A question for Oreskes – But what do we mean by consensus?

Here is a quote:

‘The post-modernist notion that science proceeds by the barnacle-like accretion of expert consensus on the hulk of a hypothesis is a conflation of two of the dozen sophistical fallacies excoriated by Aristotle[7] 2350 years ago as the commonest in human discourse. The medieval schoolmen later labelled them the fallacies of argument ad populum (consensus) and ad verecundiam (appeal to reputation).

Science has become a monopsony. Only one paying customer – the State – calls the tune, and expects its suppliers to sing from the same hymn-sheet. Governments, by definition and temperament interventionist, are disinclined to pay for inconvenient truths. They want results justifying further intervention, so they buy consensus.’

The whole article is long but worth reading. I just finished a presentation so I might actually have the time to write again soon. For today, though, this article applies directly to what is on my mind, since I am attending the American Chemical Society’s conference in Indianapolis this week. Monopsony in the form of our hydra-like government is very real in Chemical research. I plan to take an informal poll of the lectures I attend Wed and Thurs of the agencies funding the research presented.

Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Politicians pay for science, but scientists should not be politicians. Consensus is a political concept. Unwisely deployed, it can be damagingly anti-scientific. A reply to Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).

Subject terms: Philosophy of science, consensus, climate change

The celebrated mathematician, astronomer and philosopher of science Abu Ali Ibn al-Haytham, or Alhazen, is justly celebrated as the founder of the scientific method. His image appears on Iraqi banknotes and on the postage stamps of half a dozen nations of the ummah wahida.


Al-Haytham on a 10,000-dinar Iraqi banknote. Image source: banknotes.com.

Al-Haytham, unlike Naomi Oreskes,[1] did not consider that consensus had any role in science. He wrote that “the seeker after truth” does not put his trust in any mere consensus, however venerable: instead, he submits what he has learned from it to reason and demonstration. Science is not…

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