Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thinking about thinking for yourself...

(Timesnews 1/16/15)

Whether it comes to religion, politics, or science, there seems to be an all knowing cohort of experts we’re expected to heed with our heads bowed low.  No one respects an armchair quarterback -- but just because you might be an “everyday average person” doesn’t mean you are oblivious.  

The most influential person in history was not considered to be an expert in anything by His contemporaries.  Jesus was scoffed at because He didn’t have any formal training: “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.  The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:14-15 ESV)  And His closest followers experienced similar reactions, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 ESV)

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  I think he was using a little hyperbole, but the point is well taken.  Socrates was well known for admitting he knew he didn’t know all that much.  Similarly, it has been said more recently, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”  In other words, strive to learn more.

It’s interesting to me how much of what is accepted as “fact” changes within a generation, yet this transient state of “established fact” does not seem to hinder the sway experts hold over our society.  Do I believe in absolute truth?  I do, 100% yes I do!  Do I also recognize we are fallible and easily misled?  All too well, and that applies to the certified experts too.  

Our “experts” on Foreign policy haven’t slowed North Korea down from pursuing their nuclear dreams, so it’s ironic that hacking Sony over the “Interview” has gotten the President’s attention.  The recent barbaric slaughter of a dozen Parisians over publishing satirical cartoons and the following standoff with the gunmen certainly has the attention of the experts now.  No one could’ve predicted the dramatic plunge in oil prices or the ensuing stock market rollercoaster ride, yet the experts assure us they know the future of the economy.  I’m seeing a pattern some experts might want to ponder:  “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV)  

This isn’t at all to say don’t trust people who have an expertise in their field.  We have very well trained medical professionals who go to great lengths to bring us healing; with nearly a decade of education and a lifetime of practice, these people dedicate their lives to saving ours.  We have educators who work hard to instruct our children and who personally sacrifice much along the way.  We have police officers who sharpen their instincts and hone their skills to keep us safe.  We need to respect the people who specialize in these areas, and who help keep our society going strong.

I’m saying don’t let “the experts” silence you, bully you, or intimate you.  It’s almost as if we have christened divine attributes on the gatekeepers of opinions in our society.  It’s sad to think we have ample access to more information than any previous generation, but then all too often as a whole we timidly forfeit our views.  You probably know more than you give yourself credit for and more than likely you can figure out a whole lot more.  You also are smart enough to know that one expert’s speculation often needs to be scrutinized if something isn’t quite adding up in your mind.   

In case you didn’t know, we have a phenomenal public library here in Kingsport.  If there’s an area you need to learn more about, you can easily increase your own expertise on any subject.  The best way I know to expand your mind is through reading.  As Mark Twain quipped, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the fellow who can’t read them.”

Don’t let “the experts” rob you of your self-confidence.  You are created in God’s image.  This means you are a creative, thoughtful, intelligent being too.  Whether you listen to Michael Savage or Diane Rehm, you can and should think for yourself.  Make this year a year you stretch your thinking cap and gain confidence in your own ability to think.  Thinking might just be one of the greatest gifts God has given us, so let’s not abrogate our thinking to anyone else.  

PS: The library even has books that can help improve how to think...

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