Monday, 6 May 2013

On consensus.

I hear a lot about consensus these days.

I am told that “climate science” is “solved” as we have a consensus. I am told that science is about consensus.

Well, consensus has nothing to do with truth. One hundred people who believe a lie do not make the results of a single experiment different. Many people together do not make truth.

For example. Last year I set a question that was particularly difficult. It went to university review. 80% of the students got this question wrong, but they mostly got it wrong in the same way. This is, 70% of the class came up the the same wrong answer. So, the question was reviewed. It was difficult, but the class did choose incorrectly.

That is consensus. The class was in consensus. They saw the question as solved even though the answer was right.

Science is not about consensus. It is about empirical evidence and proof.

To quote:

[The hallmark of empirical progress is not trivial verifications: Popper is right that there are millions of them. It is no success for Newtonian theory that stones, when dropped, fall towards the earth, no matter how often this is repeated. But, ] so-called 'refutations' are not the hallmark of empirical failure, as Popper has preached, since all programmes grow in a permanent ocean of anomalies. What really counts are dramatic, unexpected, stunning predictions: a few of them are enough to tilt the balance; where theory lags behind the facts, we are dealing with miserable degenerating research programmes.

No comments: