Science needs conformity — but not the kind it has right now

M. Anthony Mills in The New Atlantis:

What is worrisome about the lab-leak controversy therefore is not only that our public discussions and political decisions about Covid-19 may have been hampered by the experts’ mischaracterization of scientific knowledge. The long-term danger is that the experts themselves have helped to undermine public trust in scientific expertise and the institutions that depend on it, at a moment when such knowledge is more deeply intertwined with our social and political life than ever before.

To help us understand what went wrong, we need to ask again what “scientific consensus” really means, and how the experts got it so wrong in discussing Covid’s origins. One tempting response, particularly to those already primed to distrust elites, is to conclude that scientific consensus is inherently dangerous — little more than self-deluded group think, or a tool for manipulating the public. But that is the wrong conclusion to draw. Consensus, rightly understood, is a distinguishing feature of modern science, indispensable to its progress, and part of its well-earned authority in understanding the natural world — it deserves a defense.

More here.