Notwithstanding the contentions of Paul Franson and Joseph Maness (Your Views, May 3), throughout history are found copious examples of scientific consensus being wrong. When the germ theory of disease was proposed by Ignaz Semmelweis in the 19th century, the scientific establishment rejected his position, clinging to the consensus miasma theory. When Alfred Wegener proposed continental drift at the beginning of the 20th century, his views contradicted the scientific consensus that no such movement occurred. When Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren contended in the 1980s that stomach ulcers were caused by H. pyloric, a bacterium, and not stress and spicy foods (as virtually every other scientist believed at the time), they were greeted with ridicule and disdain. Ultimately, however, in all of the foregoing disputes, the scientific consensus was wrong.
Lastly, by way of perhaps the most celebrated example of the slaying of scientific consensus, we have Albert Einstein. There was a scientific consensus on gravity for centuries until Einstein came along and proposed relativity. His theory eviscerated the previous consensus. And he wasn't even a research scientist or university professor but a lowly patent clerk!
Science isn't a democracy where you simply count the votes and the winning theory is declared the scientific truth. The mind of the true scientist is always open to the consideration of alternate theories in the pursuit of ultimate truth; no such scientist would ever engage in the suppression of dissenting theories or the intimidation of those who hold them.
Gary Proctor, Houston
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