The “But You’re Not a Scientist” Fallacy

Skeptic

“But you’re not a scientist…”

The “… but you’re not a scientist” fallacy is an often-used ploy by evolutionists to try to disqualify any critique or observation about evolution (or actually any scientific discipline) that is not presented from what they consider to be a qualified evolutionist. Typically “qualified” means someone with a PhD in some evolutionary field like evolutionary biology. Without it, the objection goes, you’re not qualified to make any critiques or point out any problems with evolutionary theory.

A related ploy deals with the type of evidence that will be accepted. “Present me peer-reviewed data published in an accepted evolutionary journal or I won’t accept your evidence.” The bias in this ploy is obvious to anyone who knows the process. Academia is filled with evolutionists, so the peer review will almost certainly be done by an evolutionist who will not be fair with the material, if they even consent to review it. The same thing holds for publishing in an accepted journal. The journals are run almost exclusively by evolutionists, so evolution-supporting journals will not publish anything that doesn’t support evolution regardless of how well the study was done, how objective it is or how precisely the researcher followed the scientific method. So it’s a Catch-22. You need to present peer-reviewed evidence. But only evidence that supports evolution will be peer reviewed. Can’t get you’re evidence peer reviewed? Sorry Charlie. Evolutionists know this is the case but don’t care. Because for evolutionists, it’s not about finding the truth, it’s about protecting the evolutionary narrative.

The bias in the “but you’re not a scientist” fallacy is not quite as obvious, but is equally fallacious. There are a number of fallacies wrapped up in this one objection. The first being it is type of ad hominem fallacy. The ad hominem fallacy or attack, as I often call it, seeks to disqualify the person giving the argument instead of the argument itself. It’s an often-used tactic. Think of the lawyer trying to discredit a witness because of some character flaw in the witness – perhaps they’re a drug addict or prostitute. In Jesus’ day, examples of untrustworthy people were tax collectors and prostitutes. (Matt 21.31 – Regarding prostitutes, some things never change.) But obviously, even drug addicts and prostitutes can still be telling the truth.

The “but you’re not a scientist” fallacious argument was used by atheist physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss (who is prone to make bad arguments – see this article on that.) in a response to the article by Eric Metaxas, titled “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God“, where Metaxas talks about the fine tuning discovered in the universe to make his case. Krauss’ first objection to Metaxas is the topic of discussion. In his response in an article titled “No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God” Krauss states:

“The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist.”

There’s the fallacy and it could not be more succinctly put. I’ve already mentioned the ad hominem problem with this fallacy, but it’s more problematic than that.

If you follow the argument to its logical conclusion, then you arrive at a position where the only people qualified to comment on anything is scientists. If you disagree with the proposition that only scientists can make true statements, then you see the fallacy in this argument. But to make it crystal clear why you don’t need a PhD in a topic to reliably know something about a subject, consider:

  • I don’t need to have a PhD in mathematics to know 2 + 2 = 4.
    Or to know that 2 + 2 does not = 6.
  • I don’t need to have a PhD in meteorology to look up at the sky and determine whether the sun is shining where I am or if it’s behind clouds or if it’s night.
  • I don’t need an MD in some field of medicine to know that if an artery is cut and the bleeding is not quickly stopped, the person will soon bleed out and die.

I trust you get my point: you don’t need to have an advanced degree in some field of study in order to know or observe some truths about that field. But the “you’re not a scientist” fallacy assumes you do in fact need to have such advanced qualifications, and in the particular discipline, to make basic observations. But, to the contrary, especially when it comes to origins, many truths are either simple enough or evident enough that advanced degrees are not necessary for a proper understanding. The problems with evolutionary theory are like that. It has many origin problems which alone disqualify it from being a proven “fact” as evolutionists like to think.

Problems like where did the first life come from? The first cell? The origin of the information in DNA? The origin of the body plans evident in the Cambrian Explosion? And so on. And that’s just origin problems. We could go on and talk about design problems which natural selection can’t solve. The time needed for evolution to occur (Haldane’s problem is one piece of this) is a problem exacerbated by the fact that we live in a young universe which is only about 6,000 years old. These are only tip of the iceberg problems. You could go much deeper into each one but, even looking at the tip of the iceberg, it’s clear that evolution cannot be true. Any lay person can observe this. And, since any lay person can observe and understand this, I write about it to bring it to their attention.

