Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age.

I’m honored to offer this guest post by Jerome Ravetz, of Oxford University in the UK. Mr. Ravetz is an environmental consultant and professor of philosophy of science best known for his books challenging the assumptions of scientific objectivity, discussing the science wars and post-normal science. Read more about him at his personal web page here, his Oxford page here, or at his blog the Post-normal Times. Also, my thanks to WUWT regular “tallbloke” for his facilitation. – Anthony

Guest post by Jerome Ravetz

At the end of January 2010 two distinguished scientific institutions shared headlines with Tony Blair over accusations of the dishonest and possibly illegal manipulation of information.  Our ‘Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035’  of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is matched by his ‘dodgy dossier’ of Saddam’s fictitious subversions.  We had the violations of the Freedom of Information Act at the University of East Anglia; he has the extraordinary 70-year gag rule on the David Kelly suicide file. There was ‘the debate is over’ on one side, and ‘WMD beyond doubt’ on the other. The parallels are significant and troubling, for on both sides they involve a betrayal of public trust.

Politics will doubtless survive, for it is not a fiduciary institution; but for science the dangers are real.  Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State.  This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions.  In the event of a serious discrediting of the global-warming claims, public outrage would therefore be directed at the community of science itself, and (from within that community) at its leaders who were either ignorant or complicit until the scandal was blown open.  If we are to understand Climategate, and move towards a restoration of trust, we should consider the structural features of the situation that fostered and nurtured the damaging practices.  I believe that the ideas of Post-Normal Science (as developed by Silvio Funtowicz and myself) can help our understanding.

There are deep problems of the management of uncertainty in science in the policy domain, that will not be resolved by more elaborate quantification.  In the gap between science and policy, the languages, their conventions and their implications are effectively incommensurable.  It takes determination and skill for a scientist who is committed to social responsibility, to avoid becoming a ‘stealth advocate’ (in the terms of Roger Pielke Jr.).  When the policy domain seems unwilling or unable to recognise plain and urgent truths about a problem, the contradictions between scientific probity and campaigning zeal become acute.  It is a perennial problem for all policy-relevant science, and it seems to have happened on a significant scale in the case of climate science.  The management of uncertainty and quality in such increasingly common situations is now an urgent task for the governance of science.

We can begin to see what went seriously wrong when we examine what the leading practitioners of this ‘evangelical science’ of global warming (thanks to Angela Wilkinson) took to be the plain and urgent truth in their case.  This was not merely that there are signs of exceptional disturbance in the ecosphere due to human influence, nor even that the climate might well be changing more rapidly now than for a very long time.  Rather, they propounded, as a proven fact, Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming.  There is little room for uncertainty in this thesis; it effectively needs hockey-stick behaviour in all indicators of global temperature, so that it is all due to industrialisation.  Its iconic image is the steadily rising graph of CO2 concentrations over the past fifty years at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii (with the implicit assumption that CO2  had always previously been at or below that starting level).  Since CO2 has long been known to be a greenhouse gas, with scientific theories quantifying its effects, the scientific case for this dangerous trend could seem to be overwhelmingly simple, direct, and conclusive.

In retrospect, we can ask why this particular, really rather extreme view of the prospect, became the official one.  It seems that several causes conspired.  First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position.  Then, once the position was adopted, its proponents became invested in it, and attached to it, in all sorts of ways, institutional and personal.  And I suspect that a simplified, even simplistic claim, was more comfortable for these scientists than one where complexity and uncertainty were acknowledged.  It is not merely a case of the politicians and public needing a simple, unequivocal message.  As Thomas Kuhn described ‘normal science’, which (as he said) nearly all scientists do all the time, it is puzzle-solving within an unquestioned framework or ‘paradigm’.  Issues of uncertainty and quality are not prominent in ‘normal’ scientific training, and so they are less easily conceived and managed by its practitioners.

Now, as Kuhn saw, this ‘normal’ science has been enormously successful in enabling our unprecedented understanding and control of the world around us.  But his analysis related to the sciences of the laboratory, and by extension the technologies that could reproduce stable and controllable external conditions for their working.  Where the systems under study are complicated, complex or poorly understood, that ‘textbook’ style of investigation becomes less, sometimes much less, effective.  The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naïvely reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics.  The temptation among ‘normal’ scientists is to work as if their material is as simple as in the lab.  If nothing else, that is the path to a steady stream of publications, on which a scientific career now so critically depends.  The most obvious effect of this style is the proliferation of computer simulations, which give the appearance of solved puzzles even when neither data nor theory provide much support for the precision of their numerical outputs.  Under such circumstances, a refined appreciation of uncertainty in results is inhibited, and even awareness of quality of workmanship can be atrophied.

In the course of the development of climate-change science, all sorts of loose ends were left unresolved and sometimes unattended.  Even the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, the forcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2, lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees, and is thus uncertain to within a factor of 3.  The precision (at about 2%) in the statements of the ‘safe limits’ of CO2 concentration, depending on calculations with this factor, is not easily justified.  Also, the predictive power of the global temperature models has been shown to depend more on the ‘story line’ than anything else, the end-of century increase in temperature ranging variously from a modest one degree to a catastrophic six.  And the ‘hockey stick’ picture of the past, so crucial for the strict version of the climate change story, has run into increasingly severe problems.  As an example, it relied totally on a small set of deeply uncertain tree-ring data for the Medieval period, to refute the historical evidence of a warming then; but it needed to discard that sort of data for recent decades, as they showed a sudden cooling from the 1960’s onwards!  In the publication, the recent data from other sources were skilfully blended in so that the change was not obvious; that was the notorious ‘Nature trick’ of the CRU e-mails.

Even worse, for the warming case to have political effect, a mere global average rise in temperature was not compelling enough.  So that people could appreciate the dangers, there needed to be predictions of future climate – or even weather – in the various regions of the world.  Given the gross uncertainties in even the aggregated models, regional forecasts are really beyond the limits of science.  And yet they have been provided, with various degrees of precision.  Those announced by the IPCC have become the most explosive.

As all these anomalies and unsolved puzzles emerged, the neat, compelling picture became troubled and even confused.  In Kuhn’s analysis, this would be the start of a ‘pre-revolutionary’ phase of normal science.  But the political cause had been taken up by powerful advocates, like Al Gore.  We found ourselves in another crusading ‘War’, like those on (non-alcoholic) Drugs and ‘Terror’.  This new War, on Carbon, was equally simplistic, and equally prone to corruption and failure.  Global warming science became the core element of this major worldwide campaign to save the planet.  Any weakening of the scientific case would have amounted to a betrayal of the good cause, as well as a disruption of the growing research effort.  All critics, even those who were full members of the scientific peer community, had to be derided and dismissed.  As we learned from the CRU e-mails, they were not considered to be entitled to the normal courtesies of scientific sharing and debate.  Requests for information were stalled, and as one witty blogger has put it, ‘peer review’ was replaced by ‘pal review’.

Even now, the catalogue of unscientific practices revealed in the mainstream media is very small in comparison to what is available on the blogosphere.  Details of shoddy science and dirty tricks abound.  By the end, the committed inner core were confessing to each other that global temperatures were falling, but it was far too late to change course.  The final stage of corruption, cover-up, had taken hold.  For the core scientists and the leaders of the scientific communities, as well as for nearly all the liberal media, ‘the debate was over’.  Denying Climate Change received the same stigma as denying the Holocaust.  Even the trenchant criticisms of the most egregious errors in the IPCC reports were kept ‘confidential’.  And then came the e-mails.

We can understand the root cause of Climategate as a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation. But climate change had never been a really ‘normal’ science, because the policy implications were always present and strong, even overwhelming.  Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits:  facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent.  In needing to treat Planet Earth like a textbook exercise, the climate scientists were forced to break the rules of scientific etiquette and ethics, and to play scientific power-politics in a way that inevitably became corrupt.  The combination of non-critical ‘normal science’ with anti-critical ‘evangelical science’ was lethal. As in other ‘gate’ scandals, one incident served to pull a thread on a tissue of protective plausibilities and concealments, and eventually led to an unravelling.  What was in the e-mails could be largely explained in terms of embattled scientists fighting off malicious interference; but the materials ready and waiting on the blogosphere provided a background, and that is what converted a very minor scandal to a catastrophe.

Consideration of those protective plausibilities can help to explain how the illusions could persist for so long until their sudden collapse.  The scientists were all reputable, they published in leading peer-reviewed journals, and their case was itself highly plausible and worthy in a general way.  Individual criticisms were, for the public and perhaps even for the broader scientific community, kept isolated and hence muffled and lacking in systematic significance.  And who could have imagined that at its core so much of the science was unsound?  The plausibility of the whole exercise was, as it were, bootstrapped.  I myself was alerted to weaknesses in the case by some caveats in Sir David King’s book The Hot Topic; and I had heard of the hockey-stick affair.  But even I was carried along by the bootstrapped plausibility, until the scandal broke. (I have benefited from the joint project on plausibility in science of colleagues in Oxford and at the Arizona State University).

Part of the historic significance of Climategate is that the scandal was so effectively and quickly exposed.  Within a mere two months of the first reports in the mainstream media, the key East Anglia scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were discredited.  Even if only a fraction of their scientific claims were eventually refuted, their credibility as trustworthy scientists was lost.  To explain how it all happened so quickly and decisively, we have the confluence of two developments, one social and the other technical.  For the former, there is a lesson of Post-Normal Science, that we call the Extended Peer Community.  In traditional ‘normal’ science, the peer community, performing the functions of quality-assurance and governance, is strictly confined to the researchers who share the paradigm.  In the case of ‘professional consultancy’, the clients and/or sponsors also participate in governance.  We have argued that in the case of Post-Normal Science, the ‘extended peer community’, including all affected by the policy being implemented, must be fully involved.  Its particular contribution will depend on the nature of the core scientific problem, and also on the phase of investigation.  Detailed technical work is a task for experts, but quality-control on even that work can be done by those with much broader expertise.  And on issues like the definition of the problem itself, the selection of personnel, and crucially the ownership of the results, the extended peer community has full rights of participation.  This principle is effectively acknowledged in many jurisdictions, and for many policy-related problems.  The theory of Post-Normal Science goes beyond the official consensus in recognising ‘extended facts’, that might be local knowledge and values, as well as unoffficially obtained information.

The task of creating and involving the extended peer community (generally known as ‘participation’) has been recognised as difficult, with its own contradictions and pitfalls.  It has grown haphazardly, with isolated successes and failures.  Hitherto, critics of scientific matters have been relegated to a sort of samizdat world, exchanging private letters or writing books that can easily be ignored (as not being peer-reviewed) by the ruling establishment.  This has generally been the fate of even the most distinguished and responsible climate-change critics, up to now.  A well-known expert in uncertainty management, Jeroen van der Sluijs, explicitly condemned the ‘overselling of certainty’ and predicted the impending destruction of trust; but he received no more attention than did Nikolas Taleb in warning of the ‘fat tails’ in the probability distributions of securities that led to the Credit Crunch. A prominent climate scientist, Mike Hulme, provided a profound analysis in Why We Disagree About Climate Change, in terms of complexity and uncertainty.  But since legitimate disagreement was deemed nonexistent, he too was ignored.

To have a political effect, the ‘extended peers’ of science have traditionally needed to operate largely by means of activist pressure-groups using the media to create public alarm. In this case, since the global warmers had captured the moral high ground, criticism has remained scattered and ineffective, except on the blogosphere.  The position of Green activists is especially difficult, even tragic; they have been ‘extended peers’ who were co-opted into the ruling paradigm, which in retrospect can be seen as a decoy or diversion from the real, complex issues of sustainability, as shown by Mike Hulme.  Now they must do some very serious re-thinking about their position and their role.

The importance of the new media of communications in mass politics, as in the various ‘rainbow revolutions’ is well attested.  To understand how the power-politics of science have changed in the case of Climategate, we can take a story from the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirkey.  There were two incidents in the Boston U.S.A. diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, involving the shuffling of paeodophile priests around parishes.  The first time, there was a criminal prosecution, with full exposure in the press, and then nothing happened.  The second time, the outraged parents got on their cell phones and organised; and eventually Cardinal Archbishop Bernard Francis Law (who had started as a courageous cleric in the ‘60’s) had to leave for Rome in disgrace.  The Climategate affair shows the  importance of the new IT for science, as an empowerment of the extended peer community.

The well-known principle, ‘knowledge is power’ has its obverse, ‘ignorance is impotence’.  And ignorance is maintained, or eventually overcome, by a variety of socio-technical means.  With the invention of cheap printing on paper, the Bible could be widely read, and heretics became Reformers. The social activity of science as we know it expanded and grew through the age of printing.  But knowledge was never entirely free, and the power-politics of scientific legitimacy remained quite stable for centuries.  The practice of science has generally been restricted to a social elite and its occasional recruits, as it requires a prior academic education and a sufficiency of leisure and of material resources.  With the new information technology, all that is changing rapidly.  As we see from the ‘open source’ movement, many people play an active role in enjoyable technological development in the spare time that their job allows or even encourages.  Moreover, all over IT there are blogs that exercise quality control on the industry’s productions.  In this new knowledge industry, the workers can be as competent as the technicians and bosses.  The new technologies of information enable the diffusion of scientific competence and the sharing of unofficial information, and hence give power to peer communities that are extended far beyond the Ph.D.s in the relevant subject-specialty.  The most trenchant and effective critics of the ‘hockey stick’ statistics were a University-employed economist and a computer expert.

Like any other technology, IT is many-faceted.  It is easily misused and abused, and much of the content of the blogosphere is trivial or worse.  The right-wing political agendas of some climate sceptics, their bloggers and their backers, are quite well known.  But to use their background or motivation as an excuse for ignoring their arguments, is a betrayal of science.  The  blogosphere interacts with other media of communication, in the public and scientific domains.  Some parts are quite mainstream, others not.  The Climategate blogosphere is as varied in quality as any other.  Some leading scholars, like Roger Pielke, Jr. have had personal blogs for a long time.  Some blogs are carefully monitored, have a large readership and are sampled by the mainstream media (such as the one on which this is posted, Wattsupwiththat.com).  Others are less rigorous; but the same variation in quality can be found in the nominally peer-reviewed scientific literature.  Keeping up with the blogosphere requires different skills from keeping up with traditional literature; it is most useful to find a summarising blog that fits one’s special interests, as well as a loyal correspondent, as (in my case) Roger ‘tallbloke’ Tattersall.

Some mainstream publications are now saying nice things about the blogosphere.  Had such sentiments been expressed a while ago, the critical voices might have had a public hearing and the Climategate scandal might have been exposed before it became entrenched so disastrously.  And now the critical blogosphere does not need to be patronised.  Like any extension of political power, whether it be the right to believe, to protest, to vote, to form trades unions, or to be educated, it can lead to instabilities and abuses.  But now the extended peer community has a technological base, and the power-politics of science will be different.  I cannot predict how it will work out, but we can be confident that corruptions built on bootstrapped plausibility will be less likely in the future.

There is an important philosophical dimension to Climategate, a question of the relation of personal scientific ethics to objective scientific facts.  The problem is created by the traditional image of science (as transmitted in scientific education) as ‘value-free’.  The personal commitments to integrity, that are necessary for the maintenance of scientific quality, receive no mention in the dominant philosophy of science. Kuhn’s disenchanted picture of science was so troubling to the idealists (as Popper) because in his ‘normal’ science criticism had hardly any role.  For Kuhn, even the Mertonian principles of ethical behaviour were effectively dismissed as irrelevant.  Was this situation truly ‘normal’ – meaning either average or (worse) appropriate?  The examples of shoddy science exposed by the Climategate convey a troubling impression.  From the record, it appears that in this case, criticism and a sense of probity needed to be injected into the system by the extended peer community from the (mainly) external blogosphere.

The total assurance of the mainstream scientists in their own correctness and in the intellectual and moral defects of their critics, is now in retrospect perceived as arrogance.  For their spokespersons to continue to make light of the damage to the scientific case, and to ignore the ethical dimension of Climategate, is to risk public outrage at a perceived unreformed arrogance. If there is a continuing stream of ever more detailed revelations, originating in the blogosphere but now being brought to a broader public, then the credibility of the established scientific authorities will continue to erode.  Do we face the prospect of the IPCC reports being totally dismissed as just more dodgy dossiers, and of hitherto trusted scientists being accused of negligence or worse?  There will be those who with their own motives will be promoting such a picture.  How can it be refuted?

And what about the issue itself?  Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming?  If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex. The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science.  The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection.  What sort of chaos would then result?  The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.

To the extent that the improved management of uncertainty and ignorance can remedy the situation, some useful tools are at hand.  In the Netherlands, scholars and scientists have developed ‘Knowledge Quality Assessment’ methodologies for characterising uncertainty in ways that convey the richness of the phenomenon while still performing well as robust tools of analysis and communication.  Elsewhere, scholars are exploring methods for managing disagreement among scientists, so that such post-normal issues do not need to become so disastrously polarised.  A distinguished scholar, Sheila Jasanoff, has called for a culture of humility among scientists, itself a radical move towards a vision of a non-violent science.  Scientists who have been forced to work on the blogosphere have had the invaluable experience of exclusion and oppression; that could make it easier for them to accept that something is seriously wrong and then to engage in the challenging moral adventures of dealing with uncertainty and ignorance.  The new technologies of communications are revolutionising knowledge and power in many areas.  The extended peer community of science on the blogosphere will be playing its part in that process.  Let dialogue commence!

——————-

My thanks to numerous friends and colleagues for their loyal assistance through all the drafts of this essay.  The final review at a seminar at the Institute of Science, Innovation and Society at Oxford University was very valuable, particularly the intervention from ‘the man in the bus queue’.

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Robinson
February 9, 2010 3:07 pm

First class. An excellent essay.

February 9, 2010 3:19 pm

I am much taken with the fact that in such a learned, if determinedly philosophical, discussion of the scientific lapses involved, there is no mention of the untidy prospect that “money talked” in this instance, that otherwise reputable scientists proved all-too-human in their inability to resist the blandishments of grant money and other sources of lucre in reaching their ever-more-tendentious and strained analyses of the data. Can that have been the product of nothing more than oversight? And by remaining silent about such a matter, can it possibly be said that the cause of trust in science has been advanced? I think not.

DirkH
February 9, 2010 3:20 pm

Climate science always fulfilled the “post-normal science” description perfectly. And wrecked its reputation for good. That doesn’t mean that everything before climate science was good. Sturgeon’s Law applies. And before we all hail the blog as such, let us rest in silence for a minute and think about…
RealClimate

Schrodinger's Cat
February 9, 2010 3:23 pm

Excellent observations and analysis.

Steve Goddard
February 9, 2010 3:24 pm

Very nice analysis. Which college at Oxford?
Perhaps the Hockey Stick was Saddam’s WMD?

Rhoda R
February 9, 2010 3:28 pm

“And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? ”
This is the fundamental question. I’ve seen no good support for the idea.

Nam
February 9, 2010 3:31 pm

First time posting here. Just wanted to say that was an excellent analysis of the state of AGW science. It doesn’t take fraud or conspiracy to have gotten to the point we are now. All it takes is basic human nature and a recognition of the adage that states: ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’
The essay was perfect until the final paragraph where the word ‘robust’ is used. Almost made it!

Stephen Wilde
February 9, 2010 3:33 pm

Normal science = generally good science.
Post normal science = generally bad science.
Keep it simple, stupid.

February 9, 2010 3:38 pm

Stunning, a tour de force.
A very, very useful examination of the deepening (scientific) contortions that have galvanised many of us into blog action.

James Sexton
February 9, 2010 3:39 pm

Great read!!! Wonderful analysis!!! Hopefully, the conclusion to this essay will be a reality in regards to climate change. “Let dialogue commence!”

Theo Goodwin
February 9, 2010 3:41 pm

Jerome Ravitz writes:
“As all these anomalies and unsolved puzzles emerged, the neat, compelling picture became troubled and even confused. In Kuhn’s analysis, this would be the start of a ‘pre-revolutionary’ phase of normal science.”
Invoking Kuhn is to give far too much credit to Jones, Mann, and the others. Climate science is not a science consisting of a theory or theories that has enjoyed some successes but has recently run into anomalies and unsolved puzzles. There is no theory behind so-called climate science. That is extremely easy to prove. No one can state the theory. Ask a climate scientist for his theory and all you will get, if anything, is a discussion of the properties of the CO2 molecule. There is no theory of climate change in the properties of the CO2 molecule. The folks who created the “Ozone Hole” panic of the Seventies did a much better job. They could tell you how chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) reached the same level of the atmosphere as Earth’s ozone shield, how certain chemical reactions took place between CFCs and ozone, and how the result was destruction of the ozone layer. No such thing has ever been forthcoming from climate science. The only thing they have that strikes some people as theoretical is computer simulation. Yet everyone knows that their simulations are woefully inadequate as a model of Earth’s atmosphere and that, at this time in history, no useful predictions can come from them. Again, my evidence is that no one will present a computer model, to refute my claims, because there is none. Finally, the case of Jones, Mann, and CRU. Their work involved no theory whatsoever. They were looking in nature for records of temperature change. In that kind of endeavor, where you are simply counting tree rings, there is little work that can be called theory. Of course, there are statistical calculations to be made, but Jones and crew refused to share their raw data and, consequently, their work could not be checked. Jones’ refusal to share data does not require an explanation from the philosophy of science. It is simple, straightforward fraud. As for your talk of postmodern science and political pressures, you will accomplish nothing but give a veneer of respectability to some criminals. I too want to see philosophy of science flourish. God knows we need it. However, in the case of Climategate, the only philosophy of science that is needed is absolutely basic and, for that reason, beyond dispute.

Alan S
February 9, 2010 3:44 pm

Everyman (15:19:34) :
I am much taken with the fact that in such a learned, if determinedly philosophical, discussion of the scientific lapses involved, there is no mention of the untidy prospect that “money talked” in this instance, that otherwise reputable scientists proved all-too-human in their inability to resist the blandishments of grant money and other sources of lucre in reaching their ever-more-tendentious and strained analyses of the data.
I don’t think this needed to be said outright.
The critique of the corruption was spot on you must agree.

rogan
February 9, 2010 3:45 pm

This is the best article on the subject I have ever read.

February 9, 2010 3:50 pm

Everyman (15:19:34) :
I am much taken with the fact that in such a learned, if determinedly philosophical, discussion of the scientific lapses involved, there is no mention of the untidy prospect that “money talked”

In the UK, security of tenure in academia is becoming increasingly dependent on ‘delivering the goods’ in the form of grants from central government and elsewhere. I agree with you that this is a dimension which is missing from Jerry’s piece. Not that there isn’t plenty to get our teeth into anyway.

slow to follow
February 9, 2010 3:53 pm

It’d be nice to see Watts Up added to the rather one sided blogroll at Post Normal Times.

Stephan
February 9, 2010 3:54 pm

British met office needs to be closed down ASAP!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/4436934/Snow-is-consistent-with-global-warming-say-scientists.html
Surely they must see they are a laughing stock?

Ed Moran
February 9, 2010 3:56 pm

Wow!

View from the Solent
February 9, 2010 3:58 pm

This is amazing. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/hacked-climate-science-emails"http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/hacked-climate-science-emails. Click on “Help write the full story”. The comments section is open.
The Guardian is a rabidly socialist supporter of AGW and the current UK government (sorry for the tautology).
My suspicion, though, is that this is an attempt to draw as many tin-foil hat-wearers as possible so that they can point at them and cry “nutters”. So approach with caution. I take nothing from them at face value. If they realy wanted to investigate, they would first have sought opinions from recognised sources.
(OTOH, that could just demonstrate that I wear tin foil on my head)

Chip
February 9, 2010 3:59 pm

I appreciate this essay immensely. I have been concerned about the impact on science in general from what I have certainly perceived to be zealots, and I have experienced ridicule myself (initially from own school aged son) for expressing what I thought were well reasoned doubts. I think Professor Ravetz should add hypocrisy to his analysis – nothing turned me against the idea of global warming as much as the high living of its proponents and the obscene carbon indulgences (offsets) available to anyone with enough of the other green. I am thankful for John Daly (miss you, man), Anthony, Steve, M&M and the others who have opened my eyes though the years.

February 9, 2010 3:59 pm

Steve Goddard (15:24:37) :
Very nice analysis. Which college at Oxford?
Perhaps the Hockey Stick was Saddam’s WMD?

http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/centres/insis/associatefellows/Pages/jerryravetz.aspx
The Hockey Stick was the weapon of choice of the Woman of Mad Destruction. You know who I mean.

Alexander Harvey
February 9, 2010 3:59 pm

Post Climategates, there should come a time when one has to ask whether the war is over. Like it or not we need our climate scientists, otherwise how are we ever going to get to the bottom of the issues. To discredit all of climate science due to its poor perfomance in certain critical areas could cut off ones nose to spite ones face. We are not there yet and not perhaps close but it is never to early to consider how we will know when normalcy has been restored and that futire hostilities will be no more than gratuitous blood letting.
Alex

Paul K
February 9, 2010 4:00 pm

Two years ago while on Jury duty, one lawyer asked me what I thought about lawyers in general. My answer was, “Lawyers are like members of any profession, there are reputable ones and ambulance chasers.” I thought at the time that if asked the same question about scientists (and I am a scientist) I would have answered virtually the same way…maybe ‘hacks’ instead of ‘ambulance chaser’. Needless to say the essay here is spot on in my opinion.

hmccard
February 9, 2010 4:01 pm

The Union of Concerned Scientists suffers from the paradox of Post-Normal Science that Professor Ravetz describes:
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLL_enUS359US360&q=union+of+concerned+scientists+global+warming

Onion
February 9, 2010 4:01 pm

I have to disagree with a lot of this. Like Mike Hulme, this chap proposes a full frontal attack on the discipline of science, hidden in this long essay. To take a quote:
“Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits: facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. ”
So what other scenarios would fit with the definition of post-normal science?
Well if you’re a Mayan, you are uncertain whether or not the Gods are placated. The stakes are high and decisions are urgent. So do you or do you not sacrifice that child? We are actually engaging in an indirect form of that with biofuel crop plantation driving food inflation, shortages and starvation.
The whole point about science is facts are uncertain. With CAGW, it is most definitely not clear that decisions are urgent. I would argue that since Hansen’s original predictions in Science 1982 have been falsified (that CO2 warming would overwhelm all other causes of climate change from 2000 onwards), decisions in this field most definitely aren’t urgent. So what is needed is real science, not value-laden post-normal science.
The other problem with this essay is a lot of the uncertainty referred to is actually a result of climate being a chaotic system.
Treat post-normal science with suspicion. It will never deliver the extraordinary truths we have gleaned from plain vanilla science. It is a branch of the social sciences. And it may lead you to conclude that sacrificing babies is the way to save the World (after all they are the CO2 emitters with the highest potential output of all the ages of man)

EdB
February 9, 2010 4:05 pm

I hate the word “robust”. This taints the essay for me.
Where were the high minded philosophers when they were needed? Right.. collecting fat salaries but AWOL!!
??? “post normal science”… na.. just the usual suspects, crooks, creeps and cretins.

Pat Moffitt
February 9, 2010 4:05 pm

One makes a mistake to think climate change is a recent scientific “failure”- climate change followed a very tried and true approach of skewing environmental science to fit a social agenda. The “science” of toxicity, acid rain, ozone, species definition, etc and a complicit MSM is no less polluted than is climate change—but these issues did not have the internet. (Hope springs eternal).
If anyone thinks climate change is unique and want a “change of pace”- take a look at EPAs new proposed ozone standard. Nowhere on EPAs site will one see the role of natural sources of ozone precursors (isoprenes, terpenes from trees, NOx from soil bacteria or chlorides from sea spray). All the climate change tactics are present– carefully choosing monitor siting, questionable data, flawed models, the absence of a mass balance, health disasters and a whole universe of chemistries we do not fully understand (see Cal Techs work on epoxides). Climate change is not a “one off”- climate change is just business as usual.

Telboy
February 9, 2010 4:10 pm

A good essay, somewhat spoiled by the penultimate paragraph in which he says
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”
Up to that point I thought he was talking about science, not faith, and that certainly gave me pause.

NickB.
February 9, 2010 4:12 pm

This really is quite a breathtaking read – Well done Professor Ravetz!
Gratz as well to Tallbloke and Anthony!

Bryn
February 9, 2010 4:12 pm

I find the idea of “post-normal science” troubling. Is it a science equivalent of “post-modern” thought that has led the arts and social sciences into those often fatuous positions, perhaps too simply referred to as Political Correctness?
Science is the use of careful observation, logic and reason in the quest for knowledge. Nothing has changed. Everyman (15:19:34) astutely observes that the Professor does not mention money. Complex scientific projects require money; honest science for payments rendered. Unfortunately, like all endeavours where large sums of money are involved, individuals are likely to be tempted to gain more than their due or entitlement. Anything involving others’ money should be effectively audited.
Scientists have the additional temptation before them of fame and recognition [In my student years, I learnt that the initials FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) after one’s name would be the pinnacle of achievement]. Hence audits must be doubly effective.
Scientists are humans. Period. The seven deadly sins are applicable to all.
But “post-normal” science? Bah! Humbug! Science is science.

JimV
February 9, 2010 4:13 pm

Whew, that was tough to get through. Good thing I’m a slow reader as that piece had to be read very slowly to understand. 🙂
I think I’d prefer to keep it simple and just follow the money.

PaulH
February 9, 2010 4:13 pm

Excellent analysis. Definitely worth bookmarking and rereading.

David Segesta
February 9, 2010 4:15 pm

If AGW was simply a matter of science I would have been happy to let the scientists debate to their heart’s content. But it very quickly became a political issue with people like Al Gore convincing congress to ban light bulbs, and pass taxes and create Cap and Trade schemes. All of which would increase energy costs to the public and change our way of life. And there were plenty of crooks lining up to profit from the Cap and Trade schemes. At that point it stopped being an academic issue and became a matter of intelligent people refusing to be hoodwinked.
Yes science has suffered a well deserved black eye because of this. Now the people may be reluctant to believe scientists. Let’s hope this doesn’t end like the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf, with the wolf being a real impending disaster such as an asteroid with our name on it.

C Gentile
February 9, 2010 4:16 pm

Brilliant.

Stephen Brown
February 9, 2010 4:16 pm

Would the author of this fascinating essay agree to its being posted to representatives of the MSM? I’m sure that the Daily Telegraph (UK) would enjoy reading it.

mdjackson
February 9, 2010 4:16 pm

‘pal reviewed’. I like that.

Mike T
February 9, 2010 4:16 pm

Professor Ravetz’s longer article, and Everyman’s short additional comment, strike me as both being about equally valuable. Professor Ravetz’s comments on the non-material reasons for this scandal sound valid, but we will continue to wait for a comprehensive analysis on which of these scientists (and politicians and journalists) simply sold their souls for filthy lucre. The whiff, or more than a whiff, of totalitarian mindsets that one smells everywhere in this scandal is perhaps even more frightening than the idea that some scientists are simply lying crooks. There need to be many books written on what the hell happened here that allowed such deception to go so far. Surely sizable parts of our government, the science community and the mainstream media can’t all be this cowardly and unprincipled? Can they?

Jaye
February 9, 2010 4:24 pm

Very good…

Theo Goodwin
February 9, 2010 4:25 pm

EdB writes:
“Where were the high minded philosophers when they were needed? Right.. collecting fat salaries but AWOL!!”
Well, since you ask, I have been posting like hell all over the internet, but I cannot reveal my identity because I like my job. Most folks are in the same boat. Yes, it is earthshakingly sad. (By the way, the salaries are only middle class.)

Pat Frank
February 9, 2010 4:29 pm

Jerome Ravetz wrote, “Issues of uncertainty and quality are not prominent in ‘normal’ scientific training, and so they are less easily conceived and managed by its practitioners.
Speaking as a practicing experimental scientist, in the extended company of other scientists, you are entirely mistaken.
Also, “Where the systems under study are complicated, complex or poorly understood, that ‘textbook’ style of investigation becomes less, sometimes much less, effective.” is quite, quite wrong, as exemplified, e.g., by the relatively new field of chaotic systems, which field emerged entirely from “that ‘textbook’ style of investigation.”
It seems to me that your analysis is opportunistic and tendentious.

February 9, 2010 4:30 pm

Onion (16:01:46) :
I have to disagree with a lot of this. Like Mike Hulme, this chap proposes a full frontal attack on the discipline of science, hidden in this long essay. To take a quote:
“Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits: facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. ”
So what other scenarios would fit with the definition of post-normal science?

Deciding what is and isn’t going to be allowed int he field of genetic manipultion, for example.
Jerry Ravetz used to sit on medical ethics committees grappling with those issues. Not easy.
I think people from both sides read what they want into his concept of ‘post normal science’. A lot of people, maybe you included, think he is formulating a prescription for how he thinks modern science should be done, and disagree. I think he is analysing how science sometimes is done, like it or not, it’s the way it is. At least he gets it out in the open, where it can be dealt with.

Larry
February 9, 2010 4:31 pm

I do not think the motives were quite so clean. It seems to me there are some scientists hired on their environmental beliefs first and their scientific credentials second – if at all. Soft science like this is easy to manipulate.

AndrewWH
February 9, 2010 4:33 pm

Perhaps Professor Ravetz would consider forwarding this essay, or tailored versions of it, to various MSM organizations directly. It would certainly be beneficial as there seems to be a lot of comments in various MSM outlets about Climategate being a storm-in-a-teacup event that does not alter the soundness of the original science.
I hope that Professor Ravetz is thick-skinned though. I have a feeling even posting here once will have someone raking through the muck trying to find some dirt to stick.

February 9, 2010 4:33 pm

I’m amazed. Looking at the ecstatic comments, I think most of you are about as happy as the Trojans who wheeled the horse, a gift from heaven they thought, within their walls and got drunk, only to find that night that their city had been infiltrated and lost after years of battle. Beware! Ravetz is a very bright guy, and very perceptive, but Ravetz and Hulme have done their utmost to dispatch ‘normal’ science. Now their ideas will destroy you. More on Ravetz and Hulme here:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/

Toto
February 9, 2010 4:34 pm

There are many good points here.
The Climate Change mantra should be: “It’s more complex than we thought”.
“The parallels are significant and troubling, for on both sides they involve a betrayal of public trust.” Another good parallel is with priests abusing their position of trust and power and to how the church dealt with the problem. Scientists are often called high-priests, since others have no way to challenge their proclamations. Another parallel might be the police; we want to assume that they are good but police forces may be set up in a way which allows corruption. The thing these have is common is the thin line which separates protection of the institution from protection of the principles it is based upon.
But the words ‘scientists’ and ‘academics’ are often confused. The failures of the academic/publishing system are also found in other scientific and medical and non-scientific fields. Academic fads and fashions can go wrong (deconstructionism and post-modern literary criticism) and they can last a long time (Freud).
The other day someone said “the plural of anecdote is not data”. I agree, but for soft science it is. It worked for Freud.

JamesS
February 9, 2010 4:35 pm

I dislike taking a negative view of a guest article by a distinguished scholar, but I have to pick a few nits with Professor Ravetz’s article. It seems to me to be an attempt to explain a classic “failure to do good science” with the sort of untested and unproven philosophical theories that tend to pop up in the business world every decade or so, and which promise to unfailingly create a successful company. Just as the professor says “The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naively reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics,” it seems to me that the post-normal scientific analysis of “what went wrong in climate science” is its own attempt to find a reductionist philosophy and simplistic method to “keep science from going wrong.”
When the professor says “the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position,” it doesn’t really seem to me he’s saying anything wrong about that opposition. The first reaction to any new, radical claim should be that which Carl Sagan expressed: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” That’s not precisely a “scientific opposition,” but it is the proper one for science to take. “Prove it!” Is as old as the schoolyard, but still a fundamental and very scientific position. If that response induces the proponents to adopt the forcefully argued position of “You’re as bad as a Holocaust denier!” then it becomes instantly apparent that whatever is going on here is not science.
Later Professor Ravetz says “We have argued that in the case of Post-Normal Science, the ‘extended peer community’, including all affected by the policy being implemented, must be fully involved.” But what does “all affected by the policy” really mean? It sounds as though he means this to carry down to the level of the ordinary non-scientist citizen who’s electric bill might increase by a factor of ten because of a cap-and-trade tax implemented by politicians sold on AGW, but then he states

“Its particular contribution will depend on the nature of the core scientific problem, and also on the phase of investigation.  Detailed technical work is a task for experts, but quality-control on even that work can be done by those with much broader expertise.  And on issues like the definition of the problem itself, the selection of personnel, and crucially the ownership of the results, the extended peer community has full rights of participation.”

This appears to put the cart before the horse, or maybe to have horses at both ends of the cart. For if the detailed technical work is for experts, how can an extended peer community (of presumed non-experts) be qualified to determine the definition of the problem to begin with, much less choose the personnel to do the technical work and then claim ownership of the results? How can one claim ownership of a scientific study one is not technically qualified to perform?
The professor also states that “Hitherto, critics of scientific matters have been relegated to a sort of samizdat world, exchanging private letters or writing books that can easily be ignored (as not being peer-reviewed) by the ruling establishment.” I would argue that this “samizdat” state of affairs is nearly unique to this particular scientific theory, and that the history of science is rife with examples of competing theories battling it out in the peer-reviewed literature without one side using its influence to censor the other. For example, J. Harlen Bretz battled in the journals for forty years to prove his glacial lake origin theory of the Channeled Scablands in Washington state; Alfred Wegener proposed “continental drift” back in 1912 and the idea was argued in the journals until the word by Hess, Mason, Benioff and Wadati put the finishing touches on plate tectonic theory.
It appears to me that in this case, the professor’s philosophy of post-normal science has it exactly backwards: rather than there being a crisis for which we have to make critical decisions without full understanding of the problem, we are instead in the position of not knowing if there even is a crisis without much more information.

February 9, 2010 4:36 pm

Double Plus good!!!!!!!!

February 9, 2010 4:36 pm

Absolutely fantastic.
Thank you for posting this.

February 9, 2010 4:36 pm

See website for: Philosopher at Large, Dr. Jerome Ravetz
See his summary of his work.

maz2
February 9, 2010 4:41 pm

Is this paste allowed, AGW asks?
It’s the NYT. Gotta be important when it speaks. No?
Here’s the punch(sic) line:
“its judgments provoking passions normally reserved for issues like abortion and guns.”
Sells papers.
…-
“Skeptics Find Fault With U.N. Climate Panel ( NY Times says something….)
The New York Times ^ | February 8, 2010 | ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist’s version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations’ climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore.
But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri’s resignation last week.
Critics, writing in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm — a claim he denies.
They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel’s landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.
The report, they contend, misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge about diverse topics — including the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers and the rise in severe storms — in a way that exaggerates the evidence for climate change.
With a global climate treaty under negotiation and legislation pending in the United States, the climate panel has found itself in the political cross hairs, its judgments provoking passions normally reserved for issues like abortion and guns.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com …”
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2447879/posts

Vinceo
February 9, 2010 4:48 pm

Professor Ravetz seems to be stretching too far when he writes:
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. . . . The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.” Whilst it is certainly the case that the reputations of many involved in that collection of natural and applied sciences labeled “climate science” would be ruined, the widespread increased appreciation of the importance of skepticism in science would lead to a strengthening of science in society, rather than the reverse.

February 9, 2010 4:49 pm

Stephen Brown (16:16:07) :
Would the author of this fascinating essay agree to its being posted to representatives of the MSM? I’m sure that the Daily Telegraph (UK) would enjoy reading it.

Jerry is already making arrangements regarding further publication, and very generously gave WUWT the scoop at my request for which I thank him and echo Anthony’s sentiments. I’ll forward your suggestion to him tomorrow. It’s way past late here in the UK.

EdB
February 9, 2010 4:50 pm

“Well, since you ask, I have been posting like hell all over the internet, but I cannot reveal my identity because I like my job. Most folks are in the same boat. Yes, it is earthshakingly sad. (By the way, the salaries are only middle class”
Lets see.. police officers get shot on the job.. taxi cab drivers get mugged, soldiers get blown up, construction workers fall to their deaths, lab workers get cancers, millions get laid off and lose their saving, homes, marriages..
But philosophers put mere criticism and job security ahead of doing their jobs???
Gee… how about finding other work and leaving science and philosophy to those that accept the challenges.

Marlene Anderson
February 9, 2010 4:52 pm

Outstanding essay. AGW theory is and always was an answer in search of a problem.

K2
February 9, 2010 4:53 pm

The problem is we have a lot of good carpentry tools and a lot of bad carpenters. Just because one can saw and hammer doesn’t necessarily mean one is a carpenter. One can recognize the result of bad carpentry right away, but with science, it is much more complex. That is why we have bad science. We have people that are trained to talk the talk and use the tools, but what they produce is crap. But they are treated with all the respects of a scientist because scientists are stereotypically so erudite that few people can understand them.

Sam
February 9, 2010 4:54 pm

Telboy (16:10:22) wrote:
” A good essay, somewhat spoiled by the penultimate paragraph in which he says:
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”
Up to that point I thought he was talking about science, not faith, and that certainly gave me pause. ”
Perhaps the good Professor who has honoured WUWT with this important article will be so good as to explain his thinking here, as I agree: it is ambiguous.
I *think* he means that if the science cannot be proven to be true, after recent events, and people therefore come to feel thy have been misled by climate scientists, then the public will lose faith in science itself.
It has to be admitted after all that the general public HAS for the most part had ‘faith’ in the claims about AGW, having been obliged to take the word of scientists that the claims are based on properly conducted research. Few of us have had the time to research into the detail, and it’s taken several long years for all that detail to be discussed and questioned.
The Professor’s article deserves the widest possible circulation, and I hope someone will send it to Clarenece House (I’ve already sent Prince Charles one email today with a link to this site, so I’d better not send another ).
i think The Spectator (UK version) would be interested in publishing it, if the Telegraph or even the Guardian doesn’t.

Michael
February 9, 2010 4:57 pm

Everyone now knows the blogosphere is now the authority of climate issues. And many other important issues for that matter.
“The lengthy op-ed ‘Snowmageddeon is nigh’ concludes like so:
Those who value freedom should thank Mother Nature for her sense of humor, undermining the case for global warming one flake at a time. So although we’re quite tired of shoveling, we say, “Bring on the blizzard.””
Washington Times: February Snow Storms “Undermin[e] The Case For Global Warming One Flake At A Time
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/09/washington-times-february_n_455199.html

February 9, 2010 4:57 pm

I’m not a scientist, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn last night. I can however judge the character of those who wish to convince me of something they can’t prove. One can smell it, feel it, sense it, and know that there’s more to the story/theory/facts than are being put forth.
In short, while this essay is well stated, WE KNEW ALL THIS ALREADY.. and for a very long time.
I don’t know for a *fact* what Anthony, E. M. Smith, and Steve Mc. are presenting as proofs are in fact *true,* but I do know that they invite challenge.
Prof. Jones said it best: ‘Why should I give you my data, you just want to find something wrong with it.’

Editor
February 9, 2010 5:02 pm

I’m unpersuaded. Like Bryn, I worry whether this is a flavor of “post-modern” thought for the field of science. The fact that an issue is one where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” changes absolutely nothing with respect to what science is, or how it should operate. Where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent,” all that says is that the decision is political and that science has little to contribute to the matter. And there is nothing wrong with that. Science will never, ever, for example, settle the abortion debate, where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”. Not everything reduces to a question of science. Some things are questions of faith, values, and mores that science is ill-equipped to resolve. That is not demeaning to the practice of science.
The real problem, here, is that science has become too full of itself. I say that with all due respect, as someone trained well in the philosophy of science. But I also saw, when I was in graduate school, the pressure to make one’s work “relevant”, as if to say science could no longer be pursued for its own sake. And of course the quest to fund scientific research with grant dollars simply churns the process, where what is relevant is determined by those doling out the dollars.
The ills exposed by climategate will not be solved by “post normal science.” They will be solved only when (a) science could not care less whether its work is perceived as “relevant” to society as a whole, and (b) where political issues are accepted for what they are, without one side or the other claiming to have the authority of science on their side. I’m not holding my breath.

February 9, 2010 5:03 pm

I agree with Ravetz “Politics will doubtless survive, for it is not a fiduciary institution; but for science the dangers are real.”
Its great to have a discussion of the impacts on science generally – because, while it seems they will be great, it is yet hard to know what they will be. And yes, one of the reasons global warming science is particularly significant is “because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State.” But this is where Lomborg and his view of environmental science comes in.
Where I have concerns with Ravetz’s fine piece of analysis is that (and this is on very quick read!) the root cause is “a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation.”
I wonder about the role he gives to non-critical ‘normal science’ in all of this. And I wonder about the aspect of ‘post-normal science’, where it involves situations where decisions are urgent. I think in this case the urgency might be more an effect than a root cause.
What generated the urgency? Is the answer: The distortion of science by evangalism reckless with the truth. The history of global warming science seems to suggest the urgency was created through the politicisation.
There must be other global risks with unknown – meteors? – swine flu? There is something different about Global Warming, and it is something to do with environmental movement manifest in science. It is to do with the use of the Paul Erlich approach to science.
Normal science could cope, and does cope, in non-politicised sitations.
With Global warming science we are in a strange situation where it is an anxious bubble in what way a tiny climate science (of the 1970s). Climate science has huge funding BECAUSE of the scare. Normal climate science is unrecognisable at the moment. This is because even if someone tried to do it by ignoring the politicisation, they would be squeezed out or first into a defensive situation under the label of sceptic or denier. It world be sort of like East Timor’s problem when it declared independency during the cold war.
Perhaps this is agreement with Ravetz. But, I wonder…before leaping to this ‘post-normal science’ thing, whether we should look at how medical research copes with uncertainty and urgency in the various ways, eg, to deal with unconsious bias in drug trials, and not just double blind method. And for politicisation – eg, passive smoking controversy. And as for reforming the process – eg, the post war renaissance of evidence-based medicine instigated by Cochrane.
There are just some ideas, but the whole topic could do with a whole lot more discussion.

pwl
February 9, 2010 5:04 pm

“And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? ”
I’ve seen nothing of substance that addresses this key question from those proposing the alleged hypotheses known as AGW. To you I ask, please show me the paper or papers that “proves” the AGW Hypothesis is true. Please. I’ve been looking for two years now and can’t find any.
Oh proof of AGW, where art thou? Oh vaporous proof but a puff in the wind with no enduring substance or apparent merit, where art thou?
pwl
http://PathsToKnowledge.net

February 9, 2010 5:04 pm

I believe that it is mistake to think that a refutation of the basic and flawed assumption so AGW would hurt science or “the science.” The latter needs to be euthanized and buried. It needs to made clear to the public that bad science is not acceptable. To try to protect this “science” in any way allows the public opinion to wonder why it needs defending, if it has been made clean and honest. Take the “science” apart piece by piece, verify each, see what is left, and then carry on.
As Gore’s AIT damaged public perception of science, perhaps eventually the “climate” of public opinion will allow an honest presentation (film) of the real science describing our climate; the real direct CO2 chemical data of the last 200 years, an unadjusted rural temperature record, an honest description of the history of the Medieval Warm Period, the LIttle Ice Age, Arctic ice, and sea level changes, and the robustness of marine life and the irrelevance of “acidification” to the oceans (much higher CO2 in the past was more common than low).
Hoaxes happen. They need to be fully exposed and related lessons learned. Then we get back to doing real, valuable, and relevant science. I think there is a tendency to almost cherish the idea that CO2 has to be a big problem no matter how many other factors are found to have greater effects.
We need to get over the arrogance that not everything is our fault. Real pollution should be addressed, but an environmental “crisis” based on a political agenda should be adamantly rejected.

