Scientific Consensus: is it Scientific? Can Science be trusted to determine morality?
What does consensus mean in the scientific community? It is a way of doing science by majority rule. In other words, whatever the majority of scientists believe in any given case or time “must be true”. But isn’t science supposed to be based on logic and empirical or observable evidence? Yes, it is. And even when we can’t repeat experimentally certain assumptions about a theory, we should be able to look at the theory and make predictions, which we can than check by existing evidence.
After all, aren’t we taught to be critical thinkers and to question everything? Isn’t that the “scientific way”? In my college level psychology book, the author spends three paragraphs insisting on just that attitude. However, when talking about evolution in the same chapter a page later, he contradicts himself and states “Virtually no contemporary scientist believes Darwin was basically wrong.” In other words, contrary to what we usually tell kids, “if everyone believes something, it must be true.” It would be fun to be able to attack that statement in a court of law, as it is not only wrong in its approach to science, it is misleading as well.
First of all, there are thousands of creation scientists with PhD’s in every field who doubt Darwin. But casting them aside as mere religious nuts (marginalization), there are thousands of scientists who doubt Darwin on different levels, who are not creationists. I could fill a book with quotes from scientists who have serious problems with Darwin’s theory in each of its various parts, from spontaneous generation, to the fossil record, to molecular or morphological trees, selection acting on genetic copying errors to increase biological information and on and on. Naturally, all scientists who are atheists have to believe that the world came into existence with out any supernatural help, that’s demanded by their religious faith. So by default you could say they don’t believe that Darwin was “basically wrong”. But even many of them are honest enough to admit that Biology and paleontology have provided little observable science to buttress that belief.
And there lies the reason for his use of scientific consensus, the “all real scientists believe it” syndrome. When you haven’t got the evidence to defend your viewpoint, and your view is the popular or ruling view, “Scientific consensus” is the most powerful tool in existence to silence anybody who dares to challenge you. Not only is scientific consensus totally unscientific in its approach, historically it has proven to be disastrous as a means of determining truth. One example would be bloodletting, the practice that killed countless patients in the 18th century. Later on, Louis Pasteur was almost ostracized by the scientific community because of his belief in germs. The doctors who fought for hospital hygienic practices, such as Semmelwies, were laughed at for decades by the “majority” of the scientific community. In pre- war Germany, scientists traveled to Australia and actually shot and stuffed Aboriginals because they thought they were subhuman throwbacks. They wanted them for museum displays promoting evolution.
One of the most interesting cases is the scientists who held the then prevailing consensus that each human race had evolved separately from different ape families, in contradiction to the biblical view that all humans were closely related being recently descended from one couple. In an effort to prove evolution, they decided to produce an artificially inseminated hybrid between apes and humans.(1) They felt that Europeans were the most advanced race, so they bred them with chimpanzees. They bred Africans with gorillas and Chinese with orangutans. Some of the women died, and they even tried to inseminate the African women without their knowledge, but the women caught on. (Amazingly alert for an alleged sub race) All the attempts failed, because the apes have a different number of chromosomes than humans. They were acting on the “known” scientific truth of the day.
I won’t go into detail about what happened to the nations in recent history that adopted the idea that science could be used to decide moral truth, but three that come to mind are Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and the Communist Chinese. That these were the nations that first legalized abortion and euthanasia, massive genocides as well as being known for having numerous secret prison cities for those who weren’t marching in tune with the governmental groupthink, isn’t surprising. They also outlawed Biblical Christianity, for all practical intent and purposes.
Should we allow scientific consensus to go unquestioned and let all those opposed be marginalized? Is morality something to be discovered in test tubes by brilliant Harvard scholars? Should human embryos be sacrificed in order to extend and improve the quality of our own human existence? After all they’re just surplus embryos, they’re awful small, they can’t fight, they have no money or political power, and they are the weakest and most defenseless of humankind. And they’ll probably just die anyway. But does human life have a built in value that shouldn’t be toyed with, and if so, where does it come from?
Our forefathers firmly and rightly insisted that all human rights flow from our Creator, not from fallible men, even if Presidents or acting governments think otherwise. Science changes, men make mistakes. For that reason human ethics are best founded on intrinsic values that exist apart from mans invention. Men can recognize them or not, but they can’t invent or change them. The founders of the American dream, from the authors of the Mayflower compact to the writers of the constitution, all believed liberty had to be rooted in and held accountable to biblical morality.
Thus we can know beyond dispute, that all men are created and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. This applies no matter how weak, poor, small or young or old they are. These rights are not based on intelligence, good looks, athletic ability, or social status. These rights cannot be removed for arbitrary reasons or for another person’s convenience. They apply to doddering old men and women; they apply to fetuses frozen or in the womb and to lisping infants. These rights come from our Creator, and would it not be wiser to fear Him and exercise wisdom and restraint than to allow ourselves to be sucked in by the latest “scientific” scenarios of the period of history we live in?
No matter how compelling or how pragmatic such scenarios may appear, remember that necessity is the plea of tyrants. But where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
(1) more on this case can be found in an excellent article by Jerry Bergman on the ICR website at http://www.icr.org/article/human-ape-hybridization-failed-attempt/ , called, Human Ape Hybridization: a failed attempt to prove Darwinism.