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Are Those Without Formal Academic Training in Evolutionary Biology Justified in Challenging the “Experts”?

This is a recurring challenge that most recently reared its head in a comment concerning my essay, Why Mathematicians, Computer Scientists, and Engineers Tend to be More Skeptical of Darwinian Claims.

The argument goes like this (as presented by the commenter in the link provided above):

The majority of degreed computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have completed no college course work in the life sciences. Virtually all have college physics under their belts. Some studied chemistry in college. Relatively few enrolled in college courses in biology.

Among “expert” critics of scholarly fields not their own, at most one in a thousand makes a substantive contribution. If UD should happen to be chock-full of engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians who have all caught life scientists in fundamental error, then it would constitute a singular event in the history of science.

If UD readers promise not to tell anyone, I’ll disclose a secret about my college academic training.

My three college degrees are in foreign language, literature, and music. I now earn my living as a software engineer in aerospace research and development, with specialties in navigation and control software for precision-guided airdrop systems, and most recently in explicit finite-element analysis of dynamic systems. I became interested in software engineering when I discovered artificial intelligence in the mid-1980s, and am the primary author of two world-class AI programs. I am almost completely self-taught in all disciplines outside of those represented by my college degrees.

Although it might seem otherwise, my purpose is not to brag; it is to demonstrate that formal academic training is not required to figure out how stuff works, or to be qualified to recognize when claims such as the blind-watchmaker hypothesis have been artificially isolated from the critical scrutiny and evidential standards usually applied to objective scientific claims.

Why do evolutionary biologists (not to mention evolutionary psychologists) get away with extravagant and unmerited extrapolations from the trivially obvious to all of biology (with, of course, obligatory speculations about probable or possible “evolutionary pathways” that are thoroughly unsupported with details concerning the generative capabilities of the proposed mechanism)? I’ll leave it to UD readers to answer that question. This kind of thing would not be tolerated in any hard scientific discipline.

So, are those of us with no formal academic background in evolutionary biology (or, poor me, with no college academic background outside of foreign language, literature, and music) automatically disqualified from making challenges and asking hard questions? Some would say yes; I say no. Spotting a con game is not all that difficult.

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29 Responses to Are Those Without Formal Academic Training in Evolutionary Biology Justified in Challenging the “Experts”?

  1. I think the question goes beyond ID, frankly. We live in a culture that has an almost slavish devotion to the university system – when you think about it, it’s the one major, world-spanning system that has not (as opposed to Church, State, Economy, and Class) ever really undergone a revolution and transformation.

    Notice how, when talking about universities and education, the idea of being self-educated never comes up. Not even in politics, where the difference between democrats and republicans in the US is that many democrats believe every student’s college education should be entirely subsidized, while many republicans believe loans and self-pay are the way to go. No one ever questions the degree system. And hell, the people who would normally argue for price controls for everything from food to oil never suggest that college education should be subject to similar controls. Why is that?

    Autodidacts are treated as people who are weird, natural exceptions. Not ‘a type of person whose attitude is admirable, and whose capabilities should be mimicked by others’. There was little excuse to have this attitude when libraries were made common in the west. Now that we have the internet age upon us, there’s practically no reason. We have every reason and beneficial tool to promote self-education – yet people seem to dislike such concepts. I encourage everyone to ask themselves why this is apparently the case.

  2. Well, it’s getting easier to be “self taught”. Just go to the MIT Open Courseware website and grab all the biology course material IN VIDEO FORMAT that you want. You can even grab all the notes too. From the stuff I have watched, it assumes Darwinism a priori as the interpretative framework.

  3. Seems both the formally trained and untrained critics of Darwinism get charged with not being smart enough to understand Darwinism. How convenient is that? As convenient as the claim that Real Scientists(TM) understand Darwinism and know that ID is total bunk.

  4. well Behe is making the strongest case and he certainly isn’t an art history major.

    It all boils down to evidence to me. If the cambrian explosion was replicated in the lab, do you think anyone would *not* believe in evolution, even with all the mathematical arguments against it? Math can help in our understanding of reality but they can’t make up a reality that doesn’t exist.

  5. Hooray for the linguists! Which languages, Gil?

  6. Scientists develop theoretical models of the workings of nature. Valid scientific theories are those that have been tested against reality, to ensure that they accurately represent the workings of nature. If this is done, then anyone can use those theories to make predictions, understand phenomena, etc., and engineers, etc., can dependably use them to design and develop products that can solve particular problems.

