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"Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way."

Imagine that.


Surely you could pick a better source than a "creation science" site to lecture scientists on how to practice science? Or an author (Michael Crichton) lacking any scientific training?

Consider your example above. In fact scientists did question the distance of the Earth from the Sun for a long time. Kepler's three laws of planetary motion, put forth in the early 17th century, established the relative scale of the solar system. So, from this time on, astronomers knew, e.g., that the size of Venus' orbit was about 0.7 times that of the Earth. But Kepler's Laws didn't provide an absolute scale, and so the actual distance of the Earth from the Sun (defined to be the "astronomical unit" or AU) remained uncertain for a very long time.

The first reasonably accurate determination used observations of the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, observed from widely separated locations on the Earth. The geometry of these transits tied known distances between the observers on the Earth to the (unknown) distance between the Earth and Venus. Results for the 1761 and 1769 expeditions were collated by Jérôme Lalande in 1771 to establish the absolute Earth-Venus distance. This result fixed the absolute scale of the solar system, and provided the first reasonable value of the astronomical unit -- roughly 2.5% larger than the modern value of 1.495979 X 10^8 km. However, a truly accurate estimate of the AU was not obtained until 1895 by Simon Newcomb -- nearly 3 centuries after Kepler. For more information, see, e.g., the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_unit

Nowadays, the size of the AU is only of historical interest. So, Ajax, and Michael Crichton are right in this regard: consensus science is boring science. With regard to climate science, there is essentially complete consensus on the question of whether or not greenhouse gases warm the Earth, and the corollary that putting more greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide, or CO2) into the atmosphere will further warm the Earth.

The interesting question is not this, but rather, how will the Earth respond to this particular perturbation (increased CO2) of the climate system? That is where there is no agreed upon consensus (yet), and where the research effort is directed.

Phil
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