I’m forcing myself to write a blog post even if it’s terrible. And I’m forcing myself not to start paragraphs with “so,”. Let’s see where this goes …
Something that always bugs me is when non-academics talk about a field of study as if the academics therein were subject to groupthink or trapped in an echo chamber. This seems to happen most when the consensus in a field runs athwart someone’s deeply held beliefs. This bugs me because it’s utterly, mockably inaccurate. The only thing academics like more than coffee and tenure is to disagree, loudly, with other academics in their field. If you find one researcher or thinker convinced of his/her model, you’ll easily find a dozen who disagree–and undoubtably for different reasons. Case in point: I attended a conference today in my subfield, where many of the presentations were focally about showing how their model is superior to someone else’s, or at the very least that someone else’s model has XYZ intractable problem. However, all of these models were under the umbrella of a particular strand of theory–which many others in this field criticize from various sides. In this sub-field, and in my field in general, there is disagreement stacked on disagreement, in a turtles-all-the-way-down fashion (sidebar: I’m guessing this ubiquitously cited turtle tale is apocryphal?). And it seems from interacting with academics in unrelated fields that this is par for the course: academia is full of rancor, not groupthink.
One upshot of this is, that if all the academics in a field agree on some point, WE HAVE VERY GOOD REASON TO BELIEVE THEM. For instance, while linguists disagree on 99% of their object of study, we all pretty much universally agree that, for instance, there is no such thing as “inferiority” or “superiority” when comparing languages, nor “primitive” vs. “advanced”, an attitude that is infuriatingly common among even (especially) well-educated non-linguists. So if a person whose core beliefs rest on the supposed superiority of their language, and they shrug off this virtually universally shared opinion of linguists as an article of PC faith or liberal groupthink, that person needs to drink a big shot glass full of shutthehellup, chased with a tall pint of dropthatopinionandprobablyalsoyourbeliefs. Because if there were even a shred, an iota of a good reason to disagree with this judgment of us linguists, at least 20 people would have published articles in disagreement.
Take-home point? If the vast majority of academics who investigate an object of study hold an opinion about that object, we as laypeople need to share that opinion. The obvious application here in anthropogenic climate change, whose existence and relative scope is agreed upon by almost all researchers in several fields that are relevant. To not take these academics at their word is, well, stupid. Because for those of us who are actually familiar with academia, if there were a credible case to be made that anthropogenic climate change is not happening, hundreds of academics would have written that paper. If you, a climate change denier, wish to retreat into the misty woods of “we can’t REALLY be sure of empirical findings and after all the science will change in a 100 years”, do so at the risk of having no epistemological leg to stand on for virtually all of your other beliefs. In other words, excuse me when I say your opinion is utterly invalid.