The Death of Expertise

imageI leaned the meaning of “Confirmation Bias” and many other things from this book. This is a timely book that delineates the insanity of our culture and the ignorance it is producing. “You have a degree? Well, I did a Google search!” While not a Christian, I can’t help but compare the author to a modern day prophet crying out from the wilderness to a culture that is poised to destroy the very democracy that it owes its existence to!

Here’s some of the nuggets I found:

“We have come full circle from a premodern age, in which folk wisdom filled unavoidable gaps in human knowledge, through a period of rapid development based heavily on specialization and expertise, and now to a postindustrial, information-oriented world where all citizens believe themselves to be experts on everything.”

“In some ways, it is all worse than ignorance: it is unfounded arrogance, the outrage of an increasingly narcissistic culture that cannot endure ever the slightest hint of inequality of any kind.”

“we now live in an age where misinformation pushes aside knowledge”

“Americans no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” with the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to disrespect. To correct another is to insult. And to refuse to acknowledge all views as worthy of consideration, no matter how fantastic or insane they are, is to be closed-minded.”

“It is the nature of confirmation bias itself to dismiss all contradictory evidence as irrelevant, and so my evidence is always the rule, your evidence is always a mistake or an exception. It’s impossible to argue with this kind of explanation, because by definition it’s never wrong.”

“After all what better sign of a really effective conspiracy is there than a complete lack of any trace that the conspiracy exists? Facts, the absence of facts, contradictory facts: everything is proof. Nothing can ever challenge the underlying belief.”

“College is no longer a passage to educated maturity and instead is only a delaying tactic against the onset of adulthood – in some cases, for the faculty as well as for the students.”

“Unearned praise and hollow successes build a fragile arrogance in students that can lead them to lash out at the first teacher or employer who dispels that illusion, a habit that proves hard to break in adulthood.”

“When college is a business, you can’t flunk the customers.”

“… the default grade is no longer the ‘gentleman’s C” of the 1950s, but a ‘gentleman’s A’, now bestowed more as an entitlement for course completion than as a reward for excellence.”

“When feelings matter more than rationality or facts, education is a doomed enterprise.”

“… students are learning that emotion and volume can always defeat reason and substance, …”

“ “Although the Internet could be making all of us smarter, it makes many of us stupider, because it’s not just a magnet for the curious. It’s a sinkhole for the gullible. It renders everyone an instant expert. You have a degree? Well, I did a Google search!” – Frank Bruni ”

“You surf until you reach the conclusion you’re after. You click your way to validation, confusing the presence of a website with the plausibility of an argument.”

“When we are incapable of sustaining a chain of reasoning past a few mouse clicks, we cannot tolerate even the smallest challenge to our beliefs or ideas.”

“Distance and anonymity remove patience and presumptions of goodwill. Rapid access to information and the ability to speak without having to listen, combined with the “keyboard courage” that allows people to say things to each other electronically that they would never say in person, kill conversation.”

“The fusing of entertainment, news, punditry, and citizen participation is a chaotic mess that does not inform people so much as it creates the illusion of being informed. Just as clicking through endless internet pages makes people think they’re learning new things, watching countless hours of television and scrolling through hundreds of headlines is producing laypeople who believe – erroneously – that they understand the news. Worse, their daily interaction with so much media makes them resistant to learning anything more that takes too long or isn’t entertaining enough.”

“Awash in gadgets and conveniences that were once unimaginable even within their own lifetimes, Americans have become almost childlike in their refusal to learn enough to govern themselves or to guide the policies that affect their lives. This is a collapse of functional citizenship, and it enables a cascade of other baleful consequences.”

“The most poorly informed people among us are those who seem to be the most dismissive of experts and are demanding the greatest say in matters about which they have exerted almost no effort to educate themselves.”

“When resentful laypeople demand that all marks of achievement, including expertise, be leveled and equalized in the name of “democracy” and “fairness,” there is no hope for either democracy or fairness. Everything becomes a mater of opinion, with all views dragged to the lowest common denominator in the name of equality.”

“Democracy, as Lewis’s Screwtape knew, denotes a system of government, not an actual state of equality. Every single vote in a democracy is equal to every other, but every single opinion is not,…”

“…when democracy is understood as an unending demand for unearned respect for unfounded opinions, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself.”