D
February 9, 2010 5:04 pm

Post normal science, applied with the precautionary principle, i.e. onus on skeptics to disprove a hypothesis, this is not a step forward in science but the beginnings of a rush back to Salem, and will all but extinguish the enlightenment, but then Charles and his ilk, think this a good thing. Post normal science should be viewed with the utmost of suspicion imho, anything which can not be empirically tested and used to drive policy, is just the merger of superstition and state, not a pleasant outcome for many in the past.

Z
February 9, 2010 5:05 pm

“I cannot predict how it will work out, but we can be confident that corruptions built on bootstrapped plausibility will be less likely in the future.”
I would completely disagree with that statement.
We are, as the poor uniformed masses, completely dependant on individuals breaking these scandals – at great personal risk to themselves.
Deepthroat for Watergate.
Dr. David Kelly for the Iraq war.
A N Onymous for the CRU emails.
In the example of this individual scandal – would so many things have happened to undermine the foundation of “the consensus” without the actions of that one individual? No. Which is why “bootstrapped plausibility” will occur again and again.
Too many scandals – not enough whistleblowers.

February 9, 2010 5:06 pm

An excellent & long overdue summary!
I would however echo previous comment regarding the ‘money’ factor.
This serious & disastrous betrayal of the scientific method rode on the back of issues of funding…
Apply for a research grant to study say
‘The Red Squirrel Population decline in England’
& one may struggle… but apply for a grant to study
‘The effects of climate change on the Red Squirrel Population of England’
& the money was assured.
On the larger scale the sums at stake are vast & was a key motivator. An admission that the hypothesis was wrong or that the effects were minor would have spent an end to the gravy train.
Thankfully in this case the internet & in particular the blogosphere have provided the checks & balances the banking industry so catastrophically lacked.

John F. Hultquist
February 9, 2010 5:08 pm

Theo Goodwin (15:41:03) The folks who created the “Ozone Hole” panic of the Seventies did a much better job.
Indeed. For the young reading, you might want to see this:
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/13749/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
And have a look at the largest ozone hole ever observed –
on 24 September 2006.
http://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/daily.php?date=2006-09-24

Bernie
February 9, 2010 5:11 pm

This is an interesting and, judging from the speed and thoughtfulness with which responses have been constructed, a fertile essay. The most prescient part of the essay is reflexively “let the dialogue commence.”
With others, I find the notions of normal and post-normal science troubling and unnecessary. They appear to me to be taxonomic concepts masquerading as causal mechanisms. It is undoubtedly true that the study of the earth’s climate has some distinctive features, but I am aware of nothing that suggests that these distinctive features are particularly unique.
What is distinctive here has little to do with Normal and Post-Normal science and far more to do with a science based policy process where those impacted by the potential policies have simply punctured the claims of legitimacy based on science of major paleoclimatologists. What enabled the puncturing of those claims was in large measure the statistical insights and skills of a small number of slightly compulsive but talented amateurs who, prompted by the sense that something didn’t feel right, had the time and resources to take advantage of the existing scientific overhead (on-line data archives and open source statistical tools) to ultimately force the climate science community (and policy makers) to play by the accepted rules of scientific discourse – namely enabling replicability. What McIntyre and McKitrick did could readily have been done by many others if they had simply taken the time to do the replication that science actually demands. I guess I see this story more as the interaction of individuals than as some essentially collective mutation of science. The internet and high powered statistical analysis tools certainly played a part – but they are functionally the equivalent of the institutions and laboratories that were and still are essential to “big science”. In addition, just as Wegman’s presciently identified a self-sealing social network of climate scientists so Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts have created a some what more open network of technically able colleagues (along with more numerous hangers on and boosters). But there really is nothing new here – just human enterprise with all its warts.

Iren
February 9, 2010 5:12 pm

The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result? The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.

I was thoroughly enjoying the paper until reaching this point, which seems to imply that rejecting policy prescriptions based on totally discredited science would be a bad thing. I beg to differ.
I’m afraid I can’t put the reputation of science above the well being of the whole of humanity, which is basically what is being put at risk by the “vast edifice of policy commitments”.

Sam
February 9, 2010 5:12 pm

Hmmm, ScientitforTruth has posted a link above (16.33.26) which seeks to explain some of the Professor’s ideas. I do see why SFT urges caution!
“Ravetz, who described himself as a peacenik intellectual, was a political radical who drew on neo-Marxism, and was a stalwart in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), anti-nuclear lobbies, and the Anti-Concorde Project. He is well known for arguing that the pursuit of truth in science is an obsolete and dangerous concept. He declared
<> ”
This doesn’t for me detract from anything in the article above, but it does provide more ‘context’ for Prof Ravetz’s ideas. For those of us unfamiliar with the shifting basis of the philosophy of science, it is a bit of an eyeopener. I for one had no idea such notions were mainstream in Academia. Oxford is of course an historic centre for the study fo science – it even has one of the world’s oldest science museums.

Sam
February 9, 2010 5:14 pm

Apologies: the quote didn’t post due to my brackets. It reads:
” …the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back; we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.
For us, quality is a replacement for truth in our methodology. We argue that this is quite enough for doing science, and that truth is a category with symbolic importance, which itself is historically and culturally conditioned.”

View from the Solent
February 9, 2010 5:15 pm

Sir, Obtaining evidence requires time and money (“We might err, but science is self-correcting”, Opinion, Feb 8). Research funding in the UK is increasingly channelled to predetermined ends, and those who win in the fierce competition for research council grants tend to be those who endorse them.
Barriers to sceptical inquiry are augmented by a “peer review” system in which the worth of a research proposal, and its chance of receiving support, are assessed by those who have succeeded previously. Expert opinion rarely looks sympathetically on those who challenge the orthodox view. University autonomy is diminishing as institutions vie with each other to demonstrate “impact”, and science departments are rebadged with shallow names in order to advertise their relevance to assumed needs of society. Vital freedom, safeguarded by tenure, is replaced by a ruthless system of targets, the most important being “Bring in grant income or you’re out”.
Scepticism used to be what we were all about. Now, it’s “grantsmanship”.
Professor John F. Allen
Professor of Biochemistry
Queen Mary, University of London
——————————————————-
From 09 Feb The Times.
Jerome Ravetz has made no mention of the financial aspect. And that’s just in academia, let alone the world at large. To say nothing of power and control.

Peter Dunford
February 9, 2010 5:15 pm

Unless you are Jerome or the WUWT team, don’t bother reading this, it does not contribute to the debate.
I’ve just read the article, but not a single comment yet.
I’d like to express my sincere, heartfelt thanks to Jerome Ravetz for his considered remarks, his insight, and his honesty. In particular and especially, for the time devoted to put this article together. I’d also like to thank Anthony and the WUWT team for providing a channel for dissemination.
This article should be required reading for everyone doing “climate science”, or involved in the politics surrounding it, whatever their perspective or prejudice.

February 9, 2010 5:17 pm

ScientistForTruth (16:33:26) :
I’m amazed. Looking at the ecstatic comments, I think most of you are about as happy as the Trojans who wheeled the horse, a gift from heaven they thought, within their walls and got drunk, only to find that night that their city had been infiltrated and lost after years of battle. Beware! Ravetz is a very bright guy, and very perceptive, but Ravetz and Hulme have done their utmost to dispatch ‘normal’ science. Now their ideas will destroy you. More on Ravetz and Hulme here:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/

I’m glad you’ve come to this debate. As you know, I made several responses to your article, and I think we cleared up some issues, though clearly not all. I note one of your contributors said this:
PS I think tallbloke has a point about Jerry Ravetz. Whether you think it is opportunism or not, I can say categorically that he is now on what you and I would call the “right side” of this discussion, although it will be interesting to see whether the reasons he gives soften your view of him.

binny
February 9, 2010 5:21 pm

It doesn’t matter whether you are saving the world, saving souls, or simply enforcing the law. If the appropriate checks and balances are ignored (or never enacted in the first place). The end justifies the means mentality takes over. And corruption invariably follows.

February 9, 2010 5:26 pm

Scientist for truth 16:33:26
Your link was an eye opener about the good professor.

February 9, 2010 5:29 pm

Thank you Theo Goodwin. A brilliant summing up.
All this turmoil without a THEORY!

rbateman
February 9, 2010 5:29 pm

The near future of science now rests in the hands of the few who went down a political urgency path with it. Jones, Mann, Hansen, Karl, etc. need to undo (tell all) what they have been up to. Entrenching does no good here. Damaged institutions means that politicians have liscense to pursue in a void.
Only scientists can rescue science.
I’m not one of them, therefore I cannot help them.

rbateman
February 9, 2010 5:31 pm

And I believe James Hansen fully understands what I mean by ‘a void’, watching politicians go down a Cap & Trade path.
He must disentrench in order to undo his own damage.

Michael
February 9, 2010 5:32 pm

“The carbon markets are failing in their role of encouraging investment in cutting CO 2 emissions, MPs have concluded.
The environmental audit committee has urged the government to consider other measures, such as a floor price for carbon dioxide emissions, which would provide industries with greater certainty over the price of carbon and help to ensure the system of pricing was effective.”
Carbon markets failing, say British MPs
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d89b64ee-1452-11df-8847-00144feab49a.html
I suggest the invest their money in rock salt.

February 9, 2010 5:37 pm

I really take exception to the TRIVIAL and mentally LAZY assumption that “CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’..and therefore…if it increases, ipso-facto the temperature of the atmopshere increases.
First of all, I suggest the 1909 work by Dr. Robert Woods, which shows that the action of a “greenhouse” has NOTHING to do with the transparency or non-transparency of normal sodium glass to longwave IR. (Google the result, find the report, and also many classic meteorology texts even SITE the report and note that the stabalization temperature of the earth’s atmosphere caused by H2O (almost entirely) and partially by CO2…should be called the “atmopsheric effect” as it is unique to the atmosphere.)
Secondly, I point out to the work by the “grandaddy” of atmospheric radation exchange analysis, Dr. Elsasser. In Dr. Elsasser’s treatment of atmospheric radiation exchange, he includes CO2 in the calculation formulation. But when he derives the classic Elsasser diagram to calculate the net radiation exchange, day to day…using radiosone balloon humidity/pressure/temp measurements, he explicitly EXCLUDES CO2 in the 0 to 30,000 ft realm, because it acts as an even UPFLUX and DOWNFLUX agent.
Then we add Plass’s (1957) work, calculating the STRATOSPHERIC COOLING effect of CO2 (which comes about due to the number of steradians which each CO2 molecule “sees” to radiate too, at that altitude, compared to closer to the earth) and you have a NET ZERO INFLUENCE of CO2.
Now all of this information is AVAILABLE in all the “classic” Meteorology texts. It drives me NUTS when people, supposedly EDUCATED people, don’t know ANYTHING about the basics, and make these “TRIVIAL” and shallow statements about the effects of CO2, based on their intellectual laziness.
Sorry, rant over.

February 9, 2010 5:38 pm

I agree that the influence of money [including the unstated threat of losing one’s job for speaking out] is a very effective leash, and maybe should have been mentioned. No doubt Prof Ravetz had his reasons for not writing about it.
But money doesn’t explain all of the behavior. There is also status, which is hard-wired into us. In a prehistoric tribe, status could easily mean the difference between survival and death.
From a report in the Economist about a psychology experiment, here is an example of how social status works: when people were asked whether they would prefer to earn $100,000 a year, when everyone else they knew was earning $50,000 a year, or whether they would rather earn $150,000 a year, when everyone they knew was earning $300,000 a year, the answer invariably given was that they would prefer to earn the lower amount — as long as it was more than other people they knew earned, they were happy. Greater social status is more important than an arbitrary number of dollars.
Another example of status: during the Roman civil war, when Caesar’s army was marching in the Alps they came upon an extremely destitute, dirt-poor village. One of Caesar’s lieutenants jokingly asked Caesar how he’d like to be the head man of that no-account village. Caesar answered, “Better head man here than second man in Rome.” Status is deeply ingrained. It goes back to Cain and Abel, and it trumps money.
When someone buys into an idea, such as a belief in AGW for which there is no measurable evidence, status predominates. There is no doubt that Phil Jones is taking his loss of status very hard, even though it only amounts to loss of his title; his pay, benefits, and office were not taken away, only the title of Director. It is easy to sniff at Jones’ lamentations, but there is no doubt that he takes the loss of his name-plate extremely hard. He is acutely aware that he is diminished in the eyes of his peers.
For the rank-and-file followers of AGW, including many other well educated people who should know better, their belief system is all-important. It allows them to feel superior to the hated “denialists,” because they believe they have inside knowledge — even when they are decisively proven wrong:

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
~Leo Tolstoy

Dr T G Watkins
February 9, 2010 5:39 pm

Another coup, Anthony, Steve, Jeff et al.
An excellent essay.
Part of the problem is that so few of our legislators (UK or US) have any maths or science background, they seem to be lawyers or “social scientists” of one sort or another. Look back at your high school days and all the clever kids became very poor (financially) scientists or less poor medics (at least in good old Blighty), while the academically less able assume positions of power!
Our legislators know the real “pecking order” but are aware of their inadequacies, so they feel they cannot challenge the “settled science” supported by second rate media science graduates, or the propaganda from Greenpeace or WWF.
Eisenhower suggested that “science” could be corrupted by governmental funding and, I suggest, that is what we are seeing now.
No doubt, this essay by Prof. Ravetz will be an editorial in the Telegraph, a once proud independent newspaper, and main lead on BBC,s Newsnight.

nigel jones
February 9, 2010 5:40 pm

“Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State. This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions. ”
Science has not been without dogma and contests of rhetoric. Think of the reception Pasteur received in his early days.
In this case, a couple of malign influences from outside science are huge funding and prestige. It’s also clear that politics had a part to play in Climategate, whether the personal politics of the people involved or the impossibility of not supporting an establishment position they’d helped to create, or the eagerness of the establishment to brush it away.
I dislike this term ‘post normal science’. It comes across as an attempt to make acceptable something which is not science at all, but political aims dressed in the clothing of science to legitimise them. We’ve seen this before in Lysenkoism. Pseudoscience is a better term.
I would say Climategate also shows a slow process of being drawn into an impossible position, like some computer frauds which started with small irregular adjustments to hide problems and grew into huge frauds.

Scotty
February 9, 2010 5:42 pm

Indeed, good article, saving the penultimate paragraph. As Pat Moffitt above says though, if anyone thinks this kind of bias/corruption is exclusive to global warming they are sadly mistaken; even naive. Climate change may be the (not so) glamorous poster boy of corrupted science, but it is by no means the only.
My personal dealings are in bioinformatics/genetics, bordering on the ever controversial “origin of life” question. Research grants, publicity, donations, etc must all be framed in reference to Darwins archaic theory, even though no one on the team seriously believes it. However, anyone caught critiquing it in public is quickly ostracized and dismissed as a “flat earther”, a la global warming. Such is the greed induced everyday hypocrisy and two facedness – no longer truth seekers but dogma teachers to the unwashed masses.
My point: unfortunately it takes an active search for truth on the part of the individual; you certainly won’t get it spoon fed to you by a BBC special. Hell would freeze over sooner. Well done WUWT for doing your part in tackling science gone bad.

Michael
February 9, 2010 5:47 pm

The Weather Channel keeps promoting man-made global warming and they just did a story of a little girl who died while digging in the snow. The Weather channel has no soul.

February 9, 2010 5:49 pm

Well done that man.
I’m particularly taken with the gentle putting-in-box of Kuhn and his Paradigms. I’d always suspected that there was less to them than their apparent ubiquity suggested, and now the good Prof has relegated Kuhn to the ‘tractable problem’ area. And as a follower from way back of NN Taleb, I appreciate the financial/climate science analogy.
Thank you very much for a ‘Dissertation on Roast Kuhn’.

MrLynn
February 9, 2010 5:52 pm

Asks Jerome Ravetz,
“. . . And who could have imagined that at its core so much of the science was unsound?”
I hate to tell Prof. Ravetz this, but many of us, scientists and laymen alike, knew right off the bat that the science behind the claims of ‘global warming’ was unsound. All we needed were a few facts:
only 20,000 years ago, much of the northern hemisphere was covered in ice;
only 1,000 years ago, Vikings were farming in Greenland;
only 40 years ago, hysterics were bemoaning the coming Ice Age;
and for the last three decades, the principal exponents of ‘global warming’ were political ideologues, a motley mix of Marxists, neo-Luddites, opportunistic politicians, and ‘green’ activists, whose success at infiltrating governments and the academies left graduate students and even professors afraid to speak up against the new orthodoxy.
It didn’t take much acumen to discern that there was no real science going on here—all you had to do was watch Al Gore’s fantasy film. If you wanted, you could look more closely at the paleo-climatic record (where CO2 changes always follow temperature changes), or at the unlikely prospect that a little atmospheric CO2 could have the effect claimed for it, or at how the ‘climate scientists’ ignored clouds—or just listen to Prof. Fred Singer, or Prof. Richard Lindzen, or Prof. Robert Carter, and many others who endured the opprobrium of peers and the press to keep bravely pointing out that the ‘climate change’ emperor had no clothes.
It doesn’t say much for Prof. Ravetz that it took Climategate to wipe the scales from his eyes. But better late than never, I suppose.
/Mr Lynn

davidmhoffer
February 9, 2010 5:53 pm

If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse>
I *think* he means that if the science cannot be proven to be true, after recent events, and people therefore come to feel they have been misled>
He means that massive discrediting of climate science will be used for other purposes. How long till creationists demand equal billing in the education system and cite the climate scandal as evidence that evolution may also be flawed? How long until some major polluter raises as a defense in court that the science showing the damage done is no more settled than is climate science? How many bright young minds will seek carreers other than science because it is associated in their minds with corruption and greed?
He is exactly right about the evolution of information.
5000 BC. Shaman; spirits who only I can talk to angry, must be appeased. Bring much gold, put in my tent.
1000 AD. Priest; Book which only I have a copy of says build army, kill other people, bring me their gold. Put it in my tent.
Reformation (year?) The people. Hey, we got a copy of that book, that’s not what it says.
1990 or so. Scientist; complicated study which only I can understand predicts disaster. Bring much gold. Put in my tent.
2010. Blogosphere; We read the study (that you tried to keep secret) we evaluated the data (that you tried to keep secret) and we understood the science (which you said we couldn’t). We condemn you to dustheap of history with Priest and Shaman. No gold for you.

Joel
February 9, 2010 5:54 pm

tallbloke (15:59:48) :
Steve Goddard (15:24:37) :
Very nice analysis. Which college at Oxford?
Perhaps the Hockey Stick was Saddam’s WMD?
http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/centres/insis/associatefellows/Pages/jerryravetz.aspx
The Hockey Stick was the weapon of choice of the Woman of Mad Destruction. You know who I mean.
Tamino?

Bill Parsons
February 9, 2010 5:55 pm

This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions.

With respect, which intentions are those?

February 9, 2010 5:55 pm

The problem is that for the masses, either they are converted, or they simply could not care less as long as their next meal is available.
The AGW trojan horse has been rolled through the gates, and the hidden agendas are now spread far and wide.

R Shearer
February 9, 2010 5:56 pm

We know that at one time Saddam Hussein did possess weapons of mass destruction. However, with regard to AGW, it does not appear to this scientist that the climate change we experience today is that unusual. We do know that CO2 is rising and is a greenhouse gas. We do not know what effect this has in the complex global system.
For all we know, the net effect of fossil fuel burning is overwhelmingly beneficial and in fact may even be preventing another ice age (at least for the time being).
And yet there are those who ignore the uncertainty and are so sure that the matter is settled.

Michael
February 9, 2010 5:56 pm

“There is no scientific merit to be found in the Executive Summary. The presentation sounds like something put together by Greenpeace activists and their legal department. The points being made are made arbitrarily with legal sounding caveats without having established any foundation or basis in fact. The Executive Summary seems to be a political statement that is only designed to annoy greenhouse skeptics. Wasn’t the IPCC Assessment Report intended to be a scientific document that would merit solid backing from the climate science community – instead of forcing many climate scientists into having to agree with greenhouse skeptic criticisms that this is indeed a report with a clear and obvious political agenda. Attribution can not happen until understanding has been clearly demonstrated. Once the facts of climate change have been established and understood, attribution will become self-evident to all. The Executive Summary as it stands is beyond redemption and should simply be deleted”
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is Rubbish – Says Yet Another Expert
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/10002559/ipcc-fourth-assessment-report-is-rubbish-says-yet-another-expert/

February 9, 2010 5:59 pm

I enjoyed the post by Mr. Ravetz, especially the breadth of it that helps see view that reveals philosophy and science as an integrated unity.
Thank you Tallbloke for matchmaking him with Anthony.
First and foremost, to go forward with the scientific study of the earth’s climate by scientists then we just need scientists-as-scientists, not “climate scientists” and not “climate science”. Many voluntary aggregate groups of scientists each addressing an aspect of the earth’s climate would suffice.
Is it surprising to some that what we in the modern world view as science has a fundamental necessary connection with philosophy? It apparently does surprise some. Would it surprise many that science is not just rationally connected to the epistemological and metaphysical branches of philosophy, but also even must be necessarily connected rationally to the ethical and political branches as well? I could even present a case that science has a very strong rational connection to the esthetic branch of philosophy.
[and no, I am not referring to beauticians/plastic surgeons by the word esthetic nor to astrology/fortune tellers/mystics with the word metaphysics]
John

Martin457
February 9, 2010 6:02 pm

I blame it all on [snip] James Hansen
I don’t mind recycling the trees and plants and stuff that died thousands or millions of years ago.
No really, I would like to see the real Science settled, not just the political science.

JohnD
February 9, 2010 6:06 pm

“Mr. Ravetz is an environmental consultant and professor of philosophy of science best known for his books challenging the assumptions of scientific objectivity, discussing the science wars and post-normal science.”
Post-Normal Science. Bletch.
I find nothing here but an invitation to equivocate scientific method with politics, empiricism with feelings, and academic rigor with populism.

