Response to Ravetz and post-normal science

People send me things. Here’s one from today’s mail. It is a response by Dr. Jaap Hanekamp to the essays by Oxford Professor Jerome Ravetz carried here on WUWT recently.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_0h0eJBMr-uE/SskhzKy5DOI/AAAAAAAAApQ/RwyME656o7c/s200/Jaap+C.+Hanekamp.jpg

Dr. Ravetz’s first posting on WUWT created quite a controversey. You can read it here:

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

and Part 2 here:

Jerry Ravetz part 2 – Answer and explanation to my critics

Hi Anthony
With great interest we read Ravetz’ essay on WUWT and the discussions that followed.

Now at climategate.nl (which contrary to climategate.com is alive and kicking 🙂 we also have posted an extensive reaction in English which we hope can clarify some of the problems with Ravetz’s hypothesis of post-normal science.

Jaap Hanekamp, the author, is publishing a lot about the precautionary principle. He is a chemist and also a teacher of chemistry and science philosophy at the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg. – Marcel Crok

Excerpt:

The democratization of science, instead of reductionism, is the method of Ravetz’s choice to move forward with science. Because of the many technological and scientific risks we are exposed to according to Ravetz and many with him, particular directions in scientific and social inquiry, because of their ostensible positive social, political, and environmental outcomes, should be favoured. Put differently, scientific inquiry, at the same time, should be explanatory, normative, practical and self-reflexive.

Therefore, ‘an argument is cogent for an audience if, according to standards that audience would deem on reflection to be relevant, the premises are acceptable and in the appropriate way sufficient to support the conclusion.’ (Boger, G. 2005. Subordinating Truth–Is Acceptability Acceptable? Argumentation 19: 187 – 238) Ideally, this acceptability approach should empower people with capacities to reason critically and to assess sharply the conflicting (scientific) argumentations that play an important role in their lives. The UK government’s inquiry into the purported adverse health effects of mobile phones for instance, concluded that in future ‘non-peer reviewed papers and anecdotal evidence should be taken into account’ as part of the process for reaching decisions on these matters (Mobile Phones and Health. 2000. Independent Expert Group On Mobile Phones, National Radiological Protection Board, Didcot, p. 102.)

Even if one were to agree, in a preliminary sense, with the acceptability approach as democratically laudable and worthy of effort, given the wide divergence of audiences and participants not sharing a common interest, resolving an argument’s validity on the basis of acceptability of premises and acceptable inferential links embedded in a given value-based context will in all likelihood inexcusably favour the stronger of the ‘disputants’ and place the weaker at a decided disadvantage. Thus, if we are to excise external authority (as previously hypostatised in the notion of God, by the way) that is thought to frustrate democratisation of the scientific discourse and thereby subverts the cause of justice, then the acceptability requirement re-imposes another, but hidden, authority that it sought to eliminate, namely the will to power.

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119 thoughts on “Response to Ravetz and post-normal science

  1. OT: A news item that went unnoticed, and that all greenies want to bury, is a statement made last Friday by EDF Energies Nouvelles (French Green Power Company). A power purchase agreement was terminated without explanation by Indianapolis Power and Light Company regarding the supply of wind energy by enXco, a local EDF company. The contract was unilaterally terminated by IPL, and more than 10 days later, EDF has acknowledged it to the market.
    Ecotretas
    See english translation with links here

  2. In the Ravetz essay, he says: “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.”

    Oh, come on!! Will the public still refuse to utilize the best in medical and pharmaceutical research and development? I think not!
    The public isn’t as gullible, nor as stupid, as many in the university systems seem to think. We know when we are being conned, and demand the truth.
    Many in the lay public have very good to excellent scientific credentials and training in engineering, medicine and all the related disciplines, and are discerning consumers of science.
    Seems to me that the climate community, with their tails between their legs, are lashing out at the blogs. Tough beans, the Internet is showing great value as a community meeting place to hash out difficult policy questions.

  3. Dr. Hanekamp has addressed most of the problems with Dr. Ravetz’s views, maybe too gently in my mind. Dr. Ravetz wants us to believe that epistimology should take a back seat to acceptability, that is, the science of knowledge, how we know what we know, should be sacrificed for a general feeling of acceptability, not based on anything we know, but what we might be afraid that we might know. Dr. Ravetz of course didn’t state it quite that way.
    If we feel that something could happen, then is it acceptable that it might happen? Take out the words something and it in the sentence and fill in the blanks as desired. You can use that sentence to generate fear of many things.

  4. Unfortunately, science is being subsumed into sociology in this way so the sociologist can assume power over what is considered to be the important focus of science.
    Professor F A Hayek (who is an economist) discussed this problem of ‘constructivism’ in his lecture/writing ‘Socialism and Science’.
    I hope that CRS,DR.P.H is correct in that ‘the public isn’t as gullible, nor as stupid as many in the university systems think’. But if you talk to people in the Social Sciences in the universities they really do seem to think that science can be treated in a similar fashion to sociological problems where ‘every view point is valid’!

  5. “The public isn’t as gullible, nor as stupid, as many in the university systems seem to think. We know when we are being conned, and demand the truth..” ~CRS, Dr.P.H
    It is actually the intellectuals who are the most prone to being conned. They all to often lack the common sense to sniff out the con and their egos are so huge they actually believe that #1 they could never fall for a con and #2 no one would dare try and con them as they are too smart to fall for it.

  6. Much too long and convoluted, just to state the obvious: “The tendency to suspend judgment about truth by lending primacy to the approach of acceptability, the democratization Ravetz so praises, re-establishes the very anti-democratic practices it thought to avoid.”
    Basically, if ‘truth’ is what your audience wants to hear or find important, then it ain’t science. It becomes what Napoleon once said: “a set of lies agreed upon”.

  7. I think instead of “post-normal” science it would be much more accurate and and appropriate to use the term “Ab-Normal.”
    And then there’s the whole issue that if you’ve got to use qualifiers, then we’re really not talking about “science” at all anymore, are we?
    Why not just call it “the study of hopey changey stuff that makes us feel good, so we all voted for it to be true”.

  8. There is no science “light” for the good of humanity or democratisation of science. If climate models come up with valid preditions they are “scientifically sound”, as long as they don’t they remain flawed. The public is entitled to the truth that the climate system is still poorly understood and will remain so for another while, and actions currently initiated appear to be pretty ineffective and naive indeed.

  9. The CRU emails revealed climate researchers are not scientists. Their task is to “fix” data to fit the AGW theory, and silence real scientists. Why is this douche complaining?

  10. Goobly Gook, Goobly GOOK, GOOBLY GOOK
    Gunning Fog Index: 20.2
    Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”: 5.8
    Just a thought. Wordy, convoluted, does not mean “intelligent/clear”…
    Max

  11. There used to be lies, damned lies and statistics. Now there are lies, damned lies and Post Modern Science.
    We were conned by a few third rate academics. That’s all. Of course it isn’t the end of proper Science. Just as we were conned by a lot of Marxists before them.
    We have far too many Universities, and I sometimes wonder if they are good wholesome places to send the young to be educated. Cut off their grants, send the young out to work.

  12. Rhyl Dearden (14:01:41) :
    I hope that CRS,DR.P.H is correct in that ‘the public isn’t as gullible, nor as stupid as many in the university systems think’. But if you talk to people in the Social Sciences in the universities they really do seem to think that science can be treated in a similar fashion to sociological problems where ‘every view point is valid’!
    Yet is is the same public that in blogs [e.g. this one] chant that one has take all views into consideration, no matter how weird.

  13. Do you know if some people you remember, in the past, more precisely from 1939 to 1945, applied a kind of this post normal science principles, with the “nice” consequences we all know?

  14. I am sorry – but I read the whole essay and did not understand it. I have no idea what post-normal science even is.

  15. The only interesting thing about all this post-normal stuff is what is Hulme up to right now with his mass manipulation center?

  16. Concurr with CRS, Dr.P.H.
    As an engineer and physician (Harvard Medical School, if it matters), I have found blogs to be the best place to interact on matters of science, medicine, and policy.
    Peers are here, available right now, and can review and debate within hours that which used to take months.
    Once, libraries defined universities. That is where you had to go for knowledge.
    Professors and ‘peers’ collected there.
    Now, knowledge is everywhere … and almost immediate … and feedback to correct error or stimulate debate is at your fingertips.
    ‘Peer Review’ … it is HERE as the interactive dialog … and not as the published comments of those who control the publications.

  17. The day we start practicing post-normal science in the medical research lab and offering cures by consensus is the day we start killing a lot of people with pharmaceutical snake oil. Post normal science might have a place in the social and metaphysical sciences as long as they promise to keep it to themselves. However for the biological, chemical, and physical sciences, it is akin to practicing voodoo.

