Expertise – Speaking Of Respect For Experts, Shouldn’t It Relate Meaningfully To How Their Advice Actually Helps? – Consider The Case Of The Authority Of Doctors – 16 January 2013

I think how we respond to authority is best modeled by how we respond to the claims of a doctor (of any kind, the medical kind, or the kind that I am, that merely claims a certain patch of expertise in a specific subject).

Doctors arrogate to themselves the right to give people orders, and get away with this principally because those orders are taken to lead to something positive for those ordered. “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning” has the force of law with many people at such time as it is uttered by a doctor because it is presumed that obeying a doctor leads to one of these things: (1) A cure for what ails one; (2) Failing a cure, being better off than one would be; (3) Failing being better off, at least not being worse off than one would be.

What doctors tell us to do, of course, can be actually aimed at making us better (we’d like to think most doctors want that, at least, what with that pesky Hippocratic Oath and all that). It could, if we’re more cynical, simply be aimed at making them money, or at making who they serve pleased with the services they offer. But even if we do believe the best of doctors, that their expertise is marshaled for nothing more than to offer service to others, the question must be asked. Which of those outcomes can we expect? A cure? Being better off? At the least, not being worse off?

If a doctor tells a person “You’re a mess and it’s likely to get worse”, what that doctor is really saying is “I guess I don’t really need you to come in and see me anymore”. Because that destroys (1), (2) and (3) as the rationale for the doctor’s services. At that point, there really is no more such thing as “doctor’s orders”. The legitimacy of the doctor’s authority is 100% negated.

Of course, in the real world, doctors do quite often cure ailments, where they can’t they often can offer services that make people better off, and where they can’t do that, they often can offer services that prevent things from becoming worse. My point is not to criticise doctors who do (1), (2) or (3).

What I do want to say, in as straightforward a way as possible, is that I have no use for any “expert” professionals that preside over a decline in the status, taken to be inevitable, of the person they are supposed to be serving.

I leave it to you if you can imagine any experts that fit that description. Furthermore, I encourage you to disregard what any experts who do fit that description may happen to say.

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