I’ve been noticing a lot of talk of a “consensus” on global warming. Well it turns out that this is a loaded term with a lot of recent philosophical baggage. Terrence Corcoran explains in Climate consensus and the end of science:
The role of science, from Galileo to Newton and through the centuries, has been to debunk the consensus and move us forward. But now science has been stripped of its basis in experiment, knowledge, reason and the scientific method and made subject to the consensus created by politics and bureaucrats.
Corcoran’s points in this article still stand even though his Enlightenment-centric view of the history of science seems untouched by a half-century of revisionist scholarship.
UPDATE: AG sends in this great quote from a speech by Michael Crichton:
9:35 am on June 20, 2006 Email Stephen W. Carson
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.