It`s science. You`re not suppose to get it!


Recently, I`ve been involved in a (heated) debate over e-democracy. You know, just for the sake of it. The forum that has two more members (yeah I know…crowded, isn`t it?) has a very low tolerance level for my (provoking?) questions. There`s a couple of things that I won`t even understand.

Why does it matter if I have a degree or not? I mean, if my questions are that stupid, why not produce an answer that will show my ignorance and at the same time elevate your own intelectual superiority. Surely, the answer is known to you, lordth with a degreeth. Instead, with trying to discard my questions as irrelevant and “not worthy of answering”, one is only showing an even bigger degree of ignorance.

This self-reproducing intelectual elite really stupefies me. It reminds me of the dark age, when knowledge was reserved for the wealthy. And where status was everything, and nothing else mattered.

The thing that amazes me most is that these are not some old, senile doctors, but people my age. Is it really like that when you are “up there with the big dogs?” Everything is below you, you are the king of the world and if anybody dares to ask you something you apparently have no idea about, you destroy them with your all-mighty bibliography?


4 komentarjev na “It`s science. You`re not suppose to get it!

  1. ill-advised

    Well, I of course can’t comment on the specific situation that you describe above, but I general I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the sort of arrogant experts that you describe above (although I’m not an expert in anything myself). Try to see things from the expert’s point of view. He has been studying that area for some time and has by now obtained a reasonably good idea of what is sensible versus what is a patent and obvious absurdity. And then here comes an outsider with some naive preconception or some half-baked idea of his own, with little or no thorough knowledge and understanding of the field (except perhaps for a handful of disconnected little bits and pieces he has picked up here and there), without familiarity with its terminology, etc. — an outsider who has never taken the trouble to properly educate himself about the subject — and this outsider now expects the experts to waste their time patiently listening to his arguments and then pointing out at great length what is wrong about each and every one of them. After all, not everything is so simple that it can be explained to an outsider in a few sentences. They would have to write a long explanation, the outsider would misunderstand ninety percent of the sentences in that explanation, which would in turn necessitate further and even longer explanations, and so on and on — in a few years the net result would be that the experts would have given the outsider the equivalent of an education in that field. Obviously nobody can reasonably expect them to spend so much time for such a purpose. And the only alternative they have is to refuse to debate with the outsider at all. I personally can’t really blame the experts in such a situation for being exasperated. I think that “educate yourself about the subject if you wish the experts on that subject to be willing to discuss it with you” is a reasonable answer in such a situation.

  2. domen

    The question that poses here is – why bother with knowledge then? I mean, for an answer “Go read some more books!” you really do not need a degree. Especially when the subject is social science where every asshole can have a valid opinion. And since questions are completely valid (it`s not a case of apples and pears), I think brushing the answer off with a mere “Go read more!” only shows your lack of knowledge in the field. And if you are such an expert…surely you can produce a simple and dumbed-down explanation.

  3. ill-advised

    Well, maybe the social sciences work that way. As I said, I’m not an expert on anything, and certainly not on social science. But I can easily imagine, at least in some of the harder sciences, that there are many questions where a “simple and dumbed-down” explanation can only be quite superficial. Many intermediate steps might need to be skipped over with an excuse such as “if we wanted to get into the details of this, it would take us too much time, and I’d have to explain this, that, and the other thing to you first”. The expert may be unhappy giving such a superficial answer, one which doesn’t really answer the question properly. And the outsider himself may well be unhappy with this explanation, or the gaps in the explanation may make him feel that the experts themselves have only a superficial understanding of the issue.

    I think there are many issues where one needs to understand a bit of background, be familiar with some definitions, perhaps some basic characteristics of that field, before one can reasonably discuss these issues.

    I agree that every asshole can have an opinion. But is it reasonable to expect the experts to have patience with all these assholes and their opinions? Remember that there are a lot more assholes than experts. I can easily imagine that the experts, being so hopelessly outnumbered, eventually find themselves rather exhausted 🙂

    As for “why bother with knowledge then”, surely there may be many answers besides the one you advocate above, i.e. “in order to be able to impart it to outsiders”. For example: “in order to be able to solve certain problems” and “in order to derive pleasure from having satisfied one’s curiosity”.

  4. jin

    Me being one of few members of that forum (for now, as I hope there will be more), have found it funny if not distresing, that there was so much fuss about such a topic. Well, if somebody asks me, I don’t give a damn about any degrees or papers, because, quite frankly, our Slovenia is full of such people who can wave a fancy paper before your eyes but know nothing.

    As I see it there was a problem who is worth more on paper. That is ofcourse not an argument, allthough ‘the big guys’ in any field sooner or later use it to discredit their oponents. But so it is with forums and, I fear, later on with defending ones own views in more important situation as well.

    The bigger problem than such attitudes is, that some elites make it impossible for people with different opinions to move upwards in certain institutions.


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