STS: All talk and no walk?

In my previous post I discussed a paper by Harry Collins, and colleagues, that is mainly a response to an editorial by Sergio Sismondo. Collins et al. argue that Science and Technology Studies (STS) must take some responsibility for today’s post-truth environment, and that social scientists should be aiming to understand the formation of knowledge and who can legitimately contribute to expert debate.

I’ve since, however, come across another paper (H/T Mark Carrigan) that also discusses the Sergio Sismondo editorial. It’s by Steve Fuller (whose writings I’ve discussed before) and it asks is STS all talk and no walk? It takes a very different line to that taken by Harry Collins and colleagues, essentially suggesting that STS should take credit for the post-truth world. Steve Fuller’s article claims that STS set loose on the general public — if not outright invented — at least four common post-truth tropes:

1. Science is what results once a scientific paper is published, not what made it possible for the paper to be published, since the actual conduct of research is always open to multiple countervailing interpretations.

2. What passes for the ‘truth’ in science is an institutionalised contingency, which if scientists are doing their job will be eventually overturned and replaced, not least because that may be the only way they can get ahead in their fields.

3. Consensus is not a natural state in science but one that requires manufacture and maintenance, the work of which is easily underestimated because most of it occurs offstage in the peer review process.

4. Key normative categories of science such as ‘competence’ and ‘expertise’ are moveable feasts, the terms of which are determined by the power dynamics that obtain between specific alignments of interested parties.

I find the above competely bizarre; they’re simplistic caricatures of science. Science is a process that aims to understand what is being studied; publishing a paper is simply one way of disseminating the resulting information. It’s true that precisely defining the scientific method is difficult, and that there isn’t actually a single method. However, that doesn’t mean that science isn’t some kind of process of discovery. It is true that there is no definitive scientific “truth” and that what we take to be scientific “truth” today will not be the same as it will be in the future. However, in many cases it is more evolution than revolution and not knowing the precise “truth” now, doesn’t mean that we can’t be confident about things that are not true.

A consensus is not manufactured, it emerges if all the various lines of evidence suggests a consistent picture. It is true that overturning a consensus can be very difficult, but this is often because doing so requires not only illustrating the strength of the evidence supporting the new position, but also why all the evidence supporting the original consensus is wrong, or has been misinterpreted. Overturning a consensus is not meant to be easy. I do agree that determining who is competent and has expertise is non-trivial. However, there is a vast difference between determining who qualifies, and illustrating who does not.

Steve Fuller then goes on to say

What is perhaps most puzzling from a strictly epistemological standpoint is that STS recoils from these tropes whenever such politically undesirable elements as climate change deniers or creationists appropriate them effectively for their own purposes.

His argument seems to be that these politically undesirable elements independently corroborate these tropes’s validity. I’m having some trouble deciding how to respond to this. It seems fairly clear that there will probably always be ideologically motivated people who use simplistic caricatures of science to try and undermine mainstream science for political ends. Why, though, would an academic discipline want to take credit for this, and argue that this somehow validates their caricatures of the scientific process (what Steve Fuller calls tropes)?

This seems to suggest that there are at least some within STS who do not see their role as helping society to understand the nature of knowledge and how to identify those who have competence and expertise (or, maybe, who does not). There certainly seems to be some within STS who regard STS as somehow having provided validity to those who many would regard as having little competence or relevant expertise.

This post is getting rather long, and it’s always possible that I have misunderstood Steve Fuller’s article (or that there is something really deep and clever that I’m missing). I suggest reading the article yourselves and making up your own minds.

I’ll end by quoting something from the conclusion of Steve Fuller’s article:

STS’s most lasting contribution to the general intellectual landscape, namely, to think about science as literally a game

Okay, there are clearly aspects of the scientific process that involve people competing to either find the answer first, or to overturn our current understanding. There are, however, underlying rules, even if they aren’t all that easy to understand/define. I had assumed that one of the roles of STS was to help the public understand the basic process and something of the underlying rules, not rewrite them so that people can essentially make them up as they go along. I don’t see this as either productive, or of benefit to society. Others may well disagree.

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49 Responses to STS: All talk and no walk?

  1. This post isn’t as coherent, or clear, as I would have liked. There is something that I was trying to express, but have not managed to do. I will try again in this comment.

