Science might be political, but…..

Since everyone else is writing about science having always been political, I thought I would have a go too. I will admit that this episode has made me think more about this, and there are aspects that I still find unclear, so this may not be as fully thought out as I would like.

These discussions often seems to originate from historians, or philosophers, of science who – when challenged – highlight their expertise and claim that this is well accepted within their disciplines. It seems a little ironic to appeal to authority, and suggest a consensus, in a discussion that is – essentially – challenging the authority of science. Another common theme seems to be a suggestion that it would be good if scientists recognised that science has always been political. Well, this is the bit that I wanted to focus on, because I don’t think that scientists don’t recognise this, I think they simply have a different perspective.

In my experience scientists are well aware that politics dominates decisions about what research areas to prioritise. They’re well aware that societal factors, and politics, influences who gets funded. They’re well aware that politics plays a huge role in big research projects. They’re well aware that people’s opinions, and biases, influence the peer-review process. They’re well aware that how one promotes one’s work can influence how it is received. They’re well aware that building a career is a combination of luck and networking, as well as doing good research. They’re well aware that subjective judgements determine what jobs might become available. They’re well aware that research can be used to further some people’s political goals. Essentially, I think scientists are well aware of the political/societal factors that influence the scientific process.

However, I think that most scientists still believe that, despite this, the overall scientific process is remarkably good at unconvering information about whatever it is that is being studied. Science tries to minimise the influence of politics by testing scientific ideas through collecting more data, making more observations, and developing better analysis methods and models. We also try to minimise it by not relying on individual people, or groups. Scientists also try, if possible, to consider multiple line of evidence; coherence, consilience, and consensus as Eli is wont to say. Of course, deciding if we’ve reached a position of coherence, consilience, and consensus still requires some judgement, but it is still a judgement that is weighted by the evidence, more than by opinion.

However, I’m not suggesting that science is some kind of perfect process in which we never go down dead ends, mis-interpret our results, or let our biases guide what we conclude. As this post by Philip Moriarty highlights, the day-to-day process of science can be very messy and the reality often doesn’t match the descriptions provided by many who comment on science. This doesn’t, however, mean that it still isn’t remarkably successful at developing our understanding of the world around us.

So, my overall point is those involved in the scientific process are well aware of the various political, and societal, factors that influence the practice of doing science. However, the reason they don’t immediately accept statements along the lines of all science is political is that it doesn’t really tell us how these factors actually influence our understanding, and it misrepresents the fundamental ability of the scientific process to uncover the nature of reality.

Links:
Science has always been political (post by Willard).
On questioning authority (post by Michael Tobis).
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but… (post by Philip Moriarty).

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Research, Science, Scientists, The philosophy of science, The scientific method and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

125 Responses to Science might be political, but…..

  1. Philip’s post had an interesting comment

    Does this mean that I think philosophy has no role to play in science or, more specifically, physics? Not at all. In fact, I think that we do our undergraduate (and postgraduate) students a major disservice by not introducing a great deal more philosophy into our physics courses. But to argue that scientists are somehow not qualified to speak about a process they themselves fundamentally direct is ceding rather too much ground to our colleagues in philosophy and sociology. And it’s deeply condescending to scientists.

    Although, maybe I should be somewhat circumspect, since the highlight of my day was a Nobel Laureate suggesting I didn’t understanding something very basic 🙂

  2. Willard ought to ask himself less ‘what sort of political has science always been/’ than ‘what sorts of politics have embraced it since the industrial revolution ?’

    What began as an 18th century Whig enthusiasm became a cultural cause celebre’ in Humboldt, Darwin, and Huxley’s day, and grew into the scaffolding of political platforms thereafter. Wells , Bernal and Haldane did not aim to popularize science in the service of political pluralism, and the “scientific socailism ” they applauded reached its zenith in a dark arc of one party scientific academies extending from Warsaw to Beijing.

  3. “They’re well aware that …” It is part of their daily life after all.

  4. Willard says:

    > Willard ought to ask himself less ‘what sort of political has science always been/’ than ‘what sorts of politics have embraced it since the industrial revolution ?’

    One side-effect of reading is having to ask oneself less unsollicited questions:

    Even if there was a political resolution in the form of the relativist theory of democracy, the epistemological differences that divided the American mind before the war were never resolved. The arguments made by partisans of the 1930s battles with regards to their opponents’ epistemological relation to Nazism were also made in the Cold War context. For example, rationalists and traditionalist conservatives maintained that epistemological relativism left the back door open to Soviet totalitarianism. They argued that, because people inherently believed in truth, they would, in a state of confusion, seek out the communist grand narrative as an alternative to their own intellectual society’s failures to offer them a non-relativist worldview. However, due to the fact that the Cold War captured naturalism and made it acceptable to the American elites who funded social scientific research, rationalists sought new venues to voice their displeasure with naturalist relativism. The Cold War rationalists, and other counter-progressives, especially conservatives, formed their arguments in the context of the educational shouting matches of the early Cold War.

    https://s-usih.org/2012/03/politics-of-epistemology/

  5. If I understand Willard (and I fear that his unique style gives me some doubt), he is asking ‘science’ not to be so defensive and build walls against the scourge of relativism.

    But it is not true that all philosophers/ historians of science agree. There are ‘extreme relativists’ who seem to suggest that the settled science we have is a social construct, but many more who would not agree with that, but would argue that the ‘questions’ scientists ask are often socially biased (why, for example, do pharma companies only seek treatments for diseases like Ebola during emergencies? Because prior to then, there is no market to drive investment).

    In Philip Balls’s (Nature) review of Wotton’s book The Invention of Science, he concludes:

    In any event, Wootton admits that he is seeking a middle ground: he comes not to bury relativism, but to curb its excesses. Far from renewing hostilities, this timely and thoughtful book should encourage historians of science to discover how much they agree on, and to refine the points of dispute. “The task,” Wootton says, “is to understand how reliable knowledge and scientific progress can and do result from a flawed, profoundly contingent, culturally relative, all-too-human process.” That is beautifully put and, in my view, right on the mark.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/524412a?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20150827&spMailingID=49408427&spUserID=MjA1NzcwMjE4MQS2&spJobID=743993671&spReportId=NzQzOTkzNjcxS0

    The problem statements like ‘Science has always been political’ is that is they are the usual clickbait, intended to invoke debate.

    As I was taught a long time ago, be suspicious of arguments where ‘all’ is used (or implied) when ‘some’ is the truth.

    It is no wonder that philosophers of science love spending so much time in the past, because it is so much easier to construct a narrative that fits with their theories of how science works. If they are looking for relativism, they are sure to find it. But it is no surprise that Darwin and Wallace came up with the same idea, independently. This happens all the time in what we might call ‘pure’ science. That is, science where its applications to society are not clearly part of the funding process or the experimental or theoretical framing.

    The it is very clearly that as soon as the framing starts to impinge on societal issues and concerns (nuclear fission, gene therapy, …) that there is a high level of contention, and the science has to try to stay clear of the cross fire (even when it has asked the questions that may help to cause the fire … ).

    So some science, particularly in applied fields, is political. And where it starts to challenge vested interests or cherished belief systems, it will become political with or without the help of the original framing for the research.

    Sir Mark Walport, in his 2015 Harveian Oration to the Royal College of Surgeons, explored a distinction between pollable and non-rollable questions:

    My PhD supervisor, Sir Peter Lachmann, has framed the distinction between the subjective
and the objective in a different way, by considering whether questions are ‘pollable’ or ‘non- pollable’; that is, whether a question can be answered in principle by a vote (a pollable question), or whether the question has a right answer that is independent of individual preferences and opinions (a non-pollable question). This distinction can be easily illustrated by a couple of examples. It is a non-pollable question as to whether there is an anthropogenic contribution
to climate change. There is a correct answer to this question and your opinion or mine is ultimately irrelevant. The fact that there may be uncertainties about the scale and the nature
of the contribution does not change the basic nature of the question. In contrast, it is a pollable question as to whether nuclear energy is an acceptable solution to providing low-carbon power, and I will return to this later.

    The natural sciences are directed towards answering non-pollable questions. But pollable questions are also in the domain of the sciences. The tools of the social sciences are important for analysing pollable questions, though they cannot provide singular answers. So understanding how people think about the risks and benefits of nuclear power is an important question for the social sciences. Indeed, there are many pollable questions that arise as a result of our pursuit of the natural sciences and our ability to harness the ‘secrets of nature’ for benefit and for harm.
    https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/rcp-harveian-oration-2015-medicine-science-and-values-professor-sir-mark-walport

    So, in the end, my heart is with ATTP but my head is with Willard (or at least what I think he is saying).

    My framing is that scientists need to understand when they are getting embroiled in ‘pollable questions’ and not shy away from it, or claim they can insulate themselves sufficiently to only work on non-pollable ones. Because they are a very important voice, but not the only voice, in resolving how we address societal problems and opportunities.

    As for the extreme relativists … they have very little useful to add, and like global warming deniers, we can waste huge amounts of time arguing with them, with very little to show for it.

  6. angech says:

    Different concepts.
    Science can be science done by people , computers, aliens etc. we do not need to have people doing science for science to be done.
    But science politicises people.
    Having done it, having researched climate change, people, some scientists, interpret the results. While some may do it apolitically, any use of the findings is politic because it involves people using “So, my overall point is those involved in the scientific process are well aware of the various political, and societal, factors that influence the practice of doing science. However, the reason they don’t immediately accept statements along the lines of all science is political is that it doesn’t really tell us how these factors actually influence our understanding, and it misrepresents the fundamental ability of the scientific process to uncover the nature of reality.“
    The misrepresentation only occurs when people use the science.

  7. Tom Dayton says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with ATTP’’s original post.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    I also fully agree with ATTP’s post, it sums up my experience.

    They’re well aware that societal factors, and politics, influences who gets funded.

    Indeed, IIRC the EPSRC now have a section in their grant proposal forms (or are moving towards having one) to do with the societal impact (both positive and negative) of the proposed work. Ironically I don’t think the societal impact of including this section has been considered; I suspect it may make it more difficult to get funding for fundamental research, where the impacts are either nebulous, unquantifiable or undemonstrable. It would be a brave researcher indeed who simply wrote “there is no direct societal impact of my research”, even though Einstein could reasonably have said that about the theory of relativity. I work on improving a small corner of statistical methodology to make sure we evaluate machine learning models properly. It is difficult for me to argue that my work has a direct impact on society. It seems also pretty difficult to identify a political component in it (IMHO).

    The Research Excellence Framework has a large “impact” (on society) component, so our funding depends strongly on our awareness and understanding of where our research fits into society.

    The influence of politics on research funding is obvious from the special programmes the funding bodies set up (rather than “responsive mode” funding where the researcher proposes the line of research).

    It is difficult to be a researcher and not be aware of how science is a social/political activity.

    For my own research

    However, it remains a career limiting behaviour not to follow where the evidence leads you because of political beliefs or other ideological influences. In that respect, there is a part of science that is deliberately apolitical, that shouldn’t be ignored in sweeping statements like “Science has always been Political”, which could easily be misconstrued.

  9. Steven Mosher says:

    “As I was taught a long time ago, be suspicious of arguments where ‘all’ is used (or implied) when ‘some’ is the truth.”

    think harder

  10. Steven Mosher says:

    “The problem statements like ‘Science has always been political’ is that is they are the usual clickbait, intended to invoke debate.”

    cant have that!

