Friday, February 14, 2014

More on Respect for Scientists

So far, I've been having a lot of fun trying to argue the point I tried to make in the previous post. Mostly because everyone is disagreeing with me (at least in some ways), which means I'm in the position of having to make doubly sure I'm getting my points across clearly, and I'm not making an mistakes. This is my idea of a good time.

One thing I want to make clear is this: I'm not arguing for the position that everyone must remain agnostic when faced with an 'expert' claim, on pain of irrationality. Instead I'm arguing for a vastly more modest position, which can be summarized along the following lines:

When faced with a claim about which a person knows nothing or next to nothing, then it's always intellectually acceptable for them to be agnostic about the subject, and this is not necessarily the only intellectually acceptable position. It remains acceptable even if they are faced with expert opinion or consensus.

Let me point out expressly: I am not arguing that agnosticism is mandatory. That's too strong, in my view. Nor am I saying that it's intellectually unacceptable to accept expert or consensus opinion on a matter. Instead, I am - for the moment - arguing for a kind of intellectual pluralism, where multiple responses are, all things being equal, within the realm of reason.

To give an example: Jack and John are told that most cosmologists believe geocentrism has been shown to be true*. Jack accepts the claim 'geocentrism is true'. John is agnostic. Neither Jack nor John have the slightest idea of how to go about determining this for themselves, and both Jack and John are aware that cosmologists study this kind of thing. Both Jack and John are taking a reasonable view. That's not explaining my reasoning, but what I'm concluding and advocating here.

(* For fun, we're placing them a century before Galileo.)

Let's be honest - I have my work cut out for me here. First, I'm arguing that two distinct views can nevertheless be reasonable - not the most popular position to take nowadays. But second, I'm letting John get away with denying scientific consensus, which is pretty high on the list of modern heresies. Worst, I'm doing this as a theist, who regularly work themselves up into a frenzy trying to show how friendly to science they are - so let me say right out, I'm the only theist (indeed, the only person) I'm aware of advocating the views I'm laying out here, and I've done so largely for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or theism.

Either way, on we go.




Despite saying I have my work cut out for me, I think the position I'm outlining has some tremendous intuitive force to it, at least superficially. Really, all I'm saying is that you're not obligated to believe that which you don't understand unless you personally will to do so, or you're dealing with a true figure of moral and intellectual authority - which is going to be either God, or someone named as an authority by God. Lacking that, ultimately, it's up to you to choose to accept whoever's say-so you choose to accept. What can intellectually force your hand is exposure to arguments and evidence that you comprehend and can see the conclusion of - but it's the arguments, the evidence and the comprehension that is key, not someone's second- or third- or fourth-hand judgment of the arguments and evidence.

More than that - trusting a source about an answer to question X is not the same as having knowledge of an answer to question X. Not by a longshot. Likewise, there is a big gulf and a major difference between 'trusting science' and 'trusting these guys who say they did and/or do science'. I find it pretty remarkable that I run into a lot of people who cannot shut up about how much they all trust science, and they never do a bit of it themselves and probably wouldn't know the first thing about DOING any of it themselves. What they trust is that smart people are coming to reasonable conclusions that they've reported accurately, using reasoning that necessarily involves a hell of a lot more than just science. And that's assuming they're not seeking out particular scientists who say what they like to hear, which is quite a risky thing to assume.

So no, they don't trust science. They'd actually have trouble identifying science when they saw it. What they trust are people - individuals and groups - who they assume and hope are doing things right and are reporting things accurately, if that. They trust (what is for them) a vague, broad reasoning process involving human beings who may or may not be trustworthy, biased, and otherwise, which has science as one (there are multiple) central aspect to it. And you know what? In large part, that is fine. I don't hold it against them. But I cannot hold much against the guy who decides that he has no idea how one would even begin to determine the motion (or lack thereof) of the earth, that he doesn't really care to figure out how to do this, and so he's agnostic about the whole thing - no matter what the scientist, or the groups of scientists, say.

Now, one common reply is: but the experts are the ones who have studied a given subject thoroughly. They have presumably investigated the question at length, they have presumably explored the various possible answers, and they have provisionally come to a particular conclusion. Isn't it irrational for you to NOT take them at their word, in light of all that? But the reply there is obvious: I often have no idea what they've studied, how long or sincerely any of them have investigated the question, what answers they ruled in or out as even being possibilities, and more. I do not know what their biases are, individually or collectively. I don't know how reliable their safeguards are for protecting against abuse, if they are even interested in that. I don't even know how intelligent they are, or if they can even reliably tell the difference between what is or is not part of their expertise, or what blindspots they have just by the basis of their knowledge.

