Post Normal Ravetz Rumpus

Reply from Jerome Ravetz

As usual I am nearly overwhelmed by these replies, and I only wish that I could respond to each of them.

Let me try to handle some issues that came up repeatedly.

First, we can find it very useful to look at the correspondence in today’s London Independent newspaper between Steve Connor and the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson (here described as an ‘heretic’), on http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/letters-to-a-heretic-an-email-conversation-with-climate-change-sceptic-professor-freeman-dyson-2224912.html?action=Gallery.

Dyson makes a very basic point, that the uncertainties are just too great for any firm policy decision to be made. Connor, by contrast, presents a number of scientific claims, all of which he believes to be solid and factual. Then the argument shifts to more general issues, and Dyson eventually pulls out.

Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies; but it is also possible that he really believes what he is saying. For Dyson, it could be (and here I am mind-reading, on the basis of what I would do in similar circumstances) that he saw that short of taking a couple of crucial issues and digging ever deeper into the debates about them, he was on a path of rapidly diminishing returns. That left him looking like someone who didn’t want to argue, and so leaving the field to the expert.

For me, that is a reminder that before one engages in a debate one needs to be sure of one’s ground. And that requires an investment of personal resources, taking them from other commitments. That is one reason why I do not engage in detailed discussions of scientific issues, but try to do my best with the issues of procedure. Of course, that can seem cowardice to some, but so be it.

Now there is the fundamental point of the sort of science that ‘climate change’ is. The big policy question is whether there is enough strength of evidence for AGW to justify the huge investments that would be required to do something about it. That is not a simple hypothesis to be decided by an experimental test. There are the ‘error-costs’ to be considered, where those of erroneous action or inaction would be very large. The decision is made even more complex by the fact that the remedies for CO2 that have been implemented so far are themselves highly controversial. Therefore, although the issues of: the policies to adopt; the strength of the scientific evidence for AGW; the behaviour of the AGW scientists – are all connected, they are distinct. People can hold a variety of positions on each of these issues, and they may have been changing their views on each of them. This is why I tried to argue that the situation is best not seen as one of goodies and baddies.

As to Post-Normal Science, I was recently reminded of an example that was very important in setting me on the path. Suppose we have an ‘environmental toxicant’, on which there is anecdotal evidence of harm, leading to a political campaign for its banning. Such evidence is not sufficient, and so scientific studies were undertaken. But these used test animals, over short timespans with high doses. On the basis of those results a dose-response curve was obtained, which in principle should lead regulators to define a ‘safe limit’. But those results were from a temporary acute dose, while the policy problem related to a chronic low dose. And then (and here’s the kicker) it was realised that in extrapolating from the lab situation to the field situation, the method of extrapolation was more important in defining the dose-response relations in the field than was the lab data itself.

So Science was producing, not a Fact but an artefact. That for me became a good example for the PNS mantram. For that sort of problem, there was a classic paper about policy for environmental toxicants’, by A.S. Whittemore, published in Risk Analysis in 1983. In any real situation of that sort, there will be plenty of experts on both sides of the value-conflicted policy process, who really believe that their data is conclusive (children with unusual symptoms on the one side, lab rats with LD50 doses on the other). In practice, there is a negotiation, where scientific evidence is introduced and contested as one element of the situation.

Reflecting on that sort of problem in relation to PNS, I came up with point about science now needing to relate to Quality rather than to Truth. That was rather neat, but also a cause of much trouble, for which I issue another apology. My critics on this issue (notably Willis) have provided me with much food for thought. I don’t resolve these things in a hurry, and there are still others in the pipeline, but here’s how I see it now. In a recent post, Willis gave his definition of truth, which is a very good one relating to scientific practice. But for him (and I agree) it means that a scientific truth is a statement that might actually be false. From a scientific point of view, that’s good common sense; to imagine that any particular scientific statement ranks with 2 + 2 = 4 is the most arrant dogmatism. However, that means that our idea of scientific truth is quite different from the ordinary one, where there is an absolute distinction between ‘true’ and ‘false’.

One way out of that problem is to believe that scientific truth is indeed absolute. On that there is the classic pronouncement by Galileo: “The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.” This is echoed in practice by generations of teachers, who present the facts dogmatically and discourage any questioning. I was one of those who reacted against that authoritarian style of scientific indoctrination. Now, if one is doing routine puzzle-solving research, the issue of truth is not too pressing; one can know that somehow, somewhere, one’s results will be superceded in one way or another; but that’s all over the horizon. But in cases of urgent policy-related research like the toxicant example I mentioned above, to believe that one’s anecdotes or one’s lab-rats give the truth about the danger of the toxicant, is mistaken and inappropriate. For when such conflicting results are negotiated, what comes into play is their quality.

Having said all that, I now see clearly that Truth cannot be jettisoned so casually. I have two paths to a rescue. One is to make the issue personal; to say ‘this is the truth as I see it’, or ‘to the best of my knowledge it is true’, or ‘I am being truthful’. This allows one to acknowledge a possible error; what counts here is one’s competence and integrity. And of course this has been at the core of the Climategate dispute, arising out of the CRU emails, the question of the correctness of their results is tangled with the morality of their behaviour.

The other path brings in broader considerations. Our inherited cultural teaching mentions a number of absolutes, including The Good, The True, The Just, The Holy and The Beautiful. These provide the moral compass for our behaviour. Now we know that these are goals and not states of being. Those who believe that they have achieved them are actually in a perilous state, for they are subject to delusion and hypocrisy. Perhaps someone reading this will take offense, for they might be sure that they have achieved perfection in one of these, and (for example) be perfectly good or just. If so I apologise, on a personal basis, for giving offense.

For the rest of us, life is a struggle, always imperfect, to achieve those of the goals that define who we want to be. Now, if we say that science is mainly devoted to achieving the goal of truth, and that every real scientist realises that as much as possible in his or her imperfect practice, then we have something that works. All this may be obvious or banal to those who never had this problem; I am inflicting it on you all because I have been exposed to so many scientists who sincerely believed that Galileo’s words settled the issue forever.

As usual, this is going on and on. Let me deal with my Quaker friend. I never said that I am a Quaker, only that I attended Swarthmore. I have looked up the site for Quaker Business Practice, and find it very inspiring. Although I do not express my beliefs in the same way, I find there an approach that expresses my own commitments. In particular, there are some recommendations about practice, which I shall quote (for brevity, out of context).

*A Sense of the Meeting is only achieved when those participating respect and care for one another. It requires a humble and loving spirit, imputing purity of motive to all participants and offering our highest selves in return. We seek to create a safe space for sharing.

*We value process over product, action or outcome. We respect each other’s thoughts, feelings and insights more than expedient action.

And, just as a reminder of the issues I discussed above,

*Friends would not claim to have perfected this process, or that we always practice it with complete faithfulness.

It might seem all too idealistic, to expect such attitudes to survive outside a rather special (and small) group of dedicated people. But I recall that some have seen the life of science as an approximation to just that. In the interwar period there were two distinguished scientists who involved themselves in public affairs, one on the far Left and the other on the Right; they were J.D. Bernal and Michael Polanyi respectively. Their disagreements were urgent and profound. But they both loved science, and saw in it an example, imperfect but still real, of the ideal community of selfless sharing in which they believed. I should say that the motivation for my first book was to see whether, and in what ways, that essential idealism of science could be preserved under the ‘industrialised’ conditions of the postwar period. What happened in that quest, and after, is quite another question; but the commitment is still there.

And finally. What I said about Sarah Palin was not about her but about me. It is one of the complexities of life that issues are there in a variety of dimensions, not all of our choosing. I have friends in the critical-environmental movement who are really grieved at my defection; and as I have seen all too clearly, there are those in the anti-AGW camp who think very ill of me. So be it.

Thanks for bearing with me through all this, and thanks for stimulating me to a better understanding.

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140 Responses to Post Normal Ravetz Rumpus

  1. racookpe1978 says:

    “We respect each other’s thoughts, feelings and insights more than expedient action.”

    So why the absolute, economic-crushing, death-producing rush to destroy innocents’ lives by denying them energy, clean water, transportation, food, fuel, fodder, and farms by limiting their energy in the name of a NON-Proveable theory of CAGW when there is no penalty (except lost tax dollars, lost control, lost political power) by getting a real answer in 15 or twenty years?

    Other than, of course, that very loss of political power and prestige as CAGW is proved false, but its legacy of death, recession, and destruction would have been started by the writer in such a rush.

  2. Stevo says:

    “Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies”

    What a truly despicable way to pretend that other people are saying what you, in fact, are thinking.

  3. carbon-based life form says:

    “Perhaps someone reading this will take offense, for they might be sure that they have achieved perfection in one of these, and (for example) be perfectly good or just. If so I apologise, on a personal basis, for giving offense.”

    Thank you, Mr. Ravetz, for sharing your thoughts with us. I don’t think, though, that you need to worry about offending a person who believes that he or she has achieved perfection in any of the traits you mention. They simply need a better mirror.

    I am interested in your view of the “precautionary principle” which seems to be the “last refuge” of those arguing that the risk of inaction is so great that it overwhelms any present uncertainty.

  4. James Sexton says:

    Dr. Ravetz, “clearly, there are those in the anti-AGW camp who think very ill of me.”

    I must confess, I didn’t read you prior posting, as per my custom, I will skim/speed read a posting. I’ll read the start to attempt to get the gist of the post and then work my way back up to the start, and then back down if I deem is necessary. When I skimmed through, and I read your reference to Palin, I went to Curry’s and Goddard’s blogs.

    I don’t think ill of you. I consider you a person who is attempting to explain and trying to understand at the same time. This is a good thing. But, you have to know the inflammatory nature of climate science discussion and political discussions, especially when Palin is mentioned. I guess what I’m saying is, if you play with fire you’re going to get burnt. You managed in one post to ignite the 2 of most volatile topics of conversation in the U.S. I’m surprised you didn’t write something about Obama’s Muslim heritage, that could have been a triflecta!

    Finally, ” The Good, The True, The Just, The Holy and The Beautiful. These provide the moral compass for our behaviour. Now we know that these are goals and not states of being.” —————– One day, we’ll get there in the by and by.

  5. David Davidovics says:

    It seems to me PNS is at worst, just another way to excuse pouring mud in the water, and simply cutting corners at best.

    I accept the notion that science is rarely very certain, but that doesn’t mean we should lower our standards of verification simply because we “BELIEVE” ourselves to be so right that the ends justify the means.

    I thank you for trying to clear that up, but I cannot yet accept your reasoning.

  6. Thirsty says:

    Steve Conner came across as an obnoxious twit.

    The disrespect he showed Freeman Dyson was stunning.

  7. DeNihilist says:

    and in the end, Dr. Ravetz, a singularity.

  8. Martin Lewitt says:

    Dr. Ravetz,

    “Now, if we say that science is mainly devoted to achieving the goal of truth …”

    I’d say devoted not to “achieving” but rather to “pursuing” the truth, in fact, rather than “truth”, lets substitute “knowledge” or “understanding” or “insight”, it avoids the metaphysical baggage of truth.

    The pursuit of knowledge is intellectual, it doesn’t require this kind of touchy feely stuff:

    “A Sense of the Meeting is only achieved when those participating respect and care for one another. It requires a humble and loving spirit, imputing purity of motive to all participants and offering our highest selves in return. We seek to create a safe space for sharing.”

    What it requires is intellectual honesty and the “space for sharing” does not have to be “safe”, lack of safety is just an emotional excuse for the climategate shenanigans. You don’t “share” in science, you expose your data and ideas to the critical light of day because what you really care about is getting the science right, and seeing it advanced further by yourself and others.

    I would hope you’d be proud to be on the same side as Sarah Palin, she has the courage of her convictions and the willingness to stick to them despite popular opposition. After all, you are here where your ideas face some hostility, and perhaps take some pride in being willing to face the criticism and scrutiny. I embrace what Sarah Palin said, “Only dead fish go with the flow”. I think we get better science, when we don’t just go with the flow.

  9. Sam Hall says:

    You say: “Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies; but it is also possible that he really believes what he is saying.”

    It doesn’t matter at all what he believes is the truth. What matters are the facts and that comes from the data and the methods. Both of which the “Team” has gone to great lengths to conceal. Until the “Team” makes public their data and their methods, they get nothing from me but contempt, because they aren’t scientists.

    You see, the stakes are very high. If we do what the “warmists” preach, then millions are going to die.

  10. Roger Carr says:

    Jerome Ravetz: “And then (and here’s the kicker) it was realised that in extrapolating from the lab situation to the field situation, the method of extrapolation was more important in defining the dose-response relations in the field than was the lab data itself.

    That is the most telling sentence relative to post normal science in all you have written in these essays, Jerome. It provides a reference point, a benchmark, for consideration of the value and validity of PNS.

  11. TBear says:

    It would help if Dr. Ravetz could learn the virtue of brevity, and get to his point with more efficiency. I mean, who cares if Ravetz is or is not a Quaker? What on earth has that to do with anything?

    Having read the Connor/Dyson debate, I cannot agree that Dyson’s decision to discontinue `… left him looking like someone who didn’t want to argue, and so leaving the field to the expert.’ Dyson quit because Connor was a repetitious bore and to contiue would have been an utter waste of time.

  12. gcapologist says:

    Dr. Ravetz writes: “The other path brings in broader considerations. Our inherited cultural teaching mentions a number of absolutes, including The Good, The True, The Just, The Holy and The Beautiful. These provide the moral compass for our behaviour. Now we know that these are goals and not states of being. Those who believe that they have achieved them are actually in a perilous state, for they are subject to delusion and hypocrisy.”

    You nailed it Dr. Ravetz. This describes the majority of environmental activists I have gotten to know over the years.

    Ironically (?) one of them once wrote that Sarah Palin is “pure evil.”

  13. James Sexton says:

    Thirsty says:
    February 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Steve Conner came across as an obnoxious twit.

    The disrespect he showed Freeman Dyson was stunning.
    =====================================================

    And stupid. He was so blinded by his perspective he gave up an incredible chance to probe the mind of Dyson. If he’d conducted the interview properly, he’d still be in Dyson’s buddy box. Could you imagine having that mind available for comment? As a science journalist he blew it.

    This was the tell though, Dyson “we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop.

    Conner totally ignores that statement, but in his very next e-mail….Conner “it may be true that more people die from cold than heat, but how many die of drought and famine?”

    Apparently, Conner thinks starving people while crops get turned to fuel is way better than potentially starving people from an imaginary famine.

  14. Scott says:

    It’s really not that complicated.

    The risk of adverse selection with respect to policy increases greatly in the presence of asymmetric information and moral hazard. This is the main problem with climate science today. In today’s complicated world, this matter comes up a lot in most of our dealings with people and institutions. Indeed, one could probably trace the first example of this to the Original Sin.

    The continued obsification by many in the AGW community, scientific industry (academics and journals) and political interest groups have convinced me not to accept, prima facie, their main thesis. There is no point in entering into a debate when one party simply does not trust the other. This is not my problem to deal with. It is theirs if they want something from me.

    To move forward is simple, just two ideas are required; transparency and good will.
    Data must be freely shared and those with strong vested interests need to excuse themselves from the debate. If this isn’t possible then the proponents of the AGW theory bear the heavy burden of proof as they will also need to help others to prove their own case is wrong. If AGW is really that much of a concern then this is a sacrifice they should be willing to make for the sake of the planet.

    Those not in the know need to be able to trust the scientific process. It’s incumbent on those who claim to be in the know (the scientists) to go out of their way to assure the rest of us due process has been followed in a free and transparent manner. It’s a basic point which has less to do with science and more to do with common sense.

  15. cba says:

    falsehood in science is an absolute. It is the discrepancy between our understanding or theory and the observations of nature’s behavior. Truth is not really the antithesis of falsehood but rather the absence of a discrepancy between observations of nature and our theory of nature.

  16. Hector M. says:

    Regarding what Roger Carr says (February 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm): In fact, all science is about method and procedure, not actual content at a given time. A theory that is the best attainable theory at time t may be disproved or superseded at time t+k, but both will be scientific theories if they were worked out by using scientific methods. Also, at a given time there might be two (or more) theories claiming to explain the same phenomena, and there may be impossible for the moment to tell which is best. That is the sorry situation in which imperfect humans are as regards the growth of scientific knowledge.

    If everybody presents their scientific ideas in a calm and moderate voice, there might emerge a modicum of agreement on which they can report to politicians, possibly much less than politicians would wish. At that point politicians may make a proposal (which scientists would in turn evaluate, assessing pros and cons) and finally take action, with the risk of making an horrendous mistake albeit basing it on the best advice available.

    For this to happen, scientific institutions such be functioning properly. There are many who have worked out proposals about such institutions of science, such as Merton and his CUDOS. It is unfortunate that such is not the setting on contemporary climate science. As in other inflammatory fields (stem cells, abortion, heritability of cognitive abilities, “race”, and more) the discussion is torn apart by partisanship and faith-based prejudice, and many go so far as to distort the scientific method and process (with indictments pointing at many, from Cyril Burt about heritable intelligence to our esteemed colleagues at CRU and UPenn about proxy reconstructions of past temperatures). At that point, rather than helping the politicians to attain better decisions, science (or what passes as science) is actually creating harmful noise. This is compounded, in the case of climate, by the call for the urgent allocation of enormous fiscal effort to policies derived from one of the partisan fields of scientific opinion, with huge economic consequences. Time to take pause, I would suggest.

