By Hamid Sediqi
Recently I developed an interest in Archery. Now I don’t want to portray myself as some expert archer, actually quite the contrary. Archery is something I know very little about because I’m still a novice. Given my keen interest in shooting an arrow accurately and precisely, who do you think I should go to if I truly want to learn?
The answer to this question may seem very straightforward and obvious to you. And it is. At my current stage, anyone who has more knowledge than I do is worth listening to and learning from. However, the best person, of course, would be someone who has not only spent years, and thousands of hours perfecting their technique, but has also spent some considerable time coaching others, bringing them to a level of proficiency.
Now imagine having discussed the importance of learning from an expert to a friend. You highlight the fact that this expert has 20 years of years of experience, they have coached multiple world champions, and the utility of what they teach has been demonstrated beyond doubt. Having explained all this, your friend looks at you with a smile and confidently tells you that everything you’re learning from this expert archer is nonsense. Instead what you should do is to take instructions from a friend he knows; a person who has never picked up a bow in his life but has watched countless YouTube videos on the topic.
Any sensible person, after hearing this from a friend, would respond with, “what are you talking about?”. “How does it make sense to assume that someone with no training at all has the ability and the knowledge to help me improve?”. He might point out that a person doesn’t necessarily have to go through years of training, but instead it’s possible for a person to learn outside of the established paradigm of learning (i.e. training courses etc).
This is true to an extent. There are definite examples of people who haven’t had a formal education and yet made tremendous strides. But, this is the exception and not the rule! For every Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs that exist in the world, there are countless numbers of unskilled, ignorant, lunatics who know absolutely shit all.
What is worse is when these lunatics go out and get qualifications either from shady colleges which have had their accreditation revoked, or they get a qualification that is completely unrelated to what they are preaching. For you to appreciate the ridiculousness of such a person and such a situation, imagine if you went to an archery school only to find out it was run by swimming instructors.
Baffled, you ask for their qualification, but they dodge your question. When you push the matter further, they pull out their swimming medals and certificates, and insist that this makes them more than capable archery instructors.
Can you imagine a world built on this type of logic as its foundation? A world where everyone’s opinions are thought to be equal, on all and every subject matter. A world where Joe Schomos opinion on building safe bridges is equally valid as an experienced engineer?
That would be a terrible world to live in. It would be a world where knowledge is no longer valued. A world where everyone feels justified of their opinion just because they have one. And yet, this is exactly what happens when it comes to matters of science.
One thing that charlatans love doing is claiming that the “establishment” is after them. That they have somehow found knowledge that the scientific community doesn’t want you to know. To appreciate the absurdity of this claim, let’s imagine if the ‘archery school’ you visited insisted that they had figured out some special knowledge that the archery ‘establishment’ was trying to suppress. What would you think? Would you be convinced? Would you go to an archery school that was run by swimming instructors for the rest of your life? I hope not!
Instead, what I would hope is that you recognise that you would need to test their self-proclaimed “special knowledge”. I would hope that you would compare it to what is being taught mainstream and see what is more effective. I would hope that you would see the wisdom in what Carl Sagan said decades ago:
“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown”.