The Con of Consensus Statements
June 15, 2023 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

Over the past few years, we have been inundated by consensus statements from various medical, scientific, and political agencies. Such statements are significant, because they have been prominent in the formation of various public health, climate, and energy policies. Have you been tempted to accept these pronouncements as reliable statements of fact? Let’s consider what’s really happening.

A consensus statement is not fact, nor is it evidence; it is opinion, an educated guess, by a group of experts in a particular field of study. At best, a consensus statement gives insight into what most of the so-called thought leaders believe about a particular problem or question. But those conclusions often end up being far from the reality. In other words, they are frequently wrong—which has often led to devastating results. Even within the medical literature, this is openly acknowledged:

Clinical consensus statements reflect opinions drafted by content experts for which consensus is sought using explicit methodology to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. In contrast to clinical practice guidelines, which are based primarily on high-level evidence, clinical consensus statements are more applicable to situations where evidence is limited or lacking, yet there are still opportunities to reduce uncertainty and improve quality of care (emphasis mine).[1]

Consensus statements from so-called leading scientists are often used to convince people that various unsettled questions are settled, that the only rational choice is to follow their conclusions and that doing so is the same as following the science. But this is simply untrue. In fact, quite frequently, it is the opposite—consensus statements are used to obstruct science, to interfere with inquiry, and to prevent the advancement of objective truth.

Most of the time, I don’t have difficulty in choosing titles for my blogs, but with this one I had many competing titles:

  • The Intimidation of Consensus Statements
  • Consensus Statements and Mind Control
  • Consensus Statements and the Silencing of Dissent
  • Obstructing the Truth with Consensus Statements
  • How Bias Is Advanced with Consensus Statements
  • Consensus Statements and the Blinding of Science

I could go on, but I think you get the point.


Intimidation and Mind Control

Despite the admission that clinical consensus statements are used when evidence is limited or lacking, their use is being applied in the following ways by biased, agenda-driven media outlets, political actions groups, academic institutions, and others:

  • This is truth, so stop asking questions.
  • If you don’t understand our conclusions, then you are ignorant, foolish, or lacking the intelligence to comprehend them because we, the experts, have come to a consensus (think The Emperor’s New Clothes).
  • If you are intelligent enough to understand and, perhaps, even have your own credentials yet don’t agree with the consensus, then you must be a conspiracy theorist, an anarchist, or a heretic.
  • If you don’t follow the prescriptions as outlined in our conclusions, then you are a dissident, unpatriotic, and deserving of punishment—such as having your license to practice medicine revoked.

That is, consensus statements are being used destructively as a means of advancing positions in which the evidence for the consensus is not sufficient to do so on the merits, facts, truth, and reason. They are designed to intimidate you, control your thinking, and alter your behavior—and to get you to do the same to others.

Here are a few examples from history when the consensus was wrong and caused significant loss of life or health, spiritually and physically:

  • The experts who concluded there could never be a worldwide flood, that Noah was wrong, and who led the populous to not get on the ark
  • The theological experts in the Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus for heresy
  • The theological experts who condemned Galileo for heresy
  • The theological experts who condemned Martin Luther for heresy
  • The medical experts who condemned Louis Pasteur and germ theory
  • The physicians who practiced bleeding and leaching to treat fever and infectious diseases
  • The medical professionals who prescribed tobacco smoking for lung disease
  • The doctors who rejected hypertension as a medical problem and argued treating it would cause harm [2] [3]
  • The consensus of scientists who teach godless evolution

I don’t think I need to go into how consensus statements have been wrong on a global scale over the past few years.

Michael Crichton (1942–2008), a physician, producer, and writer, said it well when he gave a lecture on science, politics, and consensus in 2003:

I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. … Consensus is the business of politics. … The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.[4]

Human beings are finite and fallible; only God is infinite and infallible. Therefore, the Christian approach is to be a lover of truth, to have a heart and mind that eagerly hungers after eternal truth and is willing to be corrected and developed by advancing truth.

God’s enemy does not have truth on his side. The evil one does not want people searching for and growing in truth. Therefore, he engages in practices that obstruct the truth and its advancement—sadly, consensus statements too often serve this pernicious function.

I challenge you: Don’t surrender your mind to the opinions of others but be fully persuaded in your own mind (Romans 14:5) and exercise your God-given faculties to reason, think, and examine the evidence for yourself (Isaiah 1:18). In so doing, you will become a mature Christian who has the ability to discern the right from the wrong (Hebrews 5:14), one who has grown up into the full stature of Jesus Christ, that “we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent”—like their consensus statements (Ephesians 4:14 GNT).

[1] Otolaryngology– Head and Neck Surgery 2015, Vol. 153(2S) S1–S14 DOI: 10.1177/0194599815601394

[2] J. H. Hay, “A British Medical Association Lecture on the Significance of a Raised Blood Pressure,” British Medical Journal 2, no. 3679, (July 11, 1931): 43–47, doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3679.43 PMC2314188, PMID 20776269.

[3] Paul D. White, Heart Disease, 2nd ed. (New York: MacMillan, 1937), 326.



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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.