  18. Truth isn’t always “acceptable,” and it certainly isn’t democratic. Which is why some people hate truth, and real science.

  19. Wow, an average of 26 words per sentence (I measured!). Who writes like that when actually trying to communicate? I would be interesting to compare this with the thoughts (err, and the verbiage) of the rulers regarding democracy back in the day.
    Here’s the rules for science, they haven’t changed in a long time:
    1) everyone can play.
    2) your work needs to be reproducible by others.
    3) experiments need to validate the hypothesis.

  20. Ricka: “I have no idea what post-normal science even is.”
    As I understand it, it is a way to change the rigour of “proof” to make it easier to prove things by other than scientific ways. Whilst I’m obvously putting that in a biased way, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong to unscientific methods in an area like climate forecasting. This is an area which is inherently devoid of real evidence, and where it is believed that action cannot wait for real scientific proof, so (if it weren’t all eco-balony) it is not unreasonable to try to make a decision before enough data has been collected for proper science.
    But you can’t call it science: politics yes! Science, No! Even a political decision based on voting by scientists, but that is not real science!

  21. I’ve learned so much in the last 5 years watching the Global Warming science back-and-forth between scientists and sceptics. My conclusion thus far is that they are in fact teaching us how to identify social engineering and memory adjustments. It has been a long fought psychological warfare with some of the biggest and most power names and positions toppling from their own weight, Pachauri and Gore to name but two.
    Any layman who has been following the science out of curiosity or other interest will have identified the common arguments for and against, and that the AGW proponents usually use social/moral arguments for their case rather than science as we understand it (with errors and unknowns qualified).
    I think they have taught us better than they realise.

  22. Bryan (14:29:58) :
    Democratisation of science!
    Ive never really liked quantum mechanics any chance of a quick vote!

    I’m looking forward to democratising math. If we can 2 + 2 = 5 (or 6 or even 10), it’s going to do wonders for my bank account.

  23. What’s about to come out of my mouth is admittedly crass (if you want to snip maybe snip the whole thing – no worries mods) but I’m not sure I can properly phrase the thought any other way:
    Is it just me or is post-normal science not, as perhaps originally intended to be, an enlightened understanding of the intersections between hard sciences and soft sciences (social science, political science, perhaps a bit of philosophy thrown in for good measure)… but instead be better described as the gang-rape of hard science by the practitioners of the soft sciences?

  24. 14 March: St. Petersburg Times, Florida: Outlook cloudy on climate
    By Eric Deggans
    Phillips’ caution makes sense; he’s not only a weather forecaster, but a local TV personality who wants the widest possible audience. So a contentious, confusing topic like global warming must sometimes feel like a minefield.
    Which may also explain why most of the area’s other chief TV meteorologists displayed the same sort of ambivalence — while admitting they are also asked about it all the time.
    In fact, just one forecaster among the five chief meteorologists at the Tampa Bay area’s top TV news outlets agreed with the conclusions issued years ago by the American Meteorological Society and the global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
    Namely, that the planet’s temperature is warming and man is contributing to it.
    “I haven’t worked in a weather department yet where there wasn’t a split decision on the topic,” said Tammie Souza, chief meteorologist at St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, who blames political interests for distorting the debate. “Personally, I think it’s obvious our climate is changing … and man has something to do with the warmup. But the minute you get government involved and money involved, the simple facts are blurred all over the place.”…
    http://www.tampabay.com/features/media/article1079148.ece

  25. Thus, if we are to excise external authority (as previously hypostatised in the notion of God, by the way) that is thought to frustrate democratisation of the scientific discourse and thereby subverts the cause of justice, then the acceptability requirement re-imposes another, but hidden, authority that it sought to eliminate, namely the will to power.
    Translation: “If the actual results do not support our position, we will ignore them and ask for consensus, and if the consensus isn’t in our favor, we will declare that it is — because we can.”
    Much like the current Democrat position of not voting on health care — errr — health insurance reform, but deeming that a vote would be favorable, and therefore, unnecessary.

  26. “NickB. (14:51:25) :
    […]
    philosophy thrown in for good measure)… but instead be better described as the gang-rape of hard science by the practitioners of the soft sciences?”
    I think your thought is best answered with this:
    “Addressing these questions requires Tyndall to carry out research within an integrating institutionalframework that: (i) facilitates an infusion of different disciplinary methods to offer new approaches and insights; (ii) applies integrated modelling techniques to contribute to understanding the issues; and (iii) engages academia and wider society to ensure Tyndall research continues to be scientifically, socially, politically and economically robust.”
    Source:
    http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/About/Tyndall-Transition-Period-2009-2010
    (couldn’t help myself from looking at Mr. SuperPostNormalMan’s Fortress Of Darkness)

  27. I agree with Leif, much too convoluted. Someone else had it right also about post normal science and called it ab-normal. And, too many folks in government don’t know squat about business or government because they have always been in “school” doing graduate work,teaching or whatever. For instance, take a look at the lady’s background that the administration has just nominated to be on the Federal Reserve. Just a”school kid”. She has never run a business of any kind or made money for a business.I don’t remember her name or the article about her. I’m afraid too many of us are gullible. I think we may be sunk if we don’t change something quickly.

  28. NickB. (14:51:25):
    Or perhaps a “revolt” of practitioners of the soft sciences against the hard science – something they don’t really understand and so they mistake it for some sort of “evil, elitist soft science”. So, “post-normal science” is an attempt to “soften” hard science.
    Welcome to the second coming of the Dark Ages.

  29. Post Normal Science is kinda like Post Normal Legislation as we are seeing today with the Democrat’s manipulation of the rules of how to pass a bill. Deem it so, and it will be so.

  30. Democratisation of science is science by consensus. Exactly the sort of manipulative, social engineering crap we’ve had for the past 20 years.
    They do it in small steps at a time – boiling the frog slowly.
    Lord Monckton warned of the peril democracy and freedom (and you can bet, science) will be in when Copenhagen II kicks off in Bonn in April.
    http://bit.ly/98KAB5
    They will be more devious this time. They will increase their inducements on politicians and the media. They’ll use every trick in the book because they want it so badly. Hell, it’s been 20 years in the making.
    They might even clamp down on bloggers. They might use the secret ACTA treaty to do it (see the ACTA label on my blog).
    So can I please ask you all to post Monckton’s warning on your blogs, social networking sites, newspaper comments, forums – everywhere? Ask top bloggers to do the same?
    Our democracies and freedoms are perilously close to being lost.

  31. “Personally, I think it’s obvious our climate is changing … and man has something to do with the warmup. But the minute you get government involved and money involved, the simple facts are blurred all over the place.”…
    Man has something to do with it alright…bad data records and techniques as well as concrete jungles.

  32. To paraphrase Sen. Lindsey Graham – People are getting tired of this “post-normal science” crap!

  33. When I read Ravetz’ first article I was supportive. I have travelled the same path on post normal science that I did on AGW. PNS, however, I have an actual working explanation for.
    It is magic. It is proposed by those who believe the common person to be so inadequatly equiped to evaluate the science, that they must accept the conclusions of their betters for the good of mankind, and even should there be reason to question it, accept it anyway “just in case” because it is for the best anyway.
    Arthur C Clarke had it backward. He should have said “any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science”
    Because thats what I am being sold. A magic trick trumped up as science, and the PNS crowd trying to convince the public that sometimes “urgency” and “consequences” require that we accept “these” magicians and ignore “those” magicians, “just in case”.

  34. above last paragraph missing a sentence
    Because thats what I am being sold. A magic trick trumped up as science, and the PNS crowd trying to convince the public that sometimes “urgency” and “consequences” require that we accept “these” magicians and ignore “those” magicians, “just in case”. The presumption is that the “science” is so far beyond the common person that both must appear to be magic, and decisions made in favour of plausible explanation and social acceptance rather than fact and proof.

  35. Leif – great definition.
    Another way of putting it is that if everybody’s point of view is equally valid, then nobody’s view is valid. What results is a tyranny of rule by emotion, or force. Rationality is the casualty.
    This is why it is essential to ensure every citizen possible has some degree of scientific education, and is capable of rational decision making, even when the specialist area may be esoteric.

  36. We do not need science to be governed by a new set of risk aversity rules. By its very nature it is a step into the unknown, you can’t do that honestly without taking risks.
    Secondly I’m not sure we need science to be anymore explanatory, normative, practical and self-reflexive. The marketisation of science has already forced scientists to think “can I patent this” with every new development. The real breakthroughs in science aren’t made by those who apply the science to real world problems but those doing the blue sky thinking (and this from an applied scientist).
    There has been a long term drive to bring science out of it’s ivory towers into democratic scutiny. The IPCC is maybe the lastest example of forcing scientist to get involved with the real world. Maybe we should just let them back in their towers to do what they do best.
    Labs are like abattoirs. You really don’t need to see the processes that go on inside. Just appreciate the end product.

