Today’s debate: a passionate defense of credentialism. State your view!

Today’s question for debate: are credentials (broadly defined) a useful way to judge opinions in our increasingly post-fact America? Post your views in the comments.

One criticism that’s come up lately in comment concerns my reliance on “credentials” of people providing information and analysis. To which I plead Guilty!

That’s evident in many ways on this website. Citations of authors include a brief description (usually of their institutional affiliation and position). Guest posts have detailed “about the author” sections. Evidence is often weighted by the credentials of the author, both in posts and discussions. Experts are often defended in comments, often to the surprise of their critics (insulting experts appears to be regarded by some as a sacred thing, immune to rebuttal).

Is that a bad thing when discussing matters of vital public policy? When discussing treatment of your child’s illness, are you interested in the healer’s credentials, and degree of expert approval of the treatment used? The debates about climate science and economics have made me even more aware about the importance of credentials in scientific discussions. I have grown more careful about this over time, sticking closer to credentialed sources (broadly defined).


Taking this one step further, debates about scientific matters usually hold my interest mostly to the extent that they’re somewhat anchored in the professional literature. That’s one reason the debate, which raged so hot in comments, about modern monetary theory (MMT) quickly lost my interest.

Of course the consensus view among scientists is often wrong. Science is a social process, not something ordained by God. Mistakes get made. Data trails and theories often lead to dead ends. Social imperatives distort science, as Stephen Jay Gould documented in his books. Science is as corrupt (in large and small ways) as everything else on this planet. Most importantly, new paradigms often (not always) arise on the fringes of science — as insurgent challengers. But science remains the best guide we have to understand the world.

These are my epistemological values.

Looking on a larger scale, I’m shocked by the contempt expressed in comments about economists and climate scientists. In the latter, contempt by both sides of the debate. Here comments show “warmistas'” contempt for climate scientists (who are good only when agreeing with their views, and are fools and charlatans otherwise). In comments on skeptical websites (eg, Anthony Watts) we see the equivalent anti-science views. Is this growing? Is anti-intellectualism returning in force to America?

Opinions differ on these matters, of course. Let’s hear your view.

For More Information

Posts on the FM website debating climate change issues:

  1. A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming, 17 November 2008
  2. Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
  3. Another pro-global warming comment, effective PR at work!, 1 December 2008
  4. The definitive rebuttal to skepticism about global warming!, 10 December 2008
  5. My Favorite: High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008
  6. A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America, 17 March 2009
  7. Is it possible to debate climate change with true believers? See the replies to Thursday’s post., 5 February 2012



46 thoughts on “Today’s debate: a passionate defense of credentialism. State your view!

    • Me, too. The conservative ones frequently place values above fact and reason.

      The liberal ones are often more focused, us vs them. Any position, however irrational, that favors Obama is good. Even if it is exactly the same as those liberals used to condemn Bush Jr as Hitler.

      Any that criticize Obama are invalid, no matter how well-reasoned and supported with facts. See Glenn Greenwald’s comment section for daily examples.

      Ditto for climate science, seen as purely a team sport on many warmist websites (eg, Joe Romm’s). Fact and logic are friend or enemy purely as the help or hurt the home team.

      Two notes.

      (1). Human nature being unchanged, it was always thus to some degree. History is the story of changes in the magnitude and frequency of specific behaviors. Has this behavior increased in recent years? I believe yes, but it’s a difficult question.

      (2). These are generalizations, nothing more. No always and everyone implied.


  • I think this boils down to good old confirmation bias. For all issues of popular contention, you can find credentialed experts that disagree. Confirmation bias dictates that people tend to ignore information that does not support their belief. In the case of disagreeing experts, their matching credentials effectively cancel each other out in peoples’ minds, and thus disappear from the equation that is the issue at hand.

    After all, how much can those credentials really be worth if that idiot can achieve them?


    • Ca you explain that a bit more?

