Monday, August 7, 2006


We love experts. I mean, we love em. We rely so much on experts to convince us of the truth that they have developed, worked, manipulated, and formed, that it informs our fundamental understanding of truth and its application. We really do love experts.

And it is with good reason. Experts have more experience in a specialized area that none of us wants to pursue. We rely on their knowledge and experience to tell us something in thirty seconds that took the expert years to figure out. This is their contribution to our society. By relying so heavily on them, we are able to spread out farther as a people, develop faster, and grow a great deal more.

We also recognize different levels of expertise. The experts with the highest level of expertise (I will call Primary Experts) have the most specialized knowledge in their area and we rely on them for final decisions in their area. Examples of this are Doctors (medicine), Theologians (religious thought), Philosophers (philosophy and ethics), Accountants (taxes), lawyers (law), etc.. The mid-level range are experts that have a lot of insight in a particular area that is perhaps a sub-focus of their primary focus (Secondary Experts). Examples of this include lawyers that deal with taxes (primary focus: law, secondary focus: taxes), Doctors and ethics (doctors spend a great deal of time exploring ethical issues, but primarily focus on medicine), and Ministers that deal with morality (theologians deal in moral issues, but ministers dabble in it with their primary roles are liturgical and pastoral). The last level of expertise is introductory level (Tertiary Expertise). This is the level in which we expect everyone to operate at, or at least those that have a limited exposure to it. We expect our politicians to uphold a basic moral character without giving them classes in ethics or morality. Other examples include taxes (many normal people do their own), gardening, and American history.

So here is my conundrum: what happens when Tertiary Experts act like Primary Experts and nobody questions their expertise? What does this mean for our educational and vocational systems? Right now, we are in the midst of a debate of the appropriateness of embrionic stem-cell research. The two sides of the debate are this: the pro side has doctors and Scientists (both Primary) arguing the potential medical and scientific application; ministers (Secondary), social workers and Social Scientists (both Primary) arguing the social impact; and theologians (Primary), ministers (Secondary), and the vast majority of people (Tertiary); on the con side, we have politicians (Tertiary: Bush was a businessman, as was Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay) and rank-and-file Christians (Tertiary) making a moral argument, and a few religious experts (varying from Primary to Tertiary). The con side has no support in areas of impact such as the medical, scientific, social, or economic, and they are making their case exclusively on "moral" grounds. The two strange impacts of this, however, is that the religious community is split on this, so it isnt a position that is inherently or exclusively religious, but they are communicating as if it is. Secondly, and more importantly, these are decisions made without the consultation of the experts in the respective fields. Scientists, doctors, health care advocates nearly unanimously agree that this is essential work. Only churches are split.

The question you might ask is "so what?" So what if our Primary Experts are ignored and Tertiary Experts are treated like Primary ones? What does it matter?

The problem is that this is so foundational to our society, that we must stop it immediately before irreprible damage is done. We must encourage the media to stop trying to be "fair and balanced" by holding up two sides that never were balanced! On the one side, there is overwhelming evidence in support, and on the other, a couple of cooks and zealots. That's it! End of discussion. Until we take back our public arenas, we are likely to have these one-sided diatribes that only serve to erode our public consciousness (and concscience).