  37. Leif Svalgaard: “Basically, if ‘truth’ is what your audience wants to hear or find important, then it ain’t science. It becomes what Napoleon once said: ‘a set of lies agreed upon’.”
    That’s a bit cynical, Lief.
    Most people understand that “truth” has two meanings: “ordinary truths,” which are reports confirmable by observation and experience, and “higher truths,” which are claims entailed by some religious, ideological, or moral axiom. How a proffered “truth” is understood and whether it is accepted depends upon the priorities assigned to the interests at stake. There are no doubt many creationists who will never accept any ordinary truths (reports based on observation and experience) which conflict with the “higher truths” they’ve already accepted. That is because the losses they anticipate from a de-throning of their “higher truths” — collapse of the foundations of their *welatanschauung,” extinguishing of their hopes for eternal life, etc. — are much greater than than any loss they can envision from a mistaken understanding of biology. Yet those folks’ understanding of ordinary truths is perfectly sound — they will certainly demand it when, for example, considering a suggested treatment for a disease, or when considering whether to buy a car claimed to be more fuel efficient.
    People will be receptive to alarmist claims about climate as long as they assume the costs of being wrong are catastrophic. Then the priority becomes, not thoroughly understanding climate, but avoiding disaster. If the fear of disaster is exacerbated (and perhaps precipitated) by a long-held and thoroughgoing animus for “exploitive capitalist society,” “crass materialism,” “alienating individualism,” “rape of Nature,” etc., ordinary truths will have little chance of countering it. Higher truths always trump ordinary truths. And when the ordinary truths are ambiguous, contradictory, or simply unavailable, the “higher truths” have the field to themselves.

  38. I think Dr. Revetz chose a bad name for his concept: Post Normal Science. Most of his essay was about policy dispute, so he ought to have called it “Public Policy Disputes”.
    You don’t have to believe that you will die next year or suffer a calamitous loss, in order to buy insurance, and you don’t have to believe that GHG-caused global warming is certain in order to promote a prudent response to a possible threat. There is enough evidence for AGW that the Netherlands might be prudent to build its seawalls higher; I doubt it would be prudent for Chile to redirect much of its earthquake-related resources toward AGW reduction, though even Chile needs more non-fossil fuel-based energy.
    Except for that, Revetz’ two essays were ok.

  39. The difference between science and sociology is that science is put to work “on the ground” – usually by engineers. In this way it is “proven” what “truths” are correct. Academia can argue about what can be true with the next scientific discoveries but the layperson will not, and should not, care about these issues until someone wants to put them to work “on the ground”.
    This is the reason for the heated discourse on AGW…..people want to implement social changes based on unsupported “truths.”

  40. DirkH (15:06:46) :
    couldn’t help myself from looking at Mr. SuperPostNormalMan’s Fortress Of Darkness
    It’s a little bit like driving past a car accident. You don’t want to stare, but you catch a glimpse… “wtf is going on there?” and before you know it you’re about to cause another accident 😉
    There’s that “robust” word again. *shudder
    Is there any wonder why “science” gets taken over by political/activist interests when they intentionally institute a framework to facilitate it?
    Peter B (15:15:06) :
    So, “post-normal science” is an attempt to “soften” hard science.
    I think that is a much more acceptable/polite (accurate?) way to put it – agreed!

  41. For the electronics engineers can I suggest another analogy. Real science is like the traditional analogue RF receiver – what comes out is a direct relationship to what goes in. The audio signal out is a causal relationship (+ a bit of internal noise) to the input.
    In contrast, Post Normal science, is a bit like a phase locked loop. The “model” is the internal oscillator, which is the model, which is compared to the actual environmental signal as and when available and adjustments made to resync the oscillator to the signal. This is in some senses a “superior” model, because it can cope with low information content subjects – so that e.g. the model of the climate, can be created and compared to available evidence on the climate and adjusted to match – and if you are lucky it can lock into the “real” signal from the environment at much lower signal levels and with better signal to noise.
    But as every electronics engineer should know, PLLs also have the characteristic of false locking. They can lock into signals that aren’t there (harmonics) and can give the false impression of representing a reality which isn’t there. This happens because the internal model, continues to have a life of its own and the sparse information from the real climate/signal is insufficient to kick it out of a false mmode into the real mode where the internal model will match the environment.
    Add to this the natural tendency to look for evidence to support our worldly viewpoint/group-think rather than looking for evidence to counter our view, and these non-deterministic (i.e. non-scientific) methodologies are highly subject to false paradigms such as the current fad re manmade global warming.

  42. A terminological problem here.
    We also use the term “acceptable premise” to mean a *rationally* acceptable premise. Such a premise may or may not be true, but it is not silly to treat it as if it were true.
    There are rules for deciding whether a premise is acceptable, unacceptable, or provisional. These rules have nothing to do with how one feels about the premise, and nothing to do with how many people believe it.
    Disagreement about a premise, is, however, a factor. A premise is acceptable if it is claimed by an expert, *so long as no other expert disagrees*.
    The aim of the rules is to accept only premises which are “more like the truth” (as Xenophanes would have phrased if he had prescient and sensible enough to speak English) so as to produce arguments which similarly come closer to the truth.

  43. “FaustiesBlog (15:32:42) :
    […]
    They will be more devious this time. They will increase their inducements on politicians and the media. They’ll use every trick in the book because they want it so badly. Hell, it’s been 20 years in the making.”
    They will be as incompetent and bumbling as the last time.

  44. Hank Hancock: “The day we start practicing post-normal science in the medical research lab and offering cures by consensus is the day we start killing a lot of people with pharmaceutical snake oil.”
    I think you (and several others) are mis-reading Ravetz. The “extended peer community” does not include every person, no matter how uninformed. It refers to that subset of the public which has informed itself and possesses expertise or perspectives (as well as interest) relevant to the problem — which is a much larger group than the small and insular clique of “peer reviewers.” And, like it or not, what counts as “accepted” or “settled” or “normal” science will always be determined by a consensus of some sort. The only question is, How broad is that consensus? How much evidence and how many arguments were considered before it was reached?

  45. Steve (16:09:53) :
    “…Another way of putting it is that if everybody’s point of view is equally valid, then nobody’s view is valid. What results is a tyranny of rule by emotion, or force. Rationality is the casualty…”
    Do not fall into the trap of thinking that cultural relativism means that all systems of ethics and morality are equally valid and thus equally valueless. Nihilism is fatal to cultures, individuals and immortal souls. A society that accepts the notion that no value is worth dieing for is a society that no longer deserves to live

  46. Off Topic: Global Warming vs. Other Causes of Shifts in Bird Ranges
    “The South African scientists say their work suggests that either “observed climate changes have not yet been sufficient to trigger extensive shifts in the ranges of indigenous birds in this region, or that a priori assumptions are incorrect.” Either way, as they continue, “this study highlights the danger of naive attribution of range changes to climate change,”
    http://www.co2science.org/articles/V13/N11/B1.php

  47. NickB: “Is it just me or is post-normal science not, as perhaps originally intended to be, an enlightened understanding of the intersections between hard sciences and soft sciences (social science, political science, perhaps a bit of philosophy thrown in for good measure)… but instead be better described as the gang-rape of hard science by the practitioners of the soft sciences?”
    Neither. It is science as it must (per Ravetz) be practiced when 1) the “ordinary evidence” (evidence as traditionally understood) is ambiguous, contradictory, or non-existent, and 2) the consequences (for the public) of assuming different answers are great, and thus indicate radically different policies.

  48. Contrarian (16:17:08) :
    Leif Svalgaard: “Basically, if ‘truth’ is what your audience wants to hear or find important, then it ain’t science. It becomes what Napoleon once said: ‘a set of lies agreed upon’.”
    Most people understand that “truth” has two meanings: “ordinary truths,” which are reports confirmable by observation and experience, and “higher truths,” which are claims entailed by some religious, ideological, or moral axiom.

    Your latter kind of ‘truth’ falls squarely within Napoleon’s maxim.

  49. Global Warming is not (imho) as big a threat to this planet as CO2 is. We can deal with the warming, however the acidification of the oceans as a result of elevated levels CO@ in the atmosphere will be a much more challenging problem. The book Sea Sick mentions that the worlds oceans will be so acidic by 2038 that the only organism that can srvive in it will be jelly fish. An ocean with no fish in it is way more scary than Jaws.

  50. Post-normal science — what a great potential there is in this area representing a potential new revenue stream for the Gallup organization.

