The Age of the Idiot Expert

American egalitarianism is creating a society of self-appointed idiot experts.

Assuming that any difference in role or status is inherently unfair, egalitarianism attempts to level social distinctions, one of the byproducts of which is that the average American no longer recognizes actual expertise. Each of us therefore presumes to speak with accuracy and authority about any and all subjects. It matters not if I possess no actual expertise in the areas of science, philosophy, government, or environment to which I speak. My opinion is just as valid Bob’s opinion, even if Bob is an infectious disease specialist and I am a plumber. After all, there is no truth, only opinion. No education qualifies Joe to speak to a particular subject more than Jim, or so assumes Jim. No experience makes Jane a better judge of this particular question than Jill, or so assumes Jill. Our egalitarian culture has created an atmosphere in which the voices of actual experts—people who are, in fact, more knowledgeable and experienced than the rest of us in a given field of study—are drowned in the chaos and clamor of the idiot expert.

Social media has enabled and encouraged the idiot expert to flaunt his intellectual snake oil, and has reinforced the egalitarian assumption that I am just as well informed as everyone else, and just as able rightly to judge any question as is the next guy. Why? Because I read an article about it online. Even true experts have fallen prey to the seduction of such egalitarian nonsense. A scientist, who is trained, say, in geology, lectures pedantically on matters of theology or government or business. Expertise in one field, however, does not confer authority in all fields.

Equity is a beautiful thing. Equity offers each person equal value, equal dignity, and equal opportunity. Egalitarianism, however, demands equal outcomes, and in so doing devalues hard work, achievement, knowledge, and earned competence. It destroys expertise, and fosters the development of a nation of idiot experts.

Spend five minutes on Facebook today and you will read post after post after post from constructions workers, housewives, businessmen, pastors, chefs, and people from all walks of life with no actual expertise in infectious disease, and yet they will declaim authoritatively on all matters related to COVID-19. After all, they read an article on Facebook, which obviously makes them an expert.

Christian, the next time you prepare to post something, presuming to speak authoritatively on matters of church and state or health and medicine or business and economics, ask yourself, “What do I really know about such things? Am I an actual expert?” The culture will produce enough idiot experts. In fact, their number is growing daily. Let the Church and her people model humility and grace and a willingness to learn before we speak.

Christ needs disciples, not idiot experts.

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