    In my view, the fundamental goal of academic research (whether physical, natural, or social science) is to try and understand some system. The research results can then be disseminated and, ideally, the information used by society. The goal should not – in my view – be to specifically influence society, but to provide information for society to use (of course, researchers are not outside society, so I appreciate that this is more complex than this in reality).

    What Steve Fuller seems to be suggesting is that STS should somehow be proud of how it has influenced science in society (by providing these tropes that can be used by politically undesirable elements). If the information provided was some reasonable representation of reality, then maybe this would be fine. Since it appears that it is not, it’s hard to see why this should be something of which to be proud.

  2. Everett F Sargent says:

    Homo sapiens studying homo sapiens. Never realizing that we all are in the same effin’ box. Too cryptic foy you? I don’t like the soft sciences, never have. Social scientists opining on other hard sciences as if they are somehow the final gatekeepers (at least that’s one impression that I get from all this talk). Philosophers (includes religous), psychiatrists (why was there no PTSD after WWII?), psychologists (We got a p < 0.0001 with an R^2 = 0.01!), social scientists and virtual (e. g. internets) urban corner soapbox sandwich board barkers (looks at self in mirror).

    I told myself not to comment on the 1st post, I didn't. I told myself not to post on this 2nd post, but I did. I'm a loser. Sad! Blows brains out with a sledgehammer. 😉

  3. I told myself not to comment on the 1st post, I didn’t. I told myself not to post on this 2nd post, but I did. I’m a loser.

    I have a similar problem – I can only hold out for so long 🙂

    My own view of social science is much more nuanced. I think good social science is very difficult – they don’t have nice simple conservation laws to help them. As with all fields some people are very good, and careful, others are not. However, I have found that many who seem to comment on what is sometimes referred to as the “hard sciences” seem to often say things that don’t make any sense. There is always the chance that what they’re saying is so clever that I just don’t get it, but since few seem willing to put much effort into explaining themselves, I’m somewhat favouring the former, rather than the latter.

  4. Everett,
    Your comment reminded me that James Annan had a post about what’s the point of social science.

  5. Everett F Sargent says:

    “I just don’t get it, but since few seem willing to put much effort into explaining themselves, I’m somewhat favouring the former, rather than the latter.”

    It’s just like a movie plot, sometimes you just don’t get it, other times, it’s because the movie plot just plain sucks, but whomever wrote the plot didn’t see that it was bad, other times it’s well, eff it, let’s do this, because $$$.

    In (civil) engineering, you build something and can just walk away, knowing with very high p-value that you will be dead before it ever fails (well, that’s not really what you should be thinking about, but I’ve see other in my field doing just that). But things do fail before you die. Now you are in big trouble if you made a fundimental error. We all need a similar test for the social sciences IMHO.

  6. Everett F Sargent says:

    Left out something, movie plots, sometimes plotlines are so screwed up, on purpose, you are never meant to figure them out, so let’s discuss them, the movie (err paper), endlessly.

    I can’t find my sledgehammer. I’m a loser. Sad. 🙂

  7. The post does not really motivate me much to read the article. Based on the post itself I would comment: how do you critically analyse bullshit.

    There is a lot of interesting and useful social science. It is much harder to do and to judge what will contribute to a better understanding in the long term. I guess that is why it is easier for pieces like this to make it into the literature.

  8. Based on the post itself I would comment: how do you critically analyse bullshit.

    I had a slghtly different – but related – thought, which I didn’t put into the post. Steve Fuller seems to be applauding the idea that political undesireables use STS tropes to attack mainstream science, but seems to ignore that

    the amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

  9. I’ve just realised that there is a rather lengthy article by Erik Baker and Naomi Oreskes that also address much of what is presented in Steve Fuller’s article.

  10. We reached the same point in deconstruction
    you could skip all this and just read the Will to Power.

  11. Willard wil enjoy this ( looks like an issue tree )

    https://www.kialo.com/tour/

    ATTP

    back in 2007 ( or earlier ) blogging about science (example mcintyre) disrupted journalism
    about science.

    It’s gotten to the point where your own blog posts have been cited in science.