    But in the case of Darwinian evolution, we see that (some) scientists have let everyone down. According to Darwin (see the last page of Origin of Species), the theory is supposed to be relatively simple:

    If there are organisms that grow and reproduce, and
    If there is inheritance of traits from ancestors to descendants, and
    If there is random variability of traits, and
    If the population grows faster than the environment can support,
    Then those members of the population with less-improved traits will die out, and those members with more-improved traits will increase.

    From this, the evolution of “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” is supposed to result.

    Yet when it’s implemented in a computer, in order to get any kinds of “forms” to evolve, it’s necessary for the selections (or variations) to be purposeful! The theory, as stated by Darwin, and propagated by modern day materialists, is obviously incomplete. The Darwinian theory of evolution is the first “valid” scientific theory in the history of science that isn’t an accurate model of reality.

    (If you maintain that, of course, Darwin didn’t have all the answers, then please let us know the critical materialistic addition(s) that must be made to his original formulation of the theoretical model to get it to work.)

  7. My three college degrees are in foreign language, literature, and music.

    An education akin to that obtained by the founders of science.

    Hey Barry, FYI, Bacon and Descartes both studied law.

    If the biology curriculum has become more indoctrination than education, the ugly, ironic fact is that biologists will find themselves with less understanding as to how life works than non-biologist

  8. “Although it might seem otherwise, my purpose is not to brag; it is to demonstrate that formal academic training is not required to figure out how stuff works, or to be qualified to recognize when claims such as the blind-watchmaker hypothesis have been artificially isolated from the critical scrutiny and evidential standards usually applied to objective scientific claims.”

    Another great comment Gil. Common sense is still common sense, regardless if you’ve been indoctrinated into materialism or not. In my experience there are two types of people: 1. Those who expect others to explain to them how things work, and 2. those who figure out for themselves how things work.

    I am of the latter, and my guess is that many UDers are as well. I realized many years ago that learning is an equal-opportunity process. By this I mean that anything can be learned, as long as you have the willpower to apply yourself and the desire to understand it, and it’s always the same – whether it’s software, law, biology, etc., all it takes is an application of mind.

  9. Hooray for the linguists! Which languages, Gil?

    French. My wife is a high school French teacher and we met in French classes in graduate school 33 years ago (how’s that for romantic?), and have been married for 31 years.

  10. –”Among “expert” critics of scholarly fields not their own, at most one in a thousand makes a substantive contribution.”–

    I wonder where the commenter pulled this from. Assuming it came from anything substantive, I would also like to know the context of it.

    These so called experts love to trot out statements like these caricaturizing “unqualified” dissenters as dirt farmers (no offense to truly qualiied dirt farmers, mind you), but they are more than comfortable with leaping the fence on the other side of the pasture to wax philosophical and to decree whatever they fancy in that direction (witness Dawkins’ most creative use of the mean vs the gene in his discussions on cultural evolution, for instance).

  11. I think the objection has merit in some areas for many people and the area of evolutionary biology is one of those areas. But as an overall generalization it is false in evolutionary biology and probably in nearly every other area of science and technology as well.

    Many of us who are not life sciences majors or do not work in the field are able to assess aspects of life sciences with the appropriate knowledge. For example, I have several different biology textbooks and have a video course on biology from the Teaching Company which spends a fair amount of time on evolution and have watched the UC Berkeley biology course section on evolution online from 3 different professors. So I know what is being said about evolution at the highest levels to the future life science graduates. If one has a logical mind then it is possible to make judgments about this particular area without having a degree or experience working in the area. Especially after all the cross examination and critical analysis that comes from both sides.

    People knowledgeable in the field point you to the limits of what is known and one does not have to be an insider to appreciate what these limits are. This would be true in any field including ones more demanding than evolutionary biology. One does not have to be an expert in physics to understand many of the basics of the standard model.

    None of us could work in evolutionary biology without more training but it does not mean that one cannot read the research and understand the implications. There are studies which might elicit the reaction of “what the hell does this mean?” But usually every study can be put in layman’s language with a little effort so that when one dumps a tower of studies on the immune system and evolution on the table, all can be put into layman’s language by one trained in the field.

    So there is a distinction that has to be made between one who can practice in a field and one who can assess the status of the knowledge in the field. Some fields are more challenging than others but biology is very accessible and not like “string theory” or some of the more esoteric aspects of mathematics.

