by Judith Curry
Some very constructive dialogue on the previous two threads. The use of the word “heretic” in the Scientific American article just begged for the word “dogma” to be used. Given its range of connotations, it seems that dogma or even dogmatism doesn’t really convey what I am intending to for many people.
So lets try ideology and see how it works, this is motivated by a post from Nick Darby:
I have for many years been a student of the corrosive effects of ideology on science. This was prompted originally by works of Jacob Bronowski, Primo Levi, Charles Mackay, and an abiding interest in the history of I G Farben. As a guide, primarily for myself, I developed a set of characteristics of ideologues, to better recognize and interpret their behavior. (These are based in part on some ideas of John Ralston Saul in his “Unconscious Civilization”). Perhaps they can help discussion on this thread, by allowing avoidance of the emotive term “dogma”.
There are five attributes of ideologues:
1. Absence of doubt
2. Intolerance of debate
3. Appeal to authority
4. A desire to convince others of the ideological “truth”
5. A willingness to punish those that don’t concur
Note that each of these characteristics is anathema to science.
So what might IPCC/UNFCCC “ideology” look like?
Now there is nothing prima facie wrong with ideology. Wikipedia has this to say on ideology:
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things . . . or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer change in society . . . Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics.
There does seem to be an IPCC/UNFCCC ideology, let me try to lay it out here. I am using quotes from Michael Mann’s recent interview in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which I find to be a lucid statement of some elements of this.
1. Anthropogenic climate change is real: “there is a very consistent story told by surface, sub-surface, ocean, atmospheric, and ice observations that Earth’s surface is warming, and in a way that is only consistent with human-caused increases in greenhouse gas concentrations.” (Mann)
2. Anthropogenic climate change is dangerous and we need to something about it: “I believe it’s not too late to take the steps that are necessary to mitigate truly dangerous future climate change. There is still time to take action to stabilize greenhouse gases to a point where they don’t become a dangerous threat to humanity.” (Mann)
3. The fossil fuel industry is trying to convince people that climate change is a hoax: “[P]owerful special interests in the fossil fuel industry . . . have invested millions of dollars in well-honed disinformation campaigns to convince the public and policy makers that human-caused climate change is either a hoax, or not nearly the threat that the scientific community has established it to be.”
4. Deniers are attacking climate science and scientists: “I’ve been the subject of attacks by climate-change deniers for more than a decade now, because of the prominent role that the “hockey stick” temperature reconstruction has played in the public discourse on climate change.”
5. Action is needed to prevent dangerous climate change: “There are various episodes in our not-so-distant past when we were threatened by global environmental catastrophe and took action.” (Mann)
6. Deniers and fossil fuel industry are delaying UNFCCC mitigatory policies. “[Powerful special interests] have delayed any policy actions by at least a decade, perhaps more. The potential opportunity cost of that delay to humanity is impossible to estimate, but it is certainly staggering.” (Mann)
This is a political ideology. #1 is about science. #4 is in principle about science and scientists, except there is the automatic assumption that a bonafide scientific criticism is a political attack. The rest of it is politics. This whole thing (politics included), with the adherence to this of the ideologue, is what I originally meant by “religious adherence to dogma.”
It is fine for people (and scientists) have political ideologies. The problem comes in when you use politics to defend your science, and you use science to demand policies. This whole thing seems to me to boil down to the traditional clash of values between the greens and the libertarians.
So does this make more sense? I think a fairly large number of scientists will sign up to believing this ideology, but few will want to be regarded as ideologues. Are we getting closer her to clarifying this? I think so (hope so).