July 21, 2010

On the right and their experts

Greg has been on a tear of late, and this is another good post on the problems of the theological right here in Oklahoma and elsewhere:
"The experts aren't experts, and so they've passed their non-expertise onto the masses, and it isn't just the Church. Beck is doing the same thing in the political realm. One of the absolutely legitimate points I took from Rapture Ready is that anything banal, crass, or pitiful in Christian culture has a reflection or is a reflection of the same reality in non-Christian culture. I guess that means it's a reflection of the human tendency toward the simplistic, crass, over-generalized, and banal. Make it simple. They'll buy it, even salvation."

I have noticed this tendency among the right to anoint "experts" who's only expertise is that they support the conventional wisdom of the right. Engineers who oppose evolution become scholarly experts--even though their expertise has nothing to do with biology. In the same post, Greg notes an article he penned on this movement and he connects this expertise issue to the faux historian David Barton. (You might even recognize the historian Greg contacted to refute Barton.) Barton has no training as a historian, yet has become someone who Mike Huckabee referred to as America's best historian. Please.

But the point is that this fake expertise gives many on the right a plausible (to them) source to confirm their beliefs. I know they believe that the left does the same thing, and that is sometimes true. But in history, it is not. And those of us who actually work in or around the field know it. We know how much historical conclusions are challenged and battled. We know the process of getting something published through peer review. We know the examination on sources and skepticism to new interpretations. Those processes are, as Greg noted, completely gone in a world that has gone to the simple.


Smitty said...

This is that whole fallacy that "book learnin'" is somehow bad; that being an actual educated expert in a particular field is actually a liability rather than a benefit.

It's the logical next step in the republican "every man" salt-of-the-earth motif, whereby good ol' common sense and hard work beats being a college-educated idiot.

Well, their worship of this everyman has resulted in a minimization of actual expertise. In a field like history, the real experts understand that being a historian is more than being a civil war history buff with a magazine subscription and a hobby of buying history books at Barnes and Noble. It's understanding how to research an issue, how to construct multiple angles of an issue, how to pick through bias, etc.

Unfortunately for real experts, their ability to see through bias and have a more complete understanding of an issue means they will not achieve the idiological purity required by the modern conservative movement. The result? Armchair history hobbyists politically trump degreed, published experts.

Monk-in-Training said...

experts aren't experts

This is, in my mind, the revenge of the Confederacy.

Public education barely existed in many Southern States, after the War, the Reconstruction Guvnments created schools and brought in textbooks (printed in the North) that seemed at the least biased to the suspicious, "proud to be ignurt" crowd.

This idea only reinforced the dislike of education already in the population and it is my opinion that these ideas have continued down over the years and in the decades since Nixon's 'Southern Policy' detached Southerners from the larger Democratic party and transformed them in to what is now the core of the Republican party.

I have often said that I need a ball cap with 'proud to be ignurt' on it! I could sell them!

Streak said...

Monk, I think you have a great point.

steves said...

I don't think there is any need to venture into the realm of the the fake, when there are real experts that support a variety of positions. I can't think of many areas where there isn't some level of disagreement.

(You might even recognize the historian Greg contacted to refute Barton.)

I thought he made a good point.