So How Does a Non-Scientist Decide?
Posted by greg2213 on March 18, 2010
For the of us who don’t have PhDs in statistics, atmospheric physic,, etc. how do we decide where the science really is on an issue? How do we decide that the science behind a claim is solid? Of course, one can always follow the money and see who is profiting from the (extreme) claims, but there are other ways.
The American has a great post on the subject and also mentions that global warming is actually several claims. The writer has a few interesting things to say about the so-called “consensus,” as well.
Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are not immune to the non-rational dynamics of the herd. Many false ideas enjoyed consensus opinion at one time. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often shapes the thinking of scientists so strongly that they become unable to accurately summarize, let alone evaluate, radical alternatives. Question the paradigm, and some respond with dogmatic fanaticism.
We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are always cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone somewhere—easily accessible online—that thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best disregarded.
So what’s a non-scientist citizen, without the time to study the scientific details, to do? How is the ordinary citizen to distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? Conversely, how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Are we obligated to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?
here’s the rest: When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’
I think I’ll also add this: When a term, such as Global Warming, which gives some idea of the issue, is changed to something meaningless, such as climate change, then it might be reasonable to suspect that something fishy is going on here. Let’s face it, none of the GW/CC advocates are concerned about global cooling.
- WUWT on Consensus, the ridiculous “97% of all scientists” meme, and the IPCC.
- Petition Project and it’s 31k + signers.
- 1000+ peer-reviewed (not Pal Reviewed) papers supporting skepticism.