      I was using the discussions of experts to set boundaries, roughly, to discussions of scientific matters. Since scientists often disagree — the current literature is mostly about subjects of disagreement — this usually doesn’t resolve public policy debates.

      It does, IMO, tend to ground and focus them.

      Looking at the post, this wasn’t clear to me — until I read your comment! Thanks!


    • Sorry, I guess that was a little half-baked and not really answering your question. I injected my own question: why do people so frequently dismiss credentials? In short, because they can; the alternative is cognitive dissonance.

      Speaking personally and back on topic, I’ve actually started paying more attention to peoples’ credentials, as a result of your posts. However, evaluating credentials can sometimes be even more abstract than evaluating the subject at hand. Who credentials the credentials, so to speak? For example, you cite Fred Reed from time to time, and refer to him as our only true Guru. While I respect your opinion, I myself have no idea what qualifications he has to comment on anything, and only so much time in the day to evaluate them.

      I would say that credentials are of value while a person is *forming* their belief(s), but once in place, credentials no longer have sufficient weight to alter those beliefs (in an unwilling person).


    • (1) “However, evaluating credentials can sometimes be even more abstract than evaluating the subject at hand. ”

      Agreed! Especially since there is no one set of credentials, and the credentials required vary with the I portal e and complexity of the issue at hand. I’ll want more from my child’s neurosurgeon than an economist looking at tax policy.

      (2) Fred Reed

      The designation of him as “America’s only true guru” was intended as humor, not a serious recommendation of him as a ur-expert! IMO his insights are often original and insightful. Not always, which is typical of fringe thinkers — but that’s often where new ideas are found.


  • “I think this boils down to good old confirmation bias. For all issues of popular contention, you can find credentialed experts that disagree.”

    Yes, I think this nails it in many cases. You can always choose your experts to fit your preconceptions or self-interest; but this certainly doesn’t mean that everyone acts this way. There are people who sincerely seek the truth. A while back, credentialed doctors pilloried the idea that babies die because the doctors didn’t wash their hands. The indignation was so ferocious that the poor doctor who had the right idea eventually committed suicide. One can find similar incidents of fierce opposition even in the most exalted halls of science, especially when a wholesale paradigm shift is at issue.

    Credentials in and of themselves are perhaps best described as a quasi-necessary but certainly not sufficient condition for credibility, let alone for perspicacity or correctness. Obviously, arriving at the truth of a complex matter is seldom an easy proposition, especially amidst a welter of opposing opinions on the part of experts, and quite aside from whether or not interests other than the love of truth have entered into an expert’s championing some viewpoint or other, since humans are subject to made kinds of limitations.


  • I would say that anti-intellectualism has been a growing force in American politics at least since George W Bush started intentionally dumbing down his public speeches circa 2000 (for example, see “They misunderestimated me”), and it has been growing stronger ever since.

    Perhaps the larger reason is because the ignorant are ignorant of their ignorance. Such ignorant individuals might perceive claims of advanced knowledge with suspicion, perhaps even as attempts at exploitation.
    More specifically, if you don’t know what a particular credential means, if you’re unaware of the years of education, training, and experience required to attain it, then you might assume such titles are easy, or even self-attributed. You might call this a “Dr Phil Phenomenon”, because Dr Phil is not a doctor at all, but calls himself one on tv.


  • Credentials certainly earn the bearer the right to a respectful hearing.

    In cases where I have neither the time, ability, nor interest to pursue the matter myself, they are also what warrants my deference to his judgment.

    But wherever I wish to engage in the discussion myself, I’ll want to see his evidence and arguments, and will brush aside his credentials as largely irrelevant.


    • I think that captures how many of us see this. It’s not that our opinion are dictated by people with credentials. As Buss said, they often differ on important public policy questions.

      But they focus our attention and time, both scarce, on relevant and reasonable positions amongs which we can pick and choose.

      Considering the amount of pseudoscience out there, often promoted by people with loud voices, that’s a valuable service.

