When “Trusting the Expert Consensus” is Wrong

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by Neil Godfrey

I am quite happy to defer to “the expert consensus” when that consensus of experts is grounded upon advanced mathematics, quantum physics or anything medical.

There is a blog out there with a curious byline:

A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.

The first post on this blog that I read, however, indicated to me that that byline was ironic. That article, Trusting Expert Consensus, is a mix of good and evil, impeccable logic and fundamental fallacies.

In the introductory section of the post we read:

Expert opinion should be discounted when their opinions could be predicted solely from information not relevant to the truth of the claims. This may be the only reliable, easy heuristic a non-expert can use to figure out a particular group of experts should not be trusted.

From that principle I concluded that the opinion among biblical scholars and theologians that there was an historical Jesus should be discounted. But LessRight disagrees. He/she concludes the opposite, in fact.

The reasoning appears to be basically along these lines:

  • Although an obvious minority in the field, there are a good number of scholars who reject traditional Christianity and espouse quite unconventional and “liberal” views (e.g. Crossan, Borg).
  • This subset of scholars, including even a few who are even atheists, for most part accept the historicity of Jesus.
  • Their liberal or non-religious personal views would not lead us to expect them to believe in the historicity of Jesus.
  • Therefore “non-experts” should defer to the view that Jesus was an historical figure.

(By the way, I owe a thanks to J. Quinton for alerting me to this post.)

Yet the same article also concedes that virtually all of even those liberal or atheistic scholars were at some time in their lives believing Christians.

That tells us something that the article nowhere addresses. Continue reading “When “Trusting the Expert Consensus” is Wrong”