Re: That idiot Darwin

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Jan 14 2001 - 09:25:42 MST

On Saturday, January 13, 2001 9:48 PM Damien Broderick wrote:
> >Don't argue from authority! ... No need to invoke prize winning statuses
> >or other achievments -- not that this is ever good.
> Hmm. This is an interesting issue, since in science (unlike many other
> fields of human endeavor) authorities often have this status granted them
> by their peers not due to birth or wealth or winsomeness or force of arms,
> but because of track record in their fields of expertise.

Think of stocks and bonds: a track record is no guarantee of future

> Acknowledged authority thus becomes a useful shorthand, inviting us to
> consult one rather than another body of claim and argument. Granted, this
> heuristic sometimes breaks down, when the brash innovator from the wrong
> sides of the track record comes up with a snazzy paradigm buster. But
> usually not. Science mostly *is* cumulative, despite research program and
> paradigm discontinuities.

The thing is the ideas, not the people. Granted, you might trust a zaney
idea coming from someone who is usually sober -- as opposed to from your
corner drunk. However, this is still not correct. This is only because
you're allowing yourself to succumb to spell of authority. (See below.)
The ideas and theories must be considered based on whether they explain the
facts (and some might argue fit with other ideas) better than others.

It is not a valid argument to say, A with a PhD in chemistry says X, and if
X then Y, therefore Y.

> That being the case, it makes plenty of sense to heed, by preference, the
> acknowledged authorities in the first, second and third instance, and to
> turn to the unheralded self-proclaimed geniuses as a last resort of
> desperation (and, of course, for fun and sport).

Nope. I might be willing to consider ideas from such sources more readily,
but the same rules still apply. In other words, if the corner drunk tells
me his TOE (Theory of Everything), I'm unlikely to listen long while if
Stephen Hawking tells me his, I'm likely to listen, BUT I'm not going to
think Hawking's must be true because he holds the Lucasian chair at Oxford
(the chair does not guarantee truth or wisdom), is considered a genius
(genius status does not ditto), and an expert in physics (expertise does not
ditto). (In fact, I disagree with a lot of Stephen Hawking's ideas.:)


Daniel Ust

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:19 MDT