February 9, 2010 6:07 pm

I appreciate the comments by Professor Jerome Ravetz of Oxford University.
But in my opinion the depth of the problem goes much, much deeper:
An unholy alliance of politicians, publishers, and news media are using science as a propaganda tool to control people.
Anthony Watts and others discovered this in false global climate reports.
I discovered this in false reports of space sciences and astrophysics.
Climategate exposed an alliance of politicians, climatologists, publishers, funding agencies, and news media that were willing to distort or hide experimental data for their own selfish purposes.
NASAgate will expose the same misuse of science by an alliance of space scientists, politicians, astrophysicists, funding agencies, publishers, and the news media.
Thus the analysis by Professor Jerome Ravetz seems superficial:
“In the event of a serious discrediting of the global-warming claims, public outrage would therefore be directed at the community of science itself, and (from within that community) at its leaders who were either ignorant or complicit until the scandal was blown open. If we are to understand Climategate, and move towards a restoration of trust, we should consider the structural features of the situation that fostered and nurtured the damaging practices. I believe that the ideas of Post-Normal Science (as developed by Silvio Funtowicz and myself) can help our understanding.”
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Emeritus Professor of
Nuclear & Space Sciences
Former NASA PI for Apollo

Ross
February 9, 2010 6:07 pm

Excellent analysis- one of the best so far. This essay, together with Stott’s “Collapse of a Grand Narrative” and Plimer’s Essington Lewis Lecture are to me the 3 most thoughtful so far.
By the way, I note you credit ‘the man in the bus queue’. I assume you are aware that in British legal history the “man on the clapham omnibus” was used as a device to represent the views of a sensible, reasonably informed and honest observer.
For those who haven’t read these other two seminal pieces, I envy you, because you will have the pleasure of reading them for the first time- here are the links:
http://web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Entries/2010/1/30_Global_Warming%3A_the_Collapse_of_a_Grand_Narrative.html
http://climaterealists.com/attachments/database/EssLewisAusIMM1109.pdf
You might also be interested in re-reading Feynman’s famous Cargo Cult Science speech from 40 years ago, which is also apposite: http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm
And for those who think this is an entirely new phenomenon, Bacon said it all 400 years ago, in 1620: “Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men’s efforts than good by their own.”
http://www.constitution.org/bacon/nov_org.htm

February 9, 2010 6:14 pm

Max Hugoson (17:37:59) :
Thanks for the clear and simple explanation of the stratospheric cooling effect of CO2 and reminding us of Elsasser diagrams. I hadn’t been aware of the fact he had explicitly included the effect of CO2 but I do remember that it was only water vapour that was considered in his diagrams.

Joe Farrow
February 9, 2010 6:17 pm

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”
Julius Caesar, Act III Scene 4.
Ahem

Pete
February 9, 2010 6:33 pm

I must admit to being a little confused. This article is by a Professor of Philosophy who’s essay is basically a rehash of information that has been out in the open for some time. Nice worded analysis and all that but it is written by someone who is quoted as saying “the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete”.
I know very little about “Post Normal Science” and will have to read a little more about it but I will stick to good old fashioned science for now…..It seems to have served us well on the whole and has only been brought into disrepute by a few practitioners who appear to have used it for their own agenda.

Andrew30
February 9, 2010 6:34 pm

Theo Goodwin (15:41:03) :
Re: “There is no theory behind so-called climate science. ”
I’m not so sure about that.
Jasper Kirkby has a theory. He has illustrated multiple instances of correlation and is attempting to establish causation at the atomic level.
The CLOUD experiment going on at CERN will attempt to establish a fundamental physical link (as in physics) between sunspots and clouds.
If you were to ask him about his theory of climate change he might simply say:
“In the absence of sunspots more cosmic rays enter the atmosphere this causes more clouds which increases the refection of light and cools the planet.”
It is simple, makes a prediction, is testable and can be proven wrong. As I understand the meaning of the word, it is a theory.
If he is correct, then it will be very problematic, since his theory begins with sunspots which are beyond our control, and can not be taxed.
We should know more latter this year.

Bruce King
February 9, 2010 6:34 pm

I particularly like the comments of everyman. I also remember a comment by a well known scientist, ” the money thrown at the global warming problem has
corrupted the system. He was not talking about corporations. Maybe recognition
and the power it bestows was a small factor

Boris
February 9, 2010 6:49 pm

The sheer volume of error of science in this piece is quite telling. Try to demonstrate a rudimentary grasp of a field before you attempt to demolish it. Otherwise, you appear quite foolish.

davidmhoffer
February 9, 2010 6:55 pm

Pete (18:33:30) :
I must admit to being a little confused. This article is by a Professor of Philosophy who’s essay is basically a rehash of information that has been out in the open for some time>
What’s to be confused about? Everything about this whole debate, both sides, has been said before and has been out in the open. I wrote a post a while back in a different thread that says (less eloquently) almost exactly what this professor just said. That doesn’t make what he wrote any less original. Because he is who he is, and has the credentials he does, he perhaps convinced thousands while I only convinced perhaps one or two or none. But my post from a couple of weeks back proves his point (and mine). The internet in general, and the blogosphere in particular, enable access to information and analysis that will prevent forever the control of the masses by the shaman/priesthood/priest-scientist.
Of course that means that Google is the index to human knowledge and who ever controls Google….. uh oh.

February 9, 2010 6:57 pm

Why are we pandering to this person? Note that the creators of PNS, Jerome Ravetz and Mike Hulme, are Marxists who sought to promote post-normal science further by capitalizing on the public disgust at the corruption of ‘normal’ science.
You need to read this:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
Note: the above referenced article was written on October 31 and updated November 3, before the ‘Climategate’ CRU email scandal broke, and it is all the more pertinent in the light of those disclosures. The CRU emails show how science has been perverted into a political movement, and how scientists conspired to serve a ‘post-normal’ agenda where truth is trampled – exactly as the proponents of ‘post-normal’ science had anticipated. With the association between ‘post-normal’ science developed by Ravetz and its application in climate science by Hulme now widely exposed by this present post, Ravetz and Hulme jointly authored an article, published by the BBC on December 1, entitled ‘Show Your Working’: What ‘ClimateGate’ means in which they sought to promote post-normal science further by capitalizing on the public disgust at the corruption of ‘normal’ science. This is cynical because normal science was corrupted by covertly introducing post-normal activities in the first place.

rbateman
February 9, 2010 6:58 pm

Bruce King (18:34:51) :
Money is still being thrown at global warming, and it’s getting to the point of at the expense of far more deserving lines of research. Science faces a dilemna: either disengage itself from the bad science that has seen scandal & failure, or watch in horror as political agenda captures and enslaves all lines of research to the tune of ‘Science on demand’.
It is a far easier thing to start over, rebuild a line of research than it is to stop a runaway train of misused science. To wit: you cannot undo the Bomb.
One has only to examine climate remedies put forth recently that failed to answer the question “Should we be doing this?” to see the dangers of entrenchment.

Van Grungy
February 9, 2010 7:03 pm

Assholes ensconced.
Does that sum up the essay?

mcsutter
February 9, 2010 7:08 pm

The essay by Professor Ravetz is an elegant apologia for poor science and bad behaviour. Invoking Kuhn and Post-normal philosophy cannot change this. The science is poor because the evidence was “massaged” and normal criticisms or attempts to disprove the conclusions were thwarted. The latter action constitutes bad behaviour as a scientist or non-scientist. The word science is used without definiton in Professor Ravetz’ essay. Science is using a series of well-defined methods that were not adhered to by some researchers at UEA and elsewhere. Couching such actions in post-modern cant (sorry, Post-normal) cannot excuse them.
Morley

Mark N
February 9, 2010 7:10 pm

Thank you, an interesting read. I wonder if “climate science” is just a product of our time and will eventually be left to the side like so many others in the long history of scientific work.
I often wonder if the bigger picture might be the benefit of a warming climate and increasing CO2 to life.

February 9, 2010 7:13 pm

I meant Jerome Ravetz and Silvio Funtowicz not Mike Hulme
As I see it, isn’t it obvious that the problem here is that Mann, Jones, Hanson et al have been practicing Post Normal Science? Read this from Wikipedia:
Detractors of post-normal science, conversely, see it as a method of trying to argue for a given set of actions despite a lack of evidence for them, and as a method of trying to stifle opposing voices calling for caution by accusing them of hidden biases. Many consider post-normal science an attempt to ignore proper scientific methods in an attempt to substitute inferior methodology in service of political goals. Practitioners advocating post normal science methods defend their methods, suggesting that their methodologies are not to be considered replacements for dealing with those situations in which normal science works sufficiently well

AlexB
February 9, 2010 7:15 pm

I think its unfair when people have a go at Popper for being an idealist. Popper even acknowledged that science can benefit from tautology. Popper himself was not an idealist and understood that theories had various degrees of empirical content but he did understand the need for a theory of demarcation for a scientific ideal. Popper spelt out the scientific methodology which should be undertaken to protect against personal opinions and inductivism. You cannot assess quality in the absence of an ideal and the problem is I think that more scientists need to take time to reflect on their hypotheses and work and compare it to the scientific ideal and assess if their methods contain all the essential components of the theory of scientific demarcation. There are certain aspects which are quintessential to science which if are not present in your method then you can be sure that what you are doing is not science. There is certainly some research going on out there that would not stand up to such a reflection and people would find they are just trying to pass logical tautology off as science.

igloowhite
February 9, 2010 7:21 pm

Thank you sir.

Tom
February 9, 2010 7:23 pm

Alright people, here we go… by the numbers now: Symptoms of groupthink
To make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).
Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking[5]
Incomplete survey of alternatives
Incomplete survey of objectives
Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
Poor information search
Selection bias in collecting information
Failure to work out contingency plans.
When I first read this it floored me. Someone had delineated a process…
Now, I see how Challenger, Columbia, Credit Default Swaps, Iraq & the Neo-Cons… are justified. Sure we will dig up Spanish Flu… we are smart… It is everywhere; all around the world the long-ears are saving man-kind from himself. They AGW folks are pure and care more, we the irritating but “unimportant unwashed masses need to learn all about soap”. The IPCC and CAP-n-TRADE was part of a long term strategy… There is planning behind it. It has been well funded by the foundations as well as public and private money. Who is at the heart of this I wonde? I am about ready to start toppling the Moai. God. You folks have really spent a bunch of our money, for what? You can fly the Shuttle but my car has to pass DEQ? What’s up with all that? Tell us more. THX

Garacka
February 9, 2010 7:23 pm

We may not have reached this state if more scientists had knowledge across a broader range of disciplines. Such folk naturally are more comfortable with characterizing uncertainty and should be reticent to diminish it in their pronouncments. These are the folks that we need more of. They are the “Jacks of all trades”. The problems are that we don’t have enough of these folks and so a post-normal science extended blogo-peer review is required.
Also, my sense of this essay is that it is more of an elaborate rationalization for unethical behavior and poorly skilled practitioners, than a completely accurate application to the problem.

RayG
February 9, 2010 7:28 pm

K2 (16:53:23) states “The problem is we have a lot of good carpentry tools and a lot of bad carpenters. ” Actually, their statistical tools seem to be very dull and their plans (read databases) seem to lack proper scaling, suffer from missing information, etc. Their tape measures appear to be made of latex. I could go on but you get the drift.
Prof. Ravetz has clearly succeeded in accomplishing his objective. The discussion is, with a few exceptions, very thoughtful. Hats off to Anthony and TallBloke for facilitating.

Pete
February 9, 2010 7:34 pm

davidmhoffer (18:55:44) :
Sorry David, I missed your post on the subject. I do not disagree about the power of the blogosphere. I love the fact that people like Anthony give us a collective voice and a power beyond the vision of the MSN until not to long ago.
My point (and I should have made it better) was really about the “Post-normal philosophy/science”. It is a new subject to me and I noticed as I scrolled through the posts that someone had put up a warning and a link…
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
(my thanks to the person that posted)
I have actually been away reading the post and its very enlightening! Well worth a read.

davidmhoffer
February 9, 2010 7:38 pm

Here is my post from a couple of weeks ago, in the Glaciergate thread on this site. I would like to thank the professor for confirming my hypothesis and showing that the blogosphere is out ahead of the academics and scientists. In addition to being a pretend physicist and a pretend artificial intelligence developer, I am now also a pretend philosopher. I am however, still waiting to be awarded my Howler Monkey number:
—————–
In primitive tribes, the fiercist warrior held the power to make group decisions. The smartest guy in the tribe became the shaman. He could challenge the chief with impunity by consulting the spirits (which of course only he could do) so that it was them that disagreed with the chief, not the shaman. If he was clever, he could control the chief while leaving him in charge. In human history, the chief was displaced by government, the shaman by the priesthood. Now they were both organized. But power and knowledge became synonymous and both built libraries. Power belonged to those who could assemble the most knowledge and apply it which was a labour intensive process involving many scribes. The printing press destroyed all that, driving the cost of a printed record down to the point where educational institutes and corporations could assemble knowledge that rivaled that of governments and priesthoods. At each of these stages in our history, the same tools were used to promote misinformation and control the masses as they were to document fact and prove it.
The internet is the last chapter in this progression, with the collective knowledge of humanity available to anyone who takes the time to research and comprehend. Those who wish to control others disseminate misinformation via the internet too, but they can be confronted en masse by the common man, and alliances can spring up on a moments notice involving millions of people who can make their own analysis and communicate it with a single voice.
The power of the government and the priesthood to control the common man by speaking for the spirits, or propogating falshoods to foster hatred and justify a war while the truth of matters is locked in records to which the pulic has no access. I fear not the machinations of the IPCC and their ilk to control my life because the information to expose them and the medium to express it is so available. I always knew they would lose this one.
But the watchword is vigilance. Albert Einstein said he did not know what weapons world war III would be fought with, but that world war iv would be fought with sticks and stones. He may have been wrong. World war III is being fought as we speak, but the weapon is information. Organized government recruited and built its own special priesthood, which will be defeated by the common man with nothing more than a keyboard and an ethernet cable.

pat
February 9, 2010 7:42 pm

thanx to scientistfortruth for linking:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
Prof. Ravetz says:
“Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State.” WRONG
“The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result? The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.” WRONG
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.” WRONG
the politics preceded the ‘science’. the rejection of carbon trading and the collapse of the AGW “theory” would be a triumph for science over propaganda.
meanwhile, back in the real world, there’s an article in the Indonesian Jakarta Post today by Jonathan Wootliff of Reputation Partners in Chicago. Not mentioned is Wootliff’s history: he was Communications Director at Greenpeace International located in Amsterdam, Netherlands where he was a member of the organization’s Senior Management team, and managed the organization’s public outreach and communications in over 35 countries.
Jakarta Post: Jonathan Wootliff: Green watch: No time to waste for detailed climate action plan
But environmental groups including Greenpeace are demanding more details from the government as to how it plans to fulfill this commitment to cut the nation’s climate-threatening emissions.
Oxfam, another leading international non-governmental organization, wants to know how the government is preparing adaptations and mitigation on the predicted impacts of climate change on the poor, who they say will be hardest hit.,,
Lofty population density and high levels of biodiversity, together with its 80,000 kilometers of coastline and 17,500 islands, makes Indonesia one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of climate change…
A recent Worldwide Fund for Nature study is one of many reports documenting shifting weather patterns making it increasingly difficult for farmers to decide when to plant their crops.
It is estimated that Indonesia is now losing at least 300,000 tons of potential crop production each year because of the scourge of global warming.
Harsher weather conditions mean that millions of fishermen are making less money because of dwindling catches caused by changes in ocean temperatures.
Indonesia’s 40 million poor who depend on healthy land and sea for their livelihoods will be the worst affected due to prolonged droughts, tropical cyclones and rising sea levels thanks to climate change…
http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/09/green-watch-no-time-waste-detailed-climate-action-plan.html
i’m afraid Prof. Ravetz essay, as grand and commendable as much of it is, is reminiscent of the fake investigation of Climategate by The Guardian and Elisabeth Rosenthal’s NYT article yesterday.

Dave Leary
February 9, 2010 7:48 pm

Well written article by Professor Ravetz, and loved the use of the past tense. For me – this article is the tipping point. The AGW assertion is finally OVER.
But Professor Ravetz’s argument at the end of the article however still asserts that AGW exists. But he can’t have it both ways: on one hand he described the flawed data and approaches (even seeming to be outraged? (the ‘decline’!)), yet simultaneously endorsing the AGW conclusions: “If the public loses faith in the claim of the existence of AGW, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse” ?
That line of reasoning would lead one to arguing that the ‘sexed up’ intelligence reports didn’t matter – because (in the end) the outcome was good. I’m not buying it.
Quite arguably – I believe that the situation for science in our society will be altered for the BETTER, and the use of the Blogosphere for critical technical review (as opposed to the “Pal Review” now taking place) – a step in the right direction.
“Let dialogue commence?” Professor Ravetz – it is already well underway. And by the way – it is LONG passed time to start acknowledging these heroes by name. You know who they are – and they deserve our thanks.

Bill DiPuccio
February 9, 2010 7:49 pm

As he points out in the final paragraph, humility, one of the ancient virtues, is a necessary concomitant of science. In fact it may very well be its foundational virtue. In their arrogance, many climate scientists forgot the basic grammar of science by touting the AGW-CO2 hypothesis as an established theory before it was rigorously tested.
As the National Academy of Science defines it: “…theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena…”
We are considerably short of a comprehensive explanation of the climate system, let alone an ability to predict its behavior decades into the future. If the proponents of AGW-CO2 had humbly submitted their hypothesis to the scientific community for verification, the ensuing dialogue (no matter what the outcome) could have enriched the atmospheric sciences beyond measure. But imprudence has left us in ruins. It will take years to rebuild what so few have destroyed.

johnnythelowery
February 9, 2010 7:53 pm

Look….i’m not a scientist so please help me with this. CRU has not released the original hard Data. CRU has had the Hard Data quite some time and balked at all F.O.I.s In the unlikely event they ever release this hard data(erased my arse) ….how are we to know it is in fact the actual Hard data. We’ve never seen the original. They’ve had plenty of time to go through it and…massage it. Afterall, AGW is so obvious to them and so important, such a minor issue of inconvenient data should not get in the way of saving the planet? I would guess that the AGW is kicking themselves that they allowed the all important hard data and email server to be collected at the moronic CRU. Surely such data is now a matter of NAtional Security and belongs at the NSA / GCHQ not the CRU. My concern is how are we going to guarantee access to the the all important data necessary to mount Skeptical scientific inquiry as it is now surely Job 1 for AGW complex to come between us and it. Comments please… Thx

Beth Cooper
February 9, 2010 7:57 pm

Thanks for the perceptive essay.
Kuhn’s normal science describes the political context in which the hockey team worked, but the move away from stringent measurement into computer modelling games was the means for their self delusion. Bring back publication of the raw data.
Fortunately, through sceptical sites like WUWT and ClimateAudit, “the whole vast edifice of policy commitmaents for carbon reduction with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations”ARE “at risk of public rejection.”

Philemon
February 9, 2010 8:01 pm

I must offer my congratulations to Jerome Ravetz for his thought-provoking post. Mr. Ravetz’s post was so thought-provoking that I could scarcely read a single paragraph without substantive objections coming immediately to mind. Since, a detailed critical commentary on twenty-three paragraphs would be somewhat tedious, I have selected five particular statements that seemed representative.
(1) “In the gap between science and policy, the languages, their conventions and their implications are effectively incommensurable.”
In Kuhn’s {i}The Structure of Scientific Revolutions{/i}, he claimed that the terms of differing scientific paradigms were incommensurable.
The concept of incommensurability, although Quine tried to give it a precise logical meaning, has unfortunately become irreducibly fuzzy. It has some sense to the effect that different scientific claims cannot be empirically resolved. Thus, a proponent of this view might try to claim that there is no empirical difference between a Lorentzian and a Newtonian frame of reference. (there is one,, just mess around with clocks). The empirical difference between Lorentzian and Einstienian interpretation of the Lorentz transform is trickier. But that doesn’t mean they are incommensurable, rather that they may be empirically equivalent.
In any case, the claim here, of science and policy having incommensurable languages, is more akin to C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures”, (i.e., the humanities and the sciences not speaking the same language, or maybe he meant Oxford and Cambridge, it was never quite clear.) Or maybe even Sapir-Whorf (e.g., those Dani people must be color-blind. I think the anthropologists are still living that one down.)
(2) “The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naïvely reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics.  …he received no more attention than did Nikolas (sic) Taleb in warning of the ‘fat tails’ in the probability distributions of securities that led to the Credit Crunch.”
Mr. Ravetz appears to be blaming the current financial crisis on the shortcomings of VaR models. As an explanation, this is inadequate. VaR models have been in use since the 1990s. The current financial crisis, however, differs little from the many financial crises that preceded it. The introduction of VaR models may well have provided an excuse for why the responsible regulators didn’t remove the proverbial punchbowl from the financial party sooner, but the cause of the crises is the same as the cause of the preceding financial crises, namely debt/monetary inflation and moral hazard. We also note that the failure of VaR is due not simply to the use of Gaussian distributions, but also to false volatility and correlation assumptions.
(3) “The importance of the new media of communications in mass politics, as in the various ‘rainbow revolutions’ is well attested. ”
Free press was certainly important in the American Revolution. In the color revolutions, not so much. Way too much CIA involvement for that.
(4) “But knowledge was never entirely free, and the power-politics of scientific legitimacy remained quite stable for centuries.  The practice of science has generally been restricted to a social elite and its occasional recruits, as it requires a prior academic education and a sufficiency of leisure and of material resources. ”
Like, Michael Faraday? Was he one of the occasional recruits? Is this thesis falsifiable, or is it perhaps the unremarkable thesis that influential scientists are socially influential and as such elite?
(5) “Like any other technology, IT is many-faceted.  It is easily misused and abused, and much of the content of the blogosphere is trivial or worse.  The right-wing political agendas of some climate sceptics, their bloggers and their backers, are quite well known.”
The term ‘right-wing’ is of course vague and usually used to denigrate an opponent. That said, the term has somewhat different connotations in the U.S. than in Europe. In the U.S. the term suggests a gung-ho populism, but is nonetheless far less denigrating a term than ‘left-wing’, which connotes elitism, and internationaliism with the distinct odor of treason. And is it only one wing, from whatever continent, which has the capacity to misuse and abuse IT?
It is refreshing, though, to find a naive Kuhnian walking about and typing up essays; it’s like finding a living fossil.

Pragmatic
February 9, 2010 8:10 pm

“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”
Up until here the Professor was doing well. He may have avoided speaking to financial malfeasance but presumably his acknowledgment of corruption recognizes this. Science has been perverted in pursuit of power and money. Period. The public stands only to lose faith in the undeserving of that faith. Those who have enriched themselves or encumbered society with false and costly claims of global warming must accept the consequences.
The only way to restore faith in science is precisely to excise the corrupt components. Professor Ravetz must understand that the public will readily accept corruption for what it is – the willingness of a comparative few institutions and key personnel within who have become “stealth advocates.” Most such people will claim to have done so in service to the greater good. Somesuch claims will be judged truthful – others will not.
There is little way going forward to avoid the distasteful work of cleaning up a mess that’s been festering for 50 years. But it is work that must be done – if we are ever to restore public trust in these institutions. Trust and good faith are vital to our movement through hazardous technological waters ahead. We have enormous issues with genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, population control, and human cloning just around the corner. To address these challenges we must have a body of science that we know is free of untoward political and financial influence. We must have unfettered trust.
Restoring trust in science and the communities that utilize it is the primary challenge going forward. It is not an easy one – but one that must be met now if we expect to survive the even bigger challenges that will follow.

