The Hubris of Those who Claim to Know More than the Rest of Everyone

I imagine that during the entirety of Icarus’s ascent, he was thinking to himself, “Look at me. I’m doing something people thought impossible.” When his wax wings began to melt from the heat of the sun, I wonder if he admitted how foolish he had been. Did he, in his final moments, say to himself, “Well, I ought to have not presumed that I knew so much.”

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We are stuck in an era of the ubiquitous expert. Give someone a platform to stand on, and you’ve set the stage for a lecture by an expert. Does it matter what they’re talking about? Apparently, nowadays, no. The podium–whether wooden or virtual–imparts enough credibility all on its own.

Put me in front of an audience of folks who know nothing about quantum physics, tell them I’m an expert in the field, and no matter what I say, that podium is going to  give me all the credentials I need to make a compelling case, provided I keep it entertaining, keep it low on specifics, and make the occasional nasty comment about someone.

(Side note: while it doesn’t matter much who I might be insulting from my expert’s podium, if I pick another physicist that’ll surely get the crowd going because, as we have seen, picking on a peer seems like playing “fair.” If I can pull off a good dig, like teasing Dr. Pocketprotector, Ph.D about his sloppy lab work, my audience’s rapturous emotional response–no matter how cringe worthy– will serve to amplify my trustworthiness.)

“Believe me.”

Heard that recently?

The presumption made by those at the front of the room–the ones with the advantage of higher, stage position and the ones holding the microphone–is that everyone in the audience is of the same mind. Such, however, is not always the case.

Moreover, those who drag their podiums from place to place to be in front of adoring audiences fail to recognize that there exists a whole host of non-attendees who fundamentally dismiss their hubristic claim of “expert,” instead preferring to go directly to the source of legitimate information from those with first hand knowledge.

Granted, it’s a lot more “entertaining,” to hear the blowhard “experts” spouting off on how terrible or underhanded or ill-prepared the “other side” is. The giggling from the throngs of the entertained is the most welcome sound to that power broker at that podium–for it is that sound that solidifies the complete abandonment of critical thinking by the listeners.

Frankly, were it not potentially so offensive, those self-proclaimed experts would ask their audiences to take oaths of loyalty, make promises of fidelity, lay their brains to the side to prevent further use.

There are times when I wonder if they have asked for allegiances like those and whether their audience has exchanged its rationality for apathy. Maybe they just don’t care.

Well, we should care. Additionally, we should all know better than to trust a novelist with a doctoral degree in law to tell us about the non-locality of quantum correlations no matter how temping it is to believe my words when said with enough hubris.

Believe me.

2 thoughts on “The Hubris of Those who Claim to Know More than the Rest of Everyone

  1. I think it’s the territory of those without any expertise in any area, because they don’t know what it feels like to actually know something in depth.
    Those who have an area of knowledge are happy to defer to others with real expertise in a field they know less about.
    I completely agree with you and it’s one of the most infuriating obstacles in current UK politics.

    Like

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