Should You Shut Up? Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans

People want to talk. And people want to talk more and more during crisis periods. And we are living a turbulent period now. So people are talking more and more, and most of the times they are not willing to listen. Of course, I am thinking about Covid-related issues -measures, vaccines, forecasts-, but more in general, about the largest social dilemma nowadays: expertise or democracy?

But before dealing with the dilemma and before giving or considering opinions on topics, three categories of subjects must be established: Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans.

Experts are the ones in the field, those who have studied and worked the topic for many years and present knowledge and skills the rest of people do not have. A virologist when talking about viruses, an auto mechanic when considering cars, or a footballer when playing football are experts in their fields.

Spectators correspond to trained audience. Doctors should be spectators on Covid, as well as any person who has got an interest on the topic followed by hours of witnessing, experiencing, or studying. People who have been recently reading and analyzing studies and measures on Covid are spectators, as well as football fans and sports commentators, or particulars fond of cars having tried many of them: they cannot develop further research, but they can evaluate experts work.

Charlatans are just charlatans. People with no experience or training in the field, but giving opinions and even trying to influence decisions with no idea. Covid commentators grabbing a beer, me in the case of football, or people who have never driven a car are the counterparts here.

When considering the debate expertise vs. democracy, the former sets decisions focusing on experts, while the latter must set decisions giving more relevance to spectators -but never to charlatans!

Furthermore, we often tend to consider that experts’ studies and opinions must converge, while that is not true -actually, I would say that is false most of the times. That does not mean that some experts are efficient and reliable while others not: there may be better and worse experts, but if they are not efficient and reliable enough, then they are not experts at all but probably charlatans. It is just that their studies drove them to different results. And, at the very first, all of them are correct if they followed a rigorous scientific methodology.

Establishing boundaries between the three categories is challenging too, especially between spectators and charlatans. When does an individual have training enough in order to be considered a spectator? Obviously, it depends on the case, and not all the spectators are equally trained and reliable in their opinions. But just let me argue that some rhetorical and philosophical universal tools are useful in order to detect charlatans, and they are also suitable for becoming a good spectator in most of the fields -clue: often charlatans are not able to listen to others and they tend to devalue experts.

And what about the common individual who wants to become an spectator? Now the last clue of this post appears: dissemination, that is, the bridge between the experts work and knowledge, and masses, done by the very experts and experts on dissemination. Unluckily, many current media pretend to disseminate while they are not -many times masking non-scientific purposes-, and masses have not some basic tools to detect fake dissemination, feeling they have reliable information when they do not. Again, philosophical tools are essential to counterpart machination, and they should be included in our education systems since a very early age.


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