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The problem statements like ‘Science has always been political’ is that is they are the usual clickbait, intended to invoke debate.”

    or book sales ;o)

  12. Steven, I won’t mirror your response “Think harder”, even if you deserve it, because it is a condescending and content-free remark.
    If you want to explore the ‘all’ versus ‘some’ point I made, I recommend Thouless:
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=2ahUKEwjarOfo58jcAhXLI8AKHYFuCAgQFjADegQIChAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdivinetruth.com%2Fwww%2Fen%2Fpdf%2FPeople%2FOther%2F19530101-1300-ABK-TOULR-1300%2520Straight%2520And%2520Crooked%2520Thinking.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1AU2IH5EvGAKLOcgrb4Kol

  13. JCH says:

    OT, the irony:

    Accounting for changing temperature patterns increases historical estimates of climate sensitivity

    Abstract

    Eight Atmospheric General Circulation Models (AGCMs) are forced with observed historical (1871‐2010) monthly sea‐surface‐temperature (SST) and sea‐ice variations using the AMIP II dataset. The AGCMs therefore have a similar temperature pattern and trend to that of observed historical climate change. The AGCMs simulate a spread in climate feedback similar to that seen in coupled simulations of the response to CO2 quadrupling. However the feedbacks are robustly more stabilizing and the effective climate sensitivity (EffCS) smaller. This is due to a ‘pattern effect’ whereby the pattern of observed historical SST change gives rise to more negative cloud and LW clear‐sky feedbacks. Assuming the patterns of long‐term temperature change simulated by models, and the radiative response to them, are credible, this implies that existing constraints on EffCS from historical energy budget variations give values that are too low and overly constrained, particularly at the upper end. For example, the pattern effect increases the long‐term Otto et al. (2013) EffCS median and 5‐95% confidence interval from 1.9K (0.9‐5.0K) to 3.2K (1.5‐8.1K).

    Back to regular programming.

  14. Steven Mosher says:

    richard. if you are taught to be wary of all arguments that imply all, well just saying…

    also when some says all but the truth is some, then the charitable thing to do is to say…. the stronger version of your argument is “some x” so lets assume the stronger version and discuss that.

    you see your response doesnt have to be dictated by what you were taught.

    you have choices.

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM “richard. if you are taught to be wary of all arguments that imply all, well just saying…”

    you seem to have inserted an additional “all” that wasn’t in Richard original statement.

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard also did not say or imply that you shouldn’t be wary of that general rule.

  17. dikranmarsupial says:

    It is ironic that SM should talk of the “charitable thing to do” after responding with the somewhat uncharitable “think harder”, rather than just sharing the potential for irony in the rule. ;o)

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    jch.

    nice study.

    ar6 on sensitivity is going to be a tough chapter to write.

  19. Steven Mosher says:

    dk .

    pointing out the irony would have been uncivilized. better to let one discover for himself.

    but note, charitability is a choice.

    you can also choose to be a jerk. or pendantic. i could have pointed out that his source doesnt exactly make the case he made.

    finally, dk.

    imply.

    think about that.

    implications are not in the text.

  20. dikranmarsupial says:

    “pointing out the irony would have been uncivilized.”

    There is nothing uncivilized in sharing (and enjoying) irony.

    “but note, charitability is a choice. … you can also choose to be a jerk. or pendantic”

    Indeed, it is those choices makes them an expression of the “real you” ;o)

  21. JCH says:

    ar6 on sensitivity is going to be a tough chapter to write.

    Lotsa politicians/lobbyists lined up behind energy balance models and nonlinear climate change. Odd.

  22. dave s says:

    The start of this thread reminds me about the 1840 visit of the young Swiss natural philosopher Louis Agassiz to an undercut cliff on on the south side of Blackford Hill, near Edinburgh. He identified scratches as evidence of past glaciation, an ice age extending over Britain. This explained geological features which previously, in the political and religious context of the 1820s, had been proposed as evidence of a world-wide flood. It raised new questions about geologically recent climate change…

    Among those interested in the coming and going of glaciers, John Tyndall was a keen alpinist. He came across Claude Pouillet’s publication based on Fourier’s 1820s theory of global temperatures, and in 1859 experimented to test the idea that “the rays from the sun and fixed stars could reach the Earth through the atmosphere more easily than the rays emanating from the earth could get back to space”. The results weren’t immediately political, but since 1980 they’ve attracted some attention……

  23. Dave_Geologist says:

    Andrews et al.: Not too surprising. Warming path influences ECS estimate, warming distribution influences ECS estimate, global average ECS estimates are provably wrong. And anyway, what’s the point of making estimates which ignore 93% of the heat? Other then for polemical purposes, of course.

  24. This thread begs the question what pray tell isn’t political?
    Seems to me everything is political from the partners you pursue to the place you live and eat and study and work and on and on

    This is an example of what I refer to as crazy-making. The tragedy is that rationalist seems so willing to run with the contrarian script of adding layer of irrelevant confusion and obfuscation.

    What about about steering the dialogue to a clear statement of science is? ( https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2018/07/i-am-earth-centrist.html )

    “Science on the other hand is humanity’s recipe for learning about the physical world and its processes as honestly as possible:

    Learning is the goal, fidelity to physical facts is the gold standard.

    Science is a world where Free Speech doesn’t mean it’s okay to lie and slander with malicious intent.

    Mistakes are for learning.

    Informed constructive skepticism is the rule.

    Dishonest bluster and bullying is a crime.”

  25. Dave_Geologist says:

    dave s (and everyone else). Re Agassiz.

    Hoffman’s GSL Fermor Lecture on Neoproterozoic glaciations is well worth a watch. It starts with a historical overview of the recognition of climate change by geologists and physicists. How each discipline got some things right, some wrong, some right for the wrong reasons, how religion played a hand. A useful piece of History of Science IMHO, by a top scientist. An example of Science in Action, showing the Scientific Method from the rich-philosopher era to the modern day. Some soundbites:

    J Leslie (physicist, 1804) Swiss moraines as indicators of glacial recession due to climate warming.

    W (& C) Herschel (astronomers, 1800) discovery of calorific (IR) radiation.

    Fourier (physicist, 1824) “and the temperature rises until the heat that is dissipated shall be exactly equal to that flowing in”

    Stefan-Boltzmann (I won’t even attempt to html the formula 😦 ).

    Problems of the “drift” (glacial till): erratic boulders, ice-gouged surfaces. “Drift” because they thought it was caused by icebergs rafted onto land during The Flood.

    J Smith (geologist and Biblical scholar, 1836) Arctic marine fauna above sea level in Western Scotland

    J Smith (1839), E Forbes (1845) Arctic marine fauna succeeds freshwater sands with peat and plant roots; post-Drift, Arctic fauna migrate northward over time (cooling and sea level rise; then warming and sea-level fall; you can see how The Flood would reconcile that contradiction by magicking more water in and out of existence; actually the land was sinking due to glacial loading then rising during unloading)

    Agassiz (geologist) and Venetz (engineer), 1830s, supra-Alpine glaciation (not The Flood)

    The Scottish Glacial Revival (Ramsay, Croll, Jamieson, Geikie x2,1860-74) Start of the modern (geological/glaciological) synthesis.

    Four stages of glacial drift science: Neglect (to 1835); Hysteria (caused by Agassiz, peak around 1840); Rejection (until the 1860s); Acceptance (through today).

    Tyndall (physicist, 1861) IR absorption by CO2.

    The rest is probably familiar to most of you 😉 .

  26. mt says:

    “Everything is political”. Exactly so.

    In what sense does “X has always been political” inform us more if X is science versus if X is some other activity such as bicycle repair?

    The question is not whether there is some plausible sense in which “all science is political” is true. Nor apparently whether there is some (albeit according to the slogan’s advocates deprecated and dismissed) plausible sense in which it is false. We agree on this.

    The question is why bother to say it at all if the purpose is anything *other* than to challenge the authoritativeness of science.

    But both the slogan’s originator, and its key defenders here, are unclear about what information the slogan is intended to convey. They dismiss the risk of its ancillary meaning. But surely it’s a cost/benefit calculation. It’s really not clear what the benefit of the slogan is. A paraphrase of what it is intended to convey, and a clear statement of to whom it is intended to convey it, remain missing.

    That it maps onto the most egregious relativism seems to me and others a bug; I think to its originator it may be a feature. I still am not clear what the slogan *is actually trying to say* other than “nothing is real” in the view of its defenders here.

    Strawberry fields forever.

  27. Richard Erskine ( @EssaysConcern ) quoted: “The natural sciences are directed towards answering non-pollable questions. But pollable questions are also in the domain of the sciences. The tools of the social sciences are important for analysing pollable questions, though they cannot provide singular answers.

    Social science may study pollable questions like a physical scientist a falling apple, but the understanding of that pollable question would ideally also be non-pollable.

    citizenschallenge: “This thread begs the question what pray tell isn’t political?

    I would expect that any social activity has political aspects, even poetry, white paintings and atonal music.

  28. izen says:

    @-mt
    “In what sense does “X has always been political” inform us more if X is science versus if X is some other activity such as bicycle repair? ”

    Instead of bicycle repair, how about ‘Religion’ ?

    @-“The question is why bother to say it at all if the purpose is anything *other* than to challenge the authoritativeness of science.”(Religion)

    As a reminder to theologians that a claim to be revealed truth independent of individual or institutional behaviour is unwarranted ?

    When Religions are accused of being political it implies that ‘proper’ theology should be separate from the State, any collusion is toxic to both.

    When climate contrarians accuse science of having a political agenda they are also referencing the idea that pure science is only possible when it is separated from politics.

  29. Mitch says:

    Upthread many have made the point that “fundable” science is strongly constrained by political priorities. However, no one has mentioned that one of the first things a good research scientist learns is how to couch the problem they actually want to study in terms of the political priorities, i.e., a certain level of camouflage.

  30. dave s says:

    Thanks to Dave_Geologist for the lecture link, a lot of interesting stuff to get to grips with. I can think of some more related input, but your list is pretty well focussed on the topic.

    mt, Audra’s slogan “science has always been political” looks like stirring up argument over something which is both a truism and, in a way, false. All human life can be perceived as political in a broad sense, and Willard’s already put it in some context.

    Science with claims to apolitical objective reality can overdo self-righteousness, which I think Audra is aiming to puncture, but at heart the modern argument for science is that it works, overcoming the politics of individual scientists – the process aims to winnow out working results irrespective of conscious or unconscious attempts to skew the outcome. Not perfect, but a pretty good track record.

    Science was on a pedestal in the late 20th century, but the anti-science of creationism, alternative medicine and denial of climate science has put scientists on the defensive, just at a time when the internet gives everyone a forum for endless arguments. As we see.

  31. John Hartz says:

    In the immortal words of Tip O’Neill, a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives,

    All politics is local!

  32. mt says:

    me:

    “why bother to say it at all if the purpose is anything *other* than to challenge the authoritativeness ”

    izen:

    “a claim to be revealed truth independent of individual or institutional behaviour is unwarranted ”

    this is exactly a challenge to the authoritativeness of claims of fact on hte grounds of difference of opinion on behavior; it doesn’t satisfy “other than”

    “‘proper’ theology should be separate from the State, any collusion is toxic to both”

    an assertion that while X has always been political, it SHOULD NOT be, i.e., a frank admission that “political” was an accustion

    “When climate contrarians accuse science of having a political agenda they are also referencing the idea that pure science is only possible when it is separated from politics.”

