Today I came across the following retweet courtesy of Secular Outpost. (I must say, Twitter is an endlessly fecund resource for blogging ideas.)
While I might word things a little differently, I share the exasperation of this meme at those who opine on matters of which they are clearly not qualified.
My only caveat — and it’s a big caveat — is that the point is not limited to science. It extends to other areas, including two fields that are the frequent target of pop internet infidels: philosophy and theology.
When it comes to philosophy, I typically run into this problem in the fields of philosophy with which I’m most familiar: philosophy of religion and epistemology. Throw a Nerf ball into the exhibit hall at a skeptic convention and you’ll likely hit people who have said stuff like “I follow reason, not faith” and “There is no evidence for God’s existence at all.” Statements like this are borne of a bracing ignorance in fields like epistemology and philosophy of religion.
The same point applies to the field of theology (and in my case, Christian theology). The idea that a person who has never studied the fields of hermeneutics, biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology, is somehow equipped to critique (or dismiss) these fields is every bit as absurd as those who dismiss fields of inquiry in philosophy or science.
Let me add that I am not claiming one needs a formal degree in philosophy or theology (or science) to critique the arguments of philosophers or theologians (or scientists). Brilliant people can learn independently, so in each case we should judge an individual based on the merits of their analysis. And the starting point for evaluation is this: are you familiar with the pertinent concepts, terms, and issues that frame the technical discussion? Formal study and degrees is a means to that end, but it isn’t an end in itself.
To sum up, those who opine on scientific matters of which they have no knowledge merely demonstrate their own hubris and ignorance. Christians sometimes engage in this behavior, particularly in areas like those mentioned in the meme as well as others, most notably climate change. But atheists often engage in this same behavior. So we should be sure to call out this fatuous analysis whenever and wherever we see it.