On Consensus Science

Ssshhh! You’re not supposed to express doubts about “consensus science” around here. It’s a sign of science illiteracy, you know. :face_with_monocle:

All true. When “consensus science” actually is consistent with observation (and hence why that has served to produce a consensus among those in the field), it seems rather ill-reasoned for laymen to start dismissing the consensus of experts just because they have a hard time fitting it into various social-political, economic, and religious ideologies they might hold. But hey, that’s the world we live in.


Sometimes your snide smugness is hard to take. This is one of those times.


I’ll leave it to Neil Rickert to specify which “social-political, economic, and religious ideologies” have caused him to doubt the standard cosmological model.

If nobody ever questioned consensus science, then science would not advance.

To be clear, I am not questioning the evidence. But the standard model goes well beyond the evidence.

Of course, all science goes beyond the evidence. But, for most science, it is a matter of interpolation between data points. For cosmology, it is extrapolation to well beyond the available data points. I’m always wary of extrapolation.

Also, to be clear, I have not been challenging the standard model. I am merely withholding my own judgement about it.

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You left out the most important part of his post, Eddie:

Neil does not propose an “Intelligent Design cosmology” that is somehow supposed to vanquish the supposedly atheistic or vastly unsupported cosmology model. He is honest about his limitations. Thus his behavior is vastly different from, and vastly more humble than, the behavior of those who have attacked consensus biology on this forum.

Nor does Neil tell us the nature of his doubts. His view might be that no cosmology could be satisfactory without reconciling quantum mechanics with relativity. And that is an opinion shared widely by cosmologists themselves!



Unlike the extremely strong correlation between religious conservatism and denial of man-made climate change and evolution, it’s not clear to me those are the reasons Neil Rickert has doubts about the standard model of cosmology.

It’s also not really clear to what extend there has ever been a similarly strong consensus in cosmology about it’s so-called “standard model”, nor what the basis was for the origin of this model in the first place.

I don’t think your attempt at an equivocation between these subjects has much merit.

It should also not escape out notice that the person who started this thread has pretty directly expressed an interest in the subject seemingly because she sees some hope for a future conflict between cosmology and evolution with which she can carve out a space for her religious convictions.


Then you ought to have phrased your sweeping remark more carefully. It was its sweeping character that I was responding to.

First, correlation is not causality, and second, in the case of evolution there are specific doctrines in certain forms of Protestant religion that lead directly to rejection of evolution, whereas there is nothing at all in any form of Protestantism that ought to lead any religious believer to any opinion at all on climate change. If there happens to be a correlation between conservative Protestants in the USA and doubts about climate change, I would submit that the connection lies not in anything at all to do with conservative Protestant religion but in a general cultural phenomenon in the USA in which there is tension between the principles of individualism, populism and autodidacticism on the one hand, and the principle of institutionalized or elite expertise on the other. This is a tension of long standing, and one which Europeans have trouble grasping when confronted with American culture.

You’ll have to take the question of her motivation up with her. I was commenting only on the fact that Neil has expressed doubt about a consensus view. I actually salute him for that.

Because it isn’t the most important part of his post, for the point I was making. The point is that he doubts the truth of a consensus. Whether or not he has an alternative does not change the fact that he doubts. I disregard the preachy part of your answer, just as you have chosen to disregard the fact that Rumraket’s words seemed to imply that Neil’s motivations for intellectual doubt were religious or ideological; my remark to Rumraket was entirely just.

There was nothing smug about my remark, which was a just retort regarding a false implication of religious motivation. As for snideness, after Mercer, you are the master of that trait on this site. After a brief period of time where you disagreed with me respectfully, and relations between us thawed somewhat, you have gone back to disagreeing with me with “edge”, routinely. I take it that this is your natural way of disagreeing with people. But this is not at all uncommon among people who have the combination of “science-trained plus atheist.” Every disagreement becomes pistols at dawn.

I know a former NASA physicist who agrees with you, and he isn’t the only one, from what I’ve been reading.

Me, too.

Perfectly reasonable. But when I tried to withhold judgment about certain matters, saying neither aye nor nay, J. Burke savaged me for refusing to commit. A majority view can quickly become a tyranny.

In intellectual matters, doubt is, generally speaking, salutary. It bespeaks a Socratic mind.

