So at lunch time I ran out to get my car's emissions checked. (Twas a strikingly painless process that took all of 5 minutes, if you can believe that. Go MD MVA!) On the way, I passed this United Methodist church with a sign out front boldly proclaiming:
Experts built the Titanic.
Amateurs Built the Ark.
Whatever your thoughts on biblical literalism, this is a tiresome sign of the times and, specifically, this culture's widespread antipathy toward expertise--an antipathy that a certain breed of bash-the-establishment politician has long promoted, and which the current administration has done everything it can to fuel. (For details of the Bushies' war on expertise, see Editor Foer's "The Closing of the Presidential Mind" from July 2004; sorry, can't find a link).
I just don' t get it. Sure, sure, we all like to mouth off about how we're so much smarter and competent and honest than all those clowns who run the government/the news media/the Yankees--you name it. (It is the rare American who hasn't at some point sworn: I could do a better job than him/her with my eyes closed.) Often, this knee-jerk scorn is directed at pointy-headed professionals like economists or foreign policy wonks or at highly public fields like politics, journalism or entertainment. But ship builders? When did our overabundance of attitude morph into some bizarre conviction that anyone with a specialized base of knowledge is automatically a buffoon and not to be trusted?
I just hope the church's minister remembers his love of amateurs the next time he needs a root canal.