  17. Robert Austin says:

    Dr. Ravetz,
    Another thought provoking post. Thank you.

    Your “environmental toxin” scenario is very apropos. Society can indulge in the “precautionary principle” and act politically where no definitive scientific answer exists in cases where the cost of the heeding the “precautionary principle” is perhaps painful but not crushing. So when Freon was banned, refrigerant producers with patents on other refrigerants deemed more “ozone friendly” made big bucks and the public paid, but not to the extent of great hardship.

    Then we up the ante to the saga of the banning of DDT. For the sake of the alleged effects on raptors and other wildlife, how many people have died due to the banning of DDT?

    Then extrapolate to the world wide measures dictated by the (precautionary) measures required to achieve Hansen’s 350 ppm. We presently have no realistic substitute for fossil fuels except for nuclear and there will be a substantial portion of the ecological faction that will vehemently oppose nuclear once they are sure fossil fuels are made a pariah. Any actual attempt to achieve 350 ppm will result in the crippling of the developed world and sentencing of to the third world to eternal poverty and want. The cost of action based the “precautionary principle” in the case of CAGW is simply unconscionable. The staggering consequences of implementation of the carbon reductions demanded dictate a standard of scientific proof for CAGW goes far beyond the inchoate climate science of today.

    When there is so much at stake, can there be an amicable conversation?

  18. Doug in Seattle says:

    Dr. Ravetz, it wasn’t the science that turned me around – at least at first.

    What caused me to reject the CO2=Climate Catastrophe theory was the behavior of the TEAM.

    Their behavior, toward Steve McIntyre in particular, but also toward others who disputed their work, in turn caused me to looked deeper into the science, which made me aware of just how poorly understood and uncertain the foundation of that theory is. It also showed just how far they had strayed from scientific principles in their activism.

    Finally, with a better understanding of science behind AGW theory, I could no longer support the kind of policy actions that were being demanded on the basis of what I now know to be an extremely shaky foundation.

  19. Dishman says:

    TMy first item is nit-picking:
    The big policy question is whether there is enough strength of evidence for AGW to justify the huge investments that would be required to do something about it. That is not a simple hypothesis to be decided by an experimental test.

    I believe the second sentence to be incorrect. I have performed an experiment three times, each with less ambiguous results, that actually indicate that no investment is required. The results are now unambiguous to me, but not likely unambiguous to others. The trick is, as always, to ask ‘the right question’.

    Suppose we have an ‘environmental toxicant’, on which there is anecdotal evidence of harm, leading to a political campaign for its banning.
    Selenium came to mind. Sodium Chloride also works. Both have both LD50s and minimum daily allowances.

    “The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.”
    I hold that statement to be both true, and misused. The problem is that while the first part holds true, all understanding of them is “the judgement of man”. Reality works exactly the way it works, and our understanding of it is unavoidably flawed.

    Pulling these all together, I believe that ‘the right question’ is almost always easy to answer. Unfortunately, getting ‘the right question’ is the hard part.

    A little humility goes a long way. If you can’t admit you’ve been barking up the wrong tree, it makes it a little difficult to find the right one.

  20. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Re Freeman Dyson / Steve Connor letters; If you actually read the exchange you would have see a “journalist” try to create the answer at the start of the question.
    Steve Connor is a pinhead. Right off “let us assume”, trying to box Dyson into a loosing argument. Dyson even gave him 2 out of 6. I would only give him 1. Conner should have asked questions and listened instead of expounding over and over the same lame positions. I would suggest Dr Ravetz go back and reread and evaluate the exchange. Dyson ended the exchange as it was a waste of his time. I concure pg

  21. RockyRoad says:

    Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies; but it is also possible that he really believes what he is saying.

    It doesn’t matter if he [Connor] “really believes what he is saying” or not. Science isn’t a belief system. So your argument dies at that point, Mr. Ravetz.

    It also doesn’t matter what he does in his off-hours (hack, prostitute); Mr. Connor could be the Spruce Goose for all I care. What really matters is whether the hypotheses he supports can be falsified, and they can’t.

    Sorry, but what does all this blather about beliefs and off-hour activities have to do with the SCIENCE?!?

    (I’m convinced that in the term “Post Normal Science”, the “Science” part simply doesn’t fit–it was rejected along with logic.)

  22. Pooh, Dixie says:

    Dear Dr. Ravetz,
    If your reference (to Quaker) was to my post, I was a obscure. Sorry. “Quaker background” was ambiguous in that it could be read both ways (member or influenced by). I hope my conclusion (that you use “non-violence” in a Quaker sense) is correct. The abusive word “Raqa” (~imbecile) in Mt 5:22 is an example of the violence that one should avoid in debate. Although I am not a Quaker, I think their understanding is worthy of respect, if not adoption.

  23. vigilantfish says:

    Dr. Ravetz,

    I sympathize with your reaction ‘against that authoritarian style of scientific indoctrination’ – although I am no philosopher it was Feyerabend who helped propel me into the history of science (his warning of the need to protect society against science). However, I have an equal reaction against the authoritarian style of politically correct environmentalist indoctrination, which in many cases sees human existence as the Original Sin (as someone posted on another thread).

    Environmentalism as a religion emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in part in response to the moral vacuum in the universities in that era. Morality was being superceded by science and students were told to keep their moral views based on the old Judeo-Christian understanding to themselves in academic discussion and writings (I experienced this.) But also there was a strong reaction, owing in part to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Viet Nam War, against the human arrogance of the technocratic society.

    In the 1950s and 1960s there was a strong belief that human intelligence and industry could solve all problems using science. Too many organophosphate pesticides were used with little regard to the effects on field workers or toxic drift. DDT was used recklessly as a total pesticide in agriculture, reducing its effectiveness as an antimalarial. There are many other examples. On top of that, corporate malfeasance, such as the use of tetraethyl lead in gasoline in spite of the existence of less damaging and cheaper anti-knock ingredients, in the name of profits, damaged the environment, human health, and trust of science because science was so often invoked in support of these ‘solutions’.

    But the environmentalist reaction against these abuses quickly reached the opposite extreme, and unfortunately, was strongly infected by the Club of Rome and its scare-mongering. All of humanity is now implicated as guilty in destroying Nature’s Garden of Eden (i.e. the ideal of a humanity-free earth). All of our productions are guilty by association, and the fear of chemicals that developed from some of the abuses just mentioned, as well poorly-tested drugs etc, enabled environmentalists to trigger scares such as the Alar scare, which proved to be unfounded but did enormous damage to apple production.

    Those promoting the CAGW debacle emerged from the Club of Rome roots, which is hardly value neutral. The anthropocentric belief that our carbon-dependent lifestyles are having an impact so great that we can ‘damage’ the world’s climate is almost the mirror image of the delusion that humanity could solve all our problems through applied science. Nobody here disputes that we can have a local effect through deforestation or urban heat island effect, but the idea that our collective breathing, cooking, and travelling etc will have a lasting effect in comparison to nature’s vast cycles is highly questionable.

    I think one of my biggest problems with the whole PNS thing is that nobody is value neutral, and our politically correct ethical climate virtually guarantees that skeptics cannot get a fair hearing.

    One last point: you write ‘I should say that the motivation for my first book was to see whether, and in what ways, that essential idealism of science could be preserved under the ‘industrialised’ conditions of the postwar period’. My father was a historian, and like you, an idealist. To the end of his life he considered himself a liberal (he was British) because he held onto the early 20th definition of the word. He refused to acknowledge that in North America (where he lived) the word by 2005 had a different series of connotations. Meanings shift.

    We are not still living in the post-war industrialized society of the mid-20th century. Society’s ideals have shifted.

    I think what I am trying to say is that perhaps you are holding on to past ideals and past understandings, and things have changed in ways that idealists like yourself in the older generations don’t understand — because they do not have the lived experience of growing up and experiencing how the values, preconceptions, views and ideals of the current generation of scientists like Mann and other scientists of that generation were formed. Of course, a huge influence was the environmentalist religion (belief system) that formed in the 1970s and 1980s.

    PNS will be mired in this belief system as a consequence – and what is worrying to me is that this environmentalist belief system does not value humans or their productions – including, incidentally, science.

    (Oh, how I wish I could channel Willis when I write).

  24. Noelene says:

    I read that e-mail exchange between Connor and Dyson.I just thought Connor believes the message.The message that says we must do anything and everything to change the temperature.I didn’t see him as a prostitute.
    The same as I don’t see Palin as a bible bashing hillbilly.
    The one person who is corrupt is Al Gore.He doesn’t care what his hysteria brings,as long as it is money for him.Compare Al Gore’s mansions to Palin’s house.Right there you have the real value of the people you are placing your trust in.
    I look and look for some concern,any concern for the women and children that have to live with the consequences of western governments deciding whether they get cheap food or access to basic stoves(they could only dream of a house with electricity).I see it nowhere in the writings on AGW by the people who believe.It is the sceptics that point out the misery being inflicted on people who had the bad luck to be born in a certain place.
    Dyson made this point,Connor ignored it.
    Al Gore does not care if Chinese children are dying in hovels racked by disease and pain,with no access to medical care,The only way they will get medical care is if the country keeps right on doing what they are doing.Took them a while to discover progress,and it will be a long time before children have access to basics,and in some areas they probably never will.You only have to read the news every day to know that the Chinese population’s lifestyle is improving every year.People like Hansen and Gore want to keep those children in hovels,so their grandchildren can be guaranteed safety.Selfish,selfish people.No time for them at all.
    luckily the Chinese government doesn’t give a fig for AGW.They pay lip service,and keep right on developing.More power to them,I say.Go for it China and India,pollute as much as you like.One day you may reach western standards of living.Standards of living that was brought about by pollution.

  25. bubbagyro says:

    The crux of this entire matter was foreseen by an unlikely prophet. Eisenhower, in his farewell address to dartmouth College, said:

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    Freeman Dyson threw his hands up and left a discussion that he seemed beneath his station. The hypotheses of the warm-earthers have been falsified on many levels, especially the physico-chemical ones. These hypotheses failed on issues that were proven by Isaac Newton centuries ago, and well understood by Dyson: issues of optics, radiation, thermodynamics and such. I can easily “imagine” that Prof. Dyson, at his age and esteem, could no longer suffer a fool gladly.

    Dyson, I also “imagine”, is not “captive” or captivated in any way by this group of elitists.

  26. bubbagyro says:

    Again, I strongly resist the notion that science is open to debate. That is the sorry state into which “science” has descended.

    Isaac Newton’s theories were not “debated”. He wrote them down and subjected them to scientific discourse and the scientific method. He was not reputed to be a politician or orator. He let his equations do the talking.

    If his papers could not survive the rigor of scrutiny of scientific method, then all of his pontificating in the hallowed halls would have amounted to nothing, and would have appropriately perished to posterity.

    As, I guess, (should the scientific method be properly applied) shall be the fate of the cAGW hypothesis.

  27. James Sexton says:

    TBear says:
    February 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I mean, who cares if Ravetz is or is not a Quaker?
    =======================================================
    Apparently, someone had brought it up, so Ravetz felt compelled to address it.
    Here were a couple of surprising comments. I’m a bit disappointed, not that anyone should care about how I fell about it. But we’re usually in a bit better form than that. Even to people we may disagree with.

    “…..Dioxide, but is those promoting the Con as you’re doing. You say you are a Quaker -”
    “You might have been raised as a Quaker ……..”

    I’m very glad I skipped that post.

  28. bubbagyro says:

    Finally:

    Vigilantfish—very well said. Very well, indeed.

  29. Pooh, Dixie says:

    Let me suggest a couple of bones of contention to pick together:

    1) “Quality” means meeting requirements. If the requirements for scenarios have been set assuming a driver and a policy solution, the results must be uncertain if other drivers are excluded.

    Carter, T.R. 2006. General Guidelines On The Use Of Scenario Data For Climate Impact And Adaptation Assessment. IPCC, June. http://www.ipcc-data.org/guidelines/TGICA_guidance_sdciaa_v2_final.pdf
    (Page 36) 3.2.1. Criteria for selecting climate scenarios “Criterion 1: Consistency with global projections. They should be consistent with a broad range of global warming projections based on increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

    2) Among the characteristics found in Post Normal Science are uncertain knowledge, high stakes and urgency of decision. The high stakes of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming occur only if the models and feedback are correct. If they are not, then the issue is not urgent. Warming of 1.2oC is well within adaptions used today. Catastrophic policy measures would not be required.

  30. Al Gored says:

    vigilantfish says:
    February 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Great post.

  31. Colonial says:

    I want to compliment Dr. Ravetz. In his two previous posts, he repeatedly used the word “violence” to describe discussion, debate, and dissension. There were many who called him on it, myself included. In this third post, he has chosen to eschew that misuse of the English language. A laudable step, indeed!

    It’s difficult to conceive of anything that is more damaging to communication than a full frontal assault upon the very essence of one party to the debate. Yet that’s what elements of the AGW crowd have been engaging in for years. The “consensus” lie carries with it the implication that those who disagree are, at best, poor scientists, and at worst, steeped in evil. Warmists continually claim that skeptics are in the pay of EEEEvil corporations, while the truth is that it is the AGW side that has raked in tens of billions of tax dollars over the last 30 years. Bumping it up a notch, there are also those on the AGW side who have called for the establishment of “Nuremberg-style Courts” to try skeptics, those who have threatened that “we know where you live,” and those who published a supposedly “educational” video about blowing up those with whom the AGW crowd disagree.

    All most skeptics are looking for is a reasoned debate, without the lying, obfuscation, and withholding of data that seems to be the Climate “science” norm. While it may seem like a small thing, not being implicitly accused of violence because of our refusal to agree with every jot and tittle of AGW dogma is in reality a big step in the right direction. Thank you, Dr. Ravetz!

  32. Brian H says:

    You can see hints in his comments, but elsewhere (? lost the link) Dyson observes that it would be many times quicker and cheaper to slightly/moderately modify siliviculture and agricultural practices if we really wanted to change the CO2 base level. He cites the diurnal and seasonal swings (many multiples of the base level changes discussed) as proof of the efficacy of the biosphere.

  33. Bernie says:

    Dr Ravetz:
    What struck me from the Connor/Dyson exchange was that Dyson appeared to view the exchange as an inquiry, while Connor acted like he was trying to persuade Dyson. Such assymetric discussions are in my experience seldom productive.
    I do believe that the Quaker process is fine, but for me the question is what do people actually do when the process breaks down. This is crux I believe of your toxin example. Once the sides become polarized or entrenched, can genuine dialogue be re-generated? Rightly or wrongly, the standard way of resolving such impasses is to simply choose, directly or indirectly, an option that leaves one party more aggrieved than the other. The choice is seldom based on the then available science but on who can muster/control the required resources. Thus we muddle forward (or backwards on some occasions) with sub-optimal decisions.

  34. Stephen Rasey says:

    This has been educational. I did not know what “Post-Normal Science” was. I find Ravetz is an originator. Under “Criticisms” I find a Feynman reference to “Cargo Cult Science”

    The term cargo cult science was first used by the physicist Richard Feynman …. in 1974, to negatively characterize research in the soft sciences … arguing that they have the semblance of being scientific, but are missing “a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty”.

    Which brings us full circle to Climategate.

    “Gimme that Old, Kind of Science,
    Gimme that Old, Kind of Science,
    It was good enough for Feynman,
    And its good enough for me.”

  35. John Whitman says:

    Jerome Ravetz says “One way out of that problem is to believe that scientific truth is indeed absolute. On that there is the classic pronouncement by Galileo: “The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.” This is echoed in practice by generations of teachers, who present the facts dogmatically and discourage any questioning. I was one of those who reacted against that authoritarian style of scientific indoctrination.”

    ———

    Jerome Ravetz,

    I think there is a problem with the educational institution you mentioned being authoritarian and dogmatic. You cannot attribute their shortcomings to Galileo.

    Do you think Galileo was saying individual science findings and associated scientists are infallible? In the context that Galileo was living in a time of the Roman Catholic Church’s complete control of the total society, Galileo was saying that nature revealed (through the scientific process) decides scientific truth , not any judgment of a society totally dominated by Christian religious processes (or any religion).

    The parallel today is that neither the judgment of US government funding institutions nor IPCC have the means to judge scientific truth independent of what nature is actually telling us; nature still decides the truth that science and scientists are showing us.

    John

  36. AusieDan says:

    Dr. Ravetz,
    There are several things that you said that I dispute. Thr first being:

    QUOTE
    And of course this has been at the core of the Climategate dispute, arising out of the CRU emails, the question of the correctness of their results is tangled with the morality of their behaviour.
    UNQUOTE

    In fact, the two things stand or fall together.
    Their own doubts about the robustness of their findings led them to a certain style of behaviour, whch some would say would not live up to best practice, as seen through the eyes of a member of the Quaker faith.

    I trust that I make myself clear.

  37. AusieDan says:

    Dr. Ravetz, here is my second point. You wrote:

    QUOTE
    The big policy question is whether there is enough strength of evidence for AGW to justify the huge investments that would be required to do something about it. That is not a simple hypothesis …….. UNQUOTE

    Yes indeed, that is the issue exactly.
    By now all the basic “evidence”and here I’m not talking about peripheral issues like polar bears and frogs. No the really key issues.
    All of the alarmist claims have now been shown to be based on a very poor and shaky understanding of statistics, on unproven assumptions and untested computer models.

