The Death Of Expertise

From Tom Nichols writing in The Federalist:

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Later on in the article he states the following:

This isn’t just about politics, which would be bad enough. No, it’s worse than that: the perverse effect of the death of expertise is that without real experts, everyone is an expert on everything. To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.

I see this problem consistently appear in the Church and with people I know in church communications. It seems we have entered an age where every pastor is an expert on social issues due to the fact they oversee a congregation of people and have a sense of authority in their community.

On the church communications side, I see more people entering the conversation who are either currently not in the midst of working at a church or doling out information that lacks the depth needed to understand the issues at hand (I’ve been guilty of this).

My fear for the church and my profession is that we’re slipping into a soundbite culture that is based on grabbing attention and touting numbers that have no true meaning. (As I write this, we’re in the middle of preparing our annual report which more than likely include some of those meaningless numbers.)

via The Death Of Expertise