Scientific consensus shows massive scientific support for a general conclusion

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Knowledge Base: Science

Science is one of the most effective methods for gaining reliable knowledge about the empirical world, from spacecrafts to cures for human diseases and thousands of other profound discoveries. Anti-science activists threaten to undermine the knowledge that science has brought us and want to replace it with misinformation and ignorance.

Fact: Scientific consensus shows massive scientific support for a general conclusion


A scientific consensus is reached when the evidence for a general model becomes overwhelming.


A scientific consensus indicates broad agreement on the validity of some general model of the world. This agreement is reached when the evidence published in the scientific literature becomes so large, vast and consistent that it would be foolish to deny it, such as evolution, climate change and safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Scientists probe their models for accuracy using empirical data in different kinds of experiments and statistical analyses. If it is methodologically sound, it can get published in scientific journals. As more and more research is done, published and critically investigated, the evidence starts to independently converge on general conclusions. A scientific consensus is reached when this evidence convinces the vast majority of scientists in a given field that this general conclusion is probably true. Common examples of scientific consensus positions is that common descent is true, that climate change is real and that vaccines are generally safe and effective.

However, many anti-science activists must reject scientific consensus positions in order to hold on to their flawed ideological beliefs. Therefore, they wrongly claim that there is no scientific consensus or that scientific consensus is somehow merely a vote or popularity contest. The reason that his is wrong is because scientific consensus means that the vast weight of the evidence supports a general scientific conclusion. A scientific consensus does not mean that all scientists have to agree, but you would never fly a plane that the vast majority of engineers said was dangerous just because one or two cranks decided to ignore the evidence.

– Novella, S. (2008). Scientific consensus. Neurologica. Accessed: 2012-02-12.
– Scheufele, D. A. (2013). Communicating science in social settings. PNAS. 110 (Supplement 3) 14040-14047. doi:10.1073/pnas.1213275110
– Skeptical Raptor. (2015). Developing and supporting a scientific consensus. Accessed: 2012-02-12.
– Skeptical Science. (2016). The 97% consensus on global warming. Accessed: 2012-02-12.

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