The most important taboo about experts is that determining them is subjective. No objective standards exist. Keeping this secret protects and extends experts’ influence.
The Subjective Nature of Experts
Whether we look at experts’ credentials, experience, books or television appearances, people decide. They set up the programs to receive credentials. They assess experience. People decide who publishes and who appears.
In short, politics drives being tagged an expert. It’s like a great product. Without good marketing, it goes nowhere. People who don’t market don’t become experts.
Relationships play a big role too. They help explain the political nature of academic credentials. On the surface, they seem objective. However, when we ask, who sets those standards though? Who designs the tests? Who approves the research papers? Answer is people.
What Is The Practical Importance of This Taboo?
So, what’s the big deal? Why should one care? For one, experts have authority. Authority influences people. This influence can talk people out of what they know is true. It can even talk them out of what they think and feel.
For example, this influence can talk people into false confessions. It can convince them they had a poor night’s sleep even when they slept well. Finally, it can talk people into believing things that the facts show differently.
I first learned how to vet experts in high school debate. Citing experts and their research played a key role. Vetting them did too. If we didn’t, we could expect to lose.
Why are they experts? Who made them one and how? How did they conduct their research? All are a sample of the questions we asked.
Experts Often Sub For Clear Facts
In the end though, we learned a pattern. Experts sub for clear facts. Life has many questions. They have many fuzzy answers. Experts clear them up by giving their opinions.
As an example, take the courts. No clear, objective way exists to assess mental states. So, the courts call in experts to clear this up. Of course, most times the court has to recognize the expert.
Why Subjectivity is the Most Important Taboo about Experts
Subjectivity in tagging experts is the most important taboo about experts because it helps to expose other taboos. Most experts know and agree with them. They just don’t share them much. Yet, they are key to ensuring people use experts’ opinions wisely.
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