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What makes an Expert

Mar 6, 1999
What makes a person an "expert" who is qualified to give "expert opinion" on a topic? Keep in mind that "expert opinions" are often taken as fact. Relevance to this forum is obviously, "What makes a "knife expert" an expert?

On the humorous side:
What is the definiton of "expert"?

A former drip under pressure.

"Walk softly and carry a big stick"...TR

In america these days an expert is someone who claims that he is. Sometimes that is backed up buy (notice the spelling) some sort of higher education. That education does not have to teach you how to think or learn new ideas it just teaches you how to spout the party line. We count way too much on the opinions of the so called experts. It is high time that we hear what they say and then learn for ourselves and the unknown man with a toughtful position need not fear speaking up I would like to hear what he has to say. It is often far more useful and thought provocing than the loud screams of " I am the expert and listen to me!!".
"Walk softly and carry a big stick"...TR
I may be wrong, but I think Teddy Rosevelt (sp) said "Speak softly and carry a big stick".

On a different note. Why do you have a problem with some one stating an opinion? Who claimed to be an expert, that upset you? I see lots of people stating opinions, and very few claiming them to be any thing but opionions. Are you an expert on who should be stating opinions? Or what merit there opinions may have?

Just curious,

Lynn Griffith-Tactical Knifemaker
Winner of "Best Tactical Knife" at 1999 PKA show
My website
See my award winning "Spec Ops Tanto" in Gallery 3 of my website
Discounts to Police and Active Duty Military

[This message has been edited by Lynn Grififth Knives (edited 25 September 1999).]
Hey greenie, I think being an expert involves an open mind and a long term desire to learn as much about a subject as you can and has to be tempered with good judgement and right conclusions too. Of course this is not an expert opinion.

Coyote, I have to disagree with you about the value of an education. You don't "buy" an education, you work hard for it. It pays off in good paying jobs because the future employers can see that a real effort was made. They have nothing else really to go on because these days they can't get personal comments from past employers. There are many other good paying jobs that don't require an education but if your job desire does make it mandatory then you have to go with the flow. I've found out that they usually involve hard labor in 95 degree heat though. Enough of that crap. 25 years after high skool I decided to go back to learn how to program computers. It is something I wanted to do for a living and the only way I could do it was school. And you get to work in air-conditioning!

As far as knife experts go it would be hard to be one. There are many facets of it from metallurgy to fixed to autos to different brands... And I think an expert would not call themselves one because they would know how much they didn't yet know.


[This message has been edited by stray (edited 25 September 1999).]
"Expert" is relative to the setting. On this boards, I might legitimately claim to be an expert (not meaning I'm the only one) on vertebrate evolution - but at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Denver I'd just be a student.

Similarly, to me my friend Dave is an "expert" on handgun carry, having carried one and studied the legality and morality of lethal force for years. But, of course, Dave reads Massad Ayoob's writings because Ayoob is an "expert" on the national scale.

"Expert" is based on knowledge, which comes from both experience and the exchange of information. Thus, one may have knowledge and rightly be an "expert" by having done something extensively (the initial source of all knowledge) or by having read, discussed, and otherwise gathered info from folks who have.

The knowledge is the key. Of course we're never impressed by someone who's read every book on a subject if he or she displays no real learning from it. But I think it's just as important to realize that having extensive experience without gaining knowledge is equally possible and equally useless. This is exemplified in the frequent claims by military personnel who say "I like knife X" but can't say why. Their experience is clearly not valuable in that area because it imparted no knowledge. The real experts are ones with experience that gave them information and reasoning about why they feel a certain design is superior.

We also must not confuse stating an opinion, or even providing information, with claiming expert status. "Expert" can be confused with just having a big mouth - sometimes this is the fault of someone who claims more info than they have, but just as often I feel it's a presumption on the part of the listener/reader.

I have a lot to say on these boards, for example, but that doesn't make me an "expert." About the only knife topic I have enough experience and info on to claim "expert" status is probably modifying Benchmade knives (and even there, folks like Frank Recupero are much more experienced), but I fear that by overstating my opinions on other topics so often I come off as some sort of "expert" on more than that. Partly I should be more careful with what I say, but also folks need to realize that my opinions and speculations aren't the same as the knowledge of true "experts."

In short, experts are folks with lots of knowledge, from both experience and exchanging info with others. An expert's opinion is valuable because it is based on this knowledge, but a real expert can also provide the info and experience to back that opinion up if necessary.

