ConsensusDo We Need It?

Those who have been following my blog (and my Soapbox blog as well) know that I have spent a lot of time fulminating against consensus which I often call dogmatism. Isn’t scientific consensus an oxymoron? Let’s list some of the issues in which I have found consensus problematic:

  • Diabetes. The medical consensus would have it that diabetes is an incurable condition. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it forever. It’s a fact that doctors are grossly under-educated about nutrition. Of course, given the state of the field of “nutrition,” perhaps it’s a good thing that doctors aren’t taught too much since, in my (not so) humble opinion, nutritionists are fonts of ignorance. They are taught to promote the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is responsible for a population ridden Raw-Food-Dietwith cancer and other diseases that are  preventable. Cut to the chase: I had diabetes. I cured myself with diet. My diet was a simple vegan diet. The “guru” who guided me in my quest was Dr. Neal Barnard who wrote Reverse Diabetes Now. I am a firm believer in a raw, vegan diet. It worked for me. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Let success be thy proof.”
  • Raw Food. While I didn’t resort to a raw diet to heal my diabetes, I once did eat a raw, vegan diet for six years. During that time, I kept the effects of Hepatitis C at bay. My doctors had been on the verge of putting me on Interferon, a medication that kills the Hep C virus but causes a lot of nasty side effects. I figured if I have to norman_walker_become_youngergo through this cure, I will be too sick to enjoy eating my favorite foods anyway so I had nothing to lose by embracing this austere diet. The doctors scheduled a liver biopsy for me in three months. After three months on that diet, the biopsy showed I no longer needed to take Interferon. Recently, I took new newly discovered drug (Harvoni) and got rid of the virus entirely.
    I already believed in the raw, vegan diet ever since I read Become Younger by Norman A. Walker. I had just recovered from pneumonia and I determined I would never go through that again. That time, I was true to my diet for two years. During that time, I weighed about 100 pounds and had perfect health. I didn’t stick it out because I missed other food.
  • Vaccination. Although I get regular flu shots, I was born before the “miracle” of the Andy-Wakefield-quote-800pixelsMMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine. I got measles and, despite current propaganda, did not die of the disease. Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield spoke out about the dangers of the MMR vaccine. For his trouble, he was exiled from Britain and stripped of his medical credentials. I won’t get into the debate here. I have already discussed it elsewhere. I will only mention that I have encountered an unbelievable wall of fanaticism on the part of those who believe in that vaccine and vaccination in general.
  • Legalization of all Drugs. What is considered the harm caused by unregulated use war-on-drugs-PINof certain demonized substances is really, again, in my not-so-humble opinion, is caused by the regulations themselves, and the attempts to enforce said regulations, in other words, the “war on drugs.” I have believed this for years and years. I have a blog, Drug Heresies, where I make my case.
    The way most people seem to feel about it is a lot like the way they feel about the importance, nay, the necessity of conscience. The thinking is that people can only be good if they have a conscience. Interesting how, back in the days of theocracy, most people believed it was necessary to believe in God to be a good person. As great a mind as that of Dostoevsky held this belief. The root idea is that people will only be good if they are forced. The corollary is that bad behavior is much more alluring and rewarding. Only fear of punishment can keep us from doing wrong.
  • transTransgenderism.We can want to be either gender. We can take hormones and undergo surgery to look more like the gender we want to be. That don’t make it so. People who support the Tranny Movement are as fanatical and intolerant as those who support vaccination. It’s scary how powerful and far-reaching this movement has become. I have spoken out against that opinion if only because of the tremendous pressure exerted to force everyone to support it.

As anyone can see, I’m very opinionated. I have argued in favor of my opinions as rationally as I know how. I have also deplored the absolutism of the scientific consensus that surrounds those views with which I disagree. I have not included my opinions are religion or morality which I consider too subjective to be worthy of rational debate. There’s the notion that all religion deserves equal respect. I prefer to give it equal disrespect. But that’s another discussion.

While I have eloquently attacked consensus in science, there is another side that deserves to be looked at. Of course, forced consensus is, by it’s very nature, unscientific. The hallmark of science is untrammeled freedom of thought. One of my favorite professors in college, Dr. Sidney Hook, used to say, “Don’t agree with me unless you just can’t help yourselves.” I find it troublesome that there is so much conformity among people who consider themselves scientists.

cartoon-settled-science-consensusOn the other hand, what would science be without consensus? If there were no consensus about anything, what authority would science have? Christian fundamentalists are trying to destroy consensus in areas of science that conflict with their biblical fundamentalism. For example, people are arguing scientifically against the theory of evolution. Global warming is another area of science which is hotly contested What do the words psychopathy and sociopathy mean? There is no consensus although many thinkers say the former is an inborn, neurological condition while the latter is caused by the environment. Nature vs. nurture is a longstanding debate. Science has a history of changing positions every 20 years or so.

I consider consensus a very important resting place for attempts to define objective truth. We need to stay on our feet intellectually. We need to question whatever is currently our consensus, not only in science, but it everything. But we also need consensus in building an edifice of truth. We can knock down that edifice but, without an edifice to begin with, we have nothing but chaos.

cliff-clipart-cliparti1_cliff-clipart_02The quest for truth can be likened to mountain climbing. We manage to scramble up to a ledge or plateau. From there, we can aspire to greater heights. We can also abandon that plateau if we find it is a dead end. But we need to have the plateau as a structure to work with. Without bones, are arms would be unable to function. We don’t want to let the bones calcify which would make our arms too rigid to function. But we do need some kind of form with which to work. Political correctness, now demonized these days, comes from people with similar political opinions seeking to find a consensus among themselves. I have known people who struggled in marathon meetings, going on all night at times, seeking a consensus that might be overthrown sometime in the future.

There will always be a tension between structure and fluidity. Both have a place in commitment to finding Truth.


3 thoughts on “Consensus

  1. A wise man (Gregory Bateson) wrote, “Science never proves anything.”, pointing out thereby that it is the nature of the scientific method that all it can ever provide, at best, is the most parsimonious explanation of the observed phenomenon that is consistent with explanations of similar phenomena, and the test is the usefulness of the explanation in prediction. So, there does tend to be a consensus developed, but it must not be mistaken for proof or “Natural Law”, only an hypothesis that seems to work well enough until a better one can be found. Many scientists, most doctors, and nearly all bureaucrats, journalists and popularizing writers on science suffer from this error.


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