Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What is a Scientific Consensus? Does it prove anything?

Source photo of the Putnam Gallery at Harvard
The term "scientific consensus" is often tossed around in the media.  Experts, pundits, and everyday people cite "scientific consensus" as evidence for global warming, macro-evolution, and even atheism.  

What is a scientific consensus?  Well in theory a scientific consensus would indicate that the vast majority of scientists in a given field agree with a certain position.  How firm does the majority have to be?  Is it 51%?  Or could it be 67%?  I think it would probably have to be much higher to indicate an absolute position.  In fact I would posit that it would probably have to be over 99%. 

Does say, darwinian evolution have such a consensus in the sciences?  Truly, truly, it does not.  There is in fact a firm scientific dissent against darwinism, learn more here.   Last I checked the list of scientists and PHDs who are skeptical of darwinism is over 20 pages long.  The suggestion that there is a scientific consensus here is simply nonsense.

Yet even if there was a firm 99% consensus or even a 100% consensus that would not make the view true.  It could be argued that it would make the view highly plausible and even credible.  But a consensus doesn't make something true or false.  A solid argument, with firm evidence does.  Scientific consensus doesn't prove anything.  In fact time and again the scientific consensus has been wrong time and again in the history of the sciences.  Think of the age of the Earth, which seems to keep getting larger and larger.  Think of the many views, once held by the majority of scientists that have now been proved false.  Consensus means very little.

There is in fact no clear consensus on global warming, macro-evolution, or atheism.  The views of scientists are highly varied on these issues.  In fact science itself has nothing to say about atheism or religion.  Science seeks to explain the visible world through testing and proving and disproving hypotheses.  When scientists share their views on religion and atheism they are sharing philosophical views.  They are not sharing science.  

In fact, many of the greatest scientists across history believed in a God (deist) and/or believed in the God of the Bible (Christian).  Such include Einstein, Galileo, Bacon, Oresme, Buridan, Steno, Pasteur, Copernicus, Kircher, Mersenne, Agricola, Mendel, Descartes, Vesalius, and Newton.  Maybe you've heard of them? They are the fathers of modern science.  Even today, great scientists and nobel laureates believe that the idea of God is reasonable, like Francis Collins, Charles Hard Townes, Blaise Pascal, William Henry Bragg, Cornelius Van Til, Sr Francis Crick and many others. 

What is a scientific consensus?  It's a myth perpetrating a lie that the debate is over on a given topic, especially controversial topics supported by progressive organizations.  When used in supporting a certain worldview or idea, it's often being used as a false appeal.  In logic they call this a false appeal to authority: something is true because the experts say it's true.  Such an appeal doesn't prove anything, though it may lend a certain amount of credence to the view if in fact the "consensus" is real and long running.  Even then, credence is not the end of the discussion.  A scientific consensus is a view held by perhaps even a majority of sciences, but may or may not be true.  In fact throughout the history of man, more often than not the majority at a given moment in history has been wrong on key issues.  If you hear the phrase "scientific consensus" realize that quite often an agenda is behind such a phrase.  People understand that the public trust the experts in the sciences, sometimes this trust is abused for the purpose of pushing an agenda or particular worldview.  Be cautious, and let no one fool you in this area.  

Source Hegel with his Berlin Students Sketch

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  3. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology 
  4. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complex in DNA
  5.  Reasonable Evidence for Christianity    
  6. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  7. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  8. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  9. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  10. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines