The Collective Scientific Arrogance Fallacy — A Layman’s Perspective

This is my layman’s perspective on a topic that I take very seriously and I hope you will give me the courtesy of doing the same.

Civil discourse is the prescription for the resolution of our grievances in these great United States of America. However, there has been a problem in the argumentation practices, usually, but not limited to, involving my fellow laymen which I define as The Collective Scientific Arrogance Fallacy.

The Collective Scientific Arrogance Fallacy - This generally occurs during high-level discussions where the scientific consensus is assumed to be both unanimous and irrefutable. We see it used regularly in argumentation in all mediums where open discussion occurs. But what is it?

The Collective Scientific Consensus Fallacy is the practice of holding the accepted scientific consensus as an indisputable imperative for proving or disproving arguments without understanding the context and argumentation from the studies referenced by that consensus. This is often simultaneously held as the authority over their opposition, in a derisive manner, while resorting to reductive avoidance dismissals of further arguments put forth by their opponent. Instead of providing any of the cited study’s contextual arguments to prove or disprove the argumentation of their opponent, they refute the need to provide such trivialities under the guise that the science on the topic is settled and calls for the opponent to “go look it up”. Below are some generic examples:

  • That’s debunked, stupid, look it up!

The layman stands atop the conclusions of the accepted scientific consensus, arrogantly talking down to anyone who dares question its authority, while they themselves don’t understand the argumentation within the cited studies.

Scientific literacy goes beyond just knowing the general consensus of a particular issue. Especially when there are ongoing highly complicated and contested topics with new evidence unfolding regularly that, by design, push against the accepted science. We must never assume that the accepted consensus is an infallible win button. The peer-review process is indeed a great and proven methodology for weeding out the majority of dishonest, disingenuous, and/or factually inaccurate studies. However, it is not without its own flaws, and even studies that have reached scientific consensus can get disproven by new experimentation with expanded parameters and/or methods used to test the theory in question.

We should never substitute blindly the conclusions of a study in place of its argumentation. While the conclusion is indeed very important, the context of its arguments matters more than the conclusion itself. It is not enough to state that a study debunks an argument, it is up to you, who have cited the consensus, to provide the needed context from the studies you are citing and how it debunks the argumentation you are refuting. Anything less is a purely disingenuous and unproductive fallacy.

The Preponderance of Evidence Fallacy — On a similar tangent, sometimes we see another fallacy packed in with The Collective Scientific Arrogance Fallacy. We should be careful not to conflate the volume of studies done as proof that a scientific consensus is infallible or even unanimous.

Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field o
Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field o

If a particular study has 50, 500, or 50,000 independently verified repeated studies that confirm its findings, we can rest assured that the parameters of this specific study’s experiments are well-grounded. This merely represents the accuracy of the parameters of that particular experiment and is not evidence on its own that the study in question is more or less valid than others. Since other studies would use their own parameters and considerations in their testing methodology. When a study with a new set of parameters disproves another study, it will disprove all repeats of that study as well. However, a single study on its own is not reliable, which is why the scientific consensus relies on multiple repeat runs of the same parameters independently. It does not take 50,000 studies to disprove another study that has 49,999. It only requires enough repeats to validate the results of the data set discovered in the new contradictory study. So it’s entirely possible that a census today, with 50,000 repeats, can be disproven by one with merely a handful of repeats. The fallacy here is when the number of studies or experiments conducted on a topic is brandished as definitive scientific proof while ignoring any additional evidence to the contrary.

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