Friday 13 October 2006

Hot air

Natalie Solent is (rightly) upset about climate change denialism:
The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.
I agree, but perhaps things aren't as bad as we may think. Natalie didn't want to get into the question of consensus in science but I think it's useful to remember the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn and the idea of the paradigm:
Kuhn argued that science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge. Instead, science is "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions"
Now, consider this in connection with the climate change "debate":
Kuhn also maintained that, contrary to popular conception, typical scientists are not objective and independent thinkers. Rather, they are conservative individuals who accept what they have been taught and apply their knowledge to solving the problems that their theories dictate.
It seems to me that the "it's all mankind's fault" school is conservative in Kuhn's sense. The real radicals are those who stand out against the consensus, rather like libertarians in politics. So I suggest that we bear this in mind when despairing of the state of science or politics for that matter:
During periods of normal science, the primary task of scientists is to bring the accepted theory and fact into closer agreement. As a consequence, scientists tend to ignore research findings that might threaten the existing paradigm and trigger the development of a new and competing paradigm. For example, Ptolemy popularized the notion that the sun revolves around the earth, and this view was defended for centuries even in the face of conflicting evidence. In the pursuit of science, Kuhn observed, "novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if a new "novelty" (global cooling caused by mankind?) were to emerge when we least expect. As Ayn Rand used to say: "It's earlier than you think."

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Sandy P
You might find these interesting: 
The US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and  
I hear this guy today - great stuff! 
I'm getting the book: 
Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years

20 October 2006, 05:04:21 GMT+01:00
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Neil Craig
That there is a genuine scientific "consensus" on warming, let alone catastrophic warming is wrong. The Oregon petition shows 17,100 scientists who, even in a climate where it is suggested sceptics be put on trial, disagree. 
There is undobtedly a consensus among politicians, broadcasters & dead tree journalists, which alone is reason for scepticism.

19 October 2006, 18:43:13 GMT+01:00
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Chem Ed
I'd argue it's more that you have to trust people who specialise in a different area to you - there's too much to know it all, and unless we trust we don't get anywhere. This is helped by the fact that in proper science, if I suggest your research is wrong, someone can check (until you get to the way out theoretical stuff - string theory anyone). In the woollier end (climate, medical studies) you can't quite repeat it, and it costs a lot too.  
It is interesting to ask what kind of people are GCC scientists - 'cos it includes everything from gas absorption through to biological reaction to changing conditions, and even economics. No-one is a GCC scientist, they're an opinion columnist - one man can't know enough. True, computer modellers come close, but you have to believe in the model. I don't. Climate = accumulation of Weather. We can't predict weather past about 7days in this country. What alchemy allows us to suddenly pick up the trend again. Eh? Answer me that, people, and then I might listen.

18 October 2006, 18:54:15 GMT+01:00
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Sandy P
Glad to see there's some over there speaking up.

14 October 2006, 22:50:27 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer
Me too.

14 October 2006, 14:40:54 GMT+01:00
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Andrew Ian Dodge
I am climate change cynic merely because most of those most bleating about it are the same dolts that were bleating about the evils of capitalism in the 80s. What they do sceptics is quite similar as well.

14 October 2006, 13:17:50 GMT+01:00
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The purple scorpion
Ruth Lea has been pursuing these lines in some of her recent Telegraph columns. 
This debate has huge consequences. If you believe mankind's contribution to global climate change is marginal and that we have to adapt, practically all of Mr Cameron's thrust is misconceived and therefore pointlessly expensive. 
AFAIK no politician has begun to talk about adapting. 
(I'm not taking a position in the scientific debate here.)

14 October 2006, 06:39:29 GMT+01:00
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Sandy P
Climate change and global warming are not interchangeable. 
Is there climate change? Yes. What's causing it, GW or GC? My money's on GC. And at this point in time, a solar expert from Cambridge recently came out w/an interview about the same. 
Plus, there's a theory that exploding stars/suns also cause climate change. 
We can't control it, we have to learn to adapt.

13 October 2006, 23:03:13 GMT+01:00