Bill Parsons
February 9, 2010 8:30 pm

In retrospect, we can ask why this particular, really rather extreme view of the prospect, became the official one. It seems that several causes conspired. First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position.

So, a weak opposition is at fault for the ballooning of a myth? But I suggest that a far more important first development was a perception that “new” science was better than – and therefore superceded – older, established theories and records of climate history. This is a science which has always been on pretty good terms with historical, and allegorical records – benefitting and admitting the various data gathered over many centuries, and not just depending on recent research. Paleo records suddenly all started to take a new “slant”, all conformed to the same idea, all referred to other data gathered in the modern period. Sunspot records were hundreds – thousands – of years in the making. What these modern scientists first did was scorn history. Not just modify the historical record, but to obliterate it, to claim that modern truths were the new reality.
“What led to the current disparagement for past knowledge?” might be a better question. In my view, global warming “religion” is an evangelistic faith which resulted, not so much from the repackaging of traditional science as “values-free”, but from the venal substitution of false (e.g. “green”) values for far more substantial and important ones. There’s not a lot of personal integrity, conservatism, skepticism, and patience on display in those e-mails. And the back-room “peer-review” process is shown for what it had become, at least in climate science, and very likely in much of government and higher ed. institutions which supported it: a meritricious, Swiftian exercise in bending, stooping, leaping and grovelling for favor and reward.
I still wonder what on earth Phill Jones had in mind when he offered the offhand, and surely tongue-in-cheek expression “value-adding” to describe the plundering of HadCru’s data. If you have the power to dispose of other people’s history, your definition of “value” is still no more important than theirs. “Values-free” is not an apt description of those who use their power over a period of decades, as Jones and (probably Wigley did), to advance their own agendas and careers.

Dave Worley
February 9, 2010 8:40 pm

Ravitz offers a useful mainstream segue into a new paradigm.

johnnythelowery
February 9, 2010 8:40 pm

Mr. Jaretz: Do you recognize this exchange (transcript here)?
7.05 it is also suggested that even a mild rise in temperature will lead to the spread northward of deadly, insect bourne tropical deseases like Malaria. But is this true? Professor Paul Reitter of the Pasteur institute in Paris is recognized as one of the World’s leading experts on malaria and other insect bourne diseases. He is a member of the World Health Organization WHO Expert Advisory committee. Was chairman of the American Committee of medical Entymology of the American Society for Tropical Medicine. And lead author on the health section of the U.S. national assessment of the potential consequences of climate variability As professor Reitter is eager to point out. Mosquitos thrive in very cold temperatures.
7.53 “Mosquitoes are not specifically tropical. Most people will realize that in termperate regions there are mosquitoes. Um, Infact, Mosquitoes are extremely abundant, ur, in the arctic. The most devastating episode of Malaria was in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. There was some thing like 13 million cases a year and something like 600,000 deaths. A tremendous catastrophy that reached up to the arctic circle. Archangel had 30,000 cases and about 10,000 Deaths so it is not a tropical disease. Yet these people in the Global Warming Fraternity INVENT THE IDEA THAT MALARIA WILL MOVE NORTHWARDS.”
Where have you been for all these years?? Manipulation of the subjects by the subjecters has always followed logical paths…no matter how twisted. The AGW story is a logic of Cash and power. You’d make a great defense attorney for bank robbers. Your thesis is interesting but the story of the AGW scam is already show to be a lot more base.

February 9, 2010 8:43 pm

The Professor states:

“And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”

On the contrary, the public would be greatly benefited by losing faith in this “claim,” and it is the only way scientists who profess to seek to understand climate would find their way back to some legitimacy in society.
The public’s “faith” would be better placed in an exhaustive inquiry (not a “claim”) into what drives weather – one which includes all comers: is earth’s climate influenced by it’s space environment? By the variable star it orbits? By fluxuations in cosmic rays or in the geomagnetic field? If so, how?
The Climategate emails reveal the scientific community had tyranically narrowed the question to greenhouse gas forcings only. Scientists made every effort to restrict framing the question in any other terms. That is the real betrayal of trust here: all the questions that were not asked and not allowed to be asked.
Also, a complete summary of what led to Catastrophic Climategate might have usefully included a mention of the abuse of computer models, which is pandemic across the disciplines, I believe.

Mike
February 9, 2010 8:43 pm

No disrespect intended, but Jerome Ravetz is not a faculty member at Oxford. He does not claim to be – the blog owner just wants to impress us by being a bit vague. Dr. Ravetz is an “associate fellow” of an institute in the Business college. He is a postmodernist critic of science: “As I became aware of science as an intellectual and social phenomenon, I was impressed by certain similarities to what I had been told about dogmatic religion.” He has a right to his views and they should be judged on their merits not on inflated credentials. (Again, he is not inflating his credentials – the blog owner is.)

Noelene
February 9, 2010 8:45 pm

Some scientists finally spoke out against fellow scientists.That proves that all is not lost in the climate science department.A lot of people talk about the money,but power would have a lot to do with it.Most scientists have big egos,who dares to question THEM.It’s why the politics are so confusing.I would bet that there are fierce arguments that go on between scientists privately.As in religion and politics,each side believing they are right.I’m a cynic.I believe mankind is on a slow steady march towards extinction,I often wonder if we are sowing the seeds today,but every generation wonders that.I believe man will destroy man,not the weather.As to the AGW theory,bandaids will be applied,nothing will change,people will be fooled again and again,why not?History tells us so.We never learn from our mistakes,we never will learn.

Slabadang
February 9, 2010 8:48 pm

Thanks!
How come common sense is in such shortage! Fanatics in power knowledge surpressed!

Philemon
February 9, 2010 8:49 pm

By the way, science, scientists, etc. are fallible. Everyone knows that. No one ever had “faith” in science as the one true religion. There’s no sense in pretending otherwise.

Crusty the Clown
February 9, 2010 8:49 pm

Am I the only one here who, when he hears the phrase ‘post-normal science’, thinks of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko? Yikes.

anna v
February 9, 2010 8:51 pm

Well, it is a good summary of the situation and I went along happily until the paragraph:
And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex. The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science. The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result? The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.
I am sorry, I am a trained scientist and I cannot believe that a trained scientist looking at the long record of temperatures on this planet can support that:
There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim .
It is clear from the data that in the 40.000 years when homo sapiens sapiens emerged there have been much higher temperatures and the sky did not fall.
It is “scientists” that made this mess, and true scientists should join the good fight to clear the air about this artificial “complexity” that requires a meta language of post normality. It should be called out loud and clear that the data do not support any urgency in any sense and there is ample time, decades, centuries, to decide if anything need be done on CO2( apart of course normal energy conservation and pollution control).
To take the attitude that the inertia is too large to change course is defeatist and pandering to the Al Gores of this age who demand the west commit economic harakiri so that a world elite enrich themselves .
There are few policy commitments at the moment, the world did not buy the snake oil in Copenhagen, so I really think the essay gets off the tracks here.

February 9, 2010 8:52 pm

I think it’s probably less than 6 months ago since I had a discussion, in these hallowed cyber-halls, with Tallbloke about post-normal science and Professor Ravetz. Going from memory, my understanding was that, in fact, Professor Ravetz’s view at that time was that AGW skepticism was a form – the bad kind – of post-normal science (correct me if I’m mis-remembering Tallbloke).
I sincerely suggested that I hoped that Professor Ravetz would live to see the error in his thinking. Accordingly, whatever anyone thinks of post-normal science and the Professor, the fact that within a few months, a person of this stature, can grasp the significance of the Climategate leak and articulate what he has above is, to me, quite astounding.
All credit to Tallbloke, Anthony and, of course, the greatest whistleblower in history, and credit to Professor Ravetz for his integrity.

Pacer
February 9, 2010 8:52 pm

WUWT, Anthony and “Tall-thanks for the good Dr’s post-interestingly he chose WUWT. Why not, this site (blog, you have no idea how I hate that term) is rapidly gaining credence not only for the quality and diversity of articles, but the responses to those arictles, so thanks also to “Scientist for Truth” for the counterpoint to the Dr. who wrote the article. I know of no other site, with the probable exception of Climate Audit that allows point/ counter point with regards to what has to be considered the “question of this age-perhaps the ages.

Merrick
February 9, 2010 8:57 pm

With all due respect to the author and Angela Wilkinson, I totally agree that AGW has taken on all the hallmarks of religious belief and totally support that description, but I am a little uncomfoprtable witht the phrase, “Evangelical Science.”

Ehrich Staruiala
February 9, 2010 8:57 pm

“The task of creating and involving the extended peer community (generally known as ‘participation’) has been recognised as difficult, with its own contradictions and pitfalls.” Paragraph 13.
I hope Mr Ravetz understands that ordinary people (the extended peer community) will involve themselves whether or not they have received an invitation to participate. The blogosphere is evidence of that. Amazingly, it was done without someone creating and involving. It wasn’t that difficult.
I think the statement would read better if you substituted the words “extended peer community” with “closed scientific community” as follows:
“The task of creating and involving the closed scientific community (generally known as ‘participation’) has been recognised as difficult, with its own contradictions and pitfalls.”

Tom
February 9, 2010 9:02 pm

As I read more posts this evening I have to smile. Being a student of History… I think back to the unfinished Obelisks of Egypt. The Moai of Easter Island with unfinished statuary still in the quarry. The fall of the Maya… The end of the Chin dynasty, which died with his burial. The end of the Dark Ages and the begining of the Age of Enlightenment. Is this a turning point in our Post-Modern history? Will we now finally find out who shot JFK? Can we open those files now? The cold war is over. The Berlin Wall has come down. I was fourteen at the time and I would really like to know the answer before I die… Please Mister-tell us, please…

February 9, 2010 9:03 pm

“This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions. ”
As we said in our book, this is best understood as a form of noble cause corruption. ( hat tip to steve mcintyre for the idea)

February 9, 2010 9:12 pm

Much to comment on here. Ravetz opines:
The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result?
Better to ask what sort of chaos would result if the public did NOT reject “totalitarian moral exhortations”? When has totalitarianism been moral? Can Dr. Ravetz cite ANY moral behavior EVER on the part of totalitarianists? Please visit Buchenwald and Auschwitz before answering that question.
JamesS (16:35:40) offers: I would argue that this “samizdat” state of affairs is nearly unique to this particular scientific theory
but that point is rebutted by Oliver K. Manuel (18:07:03): But in my opinion the depth of the problem goes much, much deeper. An unholy alliance of politicians, publishers, and news media are using science as a propaganda tool to control people. Anthony Watts and others discovered this in false global climate reports. I discovered this in false reports of space sciences and astrophysics.
I agree with Dr. Manuel. Totalitarianism has infected many sciences, particularly those that study large objects or systems that do not lend themselves to controlled experiment.
Does anyone think that climate science is the only one that Greenpeace, World Wildlife Federation, and other quangos engage in? My experience is that the various branches of ecology, forest science, oceanography, and indeed all the environmental sciences are rife with corruption — corruption of thought, institutions, journals, funding, politics, you name it.
Ravetz worries that “[t]he consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.”
Newsflash: much of what is called “science” in our civilization is non-different from Dark Age superstition. I am not talking about Kuhnian anomalies here. I am referring to widespread, wholesale degradation and corruption.

February 9, 2010 9:14 pm

As an old philosophy of science student who stopped studying with Kuhn I greatly appreciate the description of post normal science. A lot of what I read in the mails now makes more sense.
Kudos

February 9, 2010 9:17 pm

A very well-written and thoughtful piece, Mr. Ravetz. Thank you for writing, and for sharing this on WUWT.
I especially like the part about the extended community of reviewers, who, while not precisely peers, have a voice and certainly critical eyes. In my own field, engineering, there are certain fundamentals that are never violated. These can be used, where appropriate, to evaluate the claims of various scientists. One’s conclusions may never violate the second law of thermodynamics, nor the laws of process control, as just two examples.

RicC
February 9, 2010 9:18 pm

A very enjoyable essay. It makes my head hurt trying to find a way to remove (or at least quantify) uncertainty. Error, I think, is permanent in the same sense that “the poor will be with you always”. You do what can be done to mitigate it, but for whatever reason, there it is again. Maybe the best we can hope for is to avoid going over cliffs.

D. King
February 9, 2010 9:18 pm

Post-normal science

Bill Parsons
February 9, 2010 9:19 pm

Philemon (20:49:22) :
By the way, science, scientists, etc. are fallible. Everyone knows that. No one ever had “faith” in science as the one true religion. There’s no sense in pretending otherwise.

I agree. And the dispatch with which the lukewarmers decamp from that battlefield (Just Google: global warming public opinion polls) suggests the difficulty they are having in adapting to their new perspective. No sound, no fury, no collapse of science as we know it, just the clicking of the remote controlls as they find another channel.
I hope it isn’t too cynical of me to suggest that the popular view of science is shifting as we speak with no more than a sour growl of contempt from a large majority of Americans, who say something like this:
“If that’s what Science says, then Science… is a ass.”

Mark
February 9, 2010 9:22 pm

I found this to be interesting, to the point of drowning out everything around me… However, despite the very careful description of the “how” and “why” Climategate came and even a reasonably good prognostication of its results, the end of this leaves me cold. Ravetz does not begin to call for integrity in science, nor the removal of political pressure that caused Climategate in the first place… Rather, he seems to indicate that these things are normal and acceptable, and instead, we need to “manage” disagreement and “manage” the loss of faith “science”.
What? We need to “manage” the outcome, to ensure that the global warming theory persists and remains as an enventually indisputable “consensus”? Ravetz studies, sees much, and then fails to demonstrate he’s learned anything, or even that he’s concerned about anything other than figuring out how to “manage” opposition to the political, and disagreement over the scientific.
This sounds distressingly like some political strategies, where “community leaders” hire people to break up citizens groups into small units, ostracize those who fail to conform the desired paradigm, and then manufacture “consensus” which has “credibility” because it has been achieved by a quality “objective” process.
Ravetz, you’re brilliant. But your integrity leaves me wanting – much like the very lack of integrity that brought about the events which have prompted your own commentary.

February 9, 2010 9:24 pm

This is a well written piece, but it is easy to be seduced by the language. Personally, I find the concepts of “post normal science” quite disturbing.
I have worked as a scientist and as a software developer for some 30 years.
I have also undertaken a lot of endevours such as climbing in the Himalaya, paragliding, and kayaking.
In all of these activities, there are often times when the “stakes are high”
In these situations, we do not throw out our preconceived ideas.
In all this areas, we develop processes where we can react to the high pressure demands of the task in hand with a clear and reasoned approach.
When facing an impending storm at 6000m in the Gangotri mountains, believe me the last thing you need is a paradigm shift.
In this sense, I do not understand why climate change “science” needs a paradigm shift, especially as there is no immediate signal that any drastic action is required.

johnnythelowery
February 9, 2010 9:25 pm

What Frosts me are these johnny-come-latelys (no relation to me!) all survivors of the crash of the AGW (Bowel) movement. By silence he was a part of it. The issues of AGW vs. Skeptics is old by about 4-5 years, maybe more. This analysis would have been useful 2-3 years ago but is useless now. We skeptics have gone from being Nutty, Fringe, UFO believing, Train-spotting, Flat-earth amateurs of the ‘town’ kind to dangerous ‘deniers (kin with the holocaust deniers)’. Where were you when we were painted with that description? Did you throw you lot in with us or did you stick you finger in the air to see which way it was blowing?? You are literally 4-5 years too late and it looks like your software didn’t apprise you of this. It sounds good and lots of words but the model the ‘few’ used to fight it was simple: Truth Vs. Lies. This scam called AGW is a story of base, corrupt, ENRON like lies geared towards manipulation, power and cash. THey always are! Thank God for the CRU leak so that the chicken littles can sense the prevailing wind changing!

Christopher K
February 9, 2010 9:33 pm

Now that I have read and, more importantly, digested, the article, I still think that thinking of science per se as ‘post normal’ is a nonsense.
However, ‘post normal’ considerations help understanding when a supposedly scientific discipline is hijacked by interest groups and becomes in the first instance, politically interesting, then politically driven. At that stage, everybody is allowed to have an opinion and their opinions are taken to be as good as mine or any other person who has the knowledge to understand pure science and abuse thereof. (I am a D. Phil. in quantum mechanics.)
There are beautiful examples of this in Climategate where the Team, Mann in particular, refers to any contrary views as ‘crap’ (etc.). And indeed they are: if you accept that statistical standards are exemplified in the methods adopted by Mann, then you necessarily believe that the standards adopted by the community of trained and practising statisticians are ‘crap’. On the other hand, if you accept the views of pure statistics (if such a thing exists, but you get my drift) then you will believe that the climate change community accepts a standard of analysis that is dangerously misleading, viz., crap. They are mutually exclusive.
As a trained scientist you will side with the community of practising statisticians over the Team, who view ststistics as merely a group of techniques for manipulating (torturing?) data until it yields the result they desire, thus violating the principles of statistical inference as the first of many statistical violations. And it is here that you have to draw the line and say that real science must prevail. Furthermore, you also have to say that the views of the man in the street are not as valid as the view guided by scientific principles.
Then the problems arise. As a practising scientist your existence depends on grants and publications and you have a family and a mortgage. It is easiest to take the path of least resistence to both. AGW became such a path. Especially for the great majority of scientists who are not particularly gifted and who can easily be persuaded that AGW is real and leads to grants and publications. To keep the ball rolling, for this is a virtuous cause, you are quite happy for the politicisation to occur. The process of corruption begins and is about the only example of large positive feedback that can be proven in climate science. Hence ‘post normal’ science.

Bill Parsons
February 9, 2010 9:37 pm

This Pew January 25, 2010 poll of “Public’s Priorities for 2010: Economy, Jobs, Terrorism” places Global Warming last of 21 issues concerning Americans.
http://people-press.org/report/584/policy-priorities-2010

February 9, 2010 9:40 pm

It was comforting that the start of this essay was harmonious with the submission I put to the current UK House of Commons Inquiry, about the damage to Science in the eyes of the public.
Then I came to the sentence “Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits: facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. ”
Here we have grounds for debate.
If one accepts that AGW is a form of social activism, then one can study prior cases of social activism, to compare and contrast. Several have happened in my lifetime, so impressions can rely upon personal observation rather than the written or spoken recounting of others. Because of the within lifetime span, one can look for and indeed find a number of names – activists who move from one cause to another. Successively, they tilt at the same, wicked political ideology in the manner of Don Quixote.
In general, each new disaster scenario has seemed larger and more urgent. The precautionary principle has become more prominent and in the later examples there are estimates of the cost of doing nothing.
For debate: It is not the event that becomes larger and more urgent. It is its publicity that does this. I would debate with Prof Ravetz that if the publicity was removed from the case, the normal progress of science would take care of it. There is no need for a new ‘post-normal science’ when there is no hustling.
A look at the eradication of smallpox helps. At the start, it fitted ‘facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent’. At the end, science was done well and a terrific result was achieved. The critical ingredient was the hustling being absent. Smallpox was already a problem of global proportions with high mortality and in a theoretical sense had much in common with global warming. Its lack of publicity might be related to the control/exclusion of scientists with politico-social agendas.
Whereas in my youger career we kept a lid on the activists, in my retirement they seem to have sprung out of the woodwork, as if my recent successors had not been adequately diligent in identifying them and publicising their errors.
Perhaps this is harsh, because many did try to identify errors, but in hindsight the circled-wagon tactic was hard to penetrate. If you can’t access the raw data, you can’t audit.
The emergence of the Internet and the blog was not accidental. It was a routine scientific reaction to a non-scientific abuse. The blog concept will prosper because it is logical and in demand. It is not being immodest to state that this thought crossed my mind way back, after my first reading of Climate Audit.
Thank you, Steve. The standards you set are a big part of future acceptance.

February 9, 2010 9:45 pm

Noelene (20:45:53) :
“Most scientists have big egos, who dares to question THEM.”
This as NOT been my experience. To the contrary, the more succesful scientists tend to be the ones who listen to the ideas of others. Ego is irrelevant to most of the good ones. They would blush at the thought.

j.pickens
February 9, 2010 9:51 pm

I am distressed by the comparison of bogus AGW claims to the WMD analyses by the Bush administration.
The mainstream media uniformly denouces the “failure” to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq, under the meme “Bush Lied, People Died”.
In fact, at the open analysis presented at the UN prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sec. of State Colin Powell made the following analyses:
Iraq has at least 550 chemical agent shells in its posession.
Iraq has contributed to terrorism at home and abroad by 1. Harboring known terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 2. paying bounties to the families of suicide bombers.
Iraq has missles and launchers exceeding a range of 150km
Iraq has chemical and nuclear agent precursors, which could be used to reconstitute a new WMD program on short notice.
All of these analyses have been found to be demonstrably true.
All of these items were a direct violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by Saddam’s government at the end of the 1991 phase of the Iraqi war.
Combined with the fact that Saddam’s Iraq did indeed use WMD against Iran and its own population, the precautions shown in invading Iraq and eliminating Saddam are utterly different from the AGW claims for an effect never before seen.

It's always Marcia, Marcia
February 9, 2010 9:54 pm

No WMD, huh……

but the part about science and ClimateGate is good.

It's always Marcia, Marcia
February 9, 2010 9:55 pm

Crusty the Clown (20:49:51) :
Am I the only one here who, when he hears the phrase ‘post-normal science’, thinks of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko? Yikes.
Unfortunately it makes me think of the Marxist term ‘normalization’ too. Yikes.

MrLynn
February 9, 2010 10:06 pm

Many above have quoted this paragraph from the posted essay. I do so again, because the more I read it, the more reprehensible it seems:

. . . And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex. The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science. The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result? The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.

The answer to the question first posed is: No, we are not experiencing “Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming,” and the hypothesis that we are is false. Why then should ‘the public’ or any rational human being maintain “faith in that claim”? And why would “the situation of science in our society” “be altered for the worse”?
Quite the contrary, if science can cleanse itself of the massive infection of lies and chicanery that has befallen it with the ‘global warming’ fraud, its situation will be just fine. And let us hope and pray that the public can forcibly and wholeheartedly reject that “whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations.” Never, since the egregious, inane, and completely false proclamations of Soviet Marxism-Leninism about everything under the sun have so many been taken in by so few and to such ill effect. The sooner we can rid ourselves of the totalitarians and charlatans who would have entrapped us in some neo-Ludditic, socialist world state, the better off we will be.
If I read that paragraph correctly, what this fellow is saying is that even if the hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming were false, it would behoove us to carry on and wreck our societies and economies as if it were true. This isn’t just ‘post-normal’; it is post-rational, sheer gibberish. But perhaps we can expect no better from someone who could argue that science should ever depart from its quest for the truth.
/Mr Lynn

Anticlimactic
February 9, 2010 10:19 pm

Nice graph proving that the US postal charges drive climate change, and not CO2 :
http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=75

JackStraw
February 9, 2010 10:44 pm

>>Our ‘Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035′ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is matched by his ‘dodgy dossier’ of Saddam’s fictitious subversions.
Yes, these two are exactly the same.
Disappointing to see them equated here and ruined the rest of the post for me.

