Home » academic freedom, News, Peer review » Refreshing comments from top science writer on consensus science

Refreshing comments from top science writer on consensus science

File:Matt Ridley at Thinking Digital 2009 (cropped).jpg

Matt Ridley/Tara Hunt

Matt Ridley, whose specialty has been evolution, genetics, and society, got himself into a spot of trouble for discovering that some of the solid science behind climate change is about as solid as an ice cream bar.  Solid in the freezer, to be sure, but put it on the counter where everyone can see it and … (Ridley made the mistake of realizing that the famous hockey stick graph is not a reliable indicator of anything except the reasons for not annoying a comedian.*) He has this to say in what he describes as his last “Mind and Matter” column for the Wall Street Journal:

Last week a friend chided me for not agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is likely to be dangerous. I responded that, according to polls, the “consensus” about climate change only extends to the propositions that it has been happening and is partly man-made, both of which I readily agree with. Forecasts show huge uncertainty.

Besides, science does not respect consensus. There was once widespread agreement about phlogiston (a nonexistent element said to be a crucial part of combustion), eugenics, the impossibility of continental drift, the idea that genes were made of protein (not DNA) and stomach ulcers were caused by stress, and so forth—all of which proved false. Science, Richard Feyman once said, is “the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Ridley has said similar things before. We wonder if he ever applies these thoughts to Darwin’s theory, the way others have been doing of late.

At any rate, it reminds us of something a design sympathizer told us when American Scientific Affiliation decided to polish apples for consensus science:

If everyone tried to do “consensus science,” there would BE no science — meaning, risky hypothesis-formation, leading to new knowledge.

This could probably be described by an elegant mathematical model, but this simple analogy will have to do for now. Imagine a flock of sheep, where every sheep wants to be as close as possible to the center of the herd — the “consensus” point, if you will. Given that the center point is, by definition, not the risky periphery, no sheep will stay at the edge even for a moment if he can avoid it.

Thus no sheep will venture out on his own. No new hypotheses.

* One climate apocalypse diehard is suing comic writer Mark Steyn for dissing his hockey stick, which has led to just the kind of publicity that all scientists dread and that he should have foreseen …

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

5 Responses to Refreshing comments from top science writer on consensus science

  1. OT: New video upload on IDQuest’s channel:

    Doubts on Darwinism – JP Moreland, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Oc1lvvt60Y

  2. News you may appreciate the preceding video since Moreland argues from Nagel’s book.

  3. It guts me when I reflect on the truism that truth, notably concerning human beings – is stranger than fiction; and that the ‘myrmidon’ spirit motivates most people in their career, due to the natural priorities of the possessor of the worldly, analytical intelligence, and not the young child’s thirst to know and understand. And I mean in the Academy.

    Actually, that can be noble. Just looking out for your family. But should Joe Blow wish to strike out with a new idea, he’s going to be crushed by the very people, the gate-keepers, who should be alive to the least prospect of SOMEONE ELSE advancing our understanding of the world.

    Going with the flow should simply be viewed, not as the end, the objective of the working life, ANY MORE THAN THE STUDY OF EMPIRICAL SCIENCE, but as an epistemic spring-board.

    This is implicit in the cardinal precepts of Christianity, so it is scarcely a matter for wonderment that the history of major scientific advances is almost entirely, a catalogue of contributions particularly of devout Christians. Always, believers in Intelligent Design, however implict. Never, as far as I’m aware, have any of the great paradigm changers EVER expressed a disbelief in Intelligent Design.

    And yet, here we see a scientific establishment whose leading lights, whose luminaries, while exploiting the findings of the great men of science to make their living and even ‘rule the roost’(!), would not even have allowed relativity or quantum mechanics to see the light of day. Surely not modern cosmology, either, given the increasingly paradoxical ‘building blocks’ it shares with quantum mechanics.

    Oh, very counter-intuitive, you know… Oh, yes. But we have the promissory note, so not to worry.

  4. Their forefathers, were all but cursed by Einstein and Planck.

  5. “Science is but an organized system of ignorance” – Brother Theodore, monologuist/comedian best known from his appearances on Late Night With David Letterman

Leave a Reply