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Michael Crichton on consensus science

Editor: This is a good response to someone who says, “But all those scientists can’t be wrong!” Crichton was referring to science in general, not specifically evolution, but what he says is apt for evolution. Dr Crichton had a career in science and medicine before he became a famous writer. He wrote some well-known science fiction novels such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, and the long-running TV medical drama ER.

“I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. 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 is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
[Crichton gave a number of examples where the scientific consensus was completely wrong for many years.]
“… Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E = mc². Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.”

Source: Crichton, Michael, Aliens cause Global Warming, 17 January 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology (http://s8int.com/crichton.html or http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122603134258207975 or http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Crichton2003.pdf)

About Dr Michael Crichton (1942–2008): Educated at Harvard University A.B. (summa cum laude) 1964 (Phi Beta Kappa). Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellow, 1964–65. Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at Cambridge University, England, 1965. Graduated Harvard Medical School, M.D. 1969; post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, La Jolla, California 1969–1970. Visiting Writer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988. The books he has authored have sold over 200 million copies. Source: michaelcrichton.com/aboutmichaelcrichton-biography.html.


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