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Monday 12 May 2014

UnCracked Monday: The Death of Expertise

Today I wanted to share with you a really excellent editorial, on a pretty important subject.  The notion of the value of expertise has been steadily eroding in our culture; starting with the post-modernist idea that authority implies illegitimacy, then growing with the relativist notion that there's no such thing as truth, only opinions which must all be given equal weight and value, and finally being accelerated by the developmental impact of new technology on our culture.  Particularly the internet, where its often hard to judge the difference between informed and uninformed statements and where there is the impression that everyone must have their say and will by default have equal weight in terms of any statements made (whether backed by years of rigorous study and research, or pulled fully-formed out of one's own ass).

So without further ado, here's The Death of Expertise.


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  1. When our institutions are uniformly in shambles, how does one tell who is an expert, and on what topics he is one?

  2. There's a point. In the old days, I'd have said "critical reasoning and the analysis of arguments". But these days there's precious little of that going around.

  3. It's indeed a really good editorial about what could be seen as a little plague of the recent times (Albeit maybe not so recent in itself, this article of Asimov , more than 30 years old, touched at least partially the same topic and it apparently deemed it quite old in its origin, maybe there are less new things under the sun than we think).
    I also wonder if it's just a postmodernism thing. After all, opposition to the "fancy professors" can take al least two form: "Hey, you, how you dare challenge my internet-assembled opinion whit corporatw-academic-elite-fed facts! You fascist! Help, help, I'm being repressed" or the more old, traditional oriented "Those weird theories of weird liberal scientist and academic out of touch with the real world and they're so called progress can't match the wisdom of my grandfathers and the good old common sense that come from my heart". I admit I sometimes happened to read both sentiments expressed by the same people in the same phrase, now that I thought of it. I add geographical curiosity: where I leave (italy) it appears to me that the anti-academic-anti-elitist bias is more new (yet equally widespread, on those days of global communication) but it's aggravated by an ancient humanistic bias of the academic elite (science and technology used to be viewed a little as secondary and ancillary to literature and law). Not that in humanistic fields competence and facts are irrelevant, but certainly they're more subject to opinions. This combination have produced some embarrassing results, recently.
    You're post also mad me wonder about how much relativism switched from moral relativism (opinions and moral preferences can't be argued on pure factual-logical basis) to the factual relativism sustained but what can be defined as a strong "moral" dogma (All opinion must be valued the same, screw facts, they must bow to this imperative) that seems mainstream those days. But I'm afraid that's quite off topic.

    PS: Forgive my poor English, It's been a while since I've last wrote something longer than an sms in this language. And forgive me if I intruded with my ramblings. I'm a casual reader of this blog and of therpgsite and this afternoon I had far too much time and too little to do.

  4. No, on the contrary, thank you very much for posting here!

    Anyways, I think all of this is an ongoing legacy of the Baby Boomers, who fucked up everything, possibly forever. They absurdly turned anti-authoritarianism into an Obligatory Dogma. Now no one is supposed to ever have a legitimate right to say they know more than someone else, or that they can tell someone else what to do.

    That's the underlying problem: that since the hippies, ALL Authority Implies Illegitimacy.

    So these days saying you're an "expert" at something is just going to lead to accusations of arrogance and an instinctive drive (in those so programmed by their baby boomer parents and grandparents and the culture they spawned) to want to argue AGAINST you because that's what you're supposed to do, reject all authority. Except of course for that authority that has figured out the right Magic Words to be on the side of the Revolution; those authorities must NEVER be questioned, because to do so proves you are a reactionary (racist, homophobe, sexist, INTOLERANT of whatever stripe).

    We have, in 50 years, destroyed all intellectual foundation for our civilization. The civilization still exists, pretty much, so we just haven't realized what we've done yet. But is the reason why we no longer have any moral capacity to honestly oppose any kind of instability, criminality, or atrocity.

    And an ever-increasing significant part of the population have actually convinced themselves, consciously or unconsciously, that it would be a Wonderful Thing if somehow Western Civilization were to be destroyed. That's the horrifying part; they're so addled in their minds that they think that somehow the destruction of western civilization would bring about a new hippie-commune Golden age of women's rights, of multiculturalism, of gay rights, of freedom and equality (note that ALL of these are concepts that originated and still largely only exist in the context of western thought and civilization, and are really only even capable of existing in the context of the moral/philosophical underpinnings of Western Civilization); and not a time of utter barbarity and collapse into horrific violence and/or brutal oppression (again, in particular of women, homosexuals, and ethnic minorities; none of whom have ever done better in almost any culture outside our own modern civilization, and none of whom are likely to do better should any other present civilization - Islamic or Chinese for example, or the absence of modern civilization in favor of pre-industrial tribalism - end up being the state of the times).