Dr. Jerry Ravetz – on Willis, epidemics, rough & tumble debate, and post normal science

Jerome Ravetz, of Oxford University in the UK.

First I must apologise for the long delay in my making a contribution to WUWT. I confess that I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the comments on my first posting; and then I was discouraged by the hostile response to my second posting. By then I was in serious arrears with other work, and so I had to give WUWT a rest. A lot has happened since then, and I am very pleased and encouraged that a spirit of dialogue has taken hold.

Now, many thanks to Willis for reminding me of the challenge to give an example of uncertain facts and high stakes. Let me try. In early 2001 there was evidence of an incipient epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in England. It was not at all certain, how infectious it would be, or what sorts of containment measures would suffice. There were conflicting values, although these were not made clear to the public at the time. These reflected the interests of the different stakeholders, including beef exporters, other farmers, non-farm users of the countryside, and politicians.

For each of them the stakes were high. The best-known stake at risk was the status of British beef exports, as certified FMD-free; this was worth some hundreds of millions of pounds in the increased price for such beef on the world market. But there were other stakes at risk, including the pedigree herds of cattle and sheep built up by farmers, and (largest of all, as it was later realised) the possible harm to all the non-farm activities in the countryside. And what was eventually realised to be the overriding stake was the political fortunes of Tony Blair, with an impending General Election which he didn’t want to have in the midst of an epidemic.

Coming back to ‘the facts’, these were to be determined by experts; but there were two opposed groups of experts. One was the government scientists, who generally had a conservative approach to the risks and to the science. The other was a group of academics, who had developed an expertise in epidemiological modelling. They made ‘pessimistic’ assumptions about the infectivity of the disease, and so their recommendations were on the side of a very aggressive approach. This suited Tony Blair’s political agenda, and so there was a severe quarantine and very extensive slaughtering. However one might criticise the government’s actions, the decision was indeed urgent, and there was a situation of high stakes, disputed values and uncertain facts.

I believe that epidemics of any sort provide examples of PNS. The uncertainty of the facts does not prevent the stakes from being high; there are always historical precedents to go on. Perhaps it would help if we distinguished between the ‘facts’ about causes, and the ‘stakes’ about effects. Only if both causes and effects are so poorly known as to be speculative, does an apparently PNS situation collapse. Even then it is not ‘normal’ science but something else.

There is another lesson for PNS in the ‘foot and mouth’ episode. It was presented to the public as ‘normal science’: “here’s an epidemic, let’s apply the science and stop it”. The uncertainties and value-conflicts were suppressed. More to the point, the ‘extended peer community’ was nonexistent. Divisions among the scientists were kept under wraps. Damage to the rural communities was revealed piecemeal, and then as incidental to the noble effort of quarantine. Only the investigative journal Private Eye published the gory details of the exterminations.

Again, after it was all over, Private Eye published an analysis. However rough and violent debates might be on the blogosphere (as we have seen!) still that is much better than the sort of blanket of silence that has been thrown over scientific scandals in the past.

Having cleared that point to my own satisfaction, let me now engage further with the debate. One reason for my long silence is that (amidst other obligations) I have been reflecting on what all this means for my doctrines of Post-Normal Science. I believe that I already said that this was developed rather in isolation, and did not enjoy the criticism that can come from students or colleagues. So inevitably, some issues were not raised and addressed. I am now grappling with them. Here they are.

Possible corruptions of PNS. These are inevitable. After all, what prophetic message ever escaped being converted into a battleground between priests and demagogues? But I should be more clear about which corruptions are most likely to emerge in PNS, and then to analyse and warn against them. It will painful, since I will be criticising colleagues who have been well-intentioned and loyal.

Quality. On this I find myself reduced to arm-waving, that ‘we all know what Quality is’. But I can say that I am well aware that Quality is not a simple attribute, but is complex, influenced by history and context, recursive (who guards the guardians?), fundamentally a matter of morality (if the people at the top are crooked, the whole edifice of quality-assurance collapses), and of course fallible. This may seem a very insecure foundation for the sort of knowledge that we need, but it’s the best we have. And if one looks for better guarantees of truth even in Pure Science, one will be disappointed.

I should report on a problem that took some decades to solve, relating to quality-assurance. In my old book, I made the point that quality in science depends on the ethical commitments of its leaders, for there is no effective external system for assessing quality. (I spoke from my experience as a researcher in pure mathematics – perhaps a half-dozen people would be competent to assess my work). A student pointed out that this seems to contradict my calls for greater participation in science (I then called it ‘critical science’). I thought I had covered my tracks on that one, observing that in the antagonistic debating context of that sort of science, noone would be allowed to get away with shoddy work. I even gave the example of Dr. Stockman of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People (incidentally exposing how Political Correctness led Arthur Miller to make a crucial modification of the text). But the student observed that I had assumed that the antagonistic debate would itself be of high quality! Eventually I got to some sort of resolution of the problem, admitting that the quality in PNS might indeed be very low, but giving a principle for testing its procedures. This would be ‘negotiating in good faith’, which I remembered from New Deal labor legislation, and which is now a standard criterion for negotiation. This certainly doesn’t ensure quality in PNS, but it provides a criterion. And, incidentally, it could be used to characterise the sorts of discussions that are now emerging on WUWT.

There is another unsolved problem, Truth. I realise that I have a case of what I might call ‘Dawkins-itis’ in relation to Truth. Just as Prof. Dawkins, however learned and sophisticated on all other issues, comes out in spots at the mere mention of the word ‘God’, I have a similar reaction about ‘Truth’. I must work on this. It might relate to my revulsion at the dogmatic and anti-critical teaching of science that I experienced as a student, where anyone with original ideas or questions was scorned and humiliated. I happily use the terms for other Absolutes, like ‘beauty’, ‘justice’ and ‘holy’; so clearly there is something wrong in my head. Watch this space, if you are interested.

Finally, for this phase of the dialogue, I would like to defend myself against a charge that has been made by various critics. This is, that I personally and intentionally laid the foundations for the corrupted science of the CRU, by providing the justification for Steve Schneider’s perversion of scientific integrity. First, there is no record of the guilty scientists ever mentioning, or even being aware, of PNS during the crucial earlier years. Also, shoddy and corrupted science in other fields did not wait for me to come along to justify it. My influence is traced back to a single footnote by Steven Schneider, citing an essay by me in a large, expensive book, Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (ed. W.C. Clarke and R.E. Munn), (Cambridge, University Press, 1986). PNS first came into the climate picture with the quite recent essay by Mike Hulme in 2007. That was a stage in his own evolution from modeller to critic, and came long after the worst excesses at CRU had been committed. I should say that I do not dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand, since some of them are correct! But this one really does seem far-fetched.

Thanks for your patience and good will. I look forward to further exchanges.

First I must apologise for the long delay in my making a contribution to WUWT. I confess that I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the comments on my first posting; and then I was discouraged by the hostile response to my second posting. By then I was in serious arrears with other work, and so I had to give WUWT a rest. A lot has happened since then, and I am very pleased and encouraged that a spirit of dialogue has taken hold.

Now, many thanks to Willis for reminding me of the challenge to give an example of uncertain facts and high stakes. Let me try. In early 2001 there was evidence of an incipient epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in England. It was not at all certain, how infectious it would be, or what sorts of containment measures would suffice. There were conflicting values, although these were not made clear to the public at the time. These reflected the interests of the different stakeholders, including beef exporters, other farmers, non-farm users of the countryside, and politicians. For each of them the stakes were high. The best-known stake at risk was the status of British beef exports, as certified FMD-free; this was worth some hundreds of millions of pounds in the increased price for such beef on the world market. But there were other stakes at risk, including the pedigree herds of cattle and sheep built up by farmers, and (largest of all, as it was later realised) the possible harm to all the non-farm activities in the countryside. And what was eventually realised to be the overriding stake was the political fortunes of Tony Blair, with an impending General Election which he didn’t want to have in the midst of an epidemic. Coming back to ‘the facts’, these were to be determined by experts; but there were two opposed groups of experts. One was the government scientists, who generally had a conservative approach to the risks and to the science. The other was a group of academics, who had developed an expertise in epidemiological modelling. They made ‘pessimistic’ assumptions about the infectivity of the disease, and so their recommendations were on the side of a very aggressive approach. This suited Tony Blair’s political agenda, and so there was a severe quarantine and very extensive slaughtering. However one might criticise the government’s actions, the decision was indeed urgent, and there was a situation of high stakes, disputed values and uncertain facts.

I believe that epidemics of any sort provide examples of PNS. The uncertainty of the facts does not prevent the stakes from being high; there are always historical precedents to go on. Perhaps it would help if we distinguished between the ‘facts’ about causes, and the ‘stakes’ about effects. Only if both causes and effects are so poorly known as to be speculative, does an apparently PNS situation collapse. Even then it is not ‘normal’ science but something else.

There is another lesson for PNS in the ‘foot and mouth’ episode. It was presented to the public as ‘normal science’: “here’s an epidemic, let’s apply the science and stop it”. The uncertainties and value-conflicts were suppressed. More to the point, the ‘extended peer community’ was nonexistent. Divisions among the scientists were kept under wraps. Damage to the rural communities was revealed piecemeal, and then as incidental to the noble effort of quarantine. Only the investigative journal Private Eye published the gory details of the exterminations.

Again, after it was all over, Private Eye published an analysis. However rough and violent debates might be on the blogosphere (as we have seen!) still that is much better than the sort of blanket of silence that has been thrown over scientific scandals in the past.

Having cleared that point to my own satisfaction, let me now engage further with the debate. One reason for my long silence is that (amidst other obligations) I have been reflecting on what all this means for my doctrines of Post-Normal Science. I believe that I already said that this was developed rather in isolation, and did not enjoy the criticism that can come from students or colleagues. So inevitably, some issues were not raised and addressed. I am now grappling with them. Here they are.

Possible corruptions of PNS. These are inevitable. After all, what prophetic message ever escaped being converted into a battleground between priests and demagogues? But I should be more clear about which corruptions are most likely to emerge in PNS, and then to analyse and warn against them. It will painful, since I will be criticising colleagues who have been well-intentioned and loyal.

Quality. On this I find myself reduced to arm-waving, that ‘we all know what Quality is’. But I can say that I am well aware that Quality is not a simple attribute, but is complex, influenced by history and context, recursive (who guards the guardians?), fundamentally a matter of morality (if the people at the top are crooked, the whole edifice of quality-assurance collapses), and of course fallible. This may seem a very insecure foundation for the sort of knowledge that we need, but it’s the best we have. And if one looks for better guarantees of truth even in Pure Science, one will be disappointed.

I should report on a problem that took some decades to solve, relating to quality-assurance. In my old book, I made the point that quality in science depends on the ethical commitments of its leaders, for there is no effective external system for assessing quality. (I spoke from my experience as a researcher in pure mathematics – perhaps a half-dozen people would be competent to assess my work). A student pointed out that this seems to contradict my calls for greater participation in science (I then called it ‘critical science’). I thought I had covered my tracks on that one, observing that in the antagonistic debating context of that sort of science, noone would be allowed to get away with shoddy work. I even gave the example of Dr. Stockman of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People (incidentally exposing how Political Correctness led Arthur Miller to make a crucial modification of the text). But the student observed that I had assumed that the antagonistic debate would itself be of high quality! Eventually I got to some sort of resolution of the problem, admitting that the quality in PNS might indeed be very low, but giving a principle for testing its procedures. This would be ‘negotiating in good faith’, which I remembered from New Deal labor legislation, and which is now a standard criterion for negotiation. This certainly doesn’t ensure quality in PNS, but it provides a criterion. And, incidentally, it could be used to characterise the sorts of discussions that are now emerging on WUWT.

There is another unsolved problem, Truth. I realise that I have a case of what I might call ‘Dawkins-itis’ in relation to Truth. Just as Prof. Dawkins, however learned and sophisticated on all other issues, comes out in spots at the mere mention of the word ‘God’, I have a similar reaction about ‘Truth’. I must work on this. It might relate to my revulsion at the dogmatic and anti-critical teaching of science that I experienced as a student, where anyone with original ideas or questions was scorned and humiliated. I happily use the terms for other Absolutes, like ‘beauty’, ‘justice’ and ‘holy’; so clearly there is something wrong in my head. Watch this space, if you are interested.

Finally, for this phase of the dialogue, I would like to defend myself against a charge that has been made by various critics. This is, that I personally and intentionally laid the foundations for the corrupted science of the CRU, by providing the justification for Steve Schneider’s perversion of scientific integrity. First, there is no record of the guilty scientists ever mentioning, or even being aware, of PNS during the crucial earlier years. Also, shoddy and corrupted science in other fields did not wait for me to come along to justify it. My influence is traced back to a single footnote by Steven Schneider, citing an essay by me in a large, expensive book, Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (ed. W.C. Clarke and R.E. Munn), (Cambridge, University Press, 1986). PNS first came into the climate picture with the quite recent essay by Mike Hulme in 2007. That was a stage in his own evolution from modeller to critic, and came long after the worst excesses at CRU had been committed. I should say that I do not dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand, since some of them are correct! But this one really does seem far-fetched.

Thanks for your patience and good will. I look forward to further exchanges.

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195 thoughts on “Dr. Jerry Ravetz – on Willis, epidemics, rough & tumble debate, and post normal science

  1. “One was the government scientists, who generally had a conservative approach to the risks and to the science”
    Government scientist have a history of exageratiing risks and cherry picking which risks to ignore. All this to buffer the political agenda.
    The H1N1 virus scare is a great example of messed up heads working together in greater numbers create greater fears and false claims.
    And for Ravetz. The corporate world hires some of the greatest minds and the Universities/government get the left overs.
    What is the incentive to prevent corrupt business practices at the CRU?

  2. Going on at length about foot and mouth disease is irrelevant to the climate debate. We know that it is viral and the options are clear. The extent and/or spread of the disease and the implications of Vaccination are well known, there is no scientific or lay dispute about cause and effect.
    There is a case perhaps to be made for political intervention, but this intervention is made on the basis of known and undisputed scientific fact. The rest is political expedience and self interest.
    The rest is waffle. Sorry but your dismissal of conspiracy theories is incorrect. The evidence is clear.

  3. Very interesting and thouht provoking article. Thank you.
    I remember the FMD epidemic – and how the Netherlands contained theirs quickly, safely and cheaply with a vaccination program whilst our government followed “the scientific consensus” (as they wanted to see it) and slaughtered millions of animals needlessly, ruined lives and cost the country billions.
    Beware of politicians citing scientific justification or rationale!

  4. I’m beginning to see a relationship between post normal science and ‘popular delusions and the madness of crowds’.
    =====================

  5. I come out in a rash when ever I hear the word Dawkins, or variations thereof …such as Dorkins! Dawkinisms, Dorkinisms. Too late. Gotta go get some cream.

  6. Am I alone in having no idea what Dr Ravetz is talking about? I’m not being rude, I have read it three times, and just can’t get the point(s). What are they?

  7. Dr. Ravetz –
    This is a simple question that has been bugging me since I read your previous essays on WUWT. Why should we accept that climate science should become, in your words, a post-normal science? Should we not, instead, hold it to the same high standard that we normally hold science?
    I can understand that there could be situations where there might be an immediate need that if not addressed would have significant deliterious effects in the near term, ie mad cow disease or similar phenomena, that a proactive approach by the individuals who discover it can and should, proverbially, scream at the top of their lungs: “We have a imminent crisis!”
    However, when we have an issue like climate science, where our understanding of the topic has only really begun, should we treat that as a post-normal science as well? Without demonstrable evidence (models are not evidence, the are programs that can only output a given data set due to their inputs / assumptions / code) that can only be attributed to AGW, should we not hold climate science to that same high standard?
    Thank you for posting on WUWT again. I hope this post and its associated comments will remain civil.
    Cordially,
    Timothy

  8. To complement the search for truth, it is also important to address the “common good”.
    Prabhu Guptara refers to the upcoming Zermatt Summit

    Do you wish that there could be substantial discussion which could lead to a more humane and environmentally responsible form of globalization?
    That is actually the purpose of the first-ever Zermatt Summit, which will address the major economic and ethical issues raised by globalization (the disconnect between the world of high finance and the real economy; the economy itself is not serving the common good as it fails to properly serve the dignity of individual citizens; and, at an individual level, difficult ethical dilemmas emerge which are almost impossible to resolve).
    Expected are representatives of academia, business, government, non-governmental agencies (NGOs), trade unionists, performing artists….
    Discussion will focus on how the processes of globalization can be changed to serve the common good – exploring and formulating a roadmap of how to navigate the challenges currently facing mankind and help create a better world. . . .

    Addressing this standard of the “common good” appears to be equally applicable to public policies based on science. Ravetez’s example of the UK “foot in mouth disease” incident reveals the corruption of academia, government and the press to the detriment of the “common good”. EPA is trying to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” rather than an essential plant fertilizer
    The Zermatt summit’s proposed standard of the “common good” should be an important foundational issue to address these foundational issues of liberty vs tyranny that involve controlling every small and large business based on highly questionable projections of chaotic climate. Especially when the controlling parameters of clouds and water feedback are highly uncertain or unknown. e.g. see Roy Spencer’s discussions

  9. @ bushy
    I would have to agree with you. I am taken back by the continued distractions. Perhaps this story is interesting on its own merit, but I fail to see any correlation to the current climate debates, and/or correlation to those events and actions that have transpired at CRU. This yet another distraction. I believe this little story a good portrayal of what is wrong with this science. It is NOT science, and that is the problem. This is advocacy, politics, PNS, voodoo, alarmism for agenda, opportunists, con artists, self indulged authoritarians, the end justify the means…

  10. This discussion has convinced me that there is nothing normal about PNS… Thanks, but no thanks… It’s time to return to rationality.
    Mike Bryant

  11. http://www.condellpark.com/kd/fmd.htm
    If I could sell a critter from my herd for 60 pounds when the market for uninfected critters was 30 pounds, I would have great conviction that my herd was infected and was worth 60.
    The FMD epidemic also had some bad math and a hockey stick.
    By the way, using the “two opposing groups” label as being Academics with expertise in epidemiological modeling and Government interests.
    You left out farmers and folks that eat meat.
    It is just as bad in America where the home owner, citizen and energy consumer is irrelevant. The Gubment claims to know best and the academic claims to know more.

  12. Sorry to be abrasive, but this reads like the kind of babbling essay that is only acceptable within Academia.
    In future, summarize your subject in the first paragraph and conclude it in the last.

  13. There is science, which being incomplete, always remains fallible to some extent depending on the area of science involved.
    There is judgement, which seeks to apply the available science in a way which takes account of risk and cost.
    Democracies employ scientists for the former and elect politicians for the latter.
    Second guessing from an ‘extended peer community’ (whatever that is) which is unaccountable to the electorate can only derogate from a relatively impartial exercise of judgement by the elected representatives. It introduces pressure from lobby groups with their own agendas that will tend to conflict with those of the electorate at large.
    Such second guessing is not likely to improve the quality of the judgement being applied. Indeed the judgements are likely to be far worse.
    PNS is a step back from democratic process and is wide open to corruption and abuse.

  14. Excellent post, Dr. Ravetz!
    Using a completely different issue (FMD) as and example should help one better understand another issue in which that individual has a stake or belief (AGW).
    bushy (07:30:40) missed the point. It is relevant to understand the nuances of an issue mired in complexities and controversies when politics, economics, and science are co-mingled. When bushy commented “intervention is made on the basis of known and undisputed scientific fact,” was he referring to climate science based on computer modeling? The axiom goes: All computer models are wrong; some are useful. Never confuse modeled scenarios with actual data.

  15. You know Doc, most of us are just tired of it all. Tired of the lies, exaggerations, manipulations……..
    And tired of the lame justifications and analogies that have nothing to do with the subject.

  16. You say (additions to your quotes in CAPITALS are mine)
    “There is another lesson for PNS in the ‘foot and mouth’/GLOBAL WARMING episode. It was presented to the public as ‘normal science’: “here’s an epidemic/DISASTER IF YOU DO NOT CARRY OUT OUR RECOMMENDED ACTION, let’s apply the science and stop it”. The uncertainties and value-conflicts were suppressed.”
    and then
    “Divisions among the scientists were kept under wraps.”
    The style of presentation to the general public fits AGW extremly well, and we all know that unchecked, it led to sloppy science and publication of quasi religious dogma as fact by the professionals.
    The deliberate suppression of uncertainties and scientific discrepancies effectively mean that the government has lied to the UK voters leaving them unable to make any reasonable analysis of the problem. With little modification the above arguments (security instead of science) could also be used to describe their behavior when attempting to suppress publication of expenses. Presumably the same methodology has been used for many other large scale incidents including climate change.
    Is it any surprise that commentary on the current UK election campaign has shown that there is very little trust in the honesty or motives of mainstream politicians.

  17. Too many words. Too little content. Not BS but close. Its simply irrelevant.
    When you see the solution to every problem presented as more government, more control over the individual, more extorted wealth from the producers of the wealth, more failure to perform but continuance on the same path, there is something very wrong. The 20th Century saw this pattern end in total failure many times. There is no reason to expect any difference in the 21st. The plea that “our gang” is better than “their gang” because “our gang” has good intentions is simply BS. Intention has nothing to do with creating the consequences.
    There is a very simple explanation. Reality is what it is and pays no attention to what anyone wants, needs, intends, or demands. Human connection to that reality is also not optional but the contents of his mind are. If the contents of his mind don’t map onto reality, the human fails. If this pattern is repeated in the society at large, the society fails. It’s be coherent with reality and live or become extinct.
    There is no third alternative.
    The content of one’s mind is totally, irrevocably, a matter of continuous and life long VOLUNTARY choice. The network of choices add up to knowledge and success or error and failure. Force cannot change that equation. Even if a benevolent dictator attempted to force the “truth” into the minds of the population, it would fail. It would be a “truth” without the network of choices forming all the necessary connections in the mind to become effective knowledge. It would thereby be useless for any further action. An individual or society thus forced would have no rational bases for action and would necessarily fail.
    Hence, “the solution” is hardly ever, if ever at all, more government, more control over the individual, more extorted wealth from the producers of the wealth to be used without account by the political elite. The history of man and governments stand in direct testimony to this fact.
    “The plan” appears to succeed only as long as there are victims left to sacrifice to “the cause” and wealth to steal to pay for the overhead. When the government runs out of those things, it falls and the society dependent upon it also falls. See the current global political situation for instructive detail.

