An STS perspective

I saw something a while ago that I been thinking about and thought I would write a short post in the hopes of clarifying my understanding (which is sorely lacking). The suggestion was that all those involved with climate change research should frame things from a Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspective. Even though I’ve written a number of posts about STS, I don’t fully understand what this is suggesting, or how it would somehow help.

My impression is that it’s about incorporating societal values into how climate change is framed. I think there are clearly aspects of this where our values play a very important role, but there are others where it’s not obvious that it would be a relevant part of how it should be framed. How our climate responds to us continuing to dump CO2 into the atmosphere doesn’t really depend on our values. How we might respond to our understanding of this, however, does. The technological challenges associated with addressing climate change don’t really depend on our values. Which options we might prefer, or what is politically feasible, almost certainly does depend on our values. So, there are certainly aspects where our societal values are important, but others where they seem less relevant.

Of course, maybe I completely misunderstand what people mean when they refer to an STS framing. However, if there would be some benefit to framing climate change from an STS perspective, it would seem important to better understand what this means, and why it would be good to do so. I’d certainly appreciate it if anyone were willing to explain/clarify what is meant when people refer to framing things from an STS perspective, and how there would be a benefit to doing so.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Climate change, ethics, Policy, Scientists, The philosophy of science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

126 Responses to An STS perspective

  1. Hard to say what they mean without seeing examples.

    They [which is probably a special part of STS] could also mean that science should be just as tolerant towards low quality studies as they are because they think that in science it is just as hard to determine what has value. That would be somewhat sad, given that they nominally study science, they should know that in science it is in most cases quite doable to say whether a study is valuable.

  2. Joshua says:

    Does it mean don’t call people “deniers, ” don’t talk about the “consensus, ” i.e, don’t do anything that might trigger conservatives?

  3. Ken Fabian says:

    Joshua – a variation of blaming the messenger? That if scientists could communicate better, the message would get through to all those who deny it. But also, perhaps, suggesting that is why we have climate science deniers at all? I may be reading things into it that aren’t there, but perhaps there just isn’t that much so far that is insightful.

  4. Victor,
    The context has often been quite vague, as if it is somehow obvious, which it isn’t to me.

    Joshua,
    There might be an element of that. I think avoiding consensus messaging is indeed of one the things that should be avoided.

    Ken,
    I think this has to got to with more than simply communication.

  5. billbedford says:

    It might more productive to examine climate change through a psychological framing and ask why so many non-scientists seem to have the need to believe in an apocalyptic end of the world myth based the earth getting slightly warmer. Certainly, the position of activists, politicians and the press wildly exaggerate what, all be a small percentage of, scientists actually working in climate change say. So it seems to me that catastrophic climate change answers a psychological need for people in the 21st century that hell and damnation might have done for previous generations.

  6. Dave_Geologist says:

    It might more productive to examine climate change through a psychological framing and ask why so many non-scientists seem to have the need to believe in an apocalyptic end of the economy myth based on a small fraction of GDP being diverted from one productive area to another.

    Certainly, the position of activists, politicians and the press wildly exaggerate what, all be a small percentage of, economists actually working in climate change say. So it seems to me that catastrophic economic collapse answers a psychological need for people in the 21st century that hell and damnation might have done for previous generations

  7. Greg Robie says:

    A timely post, from my perspective, so thanks. Perhaps a ‘contrarian’ view of the human condition can provide insight. From the paradox of the myth of Apollo/Cassandra we’ve a story that the god in charge of prophecy can, when strong emotions are engendered, be inspired to destroy the social value of prophecy. Fast forward to the present where climate modeling scientists are attempting to fill Cassandra’s tunic. How does Apollo come into play in the STS framed story. By the social conventions of science, gods don’t exist, so he doesn’t.

    However, as I am wont to express, …& then there’s motivated reasoning! If I imagine that the concept of civility is tribal motivated reasoning, what changes in the STS framing regarding civil social discourse? In my mind a first derivative expression of the observed social construct thereby defines ‘civil’ as conflict. Period. Such a definition requires, for our social species to survive the stress of this, that our motivated reasoning function so as to hide the full import of this from our species social awareness. This is because conflict-as-stress must be mitigated for the body’s systems for it to remain functional; survive. Or, this first derisive provides an answer to Rodney King’s lament, “why can’t we all just get along.” “Civility” is – and at best – a legal, not biological construct.

    Accepting that the concept of civility is a [treasured] delusion, a new view of our condition emerges. Power, winners, and loooosers all transform (for some) … and a spectra of Apollo begins to be visible (some motivated reasoning withstanding!).

    To address that “some” thing, it seems to me that a second derivative will make Apollo fully visible – though, with motivated reasoning, such is optional. The second derivative is calculated via the constraints of the gender differentiated mind of our species. Simplistically, the results describe two equally valid mitigations concerning the stress of conflict and our species as a social one. One mitigation is imagined into the social dynamics by how that mindset cannot not live; an article of hope and faith: that civility is a given and an achievable steady state. The other acts out of a awareness of the ‘brutality’ of nature and effects and maintains a tribally compassionate brutality. This too is an article of hope and faith.

    The reason I assert that this is the embodiment of gods, including Apollo, is that these two oppositional views are neither complete or incomplete. Paradoxically, and at best (as define by the sustainable reproduction of the species), they are complimentary.

    The tension in the myth is integral to what is involved psychologically within the reproduction of the species within, and explicitly privileged, social constructs. It externalizes the cause of this on both men and gods … or, as second wave feminism might rephrase this, men as gods. 😉

    The Greeks figured out/projected that the gods always fought. Eliminate gods and goddesses and we are back to the first derivative calculation that civility is a delusion (and with this corollary: privilege is the right to be responsible!). This species is cursed with consciousness and thereby, choice. However the second derivative calculation regarding choice are differentiated by our gendered differentiated neurology.

    Greek privilege was defined by the enslavement of others. And privilege/power as perceived and executed by a social privileged who are devoid of the knowledge that physics defines knowledge as action must always be so enslaved and enslaving. Doesn’t the STS framing assume otherwise? Mathematics does not lie. Physics does not care.

    That said, or attempted to be shared, together we’ve a small probability shot at evolving … on our way to trusted motivated reasonings meticulously calculated extinction of our economic meme. Apparently the few who can experience the paradox beyond the structural conflict of gender differentiated minds and motivated reasoning are good story tellers.

    Hence, Apollo for the Greeks, and for the professed godless, a choice to think and feel differently. Assuming that more would be less, some calculations about a STS convention from the ‘mathematics’ of these derivatives reveals a proof that were stuck playing out the Apollo/Cassandra myth.

    This is why I’m [still– it’s been a year so far] working to get my library to agree to host a link to a locally created and maintained database on greenhouse gas emissions as variously measured by real estate types, investments, and consumption. The conversations such may engender could become the means for examining trusted stories/motivated reasoning. The delay may mean that the rising Greta Thunberg wave will be surfable with this project and help her wave of progeny rebellion be a tsunami that can wash our minds’ slates clean and nonviolently conclude this latest replay of the Apollo/Cassandra myth. Can, as Isaiah prophesied in the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom, a child lead us? Motivated reasoning withstanding, isn’t our answer the product of consciousness X choice X evolving?

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I think avoiding consensus messaging is indeed of one the things that should be avoided.”

    Yes, however I’ve noticed that those who say to avoid “consensus messaging” (IMHO making true statements about the scientific community isn’t “messaging”) is that they tend not to have an answer to the question of how to respond to climate skeptics that argue there is no scientific consensus. This is an important question as it is widely acknowledged, by skeptics themselves, that reinforcing the idea that there is no scientific consensus is a powerful and successful form of “messaging” for them (c.f. the “Luntz memo”).

