Consensus and Inconvenient Evidence | Thomas M. Doran | CWR blog
If we are such reasonable people, why are we becoming a nation of unreasoning and evidence-disdaining cattle?
Our culture likes to flatter itself on its broadminded, rational, even scientific approach to the issues of our times. Many are proud to have put the “voodoo of religious faith”, and everything that can’t be measured, behind them.
Matt Ridley, who recently “retired” from authoring the Wall Street Journal’s Mind & Matter (science) column, speaking about climate change, says, “…science does not respect consensus. There was once widespread agreement about phlogiston (a nonexistent element said to be a crucial part of combustion), eugenics, the impossibility of continental drift, the idea that genes were made of protein (not DNA) and stomach ulcers were caused by stress, and so forth – all of which proved false. Science, Richard Feynman once said, ‘is the belief in the ignorance of experts’…So, yes, it is the evidence that persuades me whether a theory is right or wrong, and no, I could not care less what the ‘consensus’ says.”
Ridley’s perspective can be applied to many subjects and issues, small and big. For instance, the consensus is that professional athletes need sports psychologists, so – using golf as an example – why is there a dearth of modern professionals with the tough-mindedness of a Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, or Tom Watson, men who excelled at the game before sports psychology was in vogue?
The consensus is that modern visual art (portraying a materialistic worldview) has displaced the anachronistic and chauvinistic art of previous centuries, so why would an exemplar of modern art, Salvador Dali, suggest that as modern artists had come to believe in nothing, their art amounted to nothing?
The consensus is that the natural environment in the U.S. is deteriorating, though the great majority of the evidence – declines in water/air-related illnesses, significant water/air quality improvements, habitat creation, sensitive species returning to once-polluted rivers, advancements in treatment/recycle technologies, indicates that America’s natural environment has been improving for decades, so why are so many people convinced that America is experiencing an environmental crisis?
The consensus is that racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation “diversity” enriches academia and workplaces, but where is the evidence that ethnic and sexual diversity produces diversity in thinking, attitude, or perspective? Why are there so many universities, populated with a “diverse” faculty and student body, that can’t abide non-conforming thinking?