Consensus is the refuge of scoundrels and collectivists


This was the mind-boggling theme of Michael Crichton, the physician and polymath who died last week from cancer. In his books he delved into the horrendous problems caused by scientists who fall prey to the temptations of money, power and fame. In 66 years he wrote 26 novels, not famous for their style but nevertheless fairly readable, absorbing the attention of readers. Being a strong advocate of good science he was especially worried about the intrusion of politics into scientific enterprise – most of all in climate science. In this context it is worth reading his 2003 lecture at Caltech with the title "Aliens Cause Global Warming."

As the 20th century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact.

Crichton drew on the same issues in his subsequent 2004 novel "State of Fear", which was dismissed by Al Gore among others. But contrary to the trivial science fiction confabbed by Gore, Crichton has serious scientific credentials stressing the point that consensus, which has become the main pillar of climate scare is the true antipode of good science. Historic consensus scams smothered scientific truths such as puerperal fever causing death on child delivery, pellagra being caused by poor diet, and Alfred Wegener's continental drift, for between fifty and 120 years. From this experience we can at least be confident that the global warming scam will not last forever.