Debates about climate change, genetically modified crops, and immunization have both strengthened for many the necessity to appeal to some form of scientific expertise while at the same time relativizing for others the epistemic authority of its claims. Scholars have offered diagnoses of this phenomenon. Their contribution has focused mostly on describing how expertise is marshalled, not why it is epistemically legitimate to invoke it. I will focus instead on two type of contributions that focus on the latter: some (e.g., John Hardwig, Naomi Scheman, Heidi Grasswick) offer moral underpinnings for expertise based on trust in individual experts, while others (e.g., Alvin Goldman) offer an epistemic analysis of the reasons why it is sometimes reasonable to defer to scientific expertise regardless of trust in individuals. I will argue that both these “trust-centered” and “assessment-centered” accounts of expertise are partially right but that in order to develop a general theory of rational deference to experts, one needs to include the epistemic benefits of both trust and distrust. Using Michel Blais’ and Robert Merton’s work, I will argue that rational deference to experts based on institutionally organized skepticism about experts’ claims offers a better account of deference to expertise than rational trust in individual experts: deference to expertise should be grounded in trust in scientific institutions, not trust in individual experts.

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