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It seems that there is a disturbing trend in scientific discourse to ever-greater use of argumentation from authority. A case in point is the ongoing and very public spat between E.O. Wilson on one side and Richard Dawkins, along with other luminaries such as Steven Pinker on the other.

I can pretend to make no pronouncement on the quality of science in discussion. My objection concerns Dawkins’ accusation that Wilson does not understand the Darwin theory, as well as David Sloan Wilson’s deference to consensus.

First off, Darwin is not scripture, and if the science calls for his revision then so be it. More important still, as E.O. Wilson ably shows, argumentation from consensus has no place in scientific discourse because only facts gathered by the scientific method rule, and this holds for evolution, climate studies, or the date of first arrival of Homo sapiens at this hallowed shore. It is a sad day for science when substantive discourse in the merits takes a back seat to charges of apostasy. Such a doctrinaire Auto da Fe is worthy of a Torquemada, not a scientist.

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