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1.07.2007

Why You Should Beware Claims of "Scientific Consensus"

Remember the eugenics movement (now transformed into designer babies)?

When a theory is espoused as if it was a law and be promoted by a bunch of people who only ‘agree' something is fact, but have no factual authority--well--I see a danger here, and this danger does have historical roots.

Walk with me down the path of time and history and I will frighten you with a word--a single--horrifying--example of scientific consensus: Eugenics.

A bunch of scientists and medical-types in American and in nations around the world decided by scientific consensus that Black people were inferior because their heads were smaller and their lips stuck out! Jews! Jews were considered by German scientists--yes, scientists--to be rats walking on two legs. Sterilized them! That was the noble plan put together by a noble scientific consensus. But hell, why sterilize Jews, let's just build a camp!

Beware! Every thought, idea, belief, and religious belief is constantly being attributed to human biology--Genetics. Now, when will the Cult of Scientific Consensus decide to come for thee? Think about that and be afraid.


It was also once scientific consensus that bleeding while sick was a panacea and that maggots arose spontaneously from decaying meet.

For a good laugh, pick up any issue of Scientific American (preferably from a library; no need to give lefties more money) and check out the section with short articles from the magazine from generations past. There are any number of howlers evinced with the exact same certitude you can find in the magazine today.

The one thing which may safely be said of all men of science is that they overestimate their knowledge or the value of same.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lanz said...

What you actually learn from perusing century-old back issues of "Scientific American" is that science corrects itself when it realizes it has something wrong. Eugenics was a theory that explained available evidence. As more evidence was accumulated under increasingly rigorous conditions, eugenics fell out of favor and was discredited. This is called "the scientific method."

Odds are, people a hundred years from now will find some of our current scientific ideas quaint and laughable. You've not exposed the fallacy of science, you've vindicated it's method.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Teflon said...

Lanz-

There is a big difference between the scientific method (actually developed by theologians, btw) and the actions of scientists to push policy well beyond the validity of their claims.

I find the scientific method to be quite useful, and make a good living applying it to business.

The point is not the scientific method, which works quite well but is very difficult to apply correctly so as to assure results are repeatable. The point is that so much of what today is being passed off as science does not follow the scientific method, or more to the point makes claims well beyond it.

Eugenics merely highlights one area where strong enough consensus existed to sterilize the handicapped (hell, look at what happened to Rose Kennedy) and subject black men to advanced syphillis.

What makes you think embryonic stem cell research and global warming, to name two highly politicized areas where the science is highly dubious, will turn out to be a polio vaccine type of positive accomplishment as opposed to a eugenics-style horror?

Thus the title of the post.

As many of us who do hypothesis testing for a living know, it's damned hard to "prove" anything. It's one more reason to get angry when the cold fusion in a jar brigade starts ramping up the media machine to fill their own pockets.

5:25 PM  

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