  18. It’s an interesting view point on this PNS i must say. It’s reality is evident in AGW although I think it more a criminal money making scheme more than ‘AL GORE didn’t realise the scientists were bulling him as he doesn’t understand a dot of science himself’ waffle. The same can’t be said for the IPCC, nor Mann, Hansen. But special critisicism for CRU’s JONES. The pope of PNS…golden golf cart, et all. The Doyen of PNS.
    Because at the heart of it all is the ‘falsifiable’ component. Circumventing that, by say, not handing over the bible, allows for all kinds of abuses!!!

  19. bushy (07:30:40) :
    Au contraire! The interesting point about the history of the F&M in the Uk, was that an “academic” was brought in under the “old pals” act, (who had left Oxford under a cloud of “no confidence”), who with a couple of other colleagues, built a computer model no less to deal with the infection rates & contageon strategy. It was to all intents & purposes “bloody useless”, leading to a”bloody mess”, & the most apalling animal carnage in the history of UK farming, most of it unnecessary! A lesson we still seem to be having difficulty in grasping, as the UK hurtles toward a similar precipice over AGW & CC & energy policy! That’s what you get from listening to twats with PhDs eminating from every orifice without an ounce (0.28N) of common sense to be seen. The sight of & stench from the funeral pyres on practically every horizon was an abomination.

  20. Sorry, I also lost what this was all about.
    Anyways, the one thing God did understand is our quest for truth, as His discussion with Pilate (just before He was crucified) would reveal.
    Religion and science are just two different ways to find the truth. The end result is the same; people ruled by money will bend the truth with whatever means available and people ruled by Christ seeking the (real) truth will find it, no matter how long it takes or how far it takes them. Ask me.

  21. Glad to see you back, Dr. Ravetz. Your posts have spawned some of the most interesting threads at WUWT as they challenge participants here at the most fundamental levels of science.
    My concern with your current discussion concerns the ‘quality control’ aspect of Post Normal Science. The history of science affirms your contention that ‘quality in science depends on the ethical commitments of its leaders, for there is no effective external system for assessing quality.’ There are numerous cases of intentional fraud – for example, Jan Hendrik Schön, the physicist at Bell Laboratories who used identical graphs on unrelated topics in publications relating to nanoelectronics, and whose massive and suspicious publication output was then investigated and found to be based on fraudulent data. These frauds are obviously caught after the perpetrator has achieved some successes and gained a good reputation based on non-science. While sometimes frauds are not detected within the lifetime of the perpetrator – eg. Dawkins of the Piltdown Man fame – fraudulent science does not generally gain permanent assent (as far as we know).
    While I put in these caveats, fraudulent science, in areas that are not marginally scientific (eg psychology) is exposed because science does have an effective external system for assessing quality, and that is replicability. This obviously requires time, expense and effort on the part of other scientists who find anomalies in the claims and outcomes of fraudulent science. This kind of work is often carried out by scientists who are concerned with that quality with which you have the most trouble, truth. As you point out, the problem is exacerbated when there are few experts qualified to critique that work, and you note that a student pointed out that this was a weakness in your call for greater participation in science by non-experts, because that element of quality control would then be lost, due to the low level of scientific debate that would follow.
    Then you concede that with the quality of Post Normal Scientific debate might indeed be very low, its procedures would be ensured by the participants ‘negotiating in good faith’, which you argue “doesn’t ensure quality in PNS, but it provides a criterion’ and you provide as an example ‘the sorts of discussions that are now emerging on WUWT.’
    Frankly, I’m not sure what process you are endorsing here to assure that PNW would be worthwhile. “Negotiating in good faith’ requires the ethical commitment that you admit a few sentences earlier might be missing in normal science. Why would embarking on PNS suddenly guarantee that greed, the quest for recognition, the fear of failure, the temptation to elide lacklustre experimental results, would now disappear because scientists would be ‘negotiating in good faith’? Surely this is pure naïveté?
    The high quality of comment at WUWT is in part due to the participation of scientists and other academics, qualified and experienced engineers, and expert amateurs like Willis Eschenbach who often put the rest of us to shame. But it is mostly due to a concern that unites many of us who are regulars here – a desire to know the truth. Sometimes our desire to prove the global warming catastrophists wrong might cause some intemperate advocacy for certain positions on the part of some participants, but generally there is a real desire to find out just what exactly is going on in the real- world climate and in climate and related science.

  22. You make a number of comparisons of Post-Normal Science (PNS) to religion.
    When one considers PNS and religion together, it becomes obvious that, infact, PNS is dangerously close to being a religion itself.
    Religion: based on unproved, unproveable tenants.
    PNS: dismisses the need for Scientific Method where causation is not understood, quantifiable effect are lacking, and experimentation is not possible.
    Religion: Divided into clergy, laity
    PNS: Divided into PN Scientists and Extended Peer Reviewers
    Religion: Promises salvation or damnation
    PNS: Talks of ‘high stakes’ and ‘urgent decisions’
    Religion: Historically, persecuted heretics and non-believers
    PNS: Followers talk of prosecuting sceptics and ‘deniers’ as war criminals committing Crimes Agains Humanity
    Religion: Sins forgiven.
    PNS: Mistakes are acceptable, given importance of long-term prognosis if immediate actions is not taken.

  23. Squidly says at 7:39 — “It is NOT science, and that is the problem. This is advocacy, politics, PNS, voodoo”.
    Exactly, and this is one of the most important (and frightening) points about the current debate on AGW. The bulk of the people on the skeptic side are discussing the science of the matter, but the people who will make the decision on governmental response have no interest in science. I am not exagerating when I say “no interest.” Anyone who has risen to be the head of a governmental agency, a Representative, Senator, MP, President, Prime Minister, etc. is a 100% political animal and ALL decisions will be based on political expediency. Science is not a factor. Just as the Salem witch trials were not decided on the basis of scientific investigation, the current governmental response to “Global Warming” will not be based on science either. A political decision will be based on political justifications and after the decision is made, there will be soldiers and police with guns to insure that the decision is enforced.
    Anyone who expects to derail an implementation of carbon cap and trade (or some similar money-transfer scheme) had better have a politically desirable reason for the derailment. Science is good for debate here at WUWT, but the politicians don’t care.

  24. Prof Ravetz:
    I sincerely appreciate your attempt at dialogue. However, my disagreement with both your previous articles on WUWT remains after your having written the above. Indeed, you have confirmed that my disagreement is correct.
    Previously, I disagreed with your attempting to introduce “quality” as a replacement for scientific ‘truth’ (i.e. the interpretation that most closely agrees with now available empirical evidence by adoption of least assumptions.) The replacement would be a fundamental alteration to the scientific method that has stood the test of time since the Enlightenment. And it would be substituting the scientific method (that has served us well) for an unknown method because you failed to define what you meant by “quality”.
    Your article above confirms that replacing scientific ‘truth’ with “quality” would be a displacement of the scientific method by something that is not defined so cannot be known in terms of its practical application. Your above article says:
    “Quality. On this I find myself reduced to arm-waving, that ‘we all know what Quality is’. But I can say that I am well aware that Quality is not a simple attribute, but is complex, influenced by history and context, recursive (who guards the guardians?), fundamentally a matter of morality (if the people at the top are crooked, the whole edifice of quality-assurance collapses), and of course fallible. This may seem a very insecure foundation for the sort of knowledge that we need, but it’s the best we have. And if one looks for better guarantees of truth even in Pure Science, one will be disappointed.”
    The scientific method or an alternative based on “arm waving”?
    For me there can be only one choice.
    But there is a more fundamental reason to deny the argument in your paragraph that I quote.
    The best guarantee of scientific ‘truth’ has been comparison of hypotheses and theories with the evidence and having complete disregard for the sources of the evidence. Indeed, scepticism and distrust of all data are inherent in any scientific investigation, and part of that distrust is because data are provided by fallible human beings all of whom may make mistakes and some of whom may be dishonest from time to time.
    But your view of “quality”, you say, is “fundamentally a matter of morality (if the people at the top are crooked, the whole edifice of quality-assurance collapses)”.
    No thanks! I will accept the data.
    I will assess how the data was obtained, and I will assess its reliability, accuracy and precision with a view to assessing what it can and cannot tell us. If it is not sufficient to tell us anything (as is the case with most data concerning AGW) then I will say, “I don’t know what that means if anything”.
    PNS “quality” or scientific ‘truth’? Give me the ‘truth’.
    Richard

  25. The bureaucrats have got very adept at making sure that the solution does not hurt the people that have most to lose. Cap and trade is clearly designed to make sure that any corporate interest which is against AGW can be silenced either by increasing carbon credits or threatening to withhold them. The whole funding of the scientists is based on their being a catastrophe. This is what makes the solutions so ineffective and expensive. If the world is about to squander as many resources as it currently appears to be doing on the precautionary principle it should be desperately checking its predictions. The silence on the analysis of the temperature records, and tree rings from the establishment is deafening.

  26. I suppose there may be a time for worrying about climate science and whether it need become post-normal, but I’m choosing to focus on something a little more basic. For some reason, I have this simple idea that scientific research in climate starts with the use of one of the most basic of scientific instruments –the thermometer. And my focus is on trying to advance the quality of climate science by encouraging climate scientists to figure out how to use a thermometer properly. Shouldn’t that be step one?
    Once our scientists are able to learn to set up thermometers and read them properly, we can move on to step two. I guess I just think it would be a good idea to try to give climate scientists a handle on understanding the basics of normal science before we try to teach climate scientists the post-normal.

  27. I now understand why when I read your other two posts PNS seemed so familiar to me. It follows the decision making process taught to me in my Project Management Classes. PNS is not about science it is about decision making.

  28. If you want some frank comment on your post, I would suggest getting another picture because the one that’s up there now makes you look like you’re laughing up your sleeve at the rest of us. One of the pictures of Phil Jones often used to illustrate articles about CRU when the climategate scandal first broke showed him with a similar sort of expression on his face, so maybe it’s something that’s habitual with British academic administrators. In any case it isn’t attractive, and makes me inclined to doubt anything you say …

  29. To: T. Paul
    ——————————————–
    T. Paul (08:44:18) :
    You make a number of comparisons of Post-Normal Science (PNS) to religion
    ——————————————–
    “……Greetings to the Church that meets at Priscilla’s house.” 1 Cor.
    There was a model of Christianity. A normal Christinity. The body of ‘science’ for the Church is the bible. What has followed is Post-Normal Church and the parallels between a particular ‘churches’ and AGW is breath taking!
    By denying access to the data, you can say anything you want, scare them as much as you want, and collect as much as you want even if you believe you are doing it for the good of mankind.

  30. DR Ravetz continues to conflate 3 different disciplines under PNS:
    1. Science
    2. Applications of Science
    3. Politics
    As a physician I have learned a great deal of Science, but what I do daily is an Application of Science. This is characterized by having to make decision with considerable uncertainty of facts and amidst competing scientific issues all in the same patient. My decisions also need to incorporate Politics—–patient family politics, politics among physicians and 3rd party payers politics, not to mention government interference in what I do.
    The Mad Cow epidemic included all the same issues. There is hard Science about the disease and some not so hard knowledge about the efficacy of various interventions (Applications of Science) in stopping the spread of the disease. Then there are the local and governmental politics Dr Ravetz refers to.
    Conflating these different things under a name (PNS) that includes the word “Science” contains a subtle dishonesty: Science as a process produces, through reproducible experiment, knowledge that one can rely on (though skepticism is always in order). Painting the veneer of Science on the very different disciplines of Applied Science and Politics hides the grossly different type of uncertainties found in the later two.
    In so-called Climate Science, there is real Science (eg., the Svensmark work on cosmic ray issues), Applications of Science (eg., weather reporting and prediction), and Politics (eg., the work of the IPCC). Conflating these has been the work of the Al Gore’s, the Hadley CRU team, etc. Calling their sort of work “Post Normal Science” lends a certain credence and elegance to something that deserves neither.
    Please do not call this any kind of “science”—Post Normal or otherwise, or one is guilty of a subtle fraud, and robs something from all who seek for the approximations to the Truth (but never the Truth itself—Perfect Knowledge is unknowable and is in the realm of Faith) that real Science can produce.
    KW

  31. Ravetz states “PNS first came into the climate picture with the quite recent essay by Mike Hulme in 2007”. That’s absolute nonsense. PNS has been embedded in climate science for over fifteen years. Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch wrote a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 80, No. 3, March 1999, entitled ‘Climate Science: An Empirical Example of Postnormal Science’, citing four of Ravetz’ papers. Bray and von Storch are big hitters. In this 1999 paper they wrote:
    “the extension of the discussion to postnormal science addresses the issue at hand when…there is a high degree of uncertainty and the potential for disagreement due to empirical problems and political pressure. This characterization is consistent with the present state of climate sciences. The concept of postnormal science, then, incorporates social and epistemic relationships that exist outside of the scientific communities but that act upon programs of research…Ravetz (1990) and others have referred to the contemporary attributes of climate science as reflecting postnormal science.”
    So there you go – Ravetz himself linked PNS with climate science as far back as 1990, if not before.
    Then we have Tuomo M. Saloranta’s article ‘Post-Normal Science and the Global Climate Change Issue’ in Climatic Change, Volume 50, Number 4 / September, 2001, which traced the influence of Ravetz’ PNS back to the SAR in 1996. He states
    “These examples however show that the compilation process of the WG I SAR and the content of its summaries obviously corelate with the philosophy of Post-Normal Science. A related empirical study of Bray and von Storch (1999) speaks to the same direction: Post-Normal Science seem to be generally at play in the contemporary climate science…Funtowicz and Ravetz’s (1992, 1993) attributes for Post-Normal Science are fulfilled in the climate change issue. Then, the SAR (IPCC, 1996a) from the WG I of the IPCC was…an example of how the philosophy of Post-Normal Science is reflected in practise [sic] in the science of global climate…the climate science around IPPC [sic] can to a relatively large extent be characterized as ‘Post-Normal’.”
    These are not some obscure publications but the very journals that ‘The Team’ were publishing in, and so were absolutely mainstream. Sorry, don’t try and convince us that climatology wasn’t awash with Ravetz’ PNS for fifteen years or so – the peer-reviewed literature tells us otherwise. The suggestion that “there is no record of the guilty scientists ever mentioning, or even being aware, of PNS during the crucial earlier years” is bunkum, unless ‘early years’ is supposed to mean ‘before the 1990s’. And the suggestion given by the sentence “My influence is traced back to a single footnote by Steven Schneider, citing an essay by me in a large, expensive book, Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (ed. W.C. Clarke and R.E. Munn), (Cambridge, University Press, 1986)” is disingenuous: if that was the earliest influence, and it was mentioned merely in a footnote in 1986, that says absolutely nothing about its dramatic influence from the early 1990s when Ravetz was pushing PNS, for example his paper ‘Post-normal science: A new science for new times’ (1990).
    The whole tenor of that part of Ravetz’s post is that PNS has only been influential (‘came into the picture’) in climate science in the last few years is utterly false, and he knows that’s the case as it’s a matter of public record. Ravetz tries to wriggle out of responsibility by appealing to our ignorance, when the evidence shows that he himself introduced PNS into climatology 20 years ago.

  32. ………but eventually, it ends in tears. You have deviated from what is right, true, and good, dependable, reliable, sound.

  33. I don’t know the point of the foot and mouth story.Because measures were taken there is no way of knowing the outcome if different measures had been taken.Any government would err on the side of caution(and make sure to pay as little compensation to the farmers as possible)in that situation it is not worth risking the backlash.But to ask me to believe that governments have the best interests of the taxpayer at heart,and will plan accordingly for events that may or may not happen when they are long gone from the scene is to ask me to believe in aliens.Politicians do not jump on a band wagon unless there is something in it for them.To see how enthusiastically they have jumped on this particular band wagon is a real eye opener.

  34. Dr. Ravetz: I must admit I need to completely review your previous posts and associated comments. The ideas associated with PNS are worthy of that review. The problems you identified today are those that have been with us since the beginning, not of science but of societies. Quality, Truth and so on fill much philosophical literature. I have personally been shrugging with them since my high school days, having first discovered Hume. I think it fair to say, these and other questions are simple to state and complex to answer. We do the subject, ourselves and each other a disservice to try in a few sentences. On my Blog at retreadresources.com/blog I have been attempting to struggle with them by writing a series of short essays. Perhaps some of these essays will help.

  35. We can argue about Foot & Mouth and any other kind of pandemic, but whatever you choose to call the procedures that were brought to bear, they have nothing to do with “science.”
    Science puts forward a hypothesis, gathers evidence to support or refute and gradually over time enough data and mechanisms are built up to give a theory. The Foot & Mouth episode was all about damage containment. The only possible reference to science is that scientists were consulted for their expert opinions on what the likely outcomes were. The fact that the “stakes were high and facts uncertain” has nothing to do with the decision of whether to do PNS or not.
    Studying the climate is, or ought to be, Normal Science. If facts are uncertain, science then seeks to gather more and better data. The assertion about “stakes being high” is a circular argument. We only believe the stakes are high because that’s what the “science” is supposed to tell us. But if the proponents of CAGW are wrong, then the stakes aren’t high, and the case for PNS collapses. As Professor Ravetz himself states, “Only if both causes and effects are so poorly known as to be speculative, does an apparently PNS situation collapse.”
    But that’s precisely what many sceptics are arguing – causes and effects of climate change are indeed poorly known. There is absolutely nothing in the current climate that has well understood causes and effects and the high stakes consequences are purely speculative. This is precisely the problem that is leading to ill considered panic responses from law makers.
    If PNS is ever formally adopted, we can be sure to see more and more outcomes like this, and even more shrill alarmism. We need to step back from all the hype and get on with the normal science that has served us well for centuries.

  36. HotRod (07:46:16) :
    Am I alone in having no idea what Dr Ravetz is talking about? I’m not being rude, I have read it three times, and just can’t get the point(s). What are they?
    ==========================================
    Nope HotRod you’re not alone. While the good Dr. may be brilliant at
    some things……written communication does not appear to be one of
    them.

  37. Oh, for heaven’s sake!
    Truth is truth. It has nothing to do with indoctrination, indeed is practically the antithesis of it. Stuff happens, has always happened, and we may sometimes have to deal with it based on incomplete understanding. Sometimes we may get it wrong; sometimes we may just have to learn from our mistakes.
    FMD is nothing like CAGW. At least you can see that an outbreak is occurring and know in advance that it’s a bad thing. But with CAGW, a decision was taken that global warming was occurring beyond historical precedent and was caused by CO2, and immense resources put into “proving” (aka propagandising) that. Any dissenting voices were vilified and excluded and the mantras repeated over and over again until ordinary folk for the most part thought it must be true. Until, at last, some of the truth started to leak out.
    With CAGW, there isn’t a scintilla of respect for discovering the truth. Those on the CAGW side aren’t concerned about anything that might disabuse them of their convictions. All they are concerned about is that nothing should challenge their belief system. To get their way, they will stoop to any depth. It’s just Lysenkoism by a different name, smells no sweeter, and one day will suffer the same fate, along with PNS.
    Unless you start off dedicated to the discovery of truth, which is the principle that lies behind real science, then sure as eggs is eggs, you are going to end up with religion. For God’s sake, we’re centuries past the Enlightenment, and we should regress back to medievalism?
    Dr. Ravetz, I urge you, give it up. This is your third outing here and the hole you’re digging for yourself just seems to be getting deeper. PNS is a nonsense concept. Come over to the light side and rediscover the fact that the truth will set you free and will out in the end… all the usual clichés. But clichés or no, they happen to be spot on. For all time, regardless of a late 20th/early 21st century aberration in human thought.

  38. Thank you for your posting, Dr. Ravetz. As a practicing research epidemiologist, I appreciate your comparison of the AGW panic with the outbreak of FMD in the UK, where I was working at the time. Terrible tragedy, farmers were committing suicide in Devon and other livestock-producing communities.
    I believe your take-home point in the FMD comparison is that, when the scientific communities and government go into full-blown panic mode, they make very hasty decisions that cost tremendous amounts of money and waste resources.
    I see this as a very real threat of the “precautionary principle” as being applied to AGW…since the science of AGW has been so badly mauled and abused, the priests (as you call them) have disproportionate power and influence on policy makers. Indeed, the distinction is quite blurred.
    Here’s a very good article on the general topic:
    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2868937.htm

  39. I confess that I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the comments on my first posting; and then I was discouraged by the hostile response to my second posting

    Think maybe you are to blame for “triggering” a hostile response?
    Are you inferring a response that disagrees with how you feel is “lower quality”?
    That is your problem buddy. The stench of peer review is one that claims all responses that agree are high quality and those that disagree are low quality.
    It is ignorant for pretend scientists to say their deal is truth just because several thousands agree.
    I will refer back to the FMD example you cited. Before Pasteur and others, maggots and flies coming from dead meat were examples used to peddle the theory of biogenesis and life coming from non life. ,
    You are close minded. I am convinced you are not able to conduct an experiment that doesn’t have built in experimental bias. Don’t get me started on the BSE mad cow scare. It is rich with examples of defective thinking and people trying to not ask the right questions.
    Math is not an answer. It is a tool.

