Friday, February 20, 2009

Rhodes Scholar Tactic

In Gregory Koukl's book Tactics, he explains a technique for ascertaining if "an appeal to an authority is legitimate or not." (p167) The crux of this tactic is whether or not the authority, whether it be a scholar or other expert, is informing you or educating you.

If an expert is informing you, he/she is simply giving you their opinion. That in itself should not carry much weight. However, if he/she is giving you reasons for holding that opinion than an attempt to educate you has been made. An expert or authority who is giving you reasons for an opinion has earned your consideration of his/her argument. It doesn't follow that the expert must be right, only that it is reasonable for one to consider the ideas.

That being said, experts are often in a position to know facts about an issue that are not available to most others and they also may be in a better position to render a judgment than most others. Again, though their superior position should be noted, it does not mean the expert is necessarily right.

An authority could be wrong for many reasons; speaking on a topic outside of their expertise, making errors about the facts they purport to know, or perhaps having a bias that distorts their judgments.

In Koukl's words, "What an expert believes is not as important as why he believes it." (p175)

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