The question asked by François Charbonneau from the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa in the pages of To have to August 8, whether the concept of scientific consensus is really scientific, is interesting, but conceals a trap into which it fell. By assimilating the scientific consensus to a current of thought in scientific circles, to a sort of personal opinion on a topical subject shared by scientists, he is mistaken.
When he says that the scientific consensus was once held to be true that the Earth was flat, he is still wrong. It was the Church that proclaimed this “truth”, certainly not Pythagoras, Copernicus or Galileo. When scientists think the same thing, it says absolutely nothing about the truth of an assertion, says Charbonneau. Perhaps not in absolute terms, but in the physical world we inhabit, the scientific gaze is what comes closest to the truth.
When scientists watch an apple fall, the scientific consensus is that the apple was attracted to Earth. However, Newton’s theory has never been 100% proven. Some may argue that science has not yet discovered the “gravitons” through which gravity is exerted. Still. Newton’s laws have served us well in understanding the universe and in building rockets and satellites that work.
The real problem with scientific consensus is that it is misunderstood by the general public and the media. Journalists, for example, rarely have a scientific background. As ethics require them to present information fairly, they tend to present divergent points of view with equal prominence. Unfounded beliefs and real facts then share the same public space and receive the same treatment. This is what the Trumps, Duhaime and Bernier quickly understood.
In the context of the complaint lodged with the ombudsman of the SRC to denounce the interview granted by Stéphane Bureau to Dr Didier Raoult, M. Charbonneau would like us to give as much space, in the media, to subjects opposing the scientific consensus on the pretext that someone would be prevented from speaking. Or even that we could outright miss the truth one day.
Even if there is no scientific consensus on its existence, God forbid!
The Canadian News
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