I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why many discussions are so emotionally charged these days. It just doesn’t compute. I suppose I should blame my parents for raising me to ask questions respectfully and consider differing views rationally. Or maybe I could blame my journalism instructors for pounding into my head the importance of listening.
Or maybe I’m just a Vulcan.
In this desire to understand, I came across an article by Tom Nichols over at the Federalist, “The Death of Expertise.” I recommend you go and take a look, for it speaks to our society’s current love-affair with heated argument. It sheds some light on why every issue under the sun is a controversial hotbed these days.
We all have different ways of approaching life. There isn’t a “wrong” or a “right” way to tackle things like housecleaning, keeping up with work emails, exercising, etc. There is, however, a difference between areas that we all participate in at an equal level and areas that require specialized, specific knowledge. We’ve lost sight of that.
Nobody should be blindly trusted, but we as a society seem to think that all points of view on every topic are equally valid, and that’s simply not true. It takes expertise to be a lawyer, a physics professor, a doctor, a true librarian (someone with an Masters of Library Science, which I don’t have), a professional chef, a speech therapist. This doesn’t mean that people without expertise in a certain field are dumb or that their ideas or questions are invalid, but it does mean that the layperson should respect the fact that those who can answer the questions know more. That they have a better understanding.
That we’re not always on that equal level, and that’s okay.
When making decisions that require input from someone with expertise, there are several questions that must be considered: Do I recognize that I need someone with expertise to address this? If not, there’s probably some level of self-delusion. Do I think, despite the disparity in education/experience/training between myself and _______, that I possess expertise? If the answer is yes, there’s probably some arrogance or a problem with authority. If I am angry with the answer, is it because I simply do not like the answer? That’s okay – for a time. A refusal to move beyond that anger is just sheer stubbornness. If I’m talking only to people who agree with me, or only reading things that affirm what I already think, am I truly looking for an answer? This is important, for nothing good can come from surrounding ourselves with “yes men.”
If accepting the fact that there’s a smarter person in the room is an impossibility, then we’re in trouble. This applies especially to Christians. The road of faith is supposed to mean a progression in maturity and humility, and where we are on that journey will show in all areas of life. If we go ballistic when someone dares to correct us, that’s a big ol’ red flag. If we ask a question and then go into a snit when we don’t hear what we want to hear, that’s a humongous stop sign. If we cry “hate speech” when someone disagrees (I’ve seen this one flying around a lot lately), that’s a flashing red light. If we sit around and smugly think that nobody else really knows what they’re talking about, that’s a call for a kick in the pants.
This hits me in a very real way. It is because I believe that this blog is part of God’s call on my life that I also believe that the ideas of expertise, maturity and humility are so important. I do not take to this public platform flippantly. The fact that anyone at all comes here to read is…daunting. A responsibility. I want to remain teachable and open to correction. I want to be able to admit to having limited knowledge and own my mistakes.
That’s something we should all strive for, really. Pride is sneaky. And deadly.
So allow me to declare that I’m not an expert. In anything. There are so many people who are far smarter, wiser, more experienced than I can ever hope to be.
And I’m grateful for that.