Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation: Part II

by Judith Curry

Here are some reactions from the Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation in the Climate Debate.  These are my personal reflections, and include some of the perspectives and statements made by others (without any attribution of names).  First, I would like to thank  Jerome Ravetz and Angela Pereira for organizing this Workshop.

The first issue is what exactly is meant by reconciliation, and who actually wants it?  Reconciliation is defined (wikipedia) as re-establishing normal relations between belligerents: re-establish dialogue, reinstate balance,  restore civility.  It is not clear that there has ever been normal relations between, say, the mainstream IPCC researchers and  the skeptical climate blogosphere. Consensus building was not seen as having any part in a reconciliation.  Rather there was a desire to conduct impassioned debates nonviolently, and to create an arena where we can fight a more honest fight over the science and the policy options.

So who actually wants some sort of reconciliation or an increase in civility?  One perspective was that the alarmists shooting at the deniers, and deniers shooting at the alarmists, with a big group in the middle, with both the deniers and the alarmists ruining the situation for reasoned debate about the science and the policy options.  Another perspective described the fight as entertaining theater.  One perspective was that there is no incentive for conciliation by either side; both sides like the “war.”  In the context of the “war,” the hope was expressed that more moderate voices would emerge in the public debate.

The issue of civility and nonviolence in communication was regarded as an important topic by the Workshop organizers.  They brought in an expert to facilitate nonviolent communication.  This frankly didn’t go over very well with the Workshop participants, for a variety of reasons.  This particular group of participants wasn’t very volatile in terms of emotions running high, use of offensive language, or heated arguments.  The main format of the Workshop was for groups of 7-8 to discuss various controversial topics.  Each group had a different dynamic; the group I was in had some colorful personalities but not terribly impassioned positions on the alarmist-denier spectrum.  One table did encompass the entire spectrum, but the dynamic of that group seemed collegial.  So the issue of getting skeptics to sit down with alarmists (these were the two words that were generally used to describe the two poles of the debate) and talk politely and constructively didn’t turn out to be a problem.  This is partly a function of the individuals invited, who for the most part weren’t too far out there on either extreme and expressed their willingness to communicate by actually agreeing to attend the Workshop.

While I have despaired of the personalization of the debate, I came to understand why this isn’t going to go away, and maybe why it is even important.  Besides personalities and disputes providing theater and fodder for journalists, there are several reasons for continuing interest in personalities.  Trust is a key element at the science-policy interface.  Journalists struggle with which scientists they can trust, and the public voices in the debate are a big element in effectively communicating the science and building public trust.  Trust of the scientists is especially important, given the role that expert judgment plays in the IPCC assessment.  Finally, the reasoning of an individual can be an important element of the scientific argument, which in many ways gets diluted in the compilation of the evidence in the IPCC reports.

One of the frustrations from the “warm” side was the inability to identify the skeptics and some selected spokespersons for the skeptic side.  One scientist wanted an elite group of skeptics with whom to negotiate and debate.  The skeptics made the point that skepticism is rather amorphous and anarchistic by its very nature.  One person may be skeptical about one point but not about others, and may change their mind over time.  There is no organized “group” of skeptics, and skeptics are likely to disagree with each other on specific points and may be skeptical about completely different scientific issues. The skeptics that are actively doing research, analyzing data, etc. are for the most part not the same individuals who are engaged in violent language; rather, it is anonymous posters on blogs and individuals with political agendas that seem to engage in the inflammatory rhetoric.  The labeling as “deniers” of individuals that are actively doing research, analyzing data, etc. is indefensible, no matter how incorrect their analysis is in fact or believed to be.  Confusing the group of scientific skeptics with individuals that are against the policies associated with climate change, and using this as an excuse to ignore scientific skeptics, is to the detriment of actively challenging the science and making scientific progress.

The issue of labels (such as alarmists, skeptics, deniers) wasn’t regarded by this group as especially importance.  The violence in language that was objected to by both sides was the use of words such as “dishonest,” “fraud” and also appeal to motive attacks (these words are used on both sides.)

No attempt was made to dig into the details of any of specific scientific disputes.  Rather the discussion was centered on trying to understand how we can even catalogue or assess the competing knowledge claims.  We need to find some way to organize out dialogue and debate; this debate mostly occurs in the wild west of the blogosophere.  While the IPCC is supposed to do this, many felt that this was not close to adequately addressed by the IPCC.  Apart from competing knowledge claims, there are areas of ignorance that are not explicitly recognized.  Uncertainty and complexity were major themes. One participant stated that “We need to overcome the stupid idea that we can represent the complex world.”  Numerous participants were concerned that lack of alternative lines of investigation are detrimental to getting real scientific answers, and that the IPCC was torquing the scientific funding from national agencies to focus on greenhouse warming at the expense of other areas of investigation (e.g. solar).  One participant stated: “Climate change is the most interesting puzzle ever in terms of its complexity and social implications.”

