Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

When is consensus in science based on knowledge and when is it just circling the wagons?


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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When is consensus in science based on knowledge
I'd say "consensus" is just an injection of politics into science... in other words, a corruption of science. Science should be able to acquire and present knowledge without "consensus". So when you see "consensus", watch your wallets. Andrew asauber
KMP: Let me remind you of Lewontin:
. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads [==> as in, "we" have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge, making "our" "consensus" the yardstick of truth . . . ] we must first get an incorrect view out [--> as in, if you disagree with "us" of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations,
[ --> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying "our" elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to "fix" the widespread mental disease]
and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth
[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]
. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [--> "we" are the dominant elites], it is self-evident
[--> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]
that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [--> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [--> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [--> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [--> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is "quote-mined" I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]
I trust you see the point, and see the problem. KF PS: In case you wish to continue projecting a strawman stereotype, kindly note that I am long since on record that of pathos, ethos, logos, only the last actually has capability to warrant, i.e. your attempted turnabout manifestly fails. kairosfocus
Evolutionary Materialistic Scientism, we are looking straight at you, KF
That beam in your eye must be distorting your view. kmidpuddle
News, great points. No authority -- individual or collective -- is better than the underlying facts, reasoning and assumptions. and when a "consensus" is ideological, that is a warning flag. Evolutionary Materialistic Scientism, we are looking straight at you, KF kairosfocus

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