Consensus does not necessarily guarantee sound science
Guest post by Forrest M. Mims III
Consensus is often cited in support of scientific paradigms, including anthropogenic climate change. Australian physicist Tom Quirk has neatly dissected the consensus argument for the human role in climate change in an article in Quadrant Online entitled “Of climate science and stomach bugs.” This curiously entitled piece begins with the story of how Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren revolutionized the treatment of stomach ulcers in 1982 when they discovered that peptic ulcers are mainly caused by a bacterium.
While their claim was stubbornly rejected by drug companies and surgeons who profited handsomely from treating ulcer patients, in the end truth prevailed over dogma and Marshall and Warren received the 2005 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Quirk’s article then compares the conflicts of interest, money and pseudoscience of the stomach bugs story with the ongoing debate over climate change. His account reinforces the sometimes neglected but essential role of skepticism in all of science and is well worth reading.