    Time for you to Pioneer on a new platform.

    or if you want to earn cash…. Steemit.com

  12. There is a wide gap in understandinh evidenced by the specific claims by Collins, Sismondo, Fuller, et al , that STS, as communities or institutions or prcocesses are responsible for “post truth” and any fair representation on how Science is done. Moreover, I’ll claim that these assertions are warmed over versions of terds from ethnography and qualitative methods in some corners of social sciences which deny the applicability of quantitative methods to people or human groups (which I take as both extreme anthropocentrism and a very literal interpretation of Buber’s “I-Thou” vs “I-It” deal) and view scientific method as just another curious cultural behavior, this time championed by caucasian European male culture, no better than any other perspective of any other culture.

    Bollocks.

    The creation of any new scientific frontier is not like that as I understand in visual arts, which often acknowledge precedent but only in reacting to or rebelling against it, but rather depend upon embracing alll existing knowledge to pose questions which existing Science has no good answers, and then going forth and answering them. This is quite apart from campus or organizational politics.

    There are many case studies and examples, ranging from the realization and embrace of plate tectonics to accepting a steady recurrence of bolide impacts as a significant geological process, to discovery and proper quantifucation of the Black Body Effect, to accepting biological extinction due to bad luck instead of bad genes as biological reality.

    I would rather these proponents use evidence from actual Science to make their case rather than espouse unanchored philosophical positions

  13. BBD says:

    back in 2007 ( or earlier ) blogging about science (example mcintyre) disrupted journalism
    about science.

    With misinformation. Fake news. Sad.

  14. Mal Adapted says:

    OP, quoting Steve Fuller:

    STS’s most lasting contribution to the general intellectual landscape, namely, to think about science as literally a game

    Science, OTOH, has increased the global human population by a factor of 14 in five centuries.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Maybe STS is just poorly done philosophy of science. Far more useful is the history of science, starting as far back as may be. Then the philosophy will flow.

    And no, Issac Newton didn’t think he was playing a game although the matter of priority between him and Liebniz did arise. Also Robert Hooke’s insistence that Newton failed to give him credit for the basis of the law of universal gravitation. Such matters fit into the history. I doubt STS has much to add.

  16. Ken Fabian says:

    In the presence of uncomfortable knowledge with economic consequences arising from science the market value of justifications for rejecting it goes up.Those justifications and the extraordinary examples of group think that promoted and elevated them to “mainstream” legitimacy are the social constructs that are problematic, not the competence and relevance of science based expertise.

    STS exponents need to be very careful not to provide just one more convenient justification – another means of obfuscation – for people in positions of trust and responsibility to continue ignoring inconvenient truths and act irresponsibly in the face of consistent and persistent expert advice.

  17. “With misinformation. Fake news. Sad.”

    As with all things some was misinformation other was straight up embarrassingly true.

    The days of publication being controlled by news corporations has given way to a paradigm where news corporations and large internet services companies provide a platform. (FB,G+,WP,etc ) and monetize user information and behavior.

    This will give way to paradigm where individuals can publish and never be censored and where their readers can reward them directly and where you will be able to monetize your own personal data should you choose to.

    resistance is futile. best to get ahead of the game than to be stuck losing an eyeballs game to intellectually inferiors– ie wuwt

  18. izen says:

    @-“…to think about science as literally a game”

    -Literally ?!

    Definition: activity engaged in for diversion or amusement
    a physical or mental competition conducted according to rules with the participants in direct opposition to each other.

    Games are simplified and codefied metaphors of intra-personal and intra-tribal violent conflict. War by other means, or models of more complex difficulties that sentience existence faces.

    Games have rules, designed by humans, that define the gains and losses that result from how the game is played.
    Science has Laws. Naive Realism is a useful, and possibly rational, hypothesis. The external material universe imposes the ‘rules’ of science, a social methodology for accurately discovering them.

    There are a lot of things in life that are not reducible, even metaphorically, to a ‘Game’. Imposing such a trivialisation on science is definitely not Cricket.

  19. izen says:

    Perhaps it is off topic, but one ‘Game’ that STS might be encouraged to look at is the field that uses more computing power than any other, dwarfing climate modeling. So much hardware is devoted to this task that special access to cheap power is necessary to pursue it. It has no practical purpose beyond esoteric maths.

