This isn’t exactly a business topic, but an article caught my eye about people who get scientific degrees based on traditional science, then use their credential to lend support to non-scientific groups.

If someone gets a legit scientific degree from a major institution, should they be allowed to trumpet that connection when presenting teachings that the institution would consider invalid? The article addresses creationists who get degrees in, for instance, geophysics. For example, Billy Bob gets an MIT degree in geophysics, even though his religious beliefs are creationist. So basically, his dissertation represents quality thinking about a topic he doesn’t believe in. But now that he has a degree from MIT in geophysics, he starts going out saying, “The world is 5,000 years old. MIT geophysics PhD Billy Bob says so.” He’s using the MIT degree to endorse a position that is utterly NOT endorsed by the institution granting the degree.

I’m offended by this, but at the same time, people routinely use their degrees to gain credibility without telling their audience where their views deviate from the views held by the degree grantors. Consider a physiology PhD whose public personal, Dr. So-and-so, is considered an expert in mental health (when her “Doctor” title has nothing to do with mental health). It just usually isn’t as extreme as someone preaching the very opposite of their degree.

… and what if his religious beliefs are right? Many scientists have had unpopular beliefs that ran against conventional scientific thinking of their time, only to be vindicated later when it turned out that a paradigm shift was needed.

It’s a tough problem, and the integrity of our ability to believe credentials depends on it.

Mind the (credibility) gap…

read time: 1 min