Brian mostly gets it right, re: Penn State:
SIDE NOTE TO IRONY: One of the more useful ways to cleave the world into halves is to split people into a group A that is suspicious of their own brain and a group B that is not. I'm in the former group, thus all the numbers and systematization and so on. You could add a third group of people who are suspicious of other people's brains but not their own, but they seem like a subset of group B with particularly frustrating arguments. Apparently this is a post in which I dispense personal philosophy unrelated to its relevance.I think Brian is close to correct in his assessment here, but misses the crucial dimension on which people differentiate: the willingness to defer to the knowledge of others. What makes group A suspicious of their own brain also makes them suspicious of other peoples' brains, and therefore unwilling to believe anything without a confluence of opinions or objective(ish) facts--"For with wise council you shall make your war/ and in a multitude of counselors there is victory" as it says in Proverbs.
The alternative is the tendency to accept the conclusion of one's own brain, which includes the tendency to accept the conclusions of others as well. This usually takes the form of a false humility: not being smart enough to have figured something out, or not having devoted the time to a subject, or assuming that someone must know what they're talking about, or that people have a good reason for their actions, becomes a reason to accept someone else's conclusions wholeheartedly. A mechanism along these lines can explain both Paterno ("I figured the people who were nominally my bosses would take care of it") and his apologists ("He must've had a good reason to do what he did, even if I can't come up with one and a neutral interpretation would be massively condemnatory"), a way to avoid responsibility and avoid the charge that one should have taken responsibility anyway.
To be sure, this is not intended to reduce to a simple moral along the lines of "question authority," though, in a pinch, that will do. Instead, I think the Penn State scandal reinforces the idea that being a fully human, functional, moral adult is a full-time occupation: if you are not perpetually worrying over whether you are doing the right thing, or have done enough, then it's a sure sign that you are not.*
*If you are, for example, in a position to get sanctimonious about your own virtue, that's a warning sign.