    We are still back to square one – there is no valid evidence that human CO2 emissions are having a significant adverse effect on the climate of the planet as a whole.

    Why then are we even contemplating embarking on a massive experiment to reshape modern industrial economies, with little chance of benefit and great possibility of serious damage to human health and welfare?

  38. Mark says:

    Dr Ravetz,

    This portion of your interesting post tries to establish a dichotomy where there is none. I believe this error may be of central importance.

    “On that there is the classic pronouncement by Galileo: ‘The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.’ This is echoed in practice by generations of teachers, who present the facts dogmatically and discourage any questioning. I was one of those who reacted against that authoritarian style of scientific indoctrination.”

    The following two statements are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, are both true:

    A) The judgment of man has nothing to do with the conclusions of science.

    B) Science can be taught non-dogmatically, with tremendous encouragement of endless questioning, in a non-authoritarian style.

    One statement does not preclude the other. Perhaps this was your experience of science education (and you would have my sympathy) but it was certainly not my experience as a young scientist.

    My science education was full of joy and discovery. It freed my mind from the chains of dogma and taught me how to pose insightful (and falsifiable) questions worth pursuing. There was only one absolute “dogma” and that was “There is an objective reality that exists independent of observers’ subjective perceptions of it.” Science is then defined as the continual process of pursuing increasingly more accurate understanding of that reality. We need to agree that there is an objective reality simply because if there isn’t then we each exist in a different reality and what is actually true in yours may be actually false in mine, making the whole endeavor of understanding reality rather pointless.

    The fact that we humans seem to all have different internal perceptions of that objective reality is why we need such rigor in our scientific methods and precision in our communications. It is unlikely that we can ever attain an absolutely perfect and complete scientific understanding of any particular aspect of reality. However, we can pursue an understanding that is perfect enough and complete enough to be highly useful for a given purpose. Your toxicant scenario is an instructive example. I see nothing wrong with the principles of science in your scenario. The error was the choice of an inappropriate proxy. Testing rats for some weeks was not a suitable proxy for impact on humans over years (I’ll leave the obligatory joke about tree-ring proxies as an exercise for the reader).

    Successfully solving the dire toxicant scenario does not require the invention of a new kind of science or changing the standards of our current science. We just need to be very clear about what degree of certainty is required for the science to be useful. Perhaps in this scenario children should have avoided exposure to any elevated level of the toxicant until a study was completed with a proxy more appropriate to the needs of the situation (perhaps a sufficiently longer trial with primates). If the cost of being wrong is high enough, further independent auditing, replication and verification may be warranted.

    If obtaining an adequate level of confidence should happen to entail egregious hardships and astronomical costs (as all the best hypotheticals seem to) then science’s role is to accurately present the data that is currently known along with the associated confidence levels (especially lack thereof) and work diligently to ensure this data is clearly and fully presented including prominent focus on caveats, alternative viewpoints, conflicting data, possible weaknesses in methodology and, of course, the null hypothesis. The role of science is then concluded (at least until another question is asked). From that point difficult ethical, moral, economic or political decisions may need to be made based, in part, on the science. However, the scientific process itself should remain independent of these social issues because they involve subjective value judgments outside the domain of science.

  39. John Whitman says:

    Mr. Jerome Ravetz,

    Your treatment of the Conner and Dyson interaction is neither civil nor objectively accurate about the cause of the behavior of both individuals involved.

    As a scholar discussing another scholar, did you have the courtesy to contact Dyson or his associates to do fact checks on his reason for withdrawal, etc?

    Is this your PNS in operation?

    John

  40. Paul Deacon says:

    “Dyson makes a very basic point, that the uncertainties are just too great for any firm policy decision to be made. Connor, by contrast, presents a number of scientific claims, all of which he believes to be solid and factual. Then the argument shifts to more general issues, and Dyson eventually pulls out.”

    Dr. Ravetz – this is not an exchange of letters, or a jounalistic interview. It is a bulldozer (the journalist) attempting to run over a man of reason (and failing).

    “Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies; but it is also possible that he really believes what he is saying.”

    Dr. Ravetz – nobody cares whether Connor is a “prostitute” or as Lenin might say a “useful idiot”. The outward behaviour, constant changing of subject, and obstinate refusal to engage in debate or discussion are the same in both cases.

    All the best.

  41. AusieDan says:

    Dr. Ravetz, I now come to my final point for today. you wrote:

    QUOTE
    The other path brings in broader considerations. Our inherited cultural teaching mentions a number of absolutes, including The Good, The True, The Just, The Holy and The Beautiful. These provide the moral compass for our behaviour. Now we know that these are goals and not states of being. UNQUOTE

    Your goals do disturb me.
    I understand and try to speak truthfully and see that as both a good and a useful moral compass for behaviour. I won’t go into the other terms that you have used as I want to make a different point. Turning such concepts as beauty and justice into proper nouns in this way only serves to mystify them in a completly unecessary sudo religious manner.

    To me your ideas of post normal science tempt us down the slipery road which has ended in a very bad case of “just cause corruption”.
    The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions.
    It seems to me that this is the underlying explanation for the AGW cult.

    It is now necessary for us all to get back to the scientific method.

  42. Brian H says:

    Pooh, Dixie says:
    February 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    The high stakes of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming occur only if the models and feedback are correct. If they are not, then the issue is not urgent. Warming of 1.2oC is well within adaptions used today. Catastrophic policy measures would not be required.

    Indeed. It always seems to circle back to a demand to accept the presumption before beginning discussion. And rage when that wee concession is refused.

  43. Brian H says:

    AusieDan says:
    February 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    You do the TEAM a major favour when you presume they are inspired by the Noble Cause. Less generous and naive souls, like me, don’t believe it for a minute.

    BTW, is “sudo” REALLY how Aussies spell “pseudo”?

  44. KenB says:

    I don’t follow O’Connor, but from your description, sounds like many who are blessed with the ability to regurgitate points (of whatever value) in the hope that it makes them seem smarter than they really are. While I appreciate links for the purpose of learning, I often see the denizens of RC come out with Blitzkrieg reams of their overwhelming “proof” which means nothing, sadly till time is taken (or wasted) to wade through their crud. That some have the patience and time to do this is amazing and I, personally am very thankful. Joe public though can be fooled (well at least once!!).

    That leads me to PNS which could be described in its worst form as “jumping to conclusions” with the attendant and strident calls to act immediately, there is no time, your children’s children will hate you for delaying action. I say, that the minute the two are put together, the “precautionary principle” must be invoked to give that set of godlike conclusions a more rigorous going over IMHO!.
    Is the “science” word in PNS just added to give the researchers conclusion more credibility to their sense of urgency and thus ignore or avoid more rigorous scientific validation and testing, i.e. just another appeal to authority?
    Unfortunately the peer review system that should have given us “some” confidence, that the work and conclusions were valid, didn’t do this, due to being less rigorous than touted, and even worse prostituted/corrupted by some.
    IF PNS is to be accepted as better than just jumping to convenient conclusions, it needs a more formal and rigorous examination before using in any policy decision making. A good precautionary principle to be applied for starters!

  45. Jeff Wiita says:

    Hi Jerome,

    Thank you for your clarification of Sarah Palin. I do not know if she is presidential material, but what I do know is that she is vilified in the main stream media. Kinda like the AGW skeptics.

    Jeff Wiita

  46. Dr. Ravetz. We agree, you and I, on may points; we differ on some, perhaps the differences are more definitional then anything else. Mostly we differ in our view of what science is all about. We scientists may think and wish and perhaps strive for the truth. However, in science we do not achieve truth and we do not even seek it. We seek and strive for falsification of our ideas. That is the best we can do. On my blog I have over 100 short essays, that address many of these points from that specific scientific view. Just hit my name and the link will be established.

    It is most critical that we understand as scientists, that following the scientific method and philosophy, our efforts are amoral. What we do with or how we interpert those amoral findings is governed by our ethical and moral beliefs. This is where the process of science leads us or is supposed to lead us. I, like you, have chosen to focus on that process rather then overly concern myself with the intimate and often mathematical details. It is the philosophy of science, the process, that is most critical.

    As your moral musings points out, the best we can do is search for that middle ground between the extremes, knowing, mostly by observation, the extremes are almost always in greatest error.

  47. Roger Carr says:

    Jerome Ravetz: “As to Post-Normal Science, I was recently reminded of an example that was very important in setting me on the path. …

    Contemplating that paragraph, Jerome, and in both the light of my original posting here (February 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm) and the response of Hector M. (February 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm) I conclude that it is the terminology “Post Normal Science” which can be faulted for instigating, perhaps even corrupting, the present debate.

    “Post Normal” and “Science” are not a fit. You write: “…the method of extrapolation was more important in defining the dose-response relations in the field than was the lab data itself.”; but “the method of extrapolation” is science, too.

    What is “post normal” about that? Nothing.

    The description on Wikipedia “Post-Normal Science is a concept developed by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz, attempting to characterise a methodology of inquiry that is appropriate for cases where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1991). It is primarily applied in the context of long-term issues where there is less available information than is desired by stakeholders.” sounds very fine; it could also be very useful if the “post” and “normal” were replaced with a simple word such as “complex”; which would also remove its affront.

    See what Silvio thinks.

  48. Barry Woods says:

    The only THING I think Ill of is Post Normal Science.

    Aethestic Religion..

    People defend their own ideas to the end, however wrong they are.
    We attack the idea, not the man..

    The post normal approach to everything ‘difficult’ is leading to the fall of Western science.

  49. Barry Woods says:

    Also Science is about Facts – Not ‘Truths’

  50. John Whitman says:

    How about some Quiz Time?

    Quiz Subject Concepts => CAGW Pre-cautionary Principle Concept vs. Soviet Era Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike Concept vs. Original Sin Concept Man by the Ideological Environmentalists

    Question – Which of the 3 subject concepts has any basis scientific; especially any validation by observations of nature?

    Answer – None. Hey, thought I would throw the Soviet Era Military Strategy Craziness in the just for entertainment value. : )

    So, Mr Jerome Ravetz, please do not mislead us by often implying a relationship between the term ‘pre-cautionary principle’ and terms involving ‘science’ in the same paragraph or sentence or post. Science, per se, as a conceived in the tradition of Western Civilization does not do pre-cautionary principles. If pre-cautionary principles are used, it is by something else, not science.

    But I think it may be possible to relate the terms ‘PNS’ and ‘pre-cautionary principle’ since neither has to do with the science of the Western Civilization; but it is also possible that PNS and pre-cautionary principles are unrelated.

    Good luck with reviving PNS since it was never alive. Not alive in this 21st century and wasn’t alive in the 18th or 19th or 20th centuries either.

    Jerome Ravetz, what has changed that makes you think it (PNS) can now have life? Is it because CAGW has reduced the stature in our society of the concept of science to such a low point that Western Civilization will grasp at any non-scientific alternative?

    John

  51. Dagfinn Reiersøl says:

    Post-normal science is a concept with some built-in problems. I find it to be an excellent description of a problem space in which traditional science and policy have trouble navigating: The post-normal realm. But the term post-normal science appears to imply a (somehow uniform and scientific) solution to these problems. So the questions are: Is every attempt to solve problems in the post-normal realm a part of post-normal science? What about those parts of the problem solving that are in fact normal science? What about the parts of the problem solving that are not scientific at all? Is post-normal science prescriptive or purely descriptive? Does it imply that some solutions are better than others?

    All of these questions come from the words themselves: “Post-normal science”. And they potentially lead to confusion and conflict if they are not answered. I’m not sure the term is a good one.

  52. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Scott says:
    February 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    The continued obsification by many in the AGW community, scientific industry (academics and journals) and political interest groups have convinced me not to accept, prima facie, their main thesis. There is no point in entering into a debate when one party simply does not trust the other. This is not my problem to deal with. It is theirs if they want something from me.

    To move forward is simple, just two ideas are required; transparency and good will.

    The beauty of science is that it does not depend on good-will. Doesn’t matter if someone attacks my ideas with the best of scientific intentions, or if he attacks my ideas purely to try to spite me.

    All that matters is, can my ideas withstand the attacks.

    w.

  53. John Whitman says:

    ‘Brian H’ comment from from the WUWT Post “More from Jerome Ravetz: Response to Willis”

    Brian H says:
    February 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    As to the substantive comments by JR: the problem is more fundamental: the presumption of being wiser than the norms. In this case, the norms of scientific validation. The Wisdom of The Progressives is not a viable substitute. For anything.

    ———

    Brian H,

    In the previous Ravetz posts and in this one he reiterates again and again the same self-refutation.

    I agree completely with your above comment. Jerome Ravetz claims special true knowledge above the subjective knowledge that he says humanity’s science, by its very nature, must be limited to. I guess he is both non-human and unscientific.

    This is old worn out post-Kantian baloney.

    John

  54. Mark says:

    Nicely said Willis!
    Brings one of my favorite aphorisms to mind:

    Reality is the stuff that’s still there even when you stop believing in it.

  55. Christopher Hanley says:

    I don’t understand why Jerome Ravetz has anchored his essay to an exchange which I found cringeworthy.

    Freeman Dyson obviously doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
    He quickly realized that Connor was a “paid hack”, exactly that, who was trying to put a dunce’s cap on him Red Guard style.

    BTW, Connor misrepresented professor Dyson’s reply ‘no’ to question (5) viz.”…but you don’t accept that global temperatures have been rising nor that the increase in carbon dioxide has anything to do with that supposed trend…”.

    Who and what is Steve Connor anyway?

  56. UK Sceptic says:

    The Independent, like the Guardian, carries a brightly flaming torch for climate alarmism. I have yet to see a balanced argument on AGW come from either rag. Anyone who views Connor’s post normal BS as a triumph for science and truth is deluding themselves.

  57. John Whitman says:

    Mods,

    Perhaps my past two comments have banished to the WUWT nether regions by the WordPress nether gods?

    Please check, thanks.

    John

  58. michel says:

    The issue remains: what is so different about climate science? It was a start to see that the argument is similar for a public health issue.

    Now take the question of saturated fat, cholesterol, heart disease and statins. You will find that all the same issues arise. It is hard to connect saturated fat consumption to cholesterol, its also problematic to connect that to heart disease, and then we find that statins have their own risks, and that when we add cholesterol lowering properties to them, the death rate rises. So do we, or do we not, have a case for abandonning our recommendations on lowering saturated fat consumption? Do we or do we not have a case for mass dosage of the middle aged with statins?

    You will find the same issues of uncertainty, of interest groups (drug suppliers, dairy producers, the corn and soy lobby). There is the same issue of decision under uncertainty when the scientific data is only part of the issue, because there are other public health issues involved like cancer rates and obesity. Something similar happened with MMR vaccine.

    In short, the situation in terms of climate is unusual for science because it is a relatively small number of scientific hypotheses that get involved at the center of public policy debate. But it is absolutely standard for public policy debate involving scientific or other issues where the facts are arguable and uncertain.

    Prof Ravetz is missing the point because he thinks the issue is about science, he then takes one particular situation, the public policy one, and then invents this nonsensical post normal science concept. In fact, what he needs to focus on is the absolutely standard situation of public policy decisions under scientific or other uncertainty.

    The issue is not about science, or climate science. Its about public policy. The sooner we realise that and stop looking for something different in modern science, the better. We just need to think hard about how to make public policy decisions where the facts and outcomes of choices are uncertain and the costs either way very high.

    There is however nothing post normal about this. Imagine the shift to the Dreadnought, or to oil fired battleships, or the decisions on developing the atom bomb. The situation is entirely normal. The question is only how to handle it better.

  59. michel says:

    What Prof Ravetz needs to do, to prove there is something different about climate science, is to leave out all public policy aspects, and then show us that this difference he is asserting exists is intrinsic to the science. He will find it is not. People argue vehemently about it. Yes, they do about lots of science. It consists of lots of different hypotheses. Right, so does physics. There is no difference between climate science or the global warming hypotheses and any other set of scientific hypotheses. The only difference is that these are some of the few scientific hypotheses and predictions that impact heavily on some public policy decisions. But about the science, there is nothing special at all.

  60. Al Gored says:

    I think this post by Dr. Ravetz is significant for two reasons.

    The ‘communications department’ of PNS undoubtedly assumed that they could manufacture the political consent to support whatever they desired with a combination of a ‘consensus’ peer review and publishing process and controlled media campaigns. As in the AGW project. But the new world of peer review and publishing on the uncontrollable blogosphere, as on this site, threw a monkey wrench into that plan. Back when “the science was settled” the AGW team was in a state of aggressive denial about that. Then they reacted with more hostility and attempted dismissals as irrelevant, incredible, Big Oil, and all that – a place where only “deniers” lurked. That didn’t work. Now we have Dr. Ravetz arguing his case here. Sort of like Caesar crossing the Rubicon in reverse. The world is turning. Looks like the blogosphere could be relevant after all.

    Second, Dr. Ravetz’s posts here are bound to be part of some future historical analysis of PNS and the AGW project.

    So congratulations to Dr. Ravetz for making what I hope is a little history and to Anthony for being the ‘chosen’ blog.

  61. Mr Jerome Ravetz,

    Thank you for turning my attention to the “Letters to a heretic”. I usually dodge the Independent pages as its name to independence is in the same relation as the PNS to the Science.

    And as far as the “Letters to a heretic” are concerned it is a classic, I would even say, _the_ canonical example of a Journo the Porno and the Brain. That’s all.