      For example, look at the large fraction of comments about pseudoscience (and anti-science) at Anthony Watts website, the most active general audience climate skeptic website. Scientists who post there Leif Savalgaard and Walt Meier (National Snow and Ice Data Center) get massive amounts of abuse.


    • Yes, credentialed opinion does often differ.

      But I wouldn’t say that it establishes the range of “relevant and reasonable positions” from which we can (or should) “pick and choose.”

      Instead, I would say that it establishes the range of positions which we must deal with if we expect to be taken seriously (by the credentialed experts?), especially if we want to take up a position outside that range.

      … and, speaking from a purely rational perspective, I don’t think abuse is an acceptable way to deal with *any* position, credentialed or not. It can be amusing or otherwise emotionally satisfying, but it proves nothing. Like the doctors scoffing at the need to wash their hands, or the churchmen refusing to look through the telescope, it’s a failure to come to grips with the argument.


  • I want a licensed clinician (needn’t be an MD) to provide my family’s medical care, and CPA to do my books, but I still ask for recommendations from satisfied clients, the license isn’t enough.

    If it’s science, or economics, or geopolitics, I want to hear the argument, and I want to ask questions about what I regard as shaky assumptions (eg, “nation building is a solid counter-terror strategy, the only important discussion is how best to do it.”), without somebody flashing their PhD and telling me, “Look, I’m not going to waste my time debating 1st principles with you. Next question.”

    Anybody that’s old enough to remember Viet Nam should harbor serious skepticism about the credentials of the best and the brightest. More recently, you’d have trouble finding anybody with better credentials in his field than Wolfowitz, still, when Shinseki told him how many armed troops it would take to pacify a country of 25 million, Wolfowitz sneered.

    I trust credentials to the extent that the guy with the credentials is accountable if he gets it wrong.


    • You bring up some important aspect of this, which I deliberately didn’t bring up in the post.

      (1) IMO, based on experience, I am skeptical about non-experts to sort well-founded from bogus theories in the sciences. Everyman a priest or philosopher works, but some fields require specialized knowledge. In the sciences history shows that very often pseudoscience is more attractive to laymen than even well-researched theories.

      However unpalatable, that is the core basis of my post. As I’ve said, comment threads of active science (and, I’m told, health care) websites are living laboratories providing daily evidence.

      That does not mean that even theories universally believed by scientists are correct. Both theory-based and instrumental-based revolutions have proven that. It’s just the drastically higher odds of theories being right when within the boundaries of active scientists’ debate.

      (2) Looking outside the sciences — and what is a science?– this all gets more complex. I want a credentialed company commander leading me into a firefight (which might be an experienced NCO).

      What credentials — beyond good recommendations of long-term clients — does my car mechanic or barber need? Who are best suited to choose and design strategy of wars? Set tax policy?

      These issues quickly get complex! Hence beyond the scope of this post. Feel free to debate them in the comments!


  • Dan Gardner, author of Future Babble, has classified prognosticators as being either “hedgehogs” that know only one thing and see only the evidence confirming their ideology,or “foxes” that are humble, study many sources of information, willing to look past corrected errors of others, and openly express their uncertainty in their predictions.

    In my opinion, Anthony Watts is in the “fox” category.A prime example of that was his handling of a glitch in reporting of Arctic Ice cover. Watts took as a correctible error the reporting of Arctic Ice cover and was patient when the reporting center changed its averaging methodology. No blame, just a recognition that errors can slip in due to friction in large organizations, and patience while the unexpected and puzzling changes in published data were explained and made consistent.

    NSIDC’s oops moment – uncoordinated changes make for an interesting 24 hours“, 18 April 2012

    Watts may not have the best of scientific credentials, but his credibility took a large jump higher when I realized his methodology in this situation.


    • David makes a great point! I was mentioning only the comments on Watts’ website. What about the articles?

