Friday, July 11, 2008

A "Dr." does not an expert make

I recently happened across a message board on which someone was vehemently arguing that World Trade Center #7 was destroyed not by the 9/11 attacks, but by demolition explosives that incredibly stealthy conspirators had planted on the building's vertical support beams. When challenged, the poster made it a point to emphasize that his theory was supported by the "research" of a certain "Dr." Jones.

I had to laugh a little. Fringe groups often cite the works of some "Dr." or other to strengthen a particularly absurd claim, but when one investigates their so-called expert's credentials, one finds that the PhD was honorary and/or from an unaccredited university and/or in a completely unrelated field.

Young Earth Creationists, for example, are fond of touting the "research" of "Dr." Robert Gentry to prove their delusions. Gentry uses lots of fancy terms like "polonium radiohaloes" to assure God-fearing folks in the Bible Belt that his pseudoscience is legit. Of course, those people never bother to check his credentials because, after all, he's a "Dr.", and perhaps more importantly, they want to believe him (as you want to believe Jones re: 9/11), so they pollute YouTube with ridiculous videos "proving" that the Earth is 7,000 years old and ignore the mountain of evidence to the contrary and many, many scientists with better credentials who soundly debunk his work. And they certainly don't realize that Gentry's theories rely heavily on geology, yet he has no formal training in geology and no real doctorate; instead, he holds a MS in physics from UF and an honorary PhD from an unaccredited (by any mainstream body, at least) fundamentalist university. Physics and geology are almost as far apart as Young Earth Creationism is from reality.

I'm not necessarily saying that the particular person he cited is a fraud, but rather that credentials, legit or otherwise, do not a legitimate theory make. Seriously. I mean, I'm a "Dr." too, technically. That doesn't make me right about everything. Only the vast majority of things. And this is one of them.