    With regards

  62. Alexander K says:

    If Dr Ravetz didn’t mean to imply that he is (was) a Quaker, why on earth did he mention attending a Quaker school? This is an example of his prose, which is so convolute that my eyes tend to glaze over at about the mid point, but in the interests of fairness, I forced myself to read the entire epistle. When he admits ‘mind reading’ again, as in his having to deal with comments he ‘remembered’ Willis uttering, I gave up my attempt to make sense of his article. He reminds me of a former NZ Prime Minister who was famous for incredibly long and complex replies to simple questions, summed up by a wit of the day who said
    “By the time he has made a reply, I have forgotten what my question was!”

  63. jmrSudbury says:

    “For me, that is a reminder that before one engages in a debate one needs to be sure of one’s ground.”

    This is sage advice. Steve Conner could not engage in the topic that Dyson raised, so he changed the debate to something in which he was more comfortable. Instead, he should not have engaged in the original debate as he obviously was not sure of his ground; otherwise, he would not have changed the subject and virtually ignored Dyson’s main point.

    John M Reynolds

  64. Bomber_the_Cat says:

    Dyson was wrong to cut and run when the questions became too difficult. Remember the derision that was heaped on James Cameron when he pulled out of that debate with Marc Marano? Well, now Dyson has done the same – but not a word of criticism on these pages. Instead Steve Connor is called a ‘hack’ for asking difficult questions.

    The question Dyson baulked at was this –
    “The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C. If you accept that CO2 levels have never been higher, but not that global average temperatures have increased, where has the extra trapped heat gone to? Can we deal with this before we go on? ”

    To which Dyson refuses to answer, saying that he would prefer to talk about something else. He then changes the subject and talks about Wegener’s theory of drifting continents. What has that to do with price of eggs?
    Dyson then says that he doesn’t believe there is any ‘trapped’ heat because he doesn’t like computer models. But he has already conceded that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet and that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than there was before. To declare at this stage that there is no trapped heat is thus a non sequitur.

    So, the question remains on the table. It requires an answer. None of the commentators so far have ventured to answer it.
    Has any sceptic got an answer? Or would you prefer to talk about drifting continents?

  65. Jemome, I think your whole argument is suspect because you confuse basic science with the interpretation of basic science and the politics and policy aspects.

    Each area has its own expertise, its own rules of engagement and its own threshold of certainty. It’s a hierarchy of certainty: we have to be very certain about the basic science, the facts; we can allow more flexibility on interpretation, but if it portrays itself as “scientific” then it must use the scientific methodology and be distinguish clearly between the “facts” from “opinion”. Then there is the area of policy and so long as everyone has access to the solid scientific facts, then we can allow argument, debate and opinion and certainty based on the balance of probability.

    What I believe we have in climate “science” is a whole different kettle of fish. The facts are highly suspect and biased toward one result, the interpretation is highly suspect and biased one way, the policy … has been a witch hunt and by no means an even playing field.

    If you have a whole series of inference (measurement->interpretation->”solutions”->policy) and each is decided on ” balance of probability” and each is biased toward a “climategate” political view, then as everyone knows, the probability of the whole argument being correct is:

    50% x 50% x50% x50% = 6.25%

    even if the threshold of certainty were very high e.g. 70% we still have a rediculous low probability of the whole series of inter-dependant stages being correct:

    70% x 70% x70% x 70% = 24%

    The the real crime is that we have basically the same “in crowd” controlling that complete chain of inference from measurement through to “action”, and there’s no outside scrutiny, no ability to tease out the evidence of rational they use to make decisions. Basically,

    climate “science” is a black box into which at one end goes an unknown series of measurements of the planet (which cannot be repeated by anyone else) and out of which comes policy pronouncements which no one is allowed to question.

  66. David says:

    Forgive the longest post I have done, but please read if you ever found anything I had to say of value. The entire issue of PNS and CAGW is rooted in these conditions. ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ and the PNS theory from there moves to how to create policy in such a situation. An example. Some volcanoes in Iceland erupt and send ashes into the flight pattern of air traffic. It may be ok to fly, it may not be. The reward risk to the airlines is plain. Suffer the inconvenience of postponing flights and losing a modest amount of business, or risk the death of hundreds or thousands of passengers and millions in lawsuits and financial ruin. Easy decision correct?

    Let us hypothetically make it more complicated. Let us suppose that if we do not fly there is a fair chance that hundreds will still die, and we could still suffer millions in lawsuits and face financial ruin. So a simple fact becomes clear. The greater the risk of the prescribed policy, the greater the need for certainty in our decision.

    Every decisions we make in life as individuals and societies is based on such discrimination of weighing the cost benefit of our actions, so in reality there is nothing post normal about it, and the term PNS is of necessity vague, as at what point such a circumstance is reached, “‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent,” is going to be different for different people.

    In the case of CAGW the policy prescribed, in and of itself, places values in dispute and has high stakes with very uncertain results.

    I maintain that the answer to such a situation lies in protecting the science as it is classically defined, as the better the science is done, the more capable we are to determine how objectively urgent the actions or policy is. Take another hypothetical, that of a 1 kilometer wide meteorite headed towards the earth at 60,000 miles per hour. Only good science and mathematics can tell us if it is a real threat and if we can do anything about it. The bigger the meteorite, the greater the need for accurate science to both determine the threat level, and our ability to respond. The decision of what to do becomes more difficult if we perceive that the meteorite has a 50% chance of missing us, and our attempt to move it through atomic bombs has an equally large chance of causing some large pieces to hit us, when if left alone it may miss us entirely. What if one country wants to nuke, and another says no way, we will attack you if you try, we think your accuracy with the nuke could just as easily hit the wrong side of the meteorite and kill millions.

    The above situation is admittedly very difficult, yet still, the better the science, the better the chances are of making the right decision. Now to move from the general to the particular. Fortunately we are not faced with the meteorite decision in the case of CAGW, although a relatively small group of scientist decided we were, (see the Wegman report) , They quickly gained the support of a large group of people, (centrist politicians) who found the actions they recommended to be harmonious with their view of how societies should operate. One of these scientist, James Hansen, talked extensively about the need for action and indicated that within a couple of decades New York would be underwater. One politician who liked the idea of central power, Al Gore, supported policy which would give central government on a national and international level, and made a movie about the issue of CAGW and talked of sea levels rising twenty feet. The example of these two men, one a scientist, one a centrist politician, became a microcosmic example for the summary writers that formed the IPCC, demanding action now. In unison they presented to the world a hockey stick shaped graphic that proved how mankind’s actions had created unprecedented changes in climate.

    Here we are decades later, and the failed predictions of disaster are becoming more apparent every day. The hockey stick is discredited to all but a few. Yet the proponents of CAGW only dance faster. The pace of warming stops for a decade, and the term “global warming” is out, climate change is in. The predicted disasters fail to manifest, and so now, failing to get warming and failing to get accelerated mega disasters, common extreme weather events are being touted as proof of CAGW. Unusual snow for one or two years is now proof of global warming. All of this with no evidence of an acceleration of such events anomalous from many other periods of extreme weather, or indeed, any proof of an acceleration of extreme weather in general. Events we have always had, become proof of CAGW, an utterly and completely unscientific proposition. Many of the proponents of CAGW, who hate capitalism and America, go to the poor in third world situations of natural disaster, and taking advantage of their tragedy tell them that the evil industrial people like Americans caused their hurricane or drought, and they should be compensated.

    And rational people understandably say as did Willis, “I say that if there are PNS situations, we need to recognize the dangers, double down on the science, and not substitute “quality” and excessive caution for science” and another poster states, “But I am convinced that the best way forward is to show that urgent decisions are not required and that allows us all to go back to normal science.” and myself, quoting Revetz; “When facts are uncertain, when values are in conflict, when stakes are high, when decisions seem urgent, the FIRST casualty is “normal” science. “ say the first obligation of policy makers, those with integrity to truth, should be to PROTECT and defend “NORMAL” science, and not let it be a casualty” Many others state this as well.

    The response to this from a luke-warmist who I admire is shocking. Steve Mosher states “how exactly do you propose to show that? By forcing them to do the science you want? your way? That sounds like bending the science to your political will…”

    Steve this is easy, you expose the bad science, you show that sea level rise is not accelerating, you show that warming is slowing or even stopped from it peak 13 years ago, quite simply, you use good science (Lindzen, Spencer, Idso and thirty thousand other scientist) and real world observations to show that action is not urgent and CO2 is beneficial. You do not force them to do science “your way, you do FORCE them to do science according to the “scientific method” with complete openness of methods, data and metadata. This is not bending them to an individuals way, this is bending them to the scientific method which they abandoned.

    Steve Mosher goes on, “ Here’s the problem. Once science has been politicized you cannot “simply” return to normal science. It takes the use of power to do that. Are you going to force Hansen to think differently? defund him? defund all the scientists who believe action is required? Stop all science ( thats way abnormal). Sorry, the return to normal science is not a simple re virgination process. Its inherently political. post normal.”

    Mr Mosher, you have presented here an irrational straw man in somehow claiming that a call to return to normal science to better determine if actions are urgent, is somehow a call to “stop all science”. It is very obviously not. And yes, you do investigate these scientist through the political process, and not with a white wash, and you do demand openness and a return to the scientific method. Scientist and the public who do not agree with Hansen’s choices of policies, which mimic the actions of a totalitarian regime, the “Peoples Republic of China” whom Hansen holds as an example to emulate, will be resisted. Do you think only those who are proactive CAGW supporters have the right to policy “power’ and “force”? Are those who say that they do not think action is urgent, powerless? And hell yes, you do attempt to defund many “what if” studies, so more research can go into what the real climate sensitivity to increased CO2. Does only the people that predict disaster have the right to form policy? Damm it Steve, this is as old as civilization; “When first the tyrant appears, he is a protector” Plato.

  67. Barbara says:

    So, if I read this correctly, post-normal science involves throwing out not only the scientific method (‘belief’ now trumps it), but also the concept of falsifiability (subjectivity, ie the perceived worthiness and urgency of a cause, is now seen as more important).
    This is not good.

  68. johanna says:

    It is perhaps indicative of the fuzzy netherworld that Dr Ravetz’ arguments inhabit that he should even mention the Connor/Dyson exchange. But, like his perverse Sarah Palin reference, and his unsubstantiated (by his own admission) attack on Willis, there seems to be one in every statement – an off the wall comment based in personalia which is irrelevant to the issue under discussion.

    The Connor/Dyson exchange was a grotesque exercise whereby a journalist who is not fit to tie the bootlaces of the interviewee launches a series of harangues – pre-scripted by others as he is not a scientist – which make no attempt to engage with what the interviewee is actually saying.

    Connor’s technique is familiar – on Dr Judith Curry’s recent descent into the maelstrom of believers (see her blog), she was bombarded with – but have you read this, this and this, and if not, how can you comment? – none of which had anything to do with the point she was making.

    Connor is a lousy journalist, as well as an arrogant jerk. He had the opportunity to engage in discussion with one of the most powerful and interesting minds in science, whatever Dyson’s views on this or that issue might be. He blew it in favour of bombarding Dyson with propaganda and demanding responses to each point that someone else had written for him. I think that Dyson was remarkably polite and tolerant, and also has been around the block enough times to recognise a tyre kicking time waster when he meets one.

    As PPs have said, the sincerity of an individual’s belief in no way correlates to the accuracy of that belief.

    None of this has anything to do with proper discussion of ‘post-normal science’ (an oxymoron, IMHO). But perhaps it is an indicator of the mindset of at least one of its proponents.

  69. Viv Evans says:

    You wrote:
    “Now, if we say that science is mainly devoted to achieving the goal of truth, and that every real scientist realises that as much as possible in his or her imperfect practice, then we have something that works.”
    (My emphasis)

    What is this ‘goal of truth’?

    Do you mean that scientists ought to write down truthfully what they observed, e.g. six mice in this litter, eight in that; or 15 deg C at midday yesterday and 14 today, so forth? If so – how can this be a goal? Isn’t it something which is rightly to be expected of anyone who works in lab or field, doing scientific research, no matter how high they stand on the hierarchical ladder of academe?

    Or do you mean that, given the above, the results and interpretations must reach this goal of truth? Again – if this is meant to relate just to one piece of research, fine – but it is still something so engrained in properly trained scientists that it doesn’t even need to be explained again and again. We don’t tell our kids not to pinch something every single time we take them shopping to the supermarket, do we? we expect them to have learned this after a given time!

    Or do you mean the goal is that which is ultimately to be expressed as an axiom? Well, most scientists working in applied sciences know full well that their work will only provide yet another piece of the mosaic which is our planet. In the same way as we have stood on the shoulders of those who came before us, and used their work, so we know that others who come later will use ours.
    We know that there is no such thing as an absolute truth in earth sciences, unlike in pure mathematics: there is too much we simply do not understand, and we know that all our work remains piecework.
    Those however, who sit in their ivory towers, do sometimes think they’ve got the ultimate truth. Sadly, they show a bad case of hybris and arrogance.
    And those are traits every scientist must beware of.

  70. Holbrook says:

    The problem with the AGW crowd is that they seem to think we don’t care about the planet which is completely wrong.
    Fossil fuels may well increase CO2 and cause issues…or not depending on your views, however I think we would all agree that there are real poisons and nasties emitted from vehicles and factories that we could all do without.
    We are suffering from so many allergies it is obvious that there should be alarm bells ringing with regard to fossil fuels.
    But what is our response?…don’t do this…don’t do that…. and only the rich who can afford to pay carbon offsets can travel etc etc.
    Aside from human health and the state of the planet we have the not inconsiderable problem of perpetual war for oil.
    It simply is not good enough,
    When asked about the AGW issue a former UK politician Michale Portillo said “if the technology that mankind is using is causing a problem then change the technolgy”.
    It’s a simple enough message.
    Three years ago BBC;s Top Gear featured the Honda Clarity a hydrogen powered car and it got the thumbs up for all concerned. S

  71. R2 says:

    It’s ironic that those subjects that follow the scientific method rarely have ‘science’ in their name (physics, chemistry etc)…
    … and those that tack ‘science’ onto their name rarely follow the scientific method!

  72. David says:

    Bomber_the_Cat says:
    February 26, 2011 at 2:49 am
    Dyson was wrong to cut and run when the questions became too difficult. ..
    The question Dyson baulked at was this –
    “The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C. If you accept that CO2 levels have never been higher, but not that global average temperatures have increased, where has the extra trapped heat gone to? Can we deal with this before we go on? ”

    So, the question remains on the table. It requires an answer. None of the commentators so far have ventured to answer it.
    Has any sceptic got an answer? Or would you prefer to talk about drifting continents?”

    Bomber it is a Childs question, and a quite insulting simplistic and false statement, the very words of which are not an attempt at dialogue. ““The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C.” This is completely false. The premise is wrong and Connor knows it. The doubling LWIR radiant effect from doubled CO2 is not 3 C, it is about 1C and all moderately informed know this, including Connor. (Apparently you are not even moderately informed) This garbage premise shows complete lack of sincerity in dialogue. Any one with minor knowledge knows the issue is feedbacks and other aspects of physics besides straight radiation, like cloud formation, location, and convection, and their affects on SWR and heat loss, evaporation and hydrologic system latent energy transport effects, etc, which can easily overwhelm the straight radiant CO2 effects.

  73. David says:

    Dear Moderator, please erase the top 1/2 of the double post. I sent it by accident as I am home late and very tired.

    [done]

  74. E.M.Smith says:

    David says: The entire issue of PNS and CAGW is rooted in these conditions. ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ and the PNS theory from there moves to how to create policy in such a situation.

    I’m fond of not reinventing the wheel each time I want to go to the store… and it seems to me that this is a pretty fair descripion of most decisions in urgent care medicine.

    I’d further assert that their answer is more in keeping with what Dave has said than with the PNS advocates. Their answer?

    “First, do no harm

    We know that sustantially every one of the proposed “Fixes” for “global warming” will do great harm. Economic damage. Deaths of folks from fuel poverty. Starvation. In the belief that the “fix” will help more folks than it hurts. But we know the harm will be real, while the proposed beneftis are hypothetical.

    The PNS answer is to “fix it” first, even if it isn’t actually broken. In medicine, that is called “malpractice”…

    Steve Mosher goes on, “ Here’s the problem. Once science has been politicized you cannot “simply” return to normal science. It takes the use of power to do that. Are you going to force Hansen to think differently? defund him? defund all the scientists who believe action is required? Stop all science ( thats way abnormal). Sorry, the return to normal science is not a simple re virgination process. Its inherently political. post normal.”

    Mr Mosher, you have presented here an irrational straw man in somehow claiming that a call to return to normal science to better determine if actions are urgent, is somehow a call to “stop all science”. It is very obviously not.

    I see this even more simply. Something I learned a very long time ago:

    “It is never too late to start doing the right thing.”

    When you can show with trivial ease that Hansen acts as a political activist more interested in his causes and belief system than in doing the actual analytical work of science; the rational conclusion is to defund him; and replace him with someone without those blatent biases and who is interested in “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.

    To simply assert that, in essence, “Sure it’s junk, but it’s always going to be junk” is just silly. ALL Quality Control begins with looking at what is not right and making it right. If you have bad / broken / post-normal science being done, stop it. Start doing good science that is just ‘normal’. It’s never too late to start doing it right. And to stop doing it wrong.

    If you have, for example, sea level rise PREDICTED ( or projected or whatever weasel word folks are using these days to make predictions but have plausible deniabilty) and have high UNCERTAINTY, the simple and correct thing to do is to wait for certainty.