    “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science,”

    (source)

  9. dikranmarsupial says:

    Oops, I left of the important part of the quote, Doh!

    “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.

    “Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

  10. My impression that a lot of it relates to ideology. For example, I just saw this tweet.

    .@SJasanoff critiques a "liberal orthodoxy" around climate change that is preoccupied with carbon neutrality and not more holistically on issues of climate justice and inequality. Our conversation concludes with @SSRC_org president @alondra and questions from our audience. pic.twitter.com/IiuiMftbPJ— SSRC (@SSRC_org) December 1, 2018

    What does this mean and how is this some kind of objective assessment? I think it’s perfectly fine for people to have views about how to frame a societal issue, but what makes this an academic position, rather than simply someone’s personal views? For example, how does one determine that what is right, versus, wrong way to frame this issue?

  11. Dave_Geologist says:

    The suggestion was that all those involved with climate change research should frame things from a Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspective. Even though I’ve written a number of posts about STS, I don’t fully understand what this is suggesting, or how it would somehow help.

    I’m with you there ATTP. Given that I can’t grasp what a lot of STS stuff is getting at, even if it’s on a topic I know well, I’m unsure what they have to offer in terms of communicating with lay people. Healer heal thyself, perhaps. And of course a lot of what scientists do is communicating with other scientists. As Victor said in his serendipitously timely post:

    We should not forget in this debate that scientists and journalists have different interests. For a scientist quality is much more important than quantity (number of readers). When I give a talk it is not important whether 10 or 1000 people are in the audience, if there is one expert in the audience who will build on my work it was a success.

    I’m reminded about a talk I gave at a conference a decade ago. It was about a somewhat abstruse geomechanical explanation of and solution to a wellbore stability problem that had been plaguing us. My co-authors were an operations geologist (who interfaces with well operations) and a lab/theoretical geomechanics specialist. I was second author, but I gave the talk because I had a foot in both camps and was best placed to present it to a wider audience. That was one presentational choice, even in a non-lay-audience context. In the event, people drifted out as I was setting up (we were the last talk of the day). The ops geologist grumbled afterwards that there were only 20 or 30 present. The specialist said yes, but they were the right 20 or 30, and they were all sitting attentively in the front rows. IOW they were serious geomechanical specialists, and probably represented about 10% of those working in that sub-field globally. And we got half a dozen very insightful questions, because since we were last, the chairman allowed more than the usual 5 minutes for discussion. So not only did we know the word would get out (Victor’s point), but we also got ideas we could take away to improve our own work. The specialist was young and building a reputation, and he’d been the keenest to publish and was first author. We’d all taken the stage for the Q&A, but because of the audience, the specialist fielded most or all of the questions. So he was pleased to have raised his profile among his (more-than) peers. Shock horror – even scientists have ego and ambition! In retrospect I can also see the ops geologist’s viewpoint – his peers are the ones who’d be the first to spot trouble, but likely to misunderstand this version if they encountered it. But they’d left because they thought the talk would be too geeky.

    I’ve made presentations on the same topic to drillers (more practical focused and instead of test results, just “the lab data supports the model”), and to management (here’s how much not understanding this cost us, here’s what we’ve saved for an outlay of $2M in coring and testing). In a teaching or informal face-to-face situation, I’d use a stack of business cards to demonstrate the failure mechanism (actually three related mechanisms, which can be better appreciated when you can see my fingers and how the way I’m holding and loading the cards differs). If I was doing something for the general public I’d use a mixture of these techniques, not the conference-paper format. But for most scientists, probably most climate scientists, doing something for the general public is a tiny part of their work, or none at all.

    You could say that I had the advantage that there was a visible problem to be solved, but once it had been solved I was in the position of the people who fixed the Y2K bug (my brother included), and the ozone hole. I’m then in the position of telling the drillers to spend money, to avoid the risk of losing more money when something goes wrong. Success is when nothing happens, so after a while people start saying “nothing’s happened for months/years/whatever, do we have to keep doing this?”. It’s easy to get the support to fix something when it’s broken. The cost of fixing it when it’s broken is far greater (in drilling, typically by an order of magnitude or two) than the cost of not letting it break in the first place. But it’s hard to persuade people to take action to prevent breakage when it’s not broken yet. Climate change has that problem in spades. (Interestingly, given that there are indeed signs that the climate is already broken, there is an analogy with drilling. We typically allow a certain amount of wellbore damage, and monitor cavings to detect it going from damaged-but-stable to damaged-but-unstable. But I’ve been to a lot of post-mortems where I can say “ah yes, here’s where it started going wrong 5 hours, 12 hours, two days earlier”.)

  12. brigittenerlich says:

    Sorry I have only just seen this post. Interestingly, I was just re-reading an interview with Sheila Jasanoff just now in which she talks about climate scientists thus: “The people who support the idea that climate change is happening, they say, look at the strength of the consensus among climate scientists. It’s so strong; all the scientists agree, and we trust them. But the people who disagree, say, consensus among whom? You know, if 1,200 people who are getting huge grants to do their research come together and say, this is what we’ve discovered, okay, all 1,200 of them made the same finding, but why should we believe them? When the scientists themselves are an interested party̶ they’re getting money and fame, and invitations to presidential offices and premier’s offices, and jetting around the world, and having nice meeting – why should we believe them? So there, in the case of climate skepticism, you see the stand-off between science and different sets of ethics and values. They’re very closely linked up together.” She doesn’t seem to know what scientific consensus is. Or have I got that wrong? And she also seems to be saying that climate scientists are in it for the money. Hmmm….
    Here is the interview http://cont.o.oo7.jp/39_1/p167-80eng.pdf

  13. dikranmarsupial says:

    Perhaps it is because people tend to be very shrewd when it comes to money that “cui bono” seems more convincing to the public that scientific evidence.

    “why should we believe them?” – like doctors or car mechanics – because they know what they are talking about and we don’t.

  14. Brigitte,
    Thanks, I saw the tweet but couldn’t find the interview.

    She doesn’t seem to know what scientific consensus is. Or have I got that wrong? And she also seems to be saying that climate scientists are in it for the money. Hmmm….

    I’ll have to read the interview, but what you describe is the kind of logic I expect on what some might describe as a climate denialist blog, not from a leading researcher in a related field.

  15. brigittenerlich says:

    I should say that this is an old interview. I haven’t seen the current interview, so was rummaging around! But still….

  16. Brigitte,
    Thanks, I just realised that.

  17. I read some of the Janasoff interview, and it just leaves me shaking my head. I had assumed that an aspect of STS was to help to integrate science/technology and society; how can society effectively utilise scientific information and technological advancement. Instead, Janasoff seems to make the kind of arguments that I see on some climate blogs (why should we trust a consensus, scientists are in it for the money). How does this help? If we think this has some validity, then we can question anything, for whatever reason we might like.

    Similarly, I notice Reiner has a new paper on Ozone and climate governance: An implausible path dependence that ends with

    Climate change, by contrast, resists such an approach. There is no unique solution, and the problem is intractable. Many practical steps can be taken towards partial solutions, but these differ in nature and time. What would count as success, at what point in time, is unclear. So far science has not been able to provide guidance with regard to two important metrics for policy making: climate sensitivity and carbon budgets.

    Just because can can’t precisely determine climate sensitivity and carbon budgets doesn’t mean we can’t povide estimates that can he utilised in policy making. Surely, we could be providing guidance as to how to incorporate uncertainty into decision making, rather than claiming a lack of precision implies that estimates provide no guidance?