    Well, yes, this is the point precisely. They mean “climate science is political” as de-authorizing.

    I can’t tell if you’re trying to agree or disagree, but you certainly are backing my points up, and attributing exactly the meaning that Willard says is not relevant.

  33. mt says:

    “All X is Y” or “no X is Y” constitute proper Popperian theories. They are very strong claims which require only a single counterexample to refute them. There are indeed important senses of “science” wherein science is utterly apolitical, so Wolfe’s claim is easily refuted.

    If Wolfe had said “scientific institutions have always been political” that would be quite unexceptionable and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to stake out my position that science in the sense I mean (it appears we are calling it “scientia” in this venue) is epistemically exceptional, territory I’ve been meaning to stake out for a while.

    So I’m grateful for the overreach in that regard, though I remain convinced that Wolfe’s formulation is unhelpful as a public-facing “slogan”.

  34. John Hartz says:

    A current example of scientists engaging in the political arena…

    Nobel Peace Laureates Call on Governor Brown to Phase Out Fossil Fuel Production (in California) by Hannah McKinnon, Oil Change International, July 31, 2018

    If you are inclined to follow the Nobel Peace Laureates lead, you can do so by going to: the Brown’s Last Chance website.

  35. izen says:

    @-mt
    “I can’t tell if you’re trying to agree or disagree, but you certainly are backing my points up, and attributing exactly the meaning that Willard says is not relevant.”

    As SM would say, read harder.

    I am DISagreeing with you.
    I am backing up your point that when climate contrarians say it is not science because it has a political agenda they are trying to de-legitimise science.
    Just as secularists try to undermine theology by accusing it of having a political agenda.

    Defending that attack in the same way that a theologian might, by claiming that you have a direct line to accurate knowledge because you are a practicing scientist, therefore you are untainted by politics is not effective, or true.

    I think you may have misconstrued Willard’ point as well. It is not the accusation that science is distorted by politics that is ‘not relevent’.
    It is the erronious defense that is made when you invoke an abstract qualia of ‘authority’ for science.
    Or as Willard terms it Scientia.

  36. Willard says:

    > attributing exactly the meaning that Willard says is not relevant.

    A quote might be nice.

    Here’s one that seems compatible with izen’s point:

    The Pure and Noble Scientist imagery only reinforces the High Expectation Father mode for scientific practices. Ted’s hammering of how ideology subduces climate science presumes the very myth that science should be value-free.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/science-has-always-been-political/

    (Note the “Ted.”)

    ***

    My turn:

    “Everything is political”. Exactly so.

    The domain of discourse remains unclear. It could comprise lots of things, or lots and lots and lots and lots of things.

    The pound or so of molecules from my laptop. The third card to be dealt during my Poker game tomorrow. A lawn. Love. Lebron. Books. Finishing a puzzle. Generality. Rainy days. The color between blue and green. The Victorialand album. The number 74623. The Löb formula. The tercio.

    Parts. Glands. Mooses. Trees. Six Significant Landscapes. Likes. Authoritarianism. Epinephrine. Polishing. The substitution interpretation of quantifiers. Present perfect. Winning the 1979 Stanley Cup against all odds and Don Cherry.

    Another source of obscurity. “Science” could refer to science in general, or science as a whole, or the sum of all the sciences, or each and every single science, those that ever existed or those that are conceivably possible.

    And another. The verb “to be” can indicate inclusion, the predication of a property, some form of causation, mere labeling, perhaps other things.

    Yes, at least another thing, which makes everything I’ve just said quite secondary to what’s going on here. The word “political” connotes something. Something that is not meliorative. Something that could be bad. Very bad. Unclean. Foul. Corrupt. Squalid. Wicked. Dirty. Bureaucratic. It certainly could not connote something like civility, community, governance, or sovereignty,

    Politics is vile. Science is pure. Politics is sophistry. Science is truth. Politics is vicious. Science is noble.

    And then there’s climate change.

  37. mt says:

    Izen, your stipulation that the attack exists is helpful to me, not to Willard, who has claimed that this attack is nearly non-existent (among the contrarians he finds interesting, it may be true that this formulation is rate, but among the broader set of people people adamantly avoiding the facts, it is common.)

    ===
    as for

    “Defending that attack in the same way that a theologian might, by claiming that you have a direct line to accurate knowledge because you are a practicing scientist, therefore you are untainted by politics is not effective, or true.”

    Well, even at face value, that leaves the question of how you suggest one should respond.

    That said, I reject that as a summary of what I am trying to claim.

    It’s a strawman formulation, albeit possibly an effective one if you also want to take me down a notch. It may be what you can effectively accuse me of claiming, but it’s not what I am claiming.

    ===

    What I am claiming:

    1) Reality is real enough for practical purposes. (Apparently stipulated by all parties here, though not by any means by all at the academies.)

    2) There are effective ways of describing some aspects of reality, models which have such astonishing precision that those used to them usefully think of them as “true”.

    3) The word “science” applies in various ways to the process and content of describing reality in that way. One of the core meanings is the *result* of that exploration. APparently it’s tolerated in this discussion to call it “scientia”. Scientia has an extraordinary epistemic status because of the depth and precision to which it can be applied to some aspects of empirical reality.

    4) When “scientia” reveals information of practical importance, it is madness to split hairs about incommensurable theories or social constructions. One should evaluate the information, and act on the information.

    5) Frequently the required actions are political in the most fraught sense – they rub up against ideologies, genuine or constructed. But the information itself is not ideological in origin. To suggest that the information is ideological is one of the strategies for delaying or avoiding inconvenient and costly changes, as you say.

    You can caricature this as a claim of personal privilege but it isn’t that at all. It’s a claim of epistemic privilege for scientia, not for “practicing scientists”.

    ===

    Finally, my core theme to which all this and most of my efforts at serious writing relates:

    When charlatans put on the airs of science without actually having the truth-seeking ethic or with a gross overestimate of their own capacities. they interfere with the process of society coping with its environment by understanding the best information available.

    It is this process, this “fake news” of the scientific world, that seems to be sending us to our dire and stupid fate. If we are to escape the worst future scenarios (we have long since escaped the best ones) that process must be halted.

    If a little scientific arrogance is needed in this situation, so be it. It’s better than cowardly false modesty. Those who know what they are talking about should claim it.

    If you know of another way to get the message across, I’d be glad to hear it. Given that I don’t really think anybody knows what we should do, I think the best approach is for each of us to tell the truth as each of us perceives it.

    Those of us who spend every day surrounded by the evidence of our planetary insanity know more about it than people who don’t. That is nothing to apologise for.

    ===

    I await a proposal of a useful alternative, for the climate situation in particular, and for other sciences caught in a similar bind, one that doesn’t have us sound so off-puttingly arrogant but somehow gets the g-d point across to the actual public thankyouverymuch.

    So far you’ve told us what not to do, viz “claiming that you have a direct line to accurate knowledge because you are a practicing scientist” which is an effective caricature but I think not a fair summary. But even if it’s exactly the upshot of what I’m saying, you haven’t provided an alternative.

    It may well be too late. We’ve been ougunned and outmaneuvered and outspent by clever propagandists, and this shows no sign of changing. There may be no solution at all.

    But all you have told me so far is what NOT to do. I await some suggestion of what to actually DO other than stating the facts as I understand them as clearly as I can, including a very clear claim of certainty on the parts of the situation about which I am certain.

    If it’s all futile, at least this honest and frank approach is consistent with the scientific ethos.

  38. Willard says:

    > I await a proposal of a useful alternative, for the climate situation in particular, and for other sciences caught in a similar bind, one that doesn’t have us sound so off-puttingly arrogant but somehow gets the g-d point across to the actual public thankyouverymuch.

    The sentence before the “Pure and Noble scientist” I just quoted, right up the fall of the post:

    If we want to promote the idea that science is our best tool to dig reality, we need to get real over science politics.

    […]

    In any event, not only science has always been political, it may need to become more political than ever. Think about it: just like women are operating a sea change in politics this year, why not wish for more scientists? Hopefully, more scientists would mean science-based policies.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/science-has-always-been-political/

    Yet another Twitter spat led to this:

    This might deserve another post.

    ***

    There’s also Jonathan’s suggestion to defend scientific institutions:

  39. Brigitte says:

    Ok, my last thoughts on the matter (and the whole IPCC stuff is a red herring I think). To misuse John Law Austin (How to do things with words). The statement ‘Science is political’ has basically no meaning as the terms are ill-defined and nobody has yet made clear what ‘is’ means. HOWEVER, once you utter ‘Science is political’, even put it on a placard (held by a bunny), this utterance acquires enormous performative (or illocutionary) force. It warns people of science, tells them basically not to touch it with a barge pole, makes them think that science is as dirty a business as politics, politicians and all things political. Uttering something like this in the current situation when politics has become a toxic affair is a dangerous political act.

  40. dikranmarsupial says:

    Mitch wrote:

    “However, no one has mentioned that one of the first things a good research scientist learns is how to couch the problem they actually want to study in terms of the political priorities, i.e., a certain level of camouflage.”

    This is a quite severe indictment of the way science is funded, as it is encouraging behaviors in academics that academics really should avoid, but that is the way things are going… It’s also discriminatory to those with autistic spectrum disorders who are likely to have difficulty with that, and who I suspect are over-represented in academia (and not just STEM subjects).

    “illocutionary” new word of the day for me!

  41. izen says:

    @-mt
    “What I am claiming:
    1) Reality is real enough for practical purposes. ”

    -Okay, although naive Realism is problematic, it falls over as a basis for epistemic closure.

    “2) There are effective ways of describing some aspects of reality, models which have such astonishing precision that those used to them usefully think of them as “true”.”

    -A mistake, they are accurate as a local and temporal optimum understanding.
    But the History of science indicates that rather like biological evolution, it is an incrementally changing body of knowledge that selects for the ‘good enough’ form in the current knowledge environment.
    It has a lot of vestigial structures…

    “3) The word “science” applies in various ways to the process and content of describing reality in that way. … Scientia has an extraordinary epistemic status because of the depth and precision to which it can be applied to some aspects of empirical reality.”

    The claim that “Scientia has an extraordinary epistemic status” looks to me very like the theologian’s claim that they have extraordinary epistemic status because they have a Torah, Bible or Quoran…
    Scientia has an epistemic status because of the utility of the understanding it has evolved. It is not extraordinary, just evidence based. And context dependent.

    4) When “scientia” reveals information of practical importance, it is madness to split hairs about incommensurable theories or social constructions. One should evaluate the information, and act on the information.

    -Yes.

    5) Frequently the required actions are political in the most fraught sense – they rub up against ideologies, genuine or constructed. But the information itself is not ideological in origin.

    -I think this distinction is falling into the trap of separating science from politics when it interacts, or rubs up against ideological, or political (or economic) aspects of the social system. It is a false dichotomy.

    “To suggest that the information is ideological is one of the strategies for delaying or avoiding inconvenient and costly changes, as you say.”

    -It carries the unstated presumption that as Willard summerised;
    “Politics is vile. Science is pure. Politics is sophistry. Science is truth. Politics is vicious. Science is noble.”
    To accept that framing is a mistake.

    “You can caricature this as a claim of personal privilege but it isn’t that at all. It’s a claim of epistemic privilege for scientia, not for “practicing scientists”.”

