@Bob Snyder - NASA the most trusted govt agency? Not according to Richard Feynman who researched the Challenger disaster. Didn't he say that NASA was the only govt agency that out-and-out lied to him? Must have been because they had the most to lose.
Max, depending on whose model you want to consider, estimates of ancient tides range from about 3X today's tides to tides of 1000 feet or more. Also, the length of the day seems to have been considerably shorter, on the order of 6 hours when the moon was formed. These are all estimates, of course, that depend on how you model the transfer of angular momentum from the earth to the moon over billions of years. Fossil records seem to show a length to the day of only 21.9 hours about 650 million years ago, and lasers measuring the earth-moon distance using mirrors left behind by Apollo astronauts confirm the creeping increase, so we're pretty sure things were considerably different long ago. But how different is mostly a matter of conjecture and modeling.
I personally favor the idea of 1000 foot tides occurring every few hours. It would go a long way toward explaining why the ocean is as salty as it is.
I think it's quite rational for educated people to be somewhat skeptical of scientific consensus. Most people probably experience Science most frequently in the context of Health and Medicine. Most people like their doctors and trust them, but they also realize that medical professionals, and the medical research community, are fallible. Many of us have changed our daily habits due to medical consensus, only to learn that the consensus had been reversed or revised at a later date.
When I was growing up, people were advised to eat liver and other organ meats because they contained lots of vitamins. We were advised to use stick margarine in place of stick butter. A decade ago, adults over a certain age were advised to take a baby aspirin every day to protect their hearts. All of this advice was based upon medical consensus which was subsequently revised or reversed in light of new or better data.
Medical researchers are not dishonest. They are doing the best they can with data that is frequently incomplete and/or ambiguous. Scientists, and the scientific community, are fallible.
Until recently it was generally accepted that the universe is expanding, but at a steadily decreasing rate, and that eventually the universe would collapse in upon itself. In light of recent evidence, it is now generally accepted that the universe is expanding at a steadily INCREASING rate.
Satellite altimetry is providing new insights into the dynamics of ocean waves and currents as well as vertical movements of land masses. I would be very surprised if our understanding of sea level does not change in significant ways in the coming decades.
The non-experts use religion to counter the experts. Religion is how we explain the unexplainable. Most people don't understand scientific explanations and therefore they don't trust them. But, they trust religious explanations. Fact vs. faith. Faith wins until proven otherwise and then the experts say "We told you so, you didn't believe us, and now it's too late."
In the global warming debate, we have experts saying one thing and complete non-experts saying the opposite. Yes, it is wise to be a bit skeptical about expert opinion. A bit. It is utterly insane to not be at all skeptical about inexpert opinion.