For the most part, all I can do is trust them. And I see no reason to simply, broadly and by default give trust to a particular group of men. They do not inherit my trust, or anyone else's, as a graduation present when they get their degree - or at least they shouldn't. That's something I and everyone else give on our own say so. And if they find of it particular importance to convince me or the public at large, then they can make their case if we care to listen to them - and if they fail to make their case, well, so much the worse for their position.

This is an unsettling view to take in some ways, I agree. I happen to think it's far, far less unsettling than the alternative.

16 comments:

Eufrosnia D said...

So taking your case of John and Jack, what happens when it comes to a moment where they had to act on that knowledge (let us say the subject matter was not geocentrism but lets say X is a cause of Cancer)?

Which position is more reasonable for John and Jack to take in the case of being put in a position of taking action (lets say Jack and John are health care ministers of two countries)?

Eufrosnia D said...

I have another question. You said "all I'm saying is that you're not obligated to believe that which you don't understand unless you personally will to do so, or you're dealing with a true figure of moral and intellectual authority - which is going to be either God, or someone named as an authority by God."

But how do you figure out who God has named as "authority"? Because going back to the case of the Catholic Church, we do not know before assent that the Church is even necessary according to God. For it is possible for the Successors to tell us that "the Bible is all you need" (of course they don't do that).

What I am trying to get at here is that even in the assent to the Catholic faith, we do not know before assenting that God instituted a Church. No?

Crude said...

So taking your case of John and Jack, what happens when it comes to a moment where they had to act on that knowledge (let us say the subject matter was not geocentrism but lets say X is a cause of Cancer)?

Wait a second now. Why are we changing the subject? Geocentrism is a great example because it's an undisputed case where A) the experts of the time, even the expert consensus, was that geocentrism was true but B) geocentrism turned out to be false.

So you tell me, Eufrosnia - should experts at the time have taught people, and expected people to believe, that geocentrism was true? If someone was agnostic about the question since they had no idea about it, were they wrong?

Which position is more reasonable for John and Jack to take in the case of being put in a position of taking action (lets say Jack and John are health care ministers of two countries)?

Taking action? On what? You just gave me a contextless hypothetical situation.

And are you going to tell me that a health minister should rubber stamp what scientists tell them without personally investigating their claims and being able to understand them? That 'guys who have no idea whatsoever about the science of medicine' are great candidates for health ministers?

But how do you figure out who God has named as "authority"? Because going back to the case of the Catholic Church, we do not know before assent that the Church is even necessary according to God.

You apparently have an argument with the Catholic Church's own media arm.

Eufrosnia D said...

"Wait a second now. Why are we changing the subject? Geocentrism is a great example.... "

I changed the specific subject matter because Geocentrism does not change the way the average man lives his life. So it wouldn't lend itself to my subsequent question regarding how one should act.

"So you tell me, Eufrosnia - should experts at the time have taught people, and expected people to believe, that geocentrism was true? If someone was agnostic about the question since they had no idea about it, were they wrong?

The matter is irrelevant to practical life. So one does not have a need to hold it either true or false. BUT, they should indeed hold to Geocentrism, especially in light of the Church stance, until the authorities themselves reversed the position.

Was it not the authorities themselves that reversed the position on this matter later on anyway?

"And are you going to tell me that a health minister should rubber stamp what scientists tell them without personally investigating their claims and being able to understand them? That 'guys who have no idea whatsoever about the science of medicine' are great candidates for health ministers?"

I am not sure what your point is Crude. Let me make a hypothetical question from scratch then.

John is given a diagnosis by his doctor that he only has few days to live unless he undergoes a brain surgery to remove a tumor. John is shown a MRI and a white blobs and told that they shouldn't be there. John is a mail man and has no medical knowledge or an awareness of how an MRI works. So essentially, he understands none of the reasoning given by the Doctor to justify having his head cut open. What is the most reasonable thing for John to do?

Is it
1. Hit the books and verify that the Doctor is right?

2. Go ahead with the surgery?

You apparently have an argument with the Catholic Church's own media arm.

That was a nice one. But let me explain why your reference to that document does not help you.

1. The document states how the one true Church is identifiable by certain marks

2. But the fact that there is only one true Church and the marks it should have are a teaching of the Apostolic Successors.

3. So if I did not assent to the Successors in the fist place, I have no reason to think there is a "Church" or "marks" to begin with.

4. To argue that I justify my assent to the Successors based on the reasoning presented in that argument is therefore circular reasoning i.e. fallacious.


Now just so we are clear what that document does say. It explains to someone who has already arrived at the point of assenting to Apostolic Succession as to how one can determine which Church to assent to. In fact, if you notice the descriptions for each of the marks, they contrast Catholicism with other sects of Christianity. So this document is helpful for someone who already holds on to some Christian truths. Or a Catholic who travels from one place to another to locate the Church in that other location.

Now even if you do not like my explanation of what the document means, I think you should see from the preceding argument I presented that you cannot use it to justify my original question as invalid.

So I think you still need to get back to me with an answer.

Crude said...

The matter is irrelevant to practical life. So one does not have a need to hold it either true or false. BUT, they should indeed hold to Geocentrism, especially in light of the Church stance, until the authorities themselves reversed the position.

What relevance is the relevance to practical life?

Either way, I disagree. But you're committing people to accepting as truth even what is untruth, because... what? In your own words, it has no practical effect on their lives. They certainly aren't even privy to the ultimately incorrect reasoning they were presented with. So why must they accept this authority?

I am not sure what your point is Crude.

That your hypothetical situation apparently involves a health minister who has no personal knowledge of public health or medicine, or even science.

John is given a diagnosis by his doctor that he only has few days to live unless he undergoes a brain surgery to remove a tumor. John is shown a MRI and a white blobs and told that they shouldn't be there. John is a mail man and has no medical knowledge or an awareness of how an MRI works. So essentially, he understands none of the reasoning given by the Doctor to justify having his head cut open. What is the most reasonable thing for John to do?

First, you're talking about what John should do. But I haven't addressed actions - I've addressed belief.

Second, that's going to depend on the context of the diagnosis. Did the doctor just walk up to John on the street and take his pulse? Did he diagnose him over the phone after calling him up in telemarketer fashion? John doesn't understand the diagnosis - but how much can he be made to understand in a reasonable conversation?

A man with a degree in homeopathic medicine overhears your complaints at a party about having problems sleeping. He recommends you some homeopathic sleep aids. The man is a certified expert in homeopathic medicine from the American University of Complementary Medicine. What do you do?

2. But the fact that there is only one true Church and the marks it should have are a teaching of the Apostolic Successors.

According to the document, this is something that can be discerned by the Bible, hence 154 and 155.

It explains to someone who has already arrived at the point of assenting to Apostolic Succession

Which, they believe, one can do by reference to the Bible. Contrary to your earlier claim that you have to accept the Church's teaching before you can see the Church is the True Church.

So no, I think your comparison is done here.

Eufrosnia D said...

"Either way, I disagree. But you're committing people to accepting as truth even what is untruth, because... what? In your own words, it has no practical effect on their lives. They certainly aren't even privy to the ultimately incorrect reasoning they were presented with. So why must they accept this authority?"

Well, lets be clear on something. Geocentrism was actually sound in reasoning at the time. It was only the new facts that came to light that challenged the idea. Even then, there was some debate as to whether the new evidence was admissible (questions regarding the new instrumentation).

Therefore, to expect someone to hold that position given the Church's insistence upon it was actually reasonable.

First, you're talking about what John should do. But I haven't addressed actions - I've addressed belief.

As I said in the other Post of yours, the issue here is that you separate the act from belief which does not make much sense in this case. There is no such thing as the "agnostic" act in most cases. One must either act accordance to the positive or negative belief.

Not the more important questions

According to the document, this is something that can be discerned by the Bible, hence 154 and 155.


The Church cannot say what you are implying it says because that would be fallacious reasoning.

The Bible is nothing more than a historical text at best without resorting to Apostolic Succession. Even more problematically, since it was these Successors that put this book together in the first place, one is right in doubting the point of it proving them as the "true Church".

In other words, your reasoning is circular or it already assumes you know at least the Bible, Tradition or Church has some authority. The Bible and Tradition cannot be known to have authority apart from the Successors. Therefore, it is the Successors that come first.