  18. brigittenerlich says:

    Yes, it is all rather puzzling.

  19. BBD says:

    So far science has not been able to provide guidance with regard to two important metrics for policy making: climate sensitivity and carbon budgets.

    That’s not puzzling, it’s just wrong.

  20. brigittenerlich says:

    I meant why STS people write such stuff….

  21. BBD says:

    Beats me, too.

  22. dikranmarsupial says:

    Echo chamber? From what little interaction I have had with them, they don’t seem very interested in scientists’ views on this.

  23. BBD says:

    It is, perhaps, a squeak of defiance in the face of the implacable nature of physics?

    This flavour of STS may be misperceiving – or miscasting – climate scientists as a technocratic elite dictating global policy because that creates a villain that is easier to cope with than the hard facts about CO2 and potentially dangerous warming.

  24. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    like doctors or car mechanics – because they know what they are talking about and we don’t.

    I generally filter a doctor’s (I’ll do this surgery even if the evidence of efficacy isn’t strong) or mechanic’s (no, you can’t just replace the brake pads, you need to replace the rotors and calipers as well) advice for self-interest.

    AFAIAC, an important question is, if there is a “consensus gap, ” (and it appears to me that there is), WHY does it exist? My impression is that consensus messaging has become much more commonplace over the last decade or so, but there is no obvious signal of that messaging if you examine publiic opinion on climate change. No signal of positive effect, but notably also, no signal of negative effect – of the sort which is theorized by many of those who are convinced that “consensus messaging” undermines public confidence in climate scientists, causes a blowback effect with conservatives, etc.

  25. Joshua,
    As far as I’m aware, there is some evidence for a small effect (some of Lawrence Hamilton’s work, for example). We also don’t know how big the gap would have been in its absence.

  26. Joshua says:

    Climate change, by contrast, resists such an approach. There is no unique solution, and the problem is intractable. Many practical steps can be taken towards partial solutions, but these differ in nature and time. What would count as success, at what point in time, is unclear. So far science has not been able to provide guidance with regard to two important metrics for policy making: climate sensitivity and carbon budgets.

    I think it’s useful to note that opponents to action to protect the ozone layer offered many arguments to support their opposition that are quite similar to the arguments made by opponents to ACO2 mitigation. For example, the argument that action will bring about economic disaster shared primary argument by “skeptics” in both cases.

    So AFAICT, the construct that the nature of the two problems are fundamentally different is questionable. I think that “skeptics” argued that the ozone problem was intractable with no unique solution (or at least no more amenable to a unique solution than ACO2 mitigation is a unique solution for addressing climate change).

    Perhaps there is more to a difference in the policy/science interface in the two situations, respectively, than a fundamental difference in the nature of the problems?

  27. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    We also don’t know how big the gap would have been in its absence.

    Well, yes, there is that.

    W/o such evidence (which is impossible to assemble) I look askance at any arguments that assert high certainty about the effect.

  28. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, nobody is expecting climatologists advice to be accepted without question. That is why we have the IPCC reports so we can find out the background to the advice, which is rather more than you get from doctors or car mechanics. But the point remains, once you exceed your level of expertise, it comes down to a matter of trust, and it is irrational to trust someone that doesn’t know what they are talking about (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow) than someone that does (doctors and nutritionists).

    The main reason there is a consensus gap is that peoples acceptance of the truth is influenced by their social, economic and political beliefs. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Likewise you can tell someone the truth, but that doesn’t mean they will accept it. The problem is if telling people the truth doesn’t change their opinion, does that mean we shouldn’t continue to tell the truth, especially in an environment where people propagate untruths (c.f. the Luntz memo). How do we know the consensus gap would not be wider if we did not address non-consensus messaging?

    What would be your approach to dealing with claims that there is no scientific consensus?

  29. dikranmarsupial says:

    Personally I try to make a distinction between matters of fact (e.g. climate physics, whether there is a consensus among climatologists) and matters of belief/opinion e.g. what should we do about it? I view introducing peoples values into discussion of the former as pandering to cognitive biases, which will make understanding more difficult in the long-run.

  30. Joshua says:

    As far as I’m aware, there is some evidence for a small effect (some of Lawrence Hamilton’s work, for example).

    If you could dig out a link, I’d appreciate it. The “lab-based” evidence (we exposed these people to consensus messaging, and here’s how they responded) doesn’t fit the bill, IMO, because there is so much about the real world context thst isn’t reflected in “lab-based” experimental paradigms.

    I would be really be curious to see if there has been any attempt to identify a “dose-deoendant* effect, that quantifies whether there is any association between views on the consensus and the amount of consensus messaging people have been exposed to (real world context, not contrived situations where people are exposed to an experimental exposure). It seems to me that would be the obvious way to settle the issue – and yet as far as I know, no one has researched that aspect?

  31. Joshua,
    There’s this paper, Public Awareness of the Scientific Consensus on Climate, which says

    Both rose gradually by about 10 points over 2010 to 2016, showing no abrupt shifts that might correspond to events such as scientific reports, leadership statements, or weather. Growing awareness of the scientific consensus, whether from deliberate messaging or the cumulative impact of many studies and publicly engaged scientists, provides the most plausible explanation for this rise in both series.

  32. brigittenerlich says:

    Regarding consensus messaging. Imagine vaccine experts no longer told people that vaccines don’t cause autism, i.e. no longer engaged in consensus messaging as that was somehow frowned upon. Would that be a good idea?

  33. Brigitte,
    That’s essentially the point I would make. I don’t think consensus messaging should necessarily be the main communication strategy, but if it exists, there seems nothing wrong with pointing it out and, in some cases, it may well be very important to make it clear.

  34. Willard says:

    Speaking of consensus messaging:

  35. BBD says:

    The pushback against consensus messaging boils down to “shut up!”. Whether the motivation is political or emotional, an unpalatable affirmation of the facts is rejected.

  36. Willard says:

    Gap? What gap?

  37. Greg Robie says:

    Gap: current lame duck session bill (from memory): Carbon priced at $15/T w/ $10/annum increase for 10 years, with a $3400/yr. average household rebate. Back of envelope math review: at 17.5 T/ capita & 4/household suggest the initial rebate will exceed the cost of the per capita cost do the carbon by almost twice. At the end of the decade the rebate would be a wash by these calculation _IF_ the US has, during this decade, reduced its emissions to the current average European per capita levels. Most Americans cannot currently afford an unexpected $400 expense. Our private debt is at 150% GDP. The Carpenter’s song title “We’ve Only Just Begun” comes to mind as a glass half-full way of saying HUUUGE GAP!!! … since oh-so-many-things!, and offsets are integral to this bill, and by 2030 the world is two years away from the optimistic IPCC Special Report re 1.5°C deadline for a 45% reduction in 2010 emissions.

    However, Wall Street bonuses could be huge by then though this as a [fake] climate policy!?!

    …& a bigger gap in income inequality (greater poverty) that will [absurdly] coincide with the termination of the timeframe for accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals: 2030.

  38. dpy6629 says:

    Well its pretty obvious that social values and politics influence scientists and science. So I don’t know why this is a controversial observation. Elucidating these influences is something historians of science have been doing for a century. As I learned in my history of science class, even stronger than social values and politics but often ignored are cultural narratives about nature and human beings.

