The devaluation of expertise

ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS IDEAS THAT HAS COME ABOUT IN THE LAST 3 YEARS IS THAT ALL POINTS OF VIEW ARE EQUALLY VALID AND THAT THE AVERAGE CITIZEN (YOU) IS JUST AS EQUIPPED TO JUDGE WHICH HAVE MERIT AS ANYONE ELSE.

I DO NOT CONDONE THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU. I AM AN EXPERT IN VERY, VERY FEW THINGS. BUT IN THOSE THINGS, MY EXPERTISE IS HARD EARNED THROUGH STUDY, WORK, EXPERIENCE AND APTITUDE. NONE OF IT COMES FROM ATTENDING GOOGLE UNIVERSITY. BUT UNLESS YOU ARE AN EXPERT IN EXACTLY THE SAME AREAS, YOUR OPINION IS JUST NOT AS VALID AS MINE. IT’S NOT. AND MY OPINION IS NOT AS VALID AS EXPERTS IN OTHER FIELDS. THAT IS WHY THEY ARE EXPERTS.

TO PARAPHRASE ASIMOV, YOUR IGNORANCE IS NOT THE SAME AS THEIR EXPERIENCE.

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I read this recently but could not find the individual to attribute it to. In all honesty, I didn’t try that hard, as it’s likely no-one will have heard of the person who said it. What’s important is that they were expressing what many an expert is feeling at the moment – the frustration of being devalued.

The devaluation of expertise has both confused and confounded me. I want my doctors, my engineers and my scientists – the people who will operate on me, who will design bridges and buildings, and who will develop vaccines – to be clever. Not only clever, but to have studied and worked hard, to have learned from the best minds in their (and other) fields. In other words, I want them to be experts. Indeed, I rely on them to be experts.

That said, I would no more follow the advice of a brilliant gynaecologist on the stress levels of a particular metal than I would an eminent metallurgist on my reproductive organs. Why then would I value the opinion of the person in the street when they haven’t put in the hard yards of learning and experience – the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years, the decades of work – to achieve expert status? Yet that is exactly what we are seeing all to often, especially at the moment.

I’m not advocating that we blindly do what we’re told – regular readers will know that I advocate being an active participant in diagnosis and treatment of health issues in particular. I very much believe we should ask questions and should seek information, while remembering that the source of information is equally as important as the information itself. Social media algorithms mean we’ll see only what confirms the views and opinions it has already seen us expressing. In order to get a full picture, we have to actively seek out those who hold opinions contrary to our own and look at the facts upon which they’ve built them. And not just in order to tear them down, but in order to question our own views. A friend and I called this type of exercise datamining, and a critical part was the attitude with which you did the exercise.


I spent last week in intensive training on a course to become a trainer in the area of mental health. Yesterday, I heard I’d been successful. I took a brief moment to feel pleased, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet, as as I’m also doing a course in education to support my trainer credentials. While I can run courses (and earn good money) without the education credentials, I’ve decided not to. Not because I don’t believe I’m capable of doing so, but because I place a high value on proper education and training, and take the responsibility of teaching the subject of mental health very seriously.

Because I expect my experts to be highly educated, trained, qualified and skilled, I’ll continue to learn how to do things properly and make sure I’m qualified to the hilt to do my job. The fact that I absolutely love learning is simply a bonus 😉

What do you believe is behind the growing devaluation of expertise we’re currently seeing?


© Debra Carey, 2021

10 thoughts on “The devaluation of expertise

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  1. We don’t value anyone’s opinion but our own. We look to find an opinion that matches ours, instead of listening to all arguments. No one wants to hear the other side

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  2. I know LA, and I find it incomprehensible. I guess it’s some sort of growing insecurity where people feel challenged by those who are cleverer than they. Or is it some type of mass Dunning-Kruger effect, where people are convinced they’re cleverer than they are?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello salsaworldtraveler, thanks for visiting and commenting 🙂

    I absolutely agree with you, that is, indeed, a difficult conundrum. In those circumstances, I feel we can only do our best to make the best assessment possible, sometimes having to rely on our gut to lead us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very true. Not only do the algorithms feed our opinions back to us, they’ve provided us with a forum for to express them in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You ask an excellent question. My guess is that many people are concerned with being part of a group, like their family or church, and they fear being ostracized from the group more than anything else in this world. If an expert tells someone how to do something, and that information conflicts with how the group does things, then ignoring/demeaning the expert allows the person to stay within the group– and maybe even gain status by making a big deal out of ignoring the expert’s advice.

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  6. I value expertise. I also value questioning and challenging, but I think it needs to be balanced. We are definitely out of balance these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Donna, I agree, balance is everything and we are worryingly out of balance these days. It’s fortunate I’d not had the conversation I’ve just had with my mother before I wrote this piece, or I’d have been considerably more heated (which I try to avoid doing on my blog).

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  8. Now Ally, that is a terrific answer. I’d not considered the group dynamic in all this, but your answer makes a huge amount of sense. Thank you 🙂 It’s still worrying, but at least I now have an insight into some of the thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

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