Whew! Glad that's over with.
Also, there is no spoon. And don't talk about Fight Club.
Alright, that's something of an exaggeration. There IS a lot of scientific consensus with established things like general relativity or QED or the fact that missing socks actually travel to another dimension. The thing is, when it comes to real science, the specter of scientific consensus is much less often raised than it is in the realm of politically charged science.
For example, when Stanley Prusiner got the Nobel Prize for his research on prions, there was some controversy as many in the medical establishment did not accept the idea, or did not think prions were anything more than a byproduct of disease. In fact, some guy by the name of Gary Taubes was deeply skeptical of Prusiner and his being awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. Nowadays, prions seem to be accepted by most of the medical establishment, but I think it is interesting that Taubes didn't use the c-word (consensus) once in his scathing critique of Pruisner.
So when I hear experts like Stephan Guyenet talk about scientific consensus, I tend to become very wary.
Let's keep in mind that the mainstream consensus in nutritional science today is still that saturated fats will clog your arteries. People like Stephan know that's bullshit, of course, but it still is the party line. It is still the official consensus, although it's not scientific.
So what is wrong with science these days? Or is there anything wrong at all? I think there is.
There's a lot of talk these days about the flawed process of peer review. One fix that's generally agreed upon is to allow open access, something promoted by people like anthropologist John Hawks.
But I think there's a much bigger factor in the bad science game, especially politically charged science and for that we need but follow the money.
I whipped out my mad photoshop skillz and made a little illustrative graphic I'm gonna call the Circle Jerk of Nutritional Science:
The main flaw in the system is that the money tree of nutritional research is mostly watered by taxes. This is less of a problem in fields like physics and chemistry. As far as I know, no government in the world officially supports string theory (or string hypothesis as I like to call it). But most western governments have long since thrown their official weight behind the lipid hypothesis. Hell, the Danish government started taxing saturated fat.
It's easy to trash the peer review system, but what would we replace it with? To paraphrase Churchill, peer review is the worst system, except for all the others that have been tried. But can we really expect a nutrition research system funded by governments that explicitly endorse things like the lipid hypothesis to be objective? When Stephan Guyenet says thing like this:
We are approaching agreement on food reward in the research community because the evidence at this point is overwhelming, plain and simple. There is no conspiracy, no good old boys' club, no herd mentality, and I find those insinuations to be a rather lazy way of arguing against the idea. Again, recall that some of the people writing these reviews acknowledge the importance of food reward despite the fact that it potentially takes the spotlight off their own research.Isn't he being just a bit naive?