It’s become de rigueur to lament the current state of discourse, where unbridled arrogance and ignorance seem always seem to dominate, no matter how complex the debate. Tacitly, we know that this is a hemlock cocktail for an enlightened civilization, but those of us who are no strangers to public debate conduct ourselves as if we were born in stage five of Kübler-Ross. The question is, why do we readily accept this state of affairs?
At least Naval War College professor Tom Nichols is still raging against the dying of the light. With his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, which started out as a widely shared article on this website, Nichols has issued a sadly necessary and urgent call for epistemological humility. It helps that Nichols’ righteous indignation is coated in a healthy dose of wit, and it’s a further credit to Nichols that he recognizes those who are most attuned to this problem might be the ones most in need of this book.
Mercifully, the book isn’t an unchecked defense of elitism, and spends a lot of time discussing how experts themselves are to blame for these woes. In fact, the worst and most damaging forms of ignorance might just be those that masquerade as expertise. Or as Nichols puts it, “It’s an old saying, but it’s true: it ain’t what you don’t know that’ll hurt you, it’s what you do know that ain’t so.”
Read more at The Federalist.