    But social convention makes it financially profitable, at least until the ‘Tulip-mania’ is over. But at the expense of a significant carbon footprint.
    What a Game!

    https://qz.com/1055126/photos-china-has-one-of-worlds-largest-bitcoin-mines/
    “The Ordos mine was set up in 2014, making it China’s oldest large-scale bitcoin mining facility. Bitmain acquired it in 2015. It’s powered by electricity mostly from coal-fired power plants. Its daily electricity bill amounts to $39,000.”

  20. Joshua says:

    The days of publication being controlled by news corporations has given way to a paradigm where news corporations and large internet services companies provide a platform. (FB,G+,WP,etc ) and monetize user information and behavior..

    There are a few trends coming together:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/06/16/six-in-10-of-you-will-share-this-link-without-reading-it-according-to-a-new-and-depressing-study/?utm_term=.603e5ee85f6b

    People are more willing to share an article than read it,” study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

    https://www.axios.com/americans-dont-know-what-to-believe-anymore-2348143613.html

    Today, 62% of Americans say they get their news from social media, and primarily from Facebook, even though an American Press Institute study finds people are least likely to trust Facebook “a great deal” compared to all other social platforms. Facebook has become such a dominant part of news discovery and distribution that 10% of respondents for a Pew survey last month said they believed Facebook was the news source of articles they read on Facebook, not the news outlets themselves. The same problem exists on Twitter. A Columbia University study found that Americans share 60% of news on Twitter without reading the articles linked to, which is problematic considering that a recent study by Oxford Internet Institute (OII) found that nearly half of political news content that’s tweeted is fake. Moreover, nearly a quarter of Americans admit to sharing fake news on Facebook, and more than half of those people say they do so knowingly.

  21. “Perhaps it is off topic, but one ‘Game’ that STS might be encouraged to look at is the field that uses more computing power than any other, dwarfing climate modeling. So much hardware is devoted to this task that special access to cheap power is necessary to pursue it. It has no practical purpose beyond esoteric maths.”

    The purpose of the hardware is security. It’s not esoteric math at all. you are given 2 hashes. your job is to guess the third hash. brute force. solving the puzzle secures the network. Many folks dont get this. The security of the currency is provided by the hash power.

    As for the power usage, the way to look at it is compare it with what it replaces; western union

    Western Union is just one of many companies that enable remmitances.

    Count the number of locations of Western Union in the world ( over 500,000) and understand that each and every one of those will disappear. That’s just one player in one industry.

    Put it another way. If there is a more efficient was to move, store and secure value the currency wont survive.

    “But social convention makes it financially profitable”

    All money has value via social convention. did you think god gave us money?
    For example in India after the government changed the currency and rendered the old notes
    ‘valueless’, those notes were still used and traded by the society. basically, old notes became worth 80% of the new notes. If you had new notes ( those deemed valid by the govt) you didnt
    use them. Only old notes were used by people ( bad money drives out the good money ). They “socially” fixed the value at 80% of the “valid” notes. all value is socially fixed. by exchange.

    WRT to the Bitmain facility. That’s a pretty rare example. I have yet to run into a single customer
    who doesnt use hydro. basically above 4 cents a Kw you cant make money.

  22. halmorris says:

    I think Wittgenstein, who had something to say about games, would say the phrase “literally a game” is nonsense.

  23. halmorris says:

    Fuller is kind of a crafty snark artist IMO, and I’d suggest his transhumanism makes him a bit like the fundamentalists waiting for the imminent apocalypse – i.e. somewhat indifferent to the present or short run.

    Despite a background in sociology, Steve Fuller (unfortunately, IMO) got some priority on the phrase “social epistemology”, writing a book and founding a journal by that name. Soon, or about the same time, a prominent epistemologist named Alvin Goldman began aggressively using the phrase and building a school pretty much in the anglophone analytical philosophical tradition. Goldman wrote the SEP article on Social Epistemology a dozen years ago and gave it a thorough revamping a couple years ago.

