In reviewing the science news sites, it was hard to get away from Eric Metaxas’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on fine-tuning and what it says about the likelihood of God, and from the host of responses to it. I don’t have anything to add directly to that conversation; I’ve already discussed the provability of God and my thoughts haven’t shifted much since then.
What did interest me was a comment made by Lawrence Krauss in his response. Krauss claims that “by allowing a Christian apologist to masquerade as a scientist WSJ did a disservice to its readers.” I appreciate that Krauss feels strongly about this matter. Still, I’m not sure anyone was masquerading. The item was clearly an opinion piece in a religion column, and I saw no evidence anyone was claiming the author was a scientist, beyond the fact that he was discussing a scientific topic.
Is the objection then that only scientists should write about science? It can be frustrating for experts to see lay people get something incorrect, and it is a natural impulse to erect “You must be at least this tall to play” checkpoints. Yet I think we should instead be gracious and grateful whenever someone goes out on a limb to describe their understanding of a topic they have not mastered. It requires some courage to risk being wrong, and demonstrates curiosity when disinterest is an available alternative. It also creates opportunities for dialogue; if no one is willing to say what they understand, there is nothing to talk about and no way to know what is actually being communicated.
Who should be allowed to participate in public discourse on technical subjects? How do you respond to visitors from other domains who make mistakes while exploring your field?