I don't think it's blind deference to authority, I think it's a result of over-active pattern matching. We see patterns all the time, but that doesn't always mean there is a pattern.
For example, in a science class students are typically presented with a phenomenon, asked to speculate about it, and then presented with a scientific explanation. Do this often enough and a clear pattern emerges - phenomenon -> scientific explanation.
In the case of the article, it was actually phenomenon -> human interference, but it shouldn't be surprising that the students assumed it would fit the usual pattern.