The issue of communication and public understanding of science was discussed extensively.   One scientist raised these central issues:

  • How do we speak to the public?
  • How do we listen to the public?
  • How do we reflect on ourselves?

Climate scientists seem frustrated by an apparent inability to communicate effectively to the public.  They seem to think that knowledge speaks to power: if we communicated better, people would do what is needed.   After several years of favorable press, climate scientists seem surprised (and often dismayed) to see journalists now behaving as watchdogs.  The two  MSM journalists that participated in the workshop, Pearce and Traufetter, were both superb and very valuable participants in the Workshop.

There was also much discussion about the science-policy interface, focused on “truth to power” versus working deliberately with imperfections, and to avoid deciding in a rush, without wisdom.

Towards reconciliation

Some principles/strategies that were discussed to improving the scientific debate:

  • Acknowledge that there are real issues and we don’t agree on how to resolve them
  • Disagreement with mutual respect
  • Find better ways to communicate criticism
  • Find better ways to admit mistakes without damage to reputation
  • Find some common ground, something to work on together
  • Find where interests intersect
  • Importance of transparency
  • Communication engenders trust
  • Search for win-win solutions (i.e. both sides work to increase the funding base to collect more paleoproxies).

Postnormal science. The organizers of the Workshops are proponents of postnormal science.  There are many misinterpretations of PNS (many of which are evident on the previous Lisbon thread.)  I won’t delve on the topic here, put pull a quote from Funtowicz and Ravetz that I found on van der Sluijs web site:

The Post-Normal Science approach needs not be interpreted as an attack on the accredited experts, but rather as assistance. The world of “normal science” in which they were trained has its place in any scientific study of the environment, but it needs to be supplemented by awareness of the “post-normal” nature of the problems we now confront. The management of complex natural systems as if they were simple scientific exercises has brought us to our present mixture of triumph and peril. We are now witnessing the emergence of a new approach to problem-solving strategies in which the role of science, still essential, is now appreciated in its full context of the uncertainties of natural systems and the relevance of human values.

The group. The group of invitees was indeed an eclectic one.  For the most part it worked, but there are some other people (and types of people) that I would have definitely like to have seen attend.  I didn’t get a chance to spend time with all of the participants.  The people at my “table” for group discussions included (with some rotation) Fred Pearce, Gerald Traufetter,  Jeroen van der Sluijs, Werner Krauss, Steve McIntyre,  Peter Webster, Hans von Storch, Ines Crespo, Angela Pereira, Jerome Ravetz.  Other people that I spent significant time with were Ross McKitrick, Tallbloke, Steve Mosher, Nick Stokes.   I very much enjoyed my interactions with each of these people, most of whom I met for the first time at this meeting.

Public event. The public event on Friday afternoon was a highlight of the Workshop.  The program is here. I will post my presentation on Monday; I believe it is the intention to post all of the presentations.  While the presentations were good, I thought the panel discussion was superb; I hope that this has been somehow captured so that others can see this discussion.  It was very gratified to come to another country and have people come up to me and tell me they were reading my blog.

What next? The Workshop organizers are preparing a summary. I am not sure whether the Workshop met their original expectations for this experimental meeting.  The possibility of a joint statement emerging from the group was discussed, but I (among others) objected.  I suspect that there will be some follow on activities. IMO the main value of the Workshop was getting this group of people together with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to discuss this issue. It has undoubtedly broadened the perspectives of all the participants on this topic.  Each of the participants will presumably ponder the issues raised and the ideas generated here and the personal connections made will hopefully contribute to improving the situation.  I hope that other Workshop participants will share there thoughts here.

Lisbon. This was my first trip to Lisbon, it is a beautiful city. I had limited amount of time to visit areas of the old part of the city (including the castle and cathedrals).  The people that I encountered were all very friendly.  My only gripe was the food; I found the ubiquitous salt cod to be dreadful and fresh vegetables were sparse.  The wine was very good, both the green wine (young white) and red wines; even the inexpensive plonk was quite drinkable.  I was very impressed to hear that Portugal now gets 53% of its power from wind and hydro, which has substantially shifted in 5 years time.

658 responses to “Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation: Part II

  1. Guillermo Gefaell

    Congratulations Dr. Curry! Even if the workshop doesn’t succeed to bring reconciliation to the hot political arena of climate debate, which I doubt, you’d already experienced something more important than the futil climate confrontation paranoia: the taste of the sparkling wines of Portugal and the tremulous heart of Lisbon. :-)
    Best regards.

