There is a premise popular with statists and other peddlers of the Establishment, which is called “consensus science.” It can be described as such:
A proposition is scientifically valid only if a consensus of scientists agree that it is valid.
Or as a skeptic podcaster summarized:
Fringe opinions are fringe for a reason.
By “consensus,” they generally mean a vast majority of scientists, especially scientists who are experts in the relevant field. Skeptics are especially fond of this premise, as they use it to separate between what is credible and what is not credible.
Here’s the rub: the premise of “consensus science” is complete and utter nonsense. This is because, as should be obvious to anyone, all ideas we now accept as true had to be discovered at some point. They simply did not exist, and the “consensus” held something else as being true. At that time, a believer in “consensus science” would simply reject the discovery out of hand as not being agreed-upon by most scientists. Thus, the logical conclusion of the “consensus science” premise is that science should never progress, and that personal discovery is wholly unscientific. Whatever the “consensus” says is gospel.
The believer may reply that discoveries come to be accepted as time goes on and other scientists replicate the results. Sure, but that’s how real science works, not “consensus science.” And if this view is correct, it means that what is “consensus” today will be considered incomplete or outdated a century from now.
A more important problem is that of State control over science. Statists use “consensus science” as a premise because it supports their use of “consensus” based on State doctrine. The intelligentsia has always been a prime target for State takeover. Of course, in the old days, they used to kill the lot of ’em and put new ones in place. Nowadays, we don’t kill people so much, unless they’re the wrong color. Either way, the role of the intelligentsia has always been to justify and rationalize the crimes of the ruling class to the people.
In the democratic era, most scientists, far from independent, are now part of this intelligentsia. They are subsidized, supported and made important by big corporations and big governments around the world. So a lot of the “consensus” used by the statists is on things that are politically motivated, like mainstream economics, secondhand smoke, seatbelt laws, and in general alarmist activism about food, the environment and technology.
In general, we can divide people’s attitudes towards science in four categories:
1. Science is valid, but only when we consider the beliefs of the “consensus.” This is a faith position because a consensus of this sort is necessarily static in nature: it is not scientists debating this consensus but rather people who are not scientists themselves, people from outside the system who cannot change the minds of anyone who is within the system.
2. Science is invalid, and we must follow some religious doctrine. This is also a faith position, common to Creationists and other you-can’t-know-nothing ignoramuses.
3. Science is invalid, groupthink is valid. This is the post-modernist position.
4. Science is valid, but it is the process of scientific inquiry that is important, not “consensus.” This is the realist position. In this view, it is not what most scientists believe that is important, but rather why they believe it and what the evidence is for each position.
As such, it does share the post-modernist desire to deconstruct scientists’ behaviour, but it does not share the post-modernist desire to nullify science as a whole. It shares the statist’s admiration of science as a discipline, but it does not share the statist’s insistence on majority opinion.
Without the ability to examine scientific data for ourselves, to be intellectually autonomous, we can easily fall into the trap of believing State-sponsored science to be on the same pedestal as actual science. But this would be as grievous as mistaking the rationalizations of the State philosophers for actual thinking.