      Watts himself is a meteorologist of some kind (I don’t know the details), and a coauthor of one or more articles in peer-reviewed climate science journals (all this is from memory). So IMO he is a legitimate voice in these debates.

      But, IMO, not one I assign much weight to. He is highly useful as a knowledgeable pointer to and commenter on primary research.

      I personally assign less weight to some of the authors published on his website, where the quality is very uneven.

      More broadly, these are the kind of people I was thinking of when I said credentials broadly defined. Published history, relevant work experience, peer-recognition are forms of credentials.

      Everyone comes to their own conclusions in these matters. There are no reliable rules that always work!


  • FM claims “Of course the consensus view among scientists is often wrong.” Please provide statistics to back up this assertion. Articles from peer-reviewed journals only, please.


    • You cannot think of any?

      Continental drift was a minority theory from mid-1800s until late 1950s.

      See Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions for more examples, and the history of science literature for detailed analysis.


    • Here’s another well-known example:

      During the 1960s radiation biologist Tikvah Alper and mathematician John Stanley Griffith developed the hypothesis that an infectious agent consisting solely of proteins causes some transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. This was a minority opinion for a long time, as it violated the “central dogma of molecular biology” (term coined by Francis Crick in 1958). Prions were isolated in 1984, for which Prusiner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1997). A minority of scientists still oppose it.


    • Here’s another one, often cited on skeptic climate websites: the consensus among scientists about global cooling during the 1970s. Later overturned in favor of global warming.

      Oh wait, that’s a fake story. There was no such consensus. For details see

      1. About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009
      2. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009


    • Another example of the consensus being wrong: Barry Marshall demonstrated in 1984 that heliobactor pylori caused stomach ulcers and that the right antibiotics would be a cure. No one listened because the consensus view was that stress and spicy foods caused these ulcers. After a couple of decades of persistence in demonstrating medical facts, Barry Marshall received the 2005 Nobel prize in medicine for his discovery.


  • Chalk up another vote in favor of credentialism. This obviously comes with caveats, the more specialized the subject (particularly natural sciences) the more I rely on credentials. The humanities…not so much. History is one where I don’t really care how credentialed you are as I can quickly go on google scholar and survey some of the literature. Social sciences are odd as some like psychology have less math than others like economics. But for this website in particular, economics is much more prevalent so I like to see what institution they come from. Like say Princeton (saltwater school aka Keynesian macro) or University of Chicago (neoclassical with rational expectations) or the somewhat infamous economics department at George Mason with the attached Mercatus Center (Koch sponsored). Also, one needs to be familiar with that particular academic’s reputation as well like J. Bradford DeLong being dogmatic or John H. Cochrane spouting Republican talking points.


