The Dangers of Ignoring Expertise

In the current health crisis surrounding the resurgent COVID-19, we see more and more that people are willing to ignore and argue against the advice of medical experts. From refusing to wear masks and social distance, to making often false and panicked claims about the effects of available vaccines, why is it that mistrust of those who train to have  expertise in a given field seems to be growing?

This phenomenon is known as the “death of expertise.” In medicine, in education, in law and in many other specialized fields, it has become commonplace for the average person to look at the findings and conclusions of trained experts, doctors, lawyers and the like, and to say “we must agree to disagree.” Part of this is human nature. We are all human and we want to be heard and to feel like we don’t have to limit ourselves. Part of this is due to the way social media, the inter-connectivity of the internet and the twenty-four hour news cycle have given us the simultaneous sensation of information overload and of feeling like people who disagree with us think less of us as people. Part of it also, is that many experts speak mostly to other experts and fail in explaining their positions clearly to people without their specific expertise.

The truth is, we as people need experts because no one has time to be great at EVERYTHING. The mechanic you trust to rebuild your engine might also be able to repair damage done to your house, but probably not as well as a licensed home repair professional. In the same way, grandma’s home remedies might work well for some illnesses, but they won’t work as well as the medical treatments given to you by an actual doctor who specializes in fixing the specific problems you have.  Even “experts” aren’t experts in everything. Fields like law, medicine, journalism, and teaching have specializations. History professors don’t usually teach mathematics.  People who have worked diligently to learn one set of skills are generally more capable with those skills than people who have only a more general understanding

The reason we should trust experts is because they have put in the time and effort of years of study and practice in fields that we have not or cannot devote all of our time to mastering. We should take advantage of their efforts, particularly in solving day to day problems and keeping ourselves safe and healthy. In this way, we unite as a community, complementing each other and moving forward.

These statements do not constitute legal or medical advice and are made for educational purposes only

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