04/20/2017

Politics Disguised As Science: When To Doubt A Scientific ‘Consensus’

Jay Richards, The Stream

This week’s March for Science is odd. Marches are usually held to defend something that’s in peril. Does anyone really think big science is in danger? The mere fact that the March was scheduled for Earth Day betrays what the event is really about: politics. The organizers admitted as much early on, though they’re now busy trying to cover the event in sciencey camouflage.

If past is prologue, expect to hear a lot about the supposed “consensus” on catastrophic climate change this week. The purpose of this claim is to shut up skeptical non-scientists.

How should non-scientists respond when told about this consensus? We can’t all study climate science. But since politics often masquerades as science, we need a way to tell one from the other.

“Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That sums up the problem. Is this consensus based on solid evidence and sound logic, or social pressure and groupthink?

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are prone to herd instincts. Many false ideas once enjoyed consensus. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often blinds scientists to alternatives to their view. Question the paradigm, and some respond with anger.

We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone who thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best ignored.

So how do we distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? And how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Do we have to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus. I don’t know of any complete list of signs of suspicion. But here’s a checklist to decide when you can, even should, doubt a scientific “consensus,” whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it’s wise to be leery.

Read full article



You May Also Like:

For More go to the Home Page >>>

Search

SIGN OUR PETITION

FreeMarket Central

TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE POLITICS.

PASS A HEALTH CARE BILL THAT PUTS PATIENTS FIRST



Americans need a health care bill that serves needs of individuals—not those of Washington and big corporations.

 

Read more

Bookshelf

FreeMarket Central

Some titles recent, all recommended -

Special Video Feature

FreeMarket Central

Voices From The 2017 International Students For Liberty Conference

In Search Of History

When America Was Truly The Land Of Opportunity

For [early immigrants] America was truly the land of opportunity. For the first time in their lives, many were truly free to pursue their own objectives. That freedom released the human energies which created the United States. There were few government programs to turn to and nobody expected them. But also there were few rules and regulations. There were no licenses, no permits, no red tape to restrict them. They found, in fact, a free market, and most of them thrived on it. 

-- Milton Friedman,

Shadow Stats Snapshot


FreeMarket Central

ShadowStats alternate economic indicators are based on the methodology of noted economist John Williams, specialist in government economic reporting.

  • Unemployment:
    FreeMarket Central BLS: 4.35%
    FreeMarket Central Shadow Stats: 22.1%
  • Inflation:
    FreeMarket Central July Year-to-Year: 1.73% (CPI-U*)
    FreeMarket Central Shadow Stats: 9.4%

*[cpi-u is the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation rate for all urban consumers]