I bring this up because I got a comment from an anonymous commenter (“John Doe” – I find interesting that he feels the need to remain anonymous) in response to my article, Evolution: Not Science, Pseudoscience. If you’re so confident about your position, Mr. Doe, why don’t you put you name to your comments? Anyway, Mr. Doe uses the “but your not a scientist” fallacy in his comment. He also includes ad hominem attacks but, as I point out in this article, though they may make the attacker feel good and superior, they have no value in advancing their argument. And since I see no need to repeat insults, some have been omitted. Otherwise, here is the comment:

Hello Duane,
I have just completed reading your academic background and I’m struggling to comprehend why someone who has no credentials in biology or genetics would speak with such certainty about a topic in which he is entirely unlettered?

Are you familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect? You seem to be a prime victim of it. The cocksure attitude as you present strawman, misinformation, and abject asininity throughout your little blog is grandiose evidence of your complete and utter failure to recognize your place in this world…which is someone woefully incompetent and uneducated when it concerns evolution. 

His “but you’re not a scientist” objection is apparent in the first paragraph. Since I’ve already commented on this fallacy, I won’t comment on it further here other than to say that, as is typical with this fallacy, he does not address a single point made in the article. Instead he lobs personal attacks that do nothing to disprove any evolutionary problems identified in article or support his unfounded belief in evolution.

The Problem of Scientism

In the second paragraph he moves on to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Named after the researchers who discovered it, it states that those with little or no training tend to overrate their knowledge or ability in a given field or endeavor, while, with training, such confidence decreases to a certain point as knowledge increases. Here is a little explanatory video on it.

His point being, or course that I’m “a prime victim” of this effect.  His Dunning-Kruger accusation reveals both unfounded assumptions and a tendency toward scientism in his approach. Scientism is the belief that the only valid knowledge one can have is gained through science. Philosopher and apologist J.P. Moreland wrote an excellent work on it titled “Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.” In it he quotes philosopher of science Tom Sorell: “What is crucial to scientism is not the identification of something as scientific or unscientific but the thought that the scientific is much more valuable than the non-scientific, or the thought that the non-scientific is of negligible value.”[1]

The problem with scientism is it believes that the only valid truth or knowledge is gained through science. That’s a self-contradictory belief. For a full explanation of why, I’ll point you to, and highly recommend, the book by J.P. Moreland. But here’s a quick taste of why scientism is not only self-contradictory but a false view of how truth or knowledge is gained.

Strictly speaking, if you believe the only valid knowledge is gained by science, then you don’t believe the statement that 2 + 2 = 4. That’s a math statement. Need I point out that math is not science? To prove 2 + 2 = 4, those who believe you can only learn truth through science (meaning the scientific method) would have to conduct an experiment to prove it. But they’d have a hard time doing it because tallying their results would require math statements which they have not proven yet.

Or consider this statement:

“It is impossible for something both to be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.”[2]

That is a definition of the logical principal of non-contradiction as it’s typically called; or the principle of contradiction as McInerny calls it in his book, “Being Logical.” But strictly speaking, those who believe only science reveals truth cannot accept that statement or any other statement based on logic. Because strictly speaking, logic is not science. But to properly do a science, one must necessarily employ logic to setup the experiment. So, just as science requires math, science requires logic. But, just as math is not science, neither is logic science. If you believe all truth comes from science, how then can those statements be believed? And, in fact, how can you do science without math and logic? A clear failing for those who believe in scientism and think that science is the only way to learn truth.

I point out this underlying premise in Mr. Anonymous’ statements because clearly he believes that whatever science he thinks I haven’t formally studied is more important than whatever truths I have learned from other disciplines that apply to this area. His rejection of those truths learned by means other than science is a clear indication of the self-defeating approach of scientism.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I’ll close by addressing his charges about the Dunning-Kruger effect. Apparently Mr. Anonymous thinks you cannot learn anything after your formal education or perhaps he thinks anything learned outside your formal education does not count. Or, as pointed out about above, perhaps his scientism leanings make him believe those without the proper scientific background cannot comment on scientific beliefs. Whatever the case, had he bothered to look at the archives on this site, he’d have seen I’ve been writing this blog since February of 2014. In a few weeks, that will be eight years I’ve been writing about evolution, the big bang and related topics. I wonder if he thinks I could have learned anything in those 8 years. Because the article he objects to was written in 2016. And, given the six years of learning and writing about evolution I’ve done since then, I still stand behind everything I wrote then.

