Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Another Loss

Amid all the hoopla about the election, I did not hear until this morning that liberty suffered another loss with the passing of Michael Crichton. I do not know whether he was a believer in limited government, but I do know that his contribution to the cause, by exposing the dangers of scientifically illiterate public policy, a topic I have written about myself, was profound. Below is an excerpt from a widely cited lecture he gave at Caltech, called "Aliens Cause Global Warming":

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.

Read the whole thing.


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