A faithful(?) reader of this column recently voiced a complaint that the weekly column was too long, that he could not finish reading it in a reasonable amount of time. Whether this is a valid critique or a self-revelation of the damaged attention span of this reader, I am unable to judge. However, this man’s appraisal reminded me of the criticism that Mozart was hit with in the movie, “Amadeus” coming from a jealous colleague, who declared that Mozart’s compositions had “too many notes!” I
t would be rather presumptions of me to place my literary offerings at the same lofty level of Mozart’s music and to ignore competent criticism would also be an exercise of arrogance on my part. On the other hand, to be criticized by an ignoramus can be received as praise in that the ignoramus, by definition, has absolutely no clue as to what makes for something to be judged worthy or good. For instance, if Hitler told you that you had no compassion for the Jewish people, would you not laugh in his face!
In my defense against this complaint of “too many words,” let it be known that I do edit the column, always with an eye to making it fit into the space the editor allows for it. But enough about me. Let’s talk about YOU, the expert of the other guy’s business.
Generally speaking, most people think they know a lot more than they really do. There is an inverse ratio that is especially true for those who are given to voice their opinions about each and every thing: that the more one thinks he has all the answers, the less trustworthy his answers are. This axiom applies to so-called experts in their fields, as made clear by the following stories:
Back in the 1960’s, the “expert” USDA Health officials created the “heart healthy” Food Guide Pyramid, emphasizing carbohydrates (grains) at the expense of fats. These experts told us that fat is bad for us and encouraged us to heavily favor grains and fruit. The next thing we knew is that we can’t see over our bellies to read the four digit number registering on our scales! There are so many obese people in the U.S. today that it is causing our continent to sink into the oceans. Thanks a lot!
Another story: Just a few years ago, 2005, a British “researcher” published a paper indicating that autism was caused by an element contained in various childhood vaccines. This startling “discovery” caused millions to withhold giving life-saving vaccines to their children resulting in a vast amount of unnecessary deaths and suffering. Thankfully, the author of this “study” was ultimately exposed as an outrageous fraud, but unfortunately, even today, there are many who cling to this “truth.
What do you know about Global Warming, Frack Drilling, Medical Marijuana, Same Sex Unions, Debt, Deficits, Life After Death, the Community Club, the City, Vitamins, Herbal Cleansing, Euthanasia, What’s Wrong with the Chicago Cubs, Cutting Trees Down on Common Property, Obamacare, Should Catholic Priests be Allowed to Marry, Homosexual Scout Leaders, Flat Tax, Reverse Mortgages, Bill O’Reilly, and finally, Mozart’s composing skills? Answer: Probably not much, but does this cause you to not voice your opinion?
There are so many ideas, views, data, opinions, sources, books, ad infinitum out there on the unending list of topics that it is almost impossible to acquire a decent understanding – and because each subject tends to be complex, it requires an enormous amount of study to even come close to something reasonable. And even after you have diligently searched for the truth, leave a little room that you could be wrong, especially if your “facts” come from sources such as the Internet or what you heard from some guy at the bar.
But here, even after you’ve done all the heavy lifting and serious digging on your subject, there is a catch, and it is a big one: your conclusions are most likely tainted! Why? Because we all tend to gravitate toward the “facts” that reinforce our initial view and/or bias. For instance, you like to drive big cars that require a necessary amount of fuel, fossil fuel in the form of gasoline. You also own stock in Exxon, which pays you a healthy dividend, allowing you to drive expensive cars. So if you are checking out the pros and cons of offshore drilling, guess what “facts” will make the most sense to you?
As the great philosopher Aristotle Smedley put it, “You don’t know Mozart from The Grateful dead, so get off your high horse, you jackass!”