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Maguire's Laws of Experts

Updated on February 8, 2010

Everyone talks about the population explosion. But a far worse danger is the explosion in the number of experts that appear on TV and in the news giving their opinions about every part of life. Next time, you are listening to an expert spouting forth, just remember these simple Laws about experts

The Laws


LAW 1: Every expert must concoct at least one controversial theory for the purpose of differentiating themselves from all the other experts in their fields simply in order to justify their existence.

LAW 2: For every expert on a given subject, I can find another expert with the same level of qualifications, professorships, nobel prizes, etc or better who thinks that the first expert is an idiot (see Law 1)

LAW 3: I can then find a third expert with the same level of qualifications, professorships, nobel prizes, etc or better who thinks that the first two experts are idiots (see Law 1)

LAW 4: Being an expert in one area does not automatically qualifiy you to be an expert in anywhere else. It certainly does not make you an expert in everything

LAW 5: You can only be an expert if other people (preferably other experts) acknowledge you - even if they call you an idiot

Things You Need to Know About Experts

Experts are routinely hoodwinked by non-experts. Elmyr de Hory is a notorious case of an art forger who claimed to have sold over a thousand forgeries to reputable art galleries all over the world to many so-called art experts

Experts are routinely hoodwinked by themselves. American archeology held that the earliest inhabitants of America lived in Clovis, New Mexico. It was only when someone decided to challenge this recently, that a number of archeologists have come forward and admitted that they had had similar theories but had been too scared of stating them for fear of losing their reputations and their jobs

Experts are routinely wrong. It seems that no sooner has some expert pontificated about something than new evidence turns up that completely overturns everything. Again in archeology, there is now a vigorous discussion going on about the Dark Ages and if indeed they were a period of ordered civilised living for the inhabitants of Britain. It seems many experts are now reviewing their evidence and coming up with new ideas.

Experts lie
. Robert Millikan and Harvey Fletcher successfully performed "The oil-drop experiment" in 1909 which measured the elementary electric charge (the charge of the electron). The only problem was that they lied. They ignored all the times that the experiment gave them results that they did not like. Scientists regularly do this. They call them anamolies. Then there is the notorious case of Charles Dawson who, in 1912, claimed to have unearthed the skull and jawbone of an early ancestor of man called Piltdown Man. It was fake but it successfully fooled the scientific community for some forty years beforeit was finally discovered.

The Best Kind of Expert

My choice for the best kind of expert is Sir Alfred Patrick Caldwell-Moore, CBE, HonFRS, FRAS better known as Patrick Moore, the presenter of the BBC programme "Sky at Night". He and the show hold the Guiness book of records for the longest continuous show to have appeared on TV (which started on 26 April 1957) and Sir Patrick as the longest serving presenter.

The reason I have chosen him is because of his insistence at peppering his work with the saying,
"We just don't know".
In fact, in recent years, he has added to it by saying,
"We just don't know and we may never know".

That sums up the very best of human discovery. It is because we do not know that we seek more, go further and reach higher. The smugness of experts is the opposite: it discourages debate, free thought and creativity.

My favourite definition of an expert is: X is an unknown quantity and a Spurt is a drip under pressure.

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