Jul 15 2010

Beware the Nobel Laureate Argument from Authority

One of the core components of a skeptical world view is knowledge of logical fallacies – how to recognize and avoid them. And one of the more common fallacies we encounter is the argument from authority – arguing that a particular claim is likely to be correct because it is being made by some authority figure. In practice this is a bit tricky, as defending a claim with a consensus of appropriate scientific authority is perfectly reasonable. But we reject arguments from inappropriate authority (like celebrity endorsements) and recognize the quirkiness of individuals, and so no individual authority is ever very compelling.

There are occasionally extreme examples that demonstrate this latter principle – that no individual, not matter what their scientific history, should be relied upon as a sole authority of scientific truth. In science the Nobel Prize is often looked upon as the ultimate achievement, and Nobel Laureates carry what is probably an unhealthy amount of individual celebrity and authority. Don’t get me wrong – winning a Nobel Prize in science is a tremendous achievement, and only comes to those who have made significant scientific contributions. This is deserving of honor and respect.

But I would add a few caveats. First, there are many scientists who have made very significant scientific contributions who were never honored with a Nobel Prize. Second, winning a Nobel Prize involves a bit of luck. Hardly any scientist can set out to win a Nobel Prize – it is not just a matter of smarts and hard work. You also have to be in the right place at the right time – to make a discovery that turns out to have a huge impact. Impact is hard to predict, and is not always proportional to the difficulty and sophistication of the scientific research itself.

It further needs to be recognized that there are many aspects of scientific work. There is a technical side – knowing how to design and run complex experiments and how to use complex equipment. There is also fund of knowledge – keeping on the cutting edge of information in your field. There is also scientific vision – creatively thinking of new ways to potentially explain phenomena, and how to test them. And finally there is critical thinking – the ability to question even your own findings and the ability to weigh various kinds of evidence and avoid the many pitfalls that plague human thinking.

A great scientist will have some of all of these virtues, but not every scientist will have all of them in equal measure. Specifically, it is possible for a scientist to be excellent at the technical aspects of  scientific research, and also be creative in their thinking, but lack critical thinking. Scientists may also achieve mastery within their own narrow field, but fail to recognize that different cognitive skills are required to be successful in other fields of science. A physicist, for example, may fall prey to the false assumption that all science should operate like physics.

I frequently see scientists who are not physicians or any kind of clinicians make this latter type of error – failing to recognize that there is a certain logic to clinical science that they may not be prepared to deal with as bench researchers.

Linus Pauling

There are historical and recent examples to illustrate these principles. Most famous, perhaps, is Linus Pauling who won two Nobel Prizes: the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1954, and then the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963 for his activism against nuclear weapons. Pauling was a brilliant researcher, of that there is no doubt. But later in life he descended into quackery, advocating for megadoses of Vitamin C to fight off infections, including the common cold. This was part of his broader support for “orthomolecular medicine” – a term he coined. According to Pauling substances which occur naturally in the body can be used in high doses to prevent disease and promote health.

To me this is the perfect example of a brilliant scientist stepping outside his area of expertise and trying to apply the wrong principles to another discipline. The concept of orthomolecular medicine may make sense to a chemist, who is focused on the chemical activity of biological substances. But medical researchers are likely to find such ideas hopelessly naive (even accounting for the time period). Pauling failed to support his ideas with clinical research, and therefore failed to recognize the need to translate a basic science understanding of things like biochemistry to actual clinical applications. Despite our advancing understanding, the body is ridiculously complex and so net clinical effects need to be measured. We cannot simply extrapolate from our basic science knowledge to clinical claims, and Pauling did.

But further, the notion that if a little is good then more is better runs contrary to basic medical knowledge. For most biological functions that we care to measure there appears to be an optimal range of values, and having either too much or too little becomes progressively unhealthy. Also, evolutionary forces have conspired to put into place feedback mechanisms that keep a long list of biological parameters within an optimal range. We mess with this delicate balance at our own peril.

So while Pauling was a brilliant chemist, he was not aware of the risk vs benefit approach central to medical decision making, displayed a lack of humility in extrapolating basic science knowledge to clinical claims, and went against certain hard-won bits of biological wisdom. The result was pure crankery, but backed by the authority of a Nobel Laureate.

