“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”- Luke 11:52
I have had a number of curious interactions both online and in-person recently. The finer points of the conversations vary but ultimately, each ends the same way. It begins when I say something that is in my opinion an innocuous common-sense kind of an assertion. These statements have included but are not limited to statements such as: online school is tough on kids, vaccinated people catch and spread Covid-19 and it’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster.
At this point the smug little wisenheimer I’m conversing with demands in a very chippy way I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, degree in immunology, law. I then point out, as politely as I am able—that no one really needs a degree in a particular field—or any field for that matter to know whether or not whatever statement I made is true. The statement clearly falls under the heading of common sense, common knowledge or empirical wisdom. Nine times out of ten at this point in the conversation the smug little wisenheimer will tell me to come back when I have a degree in whatever field they deem essential to continue the conversation.
Insert angry face here.
I hate these exchanges with a white-hot passion. These folks believe the only people who have any right to speak into or on any subject are those who are an “expert” in the field in question. If you take this lunacy to its logical end-game it means that, in order to make a statement like “I had a dog with the exact same problem and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or to say “children ought to eat something besides candy and cake three meals a day” one would have to be a nutritionist or have a degree in early childhood development.
I have nothing against knowledge, education or experts. In fact, I am all for knowledge. I love education. Experts are great and certainly have their place. Additionally, I believe wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their paygrade or outside of their wheelhouse. Smart people consult multiple counselors before forming an opinion or making a decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6).
There are a lot of potential problems with choosing to only take advice from an expert. For one thing, who exactly gets to decide who the expert is? Do we all get to pick our own expert? Or are the people in power the people who decide who the experts are? Or is it the people in the media?
It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier. However, education alone cannot be the only deciding factor in what constitutes an expert, there are lots of folks who have similar or even identical educational experiences who have differing opinions on nearly every subject. Who is or is not an expert in a particular field can be and often is politized in our increasingly political culture. It’s just a fact that one political administration may have an entirely different take on what makes a person an expert than the one before or after it.
Experts are only useful if they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind. This never happens because experts aren’t robots or computer programs. Experts are just fallible human beings who spent a lot of time in school being taught by other fallible human beings. Unfortunately, people—even people with a great deal of education can be corrupted by money, media attention and/or the promise of power. Experts can easily be bought. Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts can be also swayed towards a particular perspective by peer pressure.
Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century who claimed the certain races were genetically inferior. This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts who assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was experts in theology during the middle ages who claimed the Bible was unnecessary for the common man or woman.
But, by far the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is that doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves, and sadly not thinking has become endemic in our society. Many have simply shut off their brains and let the experts decide what’s best and it’s not working out real well for anyone. Our society is falling apart at the seams in spite of all the “experts” we have advising us.
We have forgotten the hard truth that each one of us is ultimately responsible before God for the choices we make. No one gets to blame an “expert” for the consequences of a poor choice on judgment day. God gave us brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and realize anytime we stop thinking for ourselves we become a sitting duck for those looking to deceive. Instead of placing our trust in the experts we ought to go back to the age-old practice of seeking out a multitude of opinions, analyzing the data, praying like crazy for wisdom before deciding for ourselves.