I hate the very notion of post-truth, but as we live in times when politicians, journalists and big business feel no qualms about lying to us, and paying for apparent experts to support their twisted views, it isn’t easy to know who to trust. When you come to a subject for the first time (any subject, Druidry included) it’s hard to figure out if the person you’re dealing with is an expert or a charlatan.
Here are some pointers for deciding whether an expert is worth your time.
The most useful experts out there want to help people understand. They’ll use accessible language, explain the evidence and point to the sources so the non-expert has a fighting chance of keeping up. The good expert will let you form your own opinion as much as they can, and may present the case rather than presenting the conclusion.
The other sort of expert may be more interested in dazzling you with how brilliant they are. They will use jargon, allude to things they don’t explain, or explain things by reference to their own status as professional and expert. In some situations this can be quite bullying. The more arrogant expert will tell you to trust them and that they know best – they might indeed be an expert, but they aren’t the ideal human to work with so it’s best to move on if you can.
Untrustworthy experts will take great leaps of logic and won’t explain them. Migrants come here, we’re short of beds in our hospitals therefore there must be health tourism = is an example of such leaps. Correlations do not prove causalities, and this can be used to hide actual underlying causes – financial cuts being the culprit in this case. Challenge the leap, and you’ll hear that they are the expert and you don’t know what you’re talking about. The person who refuses to give you enough information to make an informed contribution is not on your side.
The untrustworthy expert will use emotive language to back up their case – anyone who doesn’t agree with me is an idiot. Only a total moron would think this… And so forth. That’s neither argument nor evidence, but it does make it tough arguing with them.
The expert who is worthy your time will likely talk about the arguments that challenge their theory. They won’t pretend there’s no other interpretation available. They can recognise the limits of their theory and the limits of their own knowledge. Most of the time, hard, definite facts are rare, and we deal with probability and statistics. A good expert will use that kind of term, rather than talking about simple, uncomplicated truth. This is often why we don’t collectively like real experts – they don’t have any easy answers for us, while the other sort do.