Here’s another point Mr. Anonymous apparently hasn’t considered. Do people tend to start blogs on topics they know nothing about? Let me answer for myself. No, I wouldn’t start a blog on a topic I know nothing about. So how does Mr. Anonymous know I didn’t spend years before I started this blog seriously researching the topic and writing about it? And, before that, how does Mr. Anonymous know I wasn’t studying it informally and sharing what I found with friends and family? The obvious answer to both questions is he doesn’t know. It looks like he’s fallen victim to the fallacy of an appeal to ignorance: not knowing something to be true (or false) you assume the opposite in support of your belief

I don’t care what Mr. Anonymous thinks but, for the edification of faithful readers, I’ll share a bit about my familiarity on this topic in the same vein that Paul shares about himself in 2 Cor 11.5. Prior to seriously studying this topic I was an avid consumer of creation-related material, particularly in regards to the big bang and Darwinian evolution. In those early days I made a CD-ROM (for those of you old enough to remember those) to give to friends with info that defended biblical creation and intelligent design. I still have the original files from that CD on my PC. I’m going to show you some of the dates for when I created those files:

CD files 1

CD Files 2

For those who may never have seen a “.wav” file, it’s a sound file. As you can see those .wav files were created in January of 2003. That would be 19 years ago. So 19 years ago I was active enough in researching this topic to create that file. The “evo_def.wav” is a sound file of Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis/Ark Experience fame defining evolution from a presentation he gave called “The Relevance of Creation” for which I bought the cassette tape (for those of you who remember cassettes). The presentation is the one he gave when he was touring the country in the 1990’s giving presentations to pastors (of which I was one at the time) to alert them to the problem of evolution, and I went to see him. As evidence that the above represents a real file and is not just a picture, I’ve linked it here, so you can listen to, and hear a young Ken Ham.

The “design of the heart.mp3” file is from a radio series on intelligent design that ICR did on the radio years ago and made the files available on the Internet. I picked it up a few years after I created the Ken Ham file. You can see that the date is 2007. As the name implies, it’s about the design of the heart and details some of the intricacies of the heart that were obviously designed. Listen to that file here.  (I don’t think that series is available anywhere now, so enjoy this!)

So from this data alone, I’ve been studying this topic for at least 19 years (and actually it was before that). So according to the Dunning-Kruger theory, I’ve been doing this long enough that I can give an accurate, sober assessment of my own abilities in this area. This is my assessment:

Apart from any formal training I have in science and theology, I have been blogging on this topic for eight years, and researching and sharing about it one way or another for at least 19 years. I give presentations on this topic, and conduct museum tours on this topic as a certified museum guide. My assessment of my ability in this area is as follows. I am fully qualified to comment on the topics I cover which, as I explained above, do not require an advanced science degree to understand or explain. Furthermore, I have the assurance of being correct in my overall worldview (which is “In the beginning, God created …” Gen 1.1), because I have the light of the divine Creator who has revealed the answer to questions that evolutionists can’t answer, questions such as “What is the origin of the life?”

My first inclination was to ignore this question because, as I’ve written previously, I am convinced that “Evidence is for Believers – Not Mockers“, so, in my view, this mocker does not deserve a response or evidence of my qualifications. (Prov 9.7) But I write this first for the benefit and encouragement of readers so that you who read with interest and have “ears to hear” (Mark 4.9) may know this blog is written by someone experienced and grounded in the topic, not a novice. And second, so those without a background in science can rest assured that there are other sources of truth, like the Bible, that qualify them to speak on scientific beliefs concerning origins. 


Duane Caldwell | January 10, 2022 | Printer friendly version


Notes

1. J.P. Moreland, “Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology“, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018 p. 29
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2. D.Q. McInerny, “Being Logical“, New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004 p. 28
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Cowboy Bob Sorensen
5 months ago

Oh, boy. My response is going to be a bit of scattershot and self-serving to some extent. Mr. Caldwell, you have some excellent material again, and as usual, I’m glad to share it at The Question Evolution Project on Fakebook. First, some less-than-important comments. Any chance you were at a Back to Genesis seminar in Schaumburg, 1991? I met Ken Ham, Drs. Duane Gish, Henry Morris, John D. Morris there. It made a significant impact on me. Yeah, WAV files still exist and are excellent reproductions, but need compression because of the space they take up. Now we have MP3s… Read more »

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