Saturday, June 17, 2006

Consensus science: an oxymoron

A wonderful commentary in Friday's National Post by one of my favourite columnists, Terence Corcoran. Citing the Wikipedia overview on consensus science, Corcoran discusses the true nature of scientific discovery and explores the implications that arise when empiricism is displaced by consensus politics in the determination of truth. As he rightly points out, the age of enlightenment originated with a desire to replace authoritarian dictates in the definition of "truth".

Contemporary environmentalism is the latest and most visible scientific arena to supplant empiricism and skeptical enquiry with a collective, social theory of science: a theory based on axiomatic constructs and diligent compliance by mutually supportive actors, notably bureaucrats and activists. Rigorous enforcement involves the marginalization of any outside the collective and social intimidation of those who question the prevailing orthodoxy.

If science does not question prevailing orthodoxy, what are our prospects for further enlightenment?

Climate change is not the issue. Lawn pesticides are not the issue. Garbage disposal is not the issue. The real issue is whether or not we are going to base our public policies regarding these issues on the science or on the collectivist portrayal of that science.