Tuesday, April 10, 2012

HJ Agnosticism (20): On the Scholarly Consensus

Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, many of the finest minds in the field of finance and economics thought that they knew a lot more about how things worked than it turned out that they actually knew. Sadly, many of them still think they do. One of the problems is that the portion of known economic history for which testable data exists is really quite small. So you have lots and lots of experts combing over the same forty to fifty years worth of data and extrapolating all sorts of models and predictions. I think this creates an echo chamber effect which convinces the experts that they understand a lot more than they really do.

I can see a similar problem in the field New Testament studies. We only have a handful of pieces to the puzzle that is the origin of Christianity and no matter how many scholars comb over those pieces and how many times and how finely they comb over them, there is no way to overcome the problem of the missing pieces. However, they may succeed in convincing themselves that they know more than they really do. Happily, if they are wrong, it probably won't lead to the collapse of the international banking system.


  1. I'm pretty sure I posted this on Neil Godfrey's blog, but if I didn't it seems appropriate to what you're thinking about here:

    Some Heuristics for Evaluating the Soundness of the Academic Mainstream in Unfamiliar Fields

  2. J. Quinton,

    Thanks! I've already had a glass of wine while fixing supper and I'm sure to have another one with supper, so I probably won't get to it until tomorrow night. It sounds like exactly the issue that I've been struggling with though.