Illusion or ignorance?

Latest post in my blog on popular science:
Illusion or ignorance?


Isn’t it risky to have an opinion on this matter different from that of an important scientist such as Einstein?

It seems to be a widely, if subconsciously, held belief that excellence in one field must mean excellence in other, unrelated fields. I believe it’s subconscious, because it would never withstand a moment’s critical thought, but consider Linus Pauling. He was, of course, a brilliant scientist, the only person to date to receive two un-shared Nobel prizes (chemistry and peace), and had quite an impressive list of additional awards. But a number of his other ideas (notably his controversial views on Vitamin C) seem to be, well, less-than-well-founded–even if they weren’t entirely outside his field of expertise.

But the more puzzling example is our willingness to listen to celebrities. Simply because they’re good at playing a game, or looking good for the camera, or pretending to be someone they aren’t, we act as though they have something worth saying (and thus worth our time to listen to and consider) about (to pick some examples mostly at random) race relations, policing, the environment, religion, philosophy, etc.