Intellectuals and Experts – Why television experts tend to be ignorant

By Tim Imholt

Every time I turn on the news Experts and Intellectuals appear and present opinions on a large number of subjects on which they are ignorant. It is particularly tragic when their opinion serves to limit future debate on a subject, as for instance the current global warming (oops, that’s now climate change) debate.

I need to warn you that a this blog entry is partially a rant, but I feel qualified to do this since for a large part of my career I have been and still am considered an expert. Staying at the top of my game in my field as well as virtually any field takes a good bit of study in the field.

Besides my direct work, for many years I have read a technical work and 8 or so magazines each week. Then I’d read technical manuals, proposals, project definitions, etc. I constantly learn new computers, languages, software, and data-base methods. This is what leads to the ignorance for subjects outside my immediate area.

After doing this 6 days a week, I am exhausted. In my newspaper I go the comics and sports page first; maybe to skip the others. What little spare time is available goes to my house and kids, then a James Bond novel or to something on television.

This same rut and 70 hour work-weeks apply to most ‘Experts’. What this means is that they can’t keep up on current events or politics. Then we add to the mix those experts who are also classed as ‘Intellectuals’.

Most of this idea comes from Thomas Sowell’s excellent thought in his book “Intellectuals and Society”. He defines an intellectual as someone who works with an idea or opinion as his final product. University professors, critics, and expert consultants never need produce anything but the idea; and having produced it they move on never waiting to see an outcome. It may take as much intellect, study, and practice to be a neurosurgeon, but he is not an intellectual and typically lacks the time to present ideas.

Eric Hoffer’s Opinion

Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman and philosopher. His books were insightful and remain in print. During the height of his popularity (the 60s and 70s) he was interviewed in several hour long TV shows, twice by Eric Sevareid and twice by Bill Moyers.  These can be found on the net in various places if you use Google and are well worth seeing.

The interviewer commented on Hoffer’s ‘seeming dislike’ of intellectuals. Hoffer first paused to clarify the current use of the term in government and academia. He defined that ‘Intellectual’ as someone who by virtue of his background (education, college, etc.), ancestry (parents or teachers), or position (expert or bureaucrat) feels he is more qualified to run my life than I am.

Then he exploded; I don’t DISLIKE them, dislike does not begin to describe my feeling, I HATE THEM, I LOATH THEM, I DESPISE THAM.

Role of Experts

I don’t hold ENTIRELY with Hoffer’s attitude. I don’t mind that they think they could run my life better than I. I am slightly irritated when people like a boss’s wife take that position. I am inconvenienced when someone like an administrative assistant at a church takes that position.

But major problems begin when that expert writes government laws or regulations… now it becomes do it their way of face fines, jail, etc. There are more problems with regulations, but that is for another blog.  For today I will leave you with this thought.  Do we trust the ‘talking heads’ on opinion shows more than we trust ourselves?  More than we trust our own opinions?  These talking heads make their living giving opinions about the opinions of these other Intellectuals and Experts who we just showed don’t really do much of value.

The government Intellectuals and Experts don’t produce anything and we seem to take as Gospel the words of others who don’t produce much.  So I implore everyone who reads this.  Do you own homework.  Form your own opinions.  Please don’t just regurgitate the opinions of others then yell at those who disagree with those opinions.  It is our civic duty to be an informed electorate.  Do your duty.

Tim Imholt PhD is a scientist, an occasional contributor Pj Media and  the author of several works of fiction.  You can buy his latest,:  The Forest of Assassins and more below.