  40. “I believe that epidemics of any sort provide examples of PNS. The uncertainty of the facts does not prevent the stakes from being high; there are always historical precedents to go on. Perhaps it would help if we distinguished between the ‘facts’ about causes, and the ’stakes’ about effects. Only if both causes and effects are so poorly known as to be speculative, does an apparently PNS situation collapse. Even then it is not ‘normal’ science but something else.”
    ====
    If there is a sense of urgency, quick agreement on action can be reached even when causes and effects are uncertain. The invasion of Iraq for WMD and as a response to 9/11 is an example.
    If there is little sense of urgency, agreement on action may not be easy to reach even when causes and effects are known with certainty. Witness the reluctance to address the coming financial crises with Social Security.
    If there is no sense of urgency, as is the case with global warming, and knowledge of causes and effects is not complete, agreement on action can be very difficult.

  41. “This is, that I personally and intentionally laid the foundations for the corrupted science of the CRU” — In what way(s) would PNS have prevented the “corrupted science of the CRU?”

  42. In order to convince me that GW is a real problem, you would need to convince me that:
    1) The warming is unprecedented – and I don’t even believe it is even warmer than the 1930’s (25 of the US State Temperature records are from the 1930’s) and I certainly don’t believe it is warmer than the MWP and Roman Optimum.
    2) 1 – 2C warmer is a problem – Epidemeologically cold is 10x bigger killer than warming
    etc etc.

  43. Thank you for your contribution, Dr Ravetz.
    The disastrous handling of the foot and mouth outbreak, BSE, avian flu,e-coli in poultry, the recent Mexican swine flu are all examples of worst case computer models being ‘believed’ and the inappropriate use of the precautionary principle by politicians seeking electoral advantage.
    Maybe PNS has something to say about the interface between politics and various scientific views where facts and hard data are in short supply and disputed, especially in the ‘soft sciences’ such as medicine, but it is difficult for me,at least, to see its role in engineering (all branches) for example.
    If ‘climate science’ wishes to be regarded as a discipline depending on empirical data then the ‘scientists’ involved should refrain from making alarmist claims and predictions based on models which are inherently flawed. Otherwise they will be viewed as social manipulators who are about to change Western economies in a very negative way. Their interaction with politicians may well be described as post-normal science and this would not necessarily be a compliment.

  44. Dr. Razetz,
    I am not sure the foot-and-mouth incident is a good guide; global warming involves enormously larger stakes and much lower confidence in the key scientific issues of climate sensitivity to forcing and expected consequences of any future warming. In the case of foot-and-mouth disease, that some action was needed was clearly agreed to by all scientists involved; any disagreement was a matter of appropriate level of response, which under the circumstances ended up being a politically motivated choice by Tony Blaire.
    I agree that most climate scientists adopt advocacy positions based on their honest evaluation of ‘the science’. But I think it is a bit naive to not consider and take into account the self-selection of those who choose to become involved in climate science: these are people who are exceptionally concerned about human degradation of the Earth’s environment, and who are politically inclined to support (indeed, vocally advocate) draconian, left-leaning political measures to minimize human influence on the environment. People who enter the field are politically and philosophically inclined to believe that human influence on Earth’s environment is inherently ‘bad’ in a purely moral sense, and to discount any value which might be assigned to economic development. It is no surprise to me that a mainly homogeneous group of scientists with strong ‘green’ inclination will be subject to expectation bias and confirmation bias, always in the directions of: a) overstating expected temperature increases, b) overstating the risks to people associated with those temperature increases, and c) understating uncertainty in projections of warming.
    What makes ‘climate science’ anything other than ‘normal science’ are the obvious philosophical and political inclinations of those who choose to enter the field. My suspicion is that this will not change easily; anyone with other than ‘pure green’ political views who wishes to enter the field will very likely be subject to extreme pressure/prejudice, starting as an undergraduate student. The only way I see out of this conundrum is the active participation of non-climate scientists and engineers in critical evaluations/refutations of the research done in the field. The rise of many science-oriented climate blogs, skeptical of the consensus ‘climate science’ view is clear evidence that this process is already underway.

  45. Michael Larkin (09:05:24) :
    “FMD is nothing like CAGW. At least you can see that an outbreak is occurring and know in advance that it’s a bad thing.”
    Quite so. I took Ravetz to task for his illogical argument on this before, lumping in ‘climate change’ (which has been going on for millennia, and so has a history of natural causation) with very evident and obviously abnormal diseases among populations of discrete entities. For a man who is a mathematician, it’s an unpardonable sin. As I wrote in reply to a comment in my post on this back in October
    http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
    “Ravetz is seen to be begging the question – not a good sign in a philosopher. To include “global climate change” in a list with increasing incidences of new-variant CJD, infertility, and asthma is completely disingenuous. Those things and their trends are all relatively easily measured and diagnosed. Ravetz is not stupid – he was originally a mathematician – and he knows a lot about numbers, so he knows that he is pulling the wool over our eyes by including climate change in a list of diseases that affect populations of discrete entities. Is the incidence of “global climate change” increasing? Do we have a population of thousands of other similar earths with which to compare our earth?
    Moreover, if a patient presents with CJD, you know from experience that it’s life threatening and not the natural state. You might have difficulty finding the causes and dealing with them, but you know for certain that this is not the normal state of affairs. The same can’t be said of “global climate change”. Ravetz has absolutely no grounds to say that “global climate change” is a “serious, perhaps very threatening problem”, nor should he include it in a list of things that are measurably increasing and deleterious. People have died of asthma and CJD, so there cannot be the slightest doubt that they are “serious…very threatening” – we know the likely prognoses. But climate change has been happening for thousands of years, and no one has yet been able to demonstrate that this is anything but a normal state of affairs – natural variation – nor can we make any realistic prognosis. What Ravetz has done is assume that climate change is an unnatural phenomenon with a deadly causative agent (anthropogenic, of course!) – he assumes the ‘normal’ science can tell him that, so that the ‘post-normal’ science can be applied to the allegedly difficult problems it throws up. But you don’t need policies to deal with things that haven’t been shown to be problems in the first place– don’t waste your time chasing those shadows when there are plenty of real problems in the world that can be diagnosed and dealt with.”

  46. I realise that the FMD outbreak is only being used as an example by Dr Jerry, but since we’re on that subject….
    The problem with situations where you have poor facts, poor knowledge of causes, and high stakes is that you can be frozen into immobility. With FMD, “do nothing” was not a realistic option. The problem was that “the axe was blunt”. If you stop to sharpen it then you’ve failed. The only thing you can do is to lash out with a blunt axe. Inevitably you will be shown to to have implemented an imperfect strategy, as in this case, but on the other hand the FMD outbreak was stopped, if at a rather high cost.
    On AGW, I’m a sceptic. But I favour the, “there is nothing wrong with the climate”, view. But what if I’m wrong? I’m not about to change my views on AGW, but at the same time I can understand the logic of lashing out with a blunt axe!

  47. If quality replaces truth, it should have a value, say between 0 and 1. It should then be possible to establish an algebra on it, like boolean algebra on truth values. We can, for instance, in the old fashioned world of truth say that the expression
    Z := “if A is true, then it follows that B is true”
    (where Z denotes whether the quoted sentence is true)
    can be expressed with this truth table:
    A B Z
    0 0 1
    0 1 1
    1 0 0
    1 1 1
    Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus talks a little bit about this.
    How would this look like if we tried to replace truth with “PNS quality”?
    I don’t see a clear philosophical or mathematical basis here. Granted, Gödel has proved that no axiomatic system can be described completely within itself, but i don’t even see the beginning of such a description in PNS.

  48. “Post Normal Science” seems to me to be a poor label for the phenomenon – but the phenomenon has been identified pretty well. Clearly part of the phenomenon is what I might half-jokingly call “sub-canonical science”, but it’s only a part. Part, as someone said above, is to do with decision-making, but the central feature, it seems to me, is the positive feedback between the desire for decision-making and the purported science that is used to justify it. The key part is that the prospect of decisions that confer power/fame/wealth on people provides incentives for lousy science – science that lacks competence, critical thinking, and propriety; sometimes, science that is plain dishonest. We’re now in the preposterous position that a hypothesis that was worth entertaining – that man’s releases of CO2 might have a measurable effect on climate – has had heaps of money spent on it and yet, after 20 years or more, we have no evidence worth a damn. Even more absurd, in that same 20 years or more, the value of the temperature observations that have been made over the last century and a half has actually been degraded, by virtue of “adjustments” that have been made. And, meantime, the public will slowly come to have less and less patience to listen to “scientists” on any topic.
    By the by, I thought that picking out Foot-and-Mouth as an analogy was pretty good – the Science was much simpler, and yet the attractions of moral corruption proved mighty.

  49. Excellent post Dr. Ravetz,
    I have often wondered how science would be able to capture the areas typically occupied by religion, ie. those requiring belief because they are, as yet, unexplainable. Not need to limit science to observable, repeatable or falsifiable facts. LOL
    Maybe we should elect our academiots?
    What a laugh.

  50. I agree completely with keith winterkorn (08:58:13).
    Dr. Ravetz keeps on trying to create a new paradigm when a new one is unneeded. We already understand the differences between the basic science, the applications of science and the politics. Trying to merge them into some hideous creation WILL ONLY CONFUSE those who try. They might even end up thinking they’ve created something useful. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  51. ScientistForTruth (08:58:36) :
    The von Stroch article is not evidence of the presence of post-normal science. It is evidence of the manner in which the researchers characterised the behaviour of a group of scientists. Social research 101: the analysts categories may not be the same as those of the analysed.
    Von Storch et al might be right characterising it in that way, or they might be wrong. Evidence that they are right might be, say, 60% of those scientists saying “we do post-normal science, which we define as (A, B, C)”. In the absence of that all you have is inference.
    Connecting Ravetz likewise takes more than inference. Evidence might be a citation by one or some of those being analysed. If the only citation is by the analyst then that is only evidence of the analyists influences not those of the analysed.
    Once again I’m not saying PNS wasn’t/isn’t there. But I am saying that those articles aren’t evidence that it was/is.

  52. Noelene (09:01:15) :
    I don’t know the point of the foot and mouth story.Because measures were taken there is no way of knowing the outcome if different measures had been taken…..
    ————
    An epidemic was predicted.
    Action was taken to prevent the epidemic.
    No epidemic occurred.
    The prediction of an epidemic was wrong.
    That’s funny. It reminds me of projection feedback.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/2682461

  53. Hoof and mouth disease, Dr. Ravetz? Well,
    1] Quite simply, Dr. Ravetz, GW itself is not even a proven net disease entity, regardless of its cause. Essentially all we’ve seen from Climate Science is obsessive, hysterical, miopic, one sided, purchased, disasterizing of GW. With that kind of wild, negative “could”, “might” thinking it’s a wonder the Climate Scientists, enc., aren’t terminally worried about doing anything whatsoever at any time, anywhere – or not doing it.
    But if it would make any genuine PNS GW disasterizers feel better, for a mere $10 billion I will assemble a bunch of scientists who will “prove” – exactly as did the ipcc’s Post Normal Science, because that’s what it is – that GW will eventuate in the closest “climate” and derivitive situation we can get here to Heaven on Earth.
    2] CO2 has not been shown to be an etiologic agent of any significant Global Warming, ever. Moreover, the CO2AGW hypothesis itself has been proven wrong by what little science the Climate Scientists have done in terms of their own critical predictions – which they then deny as critical!
    3] The alleged cure to the CO2AGW claimed disease is obviously worse than the alleged disease. And, where the rubber meets the road, whole Countries have already made that exact call.
    China and India have already applied their own version of your PNS, Dr. Ravetz, if you want to call it that, and have found that any restriction upon their development via massive coal-fired energy plant construction is not wise – at the least in respect to the matter of the alleged CO2AGW cure being in fact worse than the alleged CO2AGW disease, if not also in respect to the whole hypothesized CO2AGW disease mechanism itself.
    4] Finally, Dr. Ravetz, when are you going to call for the conduct of real Science by Climate Science, by demanding that Climate Scientists actually use the Scientific Method, instead of employing what is essentially gigantic blame and disasterizing Propaganda Operation, which is obviously designed to accomplish other, non-scientific, generally destructive goals?
    The prudent thing to do right now about CO2AGW qua Global Disease is nothing. Valid pollution concerns, along with efficiency and resource management considerations, should be quite enough to guide our use of fossil fuel and other sources of energy.

  54. John Hooper (08:05:59) :
    “Sorry to be abrasive, but this reads like the kind of babbling essay that is only acceptable within Academia.
    In future, summarize your subject in the first paragraph and conclude it in the last.”
    I concur.
    I think he said if honest people were in charge things would be better. All the valid points appeared to be tautology. The vagrancies of human nature are not an excuse to disband the classic scientific method. All systems can be corrupted. Some are inherently more suceptible to corruption. This is why central power must be as limited as possible, “a necessary evil”

  55. So….what is the difference between a Hypotheses, such as say: The Higgs-Boson, and PNS?
    Post normal Science is a hypotheses where action is required, absent the full proof of the underlying science.

  56. AGW was a hypothesis where action was required. However, it was not PNS as the science was witheld, not absent.

  57. Ref – David L. Hagen (07:47:57) :
    “..Addressing this standard of the “common good” appears to be equally applicable to public policies based on science. Ravetez’s example of the UK “foot in mouth disease” incident reveals the corruption of academia, government and the press to the detriment of the “common good”. EPA is trying to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” rather than an essential plant fertilizer.”…
    _______________
    This comment seemed to jump out and fit something I was thinking about after reading the Professor’s comments. Then I went outside and got some fresh air and thought. For what it’s worth Professor, here’s my feedback..
    Your attempt to meld the ideal with reality will no doubt leave a bigger mark on the planet’s philosophers than I ever will, but I feel that you’re butting your head against a brick wall. You have not succeeded in incorporating ‘Everyman’ into the equation. I’m sure many will say there is no need to do so, I think they’re wrong.
    ‘Everyman’ deals with the facts of life as they are at the moment while you grapple with life as it ought to be in a machine-age of programmable zombies. Forget the ideal Professor, grapple with people and their complicated interrelationships as they are. Like the climate of the globe, people are very complicated. Should’a, would’a, could’a isn’t going to make a dent on a planet full of ‘people’.
    This website should give you many hours of productive study. The AGW mob would have you believe they speak truth and reason from a vantage point of authority and expertise, all for the benefit of everyone. This mob, a representative chunk of the mass of human flesh on the planet, would argue that they don’t buy the claims or the solutions of the self-proclaimed elite. Think about it… please.

  58. AGW was a scam. There is a difference between PNS and a scam but i’ll be danged if I can find it.

  59. Foot and mouth is NOT deadly to animals it is preventable with vaccinations, if you leave them alone the weak will die, but the stronger will survive but , all it means it they have to feed the animals more food, Look at SARS, look at bird flu, look at the new swine flu.
    They are manufactured plagues, producing fear. IF PNS is like the foot and mouth, then a) it would be a waste of money, b), waste of time, c) make hundreds of farmers (people) lose their jobs and livelihood.
    so the culling of these animals, who are only sick and not many will die, is based on the fear that governments produce, which from my reading is the definition of PNS. advocacy, rather than facts.

  60. J.Peden (09:41:40) :
    Hoof and mouth disease, Dr. Ravetz? Well,
    The prudent thing to do right now about CO2AGW qua Global Disease is nothing. Valid pollution concerns, along with efficiency and resource management considerations, should be quite enough to guide our use of fossil fuel and other sources of energy.
    ====
    “Doing nothing” is based on what assumptions and forecasts?

  61. I don’t quite get it, is he trying to define bad science, using examples of FMD and AGW, or justify and normalise bad science?

  62. Dear Dr. Ravetz, you do try, I’ll give you credit, and you are a man of good will, as far as I can see; if I’m ever out in Oxford at an academic meeting I’d be happy to sit down and chat over tea. But as I comb your long missives for any useful insight into these issues I detect a flavour that I find all too pervasive in academia today, even in my own field (Pure Mathematics). It comes to the surface most strongly in your confession here:

    There is another unsolved problem, Truth. I realise that I have a case of what I might call ‘Dawkins-itis’ in relation to Truth. Just as Prof. Dawkins, however learned and sophisticated on all other issues, comes out in spots at the mere mention of the word ‘God’, I have a similar reaction about ‘Truth’. I must work on this. It might relate to my revulsion at the dogmatic and anti-critical teaching of science that I experienced as a student, where anyone with original ideas or questions was scorned and humiliated. I happily use the terms for other Absolutes, like ‘beauty’, ‘justice’ and ‘holy’; so clearly there is something wrong in my head. Watch this space, if you are interested.

    This is the best-articulated part of your essay, and I admire your candor. But it tells me what it is I have struggled to put my finger on — that your “PNS” is nothing more and nothing less than a reworking of the so-called “postmodern approach” in the setting of philosophy (or perhaps sociology) of science.
    I’ve wasted enough of my life trying to find the pearl in the oyster of postmodernism. I’ve concluded that it’s all oyster and no pearl. Truth is not laid bare by agnosticism about its existence in the first place. One refreshing thing I find about skeptics is their commitment to the existence of truth.
    The difference between a skeptic and an agnostic is that a skeptic believes the truth is out there and is willing to bring the tools of logic and science to bear both to find the truth and to dismantle faulty versions of it. The agnostic shrugs his shoulders and says, “maybe truth exists, maybe it doesn’t; if it does then maybe finding it is hopeless”. The Postmodernist, far from dismantling faulty versions of a truth he posits to exist, seeks to deconstruct any effort at definitively establishing truth, and doubts it is there anyway. I have better ways to invest my time and mental energy.
    If you asked him, I believe you’d find that Dawkins (whom I don’t particularly admire, but with whom I share a firm respect for objective truth) wouldn’t think invocating his name to describe your truth-agnosticism is very appropriate; he might even regard it as insulting.
    Those of us most strongly committed to the assumption of objective truth, by the way, are the most adamantly opposed to “dogmatic and anti-critical teaching of science”; science must be taught as free inquiry — only those unsure of the objective nature of truth (or of the correctness of their own view) are so insecure about what they teach that they feel they must fit their students with blinders or they might stray off course. I teach in the full confidence that, where I am right, my students will verify this independently, and where I am wrong, a well-taught student will eventually set me straight.
    From your parting thoughts in the quoted passage I see you are personally struggling with this postmodernism which has consumed your thoughts. I wish you godspeed in the quest for a better approach; I think there’s more hope for you than for Hersch and Foucalt. But I won’t be “watching this space” for it, I’ve had enough of postmodern navel-gazing. I have decided that the existence of objective truth is axiomatic to scientific endeavor, and prefer to spend my time improving our understanding of truth than trying to build without a foundation.

  63. PNS as described here deconstructs to application of probabilities, so it rather seems that I’m missing the post-normal point. Perhaps my deconstruction is incorrect.

  64. An overstretched analogy which fails to fit the PNS model.
    1) with Foot and Mouth the science (in terms of FMD’s viral cause is settled, (it’s the policy which is perhaps uncertain, but see 2.)
    2) the UK had a major previous outbreak of FMD in 1967 which was ended by mass slaughter etc
    Other than that a profound match for the current AGW scenario.

  65. This essay answers many of Dr Ravitz’ points. In fact, it effectively deconstructs them: click
    *****
    And: Wren (10:06:45) :
    “‘Doing nothing’ is based on what assumptions and forecasts?”
    *plonk*
    [‘Scuse me, my forehead just hit the keyboard]
    Alarmists appear to be so closed-minded that they can not get their minds around the fact that skeptics have nothing to prove.
    Scientific skeptics have no requirement to provide any ‘assumptions and forecasts.’ The job of skeptics is to test the validity of a hypothesis — which requires that the purveyors of new hypotheses cooperate, by providing the data and methods used to construct the hypothesis.
    But since the CO2AGW crowd refuses to provide their raw data, code and methodologies, the climate zealots have nothing but an evidence-free, unproven CO2AGW conjecture, and the rational course of action is doing nothing.
    If there is a climate catastrophe approaching, why would anyone hide any information?? The only answers that make sense are that either the purveyors of the hypothesis know it is false, and are passing off their false hypothesis for money, status and political power, or they are so embarrassed at their gross incompetence that they would rather see most of the human race wiped out than allow the public to see the inept results that $billions of their taxes paid for. The answer could be both.
    Read John Brignell’s essay linked above. At least try to understand.

  66. Climate Science is not post normal science it is abnormal science. Abnormal in the sense that it comes to a conclusion then uses the data in such a way has to suit the conclusion.
    Nothing wrong in postulating an idea without data and then using data to either prove or disprove the hypothesis.
    I am not an expert on foot and mouth as it relates to cattle, but because of this blog and Climate Audit, I have become quite knowledgeable in the self named climate scientists fantastic capability to place their foot in their mouth at every opportunity.

  67. Smokey (10:31:39) :
    This essay answers many of Dr Ravitz’ points. In fact, it effectively deconstructs them: click
    Wren (10:06:45) :
    “‘Doing nothing’ is based on what assumptions and forecasts?”
    *plonk*
    [‘Scuse me, my forehead hit the keyboard]
    Alarmists appear to be so closed-minded that they can not get their minds around the fact that unless there is convincing evidence for a new hypothesis, skeptics have nothing to prove.
    If the climate zealots have nothing but an evidence-free, unproven CO2AGW conjecture, then the rational course of action is doing nothing.
    Read John Brignell’s essay linked above. At least try to understand.
    ===
    There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.
    A do nothing approach to CO2AGW as policy, implies assumptions and predictions. What are they?

  68. Wren:
    “Doing nothing” is based on what assumptions and forecasts?
    Based upon what I just got through explaining and arguing – against the claim that GW/CO2AGW is itself a net disease entity with a known etiologic agent, and with an alleged cure that is not worse than the alleged disease.
    The FDA does this kind of analysis all the time in evaluating drug treatments for proven diseases. Drug benefit must significantly outweigh its risk/side-effects in the treatment of a known disease, given its own risks.
    Using the Scientific Method as well as possible is the method of evaluation. People are still allowed to do pretty much whatever they think they need to do, if they can find a provider somewhere in the World, but as a matter of Public Health and Safety, unproven treatments, especially with known risks/side effects, are not condoned or recommended to the population at large, especially for conditions which are not even diseases – except perhaps now in the case of psychiatric diseases which seem to have come to constitute nearly anything anyone ever does or feels.