    First, do no harm.

    Then, when levels are clearly rising to match the prediction, when, in 20 years, you can say “Yes, something is real”; then you can require folks to destroy their beach homes or put them on stilts… or whatever. But until that day, you violate the oath by mandating a cure when the desease is not known to exist… Letting blood to dispell evil humors…

  75. Baa Humbug says:

    I think I finally figured out what PNS is and what it’s useful for.

    When you can’t support your hypotheses with empirical evidence,
    When your tricked up ‘visual aids’ bite the dust,
    When a myriad of junk science papers fail to convince the people,
    When those opposed to your hypotheses grow in numbers,
    When even evoking the precautionary principle doesn’t work,
    When it looks like you’re also losing the politicians one by one,

    Evoke Post Normal Science

  76. R2 says:

    Science is about objective reasoning. In the affairs of human beings there are huge areas where we use subjective reasoning, often driven by emotion and belief. Our brains evolved to do subjective reasoning with objective reasoning, seemingly, a recent adaptation.

    Practicing science is hard for us, it relies on our limited ability to reason objectively and put aside our subjective prejudices.

    Mixing subjective and objective reasoning as Post-Normal ‘Science’ and pretending it is a valid way of doing Science only serves to obfuscate and confuse our understanding of nature.

    If subjective activities (e.g. policy making) are to benefit from objective assessments of nature (Science) we need to maintain a clear distinction in our definitions, practices and naming of these distinct areas of human endeavour. PNS is a retrograde step.

  77. Peter says:

    Dr. Ravetz, you have turned Galileo’s famous quote on it’s head. It’s actually anti-dogma and anti-judgemental, but you describe it as being completely the opposite.

  78. Our inherited cultural teaching mentions a number of absolutes, including The Good, The True, The Just, The Holy and The Beautiful. These provide the moral compass for our behaviour. Now we know that these are goals and not states of being.

    Please speak for yourself, you cannot speak for me. I personally know goodness, truth and beauty as both goal and state of being, and perception of qualities, say in Willis’ posts. Note I use the natural form of these words, not the artificial philosopher’s form. I experience them at work better like this, but also only when applied to my efforts to do what really needs to be done, if necessary getting my hands dirty. In this case, this means IMHO starting to get a handle on the science. So that your essay and moral comments in it can be filled with examples that are taken out of the story of Climate Science, not superfluities from other areas of life.

    Peter Taylor is right IMO, our abdication of scientific understanding and allowing petty usurpers to rule, has to do with the neglect of apprehending, with care, sensitivity, and the tools of Science, the inner realms of Reality.

    Once again, please let me recomment my Primer. Click my name. I wrote it to re-empower people of reasonable intelligence, whether or not they have any prior professional understanding of Science. I wrote it as “my story” to make it accessible even though it is not perfect.

  79. RoyFOMR says:

    At David 3:43. Well said.

  80. eo says:

    The decision making problems examined by post normal science is nothing new. In the context of the knowledge base of the day, man has to make big decisions to problems confronting his surivival even in primitive societies. For example, should he plant a crop to withstand a drought considering that the last four or five years there has been lots of rainfall or should he continue planting crops that could withstand floods. The tribal leader may consult his shaman. However, the reasonable man would “hedge” his decision making under high uncertainty, high cost and high potential damage. So to the example of a toxicants Prof. Ravetz has cited, the decision maker could apply a factor of safety several hundred times the results from animal testing that would be equivalent to banning the substance. Then the decision maker “hedges” his “bet” or decision made under uncertainty by channeling the research budget to the other side that his decision is wrong, that the factor of safety applied could be reduced which will be equivalent to allowing the substance to be used more liberally. Even for a common substance such as barium, the WHO gudielines for barium in drinking water has been continously reduced as more scientific evidence is available. The same thing could be said with global warming. The politicians could make a political decision that AGW is a critical problem under scientific undertainty. Having made this decision, the research should flow towards proving his decision is wrong– there is no AGW. If the politicians, like George Bush decided there is no such thing as AGW– then he hedges by devoting research grants to prove there is AGW and the risk involved. The biggest problem with the climate science is the pompous attitude of politicians to have their decisions made under uncertainty supported which resulted to corruption of the natural science. Just look at the issue that if politicians have made the decision that there is AGW and research funds flows to proving there is no AGW but the investigations showed there is AGW public could easily mobilized to support the cause. This would be the time to commit fully the resources of the country. If the research showed there is no AGW, the reasonable politician could then switched his track and much more easily as he supported the research activities by the other side. In other words, he avail of the results of his hedge. The problem with the climate warming debate is the pompous and arrogant attitude of politicans to finance the sicnetific research that will only support their decisions made under high uncertainty. Since he has no hedge, when things starts to unravel he is completely destroyed. He has not hedge his bet. On the other knowing that the global warming researches may go beyond ones life time, there are also a number of organizations and individuals who are willing to sacrifice the integrity of their profession for the fame, the financial rewards, etc that are best summed up by Pechaury’s novel.

  81. DirkH says:

    Ravetz:
    “The big policy question is whether there is enough strength of evidence for AGW to justify the huge investments that would be required to do something about it. That is not a simple hypothesis to be decided by an experimental test. There are the ‘error-costs’ to be considered, where those of erroneous action or inaction would be very large.”

    The warmists and post-normalists of course make it sound as if the big costs mount up when there happens the catastrophic thermal runaway of the entire planet and we didn’t stop it when we still could. That is their tale.

    But for me, the enormous costs that mount up on an erroneous decision are the millions of people in the developing world whose lifes are held back or completely destroyed by ill-fated warmist capital misallocation – for instance by the current food price spike, caused in part by the warmist biofuel craze.

    So while post-normalist pope Ravetz sounds oh so post-rational, for me there is a much more real catastrophe unfolding *now* than some distant year-2100-post normal trauma fantasy. Maybe he should feed this possibility into his post-normal thinking (which is just a boring old application of probabilities anyway so it doesn’t deserve to be called anything else but simple risk management – something engineers have been doing for decades, see the history of aviation and railways for a start, and the development of dependable systems. The moniker post-normalism is nothing but a propaganda trick.) If you assess risks, start with the *real* and *immediate* risks. Make the distant imagined risks a *LOW* priority.

    I see what you’re doing.
    You’re doing it wrong.

  82. AJB says:

    Dyson:

    I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain.

    Connor:

    It seems to me that although there are still many uncertainties, much of the science of climate change is pretty settled, more so than you will admit to. To continue to report on “both sides” as you suggest is rather like ringing up the Flat Earth Society and asking them to comment on new discoveries in plate tectonics.

    Dyson:

    Your last message just repeats the same old party line that we have many good reasons to distrust.

    Well Jerry, there we have the essence of the conversation. Some two-bit eco-journalist Emails a world renowned physicist requesting his insight then proceeds to question the guy’s integrity, states he’s not interested in listening anyway and becomes insulting.

    Next, you turn up here with your pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo and attempt to throw fuel on the fire.

    Now some people on this blog may believe that Connor is some paid hack or prostitute who is peddling alarmists’ lies; but it is also possible that he really believes what he is saying.

    Who gives a damn what Connor believes? He’s not “the expert”. Does it not occur to you that Dyson has probably encountered many such hack traps before? If you’re really interested in reconciliation and so forth perhaps you ought to be having words with Connor.

    But instead you come here, set up a straw man argument based on reading Freeman Dyson’s mind and attempt to use that to further your PNS nonsense (while subliminally reinforcing the arrogant purpose common to too many of the Oxbridge clique). Who exactly do you think you’re fooling with your naive interloper propaganda act, its classic submissive goading and rambling reinforcement? It’s becoming pitifully tedious.

    Look, there’s no get out of jail free card even for utopian collectives. You’re a part of evolution too. History has chewed up and spat out superficially benign tyrannical belief systems like yours many times before. Where they’ve been allowed to fester and run amok, it always takes atrocity and immense suffering to finally bring that about. Which is as it should be; nature thrives on competition and will not tolerate the abhorrence of socialism beyond expediency for very long, however you dress it up.

  83. Baa Humbug says:

    Only just read the Connor Dyson email exchange.

    Yes connor believes what he is told by the consensus is true.
    This is where I keep accusing the believers of AGW of not being capable of independent thought. here is an example by Connor speaking about Wegener.

    “This doesn’t in any way undermine his heroic contribution to science, and I say heroic in the true sense of the word given that he died in 1930 on his 50th birthday while trekking across Greenland – his body was never recovered and is now presumably encased in ice and moving slowly to the sea.

    How does he suppose a person dying in 1930 would be buried in ice and slowly moving to the sea? Wasn’t Connor also told that the 2000s were the hottest decade for the last millenia? The 1990s were the hottest at that time, same with the 80s?
    Wasn’t he also told Greenland was warming faster than most other places and was in danger of melting causing dangerous sea level rise?

    How does he suppose Wegeners body got encased in ice?
    Maybe it’s me who’s not thimking straight?

  84. Bomber_the_Cat says:

    David,
    Describing a question as a “Child’s question” (4.14AM) and then failing to answer it does not does not really constitute a sound scientific argument. If the question is easy (which it isn’t) then answer it.
    You see, the proponents of global warming will pose questions such as this. If you are unable to answer or have a tantrum, then they win their case by default.
    “The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C” is not false. This is what the IPCC claim. Now, they may be wrong – but it is not false to say that they claim that. You see the difference? So, Steve Connor is quite right to say that.
    You got off to a good start in answering though, because the 3 Deg.C figure is the first thing to challenge. It assumes a feedback effect which has never been observed in this world throughout geological time. But Dyson didn’t do this. he ran for cover.
    As for your figure of 1 deg.C, this is the no-feedback calculation. I tend to favour this too, but this is NOT what most so-called climate scientists would agree with. So the assertion that all moderately informed people know this is, I think, incorrect.
    I notice that you didn’t try to answer the rest of the question, so it remains on the table. Notice that no other experts on this site wish to chance their arm at it.
    I realise from succeeding comments that you are ‘tired’, so I will forgive your childish assumptions of what my position really is. But I think the scientific case must be MADE and questions like this have to be dealt with properly – not avoided!
    I have just posted on another article here a link to Ross McKitrick’s
    Questions for a Journalist

    I recommend it. In fact, if Freedman Dyson had read these questions, maybe he could have held his own with Steve Connor.

  85. Michael J says:

    On truth in science:

    It occurs to me that truth is probably not a concept we can often achieve. We can certainly declare a theory “false”, usually by identifying a single counter-example.
    We can declare a theory “plausible” or even “likely” but we must always expect that the damning counter-example may out there, waiting to be discovered.

    Even e=mc² is only an approximation that is “close enough” at low speeds (v<<c).

  86. psi says:

    vigilantfish —

    Thanks for the excellent post. As one who *was* raised as a Quaker, and an environmentalist, and in the 1970’s even a follower of the Club of Rome, I appreciate your acute analysis of the historical and social context in which the latter two movements arose. It is a new day and I try to notice what the evidence suggests to be true, rather than remain mired in an honorable but mistaken past.

    A number of friends and associates who are still drinking the kool-aid are disappointed that life is about learning new things as you go; when the signs of planetary cooling first became quite apparent several years ago I started to pay attention to what the environment was actually *doing* and moved on from there to notice the utterly indefensible methods of the AGW crowd, starting with Mr. Gore’s astounding inability to read cause and effect in his 200 foot long graphs correlating global C02 and temperature.

    Sadly, many students slept through the preliminary lectures on cause and effect, cyclical patterns in nature, and theory of feedbacks (hint: they also didn’t do the assigned readings from Gregory Bateson). Consequently they still think Gore is credible because his graph was so big and it showed an obvious correlation.

    Dr. Ravetz —

    My field of expertise is literary studies (I read here to broaden my horizons and study the dynamics of debate and science in public discourse at a level just enough above my comprehension to be educational without being incomprehensible).

    The term “post-normal science” sounds too much like “post-modernism” to me to attract my sympathetic ear. I’ve seen what that particular doctrine has done to literary studies, and while some practitioners have produced some intriguing new perspectives operating within the paradigm (I always like to keep the baby even when the bathwater is rancid), the reigning ideology behind it is a train wreck.

    It started, interestingly enough, on the barricades of Paris in 1968.

    Roland Barthes, then a young student, proclaimed that the author had to be sacrificed, along with God and the State, in order to liberate the reader. An understandable hyperbole for a passionate young man in tumultuous times — yet Barthes has lived quietly in the French state and made his peace (apparently) with God for another 50+ years without recognizing how foolish such a proclamation looks in the 21st century.

    One suspects the anti-author ideology endures because, in the absence of a common text serving not only as shared experience but also as *evidence* it concentrates all the authority of a classroom in the hands of a tyrannical professor. The author is dead — therefore the text means what the *professor* says it does. That Prof *was* an anti-authoritarian (it was popular to be so) in Grad school, but now he tolerates nothing that could undermine his authority — since, after all, order depends on authority, and he likes his pension plan.

    Replace the word “author” with “fundamental physics and logic” and I think this parable identifies the historical origins of “The Team.” “Hiding the decline” is now more important than returning to first principles to discover the source of error. Is that what you mean by “post-normal?”

    I sure hope not. If “post-normal” science can’t *recognize and name* the flaws in AGW “thinking” and the manner in which simple questions like cause and effect have been turned on their heads in the service of ideology, then it is, as some other respondents have noted, rooted in a past that no longer exists.

    I’m a graying teacher myself, and the first rule of good teaching is: listen to your students. And in this case that means the ones talking back in the comments section. I believe you’re sincerely attempting to do that and I salute you for it. But honestly, Freeman Dyson needs a physics lesson from a bullying reporter?

    -psi

  87. psi says:

    Please speak for yourself, you cannot speak for me. I personally know goodness, truth and beauty as both goal and state of being, and perception of qualities, say in Willis’ posts. Note I use the natural form of these words, not the artificial philosopher’s form. I experience them at work better like this, but also only when applied to my efforts to do what really needs to be done, if necessary getting my hands dirty. In this case, this means IMHO starting to get a handle on the science. So that your essay and moral comments in it can be filled with examples that are taken out of the story of Climate Science, not superfluities from other areas of life.

    Peter Taylor is right IMO, our abdication of scientific understanding and allowing petty usurpers to rule, has to do with the neglect of apprehending, with care, sensitivity, and the tools of Science, the inner realms of Reality.

    Once again, please let me recomment my Primer. Click my name. I wrote it to re-empower people of reasonable intelligence, whether or not they have any prior professional understanding of Science. I wrote it as “my story” to make it accessible even though it is not perfect

    Lucy, what we do without you to show us the way?

    I loved the moment in your narrative on your site, when confronted by the argument “you’re not a scientist,” you realized that you were in fact *doing science* and you affirmed that principle in the face of the abandonment of personal authority by your interlocutors who had ceded all their own to “experts.”

    In this case much of the science that matters is not, I believe, all that difficult (I can understand it, if not in detail at least in sufficient outline to know that something is rotten at NASA etc.). I have no doubt that Dr. Ravetz, should he care to apply himself by studying your site among others, and following your challenge to experience in the here and now, beauty and truth both as goal and (how very Quakerly) process, could grasp it pretty readily.

  88. johanna says:

    Steve Mosher goes on, “ Here’s the problem. Once science has been politicized you cannot “simply” return to normal science. It takes the use of power to do that. Are you going to force Hansen to think differently? defund him? defund all the scientists who believe action is required? Stop all science ( thats way abnormal). Sorry, the return to normal science is not a simple re virgination process. Its inherently political. post normal.”
    ———————————————–
    David, thanks for reposting this comment of Steve Mosher’s, which deserves further attention (and your comments were spot on).

    Just to establish my credentials as a grumpy feminist, could I say that ‘de-virginising’ is a ludicrous concept to apply to science. If Steve Mosher could explain what that means, he will be charting new horizons in the philosophy of science, not to mention anatomy. But, if he is saying that science is ‘ruined’, because she has had sex with a man, he is in deeper water still.

    Secondly, it is flying in the face of history to say that panics allegedly supported by science cannot be reversed. DDT is now being used (tentatively) to combat malarial mosquitoes in Africa. The MMR/autism scare, which affected immunisation rates, has been debunked. Nobody now believes, as we were told in the early days of television, that you have to be a certain distance away from the screen, with a particular kind of lighting, to avoid permanent damage to eyesight.

    What is instructive about the examples mentioned above is that they were all carried on a wave of public sentiment. They pandered to the fears and prejudices of the day.

    To suggest that scientists should just ‘go along to get along’, cloaking it under the name of PNS or anything else, is disgraceful. And, suggesting that because science and public policy have become mixed, science’s virginity has been irretrievably broken, misrepresents both science and virginity.

  89. R2 says:

    Dr Ravetz

    Just a suggestion, but a more accurate description of your philosophy would be Pre-Enlightenment Science NOT Post-Normal Science. It adds no more value in today’s society than it did before the ‘Age of Reason’.

  90. Theo Goodwin says:

    Jerome, You are a wonderful propagandist. Not just any ordinary propagandist but a wonderful one. You are right up there with Tokyo Rose. Let’s check out one of you complete thoughts, a whole paragraph, as follows:

    “One way out of that problem is to believe that scientific truth is indeed absolute. On that there is the classic pronouncement by Galileo: “The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.” This is echoed in practice by generations of teachers, who present the facts dogmatically and discourage any questioning. I was one of those who reacted against that authoritarian style of scientific indoctrination. Now, if one is doing routine puzzle-solving research, the issue of truth is not too pressing; one can know that somehow, somewhere, one’s results will be superceded in one way or another; but that’s all over the horizon. But in cases of urgent policy-related research like the toxicant example I mentioned above, to believe that one’s anecdotes or one’s lab-rats give the truth about the danger of the toxicant, is mistaken and inappropriate. For when such conflicting results are negotiated, what comes into play is their quality.”

