It's sometimes thought that conservatives have a greater respect for authority than liberals. I think that's not quite right. Rather, it seems to me, they have different conceptions of authority. Liberals, though generally unimpressed by traditional power structures, may have more respect for the authority of experts. "Elitist intellectuals" that we are, we think that biologists probably know more about biology than your average Joe. Really, it never fails to amaze me that people see fit to make up their own opinion (usually grounded on nothing more than wishful thinking) on scientific issues like evolution or climate change. Surely it would be far more sensible to admit ignorance and defer to the authority of experts?
Of course, anti-scientific attitudes are not restricted to the right. Romantic environmentalists are opposed to nuclear energy and genetic engineering no matter the potential benefits to the environment. (I'm not entirely sure if the benefits outweigh the risks in either case, but they're surely worth looking into, rather than dismissing out of hand.) And if economists are largely agreed that free trade helps the third world, I'm not sure why so many leftists embrace trade protectionism.
Further, Chris at Mixing Memory points out that everyone thinks themselves qualified in linguistics and psychology, because we think and talk all the time. (Of course, this annoys the real experts - like Chris - no end.)
How about philosophers - do they tend to get annoyed by laypeople's philosophical musings? I guess most philosophers are pretty irritated by the unthinking relativism that's so widespread. And I myself get quite annoyed when I see stupid psychologists and economists making claims about "rationality" whereby they just assume that maximizing expected value in dollars(!) is the only rational thing to do. Ugh. But then again, most people don't really think much about philosophy anyway, apart from moral and political philosophy, at least. And are we really experts at those anyway? I've previously answered affirmatively, complaining at how the public sees religion as answering the "why" questions, when really it just makes thing up, and it's only philosophy that seriously tackles such problems.
Though that's not quite the same issue, I guess. One might grant that ethics falls under the dominion of philosophy, whilst denying that academic philosophers are themselves experts at it. (There's an interesting discussion of the latter issue over on Kieran Setiya's blog.) I'd grant that we needn't expect moral philosophers to be more virtuous than other people. But I should think that they are more likely to attain moral knowledge, if there is any to be found, and at the very least ought to have more consistent and well-justified values than would non-philosophers. It would thus seem appropriate for ethics panels to have more moral philosophers rather than the religious and other authorities that tend to dominate. But I'd be curious to hear what others think on this issue. I'm no expert, after all ;)