact, or
c. The skeptic is not employed in the particular field in question, or
d. The skeptic offers only “critical thinking skills” or “the scientific method” as their sole skill basis regarding the issue of fact, or
e. The skeptic cites hearsay or anecdote as their only knowledge regarding the issue of fact, consisting of
i. contending that their opinion is held by one or more other experts in the field, or
ii. citing that an opinion is based upon previous anecdotal or hearsay similar cases, which could serve to shed prejudicial light on the issue of fact.
f. The skeptic cannot be reasonably certified by counsel in his role on behalf of the court, to serve a Duty of Candor.
From the Federal Rules of Evidence (2014):
ARTICLE VII. OPINIONS AND EXPERT TESTIMONY, Rule 702. Testimony by Expert Witnesses
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.¹
Skeptics and SSkeptics:
- possess neither scientific, technical nor specialized knowledge – other than, at times, a self qualified general familiarity with the scientific method,
- possess no knowledge which will aid a trier of fact (the layperson audience), other than hearsay anecdotes concerning hearsay similar cases
- possess no material or skill which will aid in determining a fact of issue.
- possess insufficient knowledge or data regarding the fact of issue.
- may self qualify as possessing a reliable principle with respect to the scientific method; however
- typically fail as a qualified expert with respect to a history of professional application of the scientific method, and
- critical thinking skills, and rational thinking do not count as expert skills, experience or knowledge.
- has no track record of reliably applying the scientific method to the facts of the case category or case itself, to assist in determination of a fact of issue.
Therefore, skeptics do not in general qualify as ‘experts’ under the rules of evidence. If however, they do qualify under Rule 702, then Rule 703 applies to the utility of such expert opinion:
ARTICLE VII. OPINIONS AND EXPERT TESTIMONY, Rule 703. Bases of an Expert’s Opinion Testimony
An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value in helping the jury evaluate the opinion substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.¹
In other words, if we do not have an Eyewitness or direct evidence to a fact of issue, then a true skeptic who works by application of similar material facts or the scientific method, in their profession in the field in question, can be relied upon for expert testimony, provided that it is not overly prejudicial beyond its probative value.
If however, a skeptic tenders an opinion, such opinion only counts as evidence of issue of fact if they are indeed “in the particular field” in question. If a skeptic tenders expert opinion, which relies on prior prejudices or anecdotes from a standpoint of hearsay, this evidence is typically immaterial regarding an issue of fact. The only instance in which prejudiced testimony based on inadmissible hearsay and anecdote is regarded as material to the issue of fact, is when it constitutes the best testimony available (probative) and would therefore merit inclusion regardless of its prejudicial effect. Even in this circumstance, there exists a burden on an eyewitness or expert called the Duty of Candor. This not only requires that a counsel calling on an expert be transparent in relating his expertise with regard to a topic at hand, but also requires that counsel demand from an expert that they dispense with credenda which might be seen as prejudicing their testimony. No person in this world carries a larger agenda than a SSkeptic. Such a credenda places a counsel at risk of misleading the court – “either through direct representations or through silence.” Well maybe a Jehovah’s Witnesses at your door carries more of an agenda, but SSkepticism comes in a close second, risking placing the SSkeptic witness into a box of non-credibility and bias based on past politics and advocacy.
Sorry SSkeptics, you are only impressing yourselves and the misinformed with the sciencey-sounding media rhetoric.
¹Federal Rules of Evidence, 2014; Federal Evidence Review, Arlington, VA; VII. Opinions and Expert Testimony, Rules 702 – 703, (http://federalevidence.com/rules-of-evidence).