Claim: Scientific consensus is a sign of dogmatism, "group-think", "unwillingness to consider other views", and is analagous to "religious zealotry. It is anti-scientific".

Why this claim is wrong:
See this Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas editorial on the website of the Heartland Institute (a pro-tobacco and AGW denialist organization) taking this position with respect to climate science. (Someone put me on the mailing list of the Heartland Institute's monthly writings. From the timing of when it began appearing in my mailbox, I have a strong suspicion of who - but do not actually know for sure). For more recent and even more outrageous anti-scientific ad hominum from Heartland, see this). I've seen this disgraceful slander spread even to students right here at Cabrillo College in (of all places!) the Environmental Sciences class (note quotation marks above). It's an amazing claim. It is a slap in the face of science itself and shows their desperation as the science supporting AGW continues to expose "other views" for their utter vacuity. The truth is - when scientists do their job well, THAT is when a consensus emerges. It signals the success of constantly improving physical understanding, computer modelling, sensor technology, and years of effort on the part of thousands of bright and dedicated scientists to bring evidence and logic to bear on the relevant questions until they are solved. Scientists have reached consensus on a vast number of difficult scientific questions - for example, the quantum mechanics of semi-conductors and quantum electrodynamics. Does that mean that scientific conviction of the truth of these complex ideas is also only a symptom of slave-ish group-think? Your iPhone wouldn't be possible without valid understanding of this physics. To argue that scientists who have reached consensus are no better than axe-grinding close-minded religous zealots....what a smear! what an insult to all scientists! The wording of the claim at top is taken directly from the smear-artist of this claim - and this person has NO degree in science. Even scientists whose motivations don't go beyond glory-hogging and rank careerism, know that the only way they will succeed is if they are CORRECT; RIGHT with Mother Nature. That is the coin of reward in the game of science. Compare to the "coin" in business (it's coin. Period. Truth be damned). Note what is the hallmark of science history - The ability of the peer-review system to check and verify conclusions and generate genuine new knowledge. - this should be overwhelmingly obvious to all. To constantly refine knowledge and continue to subject new ideas to careful thought is, of course, a good thing. And so obvious as to not need stating. As pointed out by Anderegg et al. (2010), these denialist claims are not only made without any evidence, but directly violate the obvious and valid motivations of good scientists, which is to turn a field which has been going down the wrong direction back onto the right direction, and be justifiably acknowledged and rewarded for that achievement. As a scientist myself, and someone who has worked closely with dozens of fellow full-time scientists and has much familiarity with hundreds more, I find this slander deeply offensive.

It is bizarre that certain denialists try to posture as the lonely defenders of healthy scientific skepticism and hold up the example of Alfred Wegner and Continental Drift as a lonely heroic champion of truth - since denialists' current pronouncements that water vapor absorption blankets CO2 absorption, and land vegetation and the oceans would soak up any anthropogenic CO2 so we have nothing to worry about, date back 60 years to the rather naive status quo of the time, and it was the lone defender of better physics - Callendar (1938) - who, despite getting some physics wrong, showed that anthropogenic CO2 would indeed cause significant global warming. By the mid '90's, the evidence, observations, and physics had created an essentially unanimous scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are raising Earth's ground temperatures at a rapid and dangerous rate. There is no honor in being a scientific maverick, and there is no honor in being a member of the scientific consensus. There is only honor in having the Truth be your highest priority. And if your fellow scientists do the same and you find yourself in consensus, as is true in the climate science community at large, it speaks well of the integrity of those in consensus. But look at why equating consensus with religious zealotry accomplishes a great deal for the AGW denialist camp. It makes off-the-wall ideas now hallmarks of heroic struggle against the stale establishment. It legitimizes banner promotions of ideas even if they have already been debunked. It panders to a regretable but very human tendency - to avoid taking responsibility for messes. It also turns our natural and healthy desire for examples of heroism into a weapon against evidence-based truth. To the extent these motives pay off, it buys time for business-as-usual on the part of the oil and mining industries and those they financially sponsor (like the Exxon-sponsored George C Marshall Institute which funds Sallie Baliunas, and oil and coal giants Exxon, Southern, and Koch Industries, which together have paid Willie Soon over $1 millon ).


In Short: It is the denialists who are guilty of big money conflicts of interest, "group-think, religious zealotry", and refusal to look at the facts and take responsibility, preferring to slander science itself in order to preserve business as usual.



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