Expertise: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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37 Responses

  1. filbertz says:

    Thanks Duane for a worthy essay to gauge one’s points of perspective. I know I needed a re-set. The insertion of politics, social media, and human impatience into a pandemic leads to poor outcomes for sure. The suspicion of each other across the board has led to a rejection of many of the voices whose wisdom we need to hear and heed. Hopefully yours will cut through some of the clamor and lead to better perspective.

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    filbertz

    Many thanks! I’ve just been so horrified by some of what I have seen on social media, I felt that I needed to write something…

  3. Jean says:

    Duane,

    Thank you for writing on a worthy topic and illustrating the distrust for expertise prevalent in our society. Do you have any comments on the cause of this distrust and, secondly, how trust might be regained?

  4. Michael says:

    The internet flattened the curve between ignorance and expertise.
    Back in the day, I was so excited that everyone would have a voice…my excitement has been greatly diminished…

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    As to the cause of the distrust, I’ll quote Nichols:

    “…the bigger problem is that we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.”

    Now regaining the trust probably is about education… if people are willing.

  6. filbertz says:

    Michael–I agree. Your assertion about all having access to the internet could have led to a more informed society, but that has not been the case. As an educator, it still comes down to critical thinking and evaluating ones sources for accuracy, agenda, and angle. Generally, we are confronted with a rather lazy society who expects their self-appointed gurus to do the thinking for them. Truth has been a victim of the internet.

  7. Em says:

    Expertise? Nothing new… The less education, the bigger the ego, the more opinionated some folk are – always have been
    That said, it seems to me – dunno – that educators now do not teach our young to analyse, but just to parrot the educators’ bias

  8. filbertz says:

    Em–we try to teach students to think independently and support their ideas with evidence, and yes, some educators have drunk the kool aid and have a “nefarious” agenda, but all in all, it is not a simple fix. Our entire society is wrestling with autonomy vs. community, truth vs. perception, value vs. illusion, and a host of profit takers are making bank on the gullibility and ignorance of a so-called first-world culture. Education is not exempt.

  9. Em says:

    My daughter is an educator, filbertz, and like you, she is a good one – i should have put a qualifier in there, “too many.” My apologies to you and the other good teachers.

  10. filbertz says:

    Em–no apology necessary, no offence taken. I’m well aware that our current state of affairs is complex with many factors to count and assign responsibility. Yet, we can make headway given the tone of our discourse and vocabulary, and building bridges instead of burning them. It is a tough challenge and I’m pretty set in my ways…but I’m trying.

  11. Jean says:

    The abandonment of expertise by a segment of our population can be a matter of life or death during a pandemic (or in a smaller context, when the issue is a routine vaccination). However, people don’t actually abandon expertise; they abandon experts and replace them with personalities who tell them what they want to hear, who become deemed experts without possessing any real expertise.

    I don’t want a dangerous coronavirus because it would be bad for the economy. Okay, let find you an expert who will tell you it is not any worse than the seasonal flu.

    I don’t want an epidemic because it would last too long and require a lot of containment and mitigation efforts. Okay, let me fine you an expert who will tell you that it will disappear by April… or end of May… or June for sure.

    But here is where the battle for expertise will be on display in the coming weeks:

    Employer: We’re opening for business, I am recalling you to work. We are following OSHA guidelines for workplace safety. My experts tell me you will be safe.

    Employee: I want to return to work; but how do I know that it’s safe and that I will not endanger my own life or the lives of my family members who live with me? Things look tight on the factory line. What are you doing about asymptomatic cases? What kind of testing will you be doing? What kind of PPE will you be supplying. What will my health insurance cover for me and my family if I get sick. My expert tells me I will not be safe.

    Who should the employee trust?

    Many people that have been around remember the Financial Crisis of 2008-09. What they remember most is that the major banks, corporate executives and other wealthy people made out relatively well, supported by government bailouts and stimulus, whereas many small businesses and middle and lower class homeowners got creamed.
    There is a basic mistrust of both the federal government and corporate America that as in the prior crisis, the little guy is going to get screwed again, while the upper class get’s plenty of help, reinforced by government “expertise.” Many of us feel like we are watching a rerun of what happened in 2008-09.

    Although America is blessed with some of the best experts in the world, including, without limitation, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, Bill Gates, and a host of university and corporate scientists, they don’t always give a feel good message, because real expertise must be seasoned with honesty. Expertise is not simply about making you feel good or telling you what you want to hear. Expertise must be seasoned with honesty, if it is to be truth.

    I am increasingly concerned that our experts are increasingly losing their voice and seat at the table as politics take center stage where expertise becomes very uncomfortable and inconvenient. Yes, and here is the point of my comment; The issue of expertise is a matter of life and death for many people.

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Agreed. I would only add one further comment… “facts are stubborn things”.

  13. Jean says:

    Duane,

    Facts are stubborn. I just wish that we wouldn’t lash out at our neighbor when we individually are negatively impacted by facts.