    -I did not intend to caricature the claim as one of personal privilege. I was trying (badly worded I admit) to dispute the claim of epistemic privilege for scientia independent of practising scientists, the institutions and methodology or science, or evidence.

    “If you know of another way to get the message across, I’d be glad to hear it.”

    -Somewhere across this sprawling 3-thread discussion I have addressed this. In fact I have repeated points and said rather more than is optimal in part because I have been surprised, and a little depressed at the enthusiasm with which some have embraced that framing of science as pure, true and noble while separate from politics that is corrupt, vile and vicious.

    Science and politics are inextricably linked. The combination may be vile corrupt etc as with the US opioid epidemic, or it can be an engine of progress and improvement, as with the development and wide application of vaccination.

    If opponents accuse science of having a political agenda, accept that when science provides our best guess about ‘reality’ that impacts the current ideology/economics/social order it is political.
    But the historical record shows that while that may often be science enabling the development of weapons of war (a very common aspect of scientific ‘advancing’) it also enables the elimination of disease, as with John Snow and the pump handle or the reduction of malnutrition with the Green revolution.

    Those trying to oppose, delay or disparage Scientia by claiming it has a political agenda invariably have a political ideology they view as intrinsically evil, but adhere to an ideology they consider good noble and true. The science they attack is always associated with the political ideology they regard as evil, not the one they believe is good.
    (a fault committed by both sides)

    Try pointing out that science has the SAME intentions as their preferred ideology, to improve the lot of the human condition by strengthening those aspects of the status quo that are beneficial to mankind, and provide more resources and better defence against the dangers and damage that ‘natural’ and anthropogenic processes may inflict on societies, nations and the global system.

    I have no illusions about the effectiveness of such approach, I suspect it will be just as futile as claiming to have a source of apolitical absolute epistemic certainty.
    But at least it would avoid falling into the trap of the framing of the issue as one of pure science versus evil politics.

  42. angech says:

    1) Reality is real enough for practical purposes.
    “Those of us who spend every day surrounded by the evidence of our planetary insanity know more about it than people who don’t. this “fake news” of the scientific world, that seems to be sending us to our dire and stupid fate. If we are to escape the worst future scenarios (we have long since escaped the best ones)”
    We are all bit players in the play. The play is certainly not written by a benign and benevolent author. The fate of a lot of humanity through history, is dire circumstances and stupid decisions.
    It is a bit like asking a leopard to change its spots.
    Not happening.
    This does not mean that you personally should give in, not care about people and accep the seeming inevitable.
    TINA.
    You should keep going as you are, putting up scientific claims and calling out the charlatans as you see them.
    I see no other politic, as in well intentioned and honest, way for you to do so.
    “If it’s all futile, at least this honest and frank approach is consistent with the scientific ethos.“
    Exactly.
    You will find a lot of people on this thread and at skeptic blogs believe that the end justifies the means. That using any resort to save humanity is worth the cost.
    Cannot argue against that either, just feel that lines in the sand on ethical behaviour should be drawn and tried to be adhered to where possible.
    If you cannot win hitting above the belt then you should not be fighting or the value you place on the prize needs reassessing. I.e. the other fighter actually has a better scientific argument.
    Hit harder.

  43. Dave_Geologist says:

    John, “A current example of scientists engaging in the political arena…” Well yes, but that’s scientists engaging in politics. Presumably few if any are climatologists, so they’re not engaging their scientific expertise, except insofar as they recognise that consensus in “normal science” = our best representation of reality. We’d all be quite happy with that I think. Google “climate science is political” and that’s not what you’ll find among the top hits. Rather you’ll find people who say that consensus climate science is untrue, and is either deliberately faked for political motives, or occasionally, accidentally faked by people who’ve fallen into the trap of deceiving themselves. Which would be an amusing example of Projection, if the problem wasn’t so real and pressing.

    Here’s a current example of children engaging in the political arena. The “climate science is political” people would say “their liberal parents put them up to it”.

  44. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks for your thanks dave s. I can’t remember if Hoffman had the same Eureka moment I had re the contradictory evidence of sea-level rise during cooling and sea-level fall during warming. It would seem to defy the laws of physics, so “God Dunnit” was an easy way out. Some might even have claimed it as scientific evidence for the Flood. Huge volumes of water had to come from somewhere other than melting ice. In a nice symmetry, the missing physics was the plastic lithosphere below the brittle outer layers, which allowed isostatic fall and rise under varying ice loads – also required for Plate Tectonics. There’s a climate symmetry too – Like the Medieval Warm Period, the confounding effect was local, and just by bad luck happened to impact one of the cradles of modern science.

    You used to be able to get these videos on the GSL website. It’s being rebuilt and has been half-broken for a year of more, so maybe they were just freeing up space. Or maybe they’re saving Fellows’ money by letting YouTube host it. OK I suppose as long as they keep the master copy. Any theocracy that bans YouTube videos by content probably also bans the mainstream geological, biological etc. sites.

  45. Dave_Geologist says:

    You will find a lot of people on this thread and at skeptic blogs believe that the end justifies the means. That using any resort to save humanity is worth the cost.

    Really? I don’t recall reading that. Not once. That it’s worth some cost certainly. Usually some form of carbon tax and/or regulation. But that falls as far short of “using any resort to save humanity” or “the end justifies the means” as me stepping out my chair falls short of me flying to the moon.

    We already have taxes and regulation, some presumably for stuff you like (military? police? healthcare? to keep airliners from crashing into each other as they approach airports?). There’s nothing existential about taxes and regulation. On the rare occasions where population growth comes into it (rare, because most on here are savvy enough to know that most of the CO2 is emitted by rich countries with low population growth, and that we can reduce emissions by ways other than rationing life), it’s been in a voluntary context AFIAK.

  46. Science makes humanity more powerful, whether you see that as intrinsically good or evil will depend on your view of humanity. With all problems that are still there, I feel that long-term a lot has improved.

  47. mt says:

    izen is right in some ways, and wrong in others. But Brigitte is entirely right.

    Science makes no claims to priestly authority, only to its claims being empirically authoritative.

    This indeed takes place in a political context, especially for the matters which interest us here.

    But that makes meta-statements especially political, and some sensitivity to their political import outside the academy would seem necessary. Intramural academic squabbling and turf battles are ludicrous in the extreme in our present circumstances, and I’m tempering my words here. Color me exasperated.

    Let’s focus on what, for want of a better name, we might call the real world, please.

    ’nuff said on my account.

  48. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Science makes no claims to priestly authority, only to its claims being empirically authoritative. ”

    well put (although I don’t really like “authoritative”). Bit difficult to have priestly authority and nullius in verba simultaneously! ;o)

  49. John Hartz says:

    mt & dikranmarsupial: You will want to read:

    Scientism: Is it a straw man or a legitimate critique?, Logic of Science, Aug 1, 2018

  50. dikranmarsupial says:

    JH, thanks for the link, oddly enough “scientism” was the word that came to mind when I saw mt’s comment. Massimo Piglucci has recently co-edited a book on scientism that is on my reading list.

  51. Willard says:

    > Brigitte is entirely right.

    Since all Brigitte does is to repeat your point, mt, that’s self-approval more than anything.

    If you look at some numbers, you should see that people tend to trust scientists more than they trust science. The last researcher who used the word “toxic” in ClimateBall is DanK, whose work on cultural cognition makes me suspect that scientists defend a myth about science to preserve their own identity. Rooting for an authority you don’t have anymore can lead to a reactionary stance. Should I spell out what a collective of reactionary minds can do to this world?

    The main problem with rebranding Science to what it once was is that those who are not scientists could not care less about scientific lanes enforcement. To think that the myth of Science will save us leads to an unsubstantiated bet. And those who’d wish that an immanent authority speak through them still have an image problem:

    Even if I grant you your wish that everyone believes that Science is Ze Thing, we’ll need megaphones. I’d like that megaphone not be a Rick (from Rick & Morty) clone if you don’t mind.

    We’ll also need something like a deliberative democracy. Since that idea flew above everyone’s head, I’ll may need to work on it. I know next to nothing to political philosophy, so I’ll learn a few things along the way.

  52. Willard says:

    And since we’re into illocutionary acts, if we’re to be serious about reducing Science to ze authoritative source of knowledge, the following claim is infelicitous:

    Science makes no claims to priestly authority, only to its claims being empirically authoritative.

    Science isn’t something that claims anything. Scientists are entities that can. And why of course when some scientists pretend that Science speaks through them, they act like priests. Try to special plead your way out of this with “but I’m a science priest, I am telling the Provisory Truth!”

    Even priests can be right from time to time. When scientists will get caught defending untruths, which is bound to happen, how will you defend the accusation of participating in a cargo cult? The best way to make sure that scientists have no authority over Science is to dichotomize the two. Exactly like the Galileo gambit.

    Arguing with contrarians would have told you all this, insofar as you’re listening to what they say. Something something your ClimateBall opponent.

  53. John Hartz says:

    Dikran: Your welcome. I wonder if the person behind The Logic of Science was prompted to post on Scientism after reading this comment thread..

  54. dikranmarsupial says:

    JH sadly it is very common, especially the bit about applying science to topics where science can’t really say anything.

  55. dave s says:

    @ Dave_Geologist, thanks for that anecdote about the impact of finding that isostatic rise after ice ages caused local sea level fall.

    By a convenient coincidence, I’ve just led a group of walkers round Ardgowan Castle near Inverkip, where what had been a promontory with sea cliffs on each side was elevated above a raised beach to become a good site for a fortress, captured in 1303 by Robert the Bruce for the English king Edward. A lot of geological effects of the ice age around here.

  56. dave s says:

    Willard, as a non-scientist, my understanding is that science is a process of continued correction.
    It has credence and a claim to authority because it works, and its outcomes are tested. Where scientists are “caught defending untruths”, this is through someone else using the scientific process to determine what was the untruth – if it’s not done through science, what are you proposing?

    Of course we know such scientific greats as Woy Spencer are guided by divine revelation (see the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation) and the repeated untruths he’s defended are nonetheless Just as support of Sound Science. He has conceded corrections at times, so all is presumably forgiven.

  57. Dave_Geologist says:

    If you down the coast a bit, I think to Largs, there is (perhaps was) a coastal outcrop to give parties of geology students a WTF moment. They get to see a bunch of volcanic rocks then what looks like an agglomerate (lumps of rock embedded in volcanic ash; lithified now of course). Then you find the odd piece of dressed stone or brick in with the basalt cobbles. A bit like finding a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian.

    Turns out it’s part of the sea defences or maybe harbour/coastal road support (which is probably the same thing 😉 ). It used quarry rubble as filler and crushed blast-furnace slag/sinter to bulk out the cement. Maybe it gave it some Roman-style hydraulic cement properties, or maybe there was just a cement shortage (IIRC it dated to WWII or shortly after when materials would have been in short supply).

    And of course I’m sure you can find YouTube movies of Coke cans cemented into natural beach-rock.

  58. Willard says:

    > Where scientists are “caught defending untruths”, this is through someone else using the scientific process to determine what was the untruth – if it’s not done through science, what are you proposing?

    I’m proposing that scientists should educate people on how we do science for real, DaveS. If you’re to be serious about the idea that “science is a process of continued correction,” you stop pretending it’s just a repository of truth claims. Science just ain’t what we know, it’s how we get to know. This process is messy. The corrections are as hard to get as we’re witnessing here.