    For example a very common cultural belief in the modeling and simulation community is that “if I run the model right and adjust the parameters” I will get the right answer. This belief also provides a strong motivation for the business of selling codes and getting people to run them for all kinds of things. There are fake news items spread out of this meme regarding past success in industry with these codes and about how testing is going away soon if it hasn’t already. This cultural meme is supported by naive interpretations of Newtonian physics. Of course all this must ignore a deeper understanding of for example the multi-body problem which is chaotic on long time scales. For those who know all this there is still the faith in the mystical attractiveness of the strange attractor that many use to claim that the climate of the attractor is predictable and computable. This kind of belief is not really scientific but is cultural in nature (supported by self interest of course).

    The “science is about facts” idea is no doubt comforting to those practicing “science” but depends on simply ignoring the very big past failures some of which were dramatic or the poor track record of science warriors or the inherent ambiguities involved in complex systems. A good example to contemplate is uniformitarianism vs. catastrophism in geology. Subsequent understanding showed of course that both of these doctrines were partly right.

  39. Joshua says:

    David –

    So I don’t know why this is a controversial observation.

    I don’t know why you think that anyone thinks that it is a controversial observation. Could you point out where someone indicated that they thought it is?

  40. dpy said:

    ” Of course all this must ignore a deeper understanding of for example the multi-body problem which is chaotic on long time scales. For those who know all this there is still the faith in the mystical attractiveness of the strange attractor that many use to claim that the climate of the attractor is predictable and computable. This kind of belief is not really scientific but is cultural in nature (supported by self interest of course).”

    This bit and the recent paper by Essex & Tsonis are defeatist takes on what is possible in climate science and geophysics.

    I would’t listen to such pessimism and instead consider these areas as opportunities. According to Marston, there is still spectacular progress to be made

  41. BBD says:

    This belief also provides a strong motivation for the business of selling codes and getting people to run them for all kinds of things. There are fake news items spread out of this meme regarding past success in industry with these codes and about how testing is going away soon if it hasn’t already. This cultural meme is supported by naive interpretations of Newtonian physics. Of course all this must ignore a deeper understanding of for example the multi-body problem which is chaotic on long time scales.

    Okay.

  42. BBD says:

    Must be careful about naive interpretations of Newtonian physics.

  43. So perhaps the best defense against cultivating naive interpretations of Newtonian physics is maybe to go to college and learn the discipline? I guess that essentially explains the problems that Rog, Willis, Ned, etc are having. Okay #2

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/115/48/12241

    nice willard, I have a blockchain application

  45. Dave_Geologist says:

    A good example to contemplate is uniformitarianism vs. catastrophism in geology. Subsequent understanding showed of course that both of these doctrines were partly right.

    A good example to contemplate is flat-earth vs. round-earth, or geocentric vs. heliocentric vs. we’re-not-special. Subsequent understanding showed of course that some of these doctrines were totally and utterly wrong.

    The rest isn’t worth a reply I’m afraid. Whether through ignorance or misunderstanding, it’s so far off-base it’s not even in the town, let alone the stadium.

  46. Dave_Geologist says:

    And actually, a better geological example to contemplate would be denying that rivers cause erosion. Which is equivalent to denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Or accepting that rivers cause erosion, but claiming they can’t be responsible for things like the Grand Canyon, because the Earth is only 6,000 years old and there hasn’t been enough time. Which is equivalent to accepting that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but insisting, against the balance of evidence, that ECS is no more than 1.5°C. Which is also analogous to Creationists saying they’re not science deniers because they don’t deny evolution – they accept microevolution, but not macroevolution across Kinds.

  47. brigittenerlich says:

    Very nice example! I have to remember that!

  48. izen says:

    Does STS have anything useful to say about how to deal with those that assert;-
    Belief Trumps knowledge, because a gut feeling is more accurate than smart brains.

  49. Greg Robie says:

    Willard re indirect reciprocity game

    Thanks for the link. A great example of why I feel as I do about ATTP: a love/hate paradox where I keep ‘cooperating’ – more or less. 😉

    Steven, your related comment is too brief to determine whether it constitutes a “1” or an [sarcastic] “0” within that game, but if a “0”, and from the paper’s supplemental information (thus far), my [inadequately expressed] “contrary view” missive from yesterday supports the judgement you seem to be communicating.

    My understanding of our brain’s structure is that it runs all our neurological sensory messaging through the amygdala, or the [physiological] “fear center” of the brain.* This suggest to me that the game’s assumption that all players start with “good” reps is biased and wrong-headed/hearted. But for our social conventions born of motivated reasoning that would assume such, doesn’t the opposite more accurately describes our human condition?

    * https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/i-got-mind-tell-you/201508/the-amygdala-is-not-the-brains-fear-center

    It seems to me that the indirect reciprocity game authors feel they addressed the bias of their assumption when asserting that an ALLC strategy that deems everyone as bad, yet everyone cooperates anyway, would not alter their qualitative results. But isn’t this because such is assumed? Furthermore, their dismissal of the import of the L7 outlier when all players start with a bad reputation (an amygdala ‘given’, but motivated reasoning impossibility, i.e., our species must be social and cooperate have successfully reproduced), is not rational when, to be valid, the game needs to assume that all players start as we are: ‘afraid’ of each other/untrusting of one another.

    After getting through 1.2 of the supplemental information, my brain needed a break to do some processing (which this comment is). It seems to me that the dismissed L7 outlier is descriptive of the condition for which the myth of Cassandra/Apollo conundrum is descriptive relative to climate science messaging and the STS critique of the same: in terms of socially cooperative action that physics will ‘understand’, aren’t our ears, and in an irrational (god-like) way, stopped? Isn’t communication, other than what is possible through collapse, precluded? In the L7 outlier only walk talks. Only action defines knowledge. (Or, such is blockchain app adaption conundrum as well.)

    And, and in general, my apology for the less-then-concise initial post regarding the Cassandra/Apollo myth yesterday, it felt so well expressed (missed auto-corrects withstanding), until I tried to read/wade through it afresh today! Intended bottom line re STS: such is an Apollonian mindfart. 😉

    And this “if only” lament: if only our children could lead us!

  50. Joshua says:

    Wishful thinking?:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10915

    Our identification of extortionate behaviour in the collective-risk social dilemma suggests two counteracting major effects when, with all due caution, we try to interpret the social dynamics of climate summits with our results in mind. On the one hand, the competitive advantage of selfish players in getting elected or re-elected appears to work against reaching a collective target such as preventing dangerous climate change—there might not be enough fair representatives around to support the target. On the other hand, selfish players, who are ubiquitous and show up in all but 1 of the 135 individual collective-risk games, consistently act as extortioners. Their steadfast strategies enhance the already-existing willingness of our fair players to contribute towards reaching the collective target. If we compare extortionate to hypothetical non-extortionate selfish players, we conclude—with more than just a hint of Machiavellian thinking—that extortion benefits the prevention of dangerous climate change.

  51. dpy6629 says:

    Dave, Some things are black and white, but nature is mostly about complex systems and chaos which are not so black and white. It may be comforting to pick out and focus on people whose views are “wrong” but this is not where science advances, its where science warriors like to gain pyrrhic victories and feel virtuous.

  52. BBD says:

    Teh modulzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

  53. Greg Robie says:

    My memory: MyBad – re the lame duck ‘climate’ bill in the US. A $3456 rebate is a possible maximum regarding a family of four. The actual initial rebate for that family will be between $576 – $864. The $3456 suggests the rebate could rise four fold while the price for the credits could rise as much as nine fold (for any year that reduction targets are not met – 5% of 2015 levels year-on-year – the price would increase $15). I also see that we apparently have a 15.53T/capita emission footprint rather than the 17.5 I used. However, the rebate mechanism treats under 18 year old ‘capita’ as half of one when figuring the rebate … so go figure! Oh, and this bit of political expediency concern the COLA calculations is also included(or is that excluded?!?): the agriculture sector is 100% exempt.