  12. Gil, I agree with you on most points, especially about how cross-disciplinary input or critique is somehow off-limits especially when confronting the fraud that passes for the “scientific” view of origins. In similar vein as Jerry, I would however have some skepticism that someone without extensive background in higher mathematics and analysis can have any original input into the hard sciences or engineering. For example in your case I would think that an expert in navigation systems would have expert knowledge of areas such as systems of partial differential equations, Kalman filtering, system dynamics/modern control theory, discrete-time signal processing, etc. I would have a hard time believing a typical biologist could analyse developments in these areas, and wonder if you have mastered them yourself as a liberal arts sort of guy. On the other hand we have a popular music prof on faculty of one of the Houston area junior colleges, who has no college degree. Quite a piano genius and in demand as a session player and sideman for top-notch touring jazz acts.

  13. Gil Dodgen said,

    My three college degrees are in foreign language, literature, and music. I now earn my living as a software engineer in aerospace research and development

    How did you ever convince your employers that you were qualified to work in that field?

    As a mechanical engineer, I know that a lot of work in my field cannot be done without years of specialized training. Computer-aided engineering has enabled some untrained people to function as engineers, but they are not real engineers — they are not capable, for example, of verifying the computer results with approximate hand calculations. However, I see many areas in law and the sciences where it is possible for a person to be self-taught and become an expert in a narrow specialty. IMO anyone who has read several of the popular books about evolution should consider him/herself to be fairly expert in the field.

  14. On the question of formal qualifications:

    Can someone correct me if I’m wrong? I believe that the only degree that Darwin ever completed was a degree in the humanities. I know he started medical studies, but he dropped out. I think he studied theology also, and he may have graduated, but I think he dropped out of that, too. But I don’t think he ever passed a university exam in biology proper (or whatever it would have been called then — zoology, botany, etc.), despite the fact that he was on the way to becoming one of England’s greatest naturalists when he was still an undergraduate. So when the foes of ID scream loudly that Dembski or Berlinski are “not qualified” to talk about evolution because they are philosophers or mathematicians rather than biologists, a delicious retort is available to us. But as I say, I’d like to be corrected if I misunderstood what I read about Darwin’s academic curriculum vitae.

    More generally, I find the anti-ID side hypocritical about qualifications. They’re glad to take help from Ruse or Forrest, who aren’t scientists, or from Matzke, whose highest degree, a Master’s, is in Geography, but they are the first to point out any supporter of ID who is “not qualified” to criticize evolution because his or her degree isn’t in biology. They thus switch back and forth between “credentialism” and “respect for actual knowledge, no matter how acquired”, as it serves their turn. So they can demand that Behe answer grad students like Matzke and Abbie Smith, and not hide behind his credentials, but at the same time they can dismiss the arguments of Meyer, Johnson, etc., without answering them, by pointing out a lack of biological credentials. They make note of Dembski as “not a scientist” but a mathematician, but praise the blogs of Rosenhouse, whose Ph.D. is also in Math and appears to know much less about biology than Dembski. And on the Amazon blog, the only anti-Behe writer with a Ph.D. in biology, Levin I think his name is, who frequently criticizes IDers for lack of knowledge of basic biology, accepts without hesitation the biologically ignorant “help” of a lawyer and a “paleobiologist” (who by his own admission has no graduate degrees and will not point to a single one of his refereed publications). The double standard, or rather shifting standard, in all of this is obvious.

    (If any Darwinist is reading this, I double-dog-dare him to reply and say EITHER that Matzke and Ruse and Rosenhouse are unqualified scientific quacks who have no business speaking about Darwinism vs. design, OR that it’s the argument, not the formal training, that matters, and therefore that Dembski and all the other “non-scientists” who support ID deserve a hearing, regardless of their degrees, on the basis of the arguments they offer.)

    As for the more general question of autodidacts, that’s not really our main concern here, but for what it’s worth, my impression of autodidacts is that they can be either (1) very impressive, thoughtful individuals who are more worthy of a hearing than many Ph.D.s (I believe that Lincoln, Franklin, Montaigne, Rousseau and Socrates were largely self-taught), or (2) very brittle, combative, picky individuals, frequently concerned more about being “correct” (catching people out on little slips of grammar or arithmetic or historical fact) than about getting to the philosophical heart of a subject, and frequently rather manic hobbyists for some pet cause, be it Ayn Rand, Bacon wrote Shakespeare, atheism, or the like. The latter sort are often verbally very fluent and in a fashion erudite, but the fluidity tends to remind one of diarrhea, and the erudition frequently smells of pedantry, or of facts memorized without deep understanding. The latter type also often write with a cocksure arrogance that many scholars with a greater degree of formal education would eschew; it’s almost as if they feel second-class due to lack of degrees and have to make up for it with bravado. I’ve encountered many such people on listserv groups and I see them blogging on Amazon against Behe etc.