This is way off topic. But no, you were not withholding judgement. You were very strongly opposed to doing anything about climate change.


You can keep telling yourself that, certainly.


Your opening post in this thread …

…has been interpreted by every interlocutor as “preachy,” @Eddie.

So if we followed your example, @Eddie, we would have ignored your post entirely.

And just like you, we would have announced we were ignoring it. Because nothing indicates you’re ignoring a post better than telling the world you’re ignoring it. :wink:



Actually, the attitude you are expressing here is just as “smug” as anything you are accusing me of. In any case, accusing me of smugness (which is name-calling, rather than argument, but I’ve pretty well come to expect that around here) hardly addresses the point of my reply to Rumraket. He wrote unclearly, in a way that could easily have suggested that Neil Rickert was motivated by religion or ideology for doubting standard cosmology. I pointed out the misleading character of his statement. You point out the misleading character of statements of people here every day, so I guess, if I am “smug” for doing do here, you are “smug” pretty much on a daily basis. But enough of this off-topic discussion of who is smug and who isn’t. I would suggest that if you have no substantive response to my remark to Rumraket, that you simply remain silent, and let him answer for himself. He doesn’t need your help, and your gratuitous characterization of the motives and attitudes of others add nothing constructive to this or any other discussion here.

First, the disagreement I was referring to with Burke was over evolution, not climate change. But second: No. I made no policy recommendations. I discussed only whether or not certain statements were in fact the “consensus” of qualified people, and whether or not there were qualified people who disagreed with the consensus. Please produce the statements on which you base this claim, or retract the statement. If you deem it off-topic here (which it is) start a new thread and present statements from me which justify your claim.

In any case, as both of us are laymen in regard to both climate change science and cosmology, I have every bit as much right to have intellectual doubts about certain claims in the one field as you do in the other.

"When I talk about the flow of rhetoric on the forum, I make important points.

“When you talk about the flow of rhetoric on the forum, it’s preachy, so I disregard it.”


I respectfully disagree with this characterization.

One of the key data points is the Cosmological Microwave Background Radiation, which goes back to very close to the origin of the universe (in astronomical time).

Another key data point is the existence of galactic sheets, which are regarded by astrophysicists as evidence of primordial density fluctuations in the very first femtoseconds of the Big Bang. (Source: https://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/G/Galactic+Sheets)

Whether this is sufficient to satisfy your doubts, I do not know. I would respectfully suggest your characterization is somewhat overstated, however.

Chris Falter


So, essentially, “I know you are, but what am I”?

No one has called it that, but you. Speak for yourself, Chris.

Literary genre is clearly not your field. My original remark was sarcastic, not preachy. It was meant humorously. But in one of your moments of over-seriousness, you launched into a little sermon on the need for fundamentalists etc. to be “humble” in their scientific assertions. Hence my adjective “preachy.”

As for Harshman, he’s now stuck in pure ad hominem mode, with nothing to offer but amateur psychoananalysis of me, so there is no need to reply to him. I await your wholesome, Christian, peacemaking intervention to tell him that calling someone “smug” is not a very kind thing to do. (Or is it only other Christians to whom you offer such edifying conversational advice? Do atheists get a free pass?)

Enough of this silly wrangling. Rumraket’s original remark was poorly worded, and I showed why, by means of my comment to Rumraket. Neither you nor Harshman addressed the point that Rumraket’s wording was most naturally taken to imply that Neil Rickert’s doubts about cosmology were motivated by religion or ideology, which is not the case.

You seem not to know what “ad hominem” means.

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You seem to be confusing the general phrase “ad hominem” with the logical term “argumentum ad hominem”. Your frequent gratuitous remarks about my character and motives are at a minimum “ad hominem” remarks. They in this case may also be “argumentum ad hominem”, if you meant to suggest that my alleged “smugness” invalidated my criticism of Rumraket’s remark. But of course, since you have carefully avoided commenting on my criticism of Rumraket’s remark, we will never know whether you were making use of argumentum ad hominem or not. All we know is that you took yet another personal shot at me, in the process adding nothing to our understanding of Rumraket’s remark or the remarks of Neil Rickert that preceded it.

Yes, sorry for the pointless criticism. But you do annoy. I will try to restrain myself further.

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