I call it the Cult of Science, because its adherents exhibit idolatry to the bulk of scientific research that reaches mainstream media and public education. The fact that the majority of that research may be produced by researchers with definite conflicts of interest is of no concern. The preponderance of "research," or at least various features and op-eds about that research, constitute a firm scientific majority. You could call that a paradigm, but members of the Cult of Science believe that the majority rule trumps the need to examine evidence to the contrary, no matter how qualified it's sources.
Let us take water fluoridation, for example. Maxwell says that: "In 2013, Portlanders voted overwhelmingly to remain one of America's largest cities with unfluoridated water. As a trained scientist—a biologist, specifically—I found the result troubling. As a citizen, I found it terrifying. The campaign's winning antifluoride side marshaled a strange coalition of left, right, and the Dandy Warhols' keyboardist to crush the broad scientific consensus that fluoridating water improves public health."
Granted, there is this so-called "scientific consensus" that fluoridating water improves public health. But is that really a scientific position to take? The bottom line is that fluoride is considered a drug, not a mineral nutrient, by the Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA has never ruled on its safety. It is partly due to this that toothpaste carries the warning label, "Do not swallow. In case of accidental ingestion, contact the poison control center." In many U.S. cities, the amount of fluoride from toothpaste ingestion that should prompt somebody to seek medical attention is equal to one glass of water.
How scientific is it to suggest that a drug that reaches toxic levels of consumption should be issued through a public water supply in an uncontrolled dose? How scientific is it to say that such an uncontrolled, daily dose of drug is safe for all that may consume it--children, pets, infants--in such indefinite quantities? How can science say that an uncontrolled dose that may reach toxic levels is safe when distributed in such a matter?
The truth is, it's not scientific at all.
So what about the "broad scientific consensus" that supports fluoridation of our drinking water. Well, that would not include one study by Harvard University that was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in 2013 that analyzed over 22 years of research to conclude that water fluoridation led to lower IQs in children, as compared to children raised in environments where water supply is not fluoridated. One can search online for "studies against fluoride" and find numerous studies that argue against fluoride, including some by researchers with the American Medical Association and Environmental Protection Agency. Does Maxwell's "broad consensus" invalidate other peer reviewed research or the contrary opinions of other medical professionals? Why does this consensus not seem to extend to other nations like Ireland, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark and more which have determined that uncontrolled doses of fluoride in drinking water are not healthy? Are they all anti-science, too?
The Cult of Science uses terms like "broad scientific consensus" as an Orwellian-style "thought terminating cliche." Don't think. Don't question. Just go along with the mass of research that is being broadly publicized. That is not scientific.