Scientific consensus is a high bar to reach indeed. Wikipedia defines scientific consensus as
Scientific consensus is the collective judgement, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method.
One of the ways that scientific consensus is reached is through vigorous peer review. Reading PZ Meyers’ blog entry Do not respect authority, a scathing critique of a talk by Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis was a joy.
Really, though, the only reason to listen to this mess is at the end, somewhere past the one hour mark, where he’s dealing with the Q&A, and two people, a student and a faculty member, actually have the guts to question him critically. Mullis can’t answer them; he basically makes an argument from authority, claiming that he’s been studying diseases since before the student was born, and even stooping to calling him a “little boy”. It got ugly there. Mullis not only is incapable of assembling a coherent thought, but turns surly when anyone does not fawn over him.
The student and the professor who are willing to argue with the credentialed buffoon are the only shining lights in this depressing spectacle.
If one wasn’t already convinced that people can accept overwhelming scientific consensus as something quite near to fact, after reading this example of one such critique, it may allow one to breath a little easier.