  • The key here is your claim “often wrong.” Wegener’s theory of continental drift is one example.
    Here are 50 (fifty) counterexamples:
    [1] Quantum theory was correct as originally formulated and has never been debunked.
    [2] Special relativity was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [4] General relativity was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [5] The molecular structure of DNA was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [6] Dalton’s atomic theory was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [7] The statistical mechanics of gasses as formulated by Boltzmann and Maxwell was correct as originally specified and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [8] James Clerk Maxwell’s electrodynamic equations wer correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [9] Darwinian macroevolution was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [10] Quantum field theory as created by Schwinger, Feynman, Tomonaga and Dyson was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [11] Boyle’s Law was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [12] The curve of binding energy for atomic nuclei was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [13] Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table was astonishingly accurate as he designed it, and succeeding years have only confirmed his formulation more thoroughly.
    [14] The thermodynamics of Carnot was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [15] Hamiltonian dynamics was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
    [16] The gestalt laws of perception formulated in the 1890s-1920 are not only correct as confirmed by many years of perceptual and cognitive research, they are now being additionally confirmed at a neurobiological level by fMRI scans and traced to individual biological brain structures.
    [17] Miller’s “magic number seven plus or minus two” paper from 1956 has held up remarkably well, and current cognitive neuroscience has provided additional support for this hardwired cognitive limitation on our short-term memory.
    [18] Quantum spin statistics have been re-confirmed in the years since Bose and Einstein and Dirac and Fermi formulated it, and much additional evidence has accumulated to make the proof doubly certain.
    [19] Hubble’s red shift has been measured and re-tested many times and found to be accurate. There is no question that the universe is expanding; all additional evidence has only served to support the original hypothesis.
    [20] The evidence that H. pylori causes ulcers is overwhelming and has only grown in quantity and quality since the original publication.
    [21] Pasteur’s germ theory of disease has only been more thoroughly confirmed as time has passed.
    [22] Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle has been tested so many times, and has been confirmed so often, that subsequent tests now only provide further evidence for the accuracy of the hypothesis.
    [23] Ohm’s Law of electricity has been confirmed so thoroughly that (except for superconducting materials) there is no point in even discussing the issue.
    [24] Kepler’s Laws for orbital dynamics have been tested and confirmed so many times that further tests only serve to solidify the original hypothesis.
    [25] The Schroedinger equation has provided predictions so accurate that additional tests now illuminate the details of the testing equipment rather than providing any contrary results.
    [26] Avogadro’s law has been tested and confirmed so many times that it cannot reasonably be doubted.
    [27] Cauchy’s integral formula has been proven mathematically. You’re out of luck if you doubt this one.
    [28] Abel’s theorem in calculus has been proven mathematically. Likewise, don’t even try to dispute this one.
    [29] Born’s law has been experimentally verified in quantum mechanics to the point where it can’t be doubted.
    [30] The Cayley-Hamilton theorem has been proven mathematically. Don’t waste time trying to dispute it.
    [31] Clifford’s theorem has been proven mathematically. See above.
    [32] DeMorgan’s law has been demonstrated from elementary logic. Don’t waste your time disputing it.
    [33] The Dirac equation in quantum mechanics, aside from being experimentally confirmed many times, also successfully predicted the positron.
    [34] Faraday’s law of induction has been tested and the tests have only confirmed it more thoroughly.
    [35] Fourier’s law in thermodynamics not only fits the experimental results, but results from mathematics which themselves have been proven from deeper theorems.
    [36] The Gibbs-Helmholtz equation in thermodynamics has been tested and proven many times.
    [37] The Huyghens-Fresnel law of optics has been tested and each test has only served to confirm it more thoroughly.
    [38] Kirchoff’s laws of electrodynamics have been tested and reconfirmed many times.
    [39] Lenz’s law has been experimentally confirmed so many time that it now recognized as a basic facts of physics.
    [40] L’hopital’s theorem has been proven from more fundamental mathematics. Good luck trying to question that one.
    [41] Minkowski’s theorem in number theory is a proven result. Don’t bother objecting to it.
    [42] The Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem, aside from being proven by deeper results in information theory, also serves as the basis of most digital media. The evidence that it’s correct is so overwhelming that questioning it is pointless.
    [43] Planck’s law is so fundamental and has been experimentally confirmed so many times that it’s pointless to try to doubt it.
    [44] Snell’s law in optics has not only been experimentally confirmed many times, but also reproduced from other more basic physics, such as Hamilton’s principle of least action.
    [45] Stokes’ law in fluid mechanics successfully predicts so many hydrodynamic behaviors so accurately that the Navier-Stokes equations can’t be doubted at this point.
    [46] The Van der Waals equation predicts surface effects so accurately that it is now used in computer modeling to generate new molecular materials with desired properties, as well as explaining oddities like the “stickiness” of gecko’s feet.
    [47] The Winer-Khinchine theorem in mathematics has been proven and cannot be doubted.
    [48] The Young-Laplace equation serves as the basis of modern fluid dynamics and has each experimental test only serves to confirm it in more detail.
    [49] Bayes’ theorem not only has been derived from more basic mathematics, but has been experimentally confirmed insofar as it provides the basis for most current working computer vision systems.
    [50] Byerlee’s law was derived experimentally and has been confirmed experimentally so many times that it’s pointless to question it.