  69. Wren:
    [‘Scuse me, my forehead hit the keyboard]
    My hands hit the keyboard before I read your follow-up.

  70. mods ~ first attempt went poof and disappeared, my apologies if this is a repeat
    Sir,
    After your first essay, I was a supporter. After your second, I was angry. After your third, I must advise that I consider PNS a serious threat to civilization. Over the top though that may sound, the evidence is clear.
    During the recent flu crisis, Egypt slaughtered its swine population, though little if any credible evidence to suggest doing so would be beneficial existed. Out of “an abundance of caution” and because the matter was “urgent” the slaughter was carried out. In reality, swine in Egypt are owned almost exclusively by Christians. The slaughter was no more than an excuse to persecute them, and the justification stood on the shoulders of PNS.
    Since being sensitized to your perspective on PNS, I have seen it repeated in one form or another from recent articles on climate in the prestigious magazine “the Economist” to the angry calls for violence published on the Greenpeace website, to the insanity of a United Nations resolution attempting to elevate even perceived harm to the environment to the same level as crimes against humanity. I could cite many more examples, the point being that threaded through them all is the perverse insistence that action be taken by those who claim the moral high ground and whose justification rests not upon facts or reason, but upon PNS. Your theory represents not a mechanism by which rational decisions may be made in the modern era, but one by which irrational decisions can be forced upon the populace when there is a lack of evidence to support them. It is not a mechanism to make good decisions when the science is uncertain, it is merely an excuse to make decisions despite the uncertainty. This confers great power upon those who seize it, and the opportunity that this represents for absolute corruption should be obvious.
    During the Holocaust, the Nazis became concerned not that some Jews might escape, but some of their genes. Out of an abundance of caution that they be exterminated, birth records were examined in detail. Families that had been Christian for three generations were sent to the gas chambers to ensure that no Jewish genes survived. You may not see PNS in this, but I do. I see it in the persecution of Christians in Egypt, in the taxation plans that would cripple the first world for the sin of creating wealth while rewarding the third world for having failed to do so, in justifications for violence against AGW sceptics, and in UN resolutions that would equate the felling of trees with mass murder. Everywhere I see someone trying to take for themselves from others, or to do harm to others, without the evidence to justify it, I see the absolute corruption of PNS.
    I would like to thank Anthony for giving you a platform, and for articulating so well what you believe PNS to be. I have never believed in the saying “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”. I instead subscribe to the notion that “forewarned is forearmed”. Thank you for the warning.

  71. Thank you, Dr. Ravetz. I’ll have to read this when I have time to study it and comment with at least a little knowledge of what you actually said.

  72. Mark (09:37:45) :
    ScientistForTruth (08:58:36) :
    “The von Storch article is not evidence of the presence of post-normal science. It is evidence of the manner in which the researchers characterised the behaviour of a group of scientists.”
    Well, that’s a stretch! Don’t you know: Hans von Storch was editor of a climate journal and is one of the most prominent of all climate scientists? He’s not a researcher looking in from the outside – he’s not a social scientist. Get real! Oh, I see, he, as a climate scientist, might just have made a mistake…he characterized the behaviour of his colleagues as PNS (after Ravetz), but he might have been mistaken, might he?

  73. Wren (10:45:00)
    “There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.”
    The “compelling evidence” is as compelling as this compelling evidence: click

  74. Post nornal science seems to say that the science may not be settled, but the consequences if we do nothing are so bad that we should so something even though we may be wrong. to avoid the consequences. However, it forgets that the consequences of doing something about AGW are even worse and much more certain, a huge governemtn takover of averything we do, with consequent huge expense ruining the worlds economy and resulting in poverty and death for millions, the vast burocracy needed to ‘save the world” from, well, us, behaving like all such all powerfull governments have in the past, power corrupts, then abolute power corrupts absolutly. In short, the “solution” to AGW is as bad or much worse that even AGW is. Therefore post normal science suggests that we actually have a choice between uncertain AGW bad things and certain bad things from a Solution” to AGW, I’ll pass on the “solution”, thank you.
    In addition, more and more evidence has been seen that the “bad things” that AGW might bring are at the least aggagerations and at worse outright lies, and that the evidence for AGW is the same. The evidence from say the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods strongly suggests that we would not only survive AGW but actually thrive, and that global cooling or even a much more likely ice age (which is what we should REALLY be looking at) are much more dangerous, likely, and worthy of our study and action.
    But of course, you will never hear that AGW might be false, since in the ivory tower of acedemia, you are surrounded by people who stand to gain money, power, and great prestige if they “save the world” from AGW, and stand to lose money, power, and a LOT of prestige if it is proven false, so you will never hear that it might be false, or hear about any consequences of trying to stop it, since those consequences will only effect “the little people” outside the ivory towers. You need to get out and look around, find out what taking action against AGW will do to “the little people”, try talking to some of them instead of only hanging out with your ivory tower crowd all the time. How many of them have already lost their job because of governments increasing takover of all power and money, checked out the goverment of greece lately, what about those countries where governmet already controlls everything, is that what you want? Even if AGW is true, can we solve it if we are all broke, or under a dictatorship? Do dictatorships ever really solve anything? Suggestion, get the book “The Road To Serfdom”, and check it out and compare it to what you read in the paper, now, is bigger government a good idea?
    And you might think that all those other aacedemics you work with are really sincere, and so you should believe them. But it is possible to be sincere and very wrong, and it is possible to so slowly slide into increasing lies (rienforced by telling the lies to each other over and over, I believe it’s known as “incestious amplification” and “groupthink”) that, like the drunkard, you sincerly believe that the next drink will do you no harm.
    And ask youself, do I stand to gain or lose if AGW is true, do my friends, might that effect how I think about it?

  75. J.Peden (10:46:13) :
    Wren:
    “Doing nothing” is based on what assumptions and forecasts?
    Based upon what I just got through explaining and arguing – against the claim that GW/CO2AGW is itself a net disease entity with a known etiologic agent, and with an alleged cure that is not worse than the alleged disease.
    The FDA does this kind of analysis all the time in evaluating drug treatments for proven diseases. Drug benefit must significantly outweigh its risk/side-effects in the treatment of a known disease, given its own risks.
    ======
    So if you can’t do blinded null hypothesis testing on GW/CO2AGW like you do on promising drug treatments, you should do nothing? Nah !

  76. Smokey (11:03:01) :
    Wren (10:45:00)
    “There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.”
    The “compelling evidence” is as compelling as this compelling evidence: click
    ——
    That chart isn’t funny, just goofy.

  77. Dr. Ravetz:
    I understand why you chose the examples you did. QA itself can become political. I worked both as a Safety Rep. and as Hardware/Software tester.
    There is pressure to move product/theory along.
    When QA breaks down at a coal mine, people die. Inspectors get reluctant and familiar with mine owners. Complacency is the easy path, but it kills.
    When QA breaks down in Hardware, devices fail more frequently and sooner. Toshiba got sued for 2.5Billion some years back for sweeping a known failure under the rug.
    The QA of Science. Who does that? If peer review breaks down or is corrupted/constrained, there is no QA.
    Politicians are neither Scientists nor QA people. They operate under political expediency and correctness.
    Right now, if I were to present the AGW bug to Engineering, they would jump all over me for insufficient cause, and my boss would be glaring at me for filing a known issue. I could not prove Global Warming was caused by C02.
    And if I presented the AGW Safety Issue to Management, I’d get scolded for trying to Grandma the Process. I could not prove AGW was a threat to the miners.
    So, keep up the postings.

  78. Welcome back, Dr. Ravetz. Perhaps you’d like to meet my friend Dr. Lysenko? I believe the two of you have a great deal in common.
    C. the C.

  79. R. Craigen (10:13:37) :
    I have decided that the existence of objective truth is axiomatic to scientific endeavor, and prefer to spend my time improving our understanding of truth than trying to build without a foundation.
    ———————
    Indeed, the beginnings of science lie with a Platonic justification for the search for truth concerning the physical world. The justification was theistic: because the world was designed by the Demiurge according to rational principles, and because the human mind is capable of rational thought the human mind to understand the world. The use of reasoning and logic reveal deeper truths than do mere physical encounters with matter. Thus, for example, while our bodies may tell us that the earth is flat, the study of ships sailing across the horizon and other evidence (the different lengths of shadows in Alexandria vs Athens at midday) tell us the earth is a sphere.
    Since Judaism and Christianity also had a high reverence for rational belief, and the search for the truth, the basic principles that underlie scientific investigation were nurtured, even if without much enthusiasm, through the Dark Ages and emerged with increasing vigour in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Science is not, contra the thinking of many today, an Enlightenment or post-Christian phenomenon. However, Post-Modernism is both post-Judeo-Christian (rejects any idea of truth) and Post-Enlightenment (rejects the primacy of logic and rationalism). Some critics think that science itself cannot survive in the post-Christian era, due to the rejection of absolutes such as truth, and have been predicting this for several decades.

  80. Landry’s advertisement at Joe’s crab Shack
    “Free All you can eat Crabs tomorrow”
    If they throw in free Ice tea and free refills we have a deal.
    We are going to burn up Tomorrow.
    Para normal science at it’s best.

  81. “There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.”
    Yet there are members of those societies who DO dispute it. Why? Simple, the leaders of that society stand to benefite in terms of money, power, and prestige, if they support AGW. They stand to lose all that if they do not, in fact, if they do not, they will likely be hounded out of office and then blackballed. So do they support AGW, heck yeah!
    Also, there is a difference between the leaders of those societies and the rank and file, the leaders are bureaucrats, the rank and file are not, bureaucrats stand to gain great power over others if AGW is true, the rank and file do not, or do to a lesser degree. Hence the difference between what the leaders of those societies say and what the rank and file say. The leaders aren’t really scientists anymore, just more government types who, naturally, want government that is larger and more important. In additon, they, unlike the rank and file, have far more connection to those in government, who naturally like AGW since it’s being true benifits them. That connection puts pressure on them to, shall we say, realist that “one hand washes the other” and “we should all work together as a team”. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, kapish?
    Plus we have seen here and elsewhere that not only is the evidence not compelling, but the evidence against it is more compelling, and the compelling evidence in many cases ranges from sloppy science to outright lies (which is where I would catagorize the “wind shear” method of measuring air temperature as compared to direct measurement).

  82. Because of compelling evidence that climate is affected by man’s activities as well as know natural, no scientific society of standing disputes GW/CO2AGW. Average global temperatures have continued to rise even during periods that experienced the natural cooling influences of a down-cycle in sunspot activity and a La Nina.
    Those skeptical of GW/CO2AGW not only do not have compelling counter evidence but have little evidence at all. Their argument seems to be they don’t know why know natural causes don’t explain the rise in global temperature but they know man’s activities had little or nothing to do with it because it was a result of natural causes that no one knows about yet.

  83. Well, I’ve read what Dr Ravetz has written, but so far I’ve seen no science in it. In fact he has convinced me that PNS is not any kind of science, it masquerades as science, dresses itself up in scientific sounding language, may persuade the scientifically ignorant that it is science, but is just empty flim-flammery.
    Perhaps PNS is amusing to certain academics as an intellectual word game, rather like Mornington Crescent.

  84. Bushy’s comments are concise and spot on.
    FMD is a poor example because it is obviously bad if a herd gets the virus, so Draconian measures, while disputable in their means, cannot be dismissed.
    Working the AGW backwards, it is unclear that GW is bad. Indeed, in this humble scientist’s opinion (I am a commercial scientist, not an academic one with tenure), warming and increase in CO2 is a very good thing. So the three idols of the AGW faith, 1) warming is happening, 2) it is caused by man, and 3) it is bad if the earth warms and CO2 goes up, are all dogma under dispute and hypotheses unproven.
    I know that these academics (conspirators some?) have to make a living. But not at my or my offspring’s expense.

  85. Wren (10:45:00)
    “There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.”
    Not that consensus means anything in the matter of real scientific validity or “proof”, Wren, but let me know anyway when the membership numbers of those societies exceeds ~2.4 billion people, the combined population numbers of India and China, countries whose Boards of Directors have found strongly against the Catastrophic element of CO2AGW, “where the rubber meets the road”, in comparison to their own need to develop by methods which massively increase World output of fossil fuel CO2 in order to substantially improve their own populations’ well being.

  86. The analogy fails because the cause of the FMD is known.
    I have a much better analogy:
    Chronic heartburn, peptic ulcers and stomach cancer. Thousands of papers have been written, reviewed and published that linked modern lifestyle (spicy foods, stressed life, etc.) with chronic heartburn, which, was said, cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancers.
    Since the alleged causes were linked to modern lifestyle, the remedies were a change in food and life habits, and antacids and acid production antagonists (antihistamines, proton pump antagonists…)
    But, some studies were published where a bacteria, Helicobacter pylori was linked to these diseases (chronic heartburn, peptic ulcers, and stomach cancers) The real cause, a bacteria, was found.
    The response of the (true) scientific community was impressive. The new findings were examined and embraced. The old papers were discarded and new remedies (antibiotics) were prescribed. No old guard tried to hide, dismiss or attack the new findings with ad hominem fallacies.
    In light of the many facts against CAGW, (no temperature rise in the last 15 years, no Arctic/Antarctic shrinking, etc…) Why the Climate branch of the scientific community doesn’t reject the CAGW conjecture like the medicinal branch did with the old chronic heartburn hypothesis?

  87. Wren (11:08:12)
    “Blinded [sic] null hypothesis testing”? Wren, you’re out of your depth. Blind testing refers to tests on human subjects, not on the planet’s natural climate fluctuations.
    And regarding my chart link, you said: “That chart isn’t funny, just goofy.”
    Well, it is funny, but thank you for making my point. My ‘goofy’ chart correlates with rising CO2 better than satellite temperature measurements correlate with rising CO2: click
    Note the R^2 [non]correlation between MSU measurements and CO2. Rising temperatures as a result of the planet’s emergence from the LIA is being falsely attributed to rising CO2, without any empirical, falsifiable evidence supporting the CO2AGW hypothesis.

  88. ScientistForTruth (11:01:56) :
    I don’t think it is a stretch, I think it is rigorous. He is a climate scientist, as you say. It doesn’t follow from that that he has an appreciation of the vaguaries of doing social research. Social sciences like anthropology and sociology etc are not ‘sciences’ in the true sense because they cannot be. And they cannot be because, unlike hard sciences, the objects of study – namely humans and beliefs – possess their own subjectivity, which always get in the way, mess things up, and create an inevitable interpretive distance. This doesn’t mean you can’t do rigorous social science. But it does mean that you can’t write it, conduct it, or draw conclusions from it in the same manner as from the hard sciences.

  89. Mark (11:01:11) :
    R Craigen,
    Well… yesssss. Except that post-modernism is a recent iteration of radical skepticism.

    Mark, while postmodernists would present their worldview as skepticism on steroids, nothing could be further than the truth. Put more succinctly than in my bloated comment above, the skeptic does not doubt the existence of objective truth, only a version of it that is proffered to him. The postmodernist, faced with competing claims of truth, decides that it is not the claims, but truth itself, which should be doubted. A fundamental distinction.
    The skeptic engages in a virtuous struggle to uncover truth; the postmodernist abdicates from the struggle and regards his non-engagement — even aggressive “deconstruction” of the struggle — as virtuous.
    Postmodernism is epistemological “multiculturalism” (in the sense in which this word is abused in today’s world). Are you familiar with Mark Steyn’s take on multiculturalism?

    …contemporary multiculturalism [i.e., as understood in our culture- RC] absolves one from knowing anything about other cultures as long as one feels warm and fluffy toward them. After all, if it’s grossly judgmental to say one culture’s better than another, why bother learning about the differences? “Celebrate diversity” with a uniformity of ignorance.

    Postmodernism, like “multiculturalism”, is abdication, not engagement. Both are malign western conceits.

  90. Smokey (11:46:17) :
    Wren (11:08:12)
    “Blinded [sic] null hypothesis testing”? Wren, you’re out of your depth. Blind testing refers to tests on human subjects, not on the planet’s natural climate fluctuations.
    And regarding my chart link, you said: “That chart isn’t funny, just goofy.”
    Well, it is funny, but thank you for making my point. My ‘goofy’ chart correlates with rising CO2 better than satellite temperature measurements correlate with rising CO2: click
    Note the R² [non]correlation between MSU measurements and CO2. Rising temperatures as a result of the planet’s emergence from the LIA is being falsely attributed to rising CO2, without any empirical, falsifiable evidence supporting the CO2AGW hypothesis.
    ————
    You can find lots of patently silly correlations. Just remember correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causality, and causality doesn’t necessarily mean correlation with one independent variable when several independent variables are involved.
    What’s your theory on why average global temperatures have continued to rise even during periods that experienced the natural cooling influences of a down-cycle in sunspot activity and a La Nina?
    I won’t accept the theory it was caused by magic.

  91. Dr. Ravetz:
    I apologize if you find this to be hostile, but post-normal science is a crock. Once we define facts as relative, PNS can be used to justify anything.
    My assessment is PNS is best used when you already have your conclusions and you want to create facts to support them.

  92. Dr. Ravetz,
    We might be a little rough and tumble here but glad to see you back.
    I guess where I am at with PNS is that I think it’s a fair description of a particular situation and associated issues. Where I think it went wrong is when people started looking at it as a game plan. I’m a little curious if that was intended or not.
    Anyway, again, glad to see you back and joining the fray.
    Cheers!

  93. R. Craigen (10:13:37) :
    I share your sentiments regarding Post Modernism, and its bastard child PNS. Ironically, neither would survive without the open-mindedness of those seeking objective truth. I would hope that objective truth will suvive in a Post Modern world, no thanks to those holding their small PNS beliefs.

  94. There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it

    This is another specious argument often repeated by the scientifically ignorant. This is better known as appeal to authority and is very closely related to the equally meaningless consensus argument.

  95. Wren (12:10:21),
    This is the last question from you I’m going to answer in this thread. It’s gotten to the point of pestering.
    You ask: “What’s your theory on why average global temperatures have continued to rise even during periods that experienced the natural cooling influences of a down-cycle in sunspot activity and a La Nina?”
    First off, I don’t have a theory. But as an explanation, the planet’s natural emergence from the Little Ice Age is sufficient to explain the gradually rising temperatures over the past century and a half.
    William of Ockham cautioned: Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.
    That’s known as Occam’s Razor, and it means that adding an unnecessary entity, like CO2, to explain the climate will most likely lead to a wrong conclusion.
    Bye bye.

  96. Wren,
    “Because of compelling evidence that climate is affected by man’s activities as well as know[n] natural, no scientific society of standing disputes GW/CO2AGW.”
    Many well respected climate scientists do indeed dispute what you assert nobody disputes. Outside of your polarised black/white universe, the rest of us live in the real universe, where climate is effected by a myriad of interrelating factors. This universe is inhabited by scientists who have a wide spectrum of hypothesis about climate change, and climate sensitivity to forcings. Some, like Roger Pielke sr. argue that man effects climate through land use, aerosols and GHG’s, where the latter is a minor climate driver. Others like Spencer, Christy and Lindzen believe that negative feedbacks predominate and the sensitivity due to CO2 forcing is actually less that that expected from the radiative transfer equations alone.
    ““Doing nothing” is based on what assumptions and forecasts?”
    It follows logically from the IPCC’s own forecasts. Reducing man made CO2 emissions will make very little impact on the climate, but will have adverse impacts on the world economies. Another counter argument to your own “lets destroy our economies to forestall a fraction of a degree of warming in a century,” is that human ability to adapt is strengthened by development and economic wealth, and greatly harmed by poverty. The very opposite of what you seem to be advocating.

  97. Post Normal Science. That sounds so much better than what it really is.
    How about ‘Lysenkoism Invading the Education System’, or LIES.

  98. Dr R.
    I think you will find that the FMD episode was just one of a typical HMG strategy in many cases for the past 25 years at least:
    1. Haemophiliacs and AIDS.
    2. Gulf war syndrome.
    3. Global Warming.
    4. The Iraq war mark II. Including Dr Kelly’s death.
    Etc etc.
    In all cases, facts were suppressed for political/financial benefit of stakeholders allied to HMG.
    1. Not wanting to pay out compensation to those unknowingly infected through transfusions.
    2. Not wanting to pay compensation to soldiers fighting in Iraq first time around.
    3. Looking for a precept for unaccountable supranational rule.
    4. Wanting to build relations with Capitol hill for post-PM money-making. Including silencing of dissenting scientist who either killed himself or was bumped off (I know not which, I must say…..)
    What you will always see in these scenarios is science taking second place to political expediency. Not to mention decency and natural justice doiong likewise where Gulf War syndrome and haemophiliacs/AIDS was concerned……..
    It’s a nice ideal to think that science will win in politics.
    But it’s not an accurate judgement at this stage of history in the UK.
    Perhaps that will change soon?
    I doubt it, but I remain open-minded until shown otherwise.

  99. R Craigen,
    I don’t really agree with you as I think your definition of skepticism is a little self-serving. In the first instance I would say skepticism is a broad church which your version doesn’t entirely cover, and the search for truth is not necessarily involved or at least not necessarily the priority. Secondly, and ideally, even when the search for truth is the prioritised aim there is still a necessary conundrum for skeptics, which is that (in my view) an ideal skeptic should logically leave him/herself open to the possibility that he/she has not apprehended it (truth) in any given instance. If he/or she does not allow for that possibility then he or she abandons skepticism in that instance and becomes a believer. Note: This does not mean that there is no truth.
    In practice this idealised skepticism is not possible at all times. And among human I suggest that skepticism is more often than not strategically employed, in good and bad ways.

