The Problem of Ignorance

…The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance. It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography; they don’t, but that’s an old problem. And really, it’s not even a problem, insofar as we live in a society that works because of a division of labor, a system designed to relieve each of us of having to now about everything. Pilots fly airplanes, lawyers file lawsuits, doctors prescribe medication. None of us is a Da Vinci, painting the Mona Lisa in the morning and designing helicopters at night. That’s as it should be.

No, the bigger problem is that we’re proudof not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasing fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.

Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017), Loc: 69-70. eISBN: 9780190469436.

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