Getting older, not necessarily wiser!
I was watching some science videos on this morning, when I was intrigued by the use of the word “consensus”. I actually heard the concept expressed int two ways, which actually have entirely different meanings (one of which is totally bogus). This was something that would get to me in my younger days. But with age comes a certain level of mellowness, where the bovine fecal matter just seems to roll off.
These are the two terms I heard this morning. One was “consensus among scientists”, which is a logical and reasonable use of language. The other term was “Scientific Consensus”, which is total bovine fecal matter.
A scientist is a person, and you can have a consensus of opinion between people. So this makes the usage of “consensus among scientists” perfectly acceptable. After all a consensus (in most dictionaries) is defied as general agreement, judgement arrived at by most of those concerned, or group solidarity in sentiment and belief. So a consensus of scientists is a consensus of the majority of scientists in a field.
Now if we look up the word Scientific we find some common definitions are relating to or exhibiting methods and principles of science, conducted in the manner of science. Nothing about being a person. Rather scientific refers to a method. So it is impossible to have a scientific consensus.
Of course this led to another interesting thought experiment around “consensus among scientists”. How many went against the consensus and were shunned in some fashion for it, but where later proven to be right while the consensus was wrong. I did not have to dig very deep to come up with a large number of names. I have listed only a few below, but the list is extensive.
All of the above proposed theories that went against the consensus of the day, but where latter proven to be correct. Consensus can be a fickle master, as it is always changing. If we learn anything from history, it is that consensus is usually in the end proven wrong. And there is no such thing as a Scientific Consensus.
As one of my old mentors used to say; “things change, and change is the only constant”. When something is labeled as a consensus, the wise individual takes it with a grain of slat, because consensus always changes.