  100. Wren:
    So if you can’t do blinded null hypothesis testing on GW/CO2AGW like you do on promising drug treatments, you should do nothing? Nah !
    Wren, do underdeveloped countries strike you as being healthy? That experiment involving your treatment has been done. India and China don’t like the results.
    But since you are the one who is really worried about CO2AGW to the point of being personally obligated to act, surely you must be doing quite a lot on your own to decrease your own Carbon Footprint, again, simply because you see fossil fuel CO2 as a very threatening disease agent? What are you doing to significantly decrease your own CO2 Footprint?

  101. Vincent (12:35:08) :
    Wren,
    “Because of compelling evidence that climate is affected by man’s activities as well as know[n] natural, no scientific society of standing disputes GW/CO2AGW.”
    Many well respected climate scientists do indeed dispute what you assert nobody disputes. Outside of your polarised black/white universe, the rest of us live in the real universe, where climate is effected by a myriad of interrelating factors. This universe is inhabited by scientists who have a wide spectrum of hypothesis about climate change, and climate sensitivity to forcings. Some, like Roger Pielke sr. argue that man effects climate through land use, aerosols and GHG’s, where the latter is a minor climate driver. Others like Spencer, Christy and Lindzen believe that negative feedbacks predominate and the sensitivity due to CO2 forcing is actually less that that expected from the radiative transfer equations alone.
    ““Doing nothing” is based on what assumptions and forecasts?”
    It follows logically from the IPCC’s own forecasts. Reducing man made CO2 emissions will make very little impact on the climate, but will have adverse impacts on the world economies. Another counter argument to your own “lets destroy our economies to forestall a fraction of a degree of warming in a century,” is that human ability to adapt is strengthened by development and economic wealth, and greatly harmed by poverty. The very opposite of what you seem to be advocating.
    ===
    What this alarmism about destroying the economy boils down to is who cares about how our activities adversely affect future generations as long as we can continue to pollute as usual.

  102. Jason Calley (08:44:20) : You are completely – – – – RIGHT. The scientists can argue themselves unconscious and it will mean zip, as the policy decisions have already been formulated. This entire exercise has been devised to ensure a largely participative and supportive populace. If that doesn’t go smoothly there are always alternate mechanisms to be employed. Make no mistake the grand plan will move ahead, perhaps more slowly with increasing public resistance, but the goal will remain unchanged.

  103. When considering a business case, there are two important tests that I have learned through experience to judge the business case by:
    1. Does the business case rest on unsound or misleading information?
    2. Is the behaviour of the author of the business case congruent with the business case?
    In the instance of the first question, a solid business case rests on its own merits. If the business case is sound, it requires no misleading information to justify it. The presentation of ANY misleading information, EVEN if it is a small minority of the information, invalidates the business case.
    In the second instance, if the author of the business case behaves in a manner contrary to the business case, it is ample evidence that they themselves do not believe it. It is a position that they have decided to adopt or support for their own purposes.
    In the climate debate, the evidence presented in favour of CAGW is frequently misleading at best, and often blatantly fraudulent. I observe however, that those who present it do not seem to be acting in accordance with their stated positions. If Al Gore and other wealthy proponents of CAGW truly believed in the case they have made, would they not be investing their wealth in those areas of the world that will benefit from global warming? Would it not make sense for Al Gore and company to buy up as much land as they could in northern Canada and Siberia in anticipation of the enormous profits owning that land will yield due to global warming? Are the climate scientists seeking citizenship for themselves and their families in countries that they deem will be least harmed by global warming? Finaly, if YOU had knowledge of an impending disaster about to beset the human race, would you demand to be obeyed while refusing to explain your reasons, or would you put your evidence on public display in an attempt to get as many people as possible to see the danger?
    I submit to you Dr Ravetz, that CAGW is falsified by the use of misleading and fraudulent information, and by the failure of CAGW proponents to act in a manner that would protect themselves and their families from the disaster to which they attest. The business case lacks merit, the proponents themselves don’t believe it, and only by obscuring the business case with with a facade of uncertainty called PNS can the business case be sold to an unwarry buyer.
    PNS is nothing more than an attempt to so advance the appearance of magic as to make it indistinguishable from science. PNS exists only to justify that which cannot be justified by any other means. It is a means to instill fear. We have nothing to fear but PNS istelf.

  104. WUWT self help clinic succeeds where the others fail:
    “I must work on this. It might relate to my revulsion at the dogmatic and anti-critical teaching”
    Self diagnosis is a wonderful talent. Dr. Ravetz has indeed identified his scotoma.
    He can not define truth. But it’s not truth you fear, Dr. Ignorance => fear, sir.
    More of what made you sick in the first place can not be the remedy (see history of bloodletting, a PNS blast from the past)
    You’re lucky as anything to hit the right answer and your eyes should light up like 3 cherries jackpot. Take your winnings. Discover truth- you know you affirm the axiom of it in every decision you take- so take the final step. Define the word. Then you can use it for critical thinking. It will be a completely refreshing change from the alternative fog of undefined fear.
    You can negotiate realities a lot better than you can with phantasms. We evolved a whole organ just for that. Every child has to do this. Embrace human nature- think.

  105. davidmhoffer (10:56:27) :
    I agree completely with your example of the Nazi quest to remove Jewish genes from the Aryan gene-pool as a case of PNS. I used it myself in introducing a philosopher colleague to the concept. When he told me that PNS sounded like a good idea, because science needed to become more ethical, I pointed out to him that the ethics projected into a science depend upon the scientist(s) who are doing the projecting, and the clearest example of a science based around an ethics came from eugenics, which was intended to improve society by removing the inheritance of undesirable characteristics in future generations, via sterilization, or in the case of Nazi Germany, via death camps. This ethos was internal to the ‘science’ itself, its raison d’etre, and hence eugenics qualifies fully as PNS. The problem with an internal moral vision for science is always – whose morality? The answer, if my encounters with bioethics is any indication, is never ‘traditional’ western morality, because bioethics and I suppose PNS have the goals of creating a new morality. Of course, the other thing to note is that eugenics was not a ‘robust’ science.

  106. Thanks everybody, and especially Scientistfortruth, who always has so much to teach me. I’ve downloaded everything up to this point, and I’ll use that collection as a basis for my replies. That way I’ll avoid being overwhelmed. More soon, hopefully with a better photo.

  107. Dr. Ravetz,
    Thanks for coming back. I’m a bit shocked by some of the over reactions to your position, primarily because I hold the same positions but probably have an entirely different political background. Funny. WRT the challenge to illustrate a circumstance where facts are uncertain and stakes high I think its much more difficult to find cases where facts are not uncertain. perhaps it’s a difference in epistemology. Facts are always uncertain, if we take the yardstick of uncertainty to be logical truth. Perhaps I can reformulate
    the situation: We have observations which people commonly refer to as “facts.” We have theories about facts, and then we have values. More on that later. For the sake of argument we can grant some priority to “facts” and say that “facts” or observations are rarely uncertain. (We clearly know this is not the case as “observations” are theory laden.) But nevermind that. Let’s reformulate PNS and say that PNS is a condition where:
    1. Theories are uncertain ( and the prediction of facts they make)
    2. Values are in conflict
    3. Stakes are High
    3. Decisions are imminent.
    On this tightening of the definition its rather easy to find situations where
    #1 and #2 obtain. #1 I would argue ( and most would agree ) is ALWAYS
    the case. Theories are always uncertain. the other thing we have to recognize is that “uncertainty” is a value laden term. In its mathematical meaning “uncertainty” refers to a number. In ordinary usage, however, it is value laden. And our perception of how important certainty is depends upon the values and the stakes involved. For example, if I tell you that a theory of superconductivity has a 5 percent chance of being wrong, you’d probably shrug. That seems like a good amount of certainty. If I tell you you have a 5% chance of dying if you take a drug, that level certainty seems low.
    stakes drive our perception of uncertainty.
    So #1 is always the case, but depending on our values and the stakes we consider uncertainty differently.
    WRT#2. Values in conflict. I think this needs to be reformulated as Conflicts in interests. The uncertainity of theories is an uncertainty about future facts
    and the conflict in values arise when a theory predicts a set of facts that go against my “interests”. for example, in AGW we predict a future world that is warmer. A set of future facts that may be in some people’s interest and against other people’s interest. My Values ( good stewardship) may be sacrificed if they are at odds with my interests. In all the cases I can think of it makes more sense to say, that PNS involves a difference in Interests rather than an difference of values ( a fine point ) Now when we look at it as a uncertain theories and conflicting interests we can see that the vast majority of these cases happen in the “human” sciences and environmental sciences.
    A theory of intelligence which holds that mice are smarter than beavers, doesn’t really connect very well with human interests. But a theory of intelligence that holds that men are smarter than women does implicate human interests. On such a theory one could for example argue that women shouldn’t go to school. ( please folks for illustration only) And one can see that if a such a theory was 95% certain that men would point at that as certain enough and woman might argue that more certainty was required according to their interest. This leads to situational skepticism.
    #3. Stakes are high. Well if interests are involved then to those interested
    stakes can always be “high”, high in their minds. The difficult situation happens when many people share the same interests and other people do not share those interests. As in your example, where you have identified
    interest groups. #4 decisions imminent. There are two cases here. cases where the decision is seen as imminent by all interests groups and the cases where its in the interest of an interested party to delay action.
    Its clear to me that we have cases where:
    1. Theories are uncertain
    2. interests are not in conflict
    3. Stakes are not high
    4. Decisions are not immediate.
    Example: particle physics> Go ask Lubos how much certainty is required
    to establish the existence of a new particle. The facts this science predicts dont have any clear impact on human interests. I wont die
    tommorrow if somebody “finds” ( postulates) a new particle. the interest
    involved is purely the interests of the practicing scientists.
    And its clear that we have cases where
    1. Theories are uncertain
    2. interests are in conflict
    3. Stakes are high
    4. Decisions are immediate.
    Take ANY theory about tax rates and prosperity. (last I looked economics was a science.) or take global warming or epidemics almost any science
    involving humans. in these circumstance some protocal extending beyond normal science is required. Its required because scientists, being human,
    have interests. all the stakeholders need to be at the table. How to do that is the question in my mind. It starts with transparency.
    And we have circumstances where
    1. Theories are uncertain
    2. interests are in conflict
    3. Stakes are high
    4. Decisions are not immediate.
    lets just pick the simple one of evolution.
    I find it hard to believe that people dont see that the situation can be characterised as you have. We can OBSERVE that there are cases where the theory is uncertain ( they all are) were interests are in conflict ( in AGW they clearly are) where people perceive the stakes as high, and where decisions are being pressed for. It flies in the face of facts (haha) to say we are not in such a situation.
    Now faced with this fact, there appears to be two schools of thought.
    1. Just do the science.
    2. “extend” the peer review process as you note to include the interested
    parties.
    I think I can say that WIllis belongs pretty squarely in camp 1. His call to action is really a call on scientists to just do normal science. It’s a fine sermon, but the calls to “just do the science” brought us Climategate. When we call on Mann to do science right, for example, everyone should note his response “do your own science.” So, while I agree that one should encourage scientists to just do normal science, I think its a poor strategy if your interests are at stake.

  108. it seems to me that PNS can be applied to anything, at any time. AS others in the comments have noted….the “stakes” are what people say they are. Can we not take any eventuality to its extreme and claim that the stakes are too high to “do nothing”? Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Meteors, Diseases, Overpopulation, Magnetic pole reversals….you name it.
    I blanched at some of the tougher comments but with some further consideration I conclude that Dr. Ravetz is a courageous man with silly ideas. PNS is a struggle for relevance in a crowded field.

  109. My take on the “post normal science” concept regarding the present climate debacle…
    You are absolutely correct in that their are times when the stakes are high and critical decisions must be made ASAP, without all of the required facts to back up the decision.
    The problem with our climate is that we don’t know what the future holds – it could be headed towards cooler just as well as warmer over the next 100 years. Sites like Realclimate fully admit that projections about the future climate assume “all other things are equal”, meaning all climate forcings other than CO2 over the next century are identical to climate forcings experienced over the last century. But they also admit that they have no idea if this is true!
    If we knew that the options were either “stable” or “warmer” that would be one thing, but the option of “cooler” also exists. There is no scientific doubt whatsoever that the earth will be deep in glaciation within 25,000 years. Assuming that an increase in atmospheric CO2 does indeed provide a simple method to increase global temperatures, our descendants have a relatively simple solution for preventing global chaos thousands of years from now. Terraforming via atmospheric parameter controls – they can pump up the CO2.
    Are we heading into another little ice age? Does anyone have a clear idea what caused the last one? If CO2 causes the dramatic warming claimed, would vast reductions in atmospheric CO2 be a bad idea for a civilization heading into an extended cold snap?
    So yes, there are post normal science situations, but when the possible outcomes are polar opposites I believe it’s ludicrous to rush a decision one way or another.

  110. Let me be very blunt here. Most people on this blog are not intellectually capable of understanding Dr. Ravetz’s point, partly due to a confirmation bias that prevents them from even making the effort. This is harsh but it is true. It is painful to see people being so sure of themselves on such a flimsy, make as you go basis, reducing to slogans and quasi-intellectual postering highly complex issues that the target of their misguided slander has studied for decades.

  111. Wren, a do nothing approach to UFO invasion as policy, implies assumptions and predictions. What are they?
    There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW.
    I’ll believe it when I see it. I started looking for it in ’07, assuming it was there.
    Still haven’t seen it. Maybe I just need to have more faith. If I want to see it badly enough, I will. Yes, more faith, that’s the ticket.

  112. Seems like PNS is just a means whereby those in power can say the authority, in its broadest term. resides with us and the rest of you should accept it.

  113. These philosophers, such as Ravetz have run so far down the rabbit hole that they are unable to see light anymore.
    The policy debate over foot and mouth disease was nothing but a policy action borne out of a debate between competing interests. We call this policy or politics. It is irrelevant to the philosophy of science, or its debasement by such neo marxian, post modernist, relativist clap trap.
    The use of the word stakeholders destroys any credibility. It is a leftist term used to find and include hypothetical victims wherever they can be conjured up or imagined.

  114. On reflection, I think I might agree with Scientistfortruth a bit more if think of the Van whathisname article as an instance rather than an analysis. That is, Van Whatshisname cites Ravetz, which is evidence of a climate scientist knowing about PNS. It doesn’t follow from that, however, that the manner in which he describes his peers is evidence of PNS in their behaviour.

  115. “Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    Let me be very blunt here. Most people on this blog are not intellectually capable of understanding Dr. Ravetz’s point, partly due to […]”
    If your hypothesis is true, it is most likely that you are one of them… 😉

  116. Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    I humbly suggest that…….perhaps most of us on this blog are indeed capable of understanding Dr. Ravetz’s points and merely disagree with them. And, rather, it is you that do not have the capacity to fully comprehend his errors.
    Is the suggestion of you “projecting” the use of a slogan, or the quasi-intellectual postering of highly complex issues?

  117. Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    “not intellectually capable” is not at all appropriate in my opinion. But Thomas Kuhn’s concept of normal science (as a fairly dogmatic enterprise that does not easily question its own assumptions) is not well known to most people. Ravetz is trying to do too many things at once. It’s hard to have a debate without a common understanding of the underlying concepts.

  118. What Dr. Ravetz describes as PNS is, in fact, religion. Karen Armstrong, in her very excellent book, ‘The History of God’ points out that every culture throughout the entire history of mankind, no matter how remote or separated from other cultures, developed religion. She says that considering the absolute ubiquity of religion in humans, that we should have been called Homo Religiousis rather than Homo Sapiens.
    The human mind seems to require belief frameworks in order to function. These frameworks seem to be deeply hardwired in our brain architecture. Belief frameworks allow us to interpret abstract knowledge (a capacity seemingly missing in other animals) and to be able to act when the future is unceratin (the ability to anticipate the future in another uniquely human capacity).
    Dr. Ravetz religion (PNS) shares many aspects with many primitive religions with its reliance on highly stylized rituals when “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” (otherwise known as ‘fear’). The ‘precautionary principle’ is what led many primitive religions to sacrifice humans and commit all manner of barbaric deeds. Many of the purported solutions to AGW will lead to terrible human suffering without actually effecting global average mean temperature (whatever that means). And we are already seeing calls for the ritualistic sacrifice of non-believers.
    I hope we are not now heading into a very dark chapter in human evolution.

  119. I don’t see a good analogy here. The cattle disease is well known, it has occurred numerous times over the past century (at least half century), we can even see pictures of the “bugs”, we know its incubation, symptoms, prognosis, and we know how to stop it in its tracks if we think its going to develop into a serious problem. It even only costs a few tens of billions of dollars to resolve. CAGW, on the other hand is yet to be demonstrated to be a serious condition out of control. The fact that millions of ordinary citizens have strong opinions innoculated into them by ideologues doesn’t make it an “uncertain risk” that requires us to drop everything and start applying PNS.
    We have been warned of alternate impending ice ages and eras of heat waves every 40 years for over a century. What would have been the cost in development of the world economy and the damage to ecology and the planet if we had made massive interventions to prevent the ice age coming (spreading carbon black, etc) in the 1890s, the desertification of the world in the 1930s, the neo ice age in the 1970s and now an AGW that appears to be petering out on the 40 year schedule and at the same time as the science has proved to be flawed and cooked by an alliance of demogogues and socialists.
    Should we invoke the precautionary principle whenever nuts like the Club of Rome and other Malthusians prognosticate pestilence and famine, darkening of the sun, running out of zinc (which we largely use to coat culverts and barn rooves). How do we choose which PNS topic we should turn our attention to. I think we already have the answer – the best thing is to do nothing until it goes away.

  120. I was amazed to read this post Dr. Ravetz. Its incredibly thought provoking; “…the challenge to give an example of uncertain facts and high stakes”.
    Perhaps its just me but the following statements also detail the “Global Warming” mess:
    “…There were conflicting values,”
    “…the interests of the different stakeholders,”
    “…best-known stake at risk was the status of”
    “…‘the facts’, these were to be determined by experts;” + “government scientists” and “academics, who had developed an expertise in epidemiological modelling.”
    “…They made ‘pessimistic’ assumptions”
    “…there was a situation of high stakes, disputed values and uncertain facts.”
    “…presented as ‘normal’ science”
    “…uncertainties and value-conflicts were suppressed.”
    “…PNS”
    Conclusions:
    “However rough and violent debates might be on the blogosphere (as we have seen!) still that is much better than the sort of blanket of silence that has been thrown over scientific scandals in the past.”
    I think you’re saying that ‘Normal’ Science no longer exists due to the influences.
    “The uncertainty of the facts does not prevent the stakes from being high; there are always historical precedents to go on. Perhaps it would help if we distinguished between the ‘facts’ about causes, and the ’stakes’ about effects. Only if both causes and effects are so poorly known as to be speculative, does an apparently PNS situation collapse. Even then it is not ‘normal’ science but something else.”
    The point about “Quality” is an interesting one. However, the term is essentially meaningless until defined in relation to specific situations.
    “And if one looks for better guarantees of truth even in Pure Science, one will be disappointed.” I’m so surprised you didn’t use the term proof instead of truth in this statement. No one I’ve ever met is looking for or expects Truth from Science.
    “…other Absolutes, like ‘beauty’, ‘justice’ and ‘holy’;” These aren’t absolutes so your comment is likely tongue-in-cheek?

  121. PNS belongs to quasi sciences like Astrology, not climate science. Post Normal Climate Science is just another cargo cult science where belief, faith, environmental activism is the main driver, not real sciece.

  122. Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    “Most people on this blog are not intellectually capable of understanding Dr. Ravetz’s point”
    Then why don’t you enlighten us?

  123. Mark (13:38:03) :
    “On reflection, I think I might agree with Scientistfortruth a bit more if think of the Van whathisname article as an instance rather than an analysis. That is, Van Whatshisname cites Ravetz, which is evidence of a climate scientist knowing about PNS. It doesn’t follow from that, however, that the manner in which he describes his peers is evidence of PNS in their behaviour.”
    Mark, I must charitably assume that you haven’t studied this in any depth. I don’t intend to rehearse and reproduce all the evidence all over again: you can look at all my comments on the previous posts by Jerry Ravetz, and start with my introduction here:
    http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/
    You will find if you do your own research that Ravetz classified climatology as a classically post-normal science in 1990 and thereafter; that climate scientists during the 1990s recognized that their methodology was PNS, following Ravetz; that by the end of the 1990s the IPCC SAR was seen as having followed PNS principles; that the TAR and AR4 explicitly cite Ravetz as important to their methodology; that Stephen Schneider’s instructions to reviewers in the IPCC process was to follow PNS principles, after Ravetz; and that prominent climate scientists such as Mike Hulme and von Storch explicitly state that their methodologies are PNS, after Ravetz, and that the IPCC process is a classic example of PNS in action.
    This is not mere opinion, or a debatable historical interpretation, but what is stated in black and white in the literature.

  124. Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    Let me be very blunt here. Most people on this blog are not intellectually capable of understanding Dr. Ravetz’s point, partly due to a confirmation bias that prevents them from even making the effort. This is harsh but it is true. It is painful to see people being so sure of themselves on such a flimsy, make as you go basis, reducing to slogans and quasi-intellectual postering highly complex issues that the target of their misguided slander has studied for decades.
    Nah. We just have well-developed bullshit detectors. If we read Dr. Ravetz, he says that you can’t call what you say ‘true’. And when you try to psychoanalyse us, you are departing from objectivity. Oops, I see an Oozlum bird.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oozlum_bird
    (No relation of Thomas Mann, are you? Sorry, we just haven’t the intellects to know about those sort of things.)

  125. Dr Ravitz is to be commended for facing the flak he’s getting here for the third time. However, this article is too long. If a concept is valid, it should be able to be explained in a page or two.
    I think I can boil it down to two words: situation ethics.
    Of course, situation ethics means no ethics, or maybe more precisely, the ad hoc ethics of the person holding the reins.
    No wonder it appeals to big government types.