    A good starting point for getting some idea of the map of the territory, which is a mess, and hard to get any sense of, there is https://social-epistemology.com/2013/07/22/two-kinds-of-social-epistemology-finn-collin/

    Early this year I wrote an article for Ribbonfarm “Cannon Balls, Plate Tectonics, and Invisible Elephants”. I wanted the title to be “Science in a nutshell:” with the rest as subtitle, but the editor is anti-subtitle. I also wanted to frame it more explicitly as a set of 3 vignettes *pointing in the direction* of an understanding of what science it, but again the editor seemed to construe that as misguided modesty.

    The Plate Tectonics part was largely inspired by Miriam Solomon’s book Social Empiricism, to illustrate that good scientific consensus is something *very different* from “groupthink”.

  24. halmorris says:

    Somehow I left out the link to my article. (Early this year I wrote an article for Ribbonfarm “Cannon Balls, Plate Tectonics, and Invisible Elephants”. I wanted the title to be “Science in a nutshell:” with the rest as subtitle, but the editor is anti-subtitle. I also wanted to frame it more explicitly as a set of 3 vignettes *pointing in the direction* of an understanding of what science it, but again the editor seemed to construe that as misguided modesty.

    The Plate Tectonics part was largely inspired by Miriam Solomon’s book Social Empiricism, to illustrate that good scientific consensus is something *very different* from “groupthink”.)

    https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/01/12/cannon-balls-plate-tectonics-and-invisible-elephants/

  25. Hal,
    Thanks, that’s an interesting history. Have just finished reading your article. Very nice. I liked your description of how a consensus typically develops.

  26. Hal,
    You say: “I think Wittgenstein, who had something to say about games, would say the phrase “literally a game” is nonsense.” I very much agree! I also really enjoyed your article. A pleasure to read!

  27. “There are a few trends coming together:”

    Yup. it should not surprise you that the crypto world is focused on two main issues.
    trust
    governance.
    consensus

  28. halmorris says:

    Thanks “aTTP”, and Brigitte. There’s a book called A Nice Derangement of Epistemes: Post-positivism in the Study of Science from Quine to Latour (http://amzn.to/2x3oXAs) (Latour, once a darling of STS is now “infamous” for his “apology” as Fuller’s article states) that discusses, among other things how different perspectives on basically the same thing: History of Ideas or history of science, philosophy of science, and the sociological perspective, lead in different directions.

  29. halmorris says:

    The site from which you got the Steve Fuller article, social-epistemology.com or SERRC (Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective), seems to mostly function as the collective blog of the Steve Fuller circle, though some stuff gets in, like the Finn Collin article (https://social-epistemology.com/2013/07/22/two-kinds-of-social-epistemology-finn-collin/) that doesn’t fit the party line, and even lately it’s featured bits by Massimo Pigliucci (https://social-epistemology.com/2016/08/16/how-should-feyerabend-have-defended-astrology-a-further-reply-to-kidd-massimo-pigliucci/), who is quite anti-post-modern though he has some sympathy with the “anti-scientism” positions of STS.

  30. Brigite says:

    Yes I was a bit surprised by the anti-scientism stuff I saw recently. I’ll look through your other links

  31. Brigitte says:

    Ha, got my name wrong. And thanks for the Austin, Willard. So Wittgenstein is in good company 😉

  32. izen says:

    @-SM
    “All money has value via social convention. did you think god gave us money?”

    No, all money is fiat currency. If it has real intrinsic value it is barter goods.

  33. ah fiat comes from god?

  34. russellseitz says:

    Much as I hate to interrupt interrupt phenomenology’s deconstruction , ‘ there’s a Phenomenon tomorrow, and i must dutifully offer two useful hints to observers:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-eclipse-of-reason.html

  35. halmorris says:

    In thinking through the ideas of my article
    https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/01/12/cannon-balls-plate-tectonics-and-invisible-elephants/
    I may have come up with one original observation, which is that a strong scientific discipline (SSD for acronym lovers) requires
    (1) a tractable domain (often this is relative; biology/medicine only became tractable on the shoulders of other disciplines),
    (2) truly coming to grips with that domain — probably having found entities unknown before the particular SSD discovered them, and
    (3) nearly always, a set of practices that only make sense in terms of the phenomena the discipline reveals. Having no method other than “scientific method” as described in high school text books can almost be taken as a sign that a discipline is barely a science or perhaps not one at all.

