I suggest that “academic credentials” mean jack shit. That’s just code for “they got educated in accordance with state legislature and current dominant social constructs and paradigms”.
Anyone and everyone may be a thinker. These questions of the nature of reality and consciousness are conundrums of the ages and unlikely to be answered definitively anytime soon. The great conceit of Science and more recently scientism, is that it alone has the tools and the credentialed authority to deal with such matters. The LHC at CERN in Switzerland is of extreme concern. Other endeavours are mere “pseudoscience”, or worse “philosophy”, or “spiritualism”. God forbid the pseudoscience tin hats are actually on the correct paths to truth. Religion got lost at sea.
Everything is just a guess. I don’t care if you’re Stephen Hawking or Carl Sagan. The real thinkers keep an open mind. New frontiers of our inner universe – see the work of Rupert Sheldrake and Stan Grof – are emerging and DMT seems to reveal some secrets of this reality illusion.
Keep searching and seeking. Life itself reveals secrets and clues to those who seek and who truly live and gather insight through their lifetimes. I think we’re not supposed to know some things, well not yet anyway. Imagine trying to teach algebra to a frog.