  126. Buddenbrook (13:16:42) :
    Let me be blunt. I understand precisely what Dr. Ravetz is talking about and I disagree vehemently. I also value his input and the fact that a scholar of his stature is willing to engage people like myself. You, Buddenbrook, seem willing to equate “science” with “truth”. It is not. Facts NEVER speak for themselves, they are always interpreted. Always.
    From my perspective, Dr. Ravetz is confusing “science” with “reality” and confusing the roles of science, technology, politics and policy and the nature of religion. I like to think of myself, however, as teachable, and when I have an argument worthy of his response I hope he will engage me.

  127. Smokey (16:01:50) :
    C’mon, you are usually better than that. Lies are evil and truth is virtue: so are you gonna tell a plain girl that she is plain or that she has beautiful eyes? Eyes that a man could fall head-first into and… uh, sorry. Situational ethics. I think Dr. Ravetz is addressing this in a very nuanced form and finally missing the point…. but , again, I would not him to address me until I’d presented something more substantive. My gut reaction is not proof of anything.

  128. Robert E. Phelan (16:35:57),
    I wasn’t using the term as a complement. Marxists love situational ethics. I think it gives them license to do whatever they want. Either someone has ethics or they don’t. The situation is irrelevant.

  129. ScientistForTruth (15:28:01) :
    All well and good. Except my comments were primarily directed at the first article you cited. It is disingenuous of you to introduce new evidence and then extend my comments to them. And I maintain that the article you posted first is not evidence of PNS in anyone’s approach except the analysts. They project it [PNS] onto the behaviour of those they analyse. It might also be there, or it might not, but the article itself is not evidence of its presence.
    It’s akin to seeing a bunch of people running around with the hands in the air and assuming they’re all doing it for the same reason. If you want to know, ask. Where possible I prefer to let people speak for themselves.

  130. Smokey (11:03:01) :
    Wren (10:45:00)
    “There’s compelling evidence of CO2AGW. That’s why no scientific society of standing disputes it.”
    The “compelling evidence” is as compelling as this compelling evidence: click
    Do PNS principles tell us that something must be done immediately about postal rates, to SAVE the world? 🙂

  131. I have not read the other posts yet. But a quick clarification on Foot and Mouth (FMD)
    1. Vaccines are available
    2. Infected animals can be slaughtered and eaten.
    The previous out break was treated by individual vets and farmers and contained and eradicated using vaccine.
    So why the huge mess in the last outbreak??? The World Trade Organization, the UN and the European Union. First thanks to new regs from the EU, many of the slaughterhouses were shut down. Animals were killed and left lying when they should have been buried in quick lime. This was because instead of being handled on a local level, Blair kicked the problem up the chain to the EU.
    The real problem was the OIE guide lines
    “Minimum requirements for a country/region to be declared free from disease (OIE Animal Health Code)”.
    If the outbreak was treated with “stamping out” (slaughter) only (no vaccine) the country would be declared free from disease after 3 months of the last known outbreak. If vaccination was used it was TWO YEARS!!!! Source: http://www.fao.org/AG/AGAINFO/resources/documents/Vets-l-2/5engArt.txt
    The handling of the FMD outbreak is a very good example of the chaos created by globalization and over regulation by those with a financial agenda who are unelected by the people effected by the regulations.
    Warmwell has the private eye report at http://www.warmwell.com/footmoutheye.html

  132. I feel Dr. Ravetz has clearly explained his concept of Post-Normal Science. The letters PNS stand for Politics, Not Science. This entire article leads directly to this conclusion.

  133. Your analogy of disease is different than global warming. Disease is an all or none risk. And the risks of death are immediate upon the onset of the disease. Global warming is a gradual process and one that is not black and white. It is not necessarily all or none when your living space warms up. Polio, mad cow disease, typhoid, and all the other killers still scare the you know what out of me. I contracted whooping cough last May. Don’t ever remember being that sick in my life. It was not just a fraction of a degree of whooping cough. It was the full Monty. Big difference. Post normal science needs a lesson in the difference between “Man it’s hot today” versus “My child has succumbed to the plague”.

  134. “…the challenge to give an example of uncertain facts and high stakes”.
    What a wonderful Design and Engineering statement and the one thing most of these comments fail to share faithfully. Is it possible you have never been in this situation and have no stories to tell?

  135. For me, the Dr Ravetz’s comments wrt to Truth were most pertinent. In the absence of a belief that the foundation of science lies in the pursuit of truth, and perhaps having been witness to the abuse of science in the service of a government, one can easily imagine how a doctrine such as PNS might emerge.
    And perhaps it s because my science education was a little more enlightened than Dr Ravetz’s, or perhaps its because I have a vague philosophical bent, but in any event I make a distinction between two kinds of ‘truth’. The first, Truth (with a capital ‘T’), is an absolute kind of knowledge, the kind of thing that shall be handed down to Man by God at the End of Time. The second is a more human and historically contingent kind of knowledge, truth (with a lower case ‘t’), which in, my view is the real focus of scientific endeavour.
    The first kind of knowledge, the absolute Truth, is of course knowable only to God. We will either have to wait until the End of Time, or, possibly, our entry into the afterlife, to receive it through His grace. However, obtaining the second kind of knowledge, the historically contingent ‘truth’ – albeit an imperfect and incomplete type of knowledge – would appear to be a a more realistic ambition in this life for a finite being such as myself.
    In my view, ‘truth’ (lower case) is best pursued through the efforts of each individual in applying his or her own ability to reason so as to better understand the natural world. The proper motivation for this, it seems to me, is a sense of ‘wonder’ at the world in which we live, an innate drive to comprehend – even in the face of opposition from authority. The motivation for science, in my view, has nothing to do with the machinery of government, or policy design. It is, at core, an individual effort undertaken for individual ends, and the indirect political consequence of which is to question authoritarian dogma.
    Although my concept of science does nothing, of course, to bridge the gap between ‘truth’ and ‘politics’, my view is: so be it. Let each scientist pursue ‘truth’ of the natural world (as mediated by individual reflection and debate with others) so as to better appreciate its marvels purely for its own sake; and let politicians and bureaucrats implement policy to better serve the interests of power.
    It can be countered that my view of science is Utopian and that in a modern technocratic society, science cannot remain aloof from politics. But my fear is that for science to enter the world of politics is nothing more than to announce its imminent demise. In the political realm all forms of knowledge are in the service of expediency. In such a realm, far from weakening dogma, a politicised form of science can only help to re-inforce it.

  136. I coming to this discussion rather late but with the backing of some interest and research as evidenced on my blog. Find there some background to the following comments:
    – Despite his sometimes emotive presentation, ScienceForTruth has a mostly sound analysis in his previous comments on Ravetz’s WUWT posts and on his own blog. We have him to thank for raising the alarm at Ravetz’s first WUWT post.
    – It is disingenuous of Ravetz to say that PNS first came into the climate picture with the quite recent essay by Mike Hulme in 2007 . In the first place, his articles of the early 1990s make it clear that he designed PNS with the environmental sciences in mind — and most particularly climate change science.
    – The 1999 PNS article by Von Storch uses PNS theory, but not in a way that serves to encourage the corruption of science by politics – for which Ravetz himself stands accused. Instead it fits with von Storch’s growing concerns about the Alarmist aspects of AGW science.
    – The 2007 Guardian article by Hulme (referred to by Ravetz above) must be read to be believe. Coming right after the publication of AR4 it poses as a review of Singer and Avery’s book that argues in a normal science way that climate change is natural – and so that AR4 is much ado about nothing. For me this essay brings Hulme’s scientific credibility into utter disrepute. I discuss this article here in a review of the relationship between PNS and the academic neo-Marxism which collapsed around the time PNS was invented. Ravetz’s reference to this essay and his later collaboration with Hulme, suggests that this is not one of the corruptions of his prophetic message in the battleground between priests and demagogues.
    – The idea of the necessary involvement in science of Extended Peer Community served to encourage stake-holder involvement in the scientific process including activist groups. We should be very cautious in the face of Ravetz’s flip to embrace as this community the sceptical bloggers – at least if this includes the citizens and scientists calling for the return to ‘normal’ science and the rejection of its politicisation that PNS has served to encourage.
    – Urgency:- When there are dire political implications to science as in FMD it is all the more incumbent on scientists and science institutions to worked to keep themselves from politicisation. This is not to say that policy discussions of the science will be politicised – of course they will. Ravetz uses the confusion of policy with science to legitimate activist science as per Marxist social theory. As with the notion of “consensus science”, it is not at first but after some consideration, that the perniciousness of the notion of a democratised science becomes evident.
    – Uncertainty:- This is really the most interesting aspect of PNS and it is where, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ravetz and Schneider find harmony (without collusion). In Schneider (and Hansen and ?) uncertainty of the apocalyptic outcomes is used as an excuse to promote politicised science against its evidence-base and against those trying to do science and science controversy according to the evidence-base. PNS promotes this corruption by saying its not any more about the evidence-base because it is post-normal and so when it pretends to be about evidence it is really about decisions of risk-taking, values etc. This is most evident in the Hulme article and in his subsequent book: Why We Disagree About Climate Change.

  137. Thank you Dr. Ravetz for your considered contribution here. Your gracious tone makes a difference and is deserving of recognition, especially in light of the savaging of earlier contributions.
    While the comparison of PNS to the disease incident works on one level (preventative care) it weakens on others. For example, we have a good empirical understanding of epidemiology, but far less firm grasp of climate. While preventative measures are demanded by the disease potentials, they are relatively finite, cost controlled, with a known outcome. PNS suggests that with far less empirical knowledge, and a healthy dose of data largess, we should take action to mitigate a phenomenon we have yet to prove exists (CAGW.) The cattle epidemic is an application of normal science (we know with certainty disease vectors in cattle herds.) We do not know with certainty what a doubling of CO2 may do to global temperatures, or even the cause of the natural non-anthropogenic CO2 rise.
    More likely your theory belongs in political science, as PNS is a far more likely explanation for political action than for action precipitated by scientific method.

  138. I wish people could at least differentiate between
    a) the framework of PNS
    b) whether the framework applies to climate change
    One of the main problems with the discourse seems to be that people, rather irrationally, mistake b for a.
    Personally I think that PNS will apply to climate change only if a high likelyhood of C in (C)AGW can be adequately established. Till then it should remain a “pure” scientific question.
    (C), established in vast and transparent research, would warrant the PNS framework. Then all the arguments would apply. It would still not be certain scientifically, but political action would be justified and desirable.
    As thing stand, I don’t think the (C) has been established, and the politicized “consensus” claims to the contrary have less to do with the PNS framework than old fashioned corruption of science. The height of irrationality in this thread is ScientistForTruth reading a vast ideological influence into one single reference to PNS.
    I will say that FMD is a bit lame example for PNS. The GRAINN-technologies that Dr. Ravetz mentioned in his previous article would offer a far better example to highlight the signifigance of the framework, as I argued in five or so posts at the end of that thread http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/22/jerry-ravetz-part-2-answer-and-explanation-to-my-critics/
    I’m not copy pasting those arguments, which no one adequately countered I must add, but you can try and reply to them here, and perhaps we can then have a substantial debate about “PNS”.

  139. Was it not the english scientists that set the FMD epidemic off in the first place, as pointed out the massive over reaction suited the socialist government, funny thing is a lot of (definately NOT socialist) farmers did really well out of the “crisis”. One problem is, in england, few trust the government or their employees, the CO2 scam has done the same for science. The FMD fiasco was so outrageous that they had to rename the old ministry of Agriculture and fisheries, I guess us english have forgotten 1984.

  140. It is gravely appropriate that there are at least two comments above that refer to eugenics, a post-normal science if there ever was one.
    In the 1920’s eugenicists produced evidence of an incipient epidemic of genetic decline in the human species. The stakes were high. Fundamental matters of morality were dismissed, and a genocidal Holocaust was embarked upon, with scientists actively participating.
    Today we are experiencing the same thing in climate science. The stakes are said to be high. Fundamental matters of morality are dismissed due to the putative threat to “the planet”, and civilization-wide authoritarian punishments are proposed, with scientists actively participating.
    I don’t know if what we are witnessing is “normal” science or something else, but whatever it is, it is immoral. One might even call it evil. Damages to be inflicted on the entire human species are “incidental to the noble effort.”
    The “corruptions” are inherent, however, not incidental in CAGW science. The whole edifice is based on twisted authoritarian “morality” that is not only fallible but proved by history to be horrifically wrong, inhumane, and immoral beyond measure.
    If, as Dr. Ravetz opines, quality in science depends on the ethical commitments of its leaders, then we need to examine their ethics, our ethics, and the ontology of morality in general. What better field of study for a philosopher!
    I applaud Dr. Ravetz in his struggle to rise above the scorn and humiliation of his student experiences. I share with him a belief in Absolutes like “beauty”, “justice”, “good”, and “evil”. And “truth” too. There is nothing wrong with your head, Dr. Ravetz, if your aim is to seek the meaning and reality of those Absolutes.
    There are always implications emanating from scientific inquiry. Our task is not to squelch the inquiry but to manage the implications, such that terrible immoralities and inhumanities do not result.

  141. Here is the essay from Nick Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford that was mentioned earlier: http://www.nickbostrom.com/2050/world.html
    In Bostrom’s essay something akin to PNS results in a global society that goes beyond Orwell, out of necessity.
    You could say that is hardcore PNS, and while Bostrom is no Shakespeare and has some dodgy transhumanist views, let not that bother you. The central thesis is unmistakable.
    Dr. Bostrom is winner of the 2009 R. Gannon jr. Award for his contributions to the betterment of humanity, and was ranked among the 100 most influential thinkers on the planet by the April issue of Foreign Policy. Those say nothing of his views of course, but just to underline that these views are being espoused by a highly established academic figure.

  142. Re: steven mosher (Apr 12 13:10),
    Steven, you yourself have said on many occasions that what Mann and CRU were doing was not Science but stating opinion since they withheld data and methods. Therefore, “Just do the science” did not lead to Climategate, but instead an advocacy based perversion of science closer to what Ravetz opines for, in other words to subjectivify science, is what led to Climategate. Just because Mann and CRU claim what they did is Science does not make it so.
    Willis is correct.
    Just do the science. That means sharing data and methods.

  143. Buddenbrook;
    I’m not copy pasting those arguments, which no one adequately countered I must add, but you can try and reply to them here, and perhaps we can then have a substantial debate about “PNS”.>>
    I read them and:
    1. Your suggestion that humans will come up with weapons more devastating than the H-bomb is accepted
    2. This has nothing to do with the climate debate
    3. This has nothing to do with PNS in the context of the climate debate
    4. The effects of CO2 decrease logarithmicaly and the cooling response of the planet increases exponentially.
    5. The debate would have ended at 4. above were it not for PNS.
    6. The debate would have ended at 4. above were it not for false and misleading information specificaly presented in such a manner as to leverage the mythical premise of PNS.
    7. Communism was pronounced superior to Capitalism in theory and practice on the backs of economic studies that had more merit than those that support CAGW. Or even just AGW.
    8. When Reality met Communism, Communism collapsed.
    9. Read 4. again.
    10. Read 4. again.
    11. History is not made in a moment. Communism did not collapse the day after it began. A 300 year warming trend will at some point meet the reality of an exponential increase in cooling response and peak. Effects of CO2 declining logarithmicaly, incineration of the world’s entire fossil fuel reserve will be insufficient to halt the cooling trend that follows.
    12. Read 5. again.

  144. steven mosher (13:10:11) :
    If I am reading you rightly, your reformulation that applies to CAGW is:
    1. Theories are uncertain
    2. interests are in conflict
    3. Stakes are high
    4. Decisions are immediate
    I would ask, what was the primary driver? Why was CAGW even put on the table? If the theory was uncertain, how did it come to pass that decisions were deemed immediate or urgent?
    I think we are getting things arse about face. It all started with a manufactured urgency, not a theory, uncertain or otherwise. The manufactured urgency of those who wanted environmental interests to quickly gain powerful global influence, projected onto the putative urgency of the “problem”.
    The “theory” was simply a convenient Trojan horse, and if some other had been available, that would have been chosen instead. Indeed, if CAGW falls over, something else will be adopted to take its place.
    If post normal science were a way to stop this kind of shenanigans, I’d be all for it. However, in my opinion, it’s all part of the problem because it holds the pursuit of truth in contempt, substituting for it the concept of quality. Why, I wonder? I think it’s a form of hubris – quality can be controlled, and by extension, nature. Somehow, man is in control of nature, and just as he supposedly started the problem, he can stop it, if only we can get the stakeholders fired up and suppress any of those who might rock the boat.
    Dr. Ravetz seems to claim he wants to get all the stakeholders involved, and for them to arrive at a solution that is optimal, principled, ethical and so on. Maybe he’s sincere about that, but it still presupposes the existence of the problem and that truth has no part to play in its solution. However, if the truth is that there is no significant problem, what then?
    It goes back to Willis’ null hypothesis. Normal science works just fine if the null hypothesis (any putative changes in global temperatures are overwhelmingly natural rather than anthropogenic) is considered. But the climate science fraternity, through various forms of vested interest, have for the most part been ignoring the null hypothesis. And so, the science hasn’t been working as it should.
    I think the solution is to fix the normal science and stay the hell away from the post-normal stuff. That way lies madness.

  145. latitude (08:15:05) :
    Succinctly put…excellent comment! Shame the Prof cannot leave the “Ivory Towers” of academia behind!

