Researching Creation

May 18, 2011

General / On Being an Amateur


I'm posting this mainly because I was thinking about it today, and it took me over an hour to find it.  So I'm saving it here for future reference.  Biblo at Telic Thoughts put up some excellent thoughts about being an amateur ID proponent.  I also added the following comment:

I think it is dangerous for any discipline to reject the criticisms of amateurs out-of-hand. I have been programming computers for 25 years, have a book on programming that is used at Princeton University, have taught programming, and have numerous papers and articles on programming published by IBM and others.

Nonetheless, I still, often, have customers who come up with ways of doing things that I don't think of – customers who have never programmed a day in their life. I know many people who dismiss their customers ideas out-of-hand because they don't believe that non-programmers have valid input. That is total B.S. The fact is, being a non-programmer gives someone an outside look at the issues that aren't obscured with all the things us programmers normally worry about that, and sometimes that opens their minds up to possibilities that we don't see.

It doesn't mean that I take their ideas without criticism – there are more bad ones than good ones (which is expected, because they are outside the field, and aren't familiar with the issues). But nonetheless, I would be a lesser developer if I used the fact that these people are non-experts as a reason to dismiss what they had to say.

This also often requires translating what the have to say. Non-experts often use terms wrong, have a bad understanding of the way certain concepts work together, and the like. But *my* job is not to use my expertise as a way of beating their ignorance over their heads, but rather to *translate* their conceptualizations of their ideas into full-fledged, implementable ideas. So, rather than using my expertise to knock down, I use it to build up – to find a way to understand the non-experts in the most gracious light, and find a way for them to be right.

Doing so improves us both.