Listening to experts

Doctor: “Based on my examination of you and my experience, I can say with a degree of professional accuracy that you have the flu.”

Patient: “Thank you, doctor, you obviously know best.”

Auto Mechanic: “I’ve been studying cars for years and know them backwards and forwards, and can say without fear of error that the problem is the starter.”

Car Owner: “You certainly know your work better than I do.”einstein11a-7-web

Lawyer: “I’ve spent years getting my law degree, studying the Constitution and the laws and taking constant continuing education classes. I can say with certainty, having studied the cases and history, that the Supreme Court has declared that the 2nd amendment is not absolute and reasonable restrictions on gun ownership and use are perfectly Constitutional.”

Citizen: “Oh yeah? What do you know? I know that the exact opposite is true and there’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.”

That was something I posted on my Facebook page a few months ago that generated a bit of conversation (including notice from my US Representative who “liked” it).

Some folks tried to read more into this than was intended. I am not saying that every “expert” is always right, or that you should never question authority — far from it. My point was that when you personally have little or no knowledge of something, paying attention to an expert is not a bad thing. And disagreeing without having any evidence to support your view won’t get you far.

Doing some research, educating yourself, and presenting an argument based on facts is different. It is certainly possible to make yourself into someone knowledgeable.

However, discounting an expert’s opinion simply because he or she disagrees with you doesn’t seem like the best way to win an argument.

Note that disagreeing with what the law is is not the same as denying the law exists. There are lots of laws I disagree with. I think laws denying gays the right to marry should be declared unconstitutional, in my opinion. But they currently are not.

My problem is when I say “Here is what the current law on the Constitution is” and have someone respond “No it isn’t” and be absolutely wrong and unwilling to accept that. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd amendment allows for individual ownership of guns but also that this right is not absolute. That’s the law. There should be no debate over that. It’s clear cut and in black and white for anyone to read. When gun lovers say “Nuh uh! The 2nd amendment is absolute!” they are merely giving their opinion and are, therefore, wrong. They’re as wrong as people who deny that evolution is real simply because it goes against what they personally want.

I guess, in a roundabout way, I’m agreeing with Isaac Asimov: “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

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3 thoughts on “Listening to experts

  1. You can only do what you can do. There will always be people who don’t like the truth based on facts, science or expert analysis. What is really sad and scary is that a large number of those in Congress and the media are like this.

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  2. Pingback: Stop asking white people |

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