  146. Hysteria Based on Unvalidated Models: From BSE-vCJD to H1N1
    BSE-vCJD
    FMD
    Avian Flu H5N1
    SARS
    H1N1 First Wave
    H1N1 Second Wave
    All the above were characterized by scaremongering based on unvalidated models. All the above scares were examples of what Ravetz calls “Post Normal Science”. While climate catastrophe is the poster boy of PNS, it is far from the only example of the co-optation of science for political ends. Unfortunately we have an epidemic of what Ravetz calls PNS.
    Thank you very much Dr Ravetz. Your protestations very much confirm the original diagnosis that one cannot prescribe a technical solution (i.e. modifying/corrupting normal science) to solve a political problem (the political co-optation of science)
    All the Best
    brent
    Can we really trust chief scientific officers?
    The predictions for swine flu (and bird flu, Sars, vCJD) were embarrassingly inaccurate
    There was a time when, if you read a scientific scare story, you tended to put it down to the over-active imagination of a redtop journalist. No longer: nowadays it is outwardly sober government scientists who spin the biggest scares. They know they can get away with it because laymen have an irrational respect for words uttered by scientists.
    That much was proved by the 1963 Milgram experiment in which the Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram persuaded volunteers to administer a — simulated — potentially fatal electric shock to another human being when instructed to do so by a man in a white lab coat.
    http://tinyurl.com/y9kbzpj
    Britain’s most expensive myth
    Everyone knows that the claimed link between BSE and the singularly unpleasant disease “new variant CJD” set off the greatest and most expensive food scare in history. In the days that followed the health minister Stephen Dorrell’s fateful announcement in March 1996, predictions of deaths from eating beef ranged from 500,000 by the government’s chief BSE scientist, John Patteson, to many millions (The Observer).
    With very few exceptions (this column being one), the media unquestioningly accepted that there was such a link. As one result, #3 billion of public money was spent on incinerating elderly cows. The costs to industry and the UK economy, not least from a consequent thicket of further regulations, have been many times that, and are still continuing.
    The chief reason for doubting a link between beef and CJD lay in the epidemiological evidence, which even in 1996 suggested that the promised epidemic was a fantasy. Over the past seven years, as the incidence curve has begun a steady fall, that has seemed ever more certain. Now, after reviewing the evidence, Professor Roy Anderson and his Imperial College team have published a revised estimate of the total number of victims likely to die of vCJD in the future (link available through http://www.warmwell.com). Their figure? Not 400,000, or 40,000, just 40.
    As Britain’s farming and food industry grapples with the latest regulatory insanity inspired by the BSE scare, the EU Animal By-Products Regulation that is predicted to drain billions more pounds from the UK economy, it is clearer than ever that Mr Dorrell’s monumentally foolish statement in 1996 was the most costly blunder ever perpetrated by a British minister.
    http://www.warmwell.com/vcjd.html
    WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR INSTITUTIONS?
    Roger Windsor’s talk, read on his behalf, to the Central Veterinary Society
    The College and the profession should have refused to act when the direction of the campaign was taken over by politicians, and the Chief Scientist. The CVO stated that he was in control the whole time, but the public perception was that the Chief Scientist and his side-kicks Prof. Roy Anderson and Sir John Krebs had taken over. They decided that killing all animals on neighbouring farms and all animals within three kilometres of an outbreak was the only way to stop the disease, in time for a June General Election. Why anyone should listen to Anderson, a proven liar who was forced to resign his chair at Oxford is beyond me? (Ref for this statement is an article in Private Eye last year) Did he offer the politicians a quick fix ? His mathematical model indicated that a two km kill would be adequate. However, MAFF decided to follow EU advice and stuck to 3 km which more than doubled the number of animals that were killed. Roy Anderson should be called, not the Professor of Epidemiology, but the Professor of Extermination at Imperial College, London. I understand that he subsequently revised his model and came to the conclusion that the virus travelled no more than 500 metres. Too many animals (probably five million) were killed in the name of elections and mathematics. Alan Richardson considers that this was the largest animal experiment ever carried out, and that it was done without a Home Office licence.
    http://www.warmwell.com/nov11windsor.html
    Oxford scientist wins the battle for her reputation
    http://www.warmwell.com/andersonstories.htm
    Animal cull ‘based on incorrect assumption’
    Prof King’s foot and mouth Science Advisory Group was dominated by the work of Prof Neil Ferguson, Dr Christl Donnelly and Prof Roy Anderson, all epidemiologists at Imperial College
    http://www.warmwell.com/shannonfeb19.html
    March 6 2006 Veterinary Times
    Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians
    Bob Michell, BVetMed, BSc, PhD, DSc, MRCVS
    REMEMBER, and understand.
    March; lambs leaping among the shining tussocks of young grass. But it was not so just five years ago.
    In the name of veterinary disease control, we were about to embark on the greatest unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals in the history of our profession. It cost £10 – 12 billion and involved, to the European Parliament, the slaughter of 10 million animals.
    http://www.warmwell.com/silencemichell.html
    Predictive models and FMD: the emperor’s new clothes?
    R.P. Kitching
    National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, 1015 Arlington Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3E 3M4
    So how could the control policy for a major disease outbreak be based on models which had never been validated? If the predictions for the number of new variant Creutzfeld–Jacob disease (vCJD) cases in the UK made in the late 1990s had not been suffcient to undermine the credibility of the predictive modellers, surely the FMD experience should have made the modellers appreciate the limitations of their science and accept at least some responsibility for the misery and expense that their models initiated. Predictive modelling has become fashionable but, often without much evidence that it serves any useful purpose, is the science based too much on reputation?
    http://www.warmwell.com/04feb17kitching.html
    Carnage from a computer
    WE ARE USED to politicians suppressing the truth. When scientists do it as well, we are in trouble. Not one of the Government’s senior advisers, from Sir David King, the chief scientist, downwards, has yet dared to confirm in public what most experts in private now accept, that the mass slaughter of farm animals in the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak was not only unnecessary and inhumane, but was also based on false statistics, bad science and wrong deductions.
    The mistakes that were made in attempting to control the outbreak are laid bare in a devastating paper recently compiled by Paul Kitching, one of the world’s leading veterinary experts, and published by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
    Snip
    The language used in Dr Kitching’s report has a controlled anger about it. He talks of “a culling policy driven by unvalidated predictive models”, mentions the “public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter” and concludes: “The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models [statistics used to predict the course of an epidemic] can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism.”
    http://tinyurl.com/28z67y
    Use and abuse of mathematical models:
    an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth
    disease epidemic in the United Kingdom
    R.P. Kitching (1), M.V. Thrusfield (2) & N.M. Taylor
    Summary
    Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a major threat, not only to countries whose economies rely on agricultural exports, but also to industrialised countries that maintain a healthy domestic livestock industry by eliminating major infectious diseases from their livestock populations. Traditional methods of controlling diseases such as FMD require the rapid detection and slaughter of infected animals, and any susceptible animals with which they may have been in contact, either directly or indirectly. During the 2001 epidemic of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK), this approach was supplemented by a culling policy driven by unvalidated predictive models. The epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism.
    http://www.oie.int/boutique/extrait/23kitching293311.pdf
    How Vaccination was used for Foot and Mouth Disease in Uruguay in April 2001 and subsequently
    http://www.warmwell.com/oct11jamesuru.html
    VACCINATION FOR FOOT AND MOUTH
    A Personal View by Dr James Irvine,
    Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie, PERTHSHIRE PH6 2HX
    The Scottish Farmer,
    27 October 2001, pp. 18-19
    SIR, – Some weeks ago (Sept. 29), The Scottish Farmer published in juxtaposition on the same page the comments of Professor Fred Brown and those of Professor David King.
    As you pointed out, Prof Brown is the world’s leading authority on foot-and-mouth disease, with vast experience of how the disease behaves throughout the world and how it has been controlled in differing circumstances.
    He has made major contributions to the development of “new” foot-and-mouth vaccines and diagnostic tests to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals.
    He has collaborated with eminent virologists in the study of the structure of the foot-and-mouth virus and its sub-strains with spectacular success. That is indeed why he is acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on the disease. What he is quoted as saying in The SF article makes clear sense. It is what he said as principal guest speaker at the Royal Society of Edinburgh Conference on foot-and-mouth disease, at the University of Glasgow, on September 7 this year.
    By contrast, Professor King, while having the status of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, has no training in biology let alone virology, being an eminent physical chemist.
    It would be hard to think of an academic scientific discipline more remote from the study of a highly infectious virus affecting the nation’s farm livestock. Yet he could be expected to have sufficient critical acumen to assess basic scientific facts and not to be manipulated by political pressures or misinformation such as to distort these basic facts.
    Bearing in mind that the UK foot-and-mouth epidemic is the worst the world has ever seen, Prof King’s arguments against vaccination and justifying that culling had been the only way to bring the recent foot-and-mouth outbreaks under control and would remain so in the future are as follows:
    – Since vaccinated animals can still carry the disease and harbour it for some considerable time, vaccination would be ineffective.
    Does Prof King not understand even the fundamentals of any vaccination programme, be it for measles, smallpox, poliomyelitis etc?
    You do not have to vaccinate every potential host for the virus, but a sufficient percentage to ensure that the virus does not have an adequate number of hosts left in which to replicate. That is why the Chief Medical Officer is so keen that the uptake of the triple vaccine for children does not fall below a certain percentage of the population.
    It does not matter as far as epidemiological control is concerned whether children incubating the virus may remain infectious. If sufficient numbers of the total children at risk are vaccinated, the virus will die out of the population because in a relatively short time there will be nowhere for it to go. Likewise with foot-and-mouth disease in sheep and cattle.
    – He states “that nation-wide mass vaccination does not necessarily stop the disease spreading from generation to generation.” He argues that since mothers can pass antibodies to their offspring through their early milk, this gives temporary protection, but at the same time, interferes with the young animal’s immune response.
    So what? If sufficient numbers of farm livestock have been vaccinated, sooner, rather than later, there will be no infection for the young animals to pick up. How else does Prof King reckon that the devastating epidemics of viral infections in man have been controlled by vaccination? By worrying about whether an infant will have its immune response to the virus in question modified by antibodies from its mother? It sounds much more like a disingenuous justification for advising against vaccinating. Where has intellectual scientific honesty gone?
    – He argued that mass vaccination was unacceptable because, in the absence of a recognised test to distinguish between antibodies caused by infection and antibodies caused by vaccination, it would have been impossible to tell the true extent of viral presence in the country’s livestock.
    He is quoted as saying: “If we had embarked upon such a programme, we would not have been able to free up large areas of the Scottish, English and Welsh countryside.” What Prof King did not acknowledge was that the science of distinguishing antibodies produced by infection as opposed to those produced by vaccination has been available for a substantial number of years.
    He also did not acknowledge that offers from abroad and indeed from within the UK to help were refused by the Government authorities. The Government agencies, although they were informed some years before the UK epidemic (and must have themselves been aware) that the UK was a sitting duck for foot-and-mouth disease, apparently did nothing and refused all help to get such diagnostic tests (or indeed the “new” vaccines) validated for use in this country or indeed the EC.
    The scientific basis for such diagnostic tests is sound. To do nothing in the face of such knowledge for so long in the presence of an obvious risk of catastrophe is inexcusable. How can the Government establishment at Pirbright, England, justify its status as a world centre for the study of foot-and-mouth disease? The “new” science (which in reality is several years old) would have predictably led to providing us with a diagnostic kit that could be applied on farm to check for evidence of infection or vaccination, with clear distinction between the two.
    http://www.warmwell.com/vaccoct27.htm
    Following the outbreak of SARS, one thing was certain: Professor Roy Anderson of Imperial College would soon be hitting the headines.
    And so it came to pass. While the World Health Organisation was being severely criticised by the Canadian government and others for “over-reacting”, it found welcome backing last weekend from a report by Anderson which claimed that Sars was twice as deadly as previously thought. “We have not seen the report so we could not comment,” a WHO spokesman said, “except to say that this is a top-class professional and any figure he commits himself to is likely to be as close as possible to accurate.”
    Tony Blair would undoubtedly agree. Two years ago it was Roy Anderson who created the computer model used by the government to claim that the number of FMD cases would fall to zero by 7 June 2001. As the Eye noted at the time, a certain amount of statistical jiggery-pokery was required to achieve this desirable if implausible result, but it allowed the Dear Leader to call an election for that very date and boast that he had the crisis licked.
    Back in 1987 Anderson’s mathematical talents again proved useful to a politician’s election prospects. He was invited by Norway’s Prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to help produce an “independent assessment” of how many minke whales Norwegians could sustainably kill each year. The International Whaling Commission had introduced a moratorium on commercial minke whaling, which Brundtland feared would lose her support in the northern whaling constituencies. She hoped that a report by a four-man committee of experts, including Anderson, would persuade the IWC to ease the ban.
    Lo and behold, the committee came up with exactly the same figure – 200 whales – which the whalers thought they needed to make a profit. But then a mathematical biologist on the IWC’s scientific committee went through the algebra and found “fundamental flaws in the methodology”: Anderson and his chums had achieved the result Brundtland wanted only by creating unreal (indeed “impossible” ) parameters.
    The report was duly rubbished by the experts, just as Anderson’s foot-and-mouth model was two years ago. But politicians continue to admire him, including of course the former Norwegian PM. And where is Gro Harlem Brundtland now? By happy coincidence, she is director-general of the World Health Organissation.
    http://www.warmwell.com/2may1pe.html
    Government virus expert paid £116k by swine flu vaccine manufacturers
    Professor Sir Roy Anderson sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), a 20-strong task force drawing up the action plan for the virus.
    Yet he also holds a £116,000-a-year post on the board of GlaxoSmithKline, the company selling swine flu vaccines and anti-virals to the NHS.
    http://tinyurl.com/lhnk22
    Seven pillars of piffle
    The Science and Technology Committee (which now must be termed the “Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee” for reasons hard to fathom) has been taking evidence on the role of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser from Sir David King, today. The parallel universe that he inhabits is rather an odd one.
    Here are some of the royal gems:
    Ignorance is best.
    http://warmwell.blogspot.com/2007/12/seven-pillars-of-piffle.html
    Latest flu outbreak is shaping up as fourth pandemic dud in the past six years
    Jul 22, 2009 04:30 AM
    Comments on this story (11)
    DR. RICHARD SCHABAS
    MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH IN HASTINGS AND PRINCE EDWARD COUNTIES
    Toronto is gripped in a frenzy of worry about the dreaded “second wave” of H1N1 now scheduled for this fall. A severe “second wave” of H1N1 is possible, in the same sense that it’s possible the Blue Jays will win the World Series this year. Science and public policy need to look beyond possibilities and also consider probabilities. Our appreciation of probabilities should be based on evidence, not speculation.
    The evidence strongly suggests that a severe “second wave” of H1N1 is very unlikely. It will almost certainly be merely the latest instalment in a growing list of pandemic false alarms.
    Let’s begin by putting this warning in some context. This is the fourth pandemic alarm in the past six years. The first three have been wrong.
    The first alarm was about SARS. At the time, pundits predicted that SARS would become a pandemic and that more than 100 million people would die. Wrong. SARS died out because it was not really very infectious outside of hospitals.
    The second alarm was for H5N1 “bird flu.” We were told that this disease would leap across the species barrier and cause a devastating human pandemic. More than a billion people were supposed to die in an imminent catastrophe of unprecedented dimensions. Wrong. H5N1 remains a disease of birds that rarely infects people who live in close contact with birds. There is no scientific reason to expect this to change.
    The third alarm was for the dreaded “first wave” of H1N1. All of our pandemic planning had been directed toward this “first wave.” It was supposed to hit fast and hard. Eight to 12 million Canadians were supposed to fall ill over two to three months. Between 10,000 and 50,000 Canadians were supposed to die. H1N1 may have hit quickly but in public health terms it has not hit hard. Regular seasonal influenza kills 2,000 to 4,000 Canadians every year. H1N1 has killed fewer than 50 people in Canada in its “first wave.”
    So now we are warned about the H1N1 “second wave.” How serious is the risk? There are three general arguments supporting the “second wave” hypothesis. None of them stand up well to scrutiny.
    The first argument is historical, based on the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic. In the spring of 1918 there was a relatively mild “first wave” of influenza followed by a much more severe “second wave” in the fall. The problem is that the cause of influenza was a mystery in 1918. The influenza virus itself was not discovered until 1933. There is no reliable basis to conclude that the two 1918 “waves” were caused by the same virus. Based on everything we have learned about influenza in the last 75 years, it is much more likely that the mild 1918 “first wave” was caused by a different influenza virus. This argument is more folklore than science.
    The second argument warns that H1N1 could “mutate” and become more virulent. Mutations are extremely common in all viruses, indeed in all living organisms. Important sustainable behavioural changes caused by mutations are, however, very, very rare. Mutations are just the raw material of evolution. Natural selection favours micro-organisms that don’t kill their hosts. Evolutionary trends in infectious diseases are consistently in the direction of lower virulence. Our experience with influenza and every other infectious disease supports this. The mutation argument is science-fiction.
    The third argument is that H1N1 will be more severe when it hits during our normal flu season – the cold, dry months of winter. This hypothesis is, at least, coherent. It is also testable. Our eyes should be glued on the southern hemisphere where H1N1 is now active during their normal flu season. And the news is good. Australia is now two months into its H1N1 “first wave” and it hasn’t been substantially more severe than what we faced. Furthermore, the data now suggest the Australian outbreak is ending. The seasonal hypothesis may be reasonable but the evidence is against it.
    Why is H1N1 so mild? I think the reason is becoming increasingly obvious. It relates to the demographics of this outbreak.
    Influenza is a benign and short-lived illness in the great majority of people infected. Seasonal influenza is an important public health problem because of the secondary complications of influenza – most typically pneumonia. These complications occur almost exclusively in older people, particularly those with underlying chronic illnesses. Influenza can cause serious illness in young people but this is rare.
    Most of the serious illness from H1N1 is in relatively young people. The pundits are presenting this as bad news. It is actually very good news.
    The key epidemiological characteristic of H1N1 is that it is not affecting older people. By and large, people over the age of 50 appear to be protected, probably because of exposure to similar H1N1 viruses prior to 1957. This is why H1N1 is such a pandemic dud. The people who should be dying just aren’t getting sick. There is no reason to think this is going to change.
    The proportion of serious illnesses in young people is high by default. The actual number of these cases in young people is actually very, very small. Is H1N1 more serious in young people than seasonal influenza? Maybe, but even if it is it’s not very much more severe. We won’t know for sure until we know the actual infection rates in this age group.
    So, we should relax and enjoy the summer. H1N1 may well return in the fall but we should expect attack rates to be modest and the incidence of serious illness to be very low. There are lots of good reasons to get Toronto municipal workers back on the job but urgent pandemic planning is not one of them.
    I’ll end with a challenge to the media. The media love this story and accept the pundits’ gloomy predictions uncritically. If this turns out to be the fourth pandemic false alarm in six years, as I think it will, it will be time to start asking some probing questions.
    Dr. Richard Schabas was Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health from 1987-97.
    http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/669727
    Dr. Richard Schabas, medical officer of health for Hastings-Prince Edward, told The Intelligencer reporter Steve Pettibone last month, “That’s the worst that we should expect- H1N1 hitting at the typical flu season time,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s much more likely that what we’ll see will be milder than that because a lot of people in Canada are already immune to this virus.”
    http://tinyurl.com/mqs9rn
    How scared should we be?
    So how scared should we be of this looming storm?
    Really not very much, say some experts like former Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas. Despite spreading to more than 160 countries on all continents, the virus has only caused mild flu from which most people have recovered, Schabas says .
    Relatively few have died. Indeed, since the novel virus erupted in Mexico in April, it has killed about 1,300 people worldwide, and nearly 200,000 confirmed cases in 168 countries and territories have been reported. The World Health Organization believes about one million people have been infected. In Canada, swine flu has killed 72 people and hospitalized more than 1,300 so far — all in all not the kind of numbers that presage Armageddon, says Schabas.
    More significantly, in southern hemisphere countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which are in the middle of their flu seasons, H1N1 has so far been relatively mild, suggesting there might not be a virulent second wave in Canada. Schabas says the WHO and most of the public health officials in Canada have handled the H1N1 outbreak badly, using harsh rhetoric and projections that often fly in the face of the evidence. He says the constant drumbeat of impending calamity only helps to fan public hysteria.
    “They’ve consistently exaggerated the impact of H1N1, they’ve consistently exaggerated the potential impact of H1N1, and they’ve been intent on presenting this as some sort of impending public health disaster when the evidence has been very strong from earlier on that this is nowhere near as serious as they’ve been presenting it,” says Schabas, now medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.
    As experts go, Schabas is in the minority. To bolster his argument, he points to several false alarms the WHO and others have sounded on the “next big pandemic.”
    Indeed, from the avian flu to SARS, experts have called it wrong time and again. In 1976, a huge scare swept through the U.S. after a young soldier died of what later turned out to be swine flu. Fearing a new “killer epidemic,” government officials rushed through a massive vaccination program against the supposedly deadly flu that ended up claiming only the life of the soldier. More people actually died of complications from the vaccination than the swine flu that never was. In 2003, when SARS burst out from China, predictions of another global catastrophe filled the headlines and the airwaves. Millions could die, experts said. In the event, SARS fizzled. About 800 people died.
    The predictions were equally dire in 2005 when the H5N1 avian flu fear gripped the world. The H5N1 virus decimated poultry around the world and there were fears that it could spread to humans. At the time, the WHO said it was only a pandemic threat, and projected that if it developed into the real thing, a low-level pandemic would claim the lives of two to seven million people. Up to 100 million could perish in a worst-case scenario. Until now, fewer than 300 have died, but H5N1 avian flu is still considered a potential pandemic threat by the WHO.
    “We were told SARS was going to be a pandemic. It didn’t happen,” says Schabas. “We were told bird flu was going to be a terrible pandemic. It didn’t happen. And then in April we were told to brace ourselves for the terrible wave of swine flu. It didn’t happen.
    “Now, they are saying ‘brace yourselves for the terrible second wave of swine flu.’ It is not going to happen. They are exaggerating the danger, basically scaring people.”
    John Herbert, executive director of the Ottawa Homebuilders Association, reflected Schabas’s skepticism when he told the Citizen that his members are not making any contingency plans to deal with swine flu. They think the danger is manufactured.
    “People think the health authorities and the media are crying wolf, and they don’t see it as a legitimate threat,” he says.
    http://tinyurl.com/kpz39k

  147. If PNS eschews the Scientific Method, why wouldn’t it eschew Rationality? And so why wouldn’t it then take the position that words themselves don’t even have meanings enough to be knowable? So why wouldn’t PNS devolve into a simple matter of “might makes right”?

  148. Post Normal Science sounds very much like Sociology. With PNS, facts don’t matter so much, it’s more about consensus building, herd mentality, and feeling good about what you are doing. It also provides a good excuse for making a bad decision. However, it does no provide a reason not to continue to pursue the truth.
    I could be completely off base, but I found it difficult to pull the main points out of this post. I always found that a paper written in the format of Summary, Conclusions, Recommendation and Discussion works best when trying to cover a complex subject.

  149. Post Normal Science sounds very much like Sociology. With PNS, facts don’t matter so much, it’s more about consensus building, herd mentality, and feeling good about what you are doing. It also provides a good excuse for making a bad decision. However, it does not provide a reason not to continue to pursue the truth.
    I could be completely off base, but I found it difficult to pull the main points out of this post. I always found that a paper written in the format of Summary, Conclusions, Recommendation and Discussion works best when trying to cover a complex subject.

  150. brent (20:03:16) :
    Hysteria Based on Unvalidated Models: From BSE-vCJD to H1N1
    BSE-vCJD
    FMD
    Avian Flu H5N1
    SARS
    H1N1 First Wave
    H1N1 Second Wave
    All the above were characterized by scaremongering based on unvalidated models.
    ———
    REPLY: I agree with you on all of these except for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Very few people outside of my field (infectious disease epidemiology) have any clue as to how close we came to a really deadly pandemic with that one. WHO organization did an outstanding job with their Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). The Canadian government also did a great job, tamping down the outbreak in Toronto. It was scary to go through. The rest? Meh.
    I salute Dr. Carlo Urbani, the WHO epidemiologist who recognized the SARS outbreak for what it was (novel coronavirus), directed the response and paid for it with his life.

  151. Thank you for posting here again.
    I’d like to take issue with your assumption of negotiating in good faith between sides in PNS. This is a faulty assumption, based on no facts, and frequently in contradiction to the well documented behavior of players who are not acting in good faith. The entirety of climategate is an illustration of this, as well as the later serial scandals of the various IPCC “errors” where it’s been shown that large amount of the content of AR4 is based purely on non-peer-reviewed propaganda from advocacy groups and not actually on science, yet is being presented to the world by the AGW scientists before parliamentary and congressional inquiries as “the best science” when it is not, in fact, any kind of science.
    The AGW crowd has thus lost the moral authority to claim to be negotiating in good faith and for this reason your argument fails. The demand by us for good faith behavior from AGW alarmists is really the central crux of what most of us here complain about. Time and again we see a lack of good faith by them which is given the Wizard of Oz treatment with the complicity of the media and vested politicos.
    This is where and why our demands for truth, for objective and critical cross examination of all data, metadata, and methods remain active despite the continued white washing attempts. We keep finding more dirt daily.

