Monday, July 7

In my non-expert opinion

One thing which often confuses foreigners about America is our propensity to distrust experts.
 We know that we need experts and we expect them to be there. But then we enjoy showing how wrong they are.

We do this in medicine -- where reading three internet articles about a disease qualifies someone to challenge an MD.

We do this in theology where a high school drop-out with a Bible feels his interpretation of a complex passage is superior to a PhD in theology.

We do this in science, where people feel qualified to challenge the scientific consensus because they've been listening to pundits on talk radio.

I think it can all be traced back to our desire to elevate the common man. It's a lazy approach to egalitarianism. Instead of raising people up we tend to take everything down to the lowest common denominator. Thus the simplest most accessible explanation that bypasses the experts is usually the most acceptable.

The only other group of people I've seen do this kind of thing with equal passion to the Americans are the Australians. (I mentioned the Swedish idea of Jantelagen in a post yesterday but I'm not sure that they are as passionate about debunking experts as are the Americans and Australians.) Aussies suffer from tall poppy syndrome. If the poppy gets too tall above the rest it's best to cut it down so that it doesn't distract from the rest. This is one reason I think that the two cultures are cut from the same cloth. But, of course, I'm not an expert.

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