“I am not a scientist…”

Saint Science
Made with Krita 4.1.1


It’s noble to admit when you don’t know. But, phrases like ‘I am not scientist’ can be nothing more than a cop out. It’s sister ‘You are not a scientist’ is often nothing more than an ad hominem.

Both phrases have their underpinnings in sloth and magical thinking.

Deferring to experts is generally healthy but the cases in which this is a necessity are rarer than not. Say what you will about public education but those availed of the capacity to read and write are not incapable of evaluating complex arguments.

The admission of ignorance seems a poor foundation from which to evaluate the statements of experts. If you are not an expert – how do you know which experts to trust?

As such statements like ‘I am not a scientist’ shouldn’t be viewed as humility and a good sense of one’s limits. At least not by default. One should consider that this maybe nothing more than laziness and virtue signaling. Yes, often it may be mere humble bragging.

‘Yes, I know that I don’t know! Ergo I am better than you – you great pretender!’ Cries the gloriously primitive subroutine.

Well, that’s all well and good except generally one isn’t simply admitting agnosticism but is in fact deferring to the priests that tickle his fancy.

This is why ‘I am not a scientist’ is magical thinking. It treats academics like oracles. It is the authority fallacy. Yes, but authority fallacy is when you say ‘cause daddy says’ we’re merely saying that these people may be more likely to be correct because this is their discipline. Sure but ‘more likely’ in a nebulous area is such shaky ground that you may as well be ‘cause daddy saysing.’

Shaky scientific ground is very shaky indeed since –

The history of science bears out that no crop of scientists has survived their season. That is – they sprout up, offer their fruits, and become the fertilizer for the next generation. I.E. a lot of very well established ideas are often just manure.

So when you hear ‘I am not a scientist – You are not a scientist – That is not science!’ etc. You may well be dealing with someone deifying their gut feelings. Yes, it is pure to admit the sin of ignorance and preposterously flock to the ever shifting church of science. To do otherwise would simply be denial! You great heretic.

The ‘I am not a scientist – You are not a scientist – That is not science!’ line of argument is often trotted out in all the little mysteries where establishing that X is indeed X proves difficult. Such times do indeed call for that formalized guesswork called heuristics – but in this process – ‘cause these guys seem correct to me’ should be the very last option.

We should all remain vigilant for this common pitfall of mistaking what seems correct to us for a humble acceptance of the best possible answer.

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