header photo

Project Vision 21

Transforming lives, renewing minds, cocreating the future

Blog Search

Blog Archive


There are currently no blog comments.

Experts get so used to their own thinking that they make mistakes

In 1991, French diver Henri Cosquer, while exploring an area near Marseille, found the underwater entrance to a cave where, to his amazement, there were prehistoric paintings on the walls. In fact, hundreds of paintings, including penguins. When Cosquer announced his discovery, many "experts" indicated that neither these paintings nor the images of penguins existed.

The truth is that those "experts" were wrong. The cave exists (the only cave with underwater access and painting on the walls) and there are there paintings of penguins and dozens of other animals, some already extinct or no longer living in that area.

Now, in just a few weeks, a “duplicate” of the Cosquer Cave will open to the public in Marseille, so that those interested can enjoy, without having to dive, the beauty of its paintings.

But what led the "experts" to deny Cosquer's discovery? Simply, that they "knew" that there were no underwater caves with prehistoric paintings on the walls and that they "knew" that there had never been penguins in South France. And they "knew" it without ever doing what Cosquer did: go diving and enter the cave.

It is easy for anyone to assume he/she is an "expert" if all they do is denying any new discovery or theory that modifies what that "expert" already believes. And in fact, 30 years after the cave's discovery, certain "experts" in Paris still deny its authenticity.

There are many similar cases. For example, in 1883, Moses Wilhelm Shapira announced that he had purchased 15 ancient manuscripts in Jerusalem and that one of them was an ancient version of the book of Deuteronomy. However, "experts" from the British Museum declared the manuscripts to be fake, even though they only saw them for a few minutes, without examining them.

The attack on Shapira was so intense that six months after announcing the purchase of the manuscripts, he committed suicide. In 1885, someone took the Shapira manuscripts, and they were probably destroyed. 

But now, with new technologies and information not available in the 19th century, Dr. Idan Dershowitz (University of Potsdam in Germany), expressed that linguistic and literary evidence shows that the manuscripts were not only authentic, but that they were indeed as old as Shapira had said.

Obviously, the great difference between Cosquer and Shapira is that Cosquer was vindicated while alive for the error of the "experts", while Shapira paid with his life for the error of the "experts". And, unfortunately for us, we live in a society of "experts."

We could say that this is a society of "instant experts" who, after reading a couple of books or, worse, even watching a video or attending a webinar, assume they are experts. Or, as the philosopher Renata Seleci (University of London) puts it, we live in the age of "passionate ignorance", where knowledge no longer has any function in society.

In that context, we cannot challenge our assumptions or argue for another point of view. Thus, we are trapped inside our own ignorant “expertise”.  

Go Back