    So I’ve found autodidacticism a mixed blessing for the world. Some people aren’t harmed by it at all, and can even become more creative and less hidebound thinkers because of it, whereas other people are so stubborn, contrarian, and lacking in humility by nature, that they desperately need formal education to break down their intellectual pride and teach them well-mannered intellectual discourse. Thus, just as the internet makes a healthy autodidacticism possible, it makes the unhealthiest kinds of autodidact even more insufferable then ever.

    T.

  15. Timaeus thanks for the superb post, I appreciated your comments regarding “…the more general question of autodidacts….” which I found so interesting and helpful. I’ve commented before on Darwinist blogs how it is so apparent that the Darwinists seem obsessed with the portrayal of themselves as so much more intelligent than the 60% of US population that views Darwinian theory skeptically.

  16. Looking at the other side you’ll see that plenty of the proponents of Darwinism are not trained biologists either.

    For example, Daniel Dennett is a philosophy professor and his “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” is one of the most respected modern books written in favor of Darwinism.

    Incidentally, I don’t think he’s all that hot a philosopher either. In his debate with Dinesh D’Souza, Dennett had no response to D’Souza’s points about Pascal, Kant and Hume. It really surprised me.

  17. 17

    Timaeus said (Comment # 13) –

    More generally, I find the anti-ID side hypocritical about qualifications. They’re glad to take help from Ruse or Forrest, who aren’t scientists, or from Matzke, whose highest degree, a Master’s, is in Geography, but they are the first to point out any supporter of ID who is “not qualified” to criticize evolution because his or her degree isn’t in biology.

    Don’t forget Ed Brayton who runs the “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” blog — he is always pontificating about the law and science, even though by his own admission he never even graduated from college. In the following post, he has the chutzpah to condemn professional journalists who write about subjects that they are not expert in —
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispat.....alists.php

  18. I like Phil Johnson’s take on this in Darwin on Trial. He spent a good portion of the first part of the book explaining why he, as a lawyer, felt qualified to comment on Darwinism. He said that far from being disqualified, his training as a lawyer made him highly qualified to comment on NDE. Attorneys are trained in logic and the use of language. That helps us spot the illogical conclusions and equivications upon which NDE rests.

  19. Walter ReMine pointed out his experience as a magician and wrote that The Amazing Randi recommends that an experienced magician be part of any debunking team, since scientists simply are not trained in the art of illusion. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to Randi that evolution is also a magical claim worth debunking.

  20. “French. My wife is a high school French teacher and we met in French classes in graduate school 33 years ago (how’s that for romantic?), and have been married for 31 years.”

    I might be able to beat that for cheesy lines Gil.

    My wife and I had Chemistry together.

    Literally, we met in a chemistry class at University ;)

  21. Philosophically, the idea that one must have training in a particular field in order to make a useful contribution to it is total garbage, and this point can be proven very simply. In every field, there must be a first person. That first person cannot have been trained in the field, as otherwise the person training him/her would be the first person. Therefore, if one requires training in order to make a useful contribution, there can be no neew fields of knowledge, and more importantly, there can have been no new fields of knowledge. It is false that there have been no new fields of knowledge in history. Therefore, the idea that one must have training in a particular field in order to make a useful contribution to it is false.

    The example of Darwin cited above by Timaeus (13) just brings home the point to evolutionary biology. One can further ask, how do ordinary people get to be experts in the field? They get it by listning to lectures, reading, then doing supervised research. If autodidacts read their own lectures, do their own outside reading, and follow closely research that others have done, it can be argued that, while perhaps they may not have knowledge exactly like someone with a Ph.D., they could at least be competent in the field, and a good autodidact might even be better than a mediocre Ph.D.

    I am sympathetic to the desire to keep the field to the experts. In my own area, human medicine, a patient who comes to see a health provider wants to know that decisions regarding his/her health will be made by someone who will not make mistakes. While the ideal of no mistakes is not humanly possible, one decreases the probability of mistakes by going to only highly trained professionals.