    To prove that “the consensus view among scientists is often wrong,” please provide hard evidence from peer-reviewed scientific journals that at least 25 (twenty-five) of all the above laws are incorrect. Failure to provide a full list of peer-reviewed journal references will results in your not being taken seriously when talking about the hard sciences.

    Note: you may be talking about the “soft” or social science. In that case, see Campbell’s Law.

    Do not mistake the soft or social “sciences” for the hard sciences.


    • I’ve read More’s comment more closely. It is a reading FAIL.

      [1] Quantum theory was correct as originally formulated and has never been debunked.
      [2] Special relativity was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.
      [4] General relativity was correct as originally formulated and all challenges have only succeeded in confirming it more decisively.

      I said: “Of course the consensus view among scientists is often wrong.”

      You are listing cases where the initial theory was correct. That is irrelevant to what I said, which concerns the exact opposite situation — theories which the consensus believed that were false. The counter-examples I cited were extreme cases in which the consensus refused to believe new, correct theories, sticking to the older false theory.

      More has given us the fallacy Ignoratio Elenchi, presenting an argument that is logically valid, but does not address the specific issue in question. It is one of the fallacies identified by Aristotle in his Organon.


  • In the soft sciences, credentialism is worthless. Newt Gingrich has a PhD. Does anyone take anything this man says seriously?

    FM is correct about credentialism when it comes to soft sciences like the so-called “science” of economics — which used to be known, more accurately, as “political economy,” because it deals with human behavior and psychology, not with a hard science involving immutable physics. Any “science” which has to take into account human behavior will obviously not afford the kind of reductive mathematical proof available to hard sciences like thermodynamics or molecular biology, for the obvious reason that when you test a heat engine it can’t observe you testing it and change its behavior. But groups of people can (and will) do that.

    When it comes to hard sciences, FM’s claims about credentialism fall apart. Someone with a PhD in physics is likely to be quite reliable about hi/r area of expertise. Important caveat: credentials in the hard sciences are only valuable and predictive when the person with the credentials make statements about their particular area of expertise. Someone with a PhD in physics who makes authoritative-sounding statements about, say, economics is likely to be spewing nonsense, even if s/he is a Nobel laureate.

    But if someone with significant credentials in the hard sciences like (say) Freeman Dyson makes a statement about quantum field theory, his specific area of experimental, you will lose money betting against it.


    • “When it comes to hard sciences, FM’s claims about credentialism fall apart. Someone with a PhD in physics is likely to be quite reliable about hi/r area of expertise.”

      There is being pedantic, then there is silliness. I think we all understood that.

      It is, however, a reading FAIL on More’s part, as it discusses a claim I never. I referred only to “credentials”, not to academic degrees — let alone making a moronic claim that a degree makes the holder an ur-expert in the entire field.

      In fact that claim violates the nature of the post, which says that I stick closely to “credentialed sources (broadly defined).” That implies, as I hope is obvious, to more than academic degrees.


  • FM has refused to provide peer-reviewed journal evidence as requested. Pay no attention to his claim that ” the consensus view among scientists is often wrong.” As far as the hard sciences are concerned, FM’s claim is garbage and provably false.

    The test of any claim is the evidence used to back it up. I’ve asked for evidence: FM has refused to provide it. Observe FM’s reaction; decide for yourself.


  • “Everyman a priest or philosopher works.”

    No, it doesn’t. People who have not been taught to think rigorously commit logical fallacies without being aware of it. And logic is far from being the whole of philosophy (I don’t want to get into religion and the priesthood). In fact, the devaluation of the humanities generally, and of philosophy in particular, is one of the root causes of today’s intellectual confusion.

