One of the rhetorical strategies that has been employed against science deniers has been the claim that a ‘broad scientific consensus exists’ to support a certain position (e.g., global warming, evolution). A problem with this strategy is shown by the blog belonging to this commenter (I don’t give links to wackaloons) which provides lists of scientists that don’t think global warming is partly due to human influences.
This misses the entire meaning of scientific consensus: it’s a process, not a list of names.
This is not how a scientific consensus is reached:
“Dude, the earth is kinda hot.”
“Definitely, it’s global warming.”
“Definitely. What do you think, dude?”
“Oh yeah, me too.”
This is basically what many of those lists provided by the above commenter are*. While some on those lists attempt to provide evidence, it’s easily refuted by experts. A list of names isn’t a scientific consensus, whether it be a list of global warming deniers or Biologists Named Steve that support evolution (although the latter is funny as hell–that list is much larger than scientists who support ID).
Reaching a scientific consensus is a process that involves multiple datasets, lines of evidence, and repeated criticism and refinement of hypotheses. It is not a survey. Nor is it a matter of ‘faith’:
My ‘belief’ in climatologists is not based in ‘faith’, but trust. I trust that climatologists use similar scientific methods, principles, and evaluation structures to those that I use in biology. [While] it is not beyond my reach to assess the claims of climatology, even if I currently lack the skills to do so. However, I’m kinda busy, and I find biology more interesting, so I will take their word as scientists. When the overwhelming number of climatologists claim, along with professional society after professional society, that global warming is real, and that there is a significant human effect, I trust their professional judgement. Most scientists who are not biologists trust the overwhelming evidence for the theories of common descent and evolution (even if it’s been so long since they had to think about evolution that they don’t remember all or most of the evidence)….
We need to make it clear that we trust the scientific process, and that this trust is not based in faith but reason, experience, and observation.
One thing that will help in the War on Science (and don’t think for a moment it’s over) is clarity about what a scientific consensus really means.
*As mentioned in this post about elitism, most scientists aren’t qualified to rigorously judge the claims in other fields. That doesn’t stop a minority of them from doing so.