Which, they believe, one can do by reference to the Bible. Contrary to your earlier claim that you have to accept the Church's teaching before you can see the Church is the True Church.

Aah, you really think that is what they are actually saying?

How do you suggest we validate the claim that "The collection of 73 books known as the Bible is the Word of God" before assenting to the authority of Successors? Do you think it is even logically possible given that the claim is not within the empirically verifiable scope of knowledge?

The fact is that there is no actual way of doing so without resorting to an authority. In other words, the authority of the Bible (that it is the Word of God and is worth listening to) MUST necessarily be known from an authority. If you disagree, I challenge you to provide me with a single method that one can use.

So no, I think your comparison is done here.

If we abandon basic logic, then yes. I hope that is not the case. So I await a reply for the original question as well as questions I raised in this post to you.

Crude said...

Eufrosnia,

Well, lets be clear on something. Geocentrism was actually sound in reasoning at the time. It was only the new facts that came to light that challenged the idea. Even then, there was some debate as to whether the new evidence was admissible (questions regarding the new instrumentation).

I'm not disputing that it was sound reasoning at the time. I'm only pointing out that this reasoning was incorrect - and frankly, this sort of thing has happened repeatedly. (In fact, it happened with heliocentrism. The sun is not the fixed and immobile center of the universe.)

But you're telling me that someone who was agnostic about the question at the time, for lack of understanding, would not have been rational.

As I said in the other Post of yours, the issue here is that you separate the act from belief which does not make much sense in this case. There is no such thing as the "agnostic" act in most cases. One must either act accordance to the positive or negative belief.

Acting in accordance doesn't always require belief. You can act-as-if without believing.

The Bible is nothing more than a historical text at best without resorting to Apostolic Succession.

It's one hell of a historical text. And it's not just my reasoning - I'm quoting Church resources on this one.

In other words, your reasoning is circular or it already assumes you know at least the Bible, Tradition or Church has some authority.

I've engaged in no circular reasoning here. You said that the Bible is a historical text. It looks like one can look at what it says - as well as history - and start coming to conclusions about what Church is the true Church.

How do you suggest we validate the claim that "The collection of 73 books known as the Bible is the Word of God" before assenting to the authority of Successors?

'Validate the claim'? First, I wouldn't have to validate that claim to assent to the authority of the Church. Second, as I keep saying, I think someone can choose to place their faith in various things while lacking certain knowledge.

The Bible and Tradition cannot be known to have authority apart from the Successors. Therefore, it is the Successors that come first.

What successors? The ones you know about from reading the bible?

If we abandon basic logic, then yes. I hope that is not the case.

Abandon basic logic? You've had severe trouble even understanding the plain meaning of my words. You turned 'agnostic about a claim' into 'believe the claim is false' repeatedly, and when I cornered you on it, you came up with an excuse about acting-as-if, despite my already discussing that earlier.

I'm not particularly invested in your authority regarding basic logic, shall we say.

Eufrosnia D said...

"I'm not disputing that it was sound reasoning at the time. I'm only pointing out that this reasoning was incorrect.. "

Crude, you use the term "reasoning" incorrectly. There was nothing wrong in the reasoning for Geocentrism before the evidence appeared. It was CORRECT reasoning.

When the new evidence appeared, the new conclusions also appeared and thus the original clash.

"But you're telling me that someone who was agnostic about the question ..."

Yes. Because there would not have existed a rational basis for someone at the time who is not an expert to disagree.

"It's one hell of a historical text. And it's not just my reasoning - I'm quoting Church resources on this one."

Oh for sure. But that does not prove it has any authority to speak of facts beyond empirical verification.

"I've engaged in no circular reasoning here... "

The fact that the Church must meet those marks or that Jesus actually founded a Church is not merely historical fact. There is no obvious reason why Christ had to found an actual Church. While the Scripture is good at proving that Christ existed, his death and resurrection, existence of Apostles, I am not aware of Historians that would agree to the historicity of the actual words of Christ.

In fact, one could easily argue that the first Apostles fabricated those words to make them and their successors enjoy an elevated position in the Church. It is a credible argument that does undermine proving the authority of the Church from Scripture as well as the "True Church" before assenting.

So I fail to see what you are getting at here and how you have answered my question.

Crude said...

Crude, you use the term "reasoning" incorrectly. There was nothing wrong in the reasoning for Geocentrism before the evidence appeared. It was CORRECT reasoning.