    • Thank you, thank you Professor Curry for keeping us informed and for reminding us that, . . .

      ” The organizers of the Workshops are proponents of postnormal science.”

      They have good reason to want the climate scandal “swept under the rug” before the public realizes that the basic fabric of scientific integrity was destroyed by the alliance of politicians with these advocates of postnormal science.

      Always operating out of public sight, “proponents of postnormal science” gave politicians justification for ignoring Eisenhower’s 1961 warning and turning government science into a tool of government propaganda:

      Climatologists didn’t have a chance to predict long term changes in Earth’s climate: “Proponents of postnormal science” had long ago convinced politicians and leaders of NAS and NASA that it was okay to ignore or hide experimental data from space-age measurements that might have revealed the unstable nature of Earth’s heat source [1,2].

      1. “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun,” Energy & Environment 20, pages 131-144 (2009):

      2. “Neutron Repulsion,” The APEIRON Journal, 19 pages, in press (2011):

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

  2. Richard S Courtney

    Dr Curry:

    Thankyou! The event seems to have been a success beyond any foreseeable expectation.

    Your bullet points are excellent. And those “principles/strategies” should have always been operative: the present mess is because they have not been.

    I strongly support your opposition to provision of a ” joint statement”. Your report strongly suggests that the meeting was a good starting point: any ” joint statement ” would need to be so bland as to be meaningless or would have been a hinderance to further dialogue.

    Hopefully, this meeting can be a starting point that will spread outwards becoming progressively more encompassing of all involved in serious debate of the issues (as distinct from advocay of specific policy issues that are best left to politicians).

    Your report is the best news concerning the AGW debate that I have had in decades. So, again, thankyou.


  3. Judith

    Thanks for a succinct summary of the Lisbon event.

    I found particularly pertinent the principle/strategies for improving the scientific debate in the hopes of moving toward “reconciliation”.

    The “postnormal science” statement is a bit disturbing to me, as it appears to imply a potentially dangerous politicization of the scientific method.

    As far as the participants are concerned, it appears that there was generally a good mix, but unfortunately not too many proponents of the IPCC “mainstream” view – maybe next time…


    PS Too bad you didn’t like the “salt cod” – the Portuguese swear by it, but it’s not everyone’s delight.

  4. I don’t think this leads anywhere, though, does it?

    The problem is that we (the public) have had spurious ‘certainty’ thrust down our throats, elevating climate science to ‘the most important problem in the world right now’. If the IPCC or a quorum of scientists were to admit that the science is far from complete and that we can make no meaningful climate predictions for the time being (which is pretty much the message I’ve got from this blog over the past few months), then the funding would go away. So that won’t happen.

    The fact is that the ‘alarmists’ (you’ve used the term, so I feel free to) benefit from the polarized, angry tenor of the debate, and have no interest at all in reining it in. I suspect individual scientists (you, for example) feel differently, but those individuals have allowed NGOs, governments, the IPCC and their own professional bodies to set the tone (because all of those political bodies see it as advantageous to do so).

    BTW, climate science may not be the best thing to spend money on, so I’m not sure you should characterize more funding being spent on paleoclimate studies as ‘win-win’. Maybe we should spend that money alleviating poverty, or paying off the national debt, or improving scientific literacy, or something…

  5. Judith Curry

    This bullet point is an illustration of one of the many problems with Climate Science:

    “Communication engenders trust”

    Not quite.

    HONEST Communication engenders trust.

    I realize that honesty is not part of the AGW playbook, but for people who want to know what the problems actually are, lack of honesty is one of them.


    • Andrew

      Your addition of the word “HONEST” makes sense

      The problem here has not been a lack of communication per se: 1,000+ page IPCC reports coming out every few years, a constant barrage of disaster predictions in the media, etc. – the topic of AGW is actually getting over-communicated.

      The problem has been a lack of transparency in the key data and (as you wrote) a lack of honesty in these communications.

      There is a difference between “honest communication” and “spin” – and we’ve been seeing far too much spin on this topic.


      • True. But isn’t the BIGGEST PROBLEM the one of determining WHO is talking and WHAT language they are using as they speak? If a “Scientist” who is up to his elbows on the subject says something about the subject s/he is speaking “A”. If a scientist who is occassionaly dipping his little finger in the subject says something, he is speaking “C”. If as PhD who is as up on the subject as Tommy the Pin Ball Wizard down at the local bar says something he is speaking “Q”. If a politician who has a great vision of a New World Order in 30 years says something, she is speaking “E”. If an industrialist who is looking for the next wave in new technology says something she is speaking “G”. If a banker who is interested in increasing and improving investment return says something he is speaking “M”. If an aged billionaire who has a deranged view of one or more subjects wants to leave his mark on the world before he dies he is speaking “S”. If other groups are counted they are very likely speaking other languages.

