First Advisor

Angela Coventry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Philosophy and University Honors




Evidence expertise, Expert, Social epistemology, Decision making, Climatic changes -- Philosophy, Alvin I. Goldman (1938- ) -- Criticism and interpretation




The problem of expert analysis and testimony is a relevant and commonplace issue that proves to be typical in day-to-day interaction. This is seen in both areas within academia as well as public life. To frame this issue in a contemporary context, I begin my analysis of the novice-expert problem by surveying the climate change debate. I provide brief descriptions of both dominant positions in the debate while exposing the task for a novice to resolve conflicting expert opinions. In public policy, it is usual that the policymaker is considered the novice in such relationship, therefore featuring the issue's importance. The novice-expert problem is explicated through its function within public policy regarding legislative decision-making. Epistemologist Alvin Goldman suggests that a novice has the ability to consult five sources of evidence in order to base the novice-expert relationship on reasons of justified credence rather than on blind trust. A piece of evidence taken from this list is the strategy of "going by the numbers," which Goldman refutes. Notwithstanding, Goldman's argument is met with contention for reasons equally compelling, defended by David Coady. It is my objective to bridge the gap between both arguments through the application of my own epistemological analysis (from the position of a novice). I propose conditions whereby the "going by the numbers" strategy is substantiated therefore clarifying the issue further.


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