  51. People talk about science as if it operates in a vaccuum. Scientists are employed by government, industry and academia. and have never been detached from the real world. Scientists must eat. Someone pays their salary and funds their research.
    Government is the biggest funder of scientific research. Eisenhower warned of the dangers in his last speech as President. In some science, government is the biggest employer, for example example in Atmospheric Science (climate). Not all of the science that is funded is in the public domain, some of it is classified. During the 60’s when plate tectonics was being debated, much of the data used was classified, and only available to some scientists with security clearance. The internet was created by the military, funded by the government. That which is not classified is not available free of charge to every taxpayer, but is protected by a subscription pay wall.
    Research conducted by industry tends to be proprietory, and more applied science than theoretical. Industries also fund some science via academic scientists, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to government funding. Industries also sponge off government funded science, especially Big pharma, and use such research in product development for new drugs (no discounts available to the tax papers who funded said research).
    Academia of course begs for money from government grants, some industry grants, and of course has pressure from those in administration who seek to please those who provide the endowments and rate their universities. Researching an aspect of science that is not popular among the intellectuals and socialists who seek to mold this world in a form as envisioned by Plato is not conducive to a career in acacademia. Government and Industry scientists are also easily silenced as long as they are working for one or the other.
    Science has been used to justify child labour, unsafe working conditions, to confirm the safety of lead and asbestos, to deny contamination of Polio vaccines with SV-40 from monkeys kidneys, to deny that bacteria could cause ulcers, to deny plate tectonic theory (first proposed in 1911), etc.
    The concept of the democratization of science is interesting. I suppose it could mean that scientists should be given the freedom of speech without having to worry about all of the above (money and career). It should relate to peer review. I mean, could a scientist like Einstein working as a patent officer get his papers published on special relativity and quantum theory. I doubt it. He debunked a wildly popular theory at the time about the Aether, saying only that it was not needed for his theories (no proof offered).
    Having anonymous peer reviewers is a great way to silence those speaking an inconvenient truth. There was no peer review in Einsteins day until later in his career when he challenged the popular view of quantum mechanics. He had a paper rejected in 1937 and was furious, saying I sent my paper to you to be published, not to be reviewed by other scientists first (stealing of others ideas was well established back in the day, and delays in publication were a concern). Peer review is a modern practice, popular only in the late 20th century. Science did quite well before peer review.
    Einstein was one of those scientists who did not perform any laboratory work, and had to outsource his math. He and other scientists performed thought experiments, others collected data via experiments, some did both. Kind of like what computer modellers do when you think of it. They cherry pick some data collected by others, make some reasonable or unreasonable assumptions, program the math and use the big brain that is computer power to determine outcome. If outcome not what is desired, adjust data, assumptions and algorithms, wash, rinse, repeat . This especially works when the output or theory can not be disproven easily, at least not for 30 years or so.
    It was skeptics who refined Einsteins theories, corrected some errors, and made improvements over the following decades. They never did accept his justified concerns about the spookiness of Bohrs Quantum Mechanics, so today Science is content to construct a world view of probabilities (percentage, or using words like IPCC’s very likely).
    When there is public debate on science, it is due to one reason. That the science is going to be used as justification to regulate someone or something, which will cause reduced profits, or higher taxes, supposedly for the public good. But as JP Morgan once said, you must have 2 reasons for everything, a good reason (public good), and the real reason (wink, wink). Scientists can be found to support any position, and the silencing of scientists with opposing views is quite simple, as already explained.

  52. Leif Svalgaard (14:25:03) :
    Rhyl Dearden (14:01:41) :
    I hope that CRS,DR.P.H is correct in that ‘the public isn’t as gullible, nor as stupid as many in the university systems think’. But if you talk to people in the Social Sciences in the universities they really do seem to think that science can be treated in a similar fashion to sociological problems where ‘every view point is valid’!
    Yet is is the same public that in blogs [e.g. this one] chant that one has take all views into consideration, no matter how weird.
    —————————————————–
    As one of the Joe Publics who frequent here, the above exchange is interesting to me as I can’t tell which view is ‘weired’. I used tobe able to tell by the view that lands out of the concensus. With trust gone –
    remember 2,500 scientists proclaim the debate is over on AGW, Joe Publics now have to emerse themselves in the Science (less the Hermetics!) and hope
    to find some way to the truth of the matter without guidance from the ‘concensus’. I take the reference above to be about the ‘SSM controversey’ or a version thereof, which probably drives Lief mad, who does whack-a-mole duties here. It’s now a new world where I can mine all kinds of sources for information from the net but still can’t understand a lick of the actual science. So speaking plainly-PNS isn’t the way forward. But business as usual of science by concensus isn’t either. For however long that has been going on, different lengths of time for different fields, has also come to an end. A vacuum has emerged. And lots of things are getting sucked in including things that suck. um er………so, I feel a little lost.

  53. Ahhh yes, I can see it now: “The relationship between velocity and acceleration is not acceptable to me, because I do not understand calculus. It is too complex for me, the common man. So, since my point of view is just as valid as someone who understands calculus, I now demand that the relationship between velocity and acceleration now be… purple. That is acceptable to me.”
    I hear the Dark Ages gearing-up for them comeback!

  54. Truth is truth and facts are facts. What you do with the truth and the facts is a second thing, called politics.
    For example, before World War Two Churchill was desperately trying to warn people about Hitler, and was generally dismissed as a war-monger. In speech after speech he listed the truthful facts about Hitler’s military build-up, and how Germany’s air force was growing larger than England’s, and how they were again building U-boats, and how many tanks they had. He did not stray from the truth or exaggerate the facts. However the way he interpreted the facts differed greatly from the way pacifists did, and the way rich lords (who saw Hitler as a “buffer” against communism) did.
    In a democracy I think we the people need the truth and need the facts. We don’t need truth “softened.” Don’t baby or mollycoddle us. Once the truth is laid out, in all its starkness, you can go on to put whatever “spin” on it you chose. The public is not as dumb as many think, and expects and evaluates “spin.”
    However once you start to “soften” truth it starts to become something other than the truth. In truth, it starts to become a lie. And once the public becomes aware it has been lied to, you can expect all hell to break lose. You can, in fact, expect to be thrown out of power, and the only way you can remain in power is to destroy democracy.

  55. Completely OT

    Late blooming daffodils spark web appeal in Cumbria
    The daffodils, made famous by William Wordsworth, are more than a month late this year following the cold winter.”

    What if the daffodils had bloomed a month earlier? MSM would say “Global warming, we’re all doomed.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cumbria/8567629.stm
    [mods: feel free to snip/delete, just food for thought]

  56. 15 March: Business Week: Bloomberg: Simon Lomax: EPA Studying Own Carbon-Trading System, Official Says (Update2)
    Editors: Richard Stubbe, Charlotte Porter
    The existing Clean Air Act “could enable us to include emissions trading” within agency regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists have linked to climate change, Anna Marie Wood, a senior policy analyst at the EPA, said at an event in Washington hosted by the American Bar Association.
    “We’re considering all that right now and thinking about what might make sense,” Wood said. While the agency “strongly prefers” that Congress pass new laws dealing with greenhouse gases, “we think that there’s a lot of progress that can be made using certain tools under the Clean Air Act.”..
    The budget request showed the EPA’s interest in carbon trading under existing law and there are “continuing signals from the agency that they’re looking at this and evaluating this internally,” Allan Bedwell, a vice president at CantorCO2e, the emission markets unit of Cantor Fitzgerald LP, said in a telephone interview…
    A “cautious and responsible approach” by EPA officials today will help the agency fend off court challenges from groups that oppose any future carbon trading regulation, he said.
    “The stakes are big, and when the stakes are big, these issues get litigated, even if there’s a fairly small chance of success,” Cannon (Jonathan Cannon, a University of Virginia School of Law professor and former EPA general counsel during the Clinton administration) said..
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-15/epa-studying-own-carbon-trading-system-official-says-update1-.html

  57. johnnythelowery (17:25:45) :
    It’s now a new world where I can mine all kinds of sources for information from the net
    Most of what is on the net is dis/mis/non-information or just plain junk.
    A vacuum has emerged. And lots of things are getting sucked in including things that suck. um er………so, I feel a little lost.
    Blogs that are reasonably moderated can be a source of stuff to compensate for the junk. Still, junk will slip through, now and then, but Joe Public usually has a good snake-oil detector, so use it.

  58. For me, the concept of “Post Normal Science” is an anathema. And I am not overly fond of the term “Normal Science” either. In general, I prefer the simple label “Science” which has its opposite, “Non-science”.
    I do not doubt that “Post Normal Science” should be placed squarely in the “Non-Science” category. The core of scientific impulse is to be found in the act of each individual apply logic and reason to problems by (and for) his or her-self. Since PNS seems to be some form of bureaucratised “group think”, I fail to see how it can lay claim to the moniker “Science”.

