It may be advisable to value the opinions of those with formal qualifications, but some are stuck with conventional thinking. The opinions of the common man can have just us much value. It depends if we can muster the courage to put much faith in them. Credence is given to those with fame simply because their message has reached a wide audience.

Those that are learning to fly are taught the lessons of believing in yourself and speaking up if in doubt. A captain who was held in very high regard was flying with a junior pilot. The junior was unsure about the message they heard on the radio but said nothing thinking that the captain was unlikely to make a mistake. Had he queried the take-off permission they would all be alive today along with hundreds of the passengers. Many disasters could have been avoided if people spotting an error had not been reluctant to speak up. It is not about doubting everything but bearing in mind that people that we respect can make errors and are misguided at times.

I would rather get some clarification even it invites the odd snigger. I don’t worry a great deal about what people think of me, I feel it is better to be reassured than blindly assume that all is well. I was about a mile from an airport (a quite large one) and the controllers asked me if I had the field in sight. “Err, negative, field not in sight.” I could tell there was a little chuckle in their voice as most usually see the runway well before that point, but it is so much better to take an instruction, be directed and not end up being a real idiot. People soon forget little instances like this but point out big mistakes.

If you break apart the word expert into ex and pert you can re-evaluate the meaning. An ex is something that used to be the case as in ex-partner and pert being pertaining. Thus, expert could be someone who used to have a lot of knowledge on a subject. Therefore, that expert may have wisdom that is not useful anymore. You can break things apart like this and come up with countless arguments, some with merit and some without.

Exceptions can be a lever into the cracks of an argument. I say dogs have four legs, you say that is not always the case. Observant people will point out that they have seen three legged dogs so stating that all dogs have four legs is not necessarily true. And quite correct they are as some will lose a leg through injury and may even be born like that. This is a distraction away from the understanding that the genes of most dogs have a built-in scheme for it having four legs. Sometimes it will be necessary to be very precise and complete in presenting an argument, but quite often you will get those that bring up irrelevances rather than exceptions. Some arguments are pedantic and whimsical.

In the early years of astronomy, through observation of the motion of planets it became possible to predict to a high degree of accuracy the relative position of where they will be at a future point in time. Except one. They had a choice, either throw out the science of the reliable nature of the planetary orbital motions or work out why this particular one was odd. It turned out that something else was at play causing the difference and creating this exception. There can be a lot of searching for ever more reasons why, giving rise to the oft quoted remark; the more we find out the more questions we have.

Statistics can be used to ‘prove’ you are right. A sector of the economy was shown to be in decline year after year. As a proportion of all economic activity the percentage was indeed dropping, but the value was actually rising every year. It was just that other parts of the economy were rising much faster making it appear to be reducing. Seeing it as going up or down depends upon which way you want to present it. If something is said to have shot up 50% it can sound alarming until you read the detail; the cases rose from 4 to 6 out of 100000.

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