Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 February 2018
The problem of experts originates in the “social distribution of knowledge” that Berger and Luckmann (1966) emphasized. Thus, an analysis of expert failure should be grounded in an appreciation of the division of knowledge in society. We need some understanding of where expertise comes from. The social division of knowledge was not designed and imposed from above by a knowledge elite. It emerged spontaneously as the unintended consequence of many individual choices aiming at local ends and not any overall design for the system. The division of knowledge is a spontaneous order. It is bottom up and not top down. The theory of expert failure may go wrong if it does not begin with this bottom-up understanding of the social division of knowledge.
In earlier chapters we saw that some authors build on hierarchical notions of knowledge. As I will suggest in this chapter, the division of knowledge in society is quite rich and complex. If we employ a grossly simplified hierarchical model of knowledge, it becomes possible to imagine the growth of knowledge can be planned or that theorists can construct causal models to explain the “ideology” of other humans. Mannheim (1936) is an example. We saw earlier that Mannheim (1936) exempted science and his own ideas from the category of “ideology,” placing his theory above the system and not in it. Cole (2010) does not make the gross simplifications of Mannheim. He is, nevertheless, another example of a theorist adopting a relatively hierarchical view of knowledge. He explicitly calls for more “hierarchy” and wants to empower a “knowledge elite.” Cole's hierarchical view of knowledge has implications for practice and for the theory of expert failure.
Cole criticizes an important document published by America's National Academy of Sciences. The “NAS Report” (NAS 2009) reviews forensic science in the United States and makes recommendations for reform. Cole (2010) supports the Report's central reform measure, which is federal oversight of forensic science through a regulatory body. But he criticizes the Report for adopting “obsolete models of science” found in the works of Karl Popper and Robert Merton that can only “impede the achievement” of the Report's “purported goal: the ‘adoption,’ by forensic science, of a vaguely articulated ‘scientific culture’” (Cole 2010, p. 452).