Monday, February 23, 2015

Only The Experts

Who Are the Experts?

     We live in a day when "expert" advice is given a high value.  Often the qualifications for the expert are primarily based on the schools the person attended and the degrees earned relating to a field. A true expert does not necessarily have degrees or come from a school that is reputable.  There is no question that for determining quickly if a person is an expert in a field that those qualifications would at least indicate a familiarity with the field he is in.  To get the best advice takes more work and more time than checking the letters printed behind a name.  We could make a difference between an expert and an authority on a subject.  An expert would imply experience in the subject, while being an authority in a matter would imply a broad knowledge in it.  We also would define an authority as one who has power over us.  For my purposes here, the terms of experts and authorities will be used interchangeably. Some people perceive our rulers are experts in the things that the citizen need most.  We want knowledgeable and wise people governing the land, but who is it that determines who is wise?  Thomas Babington Macaulay, a British historian said, "And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless.  Whose opinion is to decide who are the wisest and best?"  We know that majority opinion does not necessarily mean an idea or person is wise.  Some of the worst decisions for leadership have been determined by a majority.  Some of the worst forms of art are enjoyed by a majority. There needs to be a reference point to know what is wise and best.  There is also the consideration that when evaluating a person that every person has many qualities that can not be measured by man made tests.

The Need for Experts
     If you are going to have heart surgery, you don't want an amateur surgeon to be working on you.  Most of us wouldn't even want a novice dentist working on our teeth.  We need experts.  The world would not be very nice without them.  If you are making a search  for information on the Internet, you want the information of an expert or someone who knows what he is talking about rather than lots of unfounded opinions.

The Danger of Trusting Experts

     The problem comes when people feel they need experts for everything.  Today, we have some people that say that parents can't make medical decisions for their children, only experts can do that. There is a subtle impression that only experts can make medical decisions, only experts can invest wisely, only experts can tell people what their vocation should be, only experts can understand issues of science, only experts can make laws, and on and on it could go. C.S. Lewis made a good observation when he said, "For who can endure a doctrine which would allow only dentists to say whether our teeth were aching, only cobblers to say whether our shoes hurt us, and only governments to tell us whether we were being well governed?"

     Because "experts" have the trust of people, the natural guard that people put up is not there.  If so-and-so said so, it must be true.  I think of Dr. Benjamin Spock.  He had a book that out-sold every other book in the non-fiction category other than the Bible.  Dr. Spock had a saying for mothers that went like this: "You know more than you think you know."  I think there is a lot of truth there in regards to mothers that care about their children.  It sounds the very opposite from what you would expect from an expert.  Experts often like people to know how much they don't know.  Parents trusted Dr. Spock for his parenting advice for childcare because he was recognized as an expert.  One bit of advice he gave was that mothers should lay their babies face down.  The idea behind it was that if you lay them face down that they would be less likely to drown in their own spit up.  It is now believed that this advice is wrong and thousands of babies may have died because of being smothered by having their faces down.  People were taking "expert" advice, but it failed them.
The Result of Specialties Because of Experts

     There's an old saying that went like this, "Jack of all trades, and master of one."  It was originally a pretty positive saying. Someone changed it to say "Jack of all trades, and master of none."  Today we see very few Jacks of all trades, but lots experts of one specialty.  As a corporate and welfare mindset besiege us, and fewer people have a trade, many have made it their aim in life to figure out how to get other people to work for them. Butler D. Shaffer, professor at Southwestern University School of Law, observed this about the State when he said, "The State has had a vested interest in promoting attitudes that would tend to make us skeptical of our own abilities, fearful of the motives of others, and emotionally dependent upon external authorities for purpose and direction in our lives."  People will need to work for other people and get advice from authorities, but there seems to be a lot more bosses and "experts" than what are needed.   We can be glad that there are those that have a specialized skill, but there are perspectives that a man with general skills has that a specialist doesn't.  A general family doctor might not have the ability to do everything a specialist could, but he can likely see many things that a specialist couldn't.  Parents might not have all the information that an authority in child training might have, but they know their own children better than any authority or expert.
Maneuvering in a World of Experts

     Sometimes we just take the word of experts because we don't want to do our own homework.   Sometimes we simply don't have the means to figure things out ourselves.  It would behoove us to make decisions with the help from many counselors.    There are things that we can figure out without being an expert in every field.  Where we see "experts" diverting from tried and true principles we would be wise to think long and hard before taking their advice. G. K. Chesterton wrote about not taking a fence down unless you know why it was put there in the first place.  We live in a day when "experts" are suggesting a lot of things that contradict tried and true practices.  A lot of good fences are being pulled down. In the end I think we will be asking:
"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (I Cor. 1:20).

     In the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned we need a reference point to know what makes a person wise.  This reference point must be the Bible because it is there that we find divine wisdom.  As I thought on this subject, a verse resurfaced more than once: "...let God be true, but every man a liar..." Romans 3:4.   In maneuvering in a world of experts, it would be a good practice to see if the places we are getting advice from, no matter how esteemed they are, line up with principles found in Scripture.

Encouragement to the Non-Professional

     While we could get the idea that only "big" people can see big or good results, God uses normal or "little" people that look to Him to do big things.  Jesus chose people that were recognized as being "unlearned and ignorant men" of the day to be His disciples.  The wisest man in the world, Solomon, acknowledged his lack of wisdom before being granted it.  David, a young man, not trained in war, was the one to take on Goliath.

 Take courage, and ask for wisdom.  Wisdom says, "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me" Proverbs 8:17.
May God grant us wisdom to know when and where to get advice.

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