Too many people don’t understand the meaning of scientific consensus
Let me stipulate at the outset here that I am not a scientist. Far from it. But I try my best to understand science, and I become frustrated by people who reject scientific consensus without a shred of good evidence — or any evidence, in some cases — simply because it runs counter to their political, cultural or religious beliefs.
It’s that way with evolution and global warming. I know people who can’t bring themselves to embrace either concept — but also can’t offer scientific reasons for their dissent.
This doesn’t mean, however, that scientific consensus is holy writ and will never change. There was a time, of course, when consensus held that Earth was flat, and another time when consensus held that Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun revolved around our planet.
In one way or another, scientific consensus changes all the time. Some of theories that prevailed when I was younger no longer pertain. And if I’m lucky enough to live a good while longer, there will be more big changes in scientific consensus.
But this foregoing stuff is just preface to THIS PROVOCATIVE PIECE, a few excerpts from which are here:
It’s necessary for the progression of science that we dare our most cherished assumptions and conclusions to live up to the inquisitions posed to it by new data, methods, observations and tests. The cracks we find in our theories and ideas are what lead to scientific progress. And quite often, the people probing at the cracks are the very ones who oppose the consensus position.
But with that in mind, when we talk about science being settled, we’re not talking about “scientific consensus” as the final answer, but rather as the starting point that everyone agrees on. Future research is usually not based on trying to find alternatives that work better (although we’re always open to it), but rather on how to refine and better understand what’s going on.
The scientific consensus may turn out to be incomplete, and it’s conceivable (but not likely) that in some of these cases, there may turn out to be a better explanation for what’s occurring. But there is no scientific conspiracy or collusion. To make it as a scientist, you have to be passionate about relentlessly pursuing the truth the Universe tells us about itself, no matter where it leads you. You have to be willing to challenge your assumptions, to test them, and to build off of the quality work of others. Your results must be independently reproducible, and your conclusions must be consistent with the full suite of results that are out there, both in your sub-field and in related fields.