The phrase ‘scientific consensus’ had been absent from my web viewing for a while but this week it has cropped up in support of various pieces of scientific nonsense, including the latest wild claims by the climate change Warmageddonist club, food fascists and those really freaky nerds at NASA who want to spend $trillions on exploring space to see if that can discover life on a planet 40 light years away. (NB: a light year is the distance travelled in one earth year by light which moves at 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second. At the time of writing our fastest spacecraft can attain around ten miles (16km) per second.
But people like me who rely on common sense are not allowed to question the first and second or to point out the folly of planning to undertake a project to investigate the third, because ‘the scientific consensus.’
I have lost count of the times I’ve been told on challenging some piece of pseudo-scientific dogma that “the science is settled” and when I respond by pointing out how unscientific that response is, am told “You’re obviously not a scientist so you can’t understand how science works.”
I have even been told by a well known science wanker that “when a consensus of scientists agree that a theory is probably true, they people like you (me) should treat it as a fact.”
Well no true scientist would ever talk such complete bollocks of course, but you will find plenty of wannabes and technology geeks on the web who believe it is correct and even think that is what can be called “the scientific method.” They are wrong of course and their spurious claims are best answered by Dr. 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.”