  59. Science used to be called “natural philosophy.” The philosophical component has been long excised in “new age” PhD programs and logical, evidence-based reasoning has been sacrificed to the puerile notion of “consensus” in the school yard. Small wonder that all sorts of totemic ideas mushroom in the minds of agenda-driven “climate scientists,” who seem strangers to basic scientific discipline. Mere acceptability is unacceptable! What is required is solid, old-fashioned scientific proof. They seem totally unequipped to produce such. Arguments about serving noble causes are just a fig leaf for ineptitude.

  60. I do not know what the arguments are in these essays. Lots of really big words that dont seem to make sense. I heard Warren Buffet say that writing should be clear and straightforward. He said when he reads something over and over and cant figure out what it means, he realizes that the author is purposely trying to make it hard to understand. What poor writers these fellows are! Ravetz particularly.
    I cannot define “post-normal” science after reading the essays. Nor can I define “normal” science. I dont know what it means when the other author insists that science should be “normative.” Nor do I know what he means when he says that science must be “self reflexive.”
    What happened to replication and the good ol scientific method? And to keeping accurate notes and measurments?? And honest statistics? And searching for a theory that explains data which is actually observed? Lets get that right before jabbering on about….whatever they are jabbering about.
    I felt a little dumb until I re-read the same paragraphs of Ravetz’s essay about 4 times and realized the guy is full of it, and full of himself. I have no idea whether I agree with his point, since I have no idea what his point is. I am astounded that anybody listens to him.

  61. Contrarian (16:43:33) :
    I think you (and several others) are mis-reading Ravetz. The “extended peer community” does not include every person, no matter how uninformed. It refers to that subset of the public which has informed itself and possesses expertise or perspectives (as well as interest) relevant to the problem — which is a much larger group than the small and insular clique of “peer reviewers.”

    I appreciate your comment and I do see your point. However my concern is not so much the extended peer review of the subset of informed public. In fact in medical research that subset of reviewers does exist in a sense in the form of doctors, PA’s, and equally important nurses and other care givers who must reason how to responsibly administer emerging drugs, treatments, and practices at the patient level.
    In very simple terms, I see post-normal science as being consensus built shortcuts aimed at accepting a view or solution to an issue too complex to be presently understood and thought to require immediate action. Speaking only from my experience in medical research this kind of thinking heavily biases the processes towards Type I errors – rejecting the null hypothesis when the null hypothesis is true. In other words, accepting the working hypothesis because it supposes to offer a solution whereas the null hypothesis does not offer a solution but rather says the solution proposed will have no effect (or worse a detrimental effect).
    In medical terms, a Type I error means subjecting a patient to a treatment that imposes risks or direct harm while offering no real benefit. In climate science it is implementing damaging and costly policy which offers no benefit to the climate. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Post normal science doesn’t seem to allow for that conclusion.

  62. Ray Hudson (17:26:20) :
    Ahhh yes, I can see it now: “The relationship between velocity and acceleration is not acceptable to me, because I do not understand calculus. It is too complex for me, the common man. So, since my point of view is just as valid as someone who understands calculus, I now demand that the relationship between velocity and acceleration now be… purple. That is acceptable to me.”>>
    The problem here, is NOT the common man demanding that the relationship be “purple”. The problem is he who understands calculus CLAIMING that it is purple (when it isn’t), warning of disaster happening because of purple (but it doesn’t) refusing to explain what data and evidence justified purple (and getting caught making it up) and never the less, trying to stampede the common man who doesn’t understand calculus and so is presumed to be unable to determine that the calculus isn’t actually calculus, into solving purple by giving up massive quantities of green.
    This isn’t a return to the dark ages. The dark ages was suppression of science to maintain power. This is the elevation of purple to obtain power.

  63. “The democratization of science, instead of reductionism, is the method of Ravetz’s choice to move forward with science.”
    When’s the next election? Can we all vote?

  64. Brilliant, I’m glad to see a rebuttle of Ravetz given a full post which is so well done. The whole point of the scientific methodology is that scientists can submit themsleves to it as slaves and not masters. The idea of the scietific method being slaves to peoples opinions of acceptability is unacceptable scientific practice and can be likened to manufacturing results.

  65. To get along, it is indeed the case that one must keep quiet and acquiesce to prevailing opinions, even if you know that hard data does not back up prevailing opinions.
    To be chastised, it is indeed the case that one must speak up against prevailing opinions, when you know that hard raw data and pristine observation does not back up prevailing opinions. It is also often the case at my place of work, that prevailing opinions are flavored with group think processes. To wit, I am often chastised.
    C02 and solar variances (each with their own group think fans) as a major driver of climate would fit right into these scenarios.
    And so do IQ tests. Cognitive assessments are still a major source of labeling in special education circles. However, each instrument has its set of biases. Some are biased regarding motor issues. Some are biased regarding communication issues. Some are biased regarding symbolic processing issues. Some are biased regarding memory issues. Some are biased regarding academic experience issues. etc. Which is the point.
    Bias is the major pitfall of all scientific research endeavors, leads the way to group think mistakes, and must be guarded against at all costs. And since we ALL have biases, in what ways are you biased?

  66. Peter B
    A caveat to my agreement if you will… I do not necessarilly think the soft sciences have inflicted this upon the hard sciences because of spite, or any other intentionally nefarious reason. I think instead, it is probably more easily and readily explained as good intention. With a soft science – take economics – it’s quite easy to interject your political or other activist leanings into your work. It’s the status quo, an expected part of your work.
    I think it’s quite likely that many see the softening of the hard sciences (although when it comes to climate science, I would argue that until proven otherwise it should be categorized as softer than economics) as a good thing – as an improvement.
    /sarcon – When that rusty old scientific method isn’t giving the right answers, and you’re confident you’re right anyway just go for it. Advocacy and hard science, it’s ok to mix them up… you’re saving the planet after all. You’re a hero! /sarcoff

  67. We also need to avoid confusing post normal science with out-of-the-box thinking. Leif would like to throw them together, but they are vastly different and while OOTB thinking typically produces a small percentage of breakthroughs, it is still a valuable tool.

  68. I read the whole thing; so many words were sacrificed to say nothing at all. It was nearly meaningless. The best I could distill from it was “Scientists do important stuff that affects us all so it’s important for us to tell them how to do their stuff.” Did I get that right?
    Balderdash!
    Scientists offer a plausible underlying principle to explain why and predict how observable things interact in our universe. The principle is the iterative result of experimental and theoretical scientists. The first presents a dilemma or contradiction of accepted knowledge that draws the attention of a theoretician. The theoretician integrates the new disparities and offers a novel explanation that accounts for old knowledge and new. The experimental scientist then tests the new theory against what’s observable to find flaws in the new idea. If the new idea holds, engineers, entrepreneurs and policy makers become involved to exploit the new idea.
    This shouldn’t need reciting. It’s old-hat scientific method and it has worked for over 500 years now.
    What we have with Climategate is a complete mess. The CRU crew et al became experimental and theoretical “researchers” and policy makers all rolled up into one. They short-circuited the experimental-theoretician separation; they merged both responsibilities into one. The price was the competition between the two that has kept science honest disappeared. There is nothing like an experimental scientist in bed with a theoretical one when they are the same person.:-)
    Worse, these scientific conjoined-twins added a policy-making entity to become the world’s first conjoined-triplets. An unproven theory validated by cooked experimental data revealed a consequence so dire it required drastic action. Kind of like a sci-fi B-movie where the lone scientist saves the world. A comic book scientist action hero has to act after all.
    Along comes Professor Jerome Ravetz, a cultural relativist from the soft sciences who cannot believe what happened was a failure of character in a few dozen “scientists”. Rather than seeing the resulting carnage as a cleansing process, he wants to incorporate bad science into “post-normal science”. He thinks he has discovered something.
    Bad science is bad science. Professor Ravetz doesn’t realize it should be expelled instead of being incorporated. I don’t think we need the good professor’s help in reshaping science.
    I wonder how Einstein would have fared were it a Newtonian “post-normal science” world at the beginning of the 20th century.

  69. I haven’t seen so many disjointed thoughts and commas per sentence since Alan Sokal submitted a hoax article to “Social Text” Any article with post-_____ , (fill in the blank), in it has about as much value as an environmental paper with “may” or “might” in the title.