    More importantly, science just doesn’t exist without scientists. Nevermind what counts as a scientist for the moment. All these definition games are mostly useless.

    I speak of “scientists” in plural, because the collective matters more than the idols. For every Einstein and Feynman, how many scientists are there really? Millions.

    This multitude is what makes science work. To think that science is just what the heros give us can either lead to a Promothean conception of science, and worse to a Whig revision of science:

    Showing scientists at work is what can break up the personality cult that empowers contrarians.

  59. Willard says:

    Wrong tweet:

    ***

    One last remark for a while, this time in the spirit of RichardE‘s comment above:

    The natural sciences are directed towards answering non-pollable questions. But pollable questions are also in the domain of the sciences. The tools of the social sciences are important for analysing pollable questions, though they cannot provide singular answers. So understanding how people think about the risks and benefits of nuclear power is an important question for the social sciences. Indeed, there are many pollable questions that arise as a result of our pursuit of the natural sciences and our ability to harness the ‘secrets of nature’ for benefit and for harm.

    I would suggest to supplement the concept of pollability with the concept of votability. In a nutshell, a question is “votable” by a community when, after a certain threshold of data gathering and theorical browbeating, a consensus over its solution emerges by some kind of endorsement, which we can see as an implicit or informal voting mechanism. This would be one way to model the intuition that researchers vote with their citations.

    To me, getting real about scientific processes means tracing something like votability. While this may sound too “political” to some, it sounds less funest to me than “funerals,” and more realistic than “evidence-based.”

    Enjoy your summer,

    W

  60. Steven Mosher says:

    “I’m proposing that scientists should educate people on how we do science for real, DaveS. If you’re to be serious about the idea that “science is a process of continued correction,” you stop pretending it’s just a repository of truth claims. Science just ain’t what we know, it’s how we get to know. This process is messy. The corrections are as hard to get as we’re witnessing here.”

    Phenomenology of science would not be a bad thing.

    You will note that for all their love of empiricism, there are some who refuse to actually observe what scientists DO.

    once this is attended to, essentialist constructs are exposed.

    This is still my favorite

  61. Michael Hauber says:

    Not Political:
    collecting data
    analysing data
    drawing conclusions
    making predictions
    verifying predictions.

    Political:
    obtaining a research grant
    Setting publication policy for a journal
    Writing a consensus report on current state of science, eg IPCC
    Deciding which/whose data/conclusions/predictions to report and/or believe and which to ignore?

  62. Steven Mosher says:

    “ar6 on sensitivity is going to be a tough chapter to write.

    Lotsa politicians/lobbyists lined up behind energy balance models and nonlinear climate change. Odd.”

    Actually I think the problem the authors of Ar6 face, particularly on sensitivity, is a great
    case study for “what is science?” or what scientists do.

    That chapter will have to synthesize a variety of viewpoints. is that behavior science? well the IPCC doesnt DO science, it summarizes science. Should I not listen to summaries of science because they are not actual science? At some point someone will have to weigh

    1. ECS estimated from observations and EBMs
    2. Indications from modelling studies that these estimates may be in accurate ( biased choose your poison.

    Now think about this. Think hard about this. Don’t just react with something you have read about science, or been taught about science, or believe about science.

    What do these women and men DO when they summarize the state of the science. Step by step
    what do they DO. watch.

    is the summary itself “the science” what are the methods used in summarizing?
    is the summary science or not science? Do they “test” their summary? is it an emprical endeavor?can they assign and test uncertainities in their summary? who picked them to summarize?
    why? how? can I replicate that? what is this behavior?

    If we should listen to the experts because SCIENCE, isn’t it more empirically accurate to say
    we should listen to the summary because “expert summarizers” of expert science.

    In the end, there is always this gravitational pull toward essentiallism. We use a word it must mean something. it must point to something in the world. I think part of willards point is that
    there is a myth about what science is, how science gets done, who does science, why they do science. And that Myth is one of the contrarians best tools. Don’t do the myth. resist the essentialism.

    Think about it. Contrarians will very often use Physics as the ideal, in particular physics done in a controlled environment. They want the controlled test done by men in white coats. men in white coats who have “no politics” who dont advocate. Where’s the experiment that shows c02 warms the planet? We need two earths if we follow the myth. And if there is no lab experiment, if you use a model, if you are a woman, if you registered democrat, or spoke on behalf of enviromentailism,
    then its not science. It’s the MYTH that there is one thing called science, the MYTH that there is one standard ( physics in a lab, results at 6 sigma), the MYTH that scientists have to be apolitical
    that is a key weapon of a fair bit of scepticism. So don’t strengthen the myth.

    If you actually observe all the behavior we call science, and watch what the scientists actually do and say, you get an entirely different picture. If you are scientific about science, you get a different picture. A picture of a wide variety of humans “reasoning to the best explanation.” And there I just commited my own essentialist sin, but it’s a picture in which more things, more behavior, count as “sound reasoning” about the world. This is a much messier view of what science is. It happens to be more factual. That should count as a good thing to folks who care about fidelity to the observed world. And to paraphrase Willard ( I think i get his argument) the Myth that science is one pure thing is far more dangerous than the truth that it is a messy thing. embrace the mess.

  63. Jeffh says:

    Angech writes, “You will find that a lot of people on this thread and at skeptic [meaning denier] blogs think the end justifies the means” (Now comes the real howler): “That using any resort to save humanity is worth the cost”.

    Oh dear, I really don’t know where to begin deconstructing this quite hilarious statement, it is so utterly myopic. Most importantly, since when to climate change deniers view ‘saving humanity’ as a priority? ‘Maximizing short-term corporate profits’ is a perfect fit, or else ‘prioritizing investor’s rights’, but nowhere do I see the welfare of humanity as one of their primary concerns. That is unless in Angech’s strange world looking after the rights of investors equates with ‘saving humanity’.

    The vast majority of climate change deniers are right wing conservatives. Not all, but certainly most are to the political right. This lot has never espoused altrusitic views for the betterment of humanity. They are quite happy to promote neoliberal capitalist policies that drive inequity and social injustice which is quite literally destroying ecosystems across the biosphere with serious implications for the welfare of future generations. So when Angech writes piffle about ‘skeptics using any resort to save humanity’ I cringe.

  64. dave s says:

    Steven Mosher, you suggest AR6 on climate sensitivity as a ‘great case study for “what is science?” or what scientists do. That chapter will have to synthesize a variety of viewpoints. is that behavior science? well the IPCC doesnt DO science, it summarizes science.’

    You’ve left unstated that it’s a great case study as, in my understanding, all the discussions are public and on record. Showing the iterative process of obtaining and assessing data, testing and reviewing theories, using theory to generate further research into data and, for the IPCC, summarising the then current state of science.

    Also worth remembering that the IPCC was a conservative (Reagan) administration reaction to the 1980s success of science influencing public opinion and forming international responses to human activities damaging the ozone layer. Rather than let scientists run science, the U.S. government wanted public information on science to be restrained by governments:
    From Spencer Weart:

    “Note that contrary to myths that later spread widely, the IPCC was neither an organ of the United Nations nor the creation of liberals; it was an autonomous intergovernmental body creted chiefly by the conservative Reagan administration. Required to issue rules and reports only with the firm agreement of essentially all the world’s leading climate scientists plus the consensus of all participating governments without exception, the IPCC’s constitution should have been (and perhaps was intended to be) a recipe for paralysis.
    By 2001 the panel would turn its procedural restraints into a virtue: whatever it did manage to say would have unimpeachable authority. In the teeth of opposition from the immensely powerful fossil fuels industry and its many allies, the IPCC would issue what was arguably the most important policy advice any body has ever given, calling for nothing less than a wholesale restructuring of the world’s economies and ways of living. Whether or not governments paid heed, in fulfilling its declared purpose of providing advice the IPCC has rightly been considered a remarkable success.” https://history.aip.org/history/climate/internat.htm#S9

    Science is the input, the IPCC is a political construct in which reporting of the science is subject to line by line agreement by participating governments, and it’s that process that gives the assessment reports authority. Of course the fossil fuel industry and “free market” ideologues have kept trying to impeach that authority, sometimes by accusing science of being political.

  65. dave s says:

    re Dave_Geologist, thanks for the info that coast down to Largs features (or featured) a coastal outcrop of volcanic rocks with what looks like an agglomerate (lumps of rock embedded in volcanic ash; lithified now of course) which includes the odd piece of dressed stone or brick in with the basalt cobbles. “A bit like finding a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian”, pretty much the biologist J.B.S. Haldane’s response to the question of what evidence could destroy his confidence in the theory of evolution.

    I’m not even a geology student, but find it interesting and think the rocks along the coast tend to be a complex sequence with Devonian to Carboniferous volcanic intrusions, as featured in much of central Scotland (apparently Blackford Hill is a Devonian lava flow over volcanic ash). Across the Clyde, Arran seems to be even more complex, and James Hutton struggled to explain features when he visited it in 1787.

    Modern creationists who happily put all geological activity into a Biblical timeframe going back only to 4004 BC would no doubt welcome the find as supporting their pseudoscientific claims that humans were present within a couple of days of The Creation. “Creation science”, later relabelled “intelligent design”, has spent years trying to redefine science in conformity with “theistic science”.

    Their cause seems to be shared by several in the current U.S. administration, such as Mike Pence and Scott Pruitt…. oops, the latter apparently resigned his position as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on July 6, 2018, so not clear if he still counts as being in the administration, or if the EPA’s approach to science is going to change.

  66. Jeffh says:

    Dave s, the only reason that Pruitt was forced to resign was because his rampant corruption was becoming an embarrassment even for a blowhard like Trump. It had nothing to do with policy. Pruitt was doing everything expected of him, taking apart the EPA brick by brick. It seems like his two main functions in life were to enrich his family at public expense and to attempt to burn every last molecule of hydrocarbons stored in the ground. His replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a former lobbyist for the coal industry. If possible, he will be worse than Pruitt because he will continue to gut the agency and to deregulate energy but, unlike Pruitt, he will do it outside of the public eye. He us ruthlessly efficient and not corrupt. Trump’s swamp is slimier than ever.

  67. Dave_Geologist says:

    Cups: the one I’m drinking from doesn’t taper. Hope that hot tea doesn’t fall out!

  68. Dave_Geologist says:

    “Should I not listen to summaries of science because they are not actual science?” Of course you should Steven. Especially if you don’t have the time and/or expertise to make sense of the original papers. Oh, and 2.

  69. dave s says:

    Jeffh, oh dear you’re right. Pruitt’s acting replacement Andrew Wheeler wrote in 2010, as a lawyer lobbying for Murray Coal against the EPA, that “The IPCC has functioned more as a political body than a scientific body â one needs to look no further than the fact that its Summary for Policymakers is released months before the underlying report is finalized.” Seems to have missed the procedure that the report has to be agreed with governmental representatives, hence the sequence, and as stated above it was set up as a conservative political check on scientists speaking out about environmental issues of climate.

    Back on topic, here’s an accusation from a coal lobbyist, now acting EPA administrator, that science is political. The Horror!!

