> -- >
Understand that, at different points in history, "scientific consensus" has gotten it so wrong as to be laughable today.
- During the Black
Plague in Europe, the "scientific consensus" was that the bubonic plague was caused by "bad blood." This necessitated the removal of this "bad blood"
from ill patients. Of course, today we know that bubonic plague is spread by fleas which live on rats, which are attracted to human waste. We also
know that without sufficient blood, the patient will quickly die.
- At one time, "scientific consensus" was that the earth and other planets all revolved around the sun. Even the galaxy itself was thought to revolve
around the earth. Of course, today we all know the earth and other planets revolve around the sun, which itself revolves around the galaxy, which
revolves around the center of the local cluster, which revolves around the center of a supercluster, which probably revolves around something else.
- In the early 1900s, a brash upstart named Albert Einstein dared to challenge what is likely the greatest "scientific consensus" of all time: Isaac
Newton's Laws of Motion. These laws had been proved over and over across the span of centuries, by reviewers across the globe. Anyone challenging
these laws at the time was ridiculed, including Einstein himself. Today, of course, we know that Newton failed to account for a uniform speed of
light, which becomes significant as one approaches the speed of light.
Were it not for the Scientific Method, Europe might have been wiped out by the bubonic plague. Were it not for the Scientific Method, we would never
have been able to go to the moon. Were it not for the Scientific Method, we would not have cell phones in every pocket and GPS to tell us how to
In short, the Scientific Method is the basis for every scientific advance that has ever been made. It cannot survive where "scientific consensus"
Another thing that I find worrying is this concept of "this person published the paper and I like the conclusions, so it must be right. How dare
anyone question such a smart person!"
Well, I dare. As a matter of fact, I consider it not only my right to question a paper, but actually my duty
. If I do not question something
that I find potentially amiss, I am neglecting to do my part in the continuation of the search for knowledge.
So is anyone else who dares not critically examine a paper before accepting it.
Now I know many papers are filled with details that make for laborious reading, and often someone may be unable to understand the mathematics or
principles being used. That's fine; but if one finds themselves in that position, they cannot contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way by
trying to claim that no one else can understand and therefore one must take the study on "faith." Faith is the stuff of religion, not of science.
There is one more thing that I want to address before I end this OP, and this is not so much a complaint with readers of papers as it is with
of papers. As I got deeper and deeper into science and engineering, I developed three "rules"... partly out of my warped sense of
humor, but also to remind me of things I need to remember. The First Rule of Engineering is applicable here: "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance,
baffle 'em with BS."
Simply put, much of the scientific research published today is purposely written to be as confusing to most readers (even peers) as possible. The
thinking behind this was stated very plainly by one of my post-grad control theory professors: "Always write as technical as possible. If they can't
understand you, they will assume you are smart." Rare is the principle that cannot be clarified greatly by using less technological and better known
So I say unto those who want to read the papers but feel they cannot: you probably can, if you can manage to skim over the technially-confusing mumbo
jumbo. If it's that hard to understand, it was likely included not for content, but to make the author look "smart."
I urge everyone who is reading this to take a moment and look inside yourself... look at your posts, not as a thing to be defended, but as a thing to
be examined. If you are using the words "scientific consensus," you are speaking of a religion wherein you have replaced God with science and are
worshipping at the altar of one of the scientists you agree with. If you think a paper should be accepted on faith, recall that faith concerns
religions, not science. Another phrase to look out for is "follow the science." That has come to actually mean one is following a scientist
not the science. Following a man, any man, blindly is worship. So is following scientific papers blindly
A religion need not place faith in a deity per se. It can be worship and blind devotion to any power or any thing. Cults are the result of such blind
devotion to a man who abuses that position (the proper course in that situation is to actually refuse the offered devotion as improper). Make no
mistake: science can become a god. When that happens, one is dangerously close to cult status.
And I do reserve the right in the future to call out those who are practicing a religion instead of actually speaking scientifically for their
religious actions... especially when they start insisting it is science.