No, it wasn't. It was a reasonable conclusion, but the reasoning was ultimately incorrect. They weren't aware of it, and they weren't culpable in that lack of awareness, but no - their reasoning was incorrect.

Yes. Because there would not have existed a rational basis for someone at the time who is not an expert to disagree.

Sure there was: "I have no idea what you're talking about." "I am not educated about this topic." Or even, if they became educated about the topic, "I've read up on it, and I am unconvinced."

Oh for sure. But that does not prove it has any authority to speak of facts beyond empirical verification.

You don't need 100% ironclad proof. Someone can read it and come to conclusions based on what they read and investigate. That's a big part of the reason why the disciples were told to preach the good news.

The fact that the Church must meet those marks or that Jesus actually founded a Church is not merely historical fact. There is no obvious reason why Christ had to found an actual Church.

You don't have to spend too much time to think up a few of your own, or even glean a few from the text.

In fact, one could easily argue that the first Apostles fabricated those words to make them and their successors enjoy an elevated position in the Church.

No, one could easily pull out of their posteriors that claim, which happens to have zero evidence either in the bible or 'empirically' via historical documents. If you want to endorse that bit of atheistic reasoning as fool-proof, go right ahead. It's not exactly doing wonders to illustrate your reasoning abilities here.

So I fail to see what you are getting at here and how you have answered my question.

I'm having increasing trouble taking you seriously. For example:

While the Scripture is good at proving that Christ existed, his death and resurrection, existence of Apostles, I am not aware of Historians that would agree to the historicity of the actual words of Christ.

Are you aware of historians that would agree that Christ was resurrected? What's the consensus of historians on that one?

malcolmthecynic said...

Franly, Eufronsnia, if I thought "one could easily argue that the first Apostles fabricated those words to make them and their successors enjoy an elevated position in the Church", I would not be a Christian.

As it is, I think that's a dumbass argument that does not hold up against any scrutiny.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Wouldn't being able to recognize someone, or some group of persons, as experts on X assume that you already know enough about X to be able to assess what expertise in X entails? IOW, if you are able to say that, compared to the experts, you are just an amateur about X, doesn't that require that you acknowledge some coextensive epistemic claims about X? I mean, if you're working from the position that agnosticism about X is just as reasonable as realism, couldn't you just deny that there are any experts on X at all? Might a proponent of your position say something like this: "They may claim to know all about X, but as far as I know about X, their expertise is meaningless."? The problem is that, as soon as you posit your own knowledge of X relative to that of the experts, you grant that there is some method or basis for making knowledge claims about X, whereupon it just becomes a matter of proceeding along that method/line until one reaches "expert" status. Perhaps all the experts need to do to defuse your challenge, is to admit that you are within your rights to remain uncommitted to their claims, but then show how even your meager claims about X feed into, and therefore build up over time, their expertise. "We're just as much amateurs about X as you are--but we just happen to be better, more dogged amateurs than you."

Keep in mind that I'm pretty inclined to agnosticism, even skepticism, so I'm not presenting a knockdown counter-argument. Something just seems a bit wobbly in the argumentation that I think you're mounting, which is unfortunate, because I actually agree with your thesis--I just want to tease out to present it more formally.

Crude said...

Malcolm,

Just to let you know, I've cut Eu's further replies. Really, I can take criticisms of my view - I know it's unpopular - but I think this quickly turned into a case of someone habitually misrepresenting what I said, and bending over backwards to either intentionally misunderstand or misdirect what was being said. I can easily deal with criticism, but if I want farce, I'll go talk to the Cultists on other blogs.

Other people are more than welcome to step up to the plate on this one, however. That said, I really think 'one is not obligated to believe what one does not understand or have adequate knowledge of' has enough intuitive force, outside of religious specific contexts, to at least deserve a reply to from anyone going after the view I'm outlining here.

Crude said...

Codg,

Wouldn't being able to recognize someone, or some group of persons, as experts on X assume that you already know enough about X to be able to assess what expertise in X entails?

Not necessarily, at least not in the sense being offered. 'Those guys everyone says are experts.' would suffice here.

I mean, if you're working from the position that agnosticism about X is just as reasonable as realism, couldn't you just deny that there are any experts on X at all?

I suppose you could be agnostic about the question. ;) That's not a joke response.

