Tag Archives: Tom Nichols

An expertise in the death of expertise expertise

File this article on the death of expertise under the topic of the meta-argument. Here’s a particularly good passage:

This subverts any real hope of a conversation, because it is simply exhausting — at least speaking from my perspective as the policy expert in most of these discussions — to have to start from the very beginning of every argument and establish the merest baseline of knowledge, and then constantly to have to negotiate the rules of logical argument. (Most people I encounter, for example, have no idea what a non-sequitur is, or when they’re using one; nor do they understand the difference between generalizations and stereotypes.) Most people are already huffy and offended before ever encountering the substance of the issue at hand.
Once upon a time — way back in the Dark Ages before the 2000s — people seemed to understand, in a general way, the difference between experts and laymen. There was a clear demarcation in political food fights, as objections and dissent among experts came from their peers — that is, from people equipped with similar knowledge. The public, largely, were spectators.

I’m skeptical of the good-ole-days angle there at the end, and it’s a little hilarious that this piece comes along in the Federalist (home to a fair amount of pseudo-skepticism about experts on climate change), but it’s worth a read.