  54. dpy6629 says:

    Well Joshua, Most people will sort of acquiesce (while looking down at the floor) when these matters are mentioned and change the subject. A deep understanding of chaos however is very rare. The problem here goes vastly deeper in that the literature supports the simple linear model of “always getting the right answer” pretty strongly and the leaders in many fields are quite happy with the status quo that advanced them to senior scientist status. Junior scientists feel constrained to focus on advancing their own careers.

    Most importantly, only a few outlier people are working on the fundamental progress that Paul P. thinks is possible. That’s in my view due to a dysfunctional soft money culture at Universities and even government labs. But we need new theoretical and mathematical understandings to move forward. Wang at MIT is one of the few working on fundamentals with his “shadowing” ideas.

  55. Joshua says:

    David –

    Well Joshua, Most people will sort of acquiesce (while looking down at the floor) when these matters are mentioned and change the subject.

    In other words, you don’t have an example, and yes you are having a convo with your straw man.

    Why not just acknowledge the fallacious argument and move on to a good faith discussion? Wouldn’t that be more productive?

    Dissembling and peddling are sub-optimal.

  56. dpy said:

    “Dave, Some things are black and white, but nature is mostly about complex systems and chaos which are not so black and white. It may be comforting to pick out and focus on people whose views are “wrong” but this is not where science advances, its where science warriors like to gain pyrrhic victories and feel virtuous.”

    Why does dpy keep putting his foot in his mouth? Nature is about systems of varying complexity and the patterns they show. Just because he’s running into problems does not mean that everyone else has his problems.

    “Most importantly, only a few outlier people are working on the fundamental progress that Paul P. thinks is possible. That’s in my view due to a dysfunctional soft money culture at Universities and even government labs. But we need new theoretical and mathematical understandings to move forward. Wang at MIT is one of the few working on fundamentals with his “shadowing” ideas.”

    The adjective “fundamental” in the context I quoted above is really used for particle physics, as it’s applied to understanding the fundamental building blocks of matter. For fundamental research on well-accepted physics there’s much progress. It’s fine that the guy is working on “shadowing” ideas, more power to him. Here is the site for a spectral CFD solver called Dedalus http://dedalus-project.org/
    Just found out about this and it looks impressive.

  57. BBD says:

    Modul..zzzz… zzzz..

    What Joshua said, David.

    Why not just acknowledge the fallacious argument and move on to a good faith discussion? Wouldn’t that be more productive?

    Dissembling and peddling are sub-optimal.

    Consider the glacial cycles ~800ka to present. Mucho climate shift but the same one every time. Both ways. Predictable, even boring. Possible constraint on the role of chaos in climate change?

  58. BBD said

    “Consider the glacial cycles ~800ka to present. Mucho climate shift but the same one every time. Both ways. Predictable, even boring. Possible constraint on the role of chaos in climate change?”

    Yup. Same thing with ENSO, as it’s a standing-wave dipole that hasn’t budged in its location for as long as measurements have been taken. Just about every time I have run into a stable standing wave it indicates a behavior that is definitely not chaotic. I can’t even find much on Google Scholar for “chaotic standing waves”, uncovering less than 20 cites.

    Maybe Dr. D.P.Y. Chaos can help find an example of an empirically observed chaotic standing wave fluid in the literature since he is so certain about their existence.

  59. Willard says:

    > Maybe

    Maybe this thread isn’t about ENSO or Navier-Stokes.

    Chill, please.

  60. brigittenerlich says:

    Just seen this https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0352-1
    An example of an STS perspective?

  61. Dave_Geologist says:

    dpy, Some things are black and white, but nature is mostly about complex systems and chaos which are not so black and white, but nevertheless exhibit stable attractors which are displaced in predictable ways by external forcings. It may be comforting to pick out and focus on buzz words like chaos or complexity, but this is not where science advances, its where culture warriors like to gain pyrrhic victories and feel virtuous.

  62. Dave_Geologist says:

    By a strange coincidence, there was an item on the radio this morning about a shortage of straw in the UK this winter. Now I know why – it’s all been commandeered to make men!

    Time for my favourite riposte to science-is-always-wrong: The Relativity of Wrong.

  63. brigittenerlich says:

    That straw shortage makes perfect sense now! And yes the relativity of wrong is one of my favourites too.

  64. Dave_Geologist says:

    A deep understanding of chaos however is very rare.

    How very true dpy. Such a shame then, that you appear to have a rather shallow understanding, on a par with that of the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park.

    I recommend a beginner book. Try Schroeder’s Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws. Cheap copies are available on Amazon.

  65. brigittenerlich says:

    Sorry me again, but… I just got a book by Sheila Jasanoff through the letter box entitled “Can Science Make Sense of Life?” (just out) I am on page 3 and … I don’t know what to say: “The twentieth century’s great breakthroughs in the life sciences have made it increasingly more acceptable for biologists to claim ownership of the meaning of life. The origins and implications of that growing primacy deserve our attention. It is a story of arrogance … a process of asking or claiming a terrain for oneself.” And “Representing the human genome as the book of life, written in the plain four-letter code of DNA, implicitly claims for biologists a priestly role: as the sole authorised readers of that book…” (p. 7). This is quite offensive I think. Biologists don’t claim ownership of the meaning of life and they generally don’t assume ‘a priestly role’. And I bet they would love to send her a sequence and let her interpret it and its meaning just by herself, if she asked them to. Sorry, I am a bit miffed. I’ll carry on reading….

  66. BBD says:

    This is quite offensive I think. Biologists don’t claim ownership of the meaning of life and they generally don’t assume ‘a priestly role’.

    More straw, it seems. TBH, Jasanoff just comes across as one of those chippy, resentful-of-eggheads types dressing up a prejudice in academic clothes rather than someone presenting a crafted, developed argument.

  67. GeoDave said:

    ” It may be comforting to pick out and focus on buzz words like chaos or complexity, but this is not where science advances”

    Indeed

    “How very true dpy. Such a shame then, that you appear to have a rather shallow understanding, on a par with that of the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park.”

    “It’s a UNIX system! I know this!”

  68. Dave_Geologist says:

    I wonder if Jeff ever read I Hate Unix? An excellent little book. OK, not so little. Although I prefer Linux, command line and GUI, what’s not to like?

    Although I was thinking more of his “it’s all terribly complicated, something unexpected will happen and it’s bound to be bad”. Except with climate, the meme always seems to be “it’s all terribly complicated, the expected won’t happen and whatever does happen will be benign or even good”

  69. Yes, it’s understandable that dpy never considers the Martingale. As his tribe is the house, it doesn’t matter to him.

  70. dikranmarsupial says:

    I thought the whole purpose of a GUI was so that you could have more than one command line at the same time? ;o)

  71. Dave_Geologist says:

    I thought the whole purpose of a GUI was so that you could have more than one command line at the same time?

    Nah, that’s a shell script 😉 . Ah, you mean multiple shells running concurrently 🙂 .

  72. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    brigittenerlich says:

    [quoting Sheila Jasanoff]
    ‘…increasingly more acceptable for biologists to claim ownership of the meaning of life.’
    ‘It is a story of arrogance … a process of asking or claiming a terrain for oneself.’
    ‘Representing the human genome as the book of life, written in the plain four-letter code of DNA, implicitly claims for biologists a priestly role: as the sole authorised readers of that book…’

    This is quite offensive I think.

    I agree.
    It’s also utter tosh.
    From someone who should know better.

