Forced “Consensus” is Corrupting Science

Original Article

Now we have scientists predicting a new age of cooling, pointing out that Arctic ice is growing, not shrinking, and it all has to do with ocean currents, not man-made activity. Human caused global warming increasingly is seen as an over-statement, at the least. Without open debate, who knows?

Scientific hype is found in medicine, too, with repeated dire warnings about epidemics that don’t quite happen. Swine flu, of course, is the latest in a long train. One could mention the BSE (Mad Cow) hysteria, and, before that Alar, silicone breast implants…on and on. Businesses and whole industries have been destroyed in some cases before reality reasserts itself.

Resorts to claims that “the science is settled” and there is (as The New York Times considers conclusive) a “scientific consensus” are shown repeatedly to fail the tests of time, close scrutiny and experience. They remind one of the old Marxist trope, “As everyone knows….” The one thing these movements lack is a humility and a willingness to test their hypothesis in an atmosphere where other sides are allowed to provide countervailing evidence, interpretations and theories. Real science, I say again, has to provide for debate.

Another case of poor science doing the work of ideology (scientism) is the willingness of the media and cultural organs to defend hard-core Darwinian explanations for everything from bad backs to altruism. The evidence doesn’t seem to matter once the “consensus” is adduced. The “consensus” deems that scientific books and reports that challenge Darwin—let alone support intelligent design—may not be read, let alone reviewed.

Behind all the “consensus” controls lie groups of individuals that benefit greatly by hyped priorities—research institutions, especially, including cash-pressed universities in search of federal money. Include trial attorneys who benefit from public fright. Add in, then, the para-political elements in society that want government sanction to run the lives of other people; this includes a large part of the environmental movement, plus the cultural totalitarians who seek government power to implement their social and spending policies. Also include the bureaucracies of government that seek constantly to expand their writ…and staffing levels. Economist Thomas Sowell has termed the alliance “coercive utopians.”

To stand up to these trends and strategems is “pro-science”, not “anti-science”, despite what the consensus mongers contend. If “science” is essentially a propaganda and social scheme looking for complaint, vendable professionals to support it, then over time it will lose its hold on public respect. And that is just what is happening.

Here’s the key test (once more): do they allow and even encourage debate and the expression of contrary views? If not, “science” is corrupted.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.