Consensus is a Tool of Political Compromise that has Nothing to do with Real Science

Consensus is almost always a race to the bottom. In every group of people, on any complicated issue there are a wide range of opinions. A consensus is what they'll all agree on so it's either a compromise none of them actually agree with or an opinion reached by a bartering of values or, like most of the UN's decisions, a situation where everyone falls into line with the one or two holdouts that refuse to compromise at all.

The UN Security Council is the perfect example. No matter how many countries condemn Syria right now they are unable to reach the mandatory consensus for any type of action because Russia and China know nothing will happen as long as they refuse to compromise. The Americans do the same thing on every issue that involves Israel.

"Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What are relevant are reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus." - Michael Crichton

Once upon a time the mainstream scientific consensus agreed that the earth was flat, that leeches were the best medical intervention and that DDT was a miracle.  DDT first synthesized in 1874, its insecticidal properties were discovered in 1939 and in 1948 Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work with DDT as a poison for troublesome insects. As far back as the early 1940's a small minority of scientists questioned the safety of DDT but they were mostly ignored until the bestseller Silent Spring was published in 1962. It argued that DDT was poisoning wildlife, the environment and endangering human health. The public's reaction to Racheal Carson's classic launched the modern environmental movement.

Einstein was ridiculed, Galileo threatened with being burned at the stake if he didn't recant his heathen opinion that the earth wasn't the center of the universe. Keeping an open mind about the conclusions of 'experts' is always a good idea. As Dawud Bone, the Stone Ashdown Director of the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute, says, "It is not only legitimate to question consensus, it is essential to do so."

IPCC is an arm of the UN, its conclusions are subject to the revisions of the UN's member states each of which has its own political agenda. Before the IPCC issues any report on climate it is also subject to the review of scientists of all different stripes who have a wide range opinions about every aspect of the underlying science. Consequently the IPCC's consensus opinions are always stated as a probability. For instance, right now 97% of the scientists are 66% sure of the present consensus [more on that tomorrow].

In the next few posts The Mud Report will explore both sides of the cloudy climate consensus conclusions that are at the heart of what really has become a philosophical not a scientific debate. Somehow this one symptom has taken the much broader environmental disease issue as a hostage. As Jane Goodall said, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.” Dialogue, as Goodall states, requires open minded listening to those folks who have reached different conclusions from our own. Sometimes, on inconsequential issues, a consensus, even if it means a compromise that nobody really agrees with is fine, but on the issues of the causes to and solutions for environmental destruction a race to the bottom type consensus is worth less than nothing.