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The damage false consensus does to science

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From Chronicle Review:

The Case Against Scholarly Consensus

In July, the former federal prosecutor David Hoffman released a report<http://www.apa.org/independent-review/APA-FINAL-Report-7.2.15.pdf> on allegations that the American Psychological Association had colluded with the Department of Defense to change the APA’s ethics code, giving psychologists cover to participate in torturous interrogations.

Hoffman had been commissioned by the association itself, following allegations by the New York Times reporter James Risen. When Risen made the assertions, in October 2014, the APA put out a press release<http://www.apa.org/news/press/response/risen-book.aspx> denying wrongdoing and, in effect, calling Risen a hack. But the Hoffman report substantiated Risen’s contentions.

The APA created ethics tasks forces composed of members who had interests that would incline them to back the military’s interrogation practices. Critics of the association’s policy were not consulted. The APA appears to have crafted a corrupted “consensus” by excluding those who might disagree.

Blow us away.

This case is a particularly disturbing example of a problem throughout the social sciences: the crafting of false consensus statements to promote ideological or political goals. False consensus does great, sometimes irreparable, damage to science. More.

Consensus may damage science but it protects the scientists from the sort of people Yale computer prof David Gelernter describes as the “punks, bullies, and hangers-on” (who were attacking philosopher Thomas Nagel for doubting Darwin).

How interesting then, as an aside, that promoting “consensus science” was said by American Scientific Affiliation’s executive director to be the organization’s stance in 2011. Probably still is.

Every form of refuge has its price.

On the other hand, come in, the water’s fine. See Philosopher of science: Schoolbook Darwinism needs replacement.

Money quote from the Chronicle Review: piece:

Rallying toward consensus usually reflects not the strength of an argument but its weakness.

See also: “Aren’t I good?”

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