Perhaps all the experts need to do to defuse your challenge, is to admit that you are within your rights to remain uncommitted to their claims, but then show how even your meager claims about X feed into, and therefore build up over time, their expertise. "We're just as much amateurs about X as you are--but we just happen to be better, more dogged amateurs than you."

I don't think this works, since it's going to circle back around to my being unable to determine if they really are better. That's actually part of my case here - someone can tell me I should trust the experts because they know more, they work more in the field, they're better informed, etc. But I have no way of determining that either beyond penny-ante moves like 'Well do they have a degree?'

Something just seems a bit wobbly in the argumentation that I think you're mounting, which is unfortunate, because I actually agree with your thesis--I just want to tease out to present it more formally.

Go for it. I'm more than happy to have it investigated, or I wouldn't have made two posts about it. As it stands, I don't think the expert reply works, or at least it doesn't go off as easily as you just gave it. I'd go further than arguing merely that I can't really tell who is or isn't an expert or not - I'd say that, without looking into it, I may well not even know where their damn field begins and ends, at which point I'm really in trouble when it comes to trusting them by default.

I think some people have given the reply so far of 'You should trust an expert, at least with regards to their field.' Okay - Richard Dawkins says life wasn't designed or intended. He says it's his field - oh, and for an added bonus, the scientific community has been godawful silent with regards to correcting him in public on that front. Now, -I- know he's full of shit. But that's because I've scraped together enough knowledge to understand just what the claim is, where it falls in relation to his expertise, etc. But how does everyone -else- know he's full of shit?

Which would mean the pro-default-belief people are in a nasty situation. They are tasking people with believing expert claims by default, despite people not having any idea how to tell when the expert or the consensus is even within their field. For added fun, I can bring up Lysenkoism - were people bound to accept the known scientific consensus under the Soviets? But it was bullshit. And if you say 'Well, yes, it was bullshit, but that was due to their being influenced by non-scientific factors', my next question is 'And I know other scientists aren't influenced about this how?'

Heuristics said...

Just to nit pick a bit.

Ask yourself: How exactly do we know that the sun is not the center of the universe (heliocentrism) or that the earth is not (geocentrism)? How exactly were these two positions shown to be false?

I know of no experiment like that. In fact, since the introduction of relativity it is not possible to ask questions meaningfully about fixed points of space since they all are just in reference to some object that might be moving. As far as a question of where to put the center of rotation when calculating, its arbitrary, you can put it anywhere. if you want to calculate the movement of the moon, putting the center of the universe at the center of the earth produces easier math then if you put the center near the sun.

So, it appears to me that, even though it might seem unlikely, it has not actually been ruled out that the earth is not immovably the center of rotation for the universe.

Crude said...

Heuristics,

My understanding is that relativity does rule out the earth being the center of the universe, but hey, I'm an amateur at best. What I usually nitpick on is how people love to say 'Heliocentrism is true!' or 'The earth revolves around the sun!' when, again, my understanding of both is A) Heliocentrism ended up being false too, and B) there is no objective center according to modern cosmology, because one reference frame is as good as another.

Crude said...

Codg,

To add another thought: I'm tackling a few things at once with this entire line of reasoning.

I'm taking on the idea that people should, by default, believe what socially anointed 'experts' have to say about various topics, particularly ones that the people in question really have no clue about. I'm advocating for a weak position here - namely that agnosticism in lieu of those comprehend arguments and evidence is acceptable, even if taking the experts at their word is also acceptable. The issue at that point isn't science, but trust, and I'm willing to be pretty loose with who people are able to decide they'll trust.

I'm also taking on the idea that by trusting experts, people are 'trusting science.' I don't think they are - instead, I think they're trusting individuals and authorities first and foremost, with 'science' always a distant second at best. If I trust what X says about science, 'science' doesn't necessarily ever enter the chain - X could be lying about his experiments, rigging them, not even doing them.

I'm highlighting some of the innate dangers of trusting experts, which I think are severely obscured when we allow 'trusting scientists/academics' to stand as shorthand for 'trusting science'. People like Hawking, Stenger, Dawkins, Coyne, etc habitually and radically misunderstand the limits *of their own field*. With Dawkins it's particularly bad, because he's a 'scientist' the way he's an anglican schoolboy - it's actually something he was a while ago but has long since stopped being. I do not think this is limited to those particular fields by a longshot.

So part of the problem here is of my own making - each of those topics are intertwined, but they're also big enough topics to justify singular focus.