This is, in essence, a repost of a comment I made on Facebook during a conversation about pandemic related issues. It has wider import, however, and not merely in the public sphere, but when it comes to private decision-making as well.
Do we trust our common sense, or do we trust the experts?
On the one hand, I've encountered plenty of "commonsense" arguments that are pretty clearly nonsense, arguments whose authors and advocates would be a lot better off listening to, say, CDC guidelines. For example, "If masks stop a virus, they will also stop oxygen. You will suffocate slowly over time if you wear a mask!" Or, to take an example from a non-pandemic arena, "You realize believing in God is just like believing in Santa Claus, right? Both imaginary paternal males who show up to make your life better--it's just common sense to see that one fantasy is the adult version of the other!"
There are--to be clear--decent arguments about the downsides of masks (e.g., they can make it harder to breathe), and decent arguments for atheism (e.g., the problem of pain). But these two particular arguments, which strike some people as common sense, strike me as (je regrette), common nonsense.
On the other hand ... there must be some place for common sense in assessing what we are told by experts. How else can anyone, whether a private citizen or a political leader, navigate among differing expert opinions on a given topic, or among differing priorities of various experts? For instance, if I'm told by the expert doctor that X surgery will save my life, but by the expert theologian that the surgery is immoral, I, the non-expert, will have to use my common sense and principles to weigh which expert to listen to when I take the practical action of agreeing to or refusing the surgery. And, in the COVID arena, a governor is going to have to weigh what the virologists vs. the epidemiologists are telling him or her--and that's just within the medical field!
So it seems that, although "use common sense" is an inadequate way of scrutinizing expert ideas, at the same time, it won't do to insist that people accept every expert idea uncritically. There's got to be some middle ground.
What middle ground? Well, as Rabbit says to Christopher Robin on their Expotition to the North Pole, "Now you're asking me!"