    If we know anything about sociology, the methodology remains pretty much stuck as it was when we knew almost nothing: surveys, questionnaires, asking binary questions about things people have always known about. Maybe it’s chance, but I had an argument with a climate change denier who quoted me how his psychology teacher described the “scientific method” and gave cases accusing climatologists of not practicing it. Perhaps we ought to say, instead of the consensus of “climatologists”, that of people from a broad range of sciences such as physics, astronomy, plant paleontology, etc. that contribute something valid to the debate.

  36. angech says:

    Looking in the mirror.
    ” best to get ahead of the game than to be stuck losing an eyeballs game to intellectually inferiors– ie wuwt”
    Games theory is an integral part of science. At least one, probably a lot more Nobel prizes, real ones, [not sorry for the snark].
    Games have rules, even ones without rules, Climateball.

    I was most interested in the part.
    “A consensus is not manufactured, it emerges if all the various lines of evidence suggests a consistent picture. It is true that overturning a consensus can be very difficult, but this is often because doing so requires not only illustrating the strength of the evidence supporting the new position, but also why all the evidence supporting the original consensus is wrong, or has been misinterpreted. Overturning a consensus is not meant to be easy. ”

    Turns out that consensus can be wrong?
    Who could have guessed.
    Perhaps the little line escapes the oversight.
    “all the various lines of evidence suggests a consistent picture.”

    Herein the problem for people like Steven, and others here, who see one bit of excellent proof, CO2 increase in atmosphere gives a warming atmosphere, while ignoring at least two other facts.
    The earth is not a straight test tube with only air and CO2, there are confounding features.
    Life is resilient and adaptable.

    Ignoring the fact that not all the various lines of evidence support warming to the degree that the textbooks properly say should occur.

    Strangely, from this side of the mirror, every argument used suffers from the same flaws in reverse.

    “why all the evidence supporting the original consensus is wrong, or has been misinterpreted”

    This is wrong. A lot of evidence there, most pointing in one direction.
    Only hope for Skeptics is that it has been misinterpreted. History does give a couple of well known examples.

  37. ” Maybe it’s chance, but I had an argument with a climate change denier who quoted me how his psychology teacher described the “scientific method” and gave cases accusing climatologists of not practicing it.”

    Hearsay is not science. just a clue.
    and you switched from sociology to psychology.

  38. izen says:

    @-SM
    “ah fiat comes from god?”

    Wrong way round. ‘God’ is a fiat concept.

  39. izen says:

    @-halmorris
    “If we know anything about sociology, the methodology remains pretty much stuck as it was when we knew almost nothing: surveys, questionnaires, asking binary questions about things people have always known about.”

    Science seems to start as an attempt at comprehensive description. Only once a significant part of geology, insects, stars etc are accurately described do useful explanations of the data collected emerge.

    The key part is the collaboration of all the blind men in comparing and contrasting their observations of an elephant and trying to form a consistent explanation from all the descriptions. Science is a collective/communal human activity.

  40. “If we know anything about sociology, the methodology remains pretty much stuck as it was when we knew almost nothing: surveys, questionnaires, asking binary questions about things people have always known about. ”

    There is an interesting problem here. You will find that some of us argue that climate science
    is somewhat different because it’s an observational science. We live in the beaker and cannot do controlled experiments on the climate. Sociology finds itself in a similar situation in that we cannot
    (ethically) do controlled experiments on a whole culture. We do uncontrolled experiments.

    As for “knowing anything” about sociology the first step is to look, rather than to assume it is “stuck”
    in a methodology.

    GIYF

    https://revisesociology.com/2016/01/13/experiments-in-sociology/

    https://www.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/chair-of-sociology-dam/documents/research/trust/experiments_in_sociology.pdf

    http://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2009/04/field-experiments-and-racism.html

    As for the social influences on our understanding. It’s pretty clear from labratory experiments that
    your social class can influence your perception of the world. (Bruner 1947), however I dont’ think
    that entails that we can generalize to this kind of position

  41. dikranmarsupial says:

    “ah fiat comes from god”

    obviously never driven a Grande Punto. 😦

  42. halmorris says:

    Steven Mosher “Hearsay is not science. just a clue.
    and you switched from sociology to psychology.”
    No, I wasn’t doing science, and I don’t think I see science being done in this blog. “Clue” seems a fair word for what I was offering.