  70. davidmhoffer
    I think I’d like to start with a quick kudos for your always interesting comments. There are lots of folks here that deserve a shout out, maybe I can make the rounds (DirkH, you’re my main man in Deutschland!) but back on topic…
    I find your reworked quote by Arthur C. Clarke immensely compelling. Computer models and statistics really have become our modern “magic”. They have removed the need for objective, emperical analyses and that rusty old scientific method. Who needs chicken bones when computers can tell us the future?
    What the uninformed observer misses when they hear about the latest supercomputers, neural nets, and GCMs is that there is nothing special or magical going on in that black box. If anything, I’d say it makes us more prone to error since it obfuscates the relationships and underlying theories. Similarly, statistical methods are all also easy to game, especially when you make up the rules as you go along.
    I think it’s safe to say with either, if you go looking for “the right answer” you’ll be able to find it. Having a computer or statistical analysis confirm the overstatements, overconfidence, and specious theories of the person programing it is no great trick – yet there is still a part of us that yearns for an oracle to tell us “great truths” that we might not trust otherwise. It is our “magic”

  71. With AGW, science has finally become religion. Reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke’s Foundation series.
    The problem is, religions keep people apart. I think it’s time to ban religions (not culture) and replace them with individualized codes of living based on the Golden Rule.

  72. Paul,
    Religion is part and essence of being human. Where did the Golden Rule come from? You cannot ban religion anymore than you can ban people from exhaling CO2. Vigilance entails being watchful for seeing religion masquerading as science and knowing the difference.

  73. Contrarian
    Agreed that my definition of PNS was not accurate, but I think you might have missed my point in general and specific to the second half of the statement (i.e. the meat and potatoes).
    All one has to do is say “alarm, drastic consequences, FUD!” and all of a sudden all the rules for normal (hard) science go out the window and there is license to do just about anything… as long as it’s in service of that greater good (or “truth”) as you put it.
    The effect, where the rubber meets the road, the practical application, however you want to put it… is what I was trying to get at. Whatever it was intended to be, however noble (assuming noble intent of course – which is not necessarilly a given) the end result is that it gives supposedly hard scientists the license to interject their beliefs and value systems on their scientific conclusions, and to more or less reject basic tenants of the scientific method when it suits them.
    I would hope that’s not what the guys who came up with this stuff had in mind, but it doesn’t really matter what was intended does it… if that’s what we’ve got?

  74. OK, I’ll just say it. I find the article insulting. Why not attempt to communicate with people instead of just throwing out long convoluted sentences? Does the author believe putting out stuff like that makes him seem intelligent or educated?
    The actual semantic content could be written in two short paragraphs. Putting out crap like that tells me that he does not respect his audience enough to bother using plain language. He is simply trying to dazzle people with his erudition.
    Perhaps that is probably the real summation of “Post Normal Science.” Simple hard facts don’t matter any more. Just dazzle ’em with crap.

  75. Richard M (19:17:39) :
    We also need to avoid confusing post normal science with out-of-the-box thinking. Leif would like to throw them together, but they are vastly different
    Out-of-the-box thinking can only be done if your are in the box and know what the box and its limits are. So, pseudo-science is not OOTB-thinking. As far PNS is concerned, that is just junk and undesirable in principle, so if they think out of their box, they are liable to get even further away from reliable science.

  76. Lots of great posts tonight – some of my favorites :
    Mike Haseler (16:30:28) :
    Nice – that one “resonated: with me
    ayeronman (17:07:37) :
    If this were true, I would agree – but I havent seen an data that it is (or will be) true.
    Ray Hudson (17:26:20) :
    Also well stated – there ARE absolutes, regardless of PNS & whether we understand or comprehend those absolutes, they still exist.

  77. Sorry, the writer lost me with this:
    “Facts are never in dispute, otherwise they would not be called facts, but one can of course posit a factual issue, that is ask questions about the reality we live in and through research try to elucidate some facts about that specific reality. ”
    Now read that sentence carefully.

  78. Paul Z – did you mean Asimov’s Foundation series and that Ravetz is the forbear of Hari Seldon?

  79. In the Ravetz essay, he says: “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.
    The truth is that many people have confused the issue of ACGW with the issue of unclean fuel and insufficient combustion.
    Carbon dioxide (CO2) is good for life and and more of it will stimulate crop- and forest growth. I am still waiting for someone to prove to me that CO2 is in fact a greenhouse gas (CHG) – that is to say – the the net effect in the atmosphere is warming rather than cooling.
    SO2 and CO and other contaminants in the fuel and from the combustion process is what makes us feel bad, even at relatively low concentrations. So we have to concentrate on getting cleaner fuels and better combustion processes.
    AGW as such is a complete non-issue.
    look here:http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/13/congenital-climate-abnormalities/

  80. The other evening, I left retirement from my career of finding new ore deposits. I left for long enough to have a post-normal reflection about our past work and how we might do better in future work.
    My new understanding of post-normal science caused me to recommend to myself that I consider a new investigation of philosophies and methods that we had rejected three or four decades ago because of the simple, rudimentary conventional wisdom of the time. So I did that. Gradually, a green phosphorescence seemed to illuminate the room and I felt the sweet smell of success.
    It is with great excitement that I now announce that I have in my mind, the world’s first post-normal, virtual ore discovery. I am certain that it will be highly profitable; but unfortunately, I do not know where it is.
    That is not an impediment. I will claim the next new discovery as my own, no matter who finds it or how or where. I have just announced it here, so do not be surprised. You can send me cash to share in it if you wish to get rich quick.
    After all, it’s proper thought that convinces the masses. Who needs the truth of numerical evidence?

  81. Hank Hancock: “In very simple terms, I see post-normal science as being consensus built shortcuts aimed at accepting a view or solution to an issue too complex to be presently understood and thought to require immediate action.”
    More precisely, it applies to issues where there is structural uncertainty and one of the conceivable scenarios *does* require immediate action. And because of the structural uncertainty, the probability of that “disastrous” outcome cannot be quantified in any rigorous way. In those cases, “do nothing” may well not be the optimum policy. Trying to decide what is the optimum policy in such situations is precisely the problem.
    Ravetz’s position seems to be: when the evidence need to decide among policies is lacking, and insufficient even to estimate probabilities of various outcomes, policy must be based on risk aversion, not evidence. That is entirely subjective, of course, but when objective criteria are absent, subjective ones are all that is left. And if the issue is one which affects large numbers of the public, then their subjective assessments are as valid as those of experts. Technical expertise is redundant when there is no evidence to assess, and the subjective feelings of experts are worth no more than those of the *hoi polloi*.
    “Extended peer review” has another advantage, of course. As you mentioned, it can sometimes uncover evidence or introduce approaches which the “establishment” has overlooked. That is why software companies do beta testing — it always uncovers bugs and glitches the in-house experts have overlooked.

  82. Mariss Freimanis (20:21:09) :
    Religion is part and essence of being human. Where did the Golden Rule come from?
    Radical Islam, perhaps…
    It is a fallacy to believe that morality springs from religion. Many adherents to religions would happily slit the throat of non-believers, given [some, seeking] the chance.

  83. Oh yeah, sorry I meant Asimov, slip of the neuron there. I was thinking more of how a so called science ends up becoming a religion but in actual fact is nothing more than a pseudoscience like astrology which everybody pins the fate of their entire existence upon. Sounds like AGW to me.

  84. NickB: “. . . the end result is that it gives supposedly hard scientists the license to interject their beliefs and value systems on their scientific conclusions, and to more or less reject basic tenants of the scientific method when it suits them.”
    I fully agree. Deciding policy when evidence is absent or inconclusive is tough enough; when scientists present their own subjective preferences as “evidence,” or minimize the uncertainties in whatever real evidence they may offer, or when politicians cite them as evidence, they increase the risk of a bad decision, by parading or accepting as evidence something which is not. They need to stick to scientific method and let others ponder the policy responses.

  85. steven mosher (20:57:43) :
    Sorry, the writer lost me with this:
    “Facts are never in dispute, otherwise they would not be called facts, but one can of course posit a factual issue, that is ask questions about the reality we live in and through research try to elucidate some facts about that specific reality. ”
    Now read that sentence carefully>>
    Its another PNS reversal. We used to be entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts. In the PNS world, we are entitled to both our own opinions and our own facts. It is our own reality that we are not entitled to. For that shall be provided for us by those who know what is best for all of us. Armed with their opinions, formed of their facts, they shall thrust their reality upon us. For though it may just be a “trick” for some, for others it is the culmination of years of study of magic, which has advanced sufficently to become indistinguishable from science.
    In the PNS world, communism works. In the real world it fails. In the PNS world, I make no spelling errors, it is the world that spells wrongly, not me. In the real world, I can barely spell four letter words correctly. In the PNS world a climate disaster awaits us unless we transfer vast wealth from “rich” to “poor”. In the real world…
    In the real world there’s a whole bunch of climate scientists staring angrily at their falling reputations and thermometer readings. And though they may not say so aloud, in their minds the words reverbrate…
    “Reality Sucks”

  86. Leif Svalgaard
    “It is a fallacy to believe that morality springs from religion. Many adherents to religions would happily slit the throat of non-believers, given [some, seeking] the chance”
    Henry@Leif
    You forget that the basic principle of life in Islam and Judaism is: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, which is why the violence never stops.
    Jesus teaches: if someone hits you on the cheek, show him the other….love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, etc. That is quite the opposite.
    In the end, I believe religion and science are two roads that (should) lead to the same thing: the truth.

