Scientific consensusScientific consensus
refers to overwhelming majority support among scientists for a specific hypothesis. The concept figures chiefly in political discussions (compare peer review
, scientific method
). Working scientists eschew the concept of consensus, stressing rather the reproducibility of results.
Public policy advocates often appeal to scientific consensus to settle various issues such as safety and conservation. Notably, the Clinton administration argued that the global warming theory justified adopting the Kyoto Protocol, on the grounds that "the science is settled".
Some writers maintain that the concept of scientific consensus is susceptible to abuse. For example, science fiction novelist Michael Crichton said:
- 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.