The woman ahead of me in the checkout line was buying a Sierra Club calendar. “Are there pictures of melting polar bears?” I innocently inquired. With an you’re-not-at-all-funny expression on her face, she replied, “Well, the polar ice caps are melting.” “How do you know?” I asked. “Because 97% of scientists agree,” she smugly responded.
The 97% statistic is used ad nauseam in reference to the percentage of scientists who are said to believe in man-made global warming. The stat is more than a little disingenuous. It also reflects the blind faith most Americans have in science. In the early 1970s, it was the consensus in the scientific community that we were entering another ice age – global cooling.
Going with the “overwhelming consensus” is marching into quicksand in lead-lined boots.
In 1914, it was the consensus among military strategists that a European war would be of short duration – home by Christmas. Four years and 40 million dead later…
In the 1920s, it was the consensus among investors that the U.S. economy would expand indefinitely.
In the late 1930s, it was the consensus among Western diplomats that Hitler’s territorial ambitions were limited.
In 2016, it was the overwhelming consensus among pollsters that Trump would get a shellacking, and it would be 4 to 8 years of Hillary.
Today, among municipal officials, it’s the consensus that the homeless crisis is due to lack of affordable housing. Addiction and mental illness don’t even enter into their calculation.
And physicians once appeared in ads for cigarettes.
When a consensus cracks and begins to crumble, it’s even more dangerous than melting polar bears.