  87. Steve Mosher: “Sorry, the writer lost me with this:
    “Facts are never in dispute, otherwise they would not be called facts, but one can of course posit a factual issue, that is ask questions about the reality we live in and through research try to elucidate some facts about that specific reality. ”
    “Now read that sentence carefully.”
    Poorly phrased, I agree. What he meant was, “If a proposition P is accepted as a fact, then it will not be in dispute. I.e., “facts” are those propositions which we accept as true, and thus are not in dispute. If there is no agreement that P is true, then we do not call P a “fact.” It is an hypothesis, which may become a fact if certain further evidence is forthcoming.

  88. Regarding the Precautionary Principle. One might do worse than read up on it again. By President Obama’s Regulatory Czar:
    Sunstein, Cass R. “Throwing precaution to the wind: Why the ‘safe’ choice can be dangerous.” boston.com – The Boston Globe, July 13, 2008.
    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/07/13/throwing_precaution_to_the_wind
    Main point: “Yet the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent. It is of course true that we should take precautions against some speculative dangers. But there are always risks on both sides of a decision; inaction can bring danger, but so can action. Precautions, in other words, themselves create risks – and hence the principle bans what it simultaneously requires.”

    “In the context of climate change, precautions are certainly a good idea. But what kinds of precautions? A high tax on carbon emissions would impose real risks – including increased hardship for people who can least afford it and very possibly increases in unemployment and hence poverty. A sensible climate change policy balances the costs and benefits of emissions reductions. If the policy includes costly (and hence risk-creating) precautions, it is because those precautions are justified by their benefits.

    “The nations of the world should take precautions, certainly. But they should not adopt the precautionary principle.”
    On-Line:
    Sunstein, Cass R. Beyond The Precautionary Principle. Working Paper #38. Public Law and Legal Theory. University of Chicago, January 2003.
    http://www.law.uchicago.edu/academics/publiclaw/resources/38.crs.precautionary.pl-lt.pdf
    Does this seem familiar? Just for the fun of it, compare the Laws of Fear (#1 – #5) to journals and newspaper articles associated with “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”.
    Sunstein, Cass R. Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
    “This is a book about the complex relationship between fear, danger, and the law. Cass Sunstein looks afresh at the precautionary principle, and at the idea that regulators should take steps to protect against potential harms, even if causal chains are uncertain and even if we do not know that harms are likely to come to fruition. However Professor Sunstein argues that in its strongest forms the precautionary principle is both incoherent and potentially paralysing, as risks exist on all sides of social situations, and he demonstrates that in practice such a principle can only operate because different cultures focus on different risks, and that there is no ‘general’ precautionary principle as such. This is a very important insight for the contemporary world, and Laws of Fear represents a major statement from one of the most influential political and legal theorists writing today.”
    Notes:
    Adopted Broadly (Pg 17)
    “In February 2000, the Precautionary Principle was explicitly adopted in a communication by the European Commission, together with implementing guidelines. The Precautionary Principal even appears in the draft Constitution for the European Union….”
    Pg 35, #1: Availability Heuristic:
    “making some risks seem especially likely to come to fruition whether or not they actually are;”
    Pg 35, #2: Probability Neglect:
    “…leading people to focus on the worst case, even if it is highly improbable:”
    Pg 35, #3: Loss Aversion:
    “… making people dislike losses from the status quo;”
    Pg 35, #4: Benevolence of Nature:
    “a belief in the benevolence of nature, making man-made decisions and processes seem especially suspect;”
    Pg 35, #5: System Neglect:
    “… understood as a inability to see that risks are part of systems, and that interventions into those systems can create risks of their own.”
    Sounds like a plan to me; a game plan, that is. I do not blame blame Cass Sunstein, however. Anyone’s work can be misused.

  89. Mariss, I respect people who believe in their faith and act accordingly. I think that every individual is spiritual and should answer directly to the source of their spirituality. Why use a middleman? Religion is a middle man, nothing more. Why not call direct?
    The Golden Rule came down to us from the great teachers like Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, et al but the funny thing is, they never advocated organized religion, they just wanted to free peoples’ consciousness. Organized religion is a human construct, used by the elite to control the masses. This is what I am totally against. Because traditional religions are no longer as effective in the West, they had to invent this new pseudoscience-based religion of AGW. And all the spiritually empty people turned hungrily to environmentalism to fill the lack of meaning in their lives.
    We already have rule of law, so why the need for religion? Let each person have his or her own personal spiritual creed based on the Golden Rule, and put an end to organized religion which keeps getting hijacked by those in power. Unfortunately, too many wolves in sheep’s clothing on this planet, using religion to control and push their own nefarious agendas.
    I have a message for everyone out there: You don’t need organized religion to talk to God. If you believe in a Higher Power, God, The Universe, etc. than talk to God everyday direct (I do) because it helps. Look at it another way: If I told you I had an imaginary friend called Joe, you’d think I was crazy. Then, I ask you, what is God?

  90. Leif Svalgaard (22:15:11) : “Radical Islam, perhaps…
    It is a fallacy to believe that morality springs from religion. Many adherents to religions would happily slit the throat of non-believers, given [some, seeking] the chance.”
    That is as gross, prejudiced, unscientific, and bigoted statement if there ever was one, Leif. For shame!
    Your comparison to the violent Wahhabism to….for example….Episcopalians…is just insane.
    I don’t see any throat-slitting going on at the National Cathedral in DC. On the contrary…to the extreme!
    This is your achilles heel. Your all-or-nothing statements show that you do not pay attention to nuance.
    [Excepted: nuance in solar physics and science…]…but your religious prejudices are outstandingly visceral, emotional, and lacking real world data.
    Especially in regards to the less violent forms: Last time I checked…there weren’t any Presbyterians trying to bomb supermarkets.
    Rather….they were harboring Classical music concerts in their architecturally significant structures…and other such evil stuff.
    Also…last time I checked….many of the hospitals and the centers of learning in the third world…were started by well-meaning religious institutions.
    Ever research the Jesuits?
    And by the way, the Golden Rule is a good way to treat others. It is the diametric opposite of what is seen in Wahhabism nonsense.
    Granted, given the track record of religious history, it is pretty bloody.
    But that does not discredit the more peaceful and truth-loving religious forces, who have achieved much good and advancement the world, down through the ages.
    Please stop painting with such a broad brush. It is anti-intellectual, and takes away from your respected platform!
    Regards,
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  91. Leif 17.49.
    I am a joe public, and started reading these blogs last summer when i saw a msm media story about the solar min. You soon learn to weed out the opinion science.
    Oh, and by the way, we always had a rule here in england when down the pub.
    NO politics or relgion. A very good rule in my h.op

  92. ScienceForTruth revealed this for what it is – a justification of the corruption of science by propaganda and advocacy. Democratisation is politicisation and an excuse to depart from the evidence-base.
    However, I am not yet convinced that SFT has the link with Schneider right in his comments under the first Ravetz post. It is not so much a licence to bend the truth but rather it is used to support a move to dismiss sceptical arguments as not over the evidence-base but as motivated and value-based. I have not found this explicit in Schneider, but it is in complete sympathy with what he does: hey, those sceptic are arguing the science but it is not about the science, but it is that they disagree with us on how to act on the risk (that they refuse to acknowledge) and because they dont share our (environmental) values. PNS is also in sympathy with –it explains — Mike Hulme’s curious book, Why we disagree about C C. We disagree because of differing values — it is not a disagreement in a dispute over interpretation of the evidence.
    This position is most outrageous explicit in Mike Hulme’s Guardian article of 2007. See more about this and the affinities of PNS with neo-Marxist social theory in my post here.