    People can “think” clearly enough so long as the train of thought runs along the tracks of their predilections and interests, seldom otherwise without the intrusion of sentimentalisms, ideological prejudices, and the like.

    The really serious issues of life are scarcely those of science, which merely deals with the observable and measureable, all the more so in that we are mortal beings, which surely has some significance, since we are aware of it.


    • Harold,

      Thanks forth at provocative comment! I’ve got to think about that

      In fact, I said that reflexively. I hadn’t thought with respect to philosophy, but have serious doubts that “Everyman a priest” — roughly a core doctrine of Protestant theology — works well in practice. The reformation era doubts by Roman Catholic leaders have to some extent proven right, although this doctrine seems to have spread thought American culture, even into the RC church.

      That’s a guess (ie,series of guesses) on my part. Anyone with real knowledge here to speak on it?


  • Why a sentiment against accredited professionals?

    Because accredited professionals sometimes behave according to an unwritten code of ethics that appears contradictory to those who are not practiced in reading between the lines.

    There is a balance between
    (1) the standards of your profession (i.e., intellectual honesty)
    (2) the will of your organization
    (3) the best interests of your organization
    (4) in rare and extreme cases, the public good

    Resolving conflicts among these when the stakes are high is an art, and for some reason it’s not allowed to admit that the conflict exists, so accredited professionals tend to say things in complex ways.

    I read an eye-opening book a while back called “Disciplined Minds” by Jeff Schmidt that talks about this, though its author had an axe to grind and was very negative, since he thought professional standards are *systematically made to be* subservient to power politics.

    Anyway, I think accreditation is obviously good.

    At the same time, FM tries hard to fish meaningful truth out of the politicized debate on government economic policy, or climate change. This effort would be resisted by accredited scientists because they are operating in the “professional” mode as above. At the same time, non-professionals recognize that, on these topics, they can’t really trust anyone. So non-professionals would resist the practice of relying on accreditation, and the official body of knowledge, and go to the only thing left which is common sense.

    Maybe if this values conflict thing was somehow brought to the conscious level it would help.


    • “Uh, oh. Another faux credential bites the dust.”

      Quite an ignorant comment.

      Academic debates consist largely of disputes between professors like Krugman and Lars Pålsson Syll (PhD in economic history in 1991, PhD in economics in 1997, both at Lund University. Associate professor in economic history in 1995. Since 2004 professor of civics at Malmö University).

      These disputes don’t disqualify or demean the “credentials” of either party. They are the process by which science advances.


  • Anti-intellectualism and ant-credentialism are not the same thing. Not even close.

    Credentialism is based more in careerism than truth-seeking.

    The quote (from Max Planck I believe) “science advances one funeral at a time” reveals the hubris of credentialism.


    • Paulie,

      “Anti-intellectualism and ant-credentialism are not the same thing.”

      Why said they are the same thing? But anti-credentialism can be an expression of anti-intellectualism. We see this in right-wing comments about economics — they know almost nothing about economics, but are confident they know much more than PhD economists.

      ““science advances one funeral at a time” reveals the hubris of credentialism.”

      How? I don’t see it. Rather, this refers to the role of powerful people in institutions — and their unwillingness to accept new ideas.


  • “But anti-credentialism can be an expression of anti-intellectualism.”

    Can be, but not necessarily. Certainly not the bulk of it.

    Let’s face it, there are no real experts any more if there ever were any. The ones we choose tend be chosen based on some kind of popularity contest, not be the results of their wisdom.

    Economists for example. It’s a good thing we didn’t rely on them to get to the Moon. They’ve been wrong about everything for the past 50 years. Hardly a science, more akin to a religion.

    “this refers to the role of powerful people in institutions — and their unwillingness to accept new ideas.”

    The very definition of credentialism as I see it. Careerists. What other motivation would stop them from seeking truth?

    The strength of science is that scientists are (were) constantly trying to disprove accepted theories. Not so sure anymore, the system is hopelessly corrupt.


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