A group of inferior people is never better than any one of them; it is just as inferior as they, and a State composed of nothing but sheep is never anything else but a herd of sheep, even though it is led by a shepherd with a vicious dog. Admittedly there has been scientific and technological progress, but no one has yet heard that people in general have become more intelligent let alone morally better.Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961
I am coming to the disquieting realization that perhaps many of the social, technological, even scientific “advancements” of the past two centuries have represented not an evolution, but a spiritual devolution for our civilization. What follows is a somewhat scattered, likely ignorant tirade on modernity that I felt the need to express.
Technology itself is like power, utterly amoral, and can be wielded in both good and bad ways. It is merely an enhancer of the underlying character of one’s psychology. This also applies to the effect of new technologies on a culture’s overall zeitgeist. It brings to the surface certain traits that otherwise would have remained latent and innocuous. One example is social media, which one could argue has only served to magnify the mob megaphone for outrage.
In many respects, due to the vast institutionalization of scientific pursuit, we are living in a “post-truth” reality. Data, charts, studies, and all the rest of it are virtually meaningless to the average person. Basing your belief on this “evidence” requires a string of assumptions that we collectively accept as facts.
There is enough distance between us and the gathering of data to create a layer of obfuscation and abstraction in which any manipulation of numbers or mischaracterization of phenomena can take place. Within this information-matrix, narrative and agenda precede evidence. In today’s highly complex world, the “facts” can become whatever they need to be to support the narrative.
None of us laypeople read the academic and scientific studies. None of us crunch the numbers ourselves or compile the results. We simply accept the conclusions as gospel if the studies come from an authority the social consensus deems “credible,” or better yet, if they affirm our preconceived cultural biases and conditioning. Ask yourself, what does this really mean?
Trusting the scientific consensus is simply an appeal to authority. In other words, a logical fallacy. The scientific establishment is not this all-powerful, philosophically homogenous authority it’s perceived as being. Within a globalized, capitalistic system like our own, individual commercial interests will inevitably gain surreptitious influence. Even hallowed administrative bodies such as the FDA are vulnerable to regulatory capture. A separate tirade on the pharmaceutical industry is warranted here, but it would engorge this post to monstrous proportions.
The social phenomenon of “establishment” and “consensus” is stumbling, blind, and inherently dogmatic. When too many people are a part of the group, the best parts of a human’s capacity to perceive and discern are suppressed. Insight is dimmed or entirely fails to manifest. This is why individual influence is so important, even when it is contrary to the consensus. One person, with an unfettered mind, is likely to catch some detail, or speak some truth that the group is too afraid to. Large organized social bodies beget blindness, fear, and herd mentality.
The sense of security is increased and the sense of responsibility decreased when one is part of a group. The group accentuates the ego; one becomes braver, more presumptuous, more cocky, more insolent, more reckless; but the self is diminished and gets pushed into the background in favor of the average. Hence the individual in the group always tends to assent as far as possible to the majority opinion, or else to impose his opinion on the group.Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961
Here is a last, sobering thought to conclude this tirade. Consciousness is too easily led astray by its own light, as Jung taught. And we are currently seeing it in America with the dominant political attitude of “moral superiority whilst stopping at nothing to ruin the lives of anyone deemed a heretic to the new religion.” The vulnerability and corruptibility of blind unanimity makes this a frightening prospect. There is nothing more dangerous than a power-motivated entity of group-think that believes itself to be an arbiter of absolute truth. Science, technology, and “social progress” are only forces for good when we, as individuals, are unafraid to look inward, confront the darkness within ourselves, and remain utterly true in our words and actions, even at the expense of the security afforded by unexamined conformity.
One thought on “The Fallacy of Consensus”
Dear Ty (aka “lux”),
As a new subscriber to your blog, I really like your two quotations of Carl Jung, and I concur with you about the fallacy of consensus, which can be very insidious, ubiquitous and commonly encountered as you have described. It stems from people having some core traits that have defined the human species, which are identified and analyzed in my post entitled We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology“, published at
This is a very substantial and topically important post, even dealing with the fundamental problems and the existential crisis of the human species, looming ever larger. I look forward to your perusing my said post and welcome your input and feedback there, as I am certainly very keen and curious about what you will make of my said post.
Wishing you a productive week doing or enjoying whatever that satisfies you the most, including but not limited to composing highly commendable blog posts!
Happy October to you!