Thursday, 11 September 2008

Intellectual arrogance

Massimo Pigliucci over at Secular Philosophy offers a considered rebuttal to notion of intellectual arrogance. I particularly liked it as he is an expert in his field and declares (rightly) that this makes him more qualified to make claims of fact than 'mere' laymen. Too often real experts are reluctant to stand on their authority for fear of appearing elitist or are frightened this might offend the listener in some way.
[snip]The reasoning, such as it is, goes like this: how dare you, Dr. X (put here any name of any scientist who dares to write for the public), claim that so many people are wrong and you and a small number of other egg-headed intellectuals are right? Who are you to declare the truth of evolution and the falsity of intelligent design? What makes you the arbiter in deciding what is science and what is bunk?

The answer is simple: I am an expert. You shouldn't trust me on car mechanics, or on civil engineering, or on market analysis. But what I have to say about science counts more than what most people have to say about it because I am a scientist and they are not.


More damning, you are engaging in the ultimate act of arrogance: to declare something true or untrue not because you have reason or evidence, but only because it makes you feel better. May I suggest that you need a good dose of humility, and that one way to get it is to admit that the universe is not about you, and that some people out there really know more than you do, as unpleasant a thought as this may be?