Eli Mechnikov

Perhaps a less well-known example is that of Eli Mechnikov – the originator of the concept of probiotics. He won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1908 for his work on phagocytosis – that certain cells in the immune system will essentially eat invading or dying cells. He did excellent basic science work on the functioning of the immune system.

Mechnikov ventured a bit afield, however, when he started speculating about the role of gut bacteria in health. He hypothesized that the metabolic products of harmful bacteria in the gut were largely responsible for aging. Therefore, by replacing those bacteria with more benign bacteria the aging process itself could be slowed. He extrapolated wildly from flimsy evidence to support this notion. For example, he believed that people living in Bulgaria or the Russian steppes lived long lives because of their diet, which included a large amount of dairy products fermented by lactic-acid bacteria. He never tested this hypothesis, but instead drank sour milk every day for the later part of his life.

His advocacy for the notion of probiotics is partly responsible for their continued popularity a century later. I am not suggesting there is no science behind probiotics. There is (to give a quick summary) some evidence for a mild benefit for specific gastrointestinal indications. As our probiotic knowledge and technology improve we may be able to optimize the use of probiotics for certain indications. Although there is no evidence or theoretical justification for routine use of probiotics, and no reason to suspect they can be used to increase life span.

Luc Montagnier

This all brings me to the contemporary example that triggered this article – the story of Luc Montagnier. He was the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine along with Harald zur Hausen and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi – Hausen for his discover of the human papilloma virus, and the other two jointly for their discovery of HIV. Montagnier’s work on HIV is impressive and he deserved the Nobel Prize for his work. But his later work makes me wonder if he is more of a gifted and lucky technician than a true scientific thinker.

Recently Montagnier has published a paper in which he claims that diluting the DNA of pathogenic (and only pathogenic) bacteria results in the creation of nanostructures in the solvent that retain the radiowave emitted by DNA. These radiowave memories can then result in the reconstitution of the originating bacteria or virus.

Here is the abstract from his paper, Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences:

A novel property of DNA is described: the capacity of some bacterial DNA sequences to induce electromagnetic waves at high aqueous dilutions. It appears to be a resonance phenomenon triggered by the ambient electromagnetic background of very low frequency waves. The genomic DNA of most pathogenic bacteria contains sequences which are able to generate such signals. This opens the way to the development of highly sensitive detection system for chronic bacterial infections in human and animal diseases.

Wow – DNA producing electromagnetic waves, which can be remembered by water interacting with background EM noise. He then adds the rather incredible notion that these signals can result in the formation of the bacteria or virus from which the DNA derives (by interacting with other cells). Montagnier is not making one incredible leap here, he is making several all at once. That is usually a sign that a researcher is getting erroneous results, and rather than consider a flaw in their experiment protocol they start jumping through logical hoops in order to explain their impossible results.

This article sums up the pathological science well:

The reasoning Montagnier used to reach his conclusions seemed identical to that used by those who study homeopathy. Obvious and simple explanations have to be skipped in order to pursue obscure ones, things that haven’t been demonstrated have to be assumed, and findings that have been subjected to repeated testing have to be ignored. It’s hard to describe the work as anything other than crackpot.

That’s right – this is homeopathic nonsense applied to DNA.

Le Canard Noir of Quackometer fame also points out that Montagnier assumes that only pathogenic (to humans) bacteria possess this property. But there is no theoretical reason that only some bacteria would have such a property, and that they would somehow know if they were pathogenic or not to humans. I would add, that this can only make sense if this property is what determined that the bacteria were pathogenic in the first place. But this flies in the face of a great deal of research which tells us why some bacteria are pathogenic and others are not – it has to do with their specific biological properties. I would further add that some bacteria are friendly at some times, but then can turn pathogenic at others.

Conclusion

Scientific achievement, while admirable, is no guarantee that one’s later work will be valid. This phenomenon is not limited to Nobel Prize winners – many scientists, after a mainstream and successful career in science, have turned to crankery in their later years. History has not been kind to such scientists.

The lessons here are many. The first is never to trust the authority of a single individual. A broad consensus of opinion should be compelling, and it is progressively less likely that may scientists (especially if they are coming from different perspectives) would all make the same mistakes. But individuals are quirky.

Past performance is also no guarantee. There has been speculation, in fact, as to why it is observed that older scientists sometimes jump off the deep end. Are they losing some of their faculties? Are they afraid that their legacy is inadequate and they are looking to punctuate their career with a dramatic discovery? Or perhaps they feel they have paid their dues with mainstream science and now wish to pursue their true passion? Then there are those who have been so successful that perhaps they feel they can turn their scientific eye to any question, even one far outside their specialty, and outperform the experts in that field.

From one perspective it is always a bit sad to see a respected scientist squander their legacy by delving into nonsense. In many cases they become more infamous for their crankery than famous for their legitimate contributions. But on the other hand, such episodes are constant reminders of the human condition and the need for a little humility (even among the best of us) in light of the awesome complexity of the universe we hope to understand.

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29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Beware the Nobel Laureate Argument from Authority”

  1. mindmeon 15 Jul 2010 at 11:28 am

    That’s a shame about Montagnier.

    Let’s also not forget William Shockley who co-invented the transistor, won a nobel, but then turned to eugenics.

    Then there’s the guy who won the nobel for PCR Kary Mullis who seems to be into AIDS denial, astrology, and global warming denial:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kary_Mullis#Controversies

  2. Eric Thomsonon 15 Jul 2010 at 11:41 am

    Excellent stuff, I learned a lot thanks for finding some of these more obscure examples. This could be turned into a book chapter.

    To throw in one well-known example, Brian Josephson is a brilliant physicist that I went to see him talk (at a conference on consciousness). He was promoting psychical research, and argued that because people from different cultures have preferences for similar musical structures, that is evidence for a universal mind that we are all tapping into.

    I was shocked, unsure if this was the same Josephson of the ‘Josephson Junction’ fame. But it was.

    Physicists, in particular, have a willingness to confidently poke their noses where they have no expertise. This is fine if they take the time to get the expertise first (e.g., Larry Abbot, Bill Bialek have made great contributions to neuroscience). But often it is before they have done the work to gain the expertise.

    Cosma has a hilarious parody of this phenomenon here, and a more nuanced discussion of this phenomenon here.

    Here is their model of this process (of physicists remarking on evolutionary biology):

    1. A physicist runs across or concocts from whole cloth a mathematical modelwhich is simple, neat, and contains a great many variables of the same sort.

    2. The physicists has heard of Darwin (1859), and may even have read Dawkins (1985) or some essays by Gould, but wouldn’t know Fisher (1958), Haldane (1932) and Wright (1986) from the Three Magi, and doesn’t dream that such a subject as mathematical evolutionary biology exists.

    3. The physicist is aware that lots of other physicists are interested in annexing biology as a province of statistical physics.

    4. The physicist interprets his multitude of variables as species or (if slightly more sophisticated) as genotypes, and proclaims that he has found “Darwin’s Equations” (cf. Bak et al. (1994)), or, more modestly, has made an important step towards eventually finding those equations.

    5. His paper is submitted for review to other physicists, who are just as ignorant of biology as he, but see that it’s about equivalent to the other papers on evolution by physicists. They publish it.

    6. The paper is read by other physicists, because at least it’s not another derivation of specific heats on some convoluted lattice under a Hamiltonian named for some Central European worthy now otherwise totally forgotten. Said physicists think this is cutting-edge evolutionary theory.

    7. Some of those physicists will know or discover simple, neat models with
    lots of variables of the same type.

    :)

  3. shalliton 15 Jul 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Nobel prizewinners are obviously bright, but there is no reason to think they necessarily have anything valuable to say outside their area of competence.

    A few years ago, I wrote to a guy who won a Nobel prize in physics in the 1970′s, pointing out that certain claims he had made about computational complexity in a book he had written were wrong. (In fact, they weren’t just wrong — they were fundamental confusions that even undergraduates would not make.)

    But, after all, why would we necessarily expect that someone who’s an expert in physics would know about computational complexity? We wouldn’t.

  4. banyanon 15 Jul 2010 at 12:37 pm

    http://www.cracked.com/article_18638_4-nobel-prize-winners-who-were-clearly-insane.html

  5. HHCon 15 Jul 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Yogurt has been consumed for at least 5,400 years by human cultures. Eli, a heart patient simply found a digestible source of protein. His consumption of a cultural food assisted his longevity to age 71. That was a longlife for a male in that era.

  6. SARAon 15 Jul 2010 at 2:23 pm

    There has been speculation, in fact, as to why it is observed that older scientists sometimes jump off the deep end.

    Has anyone done a survey – to figure out if it is a real trend or whether its just that some extreme examples make us feel like it is. I only got 2 hours of sleep last night and cannot remember the term for what I am describing…But you know what I mean.

    Because if it is a real trend, I think it would worth doing some research on. It would probably be a trend that could be found in other disciplines where the “greats” end up going off the rails. Howard Hughes jumps to mind.

  7. Michael Meadonon 15 Jul 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Excellent piece, Steve.

    There is also a long tradition of elderly scientists turning to philosophy… usually with extremely embarrassing results. (One – partial – exception is EO Wilson in Consilience).

    I wonder though. Einstein (I think) said that older, established, scientists have a duty to take on seemingly wild ideas that younger scientists may not be able to pursue because it could damage their careers. I don’t know what the record of this kind of thing is – young scientists tend to make breakthroughs – but it makes sense to some extent. (I’m not saying they should go quack – but they have more latitude to explore crazy seeming ideas. Which will, I suspect, sometimes pay off).

  8. gebradenkipon 15 Jul 2010 at 4:11 pm

    About the Luc Montagnier story: it turns out his “recent article” is not so recent at all, there was already a post up on your very own blog Science-Based Medicine in October 2009:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2081

  9. BKseaon 15 Jul 2010 at 6:19 pm

    A great article. I think in addition to illustrating the argument from authority fallacy, these are great examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect. It illustrates that even Nobel Laureates can fall prey to it. To echo Eric Thomson above, I could see such material being a very entertaining book, not just a chapter.

  10. Paisleyon 16 Jul 2010 at 1:44 am

    Steven Novella: “In practice this is a bit tricky, as defending a claim with a consensus of appropriate scientific authority is perfectly reasonable.

    It may also be perfectly reasonable to disagree with the scientific consensus.

  11. bindleon 16 Jul 2010 at 2:12 am

    Would “appropriate scientific authority” give more weight to the consensus of the New Biology proponents versus that of the more antiquated?
    http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12764.html

  12. Doctor Evidenceon 16 Jul 2010 at 9:16 am

    Holy Crap, now I’m double-skeptical.

  13. BillyJoe7on 16 Jul 2010 at 9:37 am

    Holy side-track, Steven, the dynamic duo are back.

  14. Paisleyon 16 Jul 2010 at 11:39 am

    Eric Thomson: “I was shocked, unsure if this was the same Josephson of the ‘Josephson Junction’ fame. But it was.

    I’m not shocked. Many of the greatest physicists have espoused (or are espousing) some form of a universal consciousness. (This fact is a source of embarrassment to the skeptical community.)

    Eric Thomson: “Physicists, in particular, have a willingness to confidently poke their noses where they have no expertise. This is fine if they take the time to get the expertise first (e.g., Larry Abbot, Bill Bialek have made great contributions to neuroscience). But often it is before they have done the work to gain the expertise.

    You’re simply jealous that the quantum mind theories are the brainchild (no pun intended) of physicists, not neuroscientists.

  15. bindleon 16 Jul 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Argument from authority:
    “For most biological functions that we care to measure there appears to be an optimal range of values, and having either too much or too little becomes progressively unhealthy. Also, evolutionary forces have conspired to put into place feedback mechanisms that keep a long list of biological parameters within an optimal range. We mess with this delicate balance at our own peril.”

    Evolutionary forces have conspired? An exception to the things “just happen” hypothesis?

  16. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jul 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Don’t feed the trolls.

  17. bindleon 16 Jul 2010 at 2:19 pm

    At least not while T’m still trying to digest this:
    “What follows from our ignorance of how X works is that we are ignorant of how X works.” Eric Thomson

    Trollery indeed.

  18. HHCon 16 Jul 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Why did Eli and others drink sour milk? If you review the time period in which he lived, the ice box in the U.S. and not the refrigerator was available. Domestic refrigerators did not become available in the U.S. until 1911. Given where he lived, he was lucky to get dairy products and an occational block of ice.

