"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
It seems that while the European conception of “science” is more “systematic” as an “organised body of knowledge” in some vague general sense (which can therefore include what many in the Anglophone world consider to be the “humanities”, e.g. anthropology, psychology, history, etc), but the Anglophone world considers “science” in the much more “pragmatic” operational sense of being capable of “application” or predictions.
Being the good Anglophile, I am naturally inclined towards what Daniel Dennett calls “operationalism”. But a better reason to adopt the Anglophone conception of “science” is primarily that of faithfulness to convention. Most of the “authority” of the sciences comes not from the methodology by which the conclusions are arrived (except in the case of mathematics whereby from the deduction comes the proof), but from the fact that you can “replicate” directly to us the consequences of the theorems and formulas in experiments and engineering, etc. It is this “immediacy”, the replicability and applicability of the hard sciences, which gives it its normative and authoritative force.
Therefore when people invoke the concept of “scientific consensus”, head immediately for the hills. Science is not based on consensus but prediction and deduction. If you cannot formulate an experiment to make predictions or make mathematical deductions, it is not science. Science is essentially operationalistic, prediction and deduction of predicable consequences.
All these of course renders the notion of “scientific consensus” questionable. Truth is not decided by a democratic vote, and the idea of “scientific consensus”, I suspect, is very much derived from the European “classical” view of a community of philosopher kings whose somehow elite and academic minds along with arcane methods (or magical thinking rather) gives them estoeric insights into truth and reality, etc.
This interestingly enough suggests a very good reason why deniers of evolution or old earth theories are mainly to be found on the Anglophone world, especially in America, compared to the rest of the Western world which is much more bound to the “rationalistic” ideals of the European continent as opposed to the “empiricism” of the Anglophone world.
The reason is very simply that you cannot “replicate” experimentally macroevolution. And macroevolution has very little actual application in the use of bioengineering or medicine. It is strictly speaking, an “organised systematic body of conclusions”. As such, given its lack of “empirical” or “operational” force, it is very easy to deny evolution or old earth theories because it has very little actual “immediate” effect upon the lives of the deniers.
This is of course different from the “European” world which includes also those who remain in the British Dominion. They see “science” as a rigorous systematic organisation of facts which may or may not have “immediate” application. There is also a greater respect for the traditional “academia” institutions which the Americans lack. As such, most people in those worlds would accept it as a matter of course the scientific consensus of evolution and old earth theories.
However, I remember reading Josh of the Fearsome Pirate reason for holding on to old earth theories and evolution. He argues that people who search for oil need the theories of paleo-geography to find the crude oils underground. Ironically, Josh here is being a very good American, deriving the credibility of a theory based on its applicability…
I think though that there is something deliciously ironic about how the extreme empiricism of the Americans leads them to deny evolution, hahaha…