Sebaneau
February 9, 2010 10:49 pm

Warmism is just a late development of Socialism, the very definition of which is the use of the supposed authority of “science” to violate natural individual rights.
The difference is that, while original socialism first based its authoritarian and violent pseudo-elitism on an allegedly superior “science of organization” which has been discredited in the social sciences, warmism has been trying to abuse the good reputation of the natural sciences.
The natural sciences owe such reputation to the fact that a natural scientist had generally rather reproduce a phenomenon, than find himself permanent excuses for failure.
As a consequence, while the politicization of funding –the fact that most researchers now live on money stolen from the taxpayers– does develop a parasitic bureaucracy, it is not expected to produce a definite bias in scientific findings.
The exception, however, is in the areas where:
— there are large stakes for a power structure finding a definite kind of results and
— failure to reproduce phenomena is not readily evident, or was to be expected.
One of those domains of science is long-term climate forecasting, which started receiving massive subsidies to find “evidence” for a politically pre-determined warmist conclusion during a warming period.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that mean temperature is actually led by 11-year and 22-year sun cycles, such natural warming which might have gone on for many more years without anyone noticing a discrepancy between the forecasts and the observations.
Even now that global temperatures have been going down for 11 years, there are still people who deny that it has statistical significance –while a few warmists deny the decline outright.
The warmist hoax thus relied:
— on the expected long-term nature of its forecasts –as opposed to the mean-term predictions of commodity shortages made by the Club of Rome, which were ridiculed within the time span of their forecasts (15 to 20 years)
— and on the fact that most natural scientists have little experience of the corruption of their findings by politics.
Economists, who have an inborn experience of such politicization and corruption, were never the dupes of the warmist hoax.
Yet, there are elements of economic illiteracy which tend to make natural scientists the dupes of enviro-fascism:
— they do not understand that the source of all wealth is the human mind (Julian Simon), and as a consequence, there is no such thing as “natural wealth”.
That is why they do no understand that the only condition for development to be “sustainable” is that it be free.
On the contrary, they will regard all claims that economic development is not naturally limited as based on a self-evident fallacy.
— This comes from the materialistic methodology of the natural sciences, which systematically excludes creation as a kind of causality.
Yet all wealth is indeed created: as a matter of fact, every time any man comes upon a new idea, it brings something genuinely new to the universe as we can perceive it
–and the very existence of science is evidence of that.
In that sense, every economist must be a “creationist” in order to be competent.

kwik
February 9, 2010 10:51 pm

Okay, he has identified some of the stuff going on.
But this “new-something” ….(new-speak?) I dont like it.
Keep the original scientific principals, I say.
The bosses of these climate centers are the dangerous ones.
They need to keep their budgets growing; And they do it by using “new-speak”.
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/

Pat Frank
February 9, 2010 10:56 pm

John Whitman (17:59:20) wrote, “ [Ravitz] helps … view that reveals philosophy and science as an integrated unity.
Science and philosophy are categorically distinct, because science is not axiomatic.
Given the accuracy of the quote posted by Sam (17:14:44), Dr. Ravitz is a postmodern cultural relativist, which view of science is not even wrong. Postmodern relativist thought is fatuous, easy to refute and, most damning of all, auto-negating.
Anyone wanting an intensely enjoyable read on fatuosities post-modern and other nonsense that passes for thought in the once-noble halls of the Humanistic Academe, you won’t do better than Paul Gross’ and Norman Levitt’s Higher Superstition: The academic left and its quarrels with science.

Sebaneau
February 9, 2010 11:04 pm

And of course, j.pickens is right about Saddam’s WMD.

Vincent Jappi
February 9, 2010 11:10 pm

The Independent, Guardian, Climate Change & Big Oil
Piers Corbyn, February 2010
The Man-Made Global Warming / Climate Change (MMGW) proposition fails not because its protagonists have falsified data and relied on fiction or because of the criminal charges of fraud in other spheres recently levelled against the first chair of Parliament’s Committee on Energy & Climate Change.
It fails because there is no evidence for it – indeed [there is] only evidence against [it] (ie observations show that world temperatures drive CO2 levels [and not the other way round]) and because all its predictions have failed.
That should be enough to dispose not just of Pachauri but the IPCC as a whole and all its camp followers and all the expensive and deadly policies that go with it.
The MMGWers have no evidence for their case and so unsurprisingly have refused all calls to produce observational evidence from the last hundreds, thousands or millions of years that CO2 drives temperatures & climate (see eg links to letters to UN via: http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=3307&linkbox=true&position=6 and http://www.copenhagenclimatechallenge.org/ ).
Physics gives many reasons why MMGW does not work (see eg http://www.weatheraction.com/ home page re WeatherAction conference at Imperial College London Oct 28th 2009).
However, rather than accept these or report on what does cause extreme weather events and climate change (links above) the Independent & Guardian engage in intellectually and morally bankrupt flag waving. We are told the bogey BIG Oil backs climate sceptics therefore it is implied MMGW must be true.
Of course this is a nonsense argument but what is the true role of BIG Oil?
If you look at BP policy on climate change – http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9028012&contentId=7050978 ; you can see it is pretty close to the Guardian and Independent! Indeed the Guardian has organised joint conference(s) with Big Oil on the matter. Interestingly Polly Toynbee on Dateline London BBC Feb 6th said the world needs a fixed high energy price. This of course is what big oil (including the energy interests of Pachauri) want – for the resulting massive increase in profits and asset values. Big Oil are as much a part of the Climate Change scam as the Pope is a catholic.
And as for funding Climate Realists like me or WeatherAction. No way. In fact over recent years BIG Oil & big insurance companies have specifically stated our long range forecasts are impressive but they did not renew or take up certain use of them because you (WeatherAction) are ‘on the wrong bus’ .
Let’s be clear, the MMGW con in carbon trading alone is worth hundreds of billions a year. The biggest players – banks, oil companies and governments – are the winners, the world public are the losers and it is a tragedy those newspapers who used to pride themselves on rooting out dodgy dealings are in denial of reality.
Piers Corbyn is an astrophysicist at WeatherAction.com long range weather & climate forecasters

Andrew30
February 9, 2010 11:28 pm

View from the Solent (15:58:54) :
I think that The Guardian is trying to conduct a public trial with their current Climategate related postings. They are publishing a sufficient number of ‘news’ pieces so as to get most of the ‘top slots’ on a Google search for Climategate news.
They are trying to appear to be presenting evidence on both sides to then establish themselves as an authority able to pass judgment and then finally, when they feel the time is right, they will say something akin to:
After publishing all the known information and having received the comments from interested parties on all sides; the evidence concludes that there has been nothing done wrong; furthermore since the IPCC has established that they are correcting their errors in process there is nothing to be worried about in the future.
We will now resume our previously scheduled programming.
Glaciers melting because of CO2.
Hurricanes increasing because of CO2.
Flooding imminent because of CO2.
Deforestation caused by CO2.
Crop failures imminent because of CO2.
Drought in Australia caused by CO2.
Malaria increasing because of CO2.
Lack of winter snow caused by CO2.
Hot winters caused by CO2.
Cold winters caused by CO2.
Hot summers caused by CO2.
Cold summers caused by CO2.
CO2 bad.
Warming bad.
Tax is the only solution.
Tax good, Warming bad.
Etc.
Ps. The Guardian removes this type of thing from their comments sections. Go figure.

Onion
February 9, 2010 11:30 pm

@ Stephen mosher
you hit the nail on the head. The philosophy of PNS led directly to ‘scientists’ at East Anglia corrupting peer review, data sources and statistics. Mike Hulme, Sonny to Ravetz’ PNS Cher, works there.
When you truly believe an issue is so urgent policy-wise that it has to be made before the truth of the matter can be established; when you truly believe that objectivity, falsifiability of hypotheses and replication of outcomes is overrated and can be dropped in favour of citizen juries and determination of whether the method is correct by an elite determining if it is a ‘respectful process’ – you have become a post-normal scientist. You are no longer a scientist.
Some of the love on this thread for this essay is bewildering. A lot of people expressed approval except for the second last paragraph. But that paragraph about CAGW and implications of public rejection, is entirely consistent with the rest of the essay… If you’re a post normal scientist, you don’t need scientific proof to believe in CAGW. Because you believe it’s urgent, what’s more important than scientific proof is doing what it takes to get people to accept the right policies to this ‘urgent’ issue.
I marvel at the Orwellian powers of these PNSs. Ravetz has the group that by rights should be most sceptical of his beliefs eating out of his hand. Hulme, by calling for the IPCC to be disbanded, gets sceptic love. But what he wants is something diametrically opposed to sceptical science – the replacement of the IPCC with a new respectful process that can drive policy forward in the absence of scientific proof and objectivity

Ron
February 9, 2010 11:53 pm

I was reminded of Lord Acton’s well known aphorism: all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This certainly applied to the small group at the centre of IPCC climate science; they believed they had the absolute power to shape the world. Acton’s aphorism tellingly continues: “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”
Another of Acton’s sayings (from 1877) predicted the blogosphere: At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own

Willis Eschenbach
February 9, 2010 11:53 pm

As much as I respect Anthony and his work, I find this essay to be nonsense, and very dangerous nonsense. It is as bad as anything in climate science, because it is exactly what Phil Jones et al. have done. This essay is nothing more than a man adapting a situation for his own personal gain. In this case the gain is that people will believe in his ridiculous notion of “post-normal science”.
For example, Ravetz says:

As Thomas Kuhn described ‘normal science’, which (as he said) nearly all scientists do all the time, it is puzzle-solving within an unquestioned framework or ‘paradigm’. Issues of uncertainty and quality are not prominent in ‘normal’ scientific training, and so they are less easily conceived and managed by its practitioners.

Bollocks. The problem with climate science is that the tenets of “normal” science, which are heavily concerned with uncertainty, are being ignored. Issues of uncertainty are to the forefront in normal science. On the other hand, uncertainty has often been ignored by many climate scientists (see the still-unresolved issue of the uncertainty in the Hockeystick).
The solution is not some “post-normal” science. Ravetz fails to notice that the excesses of Jones et al. are examples of Ravetz’s “post-normal science” at its finest. The solution is the return to “normal” science. It is the false certainty of the AGW proponents which is the problem, not any fancied lack of concern with uncertainty in real science. Real scientists are deeply concerned with uncertainty, and one way that I distinguish real science from bullshit (AKA “post-modern science”) is that a large amount of thought is given to how uncertain the results are.
Ravetz also said elsewhere:

…the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back; we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.

and

For us, quality is a replacement for truth in our methodology. We argue that this is quite enough for doing science, and that truth is a category with symbolic importance, which itself is historically and culturally conditioned.

I call bullshit on that. Normal science is not “obsolete”, that’s a claim that could (and often has) come directly from Jim Hansen, Michael Mann, Stephen Schneider, or Phil Jones. Quality is not a replacement for truth.
And in any case, science is not a search for “truth”. Nothing in science can be shown to be “true”. Instead, science is a search for theories which cannot (at present) be falsified. Either something is falsifiable or it is not. And a falsifiable statement is either falsified or it is not. The solution is not to shift from the proven method of scientific falsifiability to some namby-pamby idea of “quality”. Quality??? What is “quality” in a scientific context?
For me, the problem is that far too many climate scientists believe in the “post-normal” hogwash propounded by Ravetz. This is based on the false claim that post normal science is needed when “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”.
In any science, when the facts are uncertain and the values are in dispute, those very characteristics mean that we have no idea whether the decision is urgent or not. It is people like Ravetz, claiming that some fancied uncertain problem means that we have to DO SOMETHING NOW NOW NOW so we need some new scientific paradigm, that are the problem.
The solution is to insist that before we believe some theory, that it make falsifiable predictions.
The solution is to work to see if something is falsifiable before we put credence in it.
The solution is to insist that climate scientists be honest about the uncertainties in their work, as real scientists have been taught to do for centuries.
The solution is not to get rid of the scientific idea that we need evidence to support our decisions. The solution is not to substitute “quality” for falsifiability. The solution is to insist that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.
For example, Ravetz says above:

First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position.

Again, I call bullshit. This is the “poor me, they’re all against me, that’s why I can’t reveal my data” claim that has been made over and over to justify the excesses of Jones and his ilk. That’s blaming the victim.
The early “claim[s] of climate change” were not opposed by “special interests” as Ravetz says. Quite the opposite, they were promoted and sustained by special interests. These included the adoption of the climate claims by previously responsible environmental organizations, who took up the cudgel and wielded it strongly against all opponents. Ravetz has the shoe on the wrong foot. The adoption of the “simple, forcefully argued position” started with things like Stephen Schneiders famous statement that sometimes it was necessary to simplify and exaggerate science to achieve a political end. It started with things like Jim Hansen’s overblown claims in 1988 of impending climate disaster. To claim that the proponents were “induced to adopt” this position by “opposing special interests” is absolute nonsense.
For me, this essay is the most dangerous piece of nonsense that has ever appeared on WUWT … sorry, Anthony, but that’s my view. We don’t need “post-normal science”. Our problem is not the lack of a new scientific paradigm. The problem is that far too many of the scientists involved have been hiding their work, concealing their methods, refusing to show their code, exaggerating the dangers, and flat-out lying about their results. How will “post-normal” science cure that?
The solution is simple. We need a return to the normal science which has served us admirably for centuries, the normal science regarding which far too many climate scientists seem totally clueless. It’s bozo simple stuff, things I learned in my high school “normal” science class, things like SHOW YOUR WORK and DON’T EXAGGERATE and SHOW THE NEGATIVE AS WELL AS THE POSITIVE RESULTS and BE HONEST ABOUT THE UNCERTAINTIES and DON’T DENY THE OPPOSITION A CHANCE TO SPEAK. That’s what we need, not some New-Age “post-normal” hocus pocus. The problem is not normal science — it is that climate scientists have not been practicing normal science.

Nylo
February 9, 2010 11:55 pm

Awesome blog post. My sincere congratulations to Anthony and, of course and above all, to Jerome Ravetz.

Eric Gamberg
February 9, 2010 11:57 pm

“…but climate change had never been a really ‘normal’ science….”
I contend that there is not yet (and may never be) a Climate Science.
There is only scientists working (like a bunch of blind people trying to describe an elephant) to develop same.

Max
February 9, 2010 11:58 pm

A brilliant essay! Clear thinking, articulately expressed.

Mikkel DK
February 10, 2010 12:32 am

One of the best posts ever on wuwt. What class.

Ken Harvey
February 10, 2010 12:33 am

Alan S (15:44:49) :
Everyman (15:19:34) :
“”I am much taken with the fact that in such a learned, if determinedly philosophical, discussion of the scientific lapses involved, there is no mention of the untidy prospect that “money talked” in this instance, that otherwise reputable scientists proved all-too-human in their inability to resist the blandishments of grant money and other sources of lucre in reaching their ever-more-tendentious and strained analyses of the data.””
“I don’t think this needed to be said outright.”
“The critique of the corruption was spot on you must agree.”
This is precisely what needs to be said.
I have no doubt that Professor Ravetz would agree with the comment, but I can understand that he may not feel free to express it. Sadly, one needs to be as old as I am, or near to it, before one is completely free to express one’s views with complete disregard for how any other may make judgement.
This whole fiasco is not about science: it is about greed.

Bryan
February 10, 2010 12:34 am

Another unbelievable happening (that happened) was when all the major credit rating agencies gave AAA status to total junk thus causing the greatest financial dislocation for the last 80 years.

Roy
February 10, 2010 12:37 am

All very interesting, but I started to smell a rat when I read, “We can understand the root cause of Climategate as a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation.”
Unfortunately, having spent the first 10 years of my career working in medical research, I can undestand it in very familiar terms that don’t require me to invent a whole new philosophy of science. When you need to publish to advance, you take the path of least resistance. Where the data is most tenuous and where the passions are high, it pays to go along to get along.

Maurice J
February 10, 2010 12:38 am

I think it is disingenuous to compare AGW with Saddam’s Iraq.
The AGW hypothesis based on man made production of CO2 (Plant Food) ,first proposed in 1938, HAS NEVER HAD ANY EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT PERIOD. The complete scandal has been kept afloat by falsification of among other things the observed temperature record….unforgivable dishonesty period.
In the Saddam Iraq case, the scumbag Saddam along with his scumbag mate Chemical Ali actually used WMD’s (Chemical Weapons) on their own people, and I believe got what they deserved, tipped out and strung up.
The AGW scammers deserve jail time.

Alan H
February 10, 2010 12:43 am

I think that the essay posted here is quite brilliant and should be read by as wide an audience as possible. Send it to your MPs, your Senators, your Newspapers and TV stations.

Nigel S
February 10, 2010 12:47 am

Willis Eschenbach (23:53:22)
With you there Willis, b******s and lefty b******s at that. Oxford is a hotbed of this sort of nonsense, Cambridge much the same unfortunately.

8th Howler Monkey
February 10, 2010 12:56 am

Very profound post – excellent paper.
Thank you Mr. Ravetz

slow to follow
February 10, 2010 12:56 am

“Real Climate”
Top science blog on “Post Normal TImes – Putting Science into Context”
http://www.postnormaltimes.net/blog/index.html

mercurior
February 10, 2010 1:00 am

The Royal Society, as a major part of the flowering of the tradition, was founded on the basis of scepticism. Its motto “On the word of no one” was a stout affirmation. Now suddenly, following their successful coup, the Greens have changed this motto of centuries to one that manages to be both banal and sinister – “Respect the facts.”
from via numberwatch http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/religion.htm
Facts are changable, before the himalayagate it was “FACT”, All scientists should be sceptical, question everything, make sure what you discover is polished so that even the most dense of people can understand. But i have noticed that the “science” of agw relies on higher technical speech. Which a lot of people just dont understand.
Also have a caveat, its true for the moment until we discover a deeper truth, deeper reality, this will do. Then you add to that the self preservation of the scientists, to go against the orthodoxy, is to be locked up in a tower until you agree with the “FACTS”. (or not get paid, or fired from your job or pushed to conform)
The scientists of Galileo’s time had the “facts” that the sun went round the earth, but one person questioned, and look at what happened.

Tom FP
February 10, 2010 1:02 am

How can the writer of such an excellent piece ruin it by “If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”? It’s like the thirteenth stroke of a clock – casting doubt on every earlier chime!
You seem to be saying – “the CRU group got the right result by breaching the strictures of normal scientific method and are therefore disbelieved, so the planet isn’t being saved any more – therefore the subject they are studying is not amenable to the normal scientific method – therefore it needs in future to be studied according to post-normal scientific method – so that when that produces the right result it will be believed, and the planet can be saved.” Doesn’t seem to leave much room for the possibility that there may turn out to be nothing in the climate to worry us any more than, say, the problem of hip displasia in overbred spaniels, does it?
Put another way, before you start promulgating new scientific paradigms, can we at least see what happens when we just stick to the old one?
Try this:
“If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of the pseudo-science of ‘climate science’ in our society will be altered for the worse. Genuine scientists, in particular genuine meteorologists and genuine climatologists, most of whom have long doubted CO2/AGW, will enjoy a return to credibility commensurate with the extent to which they repudiate ‘climate science’ and its practitioners. “Climate Science”, if it survives at all, will have to be seen for what it always was – a little bit of physics and a huge amount of statistics – and must in future be the province of first-rate statisticians and code writers, not of third-rate migrants from other fields, attracted by the huge rewards to be had from using shoddy science to scare people.”

February 10, 2010 1:10 am

Willis,
I agree with much of what you say, and I doubt Jerry Ravetz would argue against science being done properly in the first place either. His point is that when science results is used as the input to policy, we are often dealing with situations where, as he puts it, “we confront hard policy issues for which the scientific inputs are frequently irremediably soft.”
he goes on to say:
“We argue that the quality-assurance of scientific inputs into policy processes requires an ‘extended peer community’, including all the stakeholders in an issue. This new peer community can also deploy ‘extended facts’, including local and personal experience, as well as investigative journalism and leaked sources. So Post-Normal Science is inevitably political, and involves a new extension of legitimacy and power”.
I think what he is getting at, is that this is the way things are, and we need to extend the checks and balances to deal with the way the outputs of science are abused.
Post-Normal Science isn’t a prescription for the way Ravetz thinks science should be done, it’s a description of what is done with the outputs of normal science (good or bad), and how we should handle those situations where it’s results are used in policy formation.
The issue here is that politicians and lobbyists present scientific results as if they were the definitive last word, even when their inputs are “irremediably soft”. Ravetz is calling for the right of those from beyond the disciplines and specialisms to bring their ‘extended facts’ and leaked documents to the policy making table and be heard. It seems to me that this much at least is a positive step.
Given that the policy making table these days is often swayed by the media and the court of manufactured public opinion, it’s a battle we in the sceptical part of the blogsphere have little choice but to engage in, no matter how distasteful this is to the honest practitioners of normal science. Keep on supplying us with good normal science and analysis, and let your friends in the blogsphere get on with helping to make it as widely heard as possible via ‘post normal’ methods if need be. If influential thinkers like Jerry Ravetz champion our right to be heard, so much the better. Better on our side than theirs.

stephen richards
February 10, 2010 1:11 am

This is an etheriel, philosophical discussion and as such is perceptive and yet imprecise. It is not a news report about the corrupted science behind the IPCC and the policy of governments wolrwide or the corrupted scientists behind the money men. Philosophical pieces such as this are the beginning of a more ‘robust’ discussion which, if it occurs, can lead to a ‘tipping point’ in the application and dissemination of all science.
Still, its an interesting piece

Pete
February 10, 2010 1:17 am

Onion (23:30:28) : “Some of the love on this thread for this essay is bewildering”.
Exactly the point of my first post but you put it more succinctly than me.
I had to go away and investigate the PMS.
It would seem many took the article at face value without research (as I initially did).
davidmhoffer took issue with me over my not understanding /misinterpreting the content but it was ScientistForTruth (16:33:26) : (thanks for the link once again) who deserves my H/T.
I am sorry Tallboy and Anthony, but as interesting as this post has been. I get the feeling this article is below what I have come to expect on this site. Just my opinion but this article still makes me uneasy, even after 3 reads. We do not need PHS.
REAL science has served us well for many years. I would counter the Professor that his PHS has allowed the likes of Hulme etc to prosper and wiser people than me have explained that a long time ago!

February 10, 2010 1:18 am

Pat Frank (22:56:08) : in response to comment by “John Whitman (17:59:20)wrote, ””””Science and philosophy are categorically distinct, because science is not axiomatic. ””””
Pat, do you think science is categorically distinct from epistemology (fundamentals of nature of knowlegde, how do you know reality?) and distinct from metaphysics (fundamentally what is reality?), really?
John

wayne job
February 10, 2010 1:18 am

Viva the last bastion of free thought and exchange of ideas. The internet, defend it at all costs. It is the only hope in a sea of disgrace. WAYNE

stephen richards
February 10, 2010 1:19 am

Willis
Many years ago when I was a research scientist I read a paper about jargon and its uses. Prof Javetz lives in a world whose existence depends wholly on jargon. Philosophy by its very nature is bullshit wrapped in jargon but if you unwrap the package and rumage through the bullshit you will invariably find a nugget or two of useful thinking.

