One of my main points here at Turnabout has been that if government sells itself as neutral administration and adjudication, then ultimate power belongs to whoever gets to say what knowledge is. Another has been that officially-recognized knowledge today is a matter of “expertise”: the views of self-contained bureaucracies of knowledge arrived at in accordance with procedures inaccessible to other people. Those views can be counted on to reflect the outlook and interests of experts as a class. In addition, by their nature as “expert” they can’t draw on things that aren’t neutral and can’t be formalized, like common sense, the lessons of tradition, and the day-to-day experience of ordinary people. Such things therefore become by definition “ignorant” and if persisted in “bigoted.”
All that’s very abstract, so it’s worthwhile keeping examples in mind. Here are a few I’ve noticed in the past couple of days:
- A case unrelated to institutional or ideological concerns: scientists are finally getting around to admitting the existence of “rogue waves,” hundred-foot walls of water that suddenly appear and destroy ships on the high seas. Those waves hit freighters, tankers, passenger ships and oil platforms, they’ve been seen by thousands of capable and credible observers, they’ve been photographed, and every year they destroy a number of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in property. Satellite scans now confirm how common they are. Nonetheless, for years scientists refused to believe they existed because they preferred to stand by theories of wave formation that told them that such a wave could only be a once-in-10,000 years event. (I touched on this issue briefly some time ago.)
- If even physical scientists ignore the obvious, you can imagine how things are in softer fields of study that touch on moral, ideological and religious issues. This piece on modern psychology and priestly sex abuse suggests what can happen. Modern psychology, as a matter of fundamental principle, rejects the classical and Christian view of the soul as hierarchical and oriented toward higher principles. It views the soul as a collection of natural drives, habits and whatnot, all pretty much on the same level, and its health as the harmonious development of those constituents. As a result it is simply unable to make sense of asceticism, priestly celibacy for example, and is likely to recommend developing and acting on sexual impulses as necessary to human maturing. Hence—as such views spread through the Church during the postwar period—the changes in the operative attitudes of Church authorities toward sexual misconduct, and ultimately the gross failures of leadership and discipline that led to a rogue wave of pederasty they were simply unable to recognize and treat as a serious problem.
- And here’s a rather wordy and pugnacious, but illuminating, account of how clergy conferences look to an Orthodox clergyman. Talking to the other priests and the bishop about personal and practical experiences is helpful, but it’s not accredited knowledge and therefore—even, apparently, within the Orthodox Church—can’t be taken altogether seriously. So they have to trot out the experts. As usual in these things, the experts know absolutely nothing that’s relevant to the situation, so they want to become rogue waves themselves, tearing through the Church and destroying everything while trying to make it over in whatever image they’re taken with.