Sunday, November 06, 2005
In precis he says that the initial acceptance of SETI as a scientific discipline when there was no facts available about aliens set the precedent.
In turn we have the the nuclear winter scenario which was scientifically unproven but, since everybody is against nuclear war, few scientists except Teller were willing to say so. He goes into some detail as to how nuclear winter was sold by Paul Ehrlich & Carl Sagan (Ehrlich who has made numerous predictions, all rubbish, such as the claim that pollution would reduce US life expectancy to 40 by the 1980s & thus remains a well funded green guru, Sagan publicly predicted that smoke from oil fields burning during the Kuwait war would produce massive famines).
Some of this is hard to take since Frank Drake of SETI & Sagan are in many ways admirable people but the point is that scientific truth is never altered by niceness.
Having allowed nuclear winter to be sold through press conferences, media glitz & only long after by producing the scientific papers & the use of the term "concensus" to suppress disent the same tactics have been used to sell global warming, passive smoking & the attack on Bjorn Lomberg.
(Ehrlich)was asked, how accurate were these findings (nuclear winter)now?
Ehrlich answered by saying "I think they are extremely robust. Scientists may have made statements like that, although I cannot imagine what their basis would have been, even with the state of science at that time, but scientists are always making absurd statements, individually, in various places. What we are doing here, however, is presenting a consensus of a very large group of scientists…"
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.