Every once and a while I read a book that provides one of those genuine (and rare) light bulb moments. It’s not so much that the book changes the way you think about the world, but rather it explains why the world works the way it does. And in our ever-more-confusing world, that can be a game-changer.
One such book is Tom Nichol’s, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (Oxford, 2018).
Everyone’s An Expert
In this intriguing volume, Nichols catalogs how technological changes have provided the average person with unprecedented access to information. Through the internet, blogs, and the 24-hour news cycle, we can learn about a variety of complex issues in a very short span of time.
Now, in many ways, this is a positive development. With a quick Google search, we can discover everything from how to tie a bow tie to the history of apartheid in South Africa, and everything in between.
However, as with other forms of technology, there are also substantial downsides. Such unprecedented access to information, argues Nichols, has created a culture where people can begin to think they are an expert on everything. They think they can diagnose their own health problems by poking around WebMD, or that they can pick stocks as well as the Wall Street gurus by just tuning into CNBC.
Consequently, the claims of the average citizens are now seen as equally valid as the claims of genuine experts. The internet has “democratized” knowledge, so that every opinion out there is just as valid as every other.
Unfortunately, argues Nichols, this sort of internet education has not created a healthier, more well-rounded society. Instead, it has created a culture of angry, entitled people who are skeptical of all truth claims, all authorities, and think they always know best.
Now, there’s much more that could be said about Nichol’s book, but I want to relate his findings to pastoral ministry today. How would his book help those who are in pastoral ministry? I think it should provide both an encouragement, and a challenge. [Read more…]