The former American Library Association head, Michael Gorman, has just posted up what can only really be described as a rant about why “amature” endeavours (eg wikipedia) are always going to be inferior to things like Britanica (this is on the Britanica site so it’s probably what he’s been paid to say – but even so).

Even he makes the mistake of saying things like : ” … I recently went to authoritative printed sources for confirmation of what I had read and for additional information and insights” (my underlining) which, naturally, is still a relative term. He also used “credable” and “reputable” in similar ways.

I said :

Now – at the very most basic – would it be correct to say that I am the  most recognised expert in a given topic because I have persuaded the most  people that that is the case? Discuss…

said :

>  If you accept the idea of consensus reality then the answer is yes. If you adhere to the idea of objective reality then it is debatable
> depending on the manner in which you convince them. If it’s via tests, demonstrations of expertise, perhaps  even popularizing it in a
> contest such as “X-pert Factor”.

Even in objective reality surely the very definition of an “expert” in any non-immeidately demonstratable field is the person who has persuaded the most people that his interpritation of the facts is the most likely to be true?

> On a more serious note I agree with the notion that expertise does not  have to be backed up with diplomas, professional or academic
> qualifications. However, whilst I have noted that some people can be very savvy when it comes to consumer awareness and determining
> which products are better than others, produced in a more environmentally friendly  manner etc. When it comes to the consumption of
> ideas and scientific theories that this same rigour is not applied.

This is true – those people that are the most pursuasive are the ones people pick up the memes from. That, in fact, cross links to the whole philosophy / theology conversation that’s been going on.

> Therefore I would like to propose that all ideas put forward in  discussion be considered in the same manner, whether they are related to
> theology, theoretical physics, UFOs, the definition of red, etc.

All topics should be given equal weight in determining their validity? Sure, on the face of it, but people simply don’t have time to do that so they prioritise by giving time to the things they find interesting and blowing off the things they don’t.

> In order  to have any kind of meaningful discussion (in my opinion) the definition of words must be clear and the manner in which ideas
> are approached should be agreed upon in a consensus. (Can you guess which view of  reality I currently lean towards?).

The definition of words is very seldom clear – language is really a pretty crummy way of putting over any point of view. Sadly, it’s all we have…