If anyone ever still wonders about the difference between true skeptics and deniers, this is a great example. Wynn is happy to take an e-mail where someone was sick of handing data to a disingenuous reviewer, something one review after another found improper but hardly serious, as proof everything in the field might be confirmation bias and nobody is trustworthy.
But supposing a ruinous cost of action somehow doesn’t need any skepticism at all; it can be taken as simple fact without needing any agreement, citation, or evidence. Surely that’s not the sort of thing that warrants any questioning, right?
No, measurements are the results of experiments to figure out a value, and ultimately these give an agreed on value for other scientists to use. Quantities like the earth-sun distance, or to take something fixed the elementary charge, now have generally accepted values but took many experiments to work out.
Crichton is a decent author who often doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to science. In truth, when you hear the word “consensus” used, it almost always reflects the same thing: most scientists genuinely do agree on something, and they need to point it out because someone disagrees anyway.
That disagreement may occasionally be something brilliant, but more often it’s something foolish, or even dishonest. The Galileo gambit applies here:
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
- Carl Sagan
Not only does saying something is against consensus not imply it has any value, but when people pretend that it conveys merit to their dissent, it’s usually because there isn’t any.
Whereas in truth consensus is a valuable thing: not for the progression of a field, which involves people looking critically at it, but for making its findings of use to other fields. If you’re going to learn enough atmospheric physics and climate science to understand global warming in full, you should form your own opinions, but if you’re not, your best bet is to listen to the people that did.
Or let’s make it simpler: would you actually be more inclined to trust climate scientists if they said there was not a consensus on this issue? If not, taking the agreement as evidence you’re being had is simply begging the question.