The authority question, when it comes to science, often becomes charisma instead of intelligence and reason but evangelicalism is marked by ambiguity on the credibility questions. See this excellent piece by Molly Worthen:
When it comes to history, many evangelicals reject the world-class historians in their own fold — such scholars as Mark Noll and George Marsden, who advocate a balanced account of Christianity’s role in early America — in favor of the amateur David Barton’s evangelical makeover of Washington and Madison.
Why would anyone heed ersatz “experts” over trained authorities far more qualified to comment on the origins of life or the worldview of the founding fathers? Drawing on case studies of evangelical gurus, Stephens and Giberson argue that intellectual authority works differently in the “parallel culture” of evangelicalism. In this world of prophecy conferences and home-schooling curriculums, a dash of charisma, a media empire and a firm stance on the right side of the line between “us” and “them” matter more than a fancy degree….
The authors make a strong case that serious scholars are prophets without honor in a culture in which successful leaders capitalize on “anti-intellectualism, populism, a religious free market, in- and out- group dynamics, endorsement by God and threats from Satan.” The most influential expert in their pantheon, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, studied at the University of Southern California and, early on, published research in peer-reviewed journals, but later resigned from the American Psychological Association and turned his back on secular accolades in favor of the anointing power of the evangelicals who buy his best-selling books on child-rearing.
In fact, Dobson’s academic career, however brief, hints that evangelicals’ attitude toward the ivory tower is more ambivalent than Stephens and Giberson suggest: the authors don’t always explore the paradoxes inherent in their own evidence. The doctorate of philosophy is no Mark of the Beast, but a mark of intellectual respectability that evangelicals have long coveted. The amateur experts of “The Anointed” often style themselves “Doctors” (usually on the basis of a dubious honorary degree). Despite their anti-elitist posturing, most conservative Christian colleges have sought secular accreditation and often boast when one of their own earns a Ph.D. from a prestigious university….
This pride does not mean these evangelicals embrace mainstream academic standards. On the contrary, they want it both ways: to claim the authority of reason while also defending the “Christian worldview” against the ivory tower’s “secular humanism.” Two centuries ago evangelicals retaliated against science’s incursions on biblical authority by trying to out-rationalize the scientists, appropriating Enlightenment principles and treating Scripture as a “storehouse of facts,” as the 19th-century theologian Charles Hodge put it. The point was that Christianity is eminently reasonable. Even the untutored layman can understand the Bible’s meaning. Stephens and Giberson note their subjects’ zest for “unmediated” truth, for bypassing professionals and presenting “evidence” directly to the Christian masses — just as Martin Luther, with his calls for sola Scriptura, bypassed Catholic priests. “I don’t interpret Scripture; I just read it,” Ken Ham says. Glenn Beck, when he made David Barton a darling of his media empire, contrasted him with historians who “bring in their own ideas instead of going back to the original sources.”..
For all evangelicals’ supposed disdain for secular academia, it is telling that their favorite guru is not an undereducated quack, but a thinker that “The Anointed” mentions only in passing: C. S. Lewis. American evangelicals adore Lewis because he was an Oxford don who defended the faith in a plummy English accent, thus proving that one could be a respected intellectual and a Christian too. The “parallel culture” that “The Anointed” vividly describes, then, is not a bald rejection of Enlightenment reason, but a product of evangelicals’ complex struggle to reconcile faith with the life of the mind. Self-styled experts like Ham appear to be spokesmen of certitudes. But their promises to reconcile the Bible with modern thought do not conceal that this balancing act has forced evangelicals to live in a crisis of intellectual authority — a confusion so unabating that it has become the status quo.