Credentials are not an Argument

If I had a nickel for every time, during a debate, someone pulled the fact that they hold a degree in the very field being debated as a defence to their argument and they turned out to be wrong, and I was correct… I’d probably have about a quarter or so… but, the moral of the story is: Don’t do that. “I have a degree” is not a valid argument. Degrees don’t confer infallibility — ad vercundium arguments are fallacious no matter what your bonafides are. If you can’t convince a reasonable, intelligent person of your argument without announcing your formal qualifications, then you don’t have an argument. Degrees, merely on their face, are little more than proof that your tuition cheques didn’t bounce. I’ve encountered borderline imbeciles who’ve held impressive sounding degrees from respected institutions.
…just one of my pet peeves which I felt the need to vent about a little, as it has just happened again. I think I must be up to about thirty or thirty-five cents now.

Pretty much this just happened:

Dumbass: X = Y
Me: No. X = Z
Dumbass: Uh. Trust me. I have a degree in alphanumeric equivalences.
Me: Big whoop. You’re still wrong.
Dumbass: *Posts link to academic paper which clearly states that X = Z.*
Me: Uh… You didn’t actually read that through thoroughly before linking it, huh?

Now, yes, of course, if you have an expertise in a certain field situations can often arise wherein your argument depends on your opponent accepting that some highly technical thing is true, and they just don’t have the background in your field to be able to adequately digest the information in the way required to convince them that it is. That happens. So, in such situations, the temptation to say “I have a degree in this field. I know and you don’t. So, you’re just going to have to trust me.” can be great. But, the proper response in that situation is still not to roll out your credentials. Such a situation simply renders your attempt to convince your opponent of your argument as futile, and you should recognize it as being such, agree to disagree, and bow out of the argument in order to avoid wasting any more of your time — even if you KNOW you’re right and they’re wrong. Because, even if that’s the case, announcing your qualifications is still meaningless. It doesn’t settle anything. If you say X+Y=Z, and you hold 52 advanced degrees in XplusYology from a myriad of the most prestigious schools on the planet – IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T BE MISTAKEN. So, absolutely nothing is settled just by saying: “I have a degree in this, so shut up and concede the argument.”

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