Are Scientists Really Smarter?
I saw a post on a discussion board making a good point about the number of scientific societies who are in opposition to the socio-political efforts of the Intelligent Design movement. The claim was made that 'these scientists are smarter than you' suggesting that the opinions of posters on that board did not merit consideration. Such an argument "these people are smarter than you" is worthy of a discussion. I want to make several points.
(1) The argument itself is an argument from authority. It's also one that's commonly made by young earth creationists/ID'ers who flaunt their degrees like the male peacock feathers when seeking a mate.
(2) Arguments from authority are not necessarily bad. Authority arguments are used in courts all the time. Experts are called in to testify. In court, the expertise of the witness is established based not solely on the degrees earned (in fact some expert witnesses will have no formal college education), but it is based on the experience of the witness. So, the real relevance of these statements is that they are based on the opinions of experts in their respective fields.
(3) Even experts can be wrong so the statements made by these societies regarding ID/creationism should be given some weight, but should not be considered immutable.
(4) The opinions of these collective scientists can only be overturned if ID/creationists begin assembling scientific arguments and presenting those arguments to the rest of the scientific community. So far, in over 150 years of history both ID/creationism have preferred a socio-political attack on science in lieu of a scientific attack.
The opinions of myriad scientific societies against the socio-political efforts of ID/creationists is an important statement. Because these societies are composed of a cross-section (religiously, politically, socio-economically etc) of the globe, their statements are biased by only one simple idealogy. The underlying premise is that science can learn about the universe through careful and repeated studies. The societies oppose the imposition of any particular socio-political ideology on their work and invite all to partake in the world of discovery.