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But Science Had a CONSENSUS!

August 26, 2011

Eight and a half years ago, Michael Crichton highlighted the problems with accepting the idea that having a consensus among scientists about a theory was equivalent to establishing it as fact.  He pointed out that science does NOT go forward on consensus but rather on individuals who challenge it, even going so far as saying “there is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

Today, we have a pair of news stories that underline this.  First, came the acknowledgement that the Higgs Boson – the so-called “God Particle” that, according to standard theory, was responsible for all the Mass of the Universe – likely didn’t exist.

In fact, informal polls of physicists over the last decade have shown that an overwhelming majority believed that the existence of the Higgs was a foregone conclusion and that all that was needed was simply to run the LHC long enough: the Higgs would eventually show up. Hawking—known for controversial and contrarian pronouncements—was seen as simply throwing around his weight.

But the Higgs boson never appeared. Running continually at an unprecedented energy level of seven trillion electron volts since March 31, 2010, the LHC has been amassing petabytes of data that are being analyzed by a grid of interlinked computers worldwide in search of the missing boson. And yesterday, August 22, at the Biennial International Symposium on Lepton-Photon Interactions at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, the bombshell was dropped: CERN scientists declared that over the entire range of energy the Collider had explored—from 145 to 466 billion electron volts—the Higgs boson is excluded as a possibility with a 95% probability.

Then came the finding that all the climate models predicting catastrophic global warming were wrong.

The first results from the lab’s CLOUD (“Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets”) experiment published in Nature today confirm that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation. Current thinking posits that half of the Earth’s clouds are formed through nucleation. The paper is entitled Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation.

This has significant implications for climate science because water vapour and clouds play a large role in determining global temperatures. Tiny changes in overall cloud cover can result in relatively large temperature changes.

[I]t is clear that the treatment of aerosol formation in climate models will need to be substantially revised, since all models assume that nucleation is caused by these vapours [sulphuric acid and ammonia] and water alone.

So the consensus among scientists, which looked down their noses at skeptics and felt fully justified in treating them like ignorant shills for oil companies, now no longer have the models that were the ONLY thing they could use to justify themselves.

So much for consensus.

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