    Your reference is to Galileo is roughly equivalent to “There is a painting of Galileo wearing a t-shirt with the logo ‘Pope IS Truth’.” Sorry, but it was laundry day and the t-shirt was a gift. Galileo struggled, literally, against authoritarians, created the scientific method, applied it brilliantly, and explained it to the world. That one creation just might be the greatest gift of Western Civilization to humanity. As Galileo explained, scientific method is the creation of hypotheses which explain and predict observable phenomena. Notice that the purpose of scientific method is to keep the scientist focused on the phenomena, on the world, not on fantasies.

    Scientific Method continues to rule real science. The people at CERN, real scientists all, have spent a gazillion dollars because they predicted the existence of phenomena whose discovery would permit them to make some genuine choices among conflicting physical theories. See, prediction and explanation of phenomena in the world still rules. They did not build the CERN project for the purpose of sitting around some table and discussing rules of civility. Among climate scientists, at least pro-AGW climate scientists, there is not one who is focused on observable phenomena and, in general, the world. In fact, “hide the decline” proves beyond a reasonable doubt that they are committed to preventing a focus on observable phenomena. When forty years of data that you collected conflict with your theory, heck, just erase the data. That is climate science and that is what you are defending. You are defending the most flagrant abuse of evidence and of empiricism in the history of science. Please focus and address the real questions.

    If all climate scientists would simply agree that the thing to do now is to convene focused conferences, with full participation by sceptics, whose purpose it is to create a new measurement regime for climate science then everybody would jump on board. Bygones would be bygones. But the pro-AGW folks will never do that because then they could not control the data.

  91. JohnWho says:

    Interesting:

    “‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”

    Applied to AGW by CO2, I’ll agree that the facts are uncertain, values are in dispute, stakes are high, but I do not agree that decisions are urgent.

    Well, other than to get decisions on how to remove the uncertainty from the facts.

  92. HR says:

    “That is not a simple hypothesis to be decided by an experimental test.”

    I can’t help thinking this is were you’re going wrong. Down the line the correct experiments will be performed to give us the level of certainty we require it’s just difficult to see when that will happen. There are at least in some areas the tools in place that are designed to give us the data we require.

    I’m a little confused about your LD50 example. Nobody rejects this method. In fact the people ‘defending’ the toxicant don’t reject it as a sourse of truth, they are simply arguing special mitigating circumstances in this particular instance. When they go to a restaurant following the inquiry I’m sure they still assume (demand) that everything going into their mouth is at an appropriate level below it’s LD50. The general truth of the LD50 test as a measure of toxicants still stands in the minds of everybody involved in the case.

    The only example I know of somebody bypassing the LD50 altogether is John Selwyn Gummer who at the height of the BSE scare choose to feed hamburgers to his daughter. I don’t think this alternative is going to catch on though.

  93. DJ says:

    What immediately undermines Ravetz’s position is the statement about Dyson “..That left him looking like someone who didn’t want to argue, and so leaving the field to the expert. ”

    Conner is an “EXPERT”???

    Dyson said why he was exiting the discussion. It was because Conner was not expressing the views of an expert, but a believer, two entirely different positions of authority.

    Ravetz continually embeds subtle digs and insults into his epic tales, and even supposed apologies. Perhaps Willis was not so offended, but I was on his behalf. Ravetz wrote:

    “The climate issue is not a simple normal-scientific one of verification or refutation of an hypothesis. It has become a ‘total’ issue, involving policy, politics, investments and lifestyle; and it has a history.”

    Insulting because it isn’t the deniers that transformed the simple science into a “TOTAL” issue, it was his camp. Of violence, he should remember that it was Ben Santer who wanted to meet Pat Michaels in an alley.

    This continued twisting of guilt is what makes me furious. Not violent, just furious.

  94. Dave Springer says:

    Here are some queries for “common ground” I have for the CAGW faithful in the same vein as Conner had for Dyson (agree or disagree):

    1) the earth is billions of years of old and during most of the past 500 million when life radiated from the oceans to the land the earth had no ice caps

    2) for the past 3 million years the earth has been in an ice age

    3) for the past 15,000 years ice age glaciers have been in retreat in what’s called an interglacial period which is a slight temporary warming in the midst of an ice age

    4) the average length of the more recent interglacial periods is 15,000 years while the average length of the recent glacial periods is 100,000 years

    5) in all the earth’s history there has never been a “runaway greenhouse”

    6) during much of the past 500 million years atmospheric CO2 levels were anywhere from 2x to 10x what they are today

    7) CO2 level and global temperature at this moment are quite low compared to most of the past 500 million years

    8) plant growth ceases when atmospheric CO2 drops below 150ppm and increases up to as much as 2000ppm

    9) plants requires less water per unit of growth as CO2 level increases

    10) the periods of great biological fecundity in the past 500 million years happened when the earth was much warmer with much more atmospheric CO2 than today

    11) the earth has experienced a small number of ice ages prior to the present ice age and some of those persisted for tens of millions of years

    12) there is not enough economically recoverable fossil fuel to increase atmospheric CO2 to anywhere near the concentration during the warmest greenest episodes in the earth’s history

    All of the above are as reliably true as can be according to the indisputable testimony of the geologic column.

    Therefore, IF atmospheric CO2 is rising due to anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels and IF that amount of CO2 can cause a measurable amount of warming THEN burning of fossil fuels is a great boon for life on this planet as it will

    1) help to delay the end of the Holocene interglacial and perhaps even end the 3 million years of ice age

    2) extend growing seasons in high northern and southern latitudes

    3) increase productivity of the primary producers in the food chain to the benefit of everything alive farther up the food chain

    4) decrease the amount of fresh water that terrestrial plants require per unit of growth

    So what I’m faced with is a decision between accepting what appears to be a bogus hypothesis about runaway warming due to anthropogenic CO2. Never before in the earth’s history when most of the time CO2 levels were vastly higher has there been a runaway greenhouse. To promote this as a credible hypothesis especially when the earth is in a 3 million year-old ice age during an interglacial period which is statistically overdue to end is contrary to all evidence we have of the earth’s history. If anything we should be TRYING to boost atmospheric CO2 for the benefit of the biosphere. On the flip side there is what appears to be a contingent of lunatics who want to hobble the economic growth of the world spreading misery and death to billions in the name of reducing atmospheric CO2 which just about everyone agrees can be practically accomplished to any degree which would make any significant difference in global temperature.

    So I’m asked to back throwing money at a “problem” that is actually a blessing. The only “settled science” in all this as far as I’m concerned is the risk/reward equation. Trying to marginally curb anthropogenic CO2 production is just about all risk and just about no reward. Continuing on the present path appears to be just about all reward and just about no risk.

    The only valid reason I can see for limiting fossil fuel consumption is conservation. I believe there is a limited amount of economically recoverable fossil fuel and at the current pace of consumption and growth in consumption it’s going to get nothing more than more expensive going forward. Less expensive means of supplying energy is always a good thing as it directly translates into higher living standards for everyone. Less expensive and renewable is even better. However, developing a less expensive alternative to fossil fuels won’t be accomplished by hobbling the extant economy. R&D is expensive and if supplying the needs of billions of people takes a larger bite out of global productivity there will be less to spend on developing a cheap renewable source of energy. In other words you DO NOT kill the goose that lays the golden eggs until you have secured another goose to replace it. Doing otherwise is insane.

  95. Theo Goodwin says:

    johanna says:
    February 26, 2011 at 7:21 am

    ‘Steve Mosher goes on, “ Here’s the problem. Once science has been politicized you cannot “simply” return to normal science. It takes the use of power to do that. Are you going to force Hansen to think differently? defund him? defund all the scientists who believe action is required? Stop all science ( thats way abnormal). Sorry, the return to normal science is not a simple re virgination process. Its inherently political. post normal.”

    Mosher, if PNS contained some meaningful ideas, which it does not, then if climate science is now political according to the PNS “analysis” then exactly the solution that is demanded by PNS is political. Defund all the creeps. Indict them.

    You make some great points, johanna. Feminists are totally welcome.

  96. Theo Goodwin says:

    R2 says:
    February 26, 2011 at 4:03 am
    “It’s ironic that those subjects that follow the scientific method rarely have ‘science’ in their name (physics, chemistry etc)…
    … and those that tack ‘science’ onto their name rarely follow the scientific method!”

    It is called “Cargo Cult” Religion.

  97. Theo Goodwin says:

    Bomber_the_Cat says:
    February 26, 2011 at 2:49 am
    “Dyson was wrong to cut and run when the questions became too difficult. Remember the derision that was heaped on James Cameron when he pulled out of that debate with Marc Marano? Well, now Dyson has done the same – but not a word of criticism on these pages. Instead Steve Connor is called a ‘hack’ for asking difficult questions.”

    ‘The question Dyson baulked at was this –
    “The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C. If you accept that CO2 levels have never been higher, but not that global average temperatures have increased, where has the extra trapped heat gone to? Can we deal with this before we go on? ”’

    OMG, can you not recognize a most egregious case of the classic case of Complex Question? Logically, the question has exactly the same form as “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The question PRESUMES that the Warmista account of manmade CO2, along with its effects on heat, is true. Dyson should have slapped the interviewer. The interviewer is just another MSM propagandist.

  98. Paul Brassey says:

    I think the most important contribution of Dr. Ravetz concerns the use of rhetoric. Scientists on all sides of the climate debate use non-scientific terms to score points. As an example, above someone described Steve Connor as a “pinhead.” Dr. Curry recently posted on her blog, linked on WUWT, that members of the AGW “team” were “dishonest.” Famously, “team” members refer to AGW “skeptics” as “deniers” or “denialists.” None of these are scientific terms, but emotionally-charged, value-laden labels. Thus when Curry labels Schmidt “dishonest,” this enables Schmidt to puff up his righteous indignation and defend himself from an attack upon his character, rather than defend his scientific reasoning. It’s perhaps not emotionally satisfying, but I think the non-scientific community will be better served by those scientists who stick with arguing about facts and avoid resorting to emotionally-charged character evaluations of their opponents. I’m aware that this is very difficult, both because all humans are subject to emotional responses, and because even the determination of what constitutes a “fact” is under dispute.

  99. Grant Hillemeyer says:

    I am afraid that even well trained, intelligent scientists suffer the same human foibles that we all do, that is the tendency to turn away from the mirror when they don’t like what they see and then to rationalize. It is often difficult to look truth in the eye and accept it because of our investments and of course the reality that sometimes, the power to change is not within us. I think it is why as a non scientist sometimes I listen to a scientific position and think that that person has left their common since at the door.
    I have in the past assumed that scientists were always thorough, objective, and honest. And then I read this blog.
    Well, here’s my advice to AGWers if you seek to convince me.
    First, Get the basics right because if the foundation is faulty then every built upon it is questionable.
    Second, get out a little. I know that expensive computers are great fun but they do little to advance knowledge of The earth’s climate.
    Third, when you make an embarrassing mistake, like kill off penguins with your equipment and then somehow, god knows how, blame it on global warming, take time to make that good long gaze in the mirror.
    And last, when the data isn’t quite what you expected, don’t tourture, satistically manipulate, obfuscate, or falsify it.
    Climate gate has required that I become increasingly skeptical so don’t blame it on the car I might drive.
    Once bitten, twice shy.

  100. davidmhoffer says:

    Dr Ravetz,
    I followed the many well written criticisms of your article in the previous thread, the responses in that thread to the article at the top of this one, and the responses here. And my first comment in the last thread I shall repeat again.

    Of the valid criticisms of you, your last two responses address not one single issue other than your words regarding Sarah Palin. And that amounted to no more than an additional slight dressed up as a retraction.

    I, davidmhoffer, have serious doubts about Sarah Palin. It makes me uncomfortable to know that I am on the same side as Jerome Ravitz on this. Of course I say this only to show the complexity of the issue, this says more about me than it does about Jerome Ravitz.

    So….anyone read that and have any doubt as to whom I have a lower opinion of, Palin or Ravitz?

  101. davidmhoffer says:

    Jerome Ravetz;
    Thanks for bearing with me through all this, and thanks for stimulating me to a better understanding.>>>

    And thank you Dr Ravetz, for responding, and demonstrating once again for all those who are still following this thread and the previous, just who and what you are.

    Your long, well written, articulate and sometimes even poignant response speaks directly to all that is hollow and false about PNS.

    You continue to present PNS as some logical, ingenious construct designed to deal with the complexities of the world in an effective manner, driven by processes you articulate so well that they seem almost a logical outcome that gives credence to the notion of public policy being set on matters of science by those who are not scientists and based on the opinion of scientists who have… NO SCIENCE TO ACTUALLY SUPPORT THEIR OPINION.

    When pressed to address the gaping hole…nay chasm… in the sheer audacity of your position, you beat a hasty retreat, claiming that you are not a scientist, that you do not have the expertise to judge matters such as these, and point to actual scientists like Connor/Dyson in which one withdraws for reasons of their own, and thus this justifies you yourself declining to engage the scientific facts yourself. “well mom, my brother peed in the bath tub so obviously its OK for me too”

    May I summarize Dr Ravetz?

    You know nothing about science per your own statements.
    You have no clue what science is fraudulent and what science is sound as a consequence.
    And yet you argue that you, and others like you, have some sort of magical, mythical, refined and carefully thought out construct by which you should be granted some level of influence and authority over the science you do not understand.
    You provide a smoke screen of words, logic fragments, unrelated stories and fables tied together in a meaningless fashion from which conclusions equally divorced from the stories and fables as they are from each other are drawn. And you use the influence and authority you have granted yourself, to in turn use that smokescreen to enable the fraudulent science to not only continue, but advocate public policy be implemented in favour of the fraudulent science you admit you don’t understand.

    Then, with a perfectly straight face, claim the moral high ground, present yourself as a neutral party, a conciliator, who will build a bridge to allow the two warring sides to make peace and shake hands with one another as friends, standing in the centre of the bridge. To you, the victory has everything to do with building the bridge and being the one responsible for the former combatants to cross it and reach their hands out to each other.

    Tell me Dr Ravetz, please. Will you be the first to set foot on the bridge? And as you walk alone to the centre of the bridge, looking down at the deep chasm below, will the thought cross your mind…

    Who built this bridge I am trusting my life to?

    The aggrieved scientists and engineers who demanded that designs, conclusions, construction and policy be based on properly collected data, accurate measurements, proven designs, tested components and solid, practical, real world decisions?

    Or was it built by PNS scientists and engineers who were not constrained by the need for such discipline and accuracy, because your PNS enabled them to build the bridge without the need for proven data or theory.

    Sadder still, you can’t tell which group it was, because you admit you don’t understand any of the science they are arguing about, so you don’t know what a well built bridge should look like. You have no idea if the bridge will stand your weight or not, you have no idea if you will plunge to your death because it turns out it was a PNS designed and built bridge and worst of all, you don’t care.

    Because you aren’t setting foot on that bridge, are you Dr Ravetz? You will proudly proclaim that it was your work that enabled the bridge to be built, but you are too humble to take the spotlight and walk the bridge yourself. And when the first few scientsts begin to cross, and the bridge collapses because it is a PNS bridge, what does Dr Ravetz say as he watches them fall to their deaths?

    “Well, there goes THEIR credibility, they did it to themselves, and I’m glad I’m not associated with them”

    Chutzpah, Dr. Ravetz. The man who, having been convicted of mudering his parents and then asking the court for mercy because he is an orphan, will have to step aside as the centuries old example of unmitigated gall that is the definition of Chutzpah.

    We shall replace it with Dr. Ravetz and PNS.

  102. vigilantfish says:

    psi says:
    February 26, 2011 at 7:02 am

    psi, your post is excellent, too. I’ve wondered about the links between PNS and post-modernism and you are very enlightening re. the latter. Perhaps I should be grateful that a series of really awful high-school English teachers scared me away from the subject.

  103. Smokey says:

    davidmhoffer,

    You’re not looking at the political scene the right way. What you should be asking yourself is: if the choice comes down to Palin vs Obama, how will you vote?

    Palin isn’t my choice as a candidate. There are a couple of others I would prefer, such as Ron Paul. But if the choice in a general election is between Obama and Palin, she gets my vote. I dislike the Saul Alinsky tactic of demonizing an individual, which is what happened within 2 hours of Palin being named.

    No doubt the Dems had a hit piece ready for every Republican politician in the country. Thoroughly dispicable – and I’d hope you would be somewhat immune from being manipulated like that. It’s not so different from demonizing “carbon,” is it? [I do agree with you that Ravitz gratuitously used her name in this instance, which further diminishes his already weak arguments.]

    Paul Brassey,

    The conniving climate click led by Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt began the practice of calling themselves “the Team.” They started labeling themselves by that term, so it’s not a pejorative like the sleazy use of “denialist,” etc.

    I would prefer calling them “the Syndicate.”

  104. davidmhoffer says:

    I remember reading articles in once prestigious magazines arguing that we should take action on climate not because the science is clear, but because it isn’t. Had I not read your explanation of “Post Normal Science” on this blog, I would have thought it just a very odd leap of logic that coincidentally was mirrored in more than one journal. But I’d read your PNS theories, and having done so, recognized those articles for what they were. Nothing more than a justification for a political position with no facts to support it, and the spectre of fear (yes FEAR) of the unknown dressed up as some sort of next generation science. A new kind of science in which the frauds who demand action, having been exposed as frauds, can continue to demand action under a smokescreen of pseudo science called PNS. Nothing but a fraud to cover a fraud.

    It was you, Dr. Ravetz, who urged taking action because the situation was urgent, the stakes high, the facts uncertain. But whose recommended actions did your attempt to convince the public that there was some sort of next generation science upon which to base decisions support? The fraudsters sir. Instead of demanding quality work from them, you provided a cleverly worded argument to instead implement their hysterical ravings as policy because despite their fraud, they might be right. You argued to give legitimacy to the shoddiest science in decades, perhaps centuries, and so advanced the arguments of the alarmists who could now with the pseudo science of PNS behind them, continue to push their case with NO SCIENCE AT ALL to justify their position.

    For shame.

  105. davidmhoffer says:

    Dr Ravetz,
    I posted several harsh criticisms of your article in the previous thread. As I expected, none of them answered, and I will repeat one of them here. You article above was a response to the criticisms against the previous article, much of the thrust of which was in regard to reconciliation between the warmist and skeptic camps. I repeat:

    And then the worst sin of all. The call for reconciliation with the “Protestant Bigot” and the “Republican Terrorist” not only ceasing their hostilities, but becoming friends held out as the model for what could be if only we could put aside our hate. How much warmer and fuzzier could it get? All hail the reconciliator, the peacemaker, the anti-violence crusader, Dr Ravetz. Having urged us all to act on the recommendations of the conformist clique, Dr. Ravetz now throws the worst of them under the bus, justifies the actions of the rest as some sort of acceptable human flaw, and presents himself as the peace maker working hard to bring both sides together.

    The example is just as much a sieve held aloft and presented as a pail of water as was the science of those who you cleverly distanced yourself from and threw under a bus. The bigot and the terrorist both acted out of their beliefs. Their ACTUAL beliefs. They reconciled because their beliefs changed. They reconciled because they each arrived at a belief system sufficiently compatible with the other’s that there was no longer need for them to be mortal enemies, and even room for them to be friends.

    Do you suppose they would have reconciled if it turned out that the terrorist just liked killing people, he’d never actually believed in the Republican cause? Do you suppose their would have been reconciliation if it turned out the Protestant bigot wasn’t a bigot at all, he just said he was to get a position at a bigger church and agreed to preach bigotry as part of the deal? Neither of them would be seen for anything than criminals guilty of fraud and murder and rightfully convicted and jailed if that had been the case.

    Which brings us back to reconciliation within the science community. Note, I didn’t say within the climate science community, I said the science community. The sins committed in the name of alarmism, the presenting of fraudulent science as undisputed fact, the smokescreen of PNS used to support the alarmism in the face of unsubstantiated and unwarranted claims, is not some sort of unintended consequence of two groups of climate scientists with differing belief systems. It is a sin of fraudulent misrepresentation committed against science as a whole, and nothing more than a deliberate scam to fleece the entire world of their wealth.

    Incompetent science cannot be tolerated. If a bridge should collapse because the engineer was too lazy to calculate all the shear planes correctly, the lives of those who died are on his head. There can be no reconciliation. Fraudulent science cannot be tolerated. If a bridge should collapse because the construction manager saved money by using a fraudulent bill of materials knowing it would result in a collapse, the lives of those who died are on his head. There can be no reconciliation.

    But the most egregious sin of all is when he, who having defended the incompetence and justified the fraud, rises up at the criminal trial and begs the judge to stay proceedings to give reconciliation an opportunity to succeed, and then, to quote another saying Mr Ravitz, the CHUTZPA, to present himself as the conciliator who will bring the aggrieved families together with the criminals and ask them to love one another, for is it not as obvious as the fable of the Sun and the Wind and the man with the coat that they should?

    For every scientist in every field of science who has been appalled at the incompetence, fraud and deceit of the alarmists and their charlatan enablers, for every hard working tax payer dedicated to building a better place for their family and community who has been taken in by the charlatans and their Post Normal Science enablers, if I had the authority to speak for them, I would say this about reconciliation:

    No.

    And if I had the authority to speak for them, I would say this about he who proposes himself as conciliator:

    No. Stand in the docket with the rest of the accused whom you defended and enabled, you deserve to be judged as much or more as they. A thousand times:

    No.

  106. Dagfinn Reiersøl says:

    I still think, having read Funtowizc and Ravetz 1992 on PNS, that they do in fact point out some problems that are in fact relevant to the climate controversy.

    They mention “elevating experts’ guesses to the status of scientific facts” and “how mathematics functions as a means for dogmatism and elitism, little changed in principle since the Pharaos”. Does this seem familiar? The mathematical sophistication of climate models posing as validity? I think they’ve aptly described some problems that we happen to see in the climate controversy, but are not new.

    What they are lacking is a clear solution, but they coined a term (PNS) that looks like it’s supposed to be a solution, and most of the problems stem from that.

  107. bubbagyro says:

    Smokey: “Climate Syndicate”. Very apropos.

    As a physical organic chemist of 40 years, I put myself in Dyson’s shoes. I would have walked away sooner, were I he. But when the “journalist” mentioned “trapped heat”, that would have been the clincher, as it was for Dyson. There is no such thing as trapped heat. Heat flows to lower heat. Heat always “gets out.” Thermodynamics. Dyson’s field. Oh, yes, there are temporary heat inversions, but they solve themselves rapidly, with fury, because they are highly unstable and ephemeral. How long can one hold two north poles of a magnet together?

    As soon as the unscientific phrase “trapped heat” was sounded, Dyson checked to see if Connor was wearing oversized shoes and had tufts of orange hair behind his ears. And he then calmly, and politely, walked away. How long must we suffer fools gladly? It is not a debate between lawyers and physicists. It is science.

    Hypotheses are always in flux, and always to be questioned. I’ll go a step further. My scientific education demanded that all of my hypotheses should be offered up earnestly for falsification. Not only by others, but that I should actively pursue the falsification myself. Why? Because I wanted to find the truth that Nature (not the magazine, LOL!) was trying to teach me. And because a cover-up never gets you anywhere.

    The “Syndicate”? “They can’t (won’t) handle the truth!”

  108. David says:

    Re Bomber_the_Cat says:
    February 26, 2011 at 6:29 am
    David,
    Describing a question as a “Child’s question” (4.14AM) and then failing to answer it does not does not really constitute a sound scientific argument. If the question is easy (which it isn’t) then answer it.

    I did answer it…”Bomber it is a Childs question, and a quite insulting simplistic and false statement, the very words of which are not an attempt at dialogue. ““The mainstream estimate suggests that doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would increase global average temperatures by about 3C.” This is completely false. The premise is wrong and Connor knows it. The LWIR radiant effect from doubled CO2 is not 3 C, it is about 1C and all moderately informed proponets or skeptics of CAGW know this, including Connor. (Apparently you are not even moderately informed) This garbage premise shows complete lack of sincerity in dialogue.” Here was the answer Bomber…”Any one with minor knowledge knows the issue is feedbacks and other aspects of physics besides straight radiation, like cloud formation, location, and convection, and their affects on SWR and heat loss, evaporation and hydrologic system latent energy transport effects, etc, which can easily overwhelm the straight radiant CO2 effects.”

    You did not like my answer, but it was a childs question, and a childish assumption that 3 C of warming results from a doubling of CO2, when most everyone knows it is far more involved then that. Dyson had already alluded to the complxity and lack of knowldge of the current state of science several times. Connor was neither listening or responding to the answers. It is almost like when Judith Curry finaly gave up on Gavin’s “Black Night” attack, and said to Gavin, “Brilliant Response”. My take was that she was actually giving up on him, saying words to the affect of the poem in “Hound of Heaven”, paraphrased here…

    “Strange pitieous futile thing, wherefore should any set thee love apart, seeing none but I make much of naught, of all mankinds clotted clay, certainly thou hockeystick is the dingiest clot, shattered in shard on shard, shadow of Judit’s hand; outstrtched caressingly, ah fondest, blindest, weakest, the scientific method is what thou seekest.”

    Such is the sad state of climate science today.

  109. davidmhoffer says:

    Smokey;
    You’re not looking at the political scene the right way. What you should be asking yourself is: if the choice comes down to Palin vs Obama, how will you vote?>>>

    Being Canadian, it is a moot point. But the point I made stands. If you wish to expand the list of politicians, then of course the scale of doubt would increase, leaving more room to plot various data points.

    Were I to find myself on the same side as Dr Ravetz in regard to any opinion expressed by Obama, I would not be uncomfortable. I would be astounded, shocked and dismayed. The only opinion expressed by Obama that I have ever found cause to consider in any way credible is that he is black. And on that one, I think he is only half right.

  110. johanna says:

    ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”
    ———————————————-

    Having spent my working life close up and personal with decisionmakers (politicians) and their advisers, please be advised – as we say – that almost all decisions are taken in that context, even now.

    I don’t want to start a wargames discussion here. Elizabeth I and Philip had practically no information. Napoleon had bugger all maps. Let alone Alexander …

    The fact is, political leaders have always functioned in the absence of certainty. That is their job. The notion that climate is somehow more important than Spain taking over the world, or Napoleon or Hitler taking over the world, is just an artefact.

    The caravan is already moving on. But the harm at State and local levels will take many years to get rid of.

  111. DirkH says:

    DJ says:
    February 26, 2011 at 8:31 am
    “Ravetz continually embeds subtle digs and insults into his epic tales, and even supposed apologies. Perhaps Willis was not so offended, but I was on his behalf. Ravetz wrote:

    “The climate issue is not a simple normal-scientific one of verification or refutation of an hypothesis. It has become a ‘total’ issue, involving policy, politics, investments and lifestyle; and it has a history.””

    We had a guy in Germany talking about a lot of “total” things as well… (No, i don’t care about Godwin’s law). Some thoughts.
    1.) When somebody says his issue is a total issue, he’s a totalitarian.
    2.) PNS is totalitarian.
    3.) Ravetz is a totalitarian.
    4.) AGW is used as a tool to enforce a totalitarian regime.
    5.) Fight them on the beaches; fight them on the hills.

  112. Fernando (in Brazil) says:

    Galileo: “The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them.”

    I do not know exactly where this discussion will end.

    The political and philosophical aspects are inadequate in this debate.

    Let the hateful thought experiment.

    Ptolemy’s model (described using the language … …. PNS high degree of certainty.)

    Kepler’s model (described using the language … … PNS high degree of certainty.)

    The basic difference between the two models is simply where to place references. (or rearrange the system).

    If the political and philosophical aspects are placed in this discussion. Necessarily the discussion starts to be another way.

    This mode is not science, so naturally in the course of discussions the phrase “scientists say ….”. will be used to legitimize political agendas (I think that philosophers also contribute to the political agenda in the form of service … “according to the philosopher Ravetz …..).

    It is common fact that scientists and philosophers are discarded when the answers provided by them are not exactly those that politicians wanted.

    Of course no guarantee that will be well received by the other “side”

  113. bubbagyro says:

    johanna says:
    February 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

    You got that right…

    From Wiki:
    The Piltdown man fraud had a significant impact on early research on human evolution. Notably, it led scientists down a blind alley in the belief that the human brain expanded in size before the jaw adapted to new types of food. Discoveries of Australopithecine fossils found in the 1920s in South Africa were ignored owing to Piltdown man, and the reconstruction of human evolution was thrown off track for decades. The examination and debate over Piltdown man led to a vast expenditure of time and effort on the fossil, with an estimated 250+ papers written on the topic.

    The Piltdown fraud’s black mark has never been totally alleviated. The perps were never found and went unpunished. The setback of science by the warm-earthers, I hope, will not so endure. What will endure, more importantly, is the hardship perpetrated upon the poor and unprivileged. That is the crying shame of it all.

    “Messin’ with Sasquatch” is nothing compared to Messin’ with food supplies.

  114. johanna says:

    Paul Brassey said:

    Dr. Curry recently posted on her blog, linked on WUWT, that members of the AGW “team” were “dishonest.” Famously, “team” members refer to AGW “skeptics” as “deniers” or “denialists.” None of these are scientific terms, but emotionally-charged, value-laden labels. Thus when Curry labels Schmidt “dishonest,” this enables Schmidt to puff up his righteous indignation and defend himself from an attack upon his character, rather than defend his scientific reasoning.
    ————————————————————–
    Paul, there is a big difference (in scientific circles) between calling someone a ‘pinhead’ and describing them as dishonest.

    Being described as dishonest is the worst accusation that can be made to a scientist. Someone being described as a ‘pinhead’ is more in the nature of banter over morning tea, or biologists scrapping about taxonomy.

  115. bubbagyro says:

    Charles Dawson, the Piltdown Man hoaxer, was never called out by his fellow scientists. In fact, they all profited by his hoax, with over 250 scientific peer-reviewed papers emanating from that claim.

    The few “deniers” were overridden. I don’t know, for sure, but I guess that they were branded by allegations they were paid by the Pope on behalf of Creationists.

    At any rate, Piltdown was the culmination of his life’s work, consisting of 38 fabrications and major hoaxes that he was proven to perpetrate. I doubt if anyone called him dishonest during his lifetime. But he was. Two scientists at the time stated unequivocally that the skull was a composite fabrication of an ape and a human. But they were shouted down, and the consensus prevailed for 40 years!

    He utilized a lot of nifty schemes in order to prevail. Here is an imagined dialog based on the historical record:

    Query from anthropologist: “Can I see the skull?”
    Dawson: I’ll make a model.
    Query: Can I see the original?
    Dawson: It’s proprietary.
    Query: But I need the original to confirm.
    Dawson: You do not have the credentials as an antiquarian to handle it.
    Query: Where did you find it?
    Dawson: I didn’t. A workman found it.
    Query: Can I talk to him?
    Dawson: I forget which worker it was.
    Query: Where was it found, exactly?
    Dawson: I forget exactly.
    Query: General area?
    Dawson: Piltdown village
    Query: Hundreds of scientists have pored over the area, and found no other bones.
    Dawson: Just lucky, I guess.
    Query: I went to your associate, Woodward, the Keeper of the British Museum, and he said you told him not to talk to me.
    Dawson: No, I didn’t.

    Sound familiar?

    This following excerpt is from Bournemouth University, Archaeology Centre:

    “Those who defend Dawson against the charge of hoax often cite his impressive archaeological credentials noting also that, as a well-respected solicitor, he did much to benefit his local community. [my emphasis]“

  116. Dr. Dave says:

    I slogged through this article and the earlier one. I can’t say as I have come away with any greater understanding or enlightenment. At least the comments have been entertaining.

  117. 1DandyTroll says:

    “As usual I am nearly overwhelmed by these replies, and I only wish that I could respond to each of them.”

    Are you overwhelmed by what’s in the replies or the amount of replies?

    If it’s the latter there is a simple trick, but of course this trick is actually researched by observation and not by some cheesy post-modeled-science crap, so one doesn’t really need to believe it to work it, and I digress it might seem rather strange but reiterated tries actually proves IRL that it, works, and it works as follows: engage your e-mail’s auto-reply feature with a general message that has something about you’re in chock and can not understand how they could fit all them sex toys up “there”!

    If anyone send you messages after that, they’re some deranged people and you should set up a filter that pipe’s ‘em to null. :p

    Then you’re not overwhelmed by the amount any more, at least. Of course won’t get any at all, and some people thinks that is negative. o_O

  118. bubbagyro says:

    Haha!

    What a Troll—what a dandy troll!

  119. Theo Goodwin says:

    johanna says:
    February 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

    “The fact is, political leaders have always functioned in the absence of certainty. That is their job. The notion that climate is somehow more important than Spain taking over the world, or Napoleon or Hitler taking over the world, is just an artefact.”

    Yes, and the real threat to peace and to humanity today is nuclear war. Nuclear war in the Mideast is all but inevitable in the next three years. And the USA will definitely be involved, unless we have a president who is willing to turn his back on the total destruction of Israel. All these chicken-littles crying that the sky is falling because of global warming lack even a basic clarity of vision to see what the real threats are.

  120. davidmhoffer says:

    johanna;
    I don’t want to start a wargames discussion here. Elizabeth I and Philip had practically no information. Napoleon had bugger all maps. Let alone Alexander …
    The fact is, political leaders have always functioned in the absence of certainty. That is their job.>>>

    Enjoyed your comments johanna, and support almost all except this one.

    By current standards, those leaders had little information. But by the standards of the time, they had lots, and carefull reading of their historic victories invariably shows that superior information carried the battle in many cases. Alexander paid royaly for quality information from spies, and used it without mercy. The centre piece of Sun Tzu’s Art of War is the advantage gained by having superior information compared to your opponent.

    And what did these legends of world history do when it came to light that through deliberate subterfuge or gross incompetance their trusted advisors had misinformed them?

    Why that is in fact where the expression “heads will roll” comes from.

    Eliminates the hazards of taking advice from that particular source, and makes certain that the remaining sources understand clearly that it is in their personal best interest to work to the highest possible standards.

    Of course we’ve made much progress since medieval times. We no longer actually cut people’s heads off. Now, guided by the enlightenment of PNS, we understand that these people are working on a completely different plane of existance that the great unwashed cannot comprehend, that we should not cut off their heads or fire them, we should instead give them all our money, give in to all their demands, and should it be demanded of us for the good of humanity, let them cut our heads off.

    Perhaps the only thing saving us from these post medieval philosophers and their twisted world views that defy both fact and reason is that they are so divorced from reality, so completely governed by a reality that can be dealt with only through the written word, that even if we were to hand them the guillotine, they’d never figure out how to operate it.

  121. David A. Evans says:

    Not being keen to give the not so Independent a hit, I finally looked at the article.
    Connor ignored every point Dyson made. It’s no surprise Dyson decided that, (as he had previously stated,) the Independent wasn’t, he did not want to continue.

    DaveE.

  122. Myrrh says:

    Ravetz – “In the interwar period there were two distinguished scientists who involved themselves in public affairs, one on the far Left and other on the Right; they were J.D. Bernal and Michael Polanyi respectively. Their disagreements were urgent and profound. But they both loved science, and saw in it an example, imperfect but still real, of the ideal community of selfless sharing in which they believed.”

    It’s now February 2011, how have you been able to make such a statement when your own discovery of Polanyi showed to him to be an insecure follower of fashion, science consensus, rather than the man of scientific integrity you present here?

    You said, on May 30th 2010 at 9:48 pm:

    “I recall discovering that Michael Polanyi believed that if a scientist advanced theories that didn’t fit with the ‘tacit knowledge’ of the field, the scientists were justified in dismissing him unheard.” http://enthusiamscepticismscience.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/revolutionary-science-post-normal-climate-science-and-neo-marxism/

    So which is he? And knowing this about him, and knowing it for a long time, how do you justify presenting him as an example of Quaker moral values?

    From that page, an examination of Hulme’s book and his attack on Singer and Avery – the defining feature of which is Hulme accusing these of precisely what he himself is doing, and the method employed by AGW promoters for quite some time now, the cloaking of real motive by pukkha scientific method sounding basis, including, Hulme says, “citations to peer-reviewed articles, deference to numbers, and adoption of technical terms”. And he claims for himself and AGWScience the antidote to such skullduggery which in actual fact, as we here know perfectly well, the skeptics use successfully against AGW: “deploying the machinery of scientific method allows us to filter out hypotheses … as being plain wrong.” Where Hulme puts Singer and Avery, insert all the manipulators of science data to fit the agenda of AGW ‘scientists’.

    So, Dr Ravetz, two interesting technique on show here. In you as specimen example, giving us a straight forward falsehood by presenting Polyani as other than not even a pygmy standing on the shoulders of giants such as Newton and then hiding it, and yourself, in the shelter of the generally accepted moral standing of the Quakers, and, in Hulme as specimen, the oft seen technique of accusing scientists anti the AGWScience mangling for an agenda, which is the known characteristic rather of AGWscientists. (We here know that it’s the claims of AGWscientists which have proved to be wrong, corrupt and nonsensical through the looking glass imaginary.)

    So, let me see if I now have a better understanding of what you’re pushing here.

    Post Normal Science then is the death of real Science which is now deemed as irrelevant as revolutions and art and everything new determined impossible in the black hole of depression which is Post Modernism, PNS however differs in one respect.

    It can still see the sliver of light at the event horizon and still desperately wants to survive being sucked into oblivion, and how better to do this then by taking control of the lives of others to counter its lack of creativity in itself and whatever other depressing lack its adherents add to the black hole it is; blaming the other for its own lack of integrity, moral and scientific, and meaninglessness of life. Instead of the Post Rational depressive’s way out of suicide as the only rational alternative we now have it replaced by the positive thinking PNS way out of petty insecure tyrants, the destruction of those who point out that this philosophy is still bereft of value are added to the list of those to be considered superfluous numbers to a ‘sustainable ecology’ by it masquerading as the holder of true value judgement and to be achieved by the tried and tested method of generating fear and urgency.. So what’s new about PNS..?

    And whence your mantram of ‘science is value': it has none, as Hulme so clearly demonstrates the technique to those familiar with it, as the majority here are, regardless how cleverly you misappropriate the values of others by using their terms which have specific meaning for them.

    And hence?

  123. Myrrh says:

    Sorry folks, missed a close italics after Ravetz quote: “….justified in dismissing him unheard.”

  124. John Whitman says:

    Here at WUWT Jerome Ravetz has provided his view of; AGW, science, philosophy of science, history of science and of his advocated PNS. For that, we can thank him sincerely.

    Let’s applaud him for bringing his thinking to us in person.

    I profoundly disagree with him at virtually every essential point.

    NOTE to tallbloke – if you are monitoring this, I sincerely suggest that you could help Mr. Ravetz by doing pre-edits of his postings. I think you have a collegial relationship with him so it may be possible for you to provide some editing support for him. I am saying this to you in good will because I respect you from your openness and energy here in past years at WUWT. I think you have a collegial relationship with him so it may be possible for you to provide some editing support for him. With your editing help perhaps he would then come across as less of a pedantic academic with a condescending tone.

    John

  125. Bruckner8 says:

    Wow, I was completely censored. A comment of mine (calling out the sincerity of this article) no longer exists. No snip; no warning; no courtesy email to my provided address. Just gone. It passed initial moderation, and now it’s gone.

    Oh well, I guess WUWT is not as different as I thought.

    REPLY: Please send it again, I did not see your previous comment, but I’ll look at it personally. Sound more like a glitch or accidental deletion. Sometimes it happens. I have on occasion accidentally deleted comments rather than approving them. The “delete permanently” button andf the approve both make the same thing happen in WordPress, the comment moves out of the moderation que and the rest of the comments scroll up. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve done it.

    With the hundreds of comments here daily, mistakes are bound to happen. – Anthony

  126. Bruckner8 says:

    REPLY: Please send it again, I did not see your previous comment, but I’ll look at it personally. Sound more like a glitch or accidental deletion. Sometimes it happens. I have on occasion accidentally deleted comments rather than approving them. The “delete permanently” button andf the approve both make the same thing happen in WordPress, the comment moves out of the moderation que and the rest of the comments scroll up. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve done it.

    With the hundreds of comments here daily, mistakes are bound to happen. – Anthony

    It is I who must apologize. I found my comment in the other Ravetz thread here:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/24/more-from-jerome-ravetz-response-to-willis/#comment-607083

    Your quick response, and gracious approach made me rethink my credibility on the issue, and I thought “Hmm, maybe I posted it in a different thread.” I first tried searching your site on my username, but that search feature in top-right panel doesn’t find any matches on user names. So I scrolled down to the next-most-recent Ravetz article, and I found my comment with Firefox’s Find feature.

    I’m very sorry, Anthony. Please accept my humble apologies. Isn’t it interesting that I was calling out Ravetz’s apology to Willis, and I’m asking you to accept mine? Karma is funny that way…

  127. davidmhoffer says:

    John Whitman (to Tallbloke);
    With your editing help perhaps he would then come across as less of a pedantic academic with a condescending tone.>>

    I too applaud Dr Ravetz to have the moxy to participate in this forum, and Anthony for making him welcome. It is intensely important that as many people as possible see what he has to say, and pay attention to how his PNS theories have shown up everywhere in the climate debate including business magazines as prestigious as the Economist advocating action without credible supporting evidence justified on the theory of PNS.

    But do not edit a word. Without the condescension, the immaterial fables, the insults cleverly disguised as a retraction, the self proclaimed inability to understand science presented as a logical qualification for the authority to act on it, the disingenuous equating of a real scientist walking out of an unfair interview with his own refusal to discuss facts, the justification of his position via references that he himself has discredited, the pardoning of fraudulently conducted research that his PNS enables on the grounds that bigots and terrorists in Ireland made peace, while he subtly distances himself from the worst of those his PNS enabled with a flippant remark that they will discredit themselves as if he had nothing to do with enabling them in the first place….

    Don’t edit a word. Let the world see him as he is.

  128. Brian H says:

    davidmhoffer says:
    February 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm
    Devastating.
    I betcha he resembles that! ;)

  129. Bomber_the_Cat says:

    David, you don’t answer questions by saying they are child’s questions. You simply ‘grade’ them by doing that – in this case wrongly – because the question is quite clever.
    Does the question contain assumptions? Yes – it does – but these should be addressed point by point. I see you still fail to explain where the ‘trapped’ heat has gone.

    bubbagyro says there is no such thing as ‘trapped heat’. But this is playing with semantics. Of course, at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) the amount of heat escaping to space will always equal the amount coming in. This is the radiation balance. It applies on Earth as it applies on Venus. it doesn’t matter how much greenhouse gas you have, the radiation balance at TOA will always be in equilibrium. If this were not so, the planet’s temperature would simply adjust until this equilibrium was achieved.
    However, we do not live at the top of the atmosphere, we live on the surface, and the temperature at the surface is affected by greenhouse gases.
    When people refer to ‘trapped heat’ they mean the heat that is returned to the surface by the greenhouse gases, which would otherwise have escaped directly to space. This ‘returned’ heat, in the form of IR radiation, represents an additional heating flux at the surface and makes it warmer than it would otherwise be. No scientist disputes this, I hope – Freeman Dyson didn’t.
    So where has all this ‘trapped’ heat gone? I can answer that, but it is disappointing to see that no other sceptic can, and Dyson decided a cowardly retreat was in order.

    Are there no other physicists here?

  130. homo sapiens says:

    Bomber-the-Cat

    I think Professor Dyson was right to end the debate when he did because Connor’s final statement contained false claims: – “One of the problems I have with the climate “sceptics” is that they keep changing their arguments. First they say that there is no such thing as global warming, thereby dismissing all the many thousands of records of land and sea temperatures over the past century or so. Then they say that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing the Earth to warm up, thereby defying basic physics”.
    Every single assertion in those three sentences is untrue. You cannot debate with someone whose method of argument is to accuse his opponent of something he is not guilty of.

  131. Vince Causey says:

    Bomber_the_Cat,

    I understand what you are saying regarding the question that Dyson declined to answer. I am however, disappointed that you call Dyson a coward for not wanting to get into a debate with someone who has such an agenda – namely to try and trap him with logical inconsistencies.

    You ask ‘where has all this trapped heat gone?’ Or more specifically from Connor ‘If you accept that CO2 levels have never been higher, but not that global average temperatures have increased, where has the extra trapped heat gone to?’

    Firstly, where does Dyson say that global average temperatues have not increased? It would appear to Dyson that Connor has disregarded everything he had previously said.

    Secondly, there is indeed an issue with ‘missing heat.’ Roger Pielke senior has written about the fact that according to James Hansen, co2 increases should result in a radiative imbalance of about 0.85 watts per square metre. Hansen has said that this imbalance will raise average global temperatures, ocean temperatures and melt the ice. Argo data since 2004 has been tallying the earth’s energy balance in ocean heat. The outcome of all this is that there is an observed ocean heat shortfall of about 1 x 10^23 joules. Nobody has found this missing heat. Either it has escaped detection or it never existed in the first place. But Connor should have known that this is a refutation of the ghg hypothesis, not a confirmation of it.

    The ‘logical inconsistency’ that Connor was trying to trap Dyson with was the contradiction in having an increase in co2 and downwelling LIR without increasing temperatures. Yet, the work of scientists like Lindzen have shown that there is not a precise relationship between co2 levels and temperatures. If negative feedbacks predominate, then the temperature sensitivity will be less than that due to no feedbacks, but if positive feedbacks predominate (as posited in computer models), the temperature sensitivity will be higher. Since we don’t know the feedbacks, how can belief in low temperature anomalies be in any way a logical inconsitency with the belief in the IR effects of co2?

    However you try an cut it, Connor comes across as a puppet. The question is, who is pulling the strings? Why should Dyson carry on a debate with an anonymous puppet master by proxy?

  132. Brian H says:

    Dave Springer says:
    February 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    A comprehensively brilliant, and brilliantly comprehensive, post.

    In Other Words, I agree with you completely!
    ;)

  133. Brian H says:

    Bomber_the_Cat says:
    February 27, 2011 at 4:14 am


    When people refer to ‘trapped heat’ they mean the heat that is returned to the surface by the greenhouse gases, which would otherwise have escaped directly to space. This ‘returned’ heat, in the form of IR radiation, represents an additional heating flux at the surface and makes it warmer than it would otherwise be. No scientist disputes this, I hope – Freeman Dyson didn’t.
    So where has all this ‘trapped’ heat gone? I can answer that, but it is disappointing to see that no other sceptic can, and Dyson decided a cowardly retreat was in order.

    Are there no other physicists here?

    Uh, no, that’s not the question at all. You’re mixing all sorts of issues together. Lagged heat, by a few milliseconds, or “missing heat” a la Trenberth, but there is no “trapped heat”.
    Fake concept, distorted question, bogus conclusions. No wonder Dyson was nauseated.

  134. manicbeancounter says:

    Thankyou Mr Ravetz for your thoughtful post. I particularly find sympathy with the comment.
    “The big policy question is whether there is enough strength of evidence for AGW to justify the huge investments that would be required to do something about it.”
    For myself the strength of the evidence is weak not because of a single issue, but relies on a chain of poorly supported conjectures and assumptions. The weaknesses and uncertainties are compounded, so plausible arguments on their own become implausible when stacked together. To maintain the looming catastrophe requires a number of extreme positions.

    However, the justification of a mitigation policy is not the end of the matter. The policies are about inflicting a high cost now to avoid a much greater cost in the future. Yet there is no evaluation as to how the theoretical policy instruments can be translated into successful, cost efficient, outcomes. Indeed, the current polarization of the debate means that exaggerated claims of looming disaster are listened to, but calmer voices are either ignored, or denounced as deniers of the truth. So even if the diagnosis were correct, we end up proscribing [prescribing? Robt] an untested medicine that is both ineffective as a treatment and potentially more harmful than the disease.

    I attempt, fairly inadequately, to chart the policy problems at
    http://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/climate-change-in-perspective-%e2%80%93-part-2-of-4-the-mitigation-curve/

  135. Dave Worley says:

    There is much to be learned. That is why we devote our time and resources to science.

    The argument for CO2 regulation is that the science is settled. When the details of “the science” are debated, the conclusion is always that “more study is needed….but we must act now”. The inference of “we must act now” is that the science is settled.

    It is argued that psychotherapy is not a scientific practice, but it appears that for some among us it may be the only hope.

    We must act now./sarc

  136. Paul Richards says:

    This is almost as good as an Ayn Rand novel! PNS with it’s ineffable revelations. The establishment of a “State Science Institute” whose only practical invention is a device to control the population – “for it’s own good”. This is an object lesson. Learn from it.

    Atlas is going to shrug. Defund ALL government “science”. You cannot fix what is a fundamental flaw.

    PR

  137. Innocentious says:

    Is not truth simply a constant that exists outside the human ability to manipulate it. In other words 2 + 2 = 4 is an invariable constant. It may be discovered but not manipulated. Now it can be rephrased in any myriad of ways however in the end the ultimate result will be 4.

    The reason I scoff at the idea of ‘consensus’ and the ‘science being settled’ as to CO2 and the current trend of warming is the facts do not simply add up to ‘4’. Everything that I have read and seen to date point in a direction that CO2 raises temperatures a small amount but no where near the catastrophic values bandied about.

    But that is still with a great deal of incomplete data… Also if the people who have been advocating that CO2 was going to cause so much warming are still doing research why? Because people have not believed them yet? If the science is settled then there would be NO POINT to continue to study it.

  138. woodNfish says:

    I’m sorry Dr. Revitz, but I think you have completely misconstrued Dr. Dyson’s reason for cancelling the interview. Dyson told Conners he was tired of Conners’ refusal to think about Dyson’s answers. Dyson was being interviewed by an idiot and he as much said so in his own way.

    I really don’t think there is any intellectual comparison of the two, and Dyson was not running out of arguments, but was tired of an inferior trying to get him to run in circles.

  139. Barry Woods says:

    As I thought the Carbon Brief are just getting started: funded by the European Climate Foundation

    The Carbon Brief’s ‘thought’s on the Freeman Dyson interview.
    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/02/freeman-dyson-interviewed-in-the-independent

    Some background on The Carbon Brief

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/18/the-carbon-brief-the-european-rapid-response-team/

  140. JPeden says:

    Dave Worley:

    It is argued that psychotherapy is not a scientific practice, but it appears that for some among us it may be the only hope.

    Yep, even unsarcastically, Ravetz’s PNS involving “facts uncertain, values in conflict, stakes high, urgent action required”, can easily be seen simply as a description of Ravetz’s own state of mind, a dysfunctional one having nothing to do with reality, but only to Ravetz’s personal reaction to reality and his failure to be able to rationally deal with it himself, alone in the same way everyone is.

    Then his vaunted PNS simply acts to try to intentionally reify or bring about the same state of mind in others, also reinforcing his own, by the complete lack of virtue of its own methods which are the state of mind, therefore conveniently “proving” that a “Ravetz PNS” state of mind does reflect reality by some kind of “perception is reality” consensus or vote, and which also puts people like Ravetz in charge of what everyone else must do, including being able to force them to do it as in “might makes right”.

    The parallel which makes or sees PNS as nothing more than an externalized obsessive-compulsive neurosis – such as incessant hand washing or anorexia nervosa, practiced in order for the person to obtain some control over something in regard to which the person thinks they have nothing else that “works”, or over something which they can’t even define – is really too great to ignore, and which we would do at our own peril.

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