None of us can learn everything. Myself, I'm an entry level computer scientist, an amateur student of theology, philsophy, logic, swordsmanship, military history and strategy, and fiction-writing. I used to be a student of music. In each of these subjects, I have learned from multiple teachers, who themselves are qualified to speak with authority, and so on down the line to the person who originally discovered or thought of whatever it is I have learned.
This necessary emphasis on specialization has led to a world that is very, very difficult to relate to. It seems that a person who could consider themselves educated and thus able to speak on most important subjects these days should have a solid understanding of all of the following: formal writing, math, science, probability and statistics, philosophy, economics, philosophy and religion/theology, basic logic, history...and others.
To make matters worse, with the advent of the internet, the air is quickly being filled with noise from people who do not understand but are nonetheless passionate about life. And those who speak without knowledge outnumber the teachers.
Even serious academic books are riddled with errors that even a person as poorly educated as I (I do not have a master's degree or doctorate) can detect.
I believe we have built a tower of knowledge which is riddled with holes from top to bottom. Stories about bad science are common place. Theologians can talk, but they seem to talk right past each other most of the time, and most religious people seem more concerned about winning converts than they are at making sure they are "on the right boat" so to speak. The Tower of Bad Knowledge is so high that the average person cannot see the top: i.e. they do not even know the meaning of the words used in the dialog much less understand how they relate to each other in ideas. The average person is therefore forced to trust people, who themselves participate in the building of this broken tower and many of whom are willing to say what they must for political or monetary gain. The resulting dialog is as noisy as the internet.
An Example since I've Probably Lost You
My wife is an art student and she's bright. She's learned enough logic and philsophy to be able to have spirited debates with me on the value, virtues and definition of art. I think you can imagine how that probably goes, me with my knowledge of logic trying to show why her (and other's) arguments don't make sense and her telling me that I, because I am not an artist or a student of art or art history, am not qualified to speak about art. Which one of us is right? Or if you prefer, which one of us is "righter?"
Two other Examples
The debate on evolution is important because it is a study of origins. It touches on philosophy and religion deeply and it has the authority of Mighty Science behind it. Yet, the debate is conducted very poorly. A book was published years ago which finds gaping holes in Darwinian evolution. In my research, I've found rebuttals to his book and counters to those rebuttals. That was all very interesting. But many of the people I've read dismiss the author of this book saying essentially "He doesn't believe in Evolution? He must be a quack! I won't read the book."
To be fair, take a look at Religion today. Even the Christian-Protestant tradition, which has only one book (The Bible) has fractured into very many different denominations. Why? Because different people read the Bible differently, come to it with different perspectives and values, and like to listen to people who agree with them. (If you don't believe that, that's fine. Look at the other two examples, by now I think you know what I'm talking about).
A Solution: Rebuild the Tower?
The "Tower" (sorry if you are sick of that metaphor) has to be rebuilt, a new foundation chosen. This will in turn, change even our values. If it was to be done correctly, I think it could change the way education is done for the better, and we could rethink the "knowledge" we've gained more easily.
The Shopping List for an Authority
If our "knowledge" is wrong, then we achieved it illogically (or we believed something untrue, which must at some point stem from bad logic or reasoning). That is why I believe a greater understanding of logic and reasoning must be had before a person is trusted as an authority. Too much of the modern dialog is taken up with emotional appeals, and bad logic. Logic is the foundation of everything because Logic is the foundation of good thought (though Reason can be a good substitute for less precise jobs).
Math is one of the few things we've built right. It has it's own grammar, and it is easy to test, unlike many Scientific theories. If you're subject deals with math and you don't know math, you aren't an authority. Math goes right over Logic because Math requires Logic. This is troublesome because few of the people that use and believe statistics know a darn thing *about* statistics. What's worse is that many of the people we get our statistics from (the news) have no idea how good statistics can be properly interpretted.
And right next to Math is Language, because if you can't express yourself, no one will understand you and you cannot participate effectively in the dialog. It is fortunate that Logic also has it's own grammar which is even more pared down than Math (though simply understanding common forms of bad logic will suffice).
Add onto this a thin layer of debate. Most people have no idea how to discuss something rationally and fairly. Emotion rules the day and people talk over each other constantly.
I could wax eloquent, trying to spell out the details of this "tower" but that's really not necessary. My point is that almost no one these days understands logic or knows how to conduct a debate. Is it any wonder that the modern dialog is so rude, disconnected and illogical?
So why don't we fix it?
Because everyone that knows it's broken is a logician, not a teacher or a scientist or a politician.