Expert opinions are important. There’s simply too much world out there for us all to become experts in everything, so we look to those who have devoted their entire professional lives to certain fields to help us to better glean the important wave tops, the broad strokes, of a topic.

If we’re not feeling well, we go to a doctor. If we want to get our finaninces in order, we go to an accountant. If we want legal advice, we go to a lawyer. Millennia ago, when mankind first developed rudimentary agricultural systems, it became clear that we, as a species, no longer had to devote every waking moment to the pursuit of a next meal, opening up possibilities for artists, thinkers, engineers and social leaders to devote themselves to other enterprises. As distant as we prefer to think those ancestors are from us… that system remains intact to this very day, and it could be argued, it’s the individual’s ability to pursue the field they choose to master that makes up the very fabric of our free society – not just in terms of personal liberty, but in particular, when it comes to navigating the incredibly complex cultural and societal system we’ve developed in the intervening years.

We need experts to way in on important topics. We count on them to have a better understanding of complex issues and boil down the important elements into digestible tidbits: pundits on your favorite news channel, scientists announcing a new discovery, former Supreme Court Justices wanting to tear apart the Constitution of the United States.

Wait, what?

The thing about expert opinions is that they’re just opinions. As I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, outside of my service in the Marine Corps, I’ve worked a number of jobs in the private sector: from mechanic to marketing consultant, from grant writer to HR manager… in each of those roles I was expected to bring a certain level of expertise to the table, and in order to do that, it helped to be well read on the subject I was responsible for.

My bookcase is still filled with volumes about employment law, social media marketing, technical specs on four cylinder Dodge motors (like those run in the Formula Dodge series)… I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to all of these things, so I turned to the people that were. What I’ve found, however, is that being an expert doesn’t always mean you’re right – and it’s incredibly common to find two certified experts talking about the same subject with completely opposing views.

How can that be? Aren’t experts supposed to have the answers?

I realize that when I break it down in such a pedantic way, it seems like patronizing question. Of course experts disagree, of course people who devote their lives and professions to understanding subjects aren’t always right… of course people tend to allow their personal feelings to interfere with or inform their professional positions. That’s human nature, and people don’t become less human the further they climb in their respective fields. They remain fallible, opinionated, and driven by emotion. That’s not a criticism of any individual, it’s simply an observation about human nature.