Thursday, June 18, 2009

Expertise

I managed a little more writing today, amid the chaos of channeling the kids' energy appropriately and the sounds of "why can't I". Today, I began thinking about and writing about the idea of expertise. Academics (an others) complain that blogs are written by non-experts and are therefore prone to promoting bad and inaccurate information. What I'm trying to reconcile in my mind is the respect I have for experts such as scientists and my skepticism toward those experts. For example, I don't like the way right-wing religious folks discount evolution or global warming or the causes of cancer. On the other hand, I don't like to be told I'm not an expert in something because I don't have the right degrees or publications or whatever. In academia, there is only one path to expertise and if you haven't taken that path (or veered from it in some way), you have no right to speak.

Enter the blogs. There are some "experts" writing blogs--hooray! And they are getting their expertise out there to a larger audience. On occasion, they have to deal with people who've made up their minds based on incomplete or incorrect data, and they often show how they come to their conclusions, revealing not just the content they have expertise in, but also the process of arriving at conclusions. And that's good for everyone. And there are blogs written by non-experts that are very, very smart. While they may not always have the deep knowledge about a subject that an expert does, they often have a very different context for what they know that is sometimes broader than an expert's knowledge. Of course, it depends on the subject. One is less likely to trust a non-expert's opinion on particle physics than on politics.

I'm reading more deeply into this issue and these are just my initial thoughts. I probably have blind spots about expertise, given my own fraught history of not being considered an expert for lack of the right credentials. But it's a fascinating topic, to be sure.