  70. Dave_Geologist says:

    dave s, you can view an interactive map of UK geology online. The coast in that area is mostly Devonian and Carboniferous sandstones, with coals and some thin limestones. Scotland was roughly where Namibia is today in the Devonian (hence the red sandstones), and on the equator during the Carboniferous (hence the coal). The main Scottish coal seams are the same age as the Pennine limestone in England. There was a continent to the north and Scotland was a delta/coastal swamp. England was a series of islands in clear, deep water. Central Scotland is (loosely speaking) a rift valley like in East Africa, hence the volcanics. Inland from inverkip is mostly Carboniferous alkali basalt, typical rift products. The Devonian volcanics exposed at the flanks of the valley are calc-alkaline andesites, because the rift was then above an active subduction zone. More like the Basin and Range of the USA than East Africa, although that has the added complication of the Yellowstone hotspot. There are intrusions of both ages, and also Palaeogene related to the opening of the North Atlantic and the Iceland hot spot. Arran is a classic geological map interpretation problem for students. The Highland Boundary Fault goes through the island and is deformed by doming due to the Palaeogene granite in the north.

  71. JCH says:

    The likely range is 1.6 ℃ to 4.4 ℃. Haha, everybody’s summarized and satisfied.

  72. dave s says:

    Dave_Geologist, many thanks for the link to the map, which I’d not seen before, and for the concise and very informative description. Fascinating to see how it relates to nearby features, lots to explore there.

    I’m aware of the Highland Boundary Fault, which goes through islands in Loch Lomond, and conveniently heads across the Clyde to the Rock Cafe in Dunoon on its way to Arran. The cafe’s exterior is decorated with cartoon cavemen and a dinosaur, so maybe an opportunity lost to educate the public about science, but not to worry. Wouldn’t want to overemphasise the politics of seaside cafes.

  73. Ken Fabian says:

    If we can’t claim our understanding of climate processes is good enough to make important decisions without explicitly and constantly and repeatedly justifying why we think that science works to people who refuse to accept that it does, we really are in deep, deep trouble.

    I realise that this site is one where scientists grappling with the ethics of scientist doing advocacy are more usual than not and it’s not as simple, given professional codes of ethics, as taking the side they think is right and fighting for it. But I don’t think most non-scientists have a problem with scientists within bodies like The Royal Society doing scientific scepticism on our behalf – or for peak science organisations to grapple with how we know what we know and how we can have confidence in it; scientists proclaiming loudly that they do have trust and confidence in those organisations and their processes looks both appropriate and necessary. From inside the idea that advocacy should use authoritativeness as much as possible, to persuade, may seem fallacious but from outside it is entirely appropriate and even essential.

    These organisations and the abundance of institutions of science and learning are crowning achievements of our civilisation – I’d rather see more loud and proud rather than demure and defensive. As examples of scientific authoritativeness go, organisations like RS and NAS have it; it’s an advantage advocates of basing policy on science should be unashamed of using as much as possible. I don’t ask people to accept climate science from Greenpeace or even the much maligned IPCC (knowing that for the most part those are not significantly different), I ask them to accept it from The Royal Society or National Academies of Sciences, because of that sense of authoritativeness.

  74. Steven Mosher says:

    “Should I not listen to summaries of science because they are not actual science?” Of course you should Steven. Especially if you don’t have the time and/or expertise to make sense of the original papers. ”

    I am not going to doubt that, but understand precisely what you are arguing.

    notice that you are arguing that i should accept the outcome of a deliberative process that is not science.

    also.

    martin luther.

    understand the argument you are making in the grand scheme of western intellectual history. i cant read latin and i dont have the leisure to read everthing so i am forced to accept a mediator of the truth of scripture.
    the priest, the church, the pope. they read for me.

    and then what happened?

    please note. i am note making and argument against accepting the ippc reading of the science…

    just understand what this approach looks like in the grand narrative of western culture and history.

    science is the fallible source of knowledge.
    but its in latin, so listen to these guys who read it for you.

    practically that is what i do. i have to outside my specialuzation.
    but given my training in our intellectual history, it is down right reactionary.

    finally, since i dont have the time or knowlledge to judge the actual science how can i choose what translator to trust.

    we can talk about translation too.
    rabbit parts

  75. The Economist has weighed in to the Climate Wars political ring under the rubric :

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2018/08/blood-sweat-and-geoengineers.html

  76. Dave_Geologist says:

    “The cafe’s exterior is decorated with cartoon cavemen and a dinosaur, so maybe an opportunity lost to educate the public about science” 😦 . At least it’s not the Ark 🙂 . Or do they show cavemen battling dinosaurs?

  77. Dave_Geologist says:

    Yes Steven, unless you’re in the field, someone has to mediate for you. If you don’t trust the IPCC (the generic you, not SM), go to the NAS, RSL, GSL, not Scott Pruitt, Nigel Lawson or the HI. Even if you have no science education whatsoever, it should be obvious which of those is better placed to evaluate the science, and which has a financial or political conflict of interest as well as a lack of scientific expertise.

  78. angech says:

    Am I missing a comment? Sometimes it is due to my poor I pad skills. But if missing it would be nice to have a comment missing comment. Note by missing I do not actually mean the comment is missing, just missing. Ta

  79. dave s says:

    Steven Mosher, you seem to think the IPCC summaries are “the outcome of a deliberative process that is not science.”

    Weart doesn’t share your polarised view: see https://history.aip.org/history/climate/internat.htm#S9 and read on down…
    the IPCC scientists…. worked hard and long to craft statements that nobody could fault on scientific grounds. The draft reports next went through a process of review, gathering comments from virtually every climate expert in the world. … this “peer review was ad hoc, based more on a tradition of scientific conduct and trust than on any political norms.” It was much like the process of reviewing articles submitted to a scientific journal, although with far more reviewers. … the work of the IPCC was in accord with “the rules, norms and procedures that govern science at large.”

    any conclusions had to be endorsed by a consensus of government delegates, many of whom were not scientists at all . …. Under pressure from the industrial forces, and obeying the mandate to make only statements that virtually every knowledgeable scientist could endorse, the IPCC’s consensus statements were highly qualified and cautious. Even so, complete deadlock was avoided only by accepting the Working Groups’ summaries as they stood. The prestige of the scientists, as scientists, was strong enough to give the authors an effective veto power over attempts to water down statements until they were meaningless. ….
    The conclusions were neither the findings of scientific experts nor the political statements of governments — they were statements that the scientists agreed were scrupulously accurate and that the governments found politically acceptable. So when the IPCC finally announced its conclusions, they had solid credibility.

    So, the summaries are cautious science, with the governments having limited powers to filter out what they found objectionable. Look at them in that light, and when in doubt look into the well documented detail. Read the original papers, but you can expect that anyone with expertise on the topic has been invited read and comment on the summary, Also be aware that this summarising is a slow process, so consider newer scientific papers.

  80. angech says:

    “angech writes, “You will find that a lot of people on this thread and at skeptic [meaning denier] blogs think the end justifies the means” (Now comes the real howler): “That using any resort to save humanity is worth the cost”.
    “ Most importantly, since when do climate change deniers view ‘saving humanity’ as a priority?”
    I don’t. My priority is being ethically honest in presenting science. Something both sides can be poor at.
    However a lot of skeptics (climate change deniers)do see the results of warmist action as hurting not saving humanity.
    This is very obvious in their comments and should not be derided even if one thinks it is a mistaken point of view.

  81. angech says:

    dave s says:August 3, 2018 at 9:04 am
    “Steven Mosher, you seem to think the IPCC summaries are “the outcome of a deliberative process that is not science.”

    Mosher hates people putting views in his mouth. Therefore when I say Mosher is in favour of the IPCC summaries he will be upset even if it was true.
    Even more when I state that he strongly adopts warmist positions of taking action rather than waiting and that warming is dangerous.
    You are misreading his position, whatever it is.

  82. dave s says:

    Dave_Geologist, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/annexxxcdscotland/39178746665 – the dinosaur’s round the side nearest the pier, haven’t found an online photo of it.
    A leaflet tells me the adjacent Castle Hill is a 60 million year old volcano, its pipe now filled with micro-granite, and the Castle, Highland Mary memorial, and Rock Cafe are built on a 290 million year old dyke, about 30m wide, which runs from Kintyre to Edinburgh.

    Now to look for them on that interactive map!

  83. angech,

    However a lot of skeptics (climate change deniers)do see the results of warmist action as hurting not saving humanity.
    This is very obvious in their comments and should not be derided even if one thinks it is a mistaken point of view.

    Why shouldn’t it be derided? It’s not as if climate “skeptics” don’t deal in derision.

  84. Marco says:

    “However a lot of skeptics (climate change deniers)do see the results of warmist action as hurting not saving humanity.”

    If with “humanity” you mean the ‘skeptic’ himself, you may be right.

    The excuse we are hearing in the last few years about certain policies hurting the poor usually comes down to an attempt to appeal to the perceived ideology of the person they are discussing with. When you start digging, you quickly find that the average pseudoskeptic doesn’t care much about the fate of the poor at all. Especially about the poor who live in other countries.

  85. Dave_Geologist says:

    Excellent dave s. Even down to the pelican. OMG The Express! Actually, the Express, and even more so the Mail, can be a surprisingly good pace to find science stories. Because they come high on Google, they’re easy to find. And as long as they don’t hit an editor’s hot button, they tend to quote more or less verbatim from the press release or Reuters/AFP copy. Which means you get a link to the original article. Pelicans were in Southern Britain back in Roman or pre-Roman times (when this part of the world was warmer than most of modern times). And in the Medieval Warm Period Now they’re coming back. Wonder why 😉 . Ah
    : “We demonstrate that the appearance and disappearance of pelicans in northwestern Europe coincide with climate parameters, since all records fall within warm periods”.

  86. Dave_Geologist says:

    I did wonder it the Romans munched their way through the British pelican stock, but apparently not. “Cranes and herons were used in Egypt as decoys to catch water- birds. … leaving the meat and bones behind.152 The Greeks and Romans did not eat pelicans”. Although of course they may have damaged their habitat by agricultural or engineering works.

  87. Chris says:

    The “philosophers” on these threads (if I may call them that) seem keen on categorizations – the pejorative strawmen of science as “Scientia” (no one thinks of modern science like that) or “essentialism” (scientists quite rightly approach their enquiries with the expectation that there is an underlying reality that they might make some progress towards uncovering)… and Steven’s “myths” about science which seem to be parodies. Some “philosophers”, in the style of Daily Mail editorials, are keen on telling scientists that what they’re doing is wrong and that they should be doing something else (“embrace the mess”; resist the essentialism”; “..educate people on how we do science for real”…etc. ).

    This authoritarian attitude is quite opposite to scientific authority that is based on consideration of (hopefully!) carefully and systemically acquired evidence, and it’s encouraging that real scientists generally don’t adopt since we all agree it’s counterproductive. But should scientists be doing things differently? I don’t think so. Scientists provide evidence that can easily be more widely communicated given a media that is interested in doing so honestly and faithfully and included as considerations in political decisions. (we could discuss where some of the problems with this really lie).

