Re: So much for the “consensus”.

A comment to my earlier post pointed out that the doctor who resigned from his organization over its stance on global warming was a physicist, i.e. not a climate scientist.  That 90% of earth scientists agree in AGW and 97% of climatologists.

First of all, thanks for the comment, I always appreciate them, especially when claims are cited, as this one was.  But secondly, it doesn’t really matter.  My implied point (which was obviously too subtle so now I will just state it) is that “consensus” in science is irrelevant.  There was a consensus about the earth being flat and the sun orbiting the earth.  Consensus doesn’t matter in science.  Repeating experiments over and over (and not on computer models) and obtaining the same result is important.  Following the scientific method is important.  Which is why I posted an email, even though by just a physicist but someone who should know the scientific method, arguing that his scientific organization was behaving very unscientifically.

Michael Crichton said it better than I ever could, so I will reprint here a section from a speech of his:

“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. . . .

“I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. .”

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