    There are problems with this approach, however. The first is that no one physician can know everything. On the average, if you want good pediatric oncology (cancer) care, you do not go to an adult cardiovascular surgeon, even if he (or she) is top in his field. Knowing one’s limitations, and when to ask for help, is as important, or perhaps more so, than knowing the information in a given field.

    The second is availability. Getting in to see a doctor whose knowledge and experience are reasonable is better than trying to see the top doctor who is booked up for the next 6 months. Availability counts for something.

    The third is that most problems do not require that amount of expertise. That is why for many problems, a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner will do just as well, and for some, your aunt Margaret will fill the bill, and for a lot less money.

    There is even more of a problem of extending this approach to biological theories. If someone botches an operation for appendicitis, the patient could die, and rather quickly. If someone makes a mistake on the reach of evolutionary theory, at least from a materialist viewpoint, nobody will die or suffer permanent harm. There are years to correct the mistake, if mistake there be. Evolutionary biologists should be relaxed about the whole situation.

    It should be very much like the relationship I have with the nurses I work with. When a nurse asks me why I made a certain decision, I don’t try to tell her (most of them are still female) that she has no business questioning my judgment because I am an M.D. with a residency and boards behind me and she is just a lowly R.N, or even L.V.N. I explain to her why I am doing what I am doing. That way she is on board with the plan, and if I cannot explain adequately why I am doing something, perhaps I have made a mistake and need to rethink what I am doing. That does happen. Part of the reason why I have not been successfully sued is that I allow, and even encourage, nurses to point out my mistakes so they can be corrected before they do damage.

    The real reason why the argument that the question of evolution’s explanatory ability should be left to the professionals is used is not really to protect the public. It is because evolutionary biologists don’t in fact have the explanation, only promissory notes, but they can make sure that (almost) all biologists who get their Ph.D.’s buy those promissory notes, and continue to buy them, at least until they get tenure. So it is a way of loading the jury that will hear the case. I certainly know a lot about biology, but as an M.D., I don’t count. Perhaps evolutionary biology cannot have a Pope, but it can certainly have a college of cardinals, and in that way it can control the debate forever.

    This is just one more way of avoiding the real issues. To produce the eye without design, one must start with an organism less than 3.8 billion years ago, and either show or believe that mutations in genes 1, 2, 3, et cetera, each being an improvement on the previous set of mutations, produced a light-sensitivve eyespot, then gradual cupping, a pinhole, a lens, a cornea, an iris with muscles, et cetera, before the time of fish. In the old days, it was easier to believe. Nowadays, it is roughly equivalent to (actually worse than) believing that random mutations in Microsoft Office produced the YouTube platform. The only real way to believe that is to believe that programmers don’t exist, or that they would never monkey with already programmed code. Evolutionary biology as it is practiced is, now more than ever, anti-theist.

    The ready acceptance of Ruse, and Dennett, and Matzke, while ruling Dembski and Steve Meyer out of court, just underlines that this isn’t about being fair or logical. It is about winning at any cost. They know that, if they actually have to debate the issues in front of a fair jury, they will lose hands down. They have to get a sympathetic, or at least intimidated, jury, or their case is lost.

  22. I looked into Timaeus’ question above. Here is a good summary of Charles Darwin’s academic work:

    http://www.aboutdarwin.com/timeline/time_03.html

    It is true. Darwin had a BA in humanities, and while he obviously had a great deal of learning in biology, he had absolutely ZERO formal credentials in the subject.

  23. “The real reason why the argument that the question of evolution’s explanatory ability should be left to the professionals is used is not really to protect the public.”

    Interestingly (or at least I thought so) this seems to parallel the usual call for “regulation” and licensing in industries all over the place to “protect the public”.

    Interesting thoughts on the topic in regards to regulating “bloggers as journalists”. I would not be surprised if there was a strong parallel here.

    http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyo.....his-o.html

  24. “They know that, if they actually have to debate the issues in front of a fair jury, they will lose hands down. They have to get a sympathetic, or at least intimidated, jury, or their case is lost.”

    I find this the most fascinating part of the whole debate. What drives people to use all this chicanery. What is the psychological makeup that leads a person to do this. I posted a comment by Matzke a while back that showed him egging some other person on when he knew what he was saying was untrue and all he was doing was feeding the ignorance of a commenter.

  25. Miscellaneous observations and comments:

    Jason Rennie: I might be able to beat that for cheesy lines Gil. My wife and I had Chemistry together…

    Ah, chemistry and romance — a very good combination!

