More and more often, I find myself disagreeing with the prevailing opinion in academia. The result of this is usually that I'm immediately attacked as if I'm a heretic, denying religious dogma. I find this very interesting. You would think that disagreeing wouldn't be such a problem, seeing that the scientific method is founded on skepticism and not on consensus. So why is this happening?

Before we dive in to explore this interesting phenomenon, let's first get our definitions straight by answering the question: what is science?

Science is a method of finding the truth.

The scientific method is a number of systematic practices that help you arrive at the truth. Truth in the form of accurate predictions (such as scientific laws) or explanations of certain phenomena.

So what is science not?

  • Science is not consensus.
  • Science is not majority rule.
  • Science is not the opinion of scientists.

Science is a method, and as such, it can be practiced by anyone. No matter your age, gender, education, degrees or accolades, you can be a scientist, as long as you follow the scientific method.

It seems like this is easy to forget, for a lot of people.

Way before there were universities with professors holding PhD's or flaunting other impressive degrees, science was done by normal people like you and me. And these normal people, following the scientific method, arrived at lots of incredible conclusions, scientific laws we still use to this very day.

Pythagoras

In this time, the rules were very simple: If you practiced math, you were a mathematician. If you practiced philosophy, you were a philosopher. If you practiced physics, you were a physicist. If you practiced astronomy, you were an astronomer. And if you practiced science, you were a scientist.

In short, these were the days before the cult of credentialism took root.

Before I explain what I mean by that, you have to understand that although people in the west have become increasingly secular, they haven't become any less religious.

Modern people still feel the need to defer their judgement to beings higher than themselves; namely to the high priests of academia, for only they have a direct enough line to the universe to be able to translate and share its divine wisdom with us, mortals.

This is what I refer to as the cult of credentialism.

The cult of credentialism has done away with the foundational scientific concept of skepticism entirely, and replaced it with blind faith in whatever the anointed ones with the right credentials say is true.

Anything else is unscientific, a.k.a. dumb and false.

The cult of credentialism leads people to reject and ridicule methods that change the lives of millions of people for the better, because their credentialed masters say it's not scientific.

The cult of credentialism also leads people to blindly follow the hysteria of their credentialed high priests, even if their predictions fail to come true over and over again.

Personally, I like to live by these simple truths instead:

If it's stupid, but it works, it's not stupid.
If it sounds right, but it doesn't work, it's not right.

Don't be a cult member. Stay skeptical.