Tom Nichols – The Death of Expertise

expertise

‘Today, any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious “appeals to authority,” sure signs of dreadful “elitism,” and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a “real” democracy.’

This, unfortunately, is true not only for the American public, but, increasingly also for the European cultural milieu.

Tom Nichols is an expert, and he dares to tackle this matter directly. In an article published by The Federalist, he suggests’ some things to think about when engaging with experts in their area of specialization.’

Here they are:

  1. We can all stipulate: the expert isn’t always right.
  2. But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)
  3. Experts come in many flavors. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.
  4. In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.
  5. And yes, your political opinions have value. Of course they do: you’re a member of a democracy and what you want is as important as what any other voter wants. As a layman, however, your political analysis, has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is.

If this caught your interest, you may read HERE the entire article. I assure you it is worth it.

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Tom Nichols

Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School. He claims expertise in a lot of things, but his most recent book is No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security (Penn, 2014).

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