Consensus science: Voyage of the Dumbed

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Recently, historian of medicine Michael Flannery, author of World of Life, remarked on the lack of informational value of “99% of biological community disagrees with ID”:

Cotton Mather (1663-1728), the New England divine, actually proposed a germ theory of medicine when 99.9% of the medical community disagreed with him. Conversely, Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734) proposed a “phlogiston” theory to explain combustion (burning) and rusting that nearly every scientist of the day (including Joseph Priestly [1733-1804]), hailed.

More recently, when Joseph Goldberger (1874-1929) suggested that pellagra was a nutritional deficiency disease he was dismissed because the Thompson-McFadden Commission had “proven” pellagra to be infectious. History is replete with such examples.

In fact, I would suggest that history indicates that consensus per se merely confirms periods of stability within the scientific community NOT necessarily validity of the concepts around which that consensus has formed.

Science is not entirely cumulative. Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) told us this before Kuhn. “The philosophy of nature,” he wrote in 1959, “evolved by occasional leaps and bounds alternating with delusional pursuits, culs-de sac, regressions, periods of blindness, and amnesia. . . . The mad clockwork of epicycles was kept going for two thousand years; and Europe knew less geometry in the fifteenth century than in Archimedes’ time.” The invocation of consensus in matters of science can be a very fickle friend.

Indeed, real science involves a willingness to break with consensus.

Heck, I’d go further. As I told a group last October, any mediocrity can be a career Darwinist. It requires only the skill set demonstrated by some low level bureaucrats: Defend the system; resist evaluation.

5 Replies to “Consensus science: Voyage of the Dumbed

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Flannery’s observations reminds me of this:

    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. —Michael Crichton, Aliens cause Global Warming [January 17, 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology]

    And exactly what are the repeatable results that the loathed, but none-the-less great, consensus breaking scientist Michael Behe uses to establish his inference to ID? Nothing less than practically the entirety of modern molecular biological research!!!

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.(that is a net ‘fitness gain’ within a ‘stressed’ environment i.e. remove the stress from the environment and the parent strain is always more ‘fit’)

    Michael Behe talks about the preceding paper on this podcast:

    Michael Behe: Challenging Darwin, One Peer-Reviewed Paper at a Time – December 2010

  2. 2
    bevets says:

    Is there a published source for this?

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    bornagain77 says:

    “Coincidentally” Ms. O’Leary, this just up at ENV,

    New Biography Reveals Evolution’s Co-Discoverer as Early Intelligent Design Advocate:
    Excerpt: In a sparkling, concise and controversial new biography of the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, historian Michael A. Flannery tells a largely unknown story that has been embarrassing Darwinians in the know for almost a century and a half. In Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life, published by Discovery Institute Press, Flannery shows how Wallace ultimately came to reject the sufficiency of his own theory of natural selection to explain what he called in the title of his final work and magnum opus, The World of Life (1910).

    “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous” – Anonymous 🙂

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