    Even ‘priestly’ biologists will acknowledge that they cannot “read” DNA for meaning. Mostly they can’t even read it in terms of encoding proteins. That’s why, for example, there’s vast amounts of so-called “junk DNA”, and why there’s a ‘C-value paradox’.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-coding_DNA#Junk_DNA
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-value#Variation_among_species

    Even among animals animals, nuclear DNA contents vary more than 3,300-fold, and this variation bears no relationship to the number of genes. A complete understanding of how and why genomes vary so much in size has remained elusive for more than half a century, and has become a more timely issue than ever in the post-genomic era.

    If Jasanoff’s represents a critical “STS perspective”, I’ll wait for the movie, thank you very much.

  73. brigittenerlich says:

    She is the best known representative of STS and highly regarded in the field. It puzzles me a lot.

  74. dikranmarsupial says:

    @Dave I only have 21 open at the moment. ;o)

  75. BBD says:

    She is the best known representative of STS and highly regarded in the field.

    Then no confidence in STS.

  76. dikranmarsupial says:

    ‘…increasingly more acceptable for biologists to claim ownership of the meaning of life.’
    ‘It is a story of arrogance … a process of asking or claiming a terrain for oneself.’

    fighting hyperbole with hyperbole?

    implicitly claims for biologists a priestly role: as the sole authorised readers of that book…’

    I’ve started muting people on twitter for doing that. The use of religious metaphors as an ad-hominem in science is usually an indication that someone is not listening and (ironically) not susceptible to rational argument.

  77. brigittenerlich says:

    This was the starting point for me in this episode …. https://twitter.com/SSRC_org/status/1068659619260551168
    Ok, I accept that I was talking about science and she about politics but still, even in climate politics religiously tinted words are a no no….

  78. Fergus Brown says:

    Brigitte; looks like she’s setting up a straw man.
    I’m not sure but to me STS looks like something for people who can’t do science to do in order to try to claim authority over science, something us philosophers are familiar with. Not convinced.

  79. brigittenerlich says:

    Yes. They talk about ‘reflexivity’ but don’t apply it to themselves. By the way, the rest of the book is equally bad. I couldn’t find a redeeming feature. I also don’t know who the audience is supposed to be… I’ll write a blog post at some point.

  80. dikranmarsupial says:

    I don’t think it is helpful in politics either, there is more than enough rhetoric and hyperbole in that already!

  81. Dave_Geologist says:

    Dave I only have 21 open at the moment

    You win the internet dikran!

  82. Dave_Geologist says:

    She is the best known representative of STS and highly regarded in the field. It puzzles me a lot.

    It doesn’t puzzle me in the slightest.

  83. Joshua says:

    Perhaps on topic as to how people view the interface of social values and politics and the work of scientists (and definitely just too good to pass up)…

    Apologies in advance, I have no idea how this will format once posted:

    Judith Curry (@curryja) Tweeted:
    @RogerPielkeJr Thank you for this. I am getting ready to submit an article for publication, and I have to tread very carefully since I do consulting for energy companies. I regard myself as much less biased than the advocate/activist climate scientists. https://twitter.com/curryja/status/1069282954101194752?s=17

  84. Joshua says:

    Brigette –

    This is quite offensive I think. Biologists don’t claim ownership of the meaning of life and they generally don’t assume ‘a priestly role’.

    Looks suspiciously like biologist-punching.

    Have you seen anything more substantive by way of explaining the basis of her assertion? Or should I just assume that something like conducting stem cell research is tantamount to claiming ownership over the meaning of life?

  85. Joshua says:

    Gotta say, Warren Pearce’s question about why religious metaphors are problematic in the discussion of climate change is a bit perplexing. I thought he is an advocate for non-polarizing communication.

  86. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Fergus Brown:

    I’m not sure but to me STS looks like something for people who can’t do science to do in order to try to claim authority over science, something us philosophers are familiar with. Not convinced.

    Lot’s of humanities scholars can’t (or won’t) do science.
    But then, lots of scientists can’t (or won’t) do humanities.

    Speaking as some one who’s visited himself upon both of the ‘two solitudes’, it’s usually not so much about claiming authority for oneself, as it is about denying the authority of the ‘other’ experts. Call it ‘epistemic equipartion’. Or ‘narrative democracy’.

    However, if, as with Janasoff, making your case involves having to accuse the other discipline of “arrogance” and “ownership” and acting “priestly”- then you’re probably getting your knowledge (i.e. stereotypes) of that discipline from journalists and other secondary and tertiary sources, and not those working in the discipline itself.
    Which is too bad.
    Because, to anyone who knows some biology from primary sources, it comes across as uninformed verbosity.

  87. brigittenerlich says:

    Haven’t seen any argument as such, only skimmed the book though. Will wrote something about it when i get time.

  88. izen says:

    @-brigittenerlich
    “Biologists don’t claim ownership of the meaning of life and they generally don’t assume ‘a priestly role’.”

    It is not an exclusively American trope, but in a society where the dominant form of institutional authority are religious, it often seems that people who have been raised in that cultural tradition expect science to follow the same pattern.
    There is a tendency to expect science to consist of absolute truth and meaning that resides in a text which is then interpreted by a ‘priestly’ caste for consumption, but not questioning by a lay public.

    That science can change, expand and evolve the knowledge it presents is seen as a flaw not a feature, because a religion claims to have a fixed and absolute meaning.

    A religious world-view of authority also seems to expect science to convey meaning, so often commits the Naturalistic fallacy of claiming that knowledge about the material world contains an inherent ethical message.

    Most of these beliefs about the form and history of religious authority are wrong of course, (slavery?) but they are integral aspects faith and go unquestioned. They prove even more wrong when applied to science.

  89. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Curry:

    I regard myself as much less biased than the advocate/activist climate scientists.

    Of course…
    Honest brokers always say they’re the honestest brokers.

  90. brigittenerlich says:

    Yes, I see your point!

  91. She is the best known representative of STS and highly regarded in the field.

    That is really worrying, having read her interview linked above. The parts on climate change are awfully ill informed: stupid denier strawmen, just asking questions and no willingness to clearly state her position (talking like a politician rather than an academic). I had hoped Warren Pearce was the bad apple.

    In principle it would be good to have a science that studies science. I would, however, propose to start from scratch with a new untainted name.

  92. brigittenerlich says:

    I think I’ll have to leave that to the next generation 😉 Perhaps stick with some good historians and philosophers of science at the moment.

  93. dpy6629 says:

    Dave, we model chaotic flow all the time and find lots of hysteresus, non-uniqueness, and even multiple attractors. You can expand your horizons beyond science popular glosses by googling subcritical transition and reading a few abstracts.

    The almighty attractor is only a little bit more modern sounding than the predictability and computability cultural bias. Both are wrong. But I’m sure a man of your caliber knows that.

  94. dpy6629 says:

    Paul P, your reference is another instantiation of a very old method going back to Tony Patera. It’s not viable except for very low Reynolds numbers because of the fact that 99.99% of scientists prefer numerical stability. But the reselling technique employed using “open source” is no doubt first rate

  95. to dpy:
    Excellent. I solve analytically so have no concerns over numerical stability. Where the numerical results match the analytical results I can do perturbation studies, ensuring the stability. Thanks for your help.

  96. dpy and Paul,
    I’d appreciate it if you didn’t use this post as an opportunity to rehash old debates.

  97. dikranmarsupial says:

    Prof. Curry tweets ” I regard myself as much less biased than the advocate/activist climate scientists.”

    Well that settles that then.