Alan Wilkinson
February 10, 2010 1:23 am

A fascinating debate and many thanks to all the contributors. I award Willis the best summing up, though he had the advantage of much excellent input.
Although Ravetz is wrong, at least his exposition exposes the major issues to debate.
My view:
Publicly funded science must come out from behind the pay-walls, pal-review walls and personal and institutional fiefdoms.
The MSM is dead as a leading intelligent contributor to knowledge and analysis. Generalist journalists cannot compete with specialist bloggers except as entertainers.
Science generally will wear the impact of public disillusionment with AGW. The learned societies that fell over themselves to join “The Consensus” have ensured that outcome.

Claurila
February 10, 2010 1:24 am

Here is an analysis grounded in reality to clear away the displeasure left by Mr Kavetz’ relativistic meanderings above:
Let’s pick apart this politics of doom
Ben Pile, Spiked Online, 9 February 2010
‘Climategate’ confirms what many of us already knew: that claims of future catastrophe are political, not scientific.
A sixth of the world’s population – the billion or so people who live downstream of Himalayan glaciers and depend on them for water – must surely be relieved. Just a few months ago, ‘consensus science’ held that these vast tracts of ice would be gone in just a few decades. The implications were stark. Water wars and climate refugees would spread out from the region, consuming society in Gaia’s revenge. If the direct effects of climate change didn’t kill you, the social chaos they unleashed would.
Now that the death of the Himalayan glaciers has been deferred by some three centuries, we can take a sober look at the situation facing people living in the region. The truth is that they have more years ahead of them to find alternatives to relying on Himalayan meltwater than have passed since the Industrial Revolution began to transform our own landscape. That should be plenty of time.
For the furore around ‘Glaciergate’, we didn’t actually need to know that Himalayan glacial retreat was exaggerated to know that the disaster story it seemingly produced was pseudo-scientific bunk. The plots of such disaster stories are written well before any evidence of looming doom emerges from ‘science’. What really underpins the climate change panic is the way in which politicians have justified their own impotence by appealing to catastophe.
This helps to explain the reaction of the political establishment to the various scandals that have beset the IPCC and leading climate scientists in recent weeks. In response to the allegations levelled at individuals and institutions in the climate establishment, the UK climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, has declared war on climate sceptics on both Channel 4 News and in the Observer. But the ironic consequence of Miliband’s intervention has been to acknowledge that disagreement exists. Miliband now recognises an enemy that only a few months ago consisted of a tiny number of ‘flat-earthers’, according to his boss, Gordon Brown. Given that sceptics are not usually engaged, just ignored, a declaration of war is a sure sign that he is on the defensive.
Ed Miliband on Channel 4 News
Miliband says,
‘I think the science and the precautionary principle, which says that there’s at the very least a huge risk if we don’t act, mean that we should be acting’.
This use of the precautionary principle puts the position of climate alarmists back by a decade. The argument for action on climate change once depended on just the possibility that changes in climate could cause devastating problems for humans. Scientists had not yet produced a consensus. The political stalemate seemingly ended after the infamous ‘Hockey Stick’ graph was published in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR) in 2001. It was held to be, at last, the conclusive evidence that man indeed had altered the climate. Here was the fingerprint on the ‘smoking gun’ that pointed towards our imminent demise.
By retreating to the precautionary principle rather than simply defending the notion of scientific consensus, Miliband concedes a lot. The scientific consensus around climate change has stood as a powerful source of political authority in lieu of democratic legitimacy. In the light of events and arguments which undermine this authority, Miliband is fighting for his government’s credibility, not to save the planet.
He protests that, in spite of the new climate scandals, the ‘overwhelming majority’ of scientists nonetheless still hold with the idea that mankind has altered the climate. The recent revelations are just dents, caused by procedural oversight, in an otherwise robust case, he seems to say. But actually, this does not really get to the heart of the discussion about climate. A scientific consensus about the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions is not equivalent to a scientific consensus about human society’s sensitivity to climate. There is a huge difference between these two ideas, yet Miliband’s argument rests on the idea that they are equivalent [it is the core of the sleight-of-hand] . And it is on this point that sceptics have not yet made much progress. While banging away at the science of climate change, they have failed to tackle the wider argument about our capacity to deal with the unexpected. What sceptics need to explain is how climate and society have become so confused. [that was a classic diversionary strategy]
This confusion has other ramifications, for example in the familiar claim that Miliband makes, that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. This in turn depends on the reinvention of ‘social justice’ as ‘environmental justice’, as if inequality is a natural phenomenon as inevitable as wind or rain.
But poverty is not a natural phenomenon [it is, like warmism, a consequence of socialism] . It is a tragic conceit to believe that by not driving our cars we will somehow make life better for those who cannot even dream of owning a car – much less having a road to drive it on. The problem is that people are poor, not that their climate is slightly different. We can see this fact demonstrated in the horrific scale of devastation in Haiti. An event of similar magnitude in a more economically developed country would not have claimed so many lives. It is not enough to say that carbon emissions cost lives, or anything like it, because the principal factors that determine the outcome of natural phenomena relate to an area’s level of development. [quite. And future generations might be richer if socialism doesn’t prevent hem]]
However, as Miliband’s words reveal, world leaders have given up on the idea of development as the means through which people can enjoy better protected and more rewarding lives. This can only have the consequence of producing and sustaining poverty, making greater numbers of people vulnerable to nature’s indifferent whims. The way in which the political class has surrendered to climate panic is a comprehensive admission of our leaders’ own impotence. Only if we take their inability to produce domestic or international development for granted can we conceive of changes in weather patterns as inevitably catastrophic.
For example, over the next three centuries, the people living beneath Himalayan glaciers might construct dams to collect the rain or snow that falls there, but which does not remain as ice. It is not inconceivable that Asians might also provide a greater proportion of their water needs through desalination plants. The world has been reorganised around the tenets of environmentalism precisely because the notion of using development to provide protection from natural disaster is now deemed to be impossible.
World leaders have projected their catastrophic sense of impotence on to the world. Just to make sure that politics cannot intervene, they have brought forward the date of the ecopalypse, to render any alternative and any debate impossible. It can’t happen soon enough for them. A failure of imagination has been passed off as the conclusion of ‘climate science’ and as the opinion of ‘the overwhelming majority of scientists’, but as we can see, the premise of impotence and catastrophe is a presupposition that is political in its character and not a conclusion produced by science.
In turn, if the notion of catastrophic climate change is reduced to a mere article of (bad) faith, the institutions of climate politics – all of which have been constructed on the premise of catastrophe/impotence – cease to have a legitimate basis. The IPCC, the Stern Review, the Kyoto treaty, Copenhagen, the Climate Change Committee and the legislation and reorganisation of public life that have followed in their wake have not been created to save the planet from climate catastrophe, but to save politicians from the collapse of their own authority. That is what Miliband’s war is about.
The scandal is not really in the fraud, exaggeration, or deceit – if that is what they were – committed by particular researchers, or the failure of the IPCC process to identify that certain claims were false. The scandal is that politicians seek moral authority in crisis. It was not ‘science’ that produced stories of imminent catastrophe; it was the bleak doom-laden politics of this era. Scientists merely extrapolated from this scenario, into the future, taking the logic of the political premises to their conclusion [with fat cheques for their services]. The politics exists prior to the science. In reply, sceptics, with a more positive vision, ought to demonstrate the gap that exists between the science and the story, and how it might end differently if we start from more positive ground.
If Miliband wants a war, he can have one. But the battle lines should recognise that the politics of catastrophe is prior to the science of catastophe, and that another outlook that emphasises our ability to control events is possible. Environmental problems will always occur, but it is how they are understood that counts. We cannot understand ‘what science says’ until we understand what it has been told, and what it has really been asked. Science has been put to use to turn the billion people living beneath Himalayan glaciers into political capital by the IPCC to prop up the likes of Ed Miliband. It is only now that he has been deprived of the authority that those billion lives – or deaths – gave him, that he wants a war.
Today’s politicians need catastrophes because they have no other way of creating authority for themselves. But the catastrophe is in politics, not in the atmosphere.
Ben Pile is an editor of the Climate-Resistance blog, and a philosophy and politics student at York University.

Roy
February 10, 2010 1:35 am

I just read Willis Eschenbach’s response above. If anyone reading this hasn’t already seen it, go there at once. It’s complete and concise and neatly skewers Ravetz’ beguiling tosh.

Philip
February 10, 2010 1:37 am

Professor Ravetz’s comment about Mauna Loa reminded me of a number of questions I had about our understanding of C02. I’ve struggled to answer these for myself and I wonder whether any of the contributors to WUWT can help.
[1] Is recent C02 rise part of a trend due to human emissions or is it simply the upturn of a natural cycle?
[2] What range can we predict for C02 levels over the next century?
[3] I understand that the logarithm law for forcing due to C02 is expected to fail above 1000 ppm. Do we know how it works above this level?
[4] Sensitivity estimates I’ve seen from Shaviv, Knox/Christie and Schwartz are in the region of 1 C for a doubling of C02. Does this accurately reflect the influence at the surface, or is it less than this due to (for example) convection/evaporation?
I can see that uncertainty is part of the problem, so if the answer is “no one knows”, that’s fine as well :-). Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work.

February 10, 2010 1:48 am

Chris Field is one of the Stanford University Global-Warming-Alarm! team headed by Stephen Schneider, a lead IPCC author who says:
http://www.solopassion.com/node/5841
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the
scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the
doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we
are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people
we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context
translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially
disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting
loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make
simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts
we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves
in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the
right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that
means being both.”
We are in danger of accepting that black is white and up is down. Climatologists need to provide evidence of their case and not to believe that the strength of their cause is superior to the need to prove their science.
Tonyb

Stephen Wilde
February 10, 2010 1:56 am

Willis has crystallised the feelings I had when I posted my initial response above:
“Stephen Wilde (15:33:40) :
Normal science = generally good science.
Post normal science = generally bad science.
Keep it simple, stupid.”
Ravetz is a primary culprit having facilitated and contributed to what has happened by creating a narrowly intellectual and wholly disreputable concept of post normal science which deliberately sought to weaken scientific rigour so that science could be neutered and used as a tool of authoritarian social policy.
His above article seems to accept that it has all gone wrong in connection with climate change but it is well established in politics and the media. He does not see that his concept of post normal science was and is the problem.
Like many others of his mindset he just thinks that post normal science was not implemented ‘properly’ by which he means that mistakes were made in ‘presentation’.
He fails to see that the entire concept was flawed and deeply dangerous from the very beginning.
Indeed post normal science is just a another phrase meaning non science and is fatally flawed except for it’s real purposes of social manipulation and social engineering.

February 10, 2010 1:59 am

Alan Wilkinson (01:23:32) :
Although Ravetz is wrong, at least his exposition exposes the major issues to debate.

Something philosophers like to be good at is getting a good debate going, rather than bashing people over the head with a one sided or limited POV.
Some see that as relativistic tosh (Thanks Roy!), others see the value in widening the scope of the discussion.

Kevin
February 10, 2010 2:01 am

“Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State.”
Except it can. It can be blamed on an unscrupulous state, and the employees that work for it.

HotRod
February 10, 2010 2:04 am

I agree with Stephen Richards – Willis’s criticisms are valid, but I found several nuggets in the piece that were perceptive and useful. He recognises the faults of the process quite well – that he wraps that analysis in jargon and his own self-serving framework is just the way he does it.
“Detailed technical work is a task for experts, but quality-control on even that work can be done by those with much broader expertise.” – retired mining analyst takes on paleoclimate experts.
The ‘how did this happen’ aspect of the AGW/CRU/IPCC/denier/”thescienceisin” bandwagon has continued to puzzle me. You can say, simplistically, follow the money. You can say environmentalism in a secular society replaces religion to satisfy peoples’ needs for a moral compass. You can blame big business, Goldman Sachs and carbon trading. You can blame desire for fame and career. None of these satisfy me, and I enjoyed, and was interested in, Ravetz’s piece, however unnecessarily orotund!
Willis – what is your answer to how/why decent men like Jones/Wigley et al fell from grace, and became in your terms non-scientists, uncertainty deniers?

8th Howler Monkey
February 10, 2010 2:06 am

Mark N (19:10:16) :
Thank you, an interesting read. I wonder if “climate science” is just a product of our time and will eventually be left to the side like so many others in the long history of scientific work.
I often wonder if the bigger picture might be the benefit of a warming climate and increasing CO2 to life.
>>>
Second that motion…

Tenuc
February 10, 2010 2:14 am

I found this an interesting, if not a little wordy, post. While some parts are good, I feel that more could have been made of the politicisation of science and the constant pressure for individuals working on projects to deliver the answers their paymasters want to hear.
The other puzzle I found hard to understand from the context of the piece was that the author seems to be caught in the ‘fear’ trap too. He is an obviously believer in CO2 caused CAGW…
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”
…But the logic of what he says breaks down.
His belief system looks to be that bad science, as promulgated by CRU/GISS/NASA/IPCC, gives a correct result, when the facts show that the hypothesis of CAGW is fatally flawed.
Double think is the new post-normal philosophy perhaps? It certainly isn’t analytical reasoning.

mercurior
February 10, 2010 2:17 am

As i read the replies to the article, i get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.
If it was made as talking point to get us all discussing it, then its great. BUT, if it is a article to promote that while theres no evidence, no empirical data, no proof, that means we should keep doing things that are Bad for society because it would make other scientists tarred with the same brush.
But this negates the Science. Science should question, Post normal science, doesnt question, it feels, all this climate science rubbish appeals to the emotions of people, rather than the intelligence. And thats all this article does it appeals to the emotions, rather than the Truth, the empirical evidence.
As other commentors have said go back to the original science, where people could question, without being labelled denialists. Science should be about Questions. Why? this Why? that.. Philosophy, is more about emotions not empricial facts, philosophy never provides answers just ways of viewing.
I worry that, Post normal science is what we have now, with the advocacy of power groups, rich groups, looking to expand their holdings, and damn the expense of everything else.
At first the article appeals to the emotions, but as you read it, there are questions that need to be answered, Why is proper science discounted (empirical facts)? Because its not post normal?
As a discussion point, its worked, but if its been created for any other reason, then thats the time to worry. (my last post was written when i just woke up and had no coffee LOL).

Onion
February 10, 2010 2:48 am

@ Tallbloke
Firstly thanks for getting this guest post on here. Although I profoundly disagree with Ravetz, this post should stimulate decent debate (and it has done)
You write
“Post-Normal Science isn’t a prescription for the way Ravetz thinks science should be done, it’s a description of what is done with the outputs of normal science (good or bad), and how we should handle those situations where it’s results are used in policy formation.”
I’m afraid Ravetz and Hulme have a much bigger role for post-normal science in mind than you believe they have. Ravetz writes:
“But climate change had never been a really ‘normal’ science, because the policy implications were always present and strong, even overwhelming.”
That statement alone contradicts your inference as to the scope of PNS. His statement is also flat out wrong
The qualifying criteria for climate studies to fit into the domain of post-normal science, according to Ravetz, is:
“Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it [climate studies/ CAGW] fits: facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. ”
Let’s deconstruct these qualifying criteria:
“Facts uncertain” – is this the preserve of PNS? NO!!! It is in fact the very basis of scientific enquiry
“Values in dispute” – what does this actually mean? Science is based on observations which are value-free. We may debate how far for example genetic engineering or human cloning should go, which does involve weighing up different values, but that is the domain of ethics, not science and certainly not post-normal science. The core from which all scientific knowledge is generated – observations – is value-free
“Stakes high and decisions urgent” – there is a severe logical fallacy in operation here. If facts are uncertain, then how do you know the stakes are high? How do you know decisions are urgent?
The whole purpose of the PNS movement is to bypass the rigours of the scientific process on the basis that because the situation is so dire and urgent, we don’t have the time for such luxuries. This is complete alarmist balls. During the darkest hours of WWII, scientists conducted real science (like developing the nuclear bomb, breaking codes, rocket technology). This was conducted under the most extreme emergency conditions – they did not abandon due scientific process in favour of citizen juries and trying to figure out what constituted a ‘respectful process’. Even if we were to confront a dire emergency today (massive volcanic eruption, massive asteroid) we would rely on science to solve the problem, not post-normal science.
I find Ravetz’ and Hulme’s philosophy utterly poisonous. Not only do they have a philosophy, they have a process which constitutes post-normal science. When you read what that process entails, you realise it jettisons real science completely

anna v
February 10, 2010 2:49 am

Re: Willis Eschenbach (Feb 9 23:53),
Willis, I think I agree with you in the details too, though I only stated my objection to the conclusions above. Too much fuzzy logic all through. Possibly uncertainty and ignorance have different meanings for scientists and philosopher’s of science.

Aynsley Kellow
February 10, 2010 2:51 am

Thank you, Professor Ravetz, for an insightful essay, with which I largely agree – though I do share some of the views expressed in the comments. Kuhn’s analysis of science might provide a useful description of how science actually is conducted, but I would wish to add at least a genuflection to Paul Feyerabend who drew attention to the point that scientists will lie, cheat, elbow, eye-gouge, etc -and who warned against any notion of government-sponsored science. (We might add ‘intergovernmental-sponsored science’ to that). But I think we need to be Popperians (or something approaching that) when we wish to speak prescriptively about how we should assess the quality of science. The courts have had to grapple with this issue, and had to develop standards such as Daubert, Kuhmo Tire, etc against which to judge science. The political process needs something similar, and probably needs to institutionalise scepticism (perhaps David Henderson’s idea of a ‘B-Team’) if it is to institutionalise any area of science. Let’s face it, we can now expect Climategate to be taught alongside Lysenkoism in the future.
What I think is absent for the analysis, however, is the role of information technology is bringing about Climategate. I discussed this in my book, Science and Public Policy: The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science.’ The internet and blogosphere has worked to expose the flaw, but it also made the whole thing possible.
At a time when knowledge has become more and more specialised, the internet has allowed a handful of scholars in any area to contact each other, collaborate, publish together and ultimately circle the wagons to defend their perspective. To change the metaphor, they were then able to sue the net to send the white corpuscles to the site of any ‘infection’ that might challenge what had become a ‘club good.’ The ‘virtual’ nature of the process has to do not just with the excessive reliance on modelling, but the means of interaction. The IPCC has exacerbated this phenomenon by bringing these scientists together, putting them in touch with each other.
This has also undermined the traditional quality assurance process of peer review. Paper are now circulated in advance, so anonymity is absent. Many of the journals do not even exercise double blind processes, so the Climategate scientists were able to accept invitations to review knowing they were being invited to review papers from dissidents – and then ensure they were rejected, and kept out of IPCC reports that they themselves edited.
And while I don’t discount the corrupting influence of the provision of research funds, much of the corrupting influence has been the nobility of the cause — ‘virtuous corruption’ — which (as noble cause corruption in policing circles) is just as unjust and pernicious. They mean well. It’s ‘all in a good cause’. The public and the politicians need to be persuaded to act as ‘we know they should.’
But this, ultimately, is a grab for technocratic power. As C.P. Snow put it, scientists should be on tap, not on top. Climategate and the blogosphere has given democracy a fighting chance.
Now, if we could only find out what the reliable science tells us about the problem…. But , unfortunately, we no longer know. But we do know for certain, the problem is one of making policy under conditions of uncertainty.

David Bailey
February 10, 2010 2:56 am

I suspect there is a lot of sloppy science out there, and sloppy science has certainly contributed to this mess!
Many years ago, I remember being amazed when I learned that a Monte Carlo simulation used in a large and expensive project, would sometimes “Abend” – implying a catastrophic programming error. I was told that this was OK, if this happened the program was just run again (with different random numbers)! Everyone had more important things to do than get to the bottom of what was causing the problem.
People who like to work like that seem to have found a perfect niche in climate science!

February 10, 2010 2:56 am

Pete (01:17:04) :
“REAL science has served us well for many years. I would counter the Professor that his PHS has allowed the likes of Hulme etc to prosper and wiser people than me have explained that a long time ago”
I, too, was initially beguiled by Revetz’s essay – I tried to set aside my own very strong doubts about the merits of “post-normal science”. But his mention of Hulme in such a positive light – and more importantly his apparent concern that Climategate and its aftermath will cause the public to “reject the claim” – suggested to me that while milder in tone than, say, the Guardian’s latest effort, I felt as though we were being co-opted to “the cause”.
Hulme’s “We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us” along with such turns of phrase as”
“climate change is so plastic it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical and spiritual needs”
Not to mention his “These myths transcend the categories of true and false” …
leads me to conclude that one must despair for the future of our planet and its inhabitants! And we must act…. NOW!

Editor
February 10, 2010 2:58 am

tallbloke (01:10:36), thanks for your comments. You say:

Willis,
I agree with much of what you say, and I doubt Jerry Ravetz would argue against science being done properly in the first place either. His point is that when science results is used as the input to policy, we are often dealing with situations where, as he puts it, “we confront hard policy issues for which the scientific inputs are frequently irremediably soft.”

Say what? Unless I am misreading him badly (always possible), Ravetz is definitely arguing against proper science:

…the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back; we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.

To me, saying that the “approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete” is arguing strongly “against science being done properly in the first place”. What am I missing here?
You also say:

I think what he is getting at, is that this is the way things are, and we need to extend the checks and balances to deal with the way the outputs of science are abused.

The problem is not that the outputs of science are abused. It is that the scientific process is not being followed, so that there are no valid “outputs of science” to be abused. For example, the issue is not how the Hockeystick was used. The issue is that the Hockeystick was a fraud and a hoax.
Yes, true scientific findings can be abused … but that’s not the current problem with climate science. The current problem is that science itself is being abused because the basic tenets of science are not being followed. And regarding that, Mr. Ravetz says not one word. If that conveniently selective blindness is “post-normal” science, he is welcome to it.
The solution to that problem is not to go haring off after some new tenets of science. It is to return to adhering to the tenets which have served us so well for so long.
I’m sorry, but to me Jerry Ravetz is a craven apologist who is trying to divert attention from the real issue. Do you note that in his entire essay he says nothing about the hiding of data? Did you see that he doesn’t mention the corruption of the peer review process? Did you observe that he said nothing about Jones refusing to give out his data because Warwick would “try to find fault with it”? Did you get that he mentions nothing about Jones and the others conspiring to destroy evidence? Did you notice that he is totally silent about Jones fraudulently evading my FOI request?
Instead, Ravetz says:

The personal commitments to integrity, that are necessary for the maintenance of scientific quality, receive no mention in the dominant philosophy of science.

That’s a pile of crap. The problem is not that integrity receives “no mention in the dominant philosophy of science” as Ravetz claims. The problem is that the individual climate scientists involved lack integrity. And Ravetz doesn’t mention Jones et al.’s lack of integrity, not even once.
Instead he blathers on about how the problem is with “the dominant philosophy of science”. I don’t buy that, not for one second. Ravetz doesn’t have enough personal integrity to take a stand against so-called “scientists” who lie, cheat, and steal … and he wants to lecture us on integrity? And you buy that idea, that Jones’ lack of integrity is not worth mentioning, and that the problem is that the “dominant philosophy of science” lacks integrity? Really?
I’m sorry, tallbloke, but to me Ravetz is a single-issue fanatic who is trying to twist the conniving cupidity of some scientists to fit his strait jacket powder-puff philosophy. I am surprised that Anthony published this rubbish, and I’m surprised that you and others buy into it.

