Consider climate change. “The vaunted scientific consensus around climate change,” notes Sarewitz, “applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming. The minute you get into questions about the rate and severity of future impacts, or the costs of and best pathways for addressing them, no semblance of consensus among experts remains.” Nevertheless, climate “models spew out endless streams of trans-scientific facts that allow for claims and counterclaims, all apparently sanctioned by science, about how urgent the problem is and what needs to be done.”
Vast numbers of papers have been published attempting to address these trans-scientific questions, Sarewitz observes. They provide anyone engaged in these debates with overabundant supplies of “peer-reviewed and thus culturally validated truths that can be selected and assembled in whatever ways are necessary to support the position and policy solution of your choice.” It’s confirmation bias all the way down.