Consensus is not an argument

How should we think about weird things?
User avatar
Lausten
Persistent Poster
Posts: 3593
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:33 pm
Location: Northern Minnesota
Contact:

Consensus is not an argument

Postby Lausten » Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:58 pm

Richard Carrier published a peer reviewed book on the historicity of Jesus, and has been arguing with the consensus on this topic ever since. In this blog post, he makes the general case of what consensus is and how it is key to modern science. The post is about a debate with Bart Ehrman and Robert Price, Carrier scores it, point by point. The comment at consensus comes at the end

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11435

But here, everyone in the field is ignoring the peer reviewed challenges to the consensus in their own field (even Craig Evans didn’t read my book when he debated it with me), and fallaciously, circularly, citing “the consensus” as the reason to not even examine or respond to a peer reviewed challenge to that consensus—a methodology that would end all progress in every field were it adopted as a principle. Which is why no sane science would adopt such a principle. In fact, abolishing that principle is precisely what demarcated modern science from medieval and launched the Scientific Revolution.


In this case, I believe the consensus on Jesus is weak, so citing it is a weak defense. There is another layer to this when someone cites a strong consensus, like global warming. It's true that it's a fallacy to merely cite the consensus, but pointing out that it's a fallacy is the fallacy fallacy, it does not make the consensus wrong. As long as you are not, as stated above, adopting citing the consensus as a principle, it's an acceptable thing to do in conversation. If we aren't free to choose not to engage in any debate challenge, then we aren't free. If you don't respect my right to do that, then we can't have a respectful conversation.

However, understanding this rather simple principle has created a world where men and women from all cultures work together to determine how the universe began and create cures for our worst ills. Things that people in the past simply claimed they could do, but never actually did.
A sermon helper that doesn't tell you what to believe: http://www.milepost100.com

bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Has No Life
Posts: 14686
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:39 am
Custom Title: bobbo da existential pragmatist

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:27 pm

I'll say it in slightly different words: The fact there is a consensus is not important. WHY THERE IS A CONSENSUS is very powerful. On issues of Jesus, seems to me consensus is just a measure of group think. In matters of science, its how many of the elements of the theory have been duplicated and confirmed, how the theory predicts, how the theory narrow in its minimal conception actually affects other areas of related inquiry.

......and while its not your point, consensus is an argument when the proposition is "There is disagreement..........."
Real Name: bobbo the existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?

User avatar
iGoddard
New Member
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:52 pm

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby iGoddard » Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:35 am

Lausten wrote:It's true that it's a fallacy to merely cite the consensus, but pointing out that it's a fallacy is the fallacy fallacy, it does not make the consensus wrong.

But 'appeal to consensus' is not a fallacy if the consensus is among relevant-field experts. It's appeal to inappropriate authority that's the fallacy known as Argumentum ad verecundiam, but also referred to simply as 'appeal to authority'. For example, Copi and Cohen (1994) say:

Ad verecundiam ... An informal fallacy in which the appeal to authority is illegitimate because the authority appealed to has no special claim to expertness on the matter in question.


Therefore, if the authorities appealed to for a claim about the climate are climate scientists, no fallacy is committed. Nor is a fallacy committed when appealing to a consensus of experts on field x wrt claims within x. Here's the form of the Appeal to Authority fallacy:

Authority on subject x, L says accept statement p.
p is outside the scope of subject x.
p is true.


From: http://philosophy.lander.edu/scireas/authority.html

So again, 'appeal to authority' is a fallacy only if you're appealing to the opinion of someone on matter x who is not a qualified expert regarding x.

User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has No Life
Posts: 11561
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:48 am

Good point, iGoddard.

It has always seemed to me that the " fallacy of appeal to authority " is not a fallacy at all, as long as the authority appealed to is indeed a very strong authority on that topic.

bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Has No Life
Posts: 14686
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:39 am
Custom Title: bobbo da existential pragmatist

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:05 am

the fallacy is NOT appeal to authority...........but appeal to an unqualified authority.

..........its in the small print.
Real Name: bobbo the existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?

User avatar
Poodle
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9603
Joined: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:12 pm
Custom Title: Regular sleeper
Location: NE corner of my living room

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby Poodle » Sun Mar 25, 2018 7:37 am

An old cautionary tale ...
During a train trip through the countryside, an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician observe a flock of sheep. The engineer remarks, "I see that the sheep in this region are white." The physicist offers a correction, "Some sheep in this region are white." And the mathematician responds, "In this region there exist sheep that are white on at least one side."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defeasible_reasoning

User avatar
Lausten
Persistent Poster
Posts: 3593
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:33 pm
Location: Northern Minnesota
Contact:

Re: Consensus is not an argument

Postby Lausten » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:45 am

The consensus on the historical existence of Jesus is a weak consensus. The authorities are unqualified. That's why it makes a good example for my OP.
A sermon helper that doesn't tell you what to believe: http://www.milepost100.com


Return to “Skepticism and Critical Thinking”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests