Consensus Is Part of the Scientific Method

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A recent study concluded that the consensus on climate change is real. As stories like this usually do, it provoked a lot of outraged commentary. One of our Facebook commenters, however, responded with a perfectly legitimate question: “And how does consensus fit into the Scientific Method?”

This question, or something very similar to it, is always asked when the issue of scientific consensus is raised. Yet, it might surprise the commenter to learn that scientific consensus is real, and is even a vital part of the scientific method!

I like to imagine the scientific method as resembling the solar system. The planets, traveling in perfect orbits, represent the pillars of the scientific method: Observations, hypotheses, predictions/experiments, and continuous refinements. Continue reading