    Prof Curry writes

    My clients are concerned about the alarmist predictions they have encountered. I have seen various ‘experts’ make public statements projecting 21st century sea level to be as high as 9 m [30 feet]. My clients are looking for someone that they trust to provide an objective assessment that focuses on their issues of concern.

    I am not a published expert on sea level rise, although I have published some relevant papers in oceanography and the climate dynamics of the polar regions. What I bring to this assessment is a broader perspective on the issues of climate dynamics, climate modeling and uncertainty than most of the community working on the sea level rise issue. In any event, it is arguably useful for a knowledgeable person outside of the publishing sea level community to provide an independent assessment.

    [emphasis mine]

    Perhaps not then. It is ironic that Prof. Curry makes an ad-hominem against the ” ‘experts’ ” and then admits not to be an expert herself (and hence arguably merely an ” ‘expert’ “). I rather suspect the ” ‘experts’ ” to which she refers consider themselves as having the sort of compensating knowledge and skills that she considers to have herself that qualify her to write a report. Also if she has been commissioned to write a report by clients with a commercial interest, then it is hardly an “independent assessment” from the perspective of anybody other than her clients.

    Personally I would regard a clear statement of your own perceived biases as being more reassuring than a statement of your lack of (relative) bias as it is at least an indication that you examine your position for bias and want to do something about it.

    Rashomon

  98. Dave_Geologist says:

    Dave, we model chaotic flow all the time and find lots of hysteresus, non-uniqueness, and even multiple attractors.

    Of course we do. Where did I say otherwise? Doesn’t “exhibit stable attractors which are displaced in predictable ways by external forcings” say attractors, plural? That is entirely difficult from “it’s all too complicated so we can’t trust the results, including results like GCM simulations, which model chaotic flow, expose the non-uniqueness and existence of multiple attractors, yet show stable averages over an ensemble of hundreds or thousands of realisations”. That’s just cant from people who can’t or won’t face up to Inconvenient Truths (TM).

    The “almighty attractor” is not modern sounding at all. It sounds like the boring old standard chant of the ignorati who falsely conflate scientific evidence with religious or cultural beliefs. Jasanoff with snazzy maths, as oppose to the old-fashioned maths she learned as an undergraduate in the 60s. Best avoided if you want to be taken seriously as a scientific commenter rather than a culture warrior. But I’m sure a man of your caliber knows that.

  99. Marco says:

    “I rather suspect the ” ‘experts’ ” to which she refers consider themselves as having the sort of compensating knowledge and skills that she considers to have herself that qualify her to write a report”

    I myself rather suspect that Curry gets her information about what certain ‘experts’ say from indirect sources (i.e., journalists writing something about information they got from elsewhere, and adding their own interpretation). I cannot even find any ‘experts’ saying “up to 30 feet by the end of the 21st century”! I can only find scientists who may not be sea level rise experts pointing out that previous periods with global temperatures as high as today saw sea levels 20-30 feet higher than today. No date mentioned, just the energy imbalance that all climate scientists know about, combined with the known slow response.
    Up to 30 feet by the end of the 22nd century has been mentioned (see e.g. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/extreme-sea-level-rise-stakes-for-america-21387). That’s the very best example I could find about that 30 feet.

  100. Fergus Brown says:

    Jeb: the benefit of being a philosopher – we are confident in the assumption of our superiority. I think I agree with what you say. In theory, the ‘scientific process’ or ‘good practice’ is supposed to provide some assurance of objectivity, in any field, but ‘Social sciences’ seem to have a predilection for unsubstantiated assumptions and false inferences, undermining the entire foundations of some disciplines.

    Then, people are people, and we like to shout about how important we are, and how dumb ‘they’ are; this applies all the way along the academic tree. We tend to choose our platform, then justify our decision.

    Perhaps a little controversially, I will exempt Media Studies from the general condemnation of social science, because understanding how media works and why it exists, what it does and how it influences, is very important in the world we are currently in. Also, it doesn’t often pretend to be a science 🙂 .

  101. brigittenerlich says:

    Yep, as a sort of media studies person (although I never use that term), I agree with that.

  102. dpy6629 says:

    Dave, It would be useful if you googled “subcritical transition” which will go beyond the popularizations of science that you are repeating.

    The real situation is that there is always noise in time accurate chaotic simulations and there are some situations where prediction and computability are pretty good and other situations where they are not good at all. And then there are some other little issues such as the failure of classical methods of error control. My point is that this is not reflected well in the literature, where people can be easily fooled.

    Your and BBD’s responses here are perfect examples of how widespread the cultural bias of predictability and computability is, particularly among those without deep experience.

    One of the areas where we have a lot of trouble is convection and clouds. I really don’t think there is much disagreement about that. There are some recent papers discussing cloud parameterizations and how sensitive results are to these parameters.

  103. dpy,
    It would be good if you could endeavour to avoid another one of your “but chaos” comment threads.

  104. BBD says:

    The predictability of climate response to orbital dynamics demonstrates that there is no substance to your modulz hobby-horse, David. Clouds and convection and all.

  105. BBD says:

    Sorry, ATTP, we crossed.

  106. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Jeb: the benefit of being a philosopher – we are confident in the assumption of our superiority.

    Well, even philosophers could still learn a thing or two.

    “Knowledge and Decisions” (1980) by Thomas Sowell:

    It is not the agronomists, physicians, or engineers who have risen to power, but the sociologists, psychologists, and legal theorists. It is the latter group who have transformed the political and social landscape in the United States and much of the Western world. Not only is much of their cognitive output inherently unverifiable empirically; they have by various definitions and axiomatic procedures made their output even less susceptible of authentication than it would be otherwise. The jargon alone in these fields makes their substance largely inaccessible to outsiders. Transitionism explains away all disastrous consequences as the short-run price for long-run triumph. They have conquered by faith rather than works. This is hardly surprising in the light of similar achievements by religious intellectuals who preceded them by centuries. Whatever has made human beings eager to hear those who claim to know the future has worked for modern as well as ancient intellectuals.

    So – Here we have Sowell saying that social theorists are the modern, secular equivalents of a priestly class…

    Whatever happened to the arrogant biologist-priests and their DNA scriptures?

    As for the priests of Media Studies – I give you The Ballad of Marshall McLuhan.

  107. brigittenerlich says:

    🙂

  108. Greg Robie says:

    … & a mass media ‘proof’ that the medium is [the aspired to/Occupy’d] message. Had to watch it … twice! LOL


    …or why a socially accepted ‘maturation’, i.e., that of effecting a TV, is both growing all-pervasive and, increasingly, our socially isolating as-good-as-it-gets? Pandering to the mass market, such as STS effects, can feel like an antidote to the mass isolation of [a]social media – were this blog resides with this increasingly socially isolating truth as its title: …& then there’s physics.

    With hopium as the generationally abused prescribed drug, and freedom, now, the right to choose ones prison:

    Or “#GoGreta” at #COP24 … while I’m distracted self-broadcasting haiku here:

    tilting at windmills
    or a truth that tends to b[l]ind
    ’bout losing our kind

  109. dpy6629 says:

    So I read the Fuller piece referenced in an earlier post and his four main shibboleths of STS all seem me to contain an element of truth (even though in some cases to be overdone) or to reflect things scientists say about science. For example we hear a lot about how peer review is how science gets its legitimacy and about how blogs don’t count. Of course science can happen anywhere but its not going to have much influence unless it appears in a public forum. Likewise, It seems to me that consensus in human affairs is not a natural state of affairs. It usually doesn’t happen without some kind of incentive or in the case of government, the threat of force.

