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Who’s the expert? September 9, 2010

Posted by Simon in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been thinking back to the discussion we had in class about experts a few weeks ago. And I’m trying to think of who would be an expert on fossilised bacteria in Martian meteorites.

It seems if you use either the “expert at” or “expert about” sense of the word “expert”, you run into trouble. I can think of experts on Mars, experts on Martian meteorites, experts on fossils, experts on bacteria and experts on fossilised bacteria

But how can there be experts on fossilised bacteria in Martian meteorites? No one has ever seen them (ALH84001 dispute notwithstanding), they may not exist at all, and if they do exist there’s no particular reason to believe they would be anything like fossilised bacteria on Earth.

(I’m not trying to criticise the scientists that are working in the field, I just think it’s important to keep in mind that this is a speculative field, or at least one that’s built on a very key assumption – that knowing about life on Earth will help you find life on Mars).

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