Re: Consensus is not science
"As a physicist I am painfully aware of instances of consensus that when exposed to an actual experiment fell completely apart."
Yes, we get it. All "knowledge" is provisional and subject to revision in the light of evidence.
We can all produce examples of scientific knowledge that got modified. These range from the frankly comic assertions of Aristotle that got blown away by the first real test (although the internal inconsistencies should have been a clue) to the much more nuanced example of the nature of light.
Unlike the way that you have presented it there was not a universal naive assumption about light. Instead there was an enormous volume of observational evidence that light was a wave phenomenon. Alongside this was the theory of James Clerk Maxwell that unified observational evidence from electricity and magnetism and through an elegant set of equations showed that light was consistent with being an electomagnetic wave. Not only that, but the theory predicted the existence of waves of other frequencies, such as radio waves. Later, these waves were actually observed by Hertz. Fantastic!
The issue of what the medium was that carried the wave was the subject of debate as it did not appear to fit in fully with other understanding. It was the Michelson-Morley experiment that finally killed the aether concept, but it did not dismiss the idea of the wave nature of light. Maxwell's equations continued to work. Later, the photoelectric effect showed that light also appeared to have particle-like behaviour. However, even that could not overturn the vast amount of experimental observation of the wave-like properties of light. Let's not forget that physics students continue to observe the wave effects each and every day in labs all over the world. The result of all this is, instead, quantum theory which allows for *both* wave like and particle like manifestations of the underlying behaviour.
This is a far cry from "Ho ho, weren't they stupid for thinking light was a wave in a universal aether". This is a constant tactic used to dismiss a current state of knowledge that someone does not like. "We were a bit wrong before so therefore we could be, and probably are, completely and utterly wrong now". Well, maybe we are completely and utterly wrong now, but only actual evidence will back this up.
"When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory."
Nonsense. Consensus can and, in this situation, does mean a censensus interpretation of all the available hypotheses, theories and *observational* evidence.
Oh, and yes, I am a physicist too.