[Originally published as For Love of Qualifications]
If you study on it, you’ll see that people who are called “intellectuals” or the “intelligentsia” have often been in a class by themselves. It’s usually been more of an informal social class than anything else, and not really involved with economics (such as “upper middle class”). It seems to be a symbiotic relationship.
Generally speaking, many people who are considered intellectuals are aloof and look down on common folk. Yet, commoners tend to look up to the intellectuals. Then the contradiction sets in, with us regular folk viewing the intellectual elite (and those who consider themselves so, without good reason) with distaste. (People are not anti-intellectual, but as for me, I’m anti-arrogance.) So people seem to have a love-hate view of the intelligentsia.
Somehow, having a degree is supposed to mean that someone is a genius and able to perform well. But it gets ridiculous:
- A woman working in the human resources department of a big corporation for 30 years was demoted because she did not have an advanced degree. What the bigwigs in power didn’t seem to realize is that many colleges give credit for life experience, so the woman who had been demoted may have not needed much additional schooling. (Also, if she chose to get the degree, she may have accelerated the process with her experience.) Oh, and her replacement? Had a degree, didn’t know anything about how to run the department. Nor did her successors. They did poorly. The company shot itself in the foot because of a fondness for a piece of paper. Unfortunately, I hear of this kind of thing happening in other places as well.
- Looking at employment postings, there were jobs that I was more than qualified to do. Then they added requirements (or sometimes preferences) that a candidate has a Bachelor’s degree, as well as other qualifications. For data entry. Part time. At night. No thanks, I’ll stay where I am, even if I did have those other skills.
Somewhere along the line, people got the erroneous idea that if someone has advanced degrees, they are smarter than everyone else. (This implies that if someone doesn’t have a degree, he or she is less intelligent.) Not hardly.
I think we all know extremely intelligent people who do not have degrees and have foregone college for their own reasons (including time and money). On the other hand, I have dealt with people who have degrees but can’t use logic if their lives depend on it.
This Reasoning Cuts Both Ways
Related to this love of sheepskin attitude is an approach taken by atheists and evolutionists when challenging Christians and creationists. They’ll demand, “What are your scientific or academic credentials? What gives you the right to question evolution?” This is an arbitrary requirement on the part of the questioner and is a kind of appeal to authority. However, many of those critics of creationists do not have scientific qualifications themselves, so we can use their “standards” and ask, “What give you the right to argue for evolution?”
When it comes to science, logic, and other things, people are quick to rely on the alleged authority of someone that they consider to be a part of the intellectual elite instead of thinking for themselves. The same goes for jobs — if the work is being done efficiently, there is no reason to throw someone out and replace him or her with another who has papers but no experience.
Not having a degree does not mean someone is stupid.
I was jawin’ with a friend who is a Christian. His father was an atheist, as was his grandfather. The father was sold on evolution and kept preaching it to my friend, who grew up with a good knowledge of it. One day, he wanted my friend to read a certain issue of Scientific American. My friend requested that as a courtesy, his father read the Gospel of John.
My friend only saw assertions and conjecture, no evidence for evolution in that magazine. When he came back into the room a few minutes later, his father had tears on his face. He said, “I’ve been lied to!”, having been told things about Jesus (that he never claimed to be God, and so forth), and realized the truth from the source. My friend’s father is now a Christian. The point here is that truth is not established by intellect; the gospel is God talking not only to the mind, but the spirit of man.
Here is an illustration of how people revere credentials and appeal to authority. My father was a pastor in the Untied Methodist Church (misspelling intentional, again). My theology was much more conservative than his, even back when this happened. I gave a small presentation in a church study group about the reliability of Scripture. He followed up with some comments that were dead wrong, based on outdated liberal “scholarship” — and undermined everything I had spent time preparing and presenting. I felt slapped down.
People accepted the authority, not the guy presenting logical information.
Truth? Intellect? Advanced degrees? Not always connected. Academic types can be bad at thinking, and non-qualified people can be brilliant. Don’t disunderstand me, intellect and faith are not in opposition to each other. But truth cannot be arrived at by books and learning, the ultimate truth is found only through the workings of God. A proper understanding of science and Scripture are powerful things.