  43. Susan Anderson says:

    Russell offers us collective material for wonder, an entirely non-snarky item on his blog, thanks!
    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-eclipse-of-reason.html

    And speaking of the eclipse, Justin Gillis (one of the best) reflects. Most of you don’t need to be told, but for persistent arguers (who are not skeptical at all), I’m putting in a lengthy extract here. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/climate/should-you-trust-climate-science-maybe-the-eclipse-is-a-clue.html

    If the science were brand new, that might make sense, but climate scientists have been making predictions since the end of the 19th century. This is the acid test of any scientific theory: Does it make predictions that ultimately come true?
    ….
    The earliest, made by a Swede named Svante Arrhenius in 1897, was simply that the Earth would heat up in response to emissions. That has been proved: The global average temperature has risen more than 1 degree Celsius, or almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a substantial change for a whole planet.

    By the 1960s and ’70s, climate scientists were making more detailed predictions. They said that as the surface of the Earth warmed, the temperature in the highest reaches of the atmosphere would fall. That is exactly what happened.

    The scientists told us that the Arctic would warm especially fast. They told us to expect heavier rainstorms. They told us heat waves would soar. They told us that the oceans would rise. All of those things have come to pass.
    ….
    In other fields, we do not demand absolute certainty from our scientists, because that is an impossible standard.
    ….
    We trust scientific expertise on many issues; it is, after all, the best advice we can get. Yet on climate change, we have largely ignored the scientists’ work. While it is true that we have started to spend money to clean up our emissions, the global response is in no way commensurate with the risks outlined by the experts. Why?

    Sheer inertia is one of many reasons. The changes we need to make are hard, and they demand large-scale, collective action: to rebuild our energy system, to save our forests, to change our cars, to create radically better buildings.

    But a bigger reason these changes threaten vested economic interests. Commodity companies benefit from exploiting forests. Fossil-fuel companies, to protect their profits, spent decades throwing up a smoke screen about the risks of climate change.

  44. You will find that some of us argue that climate science is somewhat different because it’s an observational science. We live in the beaker and cannot do controlled experiments on the climate.

    It’s even worse than that.

    In medicine, there are raging debates about the value of observational studies versus clinical trials. Many meaningless and misleading correlations occur in the statistics of the observational studies that are only understood and untangled after expensive and time consuming clinical trials.

    In the context of climate, what happens in the year 2100 is not even subject to observational assessment until then.

  45. “Steven Mosher “Hearsay is not science. just a clue.
    and you switched from sociology to psychology.”
    No, I wasn’t doing science, and I don’t think I see science being done in this blog. “Clue” seems a fair word for what I was offering.”

    I take a much broader view of science than you do. Simply: “making sense of the world’

    Now you had a choice in making sense of the world. you could rely on hearsay or not.
    you choose to rely on it because it fit your narrative. Regardless you were discussing SOCIOLOGY and then switched to a hearsay story about psychology. HUH? WTF?
    At least get hearsay about the right science you want to attack

  46. izen says:

    @-TE
    “In medicine, there are raging debates about the value of observational studies versus clinical trials. ”

    It’s even worse than that.
    It is well known that clinical trials are sometimes ‘gamed’ or manipulated to produce the most profitable result. Frequently the actual observed benefits of a new treatment fail to match the initial results reported from clinical trials.

    It is a telling example of how Big Pharma and and other powerful actors in society can shape science and technology. But not one often examined in STS.

    @-“In the context of climate, what happens in the year 2100 is not even subject to observational assessment until then.”

    ?
    In the context of medcine what happens to someone in the year 2100 is not even subject to observational assessment until then. However if we have a reasonable idea of their age and health we can make a valid prognosis of their future.
    If they are running a fever that is getting worse, and they show no sign of abandoning consumption of the substance making them sick…

    We cannot observe the future, but we can know with certainty facts about it. We do not have to wait till 2100, the sea is already rising, and (like death and taxes) there is no known process that will stop it.

  47. halmorris says:

    Is this abuse, contradiction, or being hit on the head lessons?

    http://www.montypython.net/scripts/argument.php

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