Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Consensus Science

The most egregious case of "consensus science," at least when the word "consensus" is actually used, is of course the global warming AKA climate change trend, where we're always being told that 93% or whatever of "scientists" believe in climate change, and therefore skeptics should shut the hell up. I was enlightened about this assertion by somebody on the net, who pointed out that the "scientists" referred to include physicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc. The way the argument is phrased, however, leads us to think it means 93% of climatologists, which it does not.

In a completely different connection, we constantly hear that there's no such thing as race, and that all races are equal in intellect and temperament. Leaving aside the fact that these two propositions are contradictory, they're always put forward as though there's some sort of scientific consensus that they are true. "Racial difference have been discredited by science," or some such thing. Of course, nothing of the sort has taken place, and any and all studies have shown that there is a distinct racial hierarchy of intellect and temperament. Now, I'm sure that if you count school teachers and government bureaucrats as "scientists" you might come up with something approaching such a "consensus."

In any case, it doesn't matter. Science doesn't work that way. Science is about finding the truth by the scientific method, not by holding elections or arranging polls. If you know anything at all about the history of science, you know that often one man figured out the truth about something, and the consensus was against him. If they'd held a vote about evolution, or heliocentric astronomy, we'd all still have to believe some pretty inaccurate things.

Here's the rest of what Michael Crichton said:

Michael Crichton

“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.”

― Michael Crichton, Caltech Michelin Lecture, January 17, 2003
Quibcag: You guessed it. That's Rika Shiguma of Haganai (はがない).

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