Do I need a degree to disagree?

I notice this most often when discussing Global Warming aka Climate Change.  I have often been told that because I’m not a climate scientist, I shouldn’t doubt the “consensus” about the “fact” of  man made global warming.  I sometimes get this when discussing biological evolution, but not as often.

There are plenty of skeptics who are credentialed scientists in the respective fields, yet they are dismissed as readily as I am.  What then does it matter if I have a degree?

Why do I need a degree to be skeptical of the “consensus” but you don’t need one to agree?


  1. You do not. Like anything if you make your opinion on all research and draw your conclusion I would those detractors to kiss off….chuq

  2. In my experience, when people resort to saying “agree to disagree” it’s because they 1) do not actually have a solid foundation for their position, but have no desire to learn more and possibly prove themselves wrong because 2) they are emotionally attached to their position in some way. Those two usually go together, but a third reason that tends to stand alone is that they hold utter contempt for the opposing position and/or the person holding it.

    It’s also a safe, lazy way to not have to defend one’s own position that they think makes them somehow appear more “tolerant” than the one holding an opposing view.

  3. There is a strong presumption in favor of the expert consensus on any issue. We live in a division of labor society where the intellectual workload has been cut into pieces and each piece has been given to a group of specialists who do nothing but study their designated piece. Non-specialists have to do other things with their time, and should therefore be extremely cautious when challenging an expert, let alone the consensus of the experts.

    Still, the experts are not infallible. Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Mismeasure of Man describes the scientific racism of the late 1800s at length and shows how bias and cultural conditioning played a huge role in skewing the racist scientists’ analysis and even altering the concrete measurements that they got from their experiments. This doesn’t mean that we can just start rejecting any scientific result we don’t like, but it creates grounds for caution when accepting scientists’ claims on a divisive issue like global warming.

  4. For what it’s worth, this is the same way that billions dismiss other religions, right?
    John, I am assuming that you have not majored in world religion, or minored in Hinduism, yet everything but christianity is dismissed. We all do it to some extent.

    Funny you mention reading mostly the opposing view. I do the same. But in the middle there is usually a lot of good science that gets lost in the fray because it wasn’t published as part of an agenda.

  5. Training, education, knowledge matter — but that is no always correlated with a degree.

  6. @ John,
    Yeah, I figured. But on threads, how do we know a writer even has depth of exposure to critical variety of opinions — we don’t. And delayed thread conversations are hardly ever a way to help reveal knowledge level. Plus most bloggers reveal precious little about themselves — either no blog or a blog which is not explicit in sharing background. Background is important. For example, on your about page, I see no sharing about education or work experience.

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