Noel Burch’s famous model of skill development has four stages.
1. Unconscious incompetence: where you don’t know what you’re doing, and you can’t place your lack of ability in context. You may think you are competent, or you may think the skill is not that hard, or you may undervalue the skill or the effort needed to acquire it.
2. Conscious incompetence: as you begin to acquire a skill, you realise how vast a world you are entering. You can see how far you have to go, and can recognize your deficiencies.
3. Conscious competence: your skill has improved to the point where you can perform well, but only with a great deal of effort and concentration. You marshal everything you’ve learned into demonstrating your skill.
4. Unconscious competence: the skill is so honed and practised, that it can be performed without single-minded effort. It can still be practised with concentration, but a high level of skill is available at a purely intuitive level.
A lot of the struggle I have discussing evolution with creationists is getting them to realise they are at step one. Creationist propaganda is full of subtexts that evolutionary biology is easy enough for everyone to understand, that it is obviously nonsense, that its refutations are clear and easily available, that any committed Christian should be able to give an account of its problems, and so on. In short, the subtext aims to reinforce the unconscious incompetence of its readers.
The challenge for people with some understanding, is to bring folks through to at least stage two. To understand just how complex, detailed, specific and interconnected the subject is. And help them to understand that their lack of understanding is why they are making basic mistakes. Many (the vast majority, in my experience) refuse to accept their incompetence, and such cannot move to stage 2 or beyond.
I wonder if this is reinforced by our modern western education. Which seems to reinforce self-confidence in us. It tells us we can do anything we put our mind to. Any artwork is great, and story gets praise, a modicum of effort gets a big well done (possibly because, just getting someone to do anything can sometimes be a big achievement, we don’t want to put people off by telling them what they did was at best mediocre). Failure isn’t politically correct. And apprenticeship and commitment aren’t stressed. At least, these were features of my education.
Our default assumption for any skill or area of knowledge should be 2. And our default assumption should be that it is going to take a long time to get to 3.
We pay lip-service to being in 2, but I think often we don’t believe it. We think we get to stage 3 pretty easily (a bit of Wikipedia research, and a few other websites). And that speed is a dead-certain indication we’re still in stage 1.
I wonder how to help people move from stage 1 to 2. Particularly in areas they are predisposed to be antagonistic towards. Any ideas?