    Seems to me people in general have a much better idea of the nature of science and how it’s done (messy as it is) than in even the recent past, and are much less willing to give it unconditional respect in the absence of a discussion of evidence. The “myth” of men in white coats is surely very passe – although you do see them in ads in science magazine selling science stuff (e.g. mass spectrometers or PCR machines, and the white coats are worn by attractive women!) .. and in parodies of science or scientific life:

  88. Chris says:

    In today’s Guardian:

    “Deny Everything: From vaccines to climate change to genocide, a new age of denialism is upon us..” (the long read)

    here’s a link – may not be accessible to everyone:

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/03/denialism-what-drives-people-to-reject-the-truth

  89. Jeffh says:

    Angech, I would like to see some evidence presented by you that skeptics (again, referring to deniers because this is exactly what most of them are) care about ‘saving humanity’, Saving it from what?! New tecnhology? Taxation? Puh-lease. Most of them as far as I am concerned are only interested in saving the short-term profits of investors. So if you want to twist and distort the meaning of ‘saving humanity’ to this then go right on ahead.

  90. izen says:

    @-Chris

    Your link to the Lady Gaga parody led on to a rich vein of scientific parody songs.
    The one I thought was particularly awesome, not least because the animated graphics are incredibly good AND it explains the subject so well is this;-

    However in the comments there are several hundred Creationists/IDers who reject the whole thing. So much for the authority of scientific knowledge !

  91. Ken Fabian says:

    The effective scientist-advocate surely doesn’t need to preface every statement on climate change with a discourse on the imperfectability of science and the nature of uncertainty – not unless you want ordinary people to wonder if anyone knows anything at all. There are plenty of spaces for discussing how reliably we know what we know or what we mean by “what we know” but surely concerned scientists can tell people that there are trustworthy and reliable – authoritative – sources on climate change science like the Royal Society or US National Academies of Sciences (who do maintain an air of non-partisan independence) without having to justify it every time.

    A bit of authoritative haughtiness might be more effective for advocating than reacting to accusations that such recommendations are mere – and fallacious – appeals to authority by appearing to agree that no authority should be trusted. Surely we do know enough, with enough confidence to act. That’s confident enough for it to be okay to sound confident about it – and not appear so defensive. The null hypothesis is that global warming is real and it’s the doubters job to justify claims it’s been falsified. Better they be on the defensive.

  92. Dave_Geologist says:

    I recommend Les Horribles Cernettes. They have their own YT channel.



  93. Chris says:

    wow Izen that is seriously good – thank you very much!

  94. angech says:

    Why shouldn’t it be derided? It’s not as if climate “skeptics” don’t deal in derision.
    Fair point.
    The answer is, I guess, if one wants to be better than them?
    JeffH,
    I will append some examples as and when I come across them. I understand your frustration but what seems simple and straightforward from your vantage point is not so clear to the rest of us. As MT asks how to get the message across.
    When scientists of the calibre of Judith and Roger and Roy express reservations I feel you have more work to do or more results coming in to back the claims over time.
    And results do not include weather.
    A 1C rise just does not cut it in terms of calling every weather event extreme or unprecedented and due to @ bogeyman.
    Push the science, cut out the alarmism and watch the approval go up.

  95. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    The Large Hadron Rap:

  96. angech,
    I was really getting at two things. If one doesn’t want ones views to be derided, then maybe don’t say stupid things. Also, if one doesn’t want ones views to be derided, then maybe avoid doing the same to others.

  97. Jeffh says:

    “The calibre of Judith and Roger and Roy…”… and that’s about it. The ranks of ‘qualified’ skeptics gets noticeably thin after that. And these three aren’t spring chickens; indeed it appears as if a very high percentage of deniers are long in the tooth. Where is the fresh blood? It appears that most of that is among the 97% of climate scientists who agree that humans are the primary driver of climate change. Speaking as a scientist working in another field (ecology) that’s more than good enough for me.

    And yes layman Angech: I am alarmed. Very alarmed, as should we all be. Events that have unfolded across the northern hemisphere this summer are truly alarming. Intense forest fires are burning across vast swathes of Eurasia and North America; record daily maximum temperatures are being set in large parts of North America, Eurasia and Africa, with large areas of northern and western Europe experiencing a heatwave and drought of literally epic proportions; the warmest month ever was just set in Death Valley, California; parts of Iberia may reach 50 degrees tomorrow, something that has never before in recorded history occurred in Europe; Korea and Japan just broke their all time record high temperatures, with large numbers of casualities; other areas are being inundated with intense rainfall events, and so on and so on. If this is not alarming then please tell me what your definition of the word entails.

    Here in Holland the current drought is into its third month and has been combined with a massive heatwave – trees are dying and in the city of Zwolle it is so bad that crews are being forced to cut dying branches from many of the city’s trees as they pose a hazard to pedestrians. Insects and birds are also dying in large numbers; during a walk in Drenthe a week ago I saw a large number of dead bees. So the thin number of ‘sceptics’ that Angech refers to can jump in the lake for all that I care. We are entering uncharted territory with potentially disastrous consequences and yet I am expected to believe that sceptics downplay AGW because of their ‘concern for the welfare of humanity’. Unbelieveable.

    Angech, you crack me up.

  98. Joshua says:

    angech –

    The answer is, I guess, if one wants to be better than them?

    […]

    cut out the alarmist

    What do you want?

  99. JCH says:

    cut out the alarmist

    No.

    watch the approval go up

    You’re lying.

  100. dikranmarsupial says:

    Angech wrote “When scientists of the calibre of Judith and Roger and Roy express reservations”

    This would be the “Judith” (actually Prof. Curry) that repeatedly promulgated arguments that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is not anthropogenic and then refused to discuss whether those arguments were correct? This would be the “Roy” (Dr Spencer) that also published a similar argument on his blog (he at least had the good grace to admit he was wrong), and repeatedly uses model-observation comparison charts that are very obviously deeply misleading? This would be the Dr Spencer that likens his opponents to Nazis? This would be the “Roger” (Prof. Pielke Sr?) who refuses to discuss whether there is statistically sound support for his claims (and then blocks me on Twitter for pointing it out).

    All three have published things that are either climate 101 or statistics 101 howlers. So what sort of calibre is that?

    “The answer is, I guess, if one wants to be better than them?”

    and yet you are back to insults (“cut out the alarmism”) in the same comment!

    You say “My priority is being ethically honest in presenting science. “ and yet when JeffH calls you out “I would like to see some evidence presented by you that skeptics … care about ‘saving humanity’” it turns out that you can’t, i.e. it was a bullshit. Likewise

    A 1C rise just does not cut it in terms of calling every weather event extreme or unprecedented and due to @ bogeyman.

    is hardly being “honest in presenting the science”, I don’t think many people would call every weather event exreme or unprecedented and due to @ bogeyman. The last bit is just childish rhetoric.

    It is bullshit like this that means I can’t bring myself to comment here. It didn’t take you long to start again once you came back.

  101. dave s says:

    Angech, if only scientists had been nice and super-polite when Reagan organised the IPCC to subject summaries for policymakers to agreement of the final wording with government representatives, then climate science approval ratings would have gone up!

    Oh, wait a minute, they did play very nice, and when their approval ratings went up, oil-funded propagandists like Heartland got Dr. Spencer and Dr. Curry and possibly Dr, Pielke snr. to provide attack themes to delay any action on IPCC summaries of science as they develop..

    Dave_Geologist, thanks tor the links – can we expect to see 101 Dalmatian pelicans arriving?
    (Pelecanus crispus from the Wiley paper)

  102. Dave_Geologist says:

    HaHa

    If it’s like the ospreys (and not the sea eagles which grew from an imported seed population after the natives were liquidated by hunting and trapping), probably a few pairs at a time, then a slowly growing population as children follow parents, then a migrating flock gets big enough to attract unrelated birds. According to Wiki they’re short-distance, opportunist migrants who fly north in spring to breed and search for food, stopping before it gets too cold for them. So they’ll initially be summer visitors, then summer breeders, then at some point may say “hey, it’s warm enough here to over-winter”. They’re the largest pelican so are presumably long-lived. They probably migrated in tune with the climate in the HCO, but we’re changing things so fast so there will be a lag. Purely Dalmatian breeding will disappear one pelican at a time 🙂 . They also breed better in wet summers, which probably favours Britain as we’re already 20% wetter than baseline. Their NW Europe base seems to flip between the UK and Denmark, perhaps depending on rainfall as well as temperature (Denmark has hotter but drier summers).

    Dang! The Chinese conspiracy hasn’t just co-opted songbirds, plants and insects, now pelicans are on the payroll 🙂 .

    I can see a new denier meme coming: “the world hasn’t warmed until pelicans are in the Fens all-year-round.” Which combines two fallacies. “the world is my backyard”, and goalpost-shifting (the literature is focused on breeding colonies, juvenile bones as well as adults, so there’s no evidence they ever lived year-round in NW Europe). But logical fallacies have never been a problem to deniers 😦 . Indeed, they’re de rigeur.

  103. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    For Angech’s benefit, the wife’s latest paper.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0245-3

    We can detect using observational data that it is getting wetter at a faster rate than climate models are currently projecting.

  104. angech says:

    HH thanks,
    “We can detect using observational data that it is getting wetter at a faster rate than climate models are currently projecting.”
    The amount of warming over that continent in the time periods used must demonstrate that fact.
    Consideration needs to be given to the fact that rainfall extremes are tricky over a continent.
    Does 0.2 ml in an hour in the outback once a year instead of 0.1 mm have the same weighting as 30 cms in an hour in certain parts of the tropics for increased wetness?
    Also that Hadley cells could dictate distributional changes that run counter to the idea that increased rainfall is the appropriate measure for a continent spanning different humidity zones.
    The true value of such a study, once done, lies in then doing the same studies on the other continents for the same time periods (? Already done).
    Yes it is a start

  105. angech says:

    Gold Coast Australia two weeks of perfect weather here, unprecedented in my 40 years visiting here.

  106. Steven Mosher says:

    “Mosher hates people putting views in his mouth. Therefore when I say Mosher is in favour of the IPCC summaries he will be upset even if it was true.
    Even more when I state that he strongly adopts warmist positions of taking action rather than waiting and that warming is dangerous.
    You are misreading his position, whatever it is.”

    err no. I would generally accept the summaries of the science. There was a time when I wanted the deliberative process to be more open and attend to transparency. They are almost there,
    but the process is in good enough condition to accept its output.

    Action? supported action from day 1.

    Usually if you are confused about a text, in my case you can just ask for clarification.

  107. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven Mosher, you seem to think the IPCC summaries are “the outcome of a deliberative process that is not science.”

    Weart doesn’t share your polarised view: see https://history.aip.org/history/climate/internat.htm#S9 and read on down…
    the IPCC scientists…. worked hard and long to craft statements that nobody could fault on scientific grounds. The draft reports next went through a process of review, gathering comments from virtually every climate expert in the world. … this “peer review was ad hoc, based more on a tradition of scientific conduct and trust than on any political norms.” It was much like the process of reviewing articles submitted to a scientific journal, although with far more reviewers. … the work of the IPCC was in accord with “the rules, norms and procedures that govern science at large.”

    I think this shows that you dont get the argument.

    and note what you are doing. you are not observing the process of making the report.
    you are reading the report of someone writing about the process.

    A good approach would be to compile more evidence.

  108. izen says:

    @-SM
    “you are not observing the process of making the report.
    you are reading the report of someone writing about the process. A good approach would be to compile more evidence.”

    For a process that involves people discussing the wording of the SPM what evidence is there apart from the people involved writing about it ?

    Is this more evidence ?

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2014/05/08/john-broome/at-the-ipcc/

    “I have been a member of the IPCC’s Working Group 3 since 2011. …The shorter, 30-page précis known as the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) attracts more attention but is subject to political influence. … Compromises ran out, and in the end Saudi Arabia got its way completely over the references. All references from the SPM to any part of the main report that mentions income groupings were deleted.

