When is consensus in science based on knowledge and when is it just circling the wagons?
|June 3, 2017||Posted by News under News, Philosophy, Science|
A friend draws attention to an interesting 2013 article by Boaz Miller in Synthese:
Scientific consensus is widely deferred to in public debates as a social indicator of the existence of knowledge. However, it is far from clear that such deference to consensus is always justified. The existence of agreement in a community of researchers is a contingent fact, and researchers may reach a consensus for all kinds of reasons, such as fighting a common foe or sharing a common bias. Scientific consensus, by itself, does not necessarily indicate the existence of shared knowledge among the members of the consensus community. I address the question of under what conditions it is likely that a consensus is in fact knowledge based. I argue that a consensus is likely to be knowledge based when knowledge is the best explanation of the consensus, and I identify three conditions—social calibration, apparent consilience of evidence, and social diversity, for knowledge being the best explanation of a consensus. (Synthese (2013) 190:1293–1316 DOI 10.1007/s11229-012-0225-5) More.
It’s pretty clear that a lot of modern evolutionary theory it is just circling the wagons. For example, “Universal common ancestry” with no “universal common ancestor”?:
Yet evolutionary biologists—even those who share Woese’s view—continue to defend the idea of universal common ancestry. For example, W. Ford Doolittle wrote in 2009 that he doubts “there was ever a single universal common ancestor,” but “this does not mean that life lacks “‘universal common ancestry’” because “‘common ancestry’ doe not enail a ‘common ancestor.’” Why such mental gymnastics? Doolittle freely admits that it is because “much is at stake socio-politically,” namely the need to defeat “anti-evolutionists” in “the culture wars.”
That sort of thing tends to continue until the really crazy stuff starts, and then non-crazies must look at their options.
See also: Barbara Forrest, metaphysical naturalism, and the End of Science rent-a-riot
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