I used to travel a lot around the world installing equipment and training people on the machines we make. Sometimes you wind up in a place where there just isn't much to do, which is where I found myself one time. I walked downtown, this is outwest won't say where, and saw this Martial Arts studio, have always been interested in it but lacked a place to go to train and learn. So I asked what was up and the fellow there was a MASTER and gave me a phamplet that told his exploits as Police officer, Private Eye, in the CIA and other situations he has been in and his ranking of martial arts. Said there was a class that night if I wanted to come in and join for the session, $20. What the heck, better than watching tv in a lonely motel. Well the class went ok, really just matching up people's size and letting them spare or train on certain kata's. Not bad, not real impressed. I asked this Master guy if he taught the Bo or staff. He said sure, if I wanted a lesson to come by tomorrow, $30. Well since it was a personal lesson I could see that. Came back the next night, early, he walked with me to a coffee shop, telling of things he's done and where he's been, tough guy? I had mentioned that I liked butterfly knives and he brought his to teach me how to manipulate it. He slowly flipped over the top handle, then tried to grab it and hold it open, and said `There, how's that?' I thought he was kidding! I said uh, let me see, so I did what he did, about 100 times faster and he said `you picked that up quick', then showed him a bunch of other moves that just plain dazzled this guy, couldn't believe it, he wanted to know just what I was doing, but a student of his walked in and he said put it away till later. hmmmmmm....
Well this student was pretty good at what he knew, but the MASTER guy was reading from a book as he looked at how we stood to tell us how to do one of the basic katas with a bo. After I saw the book, it really hit me that this guy is lame! We finished and I left, feeling pretty cheated out of $30, but wiser?

Long way around the block, an Expert/Master is one that really KNOWS what he is talking about, not flashy showy kind of person, but a very competent one that can teach and knows his/her stuff.

Phew, sorry for the long disertation...

Thought I'd better clarify, I wasn't calling this guy a Master, that was what he called himself in his title, very humble eh?

It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain


[This message has been edited by Gary W. Graley (edited 25 September 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Gary W. Graley (edited 26 September 1999).]
Just ask Les R., he'll tell you! (Ducking and running.)

Kinda reminds me of Philosophy 101, Epistemology:

How we know what we know; And how we know we know it.

I'm an expert. Just ask me.

Headin' for the hills,


Live Free or Die

In my business (Electronics R&D) if someone calls you an expert, they usually call you an expert when they want you to do something that they don't want to do, then if you make a mistake all the non-experts criticize you. After all you're supposed to be an expert.

IMO if someone calls themselves an expert their usually a legend in their own mind.

"Every Dog Has His Day"
BFC Member Since October 2, 1998

Will Rogers said it best:
" An expert is anyone who can spit over a boxcar"

Random thoughts about this:

1. In all this talk about what makes an expert, I think it should be noted that they actually do exist -- but most of us ain't one.

2. Recognizing an expert is tough. Becoming one is tougher. What one is, however, is simple. An expert is someone who can speak or act with authority because he has real knowledge or skill that gives him that legitimate right.

Take some examples from other fields. Wynton Marsalis is an "expert" trumpeter and can speak/act about trumpet with authority. (But not about economics or metallugy.)

A PhD in astronomy is an "expert" about lunar eclipses, but not about trumpet or economics.

etc. etc.

3. The relation between education and schooling is often confused. Schooling doesn't always produce education, and education is often acquired without schooling.

4. Experts are ALWAYS educated (in their field of expertise, at least), though not always schooled.

5. An expert knife maker is someone who can prove it with a blade he has made.

6. An expert user is someone with enough experience using enough equipment to have "educated" himself to the point of authority.

I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer THAT to their being educated by the state.

[This message has been edited by Uncle Bill (edited 25 September 1999).]
An expert is someone who charges for their advice. Or is that a consultant? And isn't a consultant someone at lease 50 miles from home who carries a briefcase.

Dave R


An "Expert" is someone who can state an expert opinion. That is, someone who is in a position to state what those in the know hold as the generally accepted fact. They are not necessarily correct - however - their opinion by virtue of being tested over time and through open debate will have a higher probability of accuracy than an individual opinion which has as yet to be subject to such scrutiny.

We can all provide expert opinions some of the time, and there are specialist who can provide expert opinion most of the time, but we should always keep in mind that anything new will by definition be resisted by expert opininon until it has been suitably argued and tested.

So respect the experts for what they provide; but, keep an open mind and use your best judgement. And opinion expert or otherwise is still just an opinion.
If one invites "expert" opinion is is just that opinion and usually worth about as much.

The best way is to ask a question and sift through the answers based on personal knowledge and the background of the individual answering. The only topic that I feel qualified to speak on definitively is metal polishing based on long experience, when the topic turns to grinding and such I can only say what I do and acknowledge that there are other methods used which may suit the user better.

I never insist that my way is the only way, beware of anyone who does.


An expert is some one who knows more and more, about less and less.

I would think a true expert is someone who has made him/herself familiar with most of the information that is available on a given topic,and is thus able to give a well informed opinion on questions pertaining to that topic.This is the reason (the sheer volume of information available) that there are few if any "knife experts", but that we occasionally find a true "Spyderco expert", "Auto knife expert", etc.

"To grow older is inevitable.To grow UP is optional."

"An expert is any damn fool a hundred miles from home" Old WVA saying from my dad.

Those who beat their arms into plowshares will plow for those who do not

If you travel with "experts" in a particular field too long you will eventually find out that most of them especially the loud ones don't know near as much as you expect them to. (Hmm maybe I should take my own advice!)
From what I've seen in different fields a real expert is often someone who knows enough to know that he actually knows very little, tic-tac-toe strategy experts aside, even if he knows quite a bit about a certain subject, and he tends to acknowledge what the limits of his expertise are as that is an essential part of his knowledge; when to do more tests, look up more info, and ask for advice from an expert :^) I find that a very interesting part of life is trying to figure out who really knows what, and it seems to require regular humbling experiences in order to be open minded about who an expert might be, and who isn't.