  19. HHCon 16 Jul 2010 at 2:45 pm

    According to the history of refrigeration pdf I googled, refrigerators were a commercial enterprise in the U.S. after 1911, but most countries did without this invention. In fact, only rich families in Europe could afford refrigerators by 1930.

  20. tiberiouson 16 Jul 2010 at 4:43 pm

    The key phrase is area of expertise. I feel uneasy when I sense an authority drifting into an area where they have no first hand knowledge. I actually had a doctor Google something on his laptop right in front of me. And charged me for this “service”.

  21. BillyJoe7on 16 Jul 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I really am at a loss to explain how some individuals just cannot recognise the common use of anthropomorphism in language and continually interpret them literally.

  22. BillyJoe7on 16 Jul 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I also cannot understand how any modern day physicists could take quantum or universal mind theories seriously without shrinking embarrassingly into their boots. An anachronism clothed up as the New Physics. Or is it the New Biology.

  23. BillyJoe7on 16 Jul 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Oh, and when we cannot find a natural explanation, we are not entitled to insert a miracle, we simply keep looking for a natural explanation.

  24. CivilUnreston 16 Jul 2010 at 9:11 pm

    BillyJoe, what kind of quantum mind theories are you talking about?

    I did a lot of reading about the Stuart-Hameroff Orch OR model and, while I wouldn’t for a second claim that I believe it, it does intrigue me. Their claim that the properties of neuronal microtubules might allow some electrons to jump into superpositions for short periods of time seems mildly plausible and I haven’t heard a less crazy explanation for things like zero phase lag coherence.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that the phenomena Stuart and Hameroff claim is unexplainable simply doesn’t exist. Regardless, I’m interested to hear a solid skeptical argument against this theory that I, admittedly, find amiable.

  25. Eric Thomsonon 16 Jul 2010 at 10:59 pm

    CivilUnrest said:
    I haven’t heard a less crazy explanation for things like zero phase lag coherence.

    Here is one. It relies on standard Hodgkin-Huxely type dynamics, the kind of thing your run-of-the-mill neuroscientist would assume is sufficient.

    The main skeptical arguments against Stuart Hameroff (one name, not two people) are:
    a) there isn’t good evidence that large-scale quantum effects exist in brains
    b) the extremely long-range and duration levels of coherence are extremely tough to maintain in the noisy, high-temperature brain.
    c) the armchair arguments that quantum effects are ‘required’ in some way don’t work.
    d) it isn’t clear at all that good old fashioned neurophysiology can’t explain consciousness (which has plenty of data linking electrical states and conscious states).

    I think that’s the general skeptical line of thought against the Hameroff-Penrose line of thought. If they had some data showing that large-scale quantum effects are important in real brains, that would at least get them off the ground. I think they should start with model systems like other real biologists. E.g., aplysia, the leech, squid, cell cultures.

    QM and quantum coherence in particular are likely useful mechanisms in some biological processes. The evidence just ain’t there that it mediates such large-scale effects as zero-lag local field potential synchrony.

  26. Eric Thomsonon 17 Jul 2010 at 12:13 am

    Just realized I was a bit lazy in writing previous post, so I wasn’t clear. Let me restate the standard four-pronged fork against QM theories of consciousness:
    a) there isn’t any evidence that large-scale quantum effects exist in brains
    b) the extremely long-range and duration levels of coherence that would be required under the theory would be extremely tough to maintain in a wet, noisy, high-temperature brain.
    c) the armchair arguments that quantum effects are ‘required’ to explain consciousness do not work.
    d) it isn’t clear at all that good old fashioned neurophysiology can’t explain consciousness (which has plenty of data linking electrical states and conscious states).

    In other words, the hypothesis is weak on conceptual (b and c) and empirical (a and d) grounds.

    The more traditional neuronal theories, as you might find in Koch’s book on consciousness, are the best game in town. I made a detailed case for such a claim here.

  27. Paul N.on 17 Jul 2010 at 3:31 am

    There has been speculation, in fact, as to why it is observed that older scientists sometimes jump off the deep end.

    Maybe I felt a bit offended by this sentence in Steven Novella’s blog, so please excuse my perhaps barbed remarks.

