Are Those Without Formal Academic Training in Evolutionary Biology Justified in Challenging the “Experts”?
|December 19, 2007||Posted by GilDodgen under Biology, Darwinism, Comp. Sci. / Eng.|
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.