The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.I agree, but perhaps things aren't as bad as we may think. Natalie didn't want to get into the question of consensus in science but I think it's useful to remember the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn and the idea of the paradigm:
Kuhn argued that science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge. Instead, science is "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions"Now, consider this in connection with the climate change "debate":
Kuhn also maintained that, contrary to popular conception, typical scientists are not objective and independent thinkers. Rather, they are conservative individuals who accept what they have been taught and apply their knowledge to solving the problems that their theories dictate.It seems to me that the "it's all mankind's fault" school is conservative in Kuhn's sense. The real radicals are those who stand out against the consensus, rather like libertarians in politics. So I suggest that we bear this in mind when despairing of the state of science or politics for that matter:
During periods of normal science, the primary task of scientists is to bring the accepted theory and fact into closer agreement. As a consequence, scientists tend to ignore research findings that might threaten the existing paradigm and trigger the development of a new and competing paradigm. For example, Ptolemy popularized the notion that the sun revolves around the earth, and this view was defended for centuries even in the face of conflicting evidence. In the pursuit of science, Kuhn observed, "novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."It wouldn't surprise me in the least if a new "novelty" (global cooling caused by mankind?) were to emerge when we least expect. As Ayn Rand used to say: "It's earlier than you think."