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Scientific Consensus: The Last Bastion of Scientific Uncertainty


I was reading an exchange on anthropogenic global warming between Dr. George Somero, the David & Lucile Packard Professor in Marine Sciences at the Hopkins Marine Station (pro) and Dr. Roy Spencer, recipient of NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and principle research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (con) where the usual points were exchanged. I was struck by Spencer’s closing statement as being particularly applicable to the design vs. chance controversy regarding organic evolution. Spencer closed his response to the question of scientific consensus in anthropogenic global warming thusly:

“Scientific ‘consensus’ is only resorted to when uncertainty exists.”

Next time someone brings up the appeal to authority fallacy regarding evolution this is a great response to it IMO.

"Scientific 'consensus' is only resorted to when uncertainty exists." Actually: "Scientific 'consensus' is resorted to in order to cover up the uncertainty that exists." It's a matter of deception. Compare Romans 1:18, where the KJV "hold the truth" should read "supress the truth." jstanley01
Another way for doomsayers to hedge their bets is to put their predictions far enough into the future so they can’t be seen failing in time to ruin the careers of the erroneous claimants. Dave, that is a superb observation, and those who can't see how the GW debate (politics and all) parallels, the evo debate are seriously afflicted with intentional ignorance. tribune7
Another way for doomsayers to hedge their bets is to put their predictions far enough into the future so they can't be seen failing in time to ruin the careers of the erroneous claimants. The latest IPCC report which ostensibly represents the "scientific consensus" (what it really represents is the political consensus) admits that global warming will likely be beneficial until the year 2050 by way of milder winters (cold and flu sufferers in cold climates will rejoice), longer growing seasons for agriculture, accelerated crop growth from increased CO2 in the air, more arable land in the high northern latitudes, and more rainfall (not enough fresh water for crops is a looming crisis). Moreover most commercially grown crops use water more efficiently as CO2 concentration rises in addition to growing up to twice as fast. The evolutionists, if they weren't predominantly knee-jerk liberals who see global warming skepticism as a right-wing conservative conspiracy, would shout about this from the rooftops. Plants, you see, spent most of their time evolving when the earth was warmer and had more CO2 in the air than we have now and that warmer, richer in CO2 environment is where they operate at peak effeciency. The earth today is colder, drier, and has less CO2 in the air than during most of the time flowering plants have been around. I'm here to tell you if global warming and rising CO2 wasn't happening we'd be inventing ways to make it happen. The earth blooms when it's warm and withers when it's cold. As someone who grew up in upstate New York in the 1960's, a period of time with some very hard winters, I can assure everyone that colder and drier is not something to wish for. Hard winters kill birds and other wildlife unmercilessly while late frosts and dry summers ruin crops, kill even more wildlife by reducing the food supply, and reduce the amount of grass in the summer for livestock to graze causing livestock feed to be in short supply. Global cooling is just plain bad news in all but a few marginal circumstances mostly related to communities built around glacial meltwater and very close to sea level. Smaller glaciers (not big ones like Greenland and Antartica) will disappear. Sea level will rise a foot or two in the next 100 years significantly from thermal expansion of the water and insignificantly from glacial melt. So yes, Virginia, a small fraction of humanity will be forced to migrate inland over the course of a hundred years a distance that can be walked in a hundred minutes. The benefits from a warmer greener wetter earth overwhelm this inconvenience for those who willingly assumed the risks of dwelling inches above high tide. My greatest fear is that global warming is not anthropogenic. In that case we can expect the cyclic global climate to cool off again in the near future. A cooling earth and a growing human population spell starvation on a scale never before witnessed. DaveScot
Gil: There more to love: A study reaching the opposite conclusion was published today by Reuters, showing that a 0.5C rise in the Atlantic Ocean temperature can fulel a 40% increase in hurricanes: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080131.HURRICANES31/TPStory/?query=Hurricane+increase SCheesman
Reminds me of the old bumper sticker from out west: "Eat lamb. 10,000,000 Cyotes can't be wrong!" DonaldM
Dave, You'll love this. Go here http://www.foxnews.com/video/0,4861,1,00.html page down to the Scitech section and see the interview entitled: Bye Bye Storms? Report: Global warming helps curb hurricane formation. Remember how global warming was going to produce more, and more violent tropical storms? Now that this hasn't materialized as predicted, it turns out that, oops, global warming actually inhibits hurricane formation! Global warming appears to be almost as versatile as natural selection in its creative powers. GilDodgen
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. ~ Michael Crichton bevets

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