    We want justice from our fellow man, where, in this case, it can only be given by God, who justifies the ungodly. Thus, our lament, which is totally appropriate, should be directed at God, not at our medical experts and those governors who are doing their best to address this public health crisis.

  14. Steve says:

    Your analogy of going to the dentist is a good one. Denists like other specialty doctors are highly trained and very specific in what they do. There is no doubt that we need these highly trained specialized professions. Indeed we need this expertise in the church as well. However the trend in medical science for everything to be a specialty area has also created a vacuum for the general practitioner. At least that’s been my observation. Two thumbs up for the general practitioners as well as to the experts.

  15. Kevin H says:

    Duane, this a thoughtful and needed piece addressing a topic that sorely needs to be addressed. Shouldn’t need to be addressed, but unfortunately it does.

  16. Duane Arnold says:

    Kevin H

    Much appreciated. Believe it or not, I thought this would be pretty non-controversial, but some people are so locked into a position of “God and America”, they cannot see beyond it…

  17. Jean says:

    Duane,

    You are a man with an interest in history. As such, I would like to observe that if we look back over the previous 70 years, one of the most difficult conundrums which has vexed US Presidents is how to extricate the US from wars (declared or not) where military intelligence indicated that a military victory was highly unlikely, if not impossible, within any realistic scenario. You could go down the list from Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

    The issue for politicians was and is the risk in creating a perception that the US or President is weak. Whether the loss of blood and treasure would be seen as well spent or not? How future elections would be impacted? What would the legacy be? I can’t help but wonder in the context of these conflict how many lives and how much treasure was expended trying to put lipstick on a pig! Once the outcome was gamed in classified reports, what was the cost of delaying the reality?

    I see this dynamic in play in this pandemic, except there is one super important distinction. We can’t leave the pandemic. We can’t declare victory and move on. We can’t negotiate a truce. We are stuck with this pandemic and we have to fight it to the end.

    Thus, we need an Administration that the American people, as a whole or the vast majority of them, looks up to and is inspired by in this particular crisis. This calls for empathy and honesty. In my opinion this begins with the fact that there is crow to eat. There is an apology which is due. But on the other side of such an admission, there is the possibility of redemption. Americans are forgiving. (I think the example of Boris Johnson in the UK is also telling.)

    Every American knows deep in his or her heart that no one is perfect and that everyone makes mistakes. We need a leader who is human, who is empathetic, who is committed to the victory, and will level with the American people as to what is required. As a country, we have not yet been leveled with. We are being fed so many mixed messages, even from the same Administration, that it’s incredibly frustrating.

    It is a time where sacrifice must be shared. Where inequality and inequity, which may have flown under the radar in better times, but rises to the surface in a pandemic, must be addressed. For example, while the Administration has been hammering Latin American immigrants for the past 3 years, our 99 cent pork chops have been cut by literally thousands of these immigrants who are jammed into meat slaughterhouses, which double as virus petri dishes. Now, the Administration wants to compel these poor souls to sacrific their lives for our pork chops?

    On the other hand, if this pandemic is handled properly, the US could exit this refining fire, stronger and better as a people than when we entered it. We could recognize that American workers should have sick leave, affordable healthcare and a safe workplace. Can the greatest country in human history do with out these?

  18. Em says:

    99¢ pork chops? In my neck of the woods they’re never less than $4 a pund, no matter how thin they slice them
    Must be Trump’s fault, eh? 😇

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Three weeks ago, the prediction of 100,000 deaths would have been appalling, Today, it is “below the fold”… We are all frogs getting used to the boiling water.

  20. Michael Ehrmantrout says:

    Duane-your description of your study habits made me ponder uneasily about my need to re-listen, over and over and over, to audible writings of J.I. Packer. 😉 😉 😉 😉

  21. You’re a snob of the highest order and the best argument against experts since Peck’s book, PEOPLE OF THE LIE.

  22. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael Ehrmantrout

    Packer is a good place to start… then move on to +Michael Ramsey!

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael Hinton

    You have proven to be the best proof of what I have written. Many thanks!

  24. bob1 says:

    Snob=someone who knows more than you about a subject, I guess.

  25. Duane Arnold says:

    bob1

    Apparently… stay safe.

  26. directambiguity says:

    For some reason, this reminded me of this from The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

    The King was thoughtful for some time. Then he asked, “Why should so few men be able to acquire all the gold?”

    “Because they know how,” replied the Chancellor. “One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.”

    “But why,” demanded the King, “should not all the people learn how to accumulate gold and therefore become themselves rich and prosperous?”

    Quite possible, your excellency. But who can teach them? Certainly not the priests, because they know naught of money making.”

  27. Bride of Christ says:

    I found the comments about the internet, which seems to make everyone an expert in their own eyes, to be very true. I taught in California public schools for 30 plus years, and I remember how difficult it was to teach some of my students critical thinking skills. Starting in 3rd grade, we would teach children to distinguish between ‘ fact & opinion as a reading comprehension exercise. So many students simply could not discern the difference, and even into 5th and 6th grade this was a difficult task for them. I am afraid that we have many adults in America today who cannot tell the difference between ‘ fact or opinion’. Like my students, they are swayed by how loudly or how confidently a statement is made, and they have difficulty applying logic and critical thinking skills to the task at hand. I would tell my students that a fact can be proven and if it can’t be proven them it is someone’s opinion. Then I would ask them exactly how the claim could be proven, challenging them to find the proof it it was determined to be an actual fact! During our last presidential election many false stories circulated on the internet, planted by Russians interfering in our democracy, and millions of Americans believed stories without even attempting to verify their source or basis in fact. Our educational system concluded that much more emphasis needs to be put on critical thinking skills, teaching our future citizens to be more discerning and less gullible, and to check sources, check to see if scientific studies and articles have been peer reviewed, and to “not believe everything you see on the internet”. It seems obvious to most of us, but clearly, it is a challenge to many and our future depends on Americans becoming much less gullible in an increasingly complicated and devious world.

  28. bob1 says:

    BOC,

    I really appreciate your “shoe leather” view about students and critical thinking. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

    We wonder why folks are so easily manipulated these days!

    Also Are you saying that there is more focus these days on teaching students to discern facts from
    opinions? I sure hope so.

    My favorite quote here is from the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “You are entitled to your opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.”

  29. bob1 says:

    Also…all opinions are not equal.

    Here’s an opinion by an Ohio Congressman:

    A Republican Ohio state representative cited his religious beliefs to explain why he would not wear a mask as recommended by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    “This is not the entire world,” state Rep. Nino Vitale wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Monday morning. “This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles.”

    “One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask,” he continued.

    Now there’s a special kind of stupid. Not to mention a total lack of logic. Pretty sure an eighth grade theologian would know that being created in God’s image doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with your literal face.

    Apparently he “missed” the fact that all of us are image bearers of God, and if you don’t wear a mask, you might find that the individual next to you is dead, thanks to your selfishness.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/496086-gop-ohio-state-lawmaker-refuses-to-wear-face-mask-because-faces-are-the

  30. The latest thing circling the drain of the internet is a link to the CDC showing only 36k Vovid-19 deaths. That particular link isn’t current, and our looks like they break out pneumonia deaths separately. Yet there’s another link on the CDC site that matches the Worldometer numbers. People are ignoring the second CDC link and promoting the first, “proving” conspiracy! My first thought when I saw the first was to ask, “why the mismatch?” And then investigate.

    I talked to my buddy in Wisconsin this weekend. He said, “we haven’t seen the millions dead like they predicted!” I replied, “because of the shutdowns, how much worse do you think it would be with ,millions dead?”

    Even given a linear progression, we’ll be at about 125k deaths by the end of the month.

    Questioning the experts sometimes is warrented though, like when I saved my then not ex over $2k over a faulty water pump they had just installed which failed within 2 weeks, causing her car to overheat. The mechanic agreed with my simple analysis, but the service manger tried to charge her for a top end rebuild. We went back and forth but they ended up eating it.

  31. Em says:

    death totals…. the CDC totals reflect their processing of death certificates (takes some time) and do not indicate the total deaths

  32. Duane Arnold says:

    BOC

    “Like my students, they are swayed by how loudly or how confidently a statement is made, and they have difficulty applying logic and critical thinking skills to the task at hand.”

    This is it exactly and the two dimensional screen only amplifies the problem…

  33. CM says:

    Duane,

    As someone with an engineering background, I appreciate your attention and use of experts (and truly giants in the field) for your in-depth work on Athanasius. Engineering is highly specialized and there are hosts of technical journals, conferences, and the like devoted to each small subset of just electrical or mechanical engineering.

    All the BS about hydroxychlorquine
    I too lament the increasing anti-expert, anti-intellectualism of modern American Evangelical Christianity and in society at large. Of course it doesn’t help when you have political leaders (Trump is the perfect example) and religious leaders (who said God gave them revelation for example) who claim they know better than anyone else. And their dutiful Kool-Aid Drinking followers buy it and follow whatever narrative (often false) these leaders present.

    All the noise and hype Trump and his followers had about hydroxychloroquine and Z-packs for COVID-19 is but one example. The deaths of pastors Gerald O. Glenn and Landon Spradlin ironically due to coronavirus are another one (they both preached against it and/or ignored the seriousness of it).

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    CM

    Many thanks. My father taught me to read blueprints (remember those!) when I was 11 years old. I always remembered that there were specialized subsets in the plans for electrical, drainage, etc. They were for the experts in those areas. It was a wise general contractor who knew to take their advice!

  35. CM says:

    Yes indeed. Theology and even the study of patristics I am sure quite specialized.

    As an aside, ever read any of the work by the late Dr. Larry Hurtado at the University of Edinburgh

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/

    I guess one the keys of being an renowned expert in your field is if your academic colleagues and researchers publish a Festschift for you.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    CM

    I’ve not read any of his work, but will check it out presently…

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