  152. The rise of Flu Inc
    How vaccines became big business
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-rise-of-flu-inc/article1414474/
    Swine flu’s ‘WHO’dunit
    It is still not clear as to why the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its alert on swine flu to pandemic levels last June. Top global healthcare officials have called for investigations into the whodunit
    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2010/02/01/stories/2010020150300800.htm
    Swine flu was a textbook case of a scare
    Swine flu corresponds to the classic “beneficial crisis” model, says Christopher Booker
    http://tinyurl.com/yjszs79
    WHO Scientists Corruption Scandals Appear Endemic
    http://financialsense.com/editorials/engdahl/2010/0111.html
    Scientists to probe global warming’s impact on avian flu virus
    http://www.littleabout.com/news/53038,scientists-probe-global-warming-impact-avian-flu-virus.html
    WHO= World Hoax Organization?
    Is the WHO any better than the IPCC?
    They share some common characteristics as sister UN agencies

  153. ScientistForTruth (15:28:01) :
    by the end of the 1990s the IPCC SAR was seen as having followed PNS principles; that the TAR and AR4 explicitly cite Ravetz as important to their methodology […]
    =======
    Certainly as far as AR4 is concerned, Ravetz was cited in 3 chapters: WG II CH 2, WG III, CH 2 and WG III CH 12 (and perhaps one of the 3 citations was published in a “peer-reviewed” journal)
    Speaking of the IPCC and “peer-review”, the results from (fellow Canadian)Donna Laframboise’s crowd-sourcing Citizen Audit project will be available in a few days. In the meantime, if you’d like to take a guess as to how many of the 18,531 chapter references were, in fact, “peer-reviewed” …
    http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-many-non-peer-reviewed-references.html
    or go straight to the poll: http://polldaddy.com/community/poll/3034066/
    Coming soon to a monitor near you … “F21

  154. ooops, sorry, gotta learn to proof-read before hitting submit ..
    that should read … how many of the 18,531 chapter references in AR4 were, in fact, not “peer-reviewed”

  155. Dr. Ravetz you should understand that what is science will depend upon the philosophy of the time, in particular the metaphysics and epistemology of those who do science. It should also be understood that “government science” is a contradiction in terms. Government is an agent of force and science does not do well in the governmental arena.
    I have watched the advancing corruption of science since my degrees in the first part of the 1960s. Popper’s falsifiability is very important. Willis’s point seems to be that one cannot falsify a hypothesis where the evidence is far in the future without getting to that point of time. There are predictions from current climate models which do falsify the models so it is not necessary to wait decades more for data. It is not good enough to just believe that some issue is so important that evidence is unnecessary and that faith will somehow come through this time.
    As a mathematician, you should know that in the physical sciences, one has some apparent facts about reality and wants to find out how such facts are related to one another. So one makes a hypothesis about them. Then one puts the hypothesis into the form of a mathematical model. This is tested with the known data and predictions of the model tested by data from experiment. If after much agreement with objective reality with due regard for the precision of measurement, then the model becomes a theory which is falsified by any future data the does not fit the model to some precision of measurement. It should be noted that a mathematical model is a hypothesis and that one cannot take an average of a number of such hypotheses and say that any errors in their predictions will be averaged out so that the set of hypotheses, in some sense, will become a hypothesis that correctly identifies truths about objective reality.
    Subjectivism seems to be creeping into science to the point that many scientist want to have science being what ever they define it as.

  156. If one can interpret Normal Science as science based on an over-simplistic demand for certainty and failure to comprehend complexity in its deepest sense, then I would agree with Dr Ravtez that we indeed need a Post Normal Science. An alternative name for Normal Science would be “Jar of Fleas” science (JFS).
    Why Jar of Fleas? Tsar Alexander 4 of Russia (“Alexander Grozniy or Alexander the Terrible”) used to have a game he would play with princes or Boyars who fell out of favour with him. As a punishment they would be required to give him a jar full of fleas. The point being that this is an impossible task. Fleas being so small, the number of fleas that would have to be collected would be many tens of thousands. So failure to accomplish this form of community service was guaranteed – thus Ivan T. would have as he saw it a prerogative to banish or execute the said individual.
    “Normal Science” in the hands of many environmental and anti-industry (anti-science) activists also asks for a jar of fleas in the form of an impossible degree of certainty in relation to a complex situation:
    Global Warming – you must “prove” that CO2 is not increasing global temperature (in order to challenge our political agenda)
    Nuclear Power – you must “prove” that even tiny doses of ionising radiation cause no excess of cancer or genetic problems etc.
    Nuclear waste dumping – you must “prove” that waste under the ground wont escape for hundreds of thousands of years (in order to justify keeping it in tinny drums at the surface).
    Genetic modification – you must “prove” that GM crops will not cause any environmental or ecological harm for hundreds – thousands of years to come.
    Nanotechnology – you must “prove” that it wont turn the world into a “grey goo”.
    Hadron collider – you must “prove” that it wont create a singularity and swallow up the world.
    etc..
    In important areas of science policy, the demand for an impossible degree of certainty is equivalent to demand for a jar of fleas. An intentionally impossible task to give pseudo-scientific self-righteousness to an activist environmental anti-industry agenda. PNS should oppose and correct this abuse of science.
    Dr Ravetz may be right that “quality” is the best solution we have available, however that is defined. It must include epistemological quality – i.e. scientific work done according to Karl Popper’s principles of deductiveness and falsifiability, as opposed to massively inductive edifices like global circulation models that adapt to any changing input to give the desired prediction of global warming. The moral quality of individuals is also an inescapable component. A good system run by bad people will fail. A bad system run by good people will succeed.

  157. steven mosher (13:10:11) :
    Steve, thank you for putting a summary of what you feel is the view of Willis…”His call to action is really a call on scientists to just do normal science. It’s a fine sermon, but the calls to “just do the science” brought us Climategate. When we call on Mann to do science right, for example, everyone should note his response “do your own science.” So, while I agree that one should encourage scientists to just do normal science, I think its a poor strategy if your interests are at stake”
    “Normal science” includes openess in methods and medadata. I have never seen anything Willis advocate that would not enforce this as “necessary”, so I do not see how what Willis advocated “brought us climategate”. Corruption is an inherent part of all human nature to various degrees, and can and does manifest in every “group”.
    Please remember the the good Dr’s lammenting of climate science, was that political decisions made by groups which came together at Copenhagen were a travesty because they failed. I really suggest a re-reading of his first WATTSUP post.
    Secondly the very name “Post Normal Science” is a horrible name, insulting to a true practice of science, which has brought vast benefits to billions. Science as applied to society has a long history. As science advances in power, it effects impact more people. If AGW was truly catestrophic, then the vast majority of conflicts of intrest would be disolved, as who wants to destroy the world? However many have wanted to, like Blackbeard, “rule the world”. We need a resuurection of classic science, where full openess is “ENFORCED”, before it goes to policy makers.
    Of course there should be international diplomacy in policy in regard to how scientific applications within society affect other nations. But by fusing the “science” into the political process, instead of isolating and protecting it from the political process, one runs a high risk, nay a certainty of corrupting it. This is just as true of the corrupting influence of Rome on Christianity, when the two were fused and it became the official religion.
    Steve, I hope you can give concrete examples of how you think the good Doctor’s post normal science would have prevented AGW becoming the lighning rod to worldwide political change.
    When I and others state we fail to understand PNS, it is really (in my case) a regret that he does not give clear concrete steps of how he thinks it should operate. Much philosophy, but little transition from the the general to the particular. So perhaps you could provide some clarity here. Thank you for all your work in this field.

  158. Thank you for your post, Dr. Ravetz.
    One thing you might consider is that to place science in some sort of sacrosanct category one is assuring that scientists will inevitably wind up in an isolated feed back mechanism. In the case of modern science, where the majority of science dollars comes via government resources, it means the leading scientists tend to be bureaucrats who know how to follow the bureaucratic imperative of expanding empires, expanding funding and expanding mission.
    I would suggest that in the case of AGW, this is exactly what is happening.
    AGW is not like an epidemic. There is no history of documented disease. There are no symptoms at this time other than those claimed by those who stand to gain from declaring the crisis. I would offer that AGW promoting scientists are more in the position of a pharmaceutical company creating a health crisis to justify its latest drug.
    There is no risk from modern CO2 levels other than what those who have made careers and fortunes claim there is.

  159. I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments (bit busy today) but I thought this was a very thought-provoking piece. Thank you Prof. Ravetz.
    In some ways, it touches on the critical issues of AGW – the supposed high stakes of action vs non-action. This is where the level of uncertainty is, in fact, greatest in the AGW debate. Notwithstanding the uncertainty over how much the climate is changing and the role of humans in this, there is an almost compete lack of any real understanding of what this will mean. On a local, regional or global scale, “getting warmer” can mean drier or wetter, more extreme or less extreme and – the ultimate abstract – better or worse.
    With this level of uncertainty over the impacts, how can there be any discussion of the stakes of action or inaction?
    The real message to take from Prof. Ravetz’ article – for me – is that the high stakes we are talking about are ALL political. In this instance, post-normal science may provide us with an understanding, but only in as much as we should send a clear message that political stakes should be left for politicians to bet on – leave the rest of us alone!

  160. CarlPE (20:15:53) :
    I could be completely off base, but I found it difficult to pull the main points out of this post. I always found that a paper written in the format of Summary, Conclusions, Recommendation and Discussion works best when trying to cover a complex subject.
    Hey, it’s Post Normal Argument Style. I’m actually serious. No need to make much sense, perhaps just as my post just above yours was trying to say. No, when you are self or group-annointed as of an untouchably enlightened intelligence, no one can really understand you, and you get to rule!

  161. Geoffrey Alder (03:45:50) :
    Over three years back, Melanie Phillips published an excellent article decrying thie subject of PNS. It is well worth a read!
    http://www.melaniephillips.com/diary/?p=1469

    Thanks, Geoffery. Yes, she’s got it all right there. Climate Science is not real Science but instead only a gigantic Propaganda Operation whose controllist, Totalitarian aims bode nothing good for Humanity.

  162. @ brent (22:02:14) :
    It is still not clear as to why the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its alert on swine flu to pandemic levels last June.
    Swine flu was a textbook case of a scare
    WHO= World Hoax Organization?
    Is the WHO any better than the IPCC?
    They share some common characteristics as sister UN agencies
    ————-
    Aha, another post in my area of expertise!!
    Here’s the quick one: flu viruses are RNA viruses (orthomyxoviridae) that mutate and re-assort their genes aggressively. When a host is infected by more than one flu virus, they can swap genes & become more virulent….the process in its extreme is called “antigenic shift.” Flu viruses infect people, swine, birds, tigers, all sorts of critters.
    The public health community has been on tenterhooks for years about the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is endemic in poultry flocks throughout Asia and spreading worldwide via wild fowl. It is now in Egypt, Czech Republic, etc. but hasn’t been found in the USA yet. H5N1 can cause a rapid, often fatal human illness, so WHO and others worry that the virus might mutate enough for efficient human-to-human transmission. Personally, I’m not that worried based on the research coming out of CDC, but hey, I’ve been wrong before.
    The recent H1N1 “swine” flu is actually a mix of genes from swine, human, and avian sources and apparently had been in circulation for some time. When it first became known in Mexico, the public health community freaked (I didn’t by the way) and anticipated a repeat of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which killed millions. This bug was freaky because it seemed to target the young and pregnant women vs. elderly, so at the beginning, the public health folks didn’t know WTF we were dealing with.
    Therefore, WHO went with a very conservative approach and triggered the in-place mechanism for reporting and declaration of a pandemic. A pandemic isn’t measured by the deadliness of the agent, but rather by its worldwide spread…..therefore, this novel H1N1 was a true pandemic, although loss of life was considerably less than originally anticipated by some.
    I’m glad we have the WHO network, it worked very well during the SARS outbreak and is vigilant against all sorts of bioweapons and emerging tropical viruses. WHO is not without fault, but for a UN agency, they do damned good work. Unlike the IPCC, their science is sound and reporting very open to the community of scientists.
    However, if you’d rather have smallpox again….

  163. David (03:44:42) :
    steven mosher (13:10:11) :
    ““Normal science” includes openess in methods and medadata. I have never seen anything Willis advocate that would not enforce this as “necessary”, so I do not see how what Willis advocated “brought us climategate”. Corruption is an inherent part of all human nature to various degrees, and can and does manifest in every “group”.”
    My point is finer, as always. Merely calling for openness ( as Willis and I both have done) isn’t enough. Sermonizing on it ( as we both do ) isnt enough, and it brought us climategate simply because talk is cheap.
    And they simply ignore our talk or find creative ways around it. and carry
    on as usual. Further, I’m not sure normal science IS open. some is. Now of course we argue it SHOULD BE.
    “Secondly the very name “Post Normal Science” is a horrible name, insulting to a true practice of science, which has brought vast benefits to billions.”
    As an observationalist the only science I can speak about is the science
    AS PRACTICED. Science is what scientists do. Just like art is what artists
    do. The post normal name doesnt bother me.
    “Science as applied to society has a long history. As science advances in power, it effects impact more people. If AGW was truly catestrophic, then the vast majority of conflicts of intrest would be disolved, as who wants to destroy the world? However many have wanted to, like Blackbeard, “rule the world”. We need a resuurection of classic science, where full openess is “ENFORCED”, before it goes to policy makers.”
    Well yes of course. Not sure what classic science is. Not sure if it’s always
    been practiced. Not sure conflicts of interest would be resolved. But
    the operative question is how to enforce openness. Talk about it? that’s
    easy. Enforce it? you need some protocal. If you dont want to call that
    protocal post Normal, then fine. Perhaps what I am saying is this:
    NORMAL SCIENCE as PRACTICED is often closed. In my mind open science
    is post normal.
    “Of course there should be international diplomacy in policy in regard to how scientific applications within society affect other nations. But by fusing the “science” into the political process, instead of isolating and protecting it from the political process, one runs a high risk, nay a certainty of corrupting it. This is just as true of the corrupting influence of Rome on Christianity, when the two were fused and it became the official religion.”
    One problem is enforcing transparency. the IPCC is committed to openness. They are accountable to no one. I’m not impressed by flaccid comparisons
    with Rome. They carry no weight.
    “Steve, I hope you can give concrete examples of how you think the good Doctor’s post normal science would have prevented AGW becoming the lighning rod to worldwide political change.”
    I judge Dr. Ravetz work as being a good begining to DISCUSS the issue.
    that’s it. Not to trash him with the kinds of things people are saying, but rather to make a fair assessment of the situation, to discriminate between various types of situations scientists face and then discussing solutions.
    So, ya, I pound my pulpit for openness and transparency, but I think we should move beyond that.
    Simply: The Dr is right. There are circumstances were Theories are uncertain, interests are in conflict, stakes are high for some, and decisons perceived as immediately necessary. When other have tried to argue against him by attacking these points I think they deny some rather obvious facts.
    The question is, given these situations exist, what should “one” do?
    pounding the table for openness ( willis, me etc etc ) and pounding the
    table for “normal” science, and even FOIAs ( hey willis did the first in
    2007) didnt prevent climategate ( thats a better way to put it) and wont
    prevent a misleading AR5.

  164. Jeez,
    “Steven, you yourself have said on many occasions that what Mann and CRU were doing was not Science but stating opinion since they withheld data and methods.
    willis is right
    Just do the science. That means sharing data and methods.”
    Actually, I’ve made a somewhat finer point than that as usual. I’ve stated that their work is AN ADVERTISEMENT for science but not the science itself.
    and I’ve said that I’m not rationally compelled to believe ads. The more I look at what “science” really is ( as opposed to people’s idealized notions)
    the more I’m convinced that open science is Post normal.

  165. here’s a suggestion I’ve made before.
    If you call for people to “just do science” share data and methods,
    then don’t post articles that dont supply data and code. lead by example.
    Even excel spreadsheets can be uploaded to googlecode.

  166. Michael Larkin (19:03:22) :
    steven mosher (13:10:11) :
    If I am reading you rightly, your reformulation that applies to CAGW is:
    1. Theories are uncertain
    2. interests are in conflict
    3. Stakes are high
    4. Decisions are immediate
    I would ask, what was the primary driver? Why was CAGW even put on the table? If the theory was uncertain, how did it come to pass that decisions were deemed immediate or urgent?”
    All theories are uncertain. In the case of AGW its a theory that predicts a
    disaster. Being creatures of worry and fear of course it gets put on he table.
    Being creatures of greed of course people with interests are involved.
    “I think we are getting things arse about face. It all started with a manufactured urgency, not a theory, uncertain or otherwise. The manufactured urgency of those who wanted environmental interests to quickly gain powerful global influence, projected onto the putative urgency of the “problem”.”
    The theory was initiated well over 100 years ago. All sense of urgency is manufactured. That’s really besides the point. the point is, given the sense of urgency that some people feel, what do you propose. a calm rational argument that these people feel differently? good luck with that.
    “If post normal science were a way to stop this kind of shenanigans, I’d be all for it. However, in my opinion, it’s all part of the problem because it holds the pursuit of truth in contempt, substituting for it the concept of quality. Why, I wonder? I think it’s a form of hubris – quality can be controlled, and by extension, nature. Somehow, man is in control of nature, and just as he supposedly started the problem, he can stop it, if only we can get the stakeholders fired up and suppress any of those who might rock the boat.”
    A theories quality is what we are really pointing to when we talk about it’s “truth”
    “It goes back to Willis’ null hypothesis. Normal science works just fine if the null hypothesis (any putative changes in global temperatures are overwhelmingly natural rather than anthropogenic) is considered. ”
    I’m not sure that Willis’ Null hypothesis has any meaning. It’s not a quantitive statement. It’s a nice rhetorical trick and one Im surprised people fell for.

  167. Dr. Ravetz uses the FMD outbreak as an example of PNS in action. This gives me even less confidence.
    From http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/lest_we_forget.htm

    Meanwhile an outbreak occurred in Holland. The Dutch implemented an immediate programme of vaccination, which suppressed the disease almost at once. The vaccinated animals were all slaughtered, but that was only done to satisfy the EU and its fears about its meat trading status. In Britain, the carnage, which had already seemed unimaginably barbaric, was about to enter an even more cataclysmic stage. The professor’s computer, like some latter day insatiable Moloch, demanded more and more blood sacrifices. The hit squads, by now not only officials but also the army, were roaming the countryside shooting, bludgeoning and drowning perfectly healthy animals.

    Vaccination would have shut the disease down quickly & even if those vaccinated had to be slaughtered for some mythical FMD free status, the number of animals saved would have been more than sufficient compensation.
    DaveE.

  168. I just wish to voice my support for Dr Ravetz’ position. Like Steven Mosher, I was shocked (but not surprised) by the reactions. I posted some comments to Dr Ravetz’ first post under my name Mike (unfortunately it seems there are several Mikes here) when that post found little sympathy on this site. I wont comment further except to say I do appreciate what Dr Ravetz has to say, and fully agree with all Steven Mosher has added to the discussion. Thanks to both.

  169. Dear Dr Ravetz – thanks so much for joining in the discussion. Through all of this argument (in the classic sense – of exchange of information and learning) – have you reached any new understanding?
    I mean (and not to be disrespectful, honestly) – as I try to read your prose and decipher your arguments – and compare them to the arguments presented here by bloggers and posters – I think that there has to the realizatiuon that you are on the wrong track for society. It must be hard to come to that realization, granted – it takes stronger EQ than IQ – but do you hear us?
    Imagine if your frame of reference weren’t western and white – what if you were from Paua New Guinea or idk -whereever. What would ‘truth’ consist of? What could be agreed?
    Data, observations, reproducible results. Open commentary.
    Its called science. The old-fashioned kind. Your fathers’ science. It works. Really.
    And we know it. Thanks again for weighing in – brave strong soul.

  170. Post normal science means little to me,it means more to those in and around government.The thing that is important to me is that my understanding of science is not limited by censorship imposed by an elite who believe that their morality and ethics are more important than truth. The previous decade in the UK the media refused to give any coverage to the argument against man-made global warming,it seems it even extended to the peer review process, I see this as very similar to the burning of Jewish books in Nazi Germany.

  171. Dr.Ravetz got the FMD disease!. All his discourse is not even a sophism but pure craziness. Historically there have been many conspirations, as I said before, to lead astray science, knowledge, reason and logic itself. Many of his kind have alienated knowledge into randomness in an attempt to destroy from the roots all what we have inherited from our predecessors, being their sole aim to confuse up to the level of making a GOSPEL OF CHAOS.
    We should reject all that kind of theories as utterly agnostic, we must not even pay attention to them. There is neither uncertainty nor relativity and no randomness or chaos in the cosmos, but definite laws to discover.
    They count on human weaknesses as the one which makes believe the fool ones intelligent and superior when dealing with complicated matters, so they provide them with such “esoterically complicated” matters. The universe it is not complicated and it is possible for man to know it and truth is within the human spirit reach, it is definetly achievable.

  172. You people are aware when making your comments that the good doctor is over 80 years of age? I mean is that a way to talk to your elders? People here have called him very nasty things, like the person above suggesting he has caught FMD himself and is crazy. Others have made fun of his looks and his picture. And so on, every variety of slur on top of the more common ones such as commie and evil. That is way out of line. Ravetz has come here in good faith to have a discussion, and I can detect no such nastiness on his part. Ravetz I’m sure is a strong character and can take the criticism, and it’s never my intention to patronise him with this, just to direct attention to the simply unacceptable way in which some people seem to personalize scientific/ideological disagreement.
    I don’t know how things are in America, but at least here in Europe we have a tradition to respect elderly people and to be polite towards them. Even when we disagree with them strongly.
    As a climate skeptic, it is also a worry that if such vulgar behaviour is more widespread, it will make it more difficult to convince the neutrals and undecided of the credentials of the skeptic cause.

  173. Ravetz’ ideas are ideas – sensu strictu.
    They may be debated, etc, but remain as intellectual artefacts, in the ethereal realm of imagination.
    However they cannot be tested in physical reality, for their origin is in the imaginal.

  174. Buddenbrook (14:43:03):
    I write to applaud your very fine post.
    I, too, strongly disagree with Prof Ravetz (and have again posted my disagreement of him above at (09:46:43) on 12.042010), but I take severe objection to the smears and insults of him.
    In addition to the unacceptable manner and nature of such behaviours, I completely share your view that you state as:
    “As a climate skeptic, it is also a worry that if such vulgar behaviour is more widespread, it will make it more difficult to convince the neutrals and undecided of the credentials of the skeptic cause.”
    I disagree with Prof Ravetz for the reason I have repeatedly stated, but – for what little it is worth – I offer him my apology and sympathy for the improper treatement some have given him here. And I am sure that the ‘silent majority’ of those here who disagree with him concur with your and my sentiments.
    Richard

  175. Ooops! My post that disagrees with Prof Ravetz was at (08:46:43) on 12.04.2010. But that typo in no way diminishes my support of Buddenbrook’s comment at (14:43:03).
    Richard

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