Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Has America Turned Against (Engineering) Experts?

Tom Nichols has a troubling article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs - How America Lost Faith in Expertise: And Why That's a Giant Problem.  The P.E. behind (and the Dr. before) my name puts me squarely in the cross hairs of the anti-expert movement.  To quote Nichols, "We are moving toward a Google-fueled, Wikipedia based collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople." Make no mistake, engineers are in the same professional expert category reserved for doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

From the closing of the article:

"Experts need to remember, always, that they are the servants of a democratic society and a republican government.  Their citizen masters, however, must equip themselves not just with education but also with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country.  Laypeople cannot do with experts, and they must accept this reality without rancor.  Experts, likewise, must accept that they get a hearing, not a veto, and that their advice will not always to taken.  At this point, the bonds tying the system together are dangerously frayed.  Unless some sort of trust and mutual respect can be restored, public discourse will be polluted by unearned respect for unfounded opinions.  And in such an environment, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself."

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