    From Fuller: “This example speaks to the larger issue addressed by post-truth, namely, distrust in expertise, to which STS has undoubtedly contributed by circumscribing the prerogatives of expertise.” is clearly wrong. Distrust of experts is normal human skepticism and bull headedness and is not a “post-truth” thing. Nor do human beings require STS to tell them how to distrust “expertise.”

    I’m probably missing something here but I don’t understand why the reaction is so strong to STS. In principle, its perfectly legitimate and really needed, given the emerging consensus about modern science’s flaws. If some STS practitioners say silly things, there is plenty of opportunity to counter them via public forums.

  110. brigittenerlich says:

    Some STS people say sensible things. However more often than not STS is not so much a subject or discipline but a rhetorical style and that style can be quite alienating. Also, if STS is there to watch over science, they should understand science (e.g. that a scientific consensus is not dependent on incentives) and apply the principles of critique that they apply to science also to themselves (e.g engage with stekeholders and ‘publics’, who, in this case, may be scientists, even experts, engage in responsible research and innovation, co-production etc. – some do, some don’t).

  111. brigittenerlich says:

    And I meant ‘co-production’ of STS RESEARCH not STS people being involved in co-producing scientific research. (the concept of co-production is confusing though, as Jasanoff has her own concept, but this is what I mean, sort of https://www.tias-web.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/KnowledgeCoProduction_Lures_and_Pitfalls_S_Beck.pdf)

  112. BBD says:

    I’m probably missing something here but I don’t understand why the reaction is so strong to STS.

    Because some of its proponents talk complete and utter crap. Please read the thread.

  113. Dave_Geologist says:

    dpy:

    peer review is how science gets its legitimacy

    Nope, that’s a necessary but not sufficient step. Next comes informal post-publication review, perhaps formal review in the form of a Comment and Reply, then if it stands the test of time, consilience with other work leading to a consensus. You’re right about blog science though.

    consensus in human affairs is not a natural state of affairs. It usually doesn’t happen without some kind of incentive

    Outside science perhaps. Inside science it emerges when all the evidence points in one direction. As in the Earth being round not flat, humans being evolved from apes, the Moon orbiting the Earth orbiting the Sun, and the GH effect being real, the cause of our present warming, and being driven by our CO2 emissions and other forcings. No need for any incentive other than a desire to determine the nature of reality, and a sufficiently well established reality. Which is of course the case in all four of my examples.

    Distrust of experts is normal human skepticism and bull headedness

    As with the first example, you’re half right. Yes in the case of bullheadedness, but you obviously don’t know the meaning of the word “skepticism”.

    Nor do human beings require STS to tell them how to distrust “expertise.”

    They say you do know a man by his scare quotes, don’t they? But you’re right. The sheeple who are taken in by the likes of Alex Jones, Breitbart, Fox News and the WSJ don’t need STS. They have their own, non-academic liars lying to them.

    I’m probably missing something here but I don’t understand why the reaction is so strong to STS.

    Because it puts itself on a pedestal but is full of bull, including from what we are told are leading luminaries in the field.

  114. Dave_Geologist says:

    Sorry brigitte, but aaargh.

    • The way a thing is (ontology) is inseparable from normative commitments to what ought to be (norms)
    • constructing a representation of the world as it is a representation of the world as you want it to be

    I think Alan Sokal would invite her to step off his tower-block window ledge and test whether the law of gravity would suspend itself to save a nice old lady from plummeting to her death. I want it not to be raining today. How does that work? Should I close my eyes when I go outside? I’d still feel my hair getting wet.

  115. brigittenerlich says:

    Her concept of co-production is very confusing. Argh indeed. The concept I ‘meant’ was the other one, used in policy contexts, where stakeholders are invited to co-produce research, Which is a rather complex activity. But what I wanted to say is: what’s good for the goose (science) should be good for the gander (STS). So they should invite stakeholder to co-produce STS research, whatever that is, with them. That would be great ‘experiment’.
    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2015/03/20/the-co-production-confusion/

  116. Willard says:

    > I think Alan Sokal would invite her to step off his tower-block window ledge and test whether the law of gravity would suspend itself to save a nice old lady from plummeting to her death. I want it not to be raining today.

    He may agree with both points:

    This paper is intended as a (small) contribution to both debates. We want, of course, to defend the notion of science as a cognitive endeavor seeking (and sometimes finding) objective knowledge-in some sense or other- about the external world. And we want to defend a modest realism: one which insists that the goal of science is to find out how things really are and which asserts we are making progress in that direction, but which recognizes that this goal will always be incompletely achieved and which is aware of the principal obstacles.

    https://physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/bielefeld_final_rev.pdf

  117. dpy6629 says:

    Dave, I don’t know who you have dealt with all your life, but in my circle of family and acquaintances skepticism is the default position and every point is argued about often for a long time. It is unusual for consensus to emerge, but a better understanding almost always does. Your derogatory “steeple” is just inflammatory. In a healthy workplace, where technical issues are involved, prolonged disagreements and skepticism are normal and actually promote progress.

  118. dpy6629 says:

    Dave: “Outside science perhaps. Inside science it emerges when all the evidence points in one direction. As in the Earth being round not flat, humans being evolved from apes, the Moon orbiting the Earth orbiting the Sun, and the GH effect being real, the cause of our present warming, and being driven by our CO2 emissions and other forcings. No need for any incentive other than a desire to determine the nature of reality, and a sufficiently well established reality. Which is of course the case in all four of my examples.”

    But these examples are all uninteresting in that they are all black and white things, and in the case of GH gases so broad that they have little utility. Does the moon orbit the earth or vice versa? Einstein might have something to say about that. A more appropriate example (which covers the vast majority of scientific questions) is “what are the benefits and drawbacks of vitamin supplementation or statin drugs? What is the TCR of our climate and is it even a well defined number? These questions are all controversial or should be controversial. Consensus is just irrelevant to questions we really care about.

  119. izen says:

    @-dyp
    “But these examples are all uninteresting in that they are all black and white things, and in the case of GH gases so broad that they have little utility.”

    While it is reassuring to find that you do recognise that a spherical Earth and the observed warming caused by human CO2 emissions are black and white facts, why you class these as having little utility is puzzling.
    Why does our knowledge of Heliocentrism or AGW have less utility than our knowledge of CFCs or ocean acidification?

    @-” Does the moon orbit the earth or vice versa? Einstein might have something to say about that.”

    Unlikely, when the barycenter is inside the larger body and the other is tidally locked there is not much doubt about which is orbiting which.

  120. Dave_Geologist says:

    These questions are all controversial or should be controversial. Consensus is just irrelevant to questions we really care about.

    No they aren’t dpy. At least, not in the scientific community. No they shouldn’t be. Consensus is especially relevant to questions we really care about. Because the easiest person to fool is yourself, and being confronted with an inconvenient truth is a gourmet recipe for fooling yourself.

    WRT Einstein: The Relativity of Wrong. It can never have too many recommends. (I deliberately avoided the term “oblate spheroid” because I had to go an a geodesy course as part of my professional training, so I know that that, too, is an approximation.)

  121. Dave_Geologist says:

    I don’t want to get sucked into a PoMo-fest Willard, although unusually this is an appropriate thread, but there’s nothing in that quote about the is-ought fallacy, nor about wishful thinking.

  122. Dave_Geologist says:

    Oh, and dpy, inappropriate scare-quotes aren’t inflammatory? Motes, planks etc.

  123. BBD says:

    Consensus is just irrelevant to questions we really care about.

    Is aCO2 an efficacious climate forcing? (consensus: yes)
    Is unmitigated CO2 emission potentially dangerous? (consensus: yes)
    Should CO2 emissions be curtailed? (consensus: yes)

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.