  93. savethesharks (22:56:01) :
    Ever research the Jesuits?
    Or the Spanish Inquisition….
    Granted, given the track record of religious history, it is pretty bloody.
    Right up to the present day and beyond, I’m afraid.
    there weren’t any Presbyterians trying to bomb supermarkets
    Just milk factories in Sudan and markets in Iraq, and the occasional wedding in Afghanistan…or perhaps that was a different sect?
    But that does not discredit the more peaceful and truth-loving religious forces
    So you are saying that some religions [yours?] are better than others. Isn’t that the bigotry?
    What I was saying was that morality does not spring from religion. That religion has no monopoly on morality. And that over history, as you said, religion was pretty bloody and will continue to be so.
    And that religion has no place in science, no matter who believes what. This was not always the accepted view. One could argue the other way, that science is the medium by which one discovers and admires [for better to be able to worship] Her handiwork that we inhabit. That I don’t personally subscribe to that view does not mean that I denigrate it.
    [REPLY – Don’t get me started. I fully agree with you about keeping religion out of science, but I deplore the moral equivocation. There is no reasonable comparison between the way the west wages war (i.e., extreme avoidance of civilian targets to the extent we suffer many otherwise needless casualties) and the deliberate targeting of noncombatants by ununiformed, illegal combatants.
    Why do we not settle on keeping science and religion in separate cages and dispense with the politics? ~ Evan]

  94. All this talk about PNS and “democratization of science” reminds me of a very old Soviet-era Russian joke…
    Chairman of the Examination Committee asks:
    “Ivanov! How much is 2 + 2?”
    Ivanov: “Five!”
    Chairman: “Think again?”
    Ivanov: “Five!”
    Chairman writes down: “True Russian, firm in his convictions.”
    Chairman asks:
    “Petrov! How much is 2 + 2?”
    Petrov: “Five!”
    Chairman: “Think again?”
    Petrov: “Well… Three!”
    Chairman writes down: “True Russian, demonstrates adaptability.”
    Chairman asks:
    “Sidorov! How much is 2 + 2?”
    Sidorov: “Four!”
    Chairman: “Think again?”
    Sidorov: “How can it be otherwise? Is this a joke?”
    Chairman writes down: “Refer his case to KGB; check his ancestry.”
    On the other hand, as R. A. Heinlein was fond of saying, “most “scientists” are bottle washers and button sorters.”

  95. When I was growing up in the 1930’s & 40’s, my friends and I were always taught the Golden Rule at home and school. It was simple and natural to understand that “you wouldn’t want anyone to treat you badly….etc.” That was it. No religion ever in public school in Chicago and Los Angeles. (No “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance either, until it was inserted during the Mc Carthy hysteria.) The “bad” kids tended to be at parochial schools.

  96. Leif Svalgaard (22:15:11) : “It is a fallacy to believe that morality springs from religion. Many adherents to religions would happily slit the throat of non-believers, given [some, seeking] the chance.”
    The second sentence of this statement is certainly true (note that our Ubiquitous Leif says “many” but not “all”).
    The first sentence strikes a discord in many ways. I would like to believe, for example, in the evolutionary origin of “morality”; unfortunately, evolutionary psychology and sociology are in such an embryonic state that nobody could call them “sciences” with a straight face.
    Not to mention that a definition of “morality” per se varies wildly, depending on the definer.

  97. savethesharks (22:56:01) :
    “That is as gross, prejudiced, unscientific, and bigoted statement if there ever was one, Leif. For shame!”
    The observation that religion is capable of good things (savethesharks) doesn’t mean that morality springs from religion. Nor is the fact that adherents to religion are capable of the worst (Leif’s observation) a good argument to falsify the same.
    Religion is just irrelevant when is comes to innate human characteristics of which morality forms part.

  98. Religion is not needed in the conduct of science.
    Science is not needed in the conduct of religion.
    So why mix them?
    End.

  99. Creationists are already using the failed AGW hypothesis as ‘proof’ that science and scientists doesn’t hold the truth. When the dam really bursts (after a few more years of flattened or reduced temps) then science will REALLY be damaged – as I predicted back in 2003 on a BBC forum.

  100. Does the English translation come with a translation into English as well please? Example: ‘The cat sat on the mat’.
    Or should I wait for the movie? I have a hot date coming up…………

  101. Jeremy Young had a long and enlightening post in Tipsy Notes a few days ago on the subject of this thread. I would like to see Jeremy re-post it here in full. If you are reading this, Jeremy, I hope you will.
    If not, it can be read here: Tips & Notes — Jeremy Young (21:46:06)
    I liked this quote within it (in context):

    “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

    — Sir Isaac Newton

  102. Henry@Leif
    Leif, you started this. This now becomes another type of lesson…. a lesson in non violence….
    Many a war or armed response has been justified by quoting the Bible from Matthew 10:34 and at a first glance it does look like Jesus contradicts himself here.
    I have found contradictions in the writings of many people, and that includes such great people as Luther, Calvin, Moses, the apostle Paul, and other writers. I have always accepted that as normal. We are all fallible human beings – we can make mistakes and the Scriptures clearly teach that none of us mortals are without sin or ignorance. (e.g. Romans 3:23, Hosea 4:6 etc.). I also believe that one must always understand the laws and teachings of the Bible in the time where it was written.. John testifies that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) and he also says ” For the law was given through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
    For quite some time now I have taken the view that any law or teaching that cannot be brought back to Jesus and His commandment: “Love comes first” must be looked at with suspicion. If you look at it carefully, and if you do not have the Spirit of Jesus in you then you can use the Bible to justify any injustice! In the 1830’s slavery was justified by Mr. Morse (yes, it was indeed the man who invented the Morse Code) by quoting from the Bible! I am sure that everybody now agrees that slavery is darkness. Similarly, during the apartheid era certain rightwing groups used text and verse from the Bible to justify apartheid. It is therefore important to remember that we test every teaching that we hear on the word of Jesus.
    But there is no contradiction in anything that Jesus says. Jesus simply predicts that our obedience to Him will cause some people to hate us and this may well disrupt our otherwise peaceful existence.
    So, although Jesus brings a message of peace – indeed some of the prophets have most appropriately entitled Him the ‘Prince of Peace’ – the reaction of some people to this peace message could sometimes appear to be quite hostile. Jesus then teaches that we must confront this hostility by showing love for our enemies. I know, this may sound quite naïve but this is a fundamental Christian truth that cannot be ignored. The fight is over. Jesus has crushed death and He has stated quite categorically that he has entered the eternity to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). Therefore death holds no fear for him or her that has faith in Him (1 Cor. 15:54; Isaiah 25:8). And that totally changes our perspective: Why would you take up the sword? (Matt. 26:52) It strikes me now that Jesus made his biggest statement against violence just before he died on the cross. I think that too underlines its importance.
    Years ago when I was being confronted with conscription into the army I simply asked His Spirit to guide me in my decision. Shortly after that I woke up with a dream still vivid in my mind: I had seen a battle and in this battle I saw Jesus with an automatic rifle shooting at the soldiers. I was very disturbed by this dream. Almost at the same time I realised: This is not the Jesus that I have come to know! This is exactly the opposite of what He is and what He claims to be. It is interesting to note that even without much knowledge of the Scriptures, I stumbled onto an important truth here and I think it was because I really relied completely on His Spirit to guide me.
    If we really want to be like Him, we must disarm ourselves; even if it means having to face death (vs. 52). Not only must we never kill, we may not even hate another person! He is the Samaritan who cares for his enemy. He is the good Shepherd who is really interested in that one person who has gone astray. He, the God of all creation, is prepared to kneel down in front of us and do the job that nobody wanted to do: wash our feet. On the cross, He forgave the criminal whom we had condemned to death. He is the one who prayed for those that killed Him: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This is my God! I want to be like Him. More and more. If this is the truth then I must accept that there will be times when I get hurt and that I will stand alone. But it will be worth it.
    Jesus commands us to make peace. ‘Making’ peace specifies some sort of action!
    I suppose then we have to identify and oppose the greed and/or ambition that is the root cause for that war. Or eliminate and resist whatever else it is that is causing the strife. It is said that if you can get the fighting parties to agree to listen to one another, the battle against war is halfway won. The point is: we cannot sit back and relax while people are killing each other. The fight for peace is a never-ending spiritual war.

  103. davidmhoffer (18:54:36) :
    “This isn’t a return to the dark ages. The dark ages was suppression of science to maintain power. This is the elevation of purple to obtain power.”
    YES, purple is the new green!

  104. The article lost me when it threw in the terms “normative” and “self-reflexive”.
    It was explained above that post-normal science is invoked “where it is believed that action cannot wait for real scientific proof, so (if it weren’t all eco-balony) it is not unreasonable to try to make a decision”.
    I agree that sometimes leaders have to act before all the data is in, but when they do, let them be clear that what they are doing is acting on a “best estimate” and don’t glorify it with the lie that they are acting on full scientific evidence.
    The science is never “settled”.

  105. “NORMATIVE: A “norm” is “a standard, model, or pattern regarded as typical” (American Heritage English Dictionary). A process is said to be “normative” when it results in bringing atypical patterns in line with typical ones. Socialization, for example, is often a normative process, as it involves bringing social pressures to bear on behavior that is considered unusual. ”
    So how is science normative? By twisting the data until it fits the model?
    Somebody please explain.

  106. I’m closing this thread till the morning. This is not a site to debate the morality of religion, which religion is good and which bad, or how many angels can dance of the head of a pin. It’s too late in the morning for me to sort it out.
    Anthony can sort it out in the morning.
    Sorry Anthony.

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