February 10, 2010 3:00 am

Thank you Willis Eschenbach (23:53:22) : and others.
The Professor writes..
“And what about the issue itself? Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? ”
A good question but the next sentence shows the Professors view very clearly…
“If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”
I think the man is schizophrenic, he writes an essay on the many problems and assumptions of AGW science, expressing that the uncertainties are far greater then presented, and then says it would be tragic if people actually doubted the need to restructure the world over AGW.
“There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim;”
Ok, the author is now back to doubting the science, and he muddies the water with non scientific words like “experience” instead of “experiment” If we get back to observations and testing we may be able to prove or disproof the CAGW theory. Lindzen and others are working in this direction.
“the post normal situation is too complex”
what the he-double hockey stick is this?. Yes, climate may very well be a chaotic process, very hard to predict, currently the unknowns out weigh the known’s. This is quite normal in “science”.
“The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science.” Fortunately it now appears that the consensus will depend on how open the science becomes, and then what that open science reveals.
“The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection.”
Sir, please change “moral exhortations” to immoral extortions”, and add fortunately after “will” and I will agree with this.
I am very grateful he is calling for open dialogue, and his concerns will probably reach many people I have difficulty communicating with. Other then that the man’s intellect may well be superior to mine, but this may allow him to assimilate nonsense at a more eloquent rate.
“What sort of chaos would then result?”
A curious phrase in an article describing a system that may well be chaotic in nature.
“The consequences for science in our civilization would be extraordinary.”
I vote for a return to normal science.

Chuckles
February 10, 2010 3:05 am

Willis (23:53:22),
An excellent summation, but will you please stop trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The entire essay documents at great length that ‘climate science’ as practised by the IPCC, CRU, GISS etc is not science at all, but this other discipline called ‘post-normal science’.
Why would you not agree with this?
Game Over.

February 10, 2010 3:06 am

A most interesting essay – thank you, Dr Ravetz. And an even more interesting thread of comments – thank you all.
My take, for what it’s worth, is that “post-normal science” as practiced by Jones, Mann et al. isn’t really science, and that science can be just fine again once it has been divorced from the “post-normal politics” we suffer today.

Robinson
February 10, 2010 3:14 am

I think the argument will shift now in any case, away from “Climate Change” and towards “Energy Security”. Of course this was the motivation, at least the behind the scenes political motivation, for going along with AGW in the first place. The policy framework will remain exactly the same.

Ghillie
February 10, 2010 3:14 am

A wonderfully concise and illuminating essay – thank you.
Someone ought to make David Cameron read this before he goes much further. His blind adherence to the AGW agenda is alienating thousands and is likely to result in a hung parliament – and economic chaos – in the UK.

James P
February 10, 2010 3:32 am

“The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection.”
Good. I hope I live long enough to hear Al Gore recant.
Great essay, BTW.

David Bailey
February 10, 2010 3:37 am

Willis Eschenbach wrote,
“I don’t buy that, not for one second. Ravetz doesn’t have enough personal integrity to take a stand against so-called “scientists” who lie, cheat, and steal … and he wants to lecture us on integrity?”
Maybe Ravetz is more analogous to a criminologist – interested in the sociology and motivation for crime, but not really focused on condemning it as such.
I mean one can (and should) condemn the likes of Jones, but that isn’t the end of the story – the structure of modern science seems to let this sort of thing happen. It is the structure that needs reforming, and politicians need to take into account the fact that if they press for answer A, they will probably get it, whether it is correct or not!

Allen63
February 10, 2010 3:39 am

As a retired scientist, I could relate to the main points of the essay. Very worthwhile post.
I think “peer review” via blogosphere makes good sense — a lot of smart people out there. Obviously, has some “growing pains” ahead. Nontheless, life experience, intelligence, education, and objectivity can make great “peers” out of non-PhDs (in a given field). Almost by definition, such people “think outside the box” — because the were never in it to begin with.

Viktor
February 10, 2010 3:40 am

To be blunt: I’m very much surprised this essay was published here. I’m all for thoughtful discourse, in all areas of life, but even a cursory examination of this “Post-Normal Science” notion proves it to be born out of Marxist leanings. The following link exposes as much with clarity:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
‘PNS’ seems to be an attempt to put science, historicism, and deconstructionism into a blender in order to create a new paste with which our textbooks are to be bound. Only problem is that it doesn’t stick. Though, I suppose that is the desired effect. “Science means whatever we say it does!” No thanks. I’ll stick to my stodgy old empirical ways.

Roy
February 10, 2010 3:45 am

WIllis has nailed it again. “I am surprised that Anthony published this rubbish”, is very much my reaction too.

February 10, 2010 3:56 am

Very interesting to see what is effectively an acknowledgement by a respected member of the establishment (previously climate alarmist) that the whole alarmist facade has fallen (he says in 2 months which ignores the extensive eforts of sceptics for years before, proving the Hockey Stick & many other things deliberate lies – the climategate emails were simply the tipping point after which it became impossible to maintain.
As interesting is the acknowledgement that the blogsphere has changed everything & that attempts by the MSM to censor are now relatively ineffective.
This means that several other fraudulent “scintific consensuses” maintained by the political establishment cann now get a proper examination.
I am thinking in particular of the no lower threshold theory (LNT) of nuclear radiation. By ramping up anti-nuclear hysteria this has been used to hold back 4 decades of progress, In fact not only iss there no evidence whatsoever that low level radiation is harmful there is a vast amount, from numerous different sources for the hormesis theory that it is beneficial.
Or perhaps there is some government paid scientist somewhere in the world who is willing to say why the enormously destructive LNT theory is correct?
We shall see over the next couple of days.

Drew
February 10, 2010 4:03 am

“The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is NOT about stopping climate chaos.
“Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change – the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals – to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.”
So has said Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change UEA CRU, justifying the use of non-scientific “post-normal science” to pursue purely social and political agendas.
It may be noted that he is not, as I’m sure many casual observers might assume of such a prominent expert, Professor of Climate SCIENCE. No, he is prof. of Climate CHANGE. An example of the rise of post normal science.
I am in complete agreement with the comments posted above by ScientistforTruth (16:33:26) and Willis Eschenbach (23:53:22)
ScientistforTruth has written an eloquent history, and thorough analysis of the purely political, non-scientific ideals of the “post-normal science” of Ravetz et al here:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
Also quoting extensively Prof Hulme justifying at length the mainstream use of non-science to pursue social and political agendas.
Anyone persuaded that post-normal non-science, leant scientific credibility by pseudo scientific quality assurance (a good example of which is the title “Professor of Climate CHANGE”) and expertly packaged to be sold on to the man on the street as real, credible science, please take the time to read this most illuminating and well documented article.

Roger Knights
February 10, 2010 4:04 am

There need to be many books written on what the hell happened here that allowed such deception to go so far. Surely sizable parts of our government, the science community and the mainstream media can’t all be this cowardly and unprincipled? Can they?

Everyone’s a hero, as long as it’s not high noon.

February 10, 2010 4:06 am

For the benefit of readers, I reproduce a response I made to ‘tallbloke’ last November – see whole post and all comments here:
http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
“I don’t doubt that Ravetz is very perceptive and makes some interesting observations. Unfortunately, there is the ‘poison in the pot’. Ravetz will forever be remembered for his championing a new type of science, post-normal science. You will see from my post just where this leads: you have Mike Hulme explicitly espousing and adopting the ideas of Ravetz and turning ‘climate change’ into metaphysics and politics. Ravetz never masked the fact that his scientific method was political – having been a radical leftie, he drew heavily on neo-Marxism to formulate his PNS theory. And in his 2006 paper ‘Post-Normal Science in the context of transitions towards sustainability’ which I mentioned in the post, he explicitly states that “PNS has always had strong political aspect…Given its deep political commitments, PNS should have been making a contribution to this process, offering its insights about the way science will need to be done in the cause of justice and sustainability.” Of course, in the mouth of Ravetz, nice sounding words like “justice and sustainability” are really Marxist goals. “…even now there is no clear focus on science among the new movements for social reform. Those of us who are involved in PNS can help to shape a new ‘science of, by and for the people’ when the time is ripe.” First of all, ‘normal’ science must be destroyed, then a new science can be introduced which serves the political agenda of the Greens and the hard left.
You really should read that paper – it reads like a communist position paper. He even discusses Marxism and its relevance to PNS: “Marxist political theory spoke of ‘leading contradictions’…as when local struggles of classes and communities interact with common struggles against external enemies…The crucial thing in our understanding of it, is that it is a compounded contradiction. We can see its historical roots in what Marx considered to be the characteristic contradiction of modern capitalist society…But there was more to it than that, in the resolution of Marx’s characteristic contradiction…In our terms, they shifted the contradiction elsewhere, thereby staving off rebellion…”
So the question we must ask is, do we consider that introducing strong politics (for example, those of the far-Left) into science is doing it a service? What has happened in the Climategate scandal is that, indeed, pretty strong politics are heavily involved, and climate science is all the more discredited for it. Hulme makes no secret about it that he is a fully paid up member of the Labour Party for 19 years, and is riding the tiger of ‘climate change’ to further his socialist ends, and that Ravetz gave him the idea and the ammunition.”
And what does Ravetz espouse in that paper:
“The time is not ripe for a modification of PNS, and so the best move forward is to raise the issue of Sustainability. For that I sketch a theory of complex systems, with special attention to pathologies and failures. That provides the foundation for a use of ‘contradiction’ as a problem incapable of resolution in its own terms, and also of ‘characteristic contradiction’ that drives a system to a crisis. With those materials it is possible to state the characteristic contradiction of our modern industrial civilisation, and provide a diagram with heuristic power.”
Heuristic power is the power to explain ‘factual novelties’. ‘Contradiction’ and ‘characteristic contradiction’ are Marxist-speak. Heard about ’sustainability’ recently? You bet!
Can’t you folks see that Ravetz is a Trojan horse?

Viktor
February 10, 2010 4:15 am

ScientistForTruth (04:06:16) :
“Can’t you folks see that Ravetz is a Trojan horse?”
Clear as day.
Much like when the BBC reached out to Anthony we urged extreme caution, so, too, should we do the same in cases like such as this one. The legitimacy of our arguments has been well-established and now the establishment, as it were, will try to co-opt our side of the debate at every turn.

stephen richards
February 10, 2010 4:20 am

Claurila (01:24:41)
Thanks. I think the Ben Pile exposition is a better piece of philosophical thinking than the Ravetz piece.
The ravetz theory of PNS is quite clearly bullshit and exist only in the phylosophical world in which he has lived his life but never the less his piece does contain some real world observations worthy of discussion.

kzb
February 10, 2010 4:20 am

Excellent essay and a gold-mine in future in discussions elsewhere. He has a really good way of putting things.

Miguel de Campos
February 10, 2010 4:27 am

Very very good essay. The clearest I have read. Thanks.

W Brown
February 10, 2010 4:27 am

Thank you ScientistForTruth (16:33:26) and others for reposting the expose of ‘post-normal science’ and the connection with Muke Hulme who, of all the CRI team, is obviously now wanting to ‘move on’ as fast as possible. I can’t but help comparing this to ‘cargo cult science’ and I see it as a convenient and full frontal attack on the scientific method. A rather critical view of the scandals by the theory creator changes nothing and does not deserve support for this post -modern view of science, no mater how much he might see it as being consistent with his theory (now).
Secondly (and perhaps unkindly) the essay could be seen as attempting to counter what the exposure of these terrible scandals and attacks on science really are: a stake through the heart of this nearly bankrupt theory. If the scientific method triumphs and reaffirms ‘science’ thanks to the exposure of the methods used here in the name of post-normal science, what clothing does the theory have left, but as a talking point amongst philosophers?
To think that it might have (might still yet) cost the world billions of dollars and change lifestyles, the true adjective to place on this theory might be close to being determined.

Roger Knights
February 10, 2010 4:29 am

PS: That is to say, wait for an evening when a spoon-bender or cold-fusionist gets caught in town after dark if you want to see the science community and MSM at its valiant best.

February 10, 2010 4:32 am

Could the above thorough critique by Willis Eschenbach please be moved upwards and juxtaposed directly with Ravetz’ essay? It is a necessary addition for those unfamiliar with (apparently) current philosophical ideas, to avoid misunderstanding what Ravetz says – one might say, it translates Ravetz Newspeak into plain English. Bravo Willis!!

February 10, 2010 4:46 am

Dr. Ravetz, you’ve made my day–maybe my week. I’ll be thinking through your essay (and the “extended peer review” you’re getting in this comment thread!) for weeks.
I’m trying to think of OTHER examples of post-normal science. Here’s what I have so far:
(1) The AIDS crisis.
(2) Breast cancer research.
(3) Stem cell research.
I don’t know if they really fit the paradigm–but each of these examples involve urgent demands for political change and/or massive increases in tax-funded research. Is this “post-normal science” or just the “politicization of science”?

Warren Bonesteel
February 10, 2010 4:50 am

While there are some serious problems with the way various governments handled the WMD claims, Iraq did, in fact, have WMD’s. They didn’t have warehouses full of them all over Iraq (which was the ‘method’ the MSM used to disprove such claims: ‘Iraq doesn’t have warehouses full of bio-chemical weapons, ergo, they don’t have them.’ When, in fact, a small lab is all that is required to produce enough chemicals to kill or main millions of people.) …and certain types of bio-chemical weaponry require little in the way of a ‘logistics train’ of supporting facilities. A few quarts of some substances is quite enough to kill or main rather large numbers of people. Additionally, the US ‘blitzkrieg’ attack gave Iraq little or no opportunity to use them against US troops.
As when people once believed that Islam was a religion of peace that had been hijacked by militants, and also believed that the science behind AGW ‘was settled,’ they still believe that there were no WMD’s in Iraq. As with AGW, the facts about WMD’s in Iraq tell quite a different story than is accepted by the MSM or other mainstream pundits and authorities.
If the mainstream narratives about more than one issue have been proven to be false (UN ‘Oil for Food’ corruption, anyone?), there is substantial reason to revisit and question the claims about other issues.

Butch
February 10, 2010 4:59 am

It always comes down to integrity.

HotRod
February 10, 2010 5:10 am

This piece, or rather the comments section, is a good example of everyone reading the same thing differently. On my first read I picked out these sentences, there were other choices too:
“leading practitioners of this ‘evangelical science’ of global warming”
“they propounded, as a proven fact, Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming. There is little room for uncertainty in this thesis”
“In retrospect, we can ask why this particular, really rather extreme view of the prospect, became the official one.”
“its proponents became invested in it, and attached to it, in all sorts of ways, institutional and personal. ”
“All critics, even those who were full members of the scientific peer community, had to be derided and dismissed”
“Any weakening of the scientific case would have amounted to a betrayal of the good cause”
“The final stage of corruption, cover-up, had taken hold”
and I applauded his ‘factual’ observations. I also welcome ANY observations on WHY this happened, even from a post-Marxist orotund philosopher; I would note that Roger Pielke Jr (that famous Marxist and anti-scientist) describes him as “a giant among scholars in the history and philosophy of science and someone who I am happy to call a friend and colleague.”
That’s good enough for me for the time being.

kim
February 10, 2010 5:11 am

Is it any wonder that the man who drew the treasure map knows where the pot of gold is buried?
============================

Editor
February 10, 2010 5:14 am

“Can’t you folks see that Ravetz is a Trojan horse?”
I concur. I am really surprised, and disappointed, at the number of people giving this essay unqualified praise. I don’t fault Anthony for posting it, and I’ve read tallbloke’s defense of it, especially in response to Willis. But given what I think are the general leanings of most of the readership here, I can only surmise that they have been fooled when they accept Ravetz’ ideas uncritically.
My guess is that they are seeing what they think is a criticism of the normal peer review process, and case being made for a broader kind of “peer review.” But there is a lot more to Ravetz’ theory than that. Ravetz is arguing for politicizing science even more than it is already! Au contraire, the point I tried to make in my initial comment was that we need let politics be politics, and science be science. In a nutshell, what Ravetz is doing is crafting an argument to further politicize science. In “post normal science,” science is not what the “normal” scientists say it is, science is what the political process says it is! Do all of you praising this post uncritically really believe that? If so, God help us all.

February 10, 2010 5:17 am

Tenuc (02:14:17) :
I found this an interesting, if not a little wordy, post. While some parts are good, I feel that more could have been made of the politicisation of science and the constant pressure for individuals working on projects to deliver the answers their paymasters want to hear.
The other puzzle I found hard to understand from the context of the piece was that the author seems to be caught in the ‘fear’ trap too. He is an obviously believer in CO2 caused CAGW…
“Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming? If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse.”

If he was still a believer, he’d have said “we are really” not “Are we really?”
This has been the most misunderstood sentence in Jerry Ravetz’ essay. I don’t think he’s saying the public must or should continue to believe, he’s flagging up the danger of the scientific and political establishment continuing to deny the obvious.
ScientistForTruth (04:06:16) :
‘Contradiction’ and ‘characteristic contradiction’ are Marxist-speak.

Jerry said to me in email that one of the reasons he got out of politics many years ago was that he found himself agreeing with thoughtful and reasonable people of the opposite side more than the strident members of his own. I know what he means.
Willis Eschenbach (02:58:56) :
To me, saying that the “approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete” is arguing strongly “against science being done properly in the first place”. What am I missing here?

The context of the argument I think. As I read him, it is the approach of ‘normal science’ as applied to policy formation which is obsolete and must giove way to more democratic forms with wider terms of reference.
So, rather than some boffin telling us that ‘this is how it is’ and the government getting away with handing down the policy from on high without further debate, Ravetz is saying, “hang on, we need views from other people here, including those of investigative journalists and people bearing leaked documents. (He wrote that before the CRU leak by the way). This militates for us not against.
The problem is not that the outputs of science are abused. It is that the scientific process is not being followed, so that there are no valid “outputs of science” to be abused.
As I said in my earlier reply, I doubt you’d get any argument from Jerry on that score. Integrity is a pre-requisite for useful knowledge production. He acknowledged that he’d missed emphasising that when I confronted him with Scientist For Truth’s piece some weeks ago.

February 10, 2010 5:20 am

Thank you so very much for that learned summary (although it is almost a paper in itself) of the subject. I have read it once, and shall re-read a few times. So far not a single word seems invalid or misplaced. I feel you have nailed it, to use the vernacular.
(another) Jerome

Rienk
February 10, 2010 5:33 am

The prof is just another Grima Wormtongue. The whole edifice of science will come crashing down around us unless the public keeps on believing The claim of AGW? Come on! Scientists don’t need to be believeable or dependable or honest or have authority. What is needed is simple. Show your work. Show it in sufficient detail, show methods and equipment, show your reasoning. Show it to all that ask. Then others can check, point out mistakes, affirm your findings and improve. That way no one needs to take anybody’s word for anything and science will happily progress.
The only difference with how things used to be is that these days a lot more people have sufficient access and knowledge to assess the claims. Nominally we belong to the public, in reality we are all peers now. Deal with it, science is not a religion.
Sorry about the ranting, but agents like the prof raise my hackles something terrible. And I’m serious about all of us being peers. We check the theory of electricity every time we switch on the lights or the telly and we don’t need a belief system for that.

Veronica
February 10, 2010 5:34 am

tallbloke
“post-normal” science is a defined term and is not being used colloquially in Ravetz’s essay. Wiki it and you will see how it is defined.

February 10, 2010 5:34 am

This is by far the sharpest analysis on the climate scam I have read. Very interesting and inspiring to read. I will directly make a summary in Swedish for my blog readers.
If there is anything to comment about the article, it should be what several commentors have pointed out above. The author is maybe a bit to cautious, not going into details about factors that have been discussed intensely in the blogosphere:
– money, both as an overall motivation and, specifically, in the context of misusing grants
– international politics, shown in conflicts of interest between major global actors
This was a high water mark. More of that kind, please.

February 10, 2010 5:35 am

Willis Eschenbach (02:58:56) :
Do you note that in his entire essay he says nothing about the hiding of data? Did you see that he doesn’t mention the corruption of the peer review process? Did you observe that he said nothing about Jones refusing to give out his data because Warwick would “try to find fault with it”? Did you get that he mentions nothing about Jones and the others conspiring to destroy evidence? Did you notice that he is totally silent about Jones fraudulently evading my FOI request?

Willis, I understand that you think Jerry Ravetz is soft soaping the issues, and I warned him of the dangers of standing in the middle of the road on this, but here we are. The criticisms he has are nuanced, partly because his essay will have other audiences besides WUWT, but they are far reaching noentheless.
“Even if only a fraction of their scientific claims were eventually refuted, their credibility as trustworthy scientists was lost. … the recent data from other sources were skilfully blended in so that the change was not obvious; that was the notorious ‘Nature trick’ of the CRU e-mails. …. We can begin to see what went seriously wrong when we examine what the leading practitioners of this ‘evangelical science’ of global warming … took to be the plain and urgent truth in their case.”

EdB
February 10, 2010 5:36 am

Thank you Willis Eschenbach, you said what I could not express other than to say .. it is a pile of CRAP!

February 10, 2010 5:46 am

Veronica (05:34:43) :
tallbloke
“post-normal” science is a defined term and is not being used colloquially in Ravetz’s essay. Wiki it and you will see how it is defined.

C’mon, you know better than to quote wikipedia as a definitive source. Anyway, to me it looks like PNS is a concept which can be hijacked and turned to either sides use, and surely has been, and will be. If that makes Jerry a chameleon, then so be it, but I think it indicates the truth in his proposition.

Steve in SC
February 10, 2010 5:53 am

Not post normal at all. Simply corrupt. Anywhere you find any man made disaster you will find the root cause is simply corruption.
Willis you are indeed correct. It is piled higher and deeper.

February 10, 2010 5:54 am

Now that I’ve had an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the background of “Post-Normal Science,” I see that it was DEVELOPED to justify the suspension of “normal” scientific rules in order to allow “emergency action” in the face of alleged peril. That’s troubling.
The good news is that Dr. Ravetz has published this essay on this blog at this time, however. His PNS theory may have been developed to support AGW action, but the categories that he has developed work even better when applied in the opposite direction. He may have come up with PNS in order to write off the “deniers,” but Climategate turned his paradigm inside out.
Italy sided with Hitler in 1939, but by the time the Allies neared Rome in 1943, Italy switched sides. Ciao, Dr. Ravetz!

Editor
February 10, 2010 6:08 am

Yesterday at an event I had a portion of ‘beef stew’ for lunch. In my portion I found two small pieces of meat. The rest of the bulk was made up of mushrooms and onions dressed in a very tasty gravy. Everyone commented how delicious it was. This was a Post-Normal Stew that delivered what the event organisers wanted (tasty food) and what the catering company wanted us to accept (low cost). Most people didn’t notice and the catering company went home richer.
Post-Normal Science is just the same – strip away the padding and you are left with few scientific facts and a lot of conjecture. Listened to ‘The News’ lately anyone? As a society we have become so used to opinion and speculation dressed up as news that PNS is right at home in the media.
This is a very well-written and thought-provoking essay with some lovely turns of phrase, but the whole notion of PNS fills me with dread.

Stephen Wilde
February 10, 2010 6:22 am

The concept of post normal science has been discredited for some time: