Bainbridge: Does What "Elite Professors" Think Matter?AndAre Philosophers Experts About the Existence of God?I.
Via Instapundit there's this by Stephen Bainbridge.I've gotta say I'm torn on this one. If all I knew about proposition p was that more academicians than non-academicians believed it, I'm not initially certain whether I'd bet on its truth or not. Bainbridge is right that it'd be a good bet if we knew that p fell within area of expertise A, and that experts in A believed p at a higher rate than the rest of the population--e.g. if p was a proposition about economics, and more economists believed it. But as for an arbitrarily-selected p...man, I dunno...Academicians often strike me as a fairly loony lot...and academicians at more "elite" institutions--if by that we meen Ivy League types--often strike me as being on the loonier end of the curve. It might be relevant that folks who are able to snag such jobs are usually from very privileged backgrounds, so they start life being a little nutty and out of touch with reality. They've often never had real jobs, never had to worry about making a living. Most of them have never dug a ditch, baled hay, fixed a car. Most of them have never had a shitty job, been broke, been in a fist fight. They've lived in a very atypical world. There are exceptions, of course, but they're on average a pretty unaverage lot. So if the p in question turns out to be about some practical matter of actual life in the, ya know, world...well, it wouldn't be smart to be with the pointy-headed intellectuals.Then you throw in the fact that, in many disciplines, you don't really have to be very smart to succeed. In order to avoid an avoidable controversy, I won't list the list here, but let's just remind ourselves that not every discipline is as demanding as physics. Hell, not every discipline is as demanding as history. In fact, IMHO, not every discipline is as demanding as plumbing. Even at the "elite" institutions. You probably have to be smarter to teach, say, math at a community college than you have to be to teach, say, speech communications at an Ivy League school. And an inordinate number of academicians--especially in the humanities and social sciences--at elite schools are nutty lefties. Way far left of your garden-variety liberals.Though, come to think of it, lots hangs on what we mean by "elite schools" here. Perhaps it just means something like the country's top thirty or fifty schools. If that's what's meant, then the stuff above is rather less true of the such folks.On the other hand, academia does wash out most of the very stupidest of the stupid and most ignorant of the ignorant. You'll find virtually no religious fundamentalists, radical nationalists, alien abductees, folks who call the psychic hotline, racists, homophobes and suchlike.
Soooo...on balance, if I had to bet on the truth of proposition p without knowing anything about it other than that academicians were more likely than non-academicians to believe it...I'd be very unhappy. But I'd probably cross my fingers and bet on p.For a similar bet replacing 'academicians' with 'academicians at elite institutions'....I'd still probably bet on p, but, to be honest, I'd be a little more worried about it.
The Bainbridge piece also prompts the following question: are philosophers experts when it comes to the question of the existence of God?
I think the answer has to be 'yes', since philosophers have, on average, thought about the relevant arguments in much greater depth and at much greater length than most people.
Incidentally, philosophers are far less likely to believe in God than the average American.
Make of that what you will.