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2007/04/diplomats-force-ipcc-to-water-down-report-on-climate-change/

    “The heart of the problem has been the successful efforts by delegates from China and Saudi Arabia to change language describing how many natural ecosystems around the world are already being affected. Originally, it was reported that there was “a very high confidence” that areas around the globe “are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.” “A very high confidence” translates as a 90 percent certainty, but under political pressure, this was downgraded to “a high certainty,” meaning only 80 percent. Other parts of the report were also watered down, causing outrage amongst the scientists who authored the report”

  109. John Hartz says:

    It never ceases to amaze me why so many intelligent people pay attention to Angech’s comments. Most of his posts are gibberish. Why give him oxygen by responding to them?

  110. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Potential fodder for a new OP — sure to draw the attention of your favorite economist. 🙂

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/08/physicists-simple-spanks-economists-complex-in-economic-growth-forecasts/

  111. John said:

    “It never ceases to amaze me why so many intelligent people pay attention to Angech’s comments. Most of his posts are gibberish. Why give him oxygen by responding to them?”

    Like reading a bucket of spilled paint.

  112. Can we avoid piling on, please.

  113. dave s says:

    Steven Mosher, you responded to my post with “I think this shows that you dont get the argument.”

    Very likely.
    I was responding to your earlier comment with included “please note. i am note making and argument against accepting the ippc reading of the science…”
    I still don’t really get that, so maybe I’m bad at reading.
    The main thing I picked up on was your comment “notice that you are arguing that i should accept the outcome of a deliberative process that is not science”, which I think referred to the IPCC process.

    What I get from the accounts of Weart and other scientists is that the IPCC process preparing reports is in line with scientific methodology, and produces a carefully reviewed assessment of the state of science in the various fields relating to climate change.

    Izen, you point to an issue which Weart also covers, the SPM where governments have a say reflects what those governments find politically acceptable, and is a messy process. The articles you link are couple of instances which show the need to read the SPM in the context of the more detailed reports, but even at that, John Broome’s blog makes the point:
    “The main report and the Technical Summary were not touched by the destructive process of the meeting. They make publicly available all the information that was deleted from the SPM.”

    When looking at a SPM, we have to be aware that…
    “Because of the way it is created, the SPM has to be regarded as partly a political document.”

  114. Mal Adapted says:

    angech:

    Push the science, cut out the alarmism and watch the approval go up.

    LOL! Speaking for myself, I can’t cut out ‘the alarmism’ because I’m not pushing any. Do you mean drawing attention to the costs of AGW we’re already paying? Regardless, it’s not as if ‘approval’ had any relevance to the economic case for mitigating AGW. The escalating costs of climate change are falling on deniers as they are on the evidence-based: if not directly due to extreme weather and/or sea level rise, or in taxes for disaster relief, increased national security risk and so forth, then by the opportunity costs of reduced economic growth. Those consequences are now sufficiently attributed to AGW that contrary claims are extraordinary, placing the burden of support on the counterclaimants. Under the “Tragedy of the Commons” economic model, therefore, proposals for collective action to cap AGW’s total aggregate cost aren’t a priori ‘alarmist’.

    Tell you what Doc, I’ll push the science even more than I do now, if you’ll cut out the denial. But then you’d have nothing to say! If the prospect of open-ended losses due to AGW doesn’t concern you, then what are you doing here? BTW, speaking of approval: see Fury at US environmental agency’s effort to weaken fuel standards in the current Nature.

  115. Mal Adapted says:

    Is science political simply because it contradicts official government policy, paricularly when it’s presented in the premier communications organ of the global cultural enterprise named Science?

  116. Dave_Geologist says:

    It’s not in the Research section Mal. And is explicitly labelled as “Comment”.

    So it’s in the third of these categories:

    Research Paper (ideally apolitical although it may have political implications, original but a one-off which is subject to confirmation/rebuttal/adding to consilience).

    Review Paper (ideally apolitical although it may have political implications, usually not original but typically a summary of the consensus or of the state of two or more competing theories; the IPPC chapters and technical summary would fall into this category).

    Commentary or Advice informed by science (may be political, almost certainly has political implications, goes beyond a research summary into, in this case, trade across borders; the IPCC Summary for Policymakers would fall into this category).

    So in summary, it’s commentary informed by science, and has political implications, and is party-political in a few countries (mainly USA, Canada and Australia, to a lesser extent the UK and New Zealand*). And is less authoritative than a purely scientific commentary because it makes assessments or assumptions about economics and legality (WTO rule), which are outside most scientists’ competence. But not science. In the same way that air traffic control regulations governing time and space gaps between aircraft are informed by aeronautical engineering and human factors, but are not engineering and not biology.

    * I don’t count countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia, because there it’s pretty clearly driven by national self-interest and don’t-harm-the-economy views, not political ideology. Obviously if you extend Politics all the way down to quorum-sensing in bacteria, they would be political.

  117. Dave_Geologist says:

    Also, the authors are not scientists, they’re lawyers and economists*, nor are they members of the Nature Editorial Board. So it should be seen as a third-party comment, akin to a letter-to-the-editors (as opposed to a Letter, which in Nature, confusingly, is a short peer-reviewed research paper). Or to the third-party opinion pieces Nature publishes on subjects such as tenure, peer review, big data, research misconduct, gender equality etc. You’ll notice that Book Reviews appear in the same section.

    Nature’s own editorials appear in a different section, unsurprisingly titled Editorials 🙂 . If it had appeared there, you could assume that it had Nature’s endorsement or that of its Editors.

    * So they do have expertise on law and trade, but those are much more woolly fields with far less consilience and consensus that any mature science. And in any case the WTO is at heart a political body. It will approve cross-border carbon accounting (or not) by political consensus, not by legal advice about some obscure sub-clause.

  118. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    It’s not in the Research section Mal. And is explicitly labelled as “Comment”.

    IIUC, we’re talking about the roles of both the justified knowledge obtained through climate science, and the collective judgment of the international cultural institution of Science (capitalized), in capping anthropogenic global warming. You are of course correct in your placement of the Nature Comment I linked, on the internal framework of science as it’s conducted by professionals. Working scientists do recognize that published items have varying degrees of epistemic value. It’s the basis of John Nielsen-Gammon’s call for scientific meta-literacy to be emphasized in post-primary education.

    Great idea, but at present the average scientific metaliteracy of (e.g.) US voters is woefully poor. Those who have only casual exposure to Science (capitalized), perhaps as regular readers of the NYTimes, may be aware that Nature is one of the most prestigious refereed venues, but not recognize its internal distinctions. If you show JQ Educated Layman the Nature News headline I cited, then ask him “Is science political?”, what would he say? That’s important for actually achieving reductions in US carbon emissions, because decarbonization is fundamentally an economic and therefore political problem. Nature headlines matter, IOW, because climate science has political implications.

    Our esteemed moderator further demonstrates why his comments are always worth reading. Citing the concept of “pollable” questions as the domain of the social sciences, he says:

    I would suggest to supplement the concept of pollability with the concept of votability. In a nutshell, a question is “votable” by a community when, after a certain threshold of data gathering and theorical browbeating, a consensus over its solution emerges by some kind of endorsement, which we can see as an implicit or informal voting mechanism. This would be one way to model the intuition that researchers vote with their citations.

    Let’s not forget that science (uncapitalized) evolved as a human cultural adaptation. As a climate realist seeking to cap the positive trend of GMST, and a US citizen, I’m deeply interested in pollable questions such as “What percentage of registered US voters accept the need to decarbonize our economy?”. That’s because I, for one, hope to obtain the votes in the US Congress for a national revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend with Border Adjustment Tax. It’s the wisest collective action I can imagine actually occurring, to confront an existential threat to ‘civilization’ as I know it, and my (collateral) descendants along with it. YMMV.

  119. Dave_Geologist says:

    I take your points Mal, but should scientists and science journals self-censor because they might annoy the anti-science or ant-inconvenient-science community? It it true or untrue that there is widespread anger at the EPA ripping up environmental regulations? Note that the article doesn’t claim that it is a majority view, only that it exists. And do you really think that a president already caught out in 4,000+ provably false statements cares whether Nature self-censors or not? Or that his supporters care? He’s not above inventing slights to stir up the masses. Indeed it’s a large part of his M.O.

    What next? Be kind to racists in case it makes them dig deeper into their bunker? Don’t call out someone beating his wife in public because he might take revenge on her when they’re back home? IMHO the Deplorables are Unpersuadable, except by their pet demagogue. The Bad Actors are Unpersuadable about anything that hits their wallets or crosses an ideological red line. You don’t undo their damage by persuading them. You do it by outvoting them. If you can’t do that in the USA, tough. Leave them behind. Bring in carbon tariffs like in the Comment article. If you can’t do it through the WTO, do it anyway or exit the WTO and make a new one. Again IMHO, the USA is on course to learn it’s no longer the biggest boy on the block and can’t play global bully any more. The soybean farmers are only the beginning. Massive subsidies to offset the domestic damage on the back of tax cuts will wreck the US economy (IMHO, IANAE) and it will become an even smaller player. A nice recession will do wonders for carbon emissions.

  120. Steven Mosher says:

    “What I get from the accounts of Weart and other scientists is that the IPCC process preparing reports is in line with scientific methodology, and produces a carefully reviewed assessment of the state of science in the various fields relating to climate change.”

    yes,

    The argument is this. When defending science against a charge of being political, some folks
    respond by narrowly construing science to be only the result: say e = mc^2. and they define
    a rather rigorous process of getting to these truths. Observing, predicting, testing predictions,
    reporting certain values. And its this rather pure thing that they refer to as science.

    When challenged that science has a “political” component, they respond with some form of essentialism that picks out an essence for science.

    That essence typically does NOT include a dozens of people doing a literature review.
    In fact the IPCC says it doesnt do science.

    So, if you narrow your definition of what counts as science, then the IPCC review doesnt count as science. But if you broaden your view of what counts as science ( watch what scientists actually do) then the IPCC review does count as science ( deliberating rationally over the state of nature)
    However, when you take this broader view of science ( as I do) then your defenses against the claim that science is “political” is less black and white because you admit certain processes and deliberations that dont really involve collecting data doing predictions, making explanations. you broaden science to include weighing evidence.. paper X says Y, paper Z says Q and eliciting the opinion of other scientists.

  121. Steven Mosher says:

    ATTP: Potential fodder for a new OP — sure to draw the attention of your favorite economist. 🙂

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/08/physicists-simple-spanks-economists-complex-in-economic-growth-forecasts/

    Funny story.

    When we were doing a simple fit of C02 versus the temperature record, two different schools
    of thought became clear

    The simplicists who argued that a fit with a couple parameters was the gold standard
    The complexists who argued for more parameters and a slight better fit.

    Simplicist won.

    None of the arguments hit the arm chair philosopher as the type of arguments he expected to hear in the “hard” sciences. weird. Watching what they do was fun.

  122. Dave_Geologist says:

    Steven, physicists love their spherical cattle 😉 .

  123. Michael 2 says:

    Mal Adapted writes: “Those who have only casual exposure to Science (capitalized), perhaps as regular readers of the NYTimes”

    Nice!

  124. Pingback: Science might be political, but….. — …and Then There’s Physics – SEO

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.