Via another blog I found this post by someone named dlamming responding to my post about the DI’s infamous list of “dissenting” scientists. Unfortunately, dlamming spends most of his time attacking a straw man version of what I said and presuming that I meant something far stronger than I meant (or said, for that matter). He quotes my statement that most of the scientists on the DI’s list are not trained in evolutionary fields and then says:
In my opinion, this smacks of the absolute worst form of elitism. Taking this conclusion to its logical extreme, only evolutionary and developmental biologists should be able to talk about evolution, and only nuclear engineers would be able to discuss the pros and cons of building new nuclear power plants.
I think that most chemists and engineers are perfectly capable of discussing the validity of evolutionary theory – just like I think that evolutionary biologists are entitled to discuss both Iraq and wiretapping, while a computer scientist can talk about DDT, and a “freelance writer and businessman” such as Tim Lambert should be able to talk about both evolution and DUI tests. For anyone who blogs outside the narrow field of their supposed expertise to say otherwise smacks just a little bit of hypocrisy.
First of all, the notion that this is the “absolute worst form of elitism” is just so much empty and hyperbolic rhetoric. It doesn’t take much effort to conceive of far worse forms of elitism than noting that those who are trained in a given field are probably more likely to make a credible argument about that field than those who are not. An ideology of, for instance, forced sterilization of those one believes to be inferior would obviously be an infinitely worse form of elitism and the two are hardly comparable. My argument is, at worst, an extraordinarily mild form of elitism. It also has the great virtue of being true.
Second, his “logical extreme” version of my argument has nothing to do with my argument. I neither said nor implied that those without training in a given field should be “able to discuss” the issue. For crying out loud, I am not a trained scientist myself, why on earth would anyone believe I’m taking such an absurd position? What dlamming misses is the context of my post. The DI’s list of “dissenting” scientists is a very simple appeal to authority, but if one is going to make such an appeal the authority should at least be legitimate.
Of course an engineer or a physicist (or an educated amateur like myself who has taken the time to educate himself on the subject) may be capable of discussing evolutionary biology quite competently. I think that I discuss the issue quite knowledgably and I’m more than happy to let my arguments defend themselves in this regard. I’m certainly not going to put my name on any list to suggest that I have any legitimate authority in the field. But the DI’s list doesn’t cite any arguments it merely appeals to the authority of those on the list and it is an entirely valid criticism to point out that most of the people on the list simply don’t have that kind of legitimate authority. It’s roughly equivalent to claiming that 4 out of 5 mechanics agree that chewing Trident gum will reduce tooth decay – yes, it’s possible that those 5 mechanics have taken the time to study the question and have made a rational conclusion based upon that study, but it’s hardly something one should accept blindly. And by the way, I am the freelance writer and businessman, not Tim Lambert.