There is a special kind of argument you hear only from academic Experts. Non-academic non-Experts never use it; or, if they do, I’ve not seen any example (beyond parroting AEs). This academic Expert argument is a fallacy, and a beloved fallacy.
One name for it is the Self-Flattering Fallacy. But the better one is the I Have Ascended Beyond Fallacy.
It runs like this: I have discovered a thing that causes man’s thought to be irrevocably constrained; the thing makes it impossible for him to break free from the constraint; yet I, even I, have ascended beyond the impossible, and have come to deliver this message of hope.
The I Have Ascended Beyond part, spelled out here, is always implicit in real-life examples. You have to be careful not to miss it. It isn’t always easy to see, which is why this fallacy flourishes.
The fallacy is a staple of anti-free will arguments, which, as you’ve heard me say a hundred times, go: If only people knew they could not make any choices, they would make better choices.
Yet if people cannot make free choices, how does the academic Expert know that people can make better choices if the people knew of their constraints? Only one way. He has Ascended Beyond. He has become like a god and can see what the rest of us cannot. The fallacy maker says free will is impossible, but finds a plentiful fund of it within himself.
We will now see why the fallacy is so beloved of academic Experts, with this example is mentioned in the paper “Reasoning about climate change” by Bence Bago (which sounds like an old school Australian rock and roller) and others in PNAS: Nexus. These authors do not use the fallacy, but notice it elsewhere.
Why is disbelief in anthropogenic climate change common despite broad scientific consensus to the contrary? A widely held explanation involves politically motivated (system 2) reasoning: Rather than helping uncover the truth, people use their reasoning abilities to protect their partisan identities and reject beliefs that threaten those identities.
Ordinary folk are constrained by their partisanship. They have no ability to think themselves out of the boxes into which they find themselves. They can only protect the beliefs which were (we can guess) assigned to them at birth.
Yet—somehow!—the academic Expert has with a mighty leap freed himself from the trap. He alone can think clearly, unrestrained, as mere mortals are not. He can believe in “climate change.”
We see the fallacy, but what is the reason for it? This: Academic Experts amazed they are doubted on the continuing hersterics of “climate change.” It is unthinkable for the AE that the reason for this doubt is rational weighing of evidence by his skeptics. It is impossible he could be wrong and his critics right.
Since the AE has accorded his critics many opportunities to align his thinking properly—the AE has raised awareness!—yet the critics persist in their skepticism, something besides lack of education, something dark and structural, must instead account for critics’ doubt.
The impetus behind the fallacy does not apply only to doubting academic Experts on “climate change”. We find it when there is doubt on any popular theory.
There are many papers in which AEs cry out to each other in the kind of pained reasoning we see in the title to this paper: “Why People ‘Don’t Trust the Evidence’: Motivated Reasoning and Scientific Beliefs“.
Time for confession. I know so much about academics—and I say this with all contriteness—because I used to be one. Oh, it was long ago, and I wasn’t a good one. But I was one, and I am sorry for it.
The time I spent in that foreign land was not entirely wasted. I got to know the natives. This is why it does not surprise me, though it may you, that academic Experts spend inordinate amounts of time discussing among themselves why more people don’t love them as much as the AEs think they should be loved.
There are endless examples.
Here’s a common one: “Why Don’t People Think Evolution Is True? Implications for Teaching, In and Out of the Classroom“. AEs can’t stand that people don’t hold with their theories of evolution. Disbelief rankles.
It’s not important to us today whether the AEs are right or wrong about evolution. Let them be right. But the pain of their rejection has caused them to write papers like this. The idea is that we cannot discover truth because evolution has caused us to believe comfortable, survival-increasing propositions instead. Quoting myself: ‘”We,’ say the authors, ‘Prove, using truth, that truth cannot be known: Our theory that the truth cannot be known is true: here is a model which we believe is true that shows evolution does not lead to truth.'”
You will recognize the fallacy. And indeed that is your homework. Find other instances. Hint: they are most common AEs lamenting lack of love in “climate change” (see, e.g. sociologist John Cook).
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