by Judith Curry
My posts on positive feedback loops (here and here) have engendered some interesting discussions, particularly at Collide-a-scape and Die Klimazweibel. While many are pondering the points I raise, most of the “insiders” don’t like the idea of “IPCC dogma.”
What did I mean by dogma? As per the Wikipedia, “Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practioner or believers. . . The term “dogmatic” is often used disparagingly to refer to any belief that is held stubbornly.” The issue of dogma is tied to how dissent is dealt with.
(new text) Dogma refers to “belief”, it does not refer to the source of the belief. The Christian Bible is not dogma, but it can provide the source material for dogma. In same way, the IPCC Reports are not dogma, but can provide the source material for dogma. Dogma is in the eye of the beholder: both the person that holds the belief and is intolerant of dissent, and in the eyes of the dissenter, who perceives dogmatic intolerance. This is not something that you objectively prove.
Well, I don’t like the idea of “IPCC dogma” either, especially since I have been labeled a heretic. There is no question in my mind that IPCC dogma has existed in the past (think 2007, after the IPCC AR4 was released, and the “consensus” was all the rage and dissent was expected to be ignored.) That the idea of IPCC dogma is still alive and well was illustrated to me by an email exchange that my colleague Peter Webster had this past week with one of the lead authors of the IPCC TAR and AR4. Unbelievable.
Well, lets try this. In 2010, lets assume that there are very very few climate scientists left that regard the IPCC as dogma. What might this look like?
- no petitions signed by members of the IPCC or national academy members
- Nature and Science not writing op-eds that decry “deniers”
- no climate scientists writing op-eds that decry the “deniers”
- no climate scientists talking about “consensus” as an argument against disagreement (argumentum ad populam, h/t Nullius in Verba)
- IPCC scientists debating skeptics about the science
- climate scientists stop talking about cap and trade and UNFCCC policies because the science demands that we do this
- no more professional society statements supporting the IPCC
- other ideas?
Let’s wipe out dogma from climate science. I look forward to the “insiders” who don’t like my use of the word dogma convincing me that this no longer exists!
Why is this so hard for “insiders” to see?
The word “dogma” isn’t a pretty one, its about as ugly as the word “denier.” Dogma is about how you treat disagreement and dissent. A reminder from Charles Sanders Peirce on the ways of settling disagreement:
- the method of tenacity (sticking with one’s initial belief) and trying to ignore contrary information.
- the method of authority, which overcomes disagreements but sometimes brutally.
- the method of congruity or “what is agreeable to reason,” which depends on taste and fashion in paradigms.
- the scientific method whereby inquiry regards itself as fallible and continually tests, criticizes, corrects, and improves itself.
The IPCC’s defenders engage in all four. Engaging particularly in the first two is not to the credit of the IPCC’s defenders. With regards to #4, input from outsiders is commonly ignored or trivialized.
I am getting inundated with requests from reporters who are doing a report on Climategate, one year later. They want to know about my interactions with skeptics, like I was the first person to walk on the moon or something. Why is a scientist interacting with skeptics news? It is because that the public and reporters perceive such a great intolerance for disagreement and dissent by the IPCC’s defenders (e.g. dogma).
Why is there the need to label anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the IPCC as a skeptic or a denier? Even people like Steve Mosher (who I pick as an archetypal lukewarmer) who doesn’t question the basics of the science at all, but doesn’t think there is much evidence for high CO2 sensitivity and that the catastrophe is overblown. This is not an irrational position at all. What is the point of labeling such people as skeptics or deniers? Yes there are people that make arguments that are demonstrably incorrect; these arguments should be refuted. But people who think that climate change is mostly explained by natural variability, again this is not an irrational position that deserves the label of denier. There is enough uncertainty in our understanding to accommodate this explanation as at least plausible.
Why is it so necessary to so vehemently defend the consensus against people that disagree with it, some of whom don’t disagree with it all that much? It is presumably because of the political relevance of this issue, and the perceived importance of consensus for implementing the UNFCCC policies. Well, that strategy didn’t work in terms of a justification and even prescription for policy, and it shouldn’t have worked; energy and climate policy has much more complex issues to deal with than consensus science (issues of politics and values). If the UNFCCC policies were removed from the table, would there be any reason to label as deniers people who disagree with a scientific consensus on a complex and uncertain topic? Of course there wouldn’t. Science eventually sorts all these things out, although this can be slowed down if institutional impediments are in the way.
So if the “insiders” want to convince me that there is no dogma, they need to at the very least stop trying to marginalize skeptics and preferably actually engage with them in debate.
In the comments, John N-G makes the following points:
How is Steve McIntyre willfully ignorant or trying to deceive? He was asking questions about statistical analysis methods and accountability. How is Pat Michaels willfully ignorant or trying to deceive? Pat accepts the basics of AGW theory, but does not see evidence of a high CO2 sensitivity and doesn’t buy the argument that warming is “bad.” He also supports the libertarian view of polictics (that is politics, not science; and its not like the UNFCCC isn’t politics). This is not an irrational position. Why was it so NECESSARY to try to neutralize such people? Why shouldn’t there be a spectrum of viewpoints on all this (especially in terms of what constitutes “bad”)? Disagreement and doubt was viewed as an impediment to what? Their scientific reputations? Policy?
Well, protecting dogma seems to be a plausible explanation.