    First of all I’d like to mention there are diseases, Alzheimer’s for instance, that turn older people more forgetful and subsequently shut down there intellectual capabilities. I wont dwell on these disorders as they are difficult to diagnose in early stages and over a distance in time and space it’s impossible at all. I’ll focus on problems that lay in science itself and how it is organized.

    Over the last century science developed from something that was eligible for enthusiasts only to a well funded respected profession. Along with increased funding, however, science changed its character. It became a mere data collecting business with many thousands or even millions of data collectors—I would not call them scientists in the original sense any more. Don’t get me wrong at this point. Of course, we need money to advance science. We need even more, if you ask me. And of course, we desperately need this newly recruited army of data collectors without which so grand tasks as the Human Genome Project could have never been fulfilled. (You feel the rascal in this sentence. Honestly I didn’t intend this in the first place.) But nowadays reading data from a sequencer for instance, requires less ingenuity than say navigating a ship. Scientists are professionals as everybody else. You cannot pick a genius in this ocean of mediocre data collectors. All odds are against it. It starts with the application for a grant. Some years ago, I attended a seminar of the organization women in science where the lecturer explained how to compose a successful application. Not only that the procedure of writing an application clearly favors those who are good at language, which is not an essential element of an ingenious scientist, she explained how to embellish and exaggerate the proposal. This has nothing to do any more with Marie Curie exhausting herself and spoiling her health only to advance science.

    Also, because of this trend in science, it became increasingly difficult to pick a Nobel Laureate from the ocean of data collectors. Steven vividly illustrated how much luck is involved in becoming selected. I outlined how subconsciously such a decision is made sometimes.

    The same holds true when a paper is submitted to a journal. The editorial staff consists exclusively of successful data collectors and proposal writers, so the system is designed to accept almost exclusively data collection papers and to bar the publication of what appears too outlandish, with one remarkable exception that is if the paper is submitted by an authority, a Nobel Laureate for instance. And here exactly is the reason why there appears so much stupid stuff from older scientists. The peer reviewers are hypercritical towards young and unknown scientists and uncritical towards old authorities. They do so because they are incapable of better judgment. Some years ago editors tried to explain the reason for rejection and a discussion might have ensued, nowadays they don’t even bother to sent an email. It can be understood as an adaptation process as it happens in biology, during domestication for instance. The public money favored the adaptation of the scientific community to as easy as possible get most of the money for less effort. For the records, it’s a fauceir process in fact.

    By the way there is always a grain of truth in every so outlandish an idea or at least it can be an inspiration for an other more sophisticated concept, and this holds true for the Luc Montagnier paper too, but this is an other story not to be related here.

  28. shawmutton 17 Jul 2010 at 7:40 am

    @mindme

    Funny, Kary Mullis was the first person I thought of when reading this headline. His research is the reason I have a job today, and I bought his book “Dancing Naked in the Mind Field” hoping for some great insight into a great mind. I got some insight for sure, but wow, he is an interesting dude to say the least. Talking alien raccoons, tripping himself into oblivion for days, getting rescued on an astral plane, and then there’s the stuff you mentioned.

    It actually was a good lesson in just this topic.

  29. czrpbon 19 Jul 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hi! So, what situations are we taking about? Do you mean in a *specific scientific* discussion *regarding specific scientific statements* between, say, two biologists and one of them evokes Einstein’s name as some justification for something? Or do you mean around the dinner table? ‘Cause if you mean the later, then I disagree. The important point made in this post is this: “A great scientist will have some of all of these virtues [critical thinking being one], but not every scientist will have all of them in equal measure.” No kidding! But why is it illogical to assume that one trained is more likely to be correct than one not *in pretty much any/every area*? If you were to take say a random scientists from the NAS and a random person from the small town in which I type this, give both a bunch of stuff to read on a topic outside their expertise, and then ask them to make or evaluate statements on it from mundane, to extrapolative, to radical, to fanciful, to outrageous, do we agree that the scientists will make or identify statements more consistent and more plausible than the “average Joe” (including me of course)?

    So, to summarize myself: I assume we would take belief-statements on any/all topics from a Nobel Laureates as more ‘worthy’ than from a 10yr old. So at what point as the 10yr ages does their opinion approach equality with the NL?

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