Scientific consensus

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Scientific consensus is what most scientists in a particular field of study agree is true on a given question, when disagreement on the question is limited and insignificant.

The consensus may or may not turn out to be confirmed by further research. When it is confirmed, a hypothesis becomes known as a (lower-case) theory, or, given enough time and evidence, an (upper case) Theory, such as Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Numerous times in the history of science, one theory has been superseded by another as anomalies or counter-examples accrued over time and the scientific community has discarded an older theory in favor of a new theory which accounted for more of the data in a more satisfactory way. This often occurs as the result of improvements in the accuracy of the instruments used to observe, record, and measure phenomena.


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 2nd edition Thomas Kuhn

Advocates of pseudosciences tend to see scientific consensus as just an argument from authority (or even a conspiracy).[1] Some even assume the existence of a mysteriously ill-defined "scientific establishment" enforcing received scientific orthodoxy by diktat.[2] The twisting of "science was wrong before" (pseudoskeptics may intone), and then what about the Galileo gambit? Furthermore, since the notion of falsifiability exists (no theory can ever be fully certain or religiously dogmatic), we should then ignore the mountains of literature already available. Or the opponents of "the" consensus simply equate falsifiability with "false".

Portraying scientific consensus as a form of majoritarian rule is hilarious for two reasons:

  1. The scientific community has the inherent role of keeping a check on popularly-held (either "right" or "wrong") opinions.[3]
  2. If a new idea proves its case despite mainstream academic thought at the time, it will eventually become the new consensus.[4] (For a while, at least.)

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  1. Hostility towards scientific consensus: A sign of a crank, Respectful Insolence
  2. Compare: Sisson, Edward (2010). "14: Debunking the Scopes 'Monkey Trial' Stereotype". In Dembski, William A.; Licona, Michael R.. Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. p. 79. ISBN 9781441211798. Retrieved 2017-06-03. "Of course, the scientific establishment of today would denounce all of this." 
  3. Scheufele, Dietram. "Communicating science in social settings." PNAS 110(3), 2013.
  4. Compare Thomas Kuhn.