I recently skimmed through Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us by David H. Freedman. No, he doesn't directly address our individual and collective capacity for myth-making, or suggest that our willingness to assign truth or authority to something actually reflects unconscious mythologies. If he had, that would have been a pleasant surprise. But he opens with this quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley: "Every epoch, under names more or less specious, has deified its peculiar error."
"Deified its peculiar error." You may know that Shelley and his wife Mary (author of Frankenstein), were active opponents of the hyper-rationalism of their time. We're in the grip of the same tension today. "How can human beings know truth?" and "How many kinds of truth are there?" are perennial questions, and the task of discernment has not gotten easier for anyone who thinks.
Freedman's advice about how to avoid following really bad expert advice is of the simple sort that is deceptively hard to implement: maintain some skepticism but don't rely solely on your common sense, look at credentials even though they don't mean much, steer clear of simple theories about complex subjects, and cross your fingers. As befits the author of a book about the need for caution when listening to experts (double caution when the expert is self-proclaimed), Freedman warns the reader that his book could be "wrong." The problem of bad expert advice he says, is really insolvable.
(On that note, this blog contains no guarantees and it's highly suggested that you read between, below, above, and beyond the lines. But you already knew that).
Freedman's willingness to allow for the possibility that he's wrong could just be a nice twist, good for marketing and compatible with the original thesis. Who knows for sure? Still, it's a habit many of us should cultivate. Freedman provides so many examples of bad "expert" advice that you've got to wonder when we will start questioning our pursuit of silver bullet answers in the form of "facts." Maybe we have.