A: So that’s your whole point?
B: No, my point is that just because a person is a certified expert in a given field, it doesn’t mean he knows all the truth pertaining to any issue in that field. Conversely, a person doesn’t have to be an expert in a given field to know or speak truth concerning that field. A misunderstanding of these facts, which are really just one fact, is an instance of “ad hominem.”
Therefore: I am perfectly at liberty to say whatever I want about any subject, and it is perfectly possible for that statement to be true, regardless of whether I am an expert in that subject or not. The truth of any statement depends not on who makes the statement, but the content of the statement itself.
A: OK, but who’s going to believe you?
B: Doesn’t matter. Perhaps everybody, some few, or nobody; regardless, it makes no difference on the validity of the statement. I propose to offer arguments as questions – that is, heretofore unrefuted (as far as I know) arguments for which I solicit rebuttals. And anybody, whether expert or novice, can respond, because the validity of their rebuttal doesn’t depend on their credentials either, but as before, only on its basic assumptions and the logical procession it follows.
A: Buddy, everybody knows this already.
B: Of course they do. And yet the mistake is made daily, thousands, millions, perhaps billions of times. Perfectly sound and logical arguments are rejected because they weren’t made by experts; meanwhile statements having one or more flaws inherent within are accepted because the guy who made it has a PhD in a related field or years of pertinent experience. You’ve got to remember that even though a guy is an expert, he’s still human and capable of making mistakes.
A: So what am I supposed to do, doubt everything everybody says?! Or not trust anybody?! If everybody acted like this all the time, we’d never get anywhere.
B: No, of course not. It’s impossible to verify everything, especially in our complex society. We simply have to trust one another much, if not most, of the time. And there are other ways to expose quacks or lend credibility to the genuine, and some of these proofs are naturally inherent in the structure of society anyway. But a complete verification of everything is not really necessary for everyone. It’s only the pressing issues in which this comes into play, and becomes necessary – or at least important.
B: For the most part we are intelligent enough to discern this ourselves. We’ll discuss the gray-area cases later.
By the way, the ad hominem mistake is so prevalent in our society that I doubt that my mentioning it at this juncture will be sufficient to remove the habit from everybody’s behavior. I imagine that I’ll have to remind you several times over throughout.
A: So I suppose you have all the answers to everything, then?
B: Good heavens no. On the contrary, the reason I was saying earlier that I would offer arguments as questions is precisely because I DON’T have all the answers, and I’m looking for a good reason to believe otherwise. If there is a sound reason for it, then I’ll change my tune. Ha! Get it?! (Elbowing A) “Sound” and “tune?!”
A: Of a truth thou art a goob.
B (sighing): People just don’t appreciate a good pun when they hear one.