Wednesday, July 14, 2004

"I don't know, I'm just a geologist"

Most people admit that there are others who know more than they do about many things. I'm a carpenter and a pretty good one; in matters of general construction I'm just shy of expertise. I know more than a lot of people about a variety of subjects, but beyond those few I make no great claims. That's why in my criticism I stick to basics.

Brian Leiter is pretending to be a scientist again.
"Professor Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay...imagines a critic"
"I'm sick and tired of self-appointed so-called experts and their know-it-all, arrogant attitude. Why don't you people stay out of things you know nothing about? To hear you tell it, you know everything and the rest of us are stupid."
professor Dutch replies:
"I've seen this script before. At this point I'm supposed to get all humble and apologetic and say 'There, there. We didn't mean to make you feel bad. You're really a good person and a valuable human being and your opinions do count.'

"I'm tired of playing that game.
"We're not 'self-appointed' or 'so-called' experts. We are real experts. We're not 'authority figures.' We are real authorities.

"It's not arrogance to say what you know professionally. It is arrogance to reject expert opinion without having expertise of your own.

"If hearing the experts say you're wrong makes you feel bad or stupid, that is your problem, not ours. See a therapist and work on your self-esteem. If you think this is rough on the ego, try getting a paper or grant proposal you've worked on for months rejected, something real experts face all the time. We don't know everything, but we do know more on our subjects of expertise than other people, especially people with no training at all.

"Unless you have real evidence to back up your opinions, they don't count. If you hear something that conflicts with what you think you know, and you don't bother to check it out, you shouldn't feel stupid. You are stupid. If you want to take on the experts but won't spend the time, effort and money to become an expert yourself, you're not just stupid. You're lazy, too.

"If you think I'm disrespecting you, you're right. I have no respect for people who are uninformed, get angry when someone contradicts them, but are too lazy to get informed and too cowardly to face failure, criticism, and the possibility they might have to change their minds. You're not a good person. Nobody who is lazy and cowardly can be called 'good.'

"Where did you get the idea you're so valuable? There are six billion of us. You're not all that unique. How exactly did you get the notion that you stand so high in the cosmic scheme of things that you have the right to make real experts treat you as an equal without bothering to acquire any knowledge yourself?"
BL as I've mentioned before is so addicted to his own sense of superiority he won't even link to anyone who's not an expert. Here he is on his happy discovery of Max Sawicky:
"The squishy, polite "liberal" blogs were getting tiresome, and the popular Atrios and CalPundit simply have no relevant knowledge base, intellectual framework, or technical expertise--as a consequence they never rise much beyond good intentions and light amusements.".
By all means, let us leave carpentry to carpenters and politics to politicians. [Leiter's post was updated four times and it's a confused mess, since all but one of the people he attacks are full credentialed experts]

Leiter is a Platonist who imagines himself a leftist. That he seems unable to recognize the contradiction is something I guess I find amusing.

As far as Prof Dutch is concerned, I can only say that the world is full of strange creatures, and he seems to have met a few of them. Perhaps he should write a book of short stories. I bet it would sell.

My mention of the post at Body and Soul (see Mon.) wasn't a dig at Jeanne D'Arc. Her acknowledgement that she prefers the lesser over the greater in choosing between Ellington and Basie was the first interesting response I'd read, so I decided to put something up. It also ties into my new argument; professor Dutch's dentist strikes me as more interesting than he is. He's got more of an imagination certainly.

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