Scientific Consensus Is Not Science

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Here [DailyTech] and elsewhere I see many greenhouse believers hanging their hats on “scientific consensus,” as if it were the equal of scientific proof. That’s disturbing. (h/t Evan Jones blogging on WattsUpWithThat.)

When Drs. Marshall and Warren discovered that ulcers were primarily caused by bacterial infection, the scientific consensus was to deprive them of their licenses to practice medicine. One hundred percent of gastro-intestinal physicians and researches agreed that over-production of acid caused stomach ulcers.

Recently, Marshall and Warren shared a Nobel prize for standing athwart scientific consensus, yelling, “Stop!”

Analogising from Marshall and Warren does nothing to disprove the climate change consensus. But it does illustrate some of the possible motivations and incentives that can underlie those who make these claims. There may be consensus on an issue, but it does not follow that the consensus is correct. If evidence displaces a consensus, then that consensus is useless and should change. Those who engage in advocacy using petitions and polls would do well to remember this. [source]

I agree with Jason Briant, a research fellow at the Institute for Public Affairs. We should be very careful about passing laws with serious economic impacts on mere theory, however popular the theory may be. We should be even more careful when the proponents of the that theory stand to make more money if the theory holds true.

UPDATE: Proof of the fallibility of science came, presciently, with news that a Nobel laureate retracted her findings that earned her Nobel prize. Consider this when you’re deciding whether or not to support restrict, freedom-limiting laws based on mere speculation.