15 Dec 2017

When Should You Doubt a Scientific Consensus?

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Jay Richards has some good answers.

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten. …

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.


2 Feedbacks on "When Should You Doubt a Scientific Consensus?"

Seattle Sam

It is wrong to argue about whether the planet is warming or not. The relevant issue is how a government that can’t even run the VA system is going to be able to control the earth’s climate. I’m sure that if a “consensus” predicted an asteroid would hit the earth in a few years, Democrats would be stumping for higher taxes and more government to “do something”.

Steve Gregg

Science is not determined by “scientific consensus,” ie how popular an idea may be with scientists, which any intelligent person should recognize as fallacious thinking, the argumentum ad populem. Science is determined by experiments that can be replicated. If you have demonstrated such an experiment, it doesn’t matter that the scientific consensus is against it, as has so often been the case.

And the science is never settled. Science is skepticism about everything, everywhere, all the time. It questions everything.


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