When to defer to majority testimony – and when not

Analysis 66 (291):179–187 (2006)
How sensitive should you be to the testimony of others? You saw the car that caused an accident going through traffic lights on the red; or so you thought. Should you revise your belief on discovering that the majority of bystanders, equally well-equipped, equally well-positioned and equally impartial, reported that it went through on the green? Or take another case. You believe that intelligent design is the best explanation for the order of the living universe. Should you revise that belief on finding that most other people, or at least most who by your own lights are as intelligent, informed and impartial as yourself, believe that evolutionary theory offers the better account? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of where the evidence points – like your own vivid memory of the car going through on the red – remains firmly on the side of intelligent design? Assume, to take a third case, that there is a matter of fact about whether abortion is right or wrong. You believe that it is wrong, having a firm picture of it as an act on a par with murder. Should you revise that belief on discovering that among those whom you regard as equally intelligent, informed and impartial, most believe that abortion is not wrong, or at least not wrong in the way that murder is wrong? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of abortion remains unchanged; it still seems to you to be a grievous wrong? Should you put aside your own sense of things as mistaken, in the way you might put aside your imagined memory of the car going through on the red, and decide to go along with the majority view?
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8284.2006.00612.x
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Darrell P. Rowbottom (2008). Intersubjective Corroboration. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):124-132.

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