    Paul Giem: The real reason why the argument that the question of evolution’s explanatory ability should be left to the professionals is used is not really to protect the public. It is because evolutionary biologists don’t in fact have the explanation, only promissory notes, but they can make sure that (almost) all biologists who get their Ph.D.’s buy those promissory notes, and continue to buy them, at least until they get tenure.

    This is becoming increasingly obvious. Thanks for the insight into this question from your perspective Paul.

    Larry Fafarman: How did you ever convince your employers that you were qualified to work in that field?

    Actually, I didn’t. Someone else did. That guy was a hang gliding buddy of mine, who, at age 17, designed the most innovative hang glider at the time. He has no formal qualifications beyond a high-school diploma, but went on to revolutionize the hang gliding industry with another design several years later. He is completely self-taught in aerodynamics and other relevant engineering disciplines.

    After I won a silver medal at the first Computer Olympiad (sponsored by David Levy of chess and computer chess fame), my hang gliding buddy kept bugging me to come to work for the aerospace R&D company he founded with a partner. I was flying hang gliders and publishing a hang gliding magazine, and he kept telling me that my talents were being underutilized. It took some convincing on his part to get me hired (others in the company were skeptical), but he kept insisting, “Just hire Gil, and see what happens.”

    Everything I know about guidance, navigation, and control software, as well as finite-element analysis, I’ve learned on the job in the last four years. It’s been fun, and, it works.

  26. My grandfather dropped out of school after the 2nd grade. But he was a mechanical genious. Some of the things he made were truly amazing. He was also self taught in many fields. When he died his personal library ran into the thousands of volumes (all of which he had read, some many times).

    He worked at an aircraft factory, and sometimes the engineers would ask him for advice. I have always found it amusing that college educated professionals would ask a 2nd grade dropout for help. ;-)

    Of course I am not recommending that anyone drop out. I’m only suggesting that a lack of formal academic credentials does not mean that a person cannot make a significant contribution to a field.

  27. BarryA ^ your damn right- and thank you for sharing that story. There is somthing very important imbedded in it. That what we humans create (degrees and institutions) is not as great as what the lord created (the mind).

  28. The university system provides a valuable certification service. It certifies through the granting of a degree that the grantee was evaluated for knowledge and ability and was found to have sufficient capacity to meet a standard. This provides some level of assurance to anyone who might seek to employ the individual that they have sufficient knowledge and ability for the position.

    That said there’s a large element of financial self-preservation at work in the institutions of learning. Warm bodies must fill seats, tuitions must be collected, and overpriced textbooks purchased. There’s a money grubbing racket behind the service which serves to inflate the price of it at the cost of efficient delivery.

    For instance, when I was a student in the California university system back in the 1970′s there were a number of courses (not nearly enough but some) where the lectures were broadcast on PBS and/or video taped and available in the library. The students only had to show up for mid-term and final exams. I took every one they offered that were applicable to the degree I was working towards because it saved me so much time and expense. One example that comes to mind was Oceanography and Marine Biology. I didn’t even bother watching the lectures. I purchased the hideously expensive textbook for the course, read the whole thing in a weekend, attended the 3-hour review sessions before the mid-term and finals, and got a nearly perfect grade on the exams. I did the same for astronomy, human development and child psychology, human sexuality, Shakespeare’s theater, music appreciation, US history to 1850, political science, and a few others that don’t immediately come to mind. I also loved any professor who didn’t take attendance. I don’t need to sit in a classroom getting fed knowledge by a droning lecturer in dribs and drabs at inconvenient times and locations. Self-paced is SO much more efficient but that doesn’t support the racket nearly as well.

    I can contrast this with how the military does it. I received most of my electronics training (aside from computer electronics and programming) there before I enrolled in my first college class. The military does it in a no-nonsense style. Eight hours a day, five days a week, for 52 weeks in a classroom where nothing but electronics was taught. Some of the basics were self-paced so I was able to complete two 6-week (average time to complete) courses in a week each. The classroom time was mostly constant struggle to stay awake but at least it was structured like a 9 to 5 job instead of the haphazard schedules and locations you have to suffer with in a university.

  29. To understand that pure naturalistic origin of life and species are flawed there is no need of diplomas or PhDs.

    It’s enough to know four simple things:

    (1) More doesn’t come from less
    (2) Self-assembly is impossible
    (3) Chance and necessity cannot create information
    (4) Things deteriorates

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