Slam DunKs

"There's no guitar in air guitar... just air." - Tripod

It’s a quickie tonight. I want to introduce you to a new word I’ll be using.


A bit of background; with a nod to Photon in the Darkness and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, along with Mal Adapted: Dunning and Kruger published a study in 1999 with one of those ‘oh, THAT’s why’ moments for those lucky enough to read it:

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of the participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities. ((c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved. Emphasis mine.)


Now go read Mal Adapted’s comment, if you didn’t at the link above. Please. It’s great. You can replace climate change with any skilled field you like: evolutionary biology, healthcare, relativity or sediment chemistry. Or plumbing, or constitutional law, or wine tasting. People who have been through that process are still capable of thinking critically and carefully about their field; they have the added benefit of understanding it. It’s the precise reason I default to trusting credentialled experts on scientific issues if I don’t know enough about the field.

So, what’s the word I wanted to introduce to you? DunKs, short for Dunning-Krugers. It’s got less objectionable connotations than denialists, isn’t as innacurate as sceptics, and doesn’t have the generosity of contrarian. When I refer to people who arrogantly dismiss scientific consensus because they’ve fed themselves on a diet of misinformation, I’ll call them DunKs. Climate DunKs, vaccination DunKs, evolution DunKs. It’s a happy coincidence that it rolls off the tongue like ‘dunce’.

Categories: Problems, Science, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Slam DunKs

  1. Pingback: From high flyer to religious liar « David Robertson

  2. Pingback: Spinning Science « David Robertson


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