Ian Reau Period 4 13/12/11 Option 2: The Purpose of Expert Opinions The search for knowledge and meaning of existence and reality has been a prevalenttheme that has confronted mankind throughout history. Since earliest of civilizations withmankind, such of that of ancient Greece, philosophers such as Plato had pondered thesetheories of knowledge revolving around those concerning reality and finding an absolutetruth. However this desire to know about existence and the search for knowledge was neverfully sated for mankind and is still being continued on into this current recent era withphilosophers such as Immanuel Kant who has his theories of knowledge tying in with hisview of human nature and how humans are subjective to special pleading among other things.Both these examples are great philosophers who are often regarded by definition as experts intheir field of study being that of the theory of knowledge. However what makes a expert anexpert, is it merely their notable achievements that they make in their field or is it justrecognition from other individuals or figures of authorities which deem experts as experts.Thus in the search for knowledge the opinions of experts are valuable in justifying our ownopinions, however other than the reason that experts are a good foundation for our ownopinions they are also flawed as well as these experts aren’t always right and have a limitedrange in which their theories can apply to. Although in the ultimate search for knowledge the opinions of experts are generallyreliable to an extent, reason being their basic fundamental ideas or beliefs is still a valuableasset in justifying one’s own beliefs or ideas. This is because experts typically have reason or
evidence to support their theories that they establish which appeal to others as they provide agreater sense of certainties than any other ways of knowing. Such examples can be seen mostprevalent in the subject of natural sciences with experts such as Charles Darwin in biology.This structure of reasoning supported by evidence becoming more appealing theories can beseen by Charles Darwin, this is because he held a belief that the origins of all life hasdescended from a single common ancestor but diverged from their path through naturalselection and evolution. This was then supported by evidence in which he obtained throughhis experiences on the Galapagos Island among other regions around the world in which hediscovered resemblances between different species having distinguishing traits but commonfeatures on other areas. Then through the use of this evidence to support Charles Darwin’stheory of evolution, society as a whole has become more accepting of this theory andeventually utilizes it as one of the leading paradigms of biological sciences. This can thenlead to others individual in creating their own theories based upon the expert’s data, to eitherenforce pre-existing theory or create different theories, due to the research that these expertshave placed into their studies. A direct example to this being Gregor Mendel’s theory ofinheritance being more readily accepted due to Darwins theory of evolution. Therefore it canbe seen that it’s not as much the opinions of experts that are valuable but their theories anddata that they have established and collected which create a bridge to further knowledge forfuture scientists and researchers. However, expert opinions do often seem very appealing normally due to just the factthat many people or figures of authority approve of the opinion in which these expertspresent, and also most expert opinions are not reliable in the sense that they may just verywell be wrong as many experts tend to have their theories disproven over the course of time.Examples of a experts opinion becoming unreliable however begin to meld in with the waysof knowing emotion, in which most individuals would deem the most unreliable of all the
ways of knowing. This is because emotions tends to cause many individuals to find a way tofit the currently accepted theory or paradigm of that time, showing both a example ofconfirmation bias and fear of punishment which will be explain in the following example.Great theorists such as Isaac Newton too fell to the effect of emotion which hindered himfrom finding true knowledge or absolute knowledge, since when he published his theories ofgravity and attractive forces his theory had gaps in it and thus he had concluded instead thatGod to played a role with his theory showing how he found ways to mould the evidence anddata he found to conform with his own bias. Another Example of other great scientificTheorists was Galileo who had to recant his heliocentric theories in fear of furtherpunishment by the church that had already placed him under house arrest. This shows howtheorist’s individual emotions interfere once again in the search for knowledge and absolutetruth as he was forced to give in on his theory which was support by justifications for onewith barely any at all due to a fear of punishment. Thus it is shown that most experts are not areliable source of knowledge as they are easily affected by their own emotions and thus easilyfall prey to confirmation bias or the bias of authority figures. Lastly some experts theories are only applicable for the subject in which it wascreated for, as most experts have a “limited range of competence” (lagemaat 34). This tiesclosely with the way of knowing perception since perception basically states that ourknowledge is based on our personally experiences, thus if one only as experiences within thesubjects of science per say then that individuals theory can only be applied to science.Examples of theorists who have a limited range of competence can be seen simply in Platowhose strict subject field should only fall under philosophy. This is because his theories thatknowledge can only be justified true belief cannot meld with that of sciences. This is becausethe main purpose of science is to find truth or the theory closest to reality. Thus this methodof finding knowledge is in adequate as having truth as a precursor to knowledge is
preposterous for scientists as no one can really ever know if there theory will always andforever be true, and the last part of the knowledge is justified true belief system being beliefdoes not matter in science at all as it’s the justifications and evidence which lead to trueknowledge in the department of science. Another field in which does not apply to Plato’stheory would be language. This is because in literature, all things are subjective to theindividual’s perception and their own experiences with life or the subject of the piece theirreading. This is because as in most literature there is no one true interpretation or truth, thusas long as a individual can justify why they perceive what they perceive from a piece ofliterature and believe it, by Plato’s definition that in itself is knowledge. However this cannotbe the case as their also be only one truth, also known as the absolute truth by Plato’sdefinition, thus showing how perception too heavily influences a individuals bias in a certainsubject that it cannot be properly used in other subjects. Therefore in the search for truth and knowledge the opinions of experts although tendto be appeasing as they offer good justifications and reasons, they are too susceptible toconfirmation bias due to emotion and have a limited scope of competence due to perception.However, many individuals still accept many expert opinions blindly without any hit ofskepticism, which in turns causes society to be trapped in a prison of consistency as manypeople do choose not be skeptically and thus ultimately end up with a society who all end upwith common beliefs. This absurdity is also reflected in this very paper itself in which inorder to validate the reasons I have just stated in my paper, I need theories or conceptscreated by these experts on philosophy in order to have a decent argument against it. Thusshowing once and for all, how our society today is so willingly to give into expert opinionsand are unwillingly to form their own ideas or theories based on their own justifications.