The Danger of “Scientific Consensus”

Read a great article this morning on the dangers of scientific consensus. The Royal Navy had established in the 18th century that lemon juice cured scurvy. But in the second half of the 19th century, when steamships’ fast travel times had mostly eliminated the danger of scurvy, scientists enamoured of the new germ theory of disease hypothesized that scurvy was in fact caused by bacteria.

Over the course of fifty years, scurvy would return to torment not just Polar explorers, but thousands of infants born into wealthy European and American homes.

On Scott’s Antarctic expidition they made sure to boil all their fresh food extra long (in the process destroying all its vitamin C), and immediately began getting scurvy. They switched to freshly-killed seal while they stayed on the Antarctic coast, which cured them, but on their final push into the interior had to make do with processed food, with fatal results.