      • Sadly, there are some scientists who speak A and E. You can’t get away from it, you just need to be aware of it and factor your opinion of what they say accordingly.

  6. Civility in discussions includes acknowledgement of what the other has said as well as the recipient acknowledging being acknowledged. In Willis Eschenbach’s invited post on WUWT: The Cold Equasions: January 28 the quintessence of the above took place:
    Willis acknowledging KR:” KR, as always it’s good to hear from you. You have the lovely habit of being specific about your objections and your thoughts.”
    and KR responds:
    “– Thank you, I make an attempt to do so, and appreciate the feedback.”
    Then the debate continues each agreeing to disagree at least until further information is obtained.
    The best of the blogosphere has become a location for brief written ideas which are expressed and responded to; each building upon the written record of the immediate past. This is very much like your experience regarding the panel discussion: immensely informative, almost overwhelming; usually polite. It seems that the anonymety of the blogosphere is a boon which allows the largest audience possible (eventually I may have something to say) as well as the hiding behind a mast, like at a “ball” and one whispers innuendoes, anonymously. In face-to-face dialogue, much time can and does get wasted juggling for position and scoring points, so the blogosphere does substantially reduce such time expenses. Maybe if we keep in our mind’s eye a visual of the person to whom we are speaking, then civility will come more naturally, at least out of our mouths, which is all that we can control.

    • I agree that polite exhanges are preferable. The only thing I would say about the blogosphere is that collective memory is very short. In other words, an astute comment by somebody on a blog is quickly forgotten amongst the thousands of other remarks. OTOH, scientific papers, once published, are there for posterity. I think ‘scientific’ opinion within the blogosphere will therefore change very slowly and only incrementally (if at all). Regards, Rob

      • RobB
        The practical aspect of the blogosphere is the dialogue that refines an idea; valuable feedback that can reinforce or alter the idea itself or at least how it is expressed. Peer-review seems to take such a long time that the freshness of the idea gets “old.” In fast moving science, innovative thinking and discussion usually occurs at meetings, and then only at the poster sessions: large volume, occasional nuggets of gold. I see the blogosphere as walking down the isles of posters, some I can quickly understand, some I have to query, and others pass right over my head. I find the Plenary Sessions give the big picture and selected papers sometimes have the necessary scrutiny and discussion. However, not everybody is there who should be there to give the idea an appropriate airing. I believe the blogosphere is where such an airing can take place; however, it requires everybody to “play nice”, and “keep a civil tongue in your head.”

    • Equations not equasions

  7. Richard S Courtney

    Ceri Read and Bad Andrew:

    I think I am one whom ‘alarmists’ would call a ‘deniar’. And I have in common with many ‘deniars’ a desire for civil discourse on the many different interpretations of climate data and what they mean.

    The main problem has been that many on both ‘sides’ of the debate have been unwilling to obtain the benefit of being able to disagree without being disagreeable.

    Yes, there has been less than honest discourse, and there has been a shouting competition by the deliberately deaf of some on both ‘sides’ of the issue, but this Lisbon meeting is an initiative which has potential to escape from that. Very many of us ‘deniars’ would welcome such an escape: we want a return to proper, ethical and accountable scientific practice.

    Therefore, in my opinion, we need to give the intiative support so it has a chance of leading out of the existing mess.


  8. Hank Zentgraf

    Your bullet points are a good start. However to convince the public that they can trust any climate science, the system has to be seen as one in which there is accountability at all levels. There should be third party audits of the funding decisions to assure the absence of bias. The journal publishing and review process should be audited for possible “incest’. All records of raw data, models, observations, modifications, should be immediately made transparent and archived.
    This is just a start, but you get the idea. IMHO most scientists work for universities or government organizations where there is little organizational accountability. The impact of climate science work is no longer just a measure of individual reputation. You are now impacting the expenditures of every soverign nation. You need to accept a level of accountability comenserate with the impact.

    • I see where you’re coming from, really. But I don’t see that we have that capability now, nor will we it in the near future. Who’s to audit? Who are they to audit? Who’s to pick the auditors? Who will trust the audit? We are not and will not be so homogenious as to have anything of this nature for quite sometime. Maybe in a thousand years?

    • Any going to audit the crank blogs like Watts and Tallbloke or is it only real scientists that get audited.
      And if the auditors do not produce the results you know instintively are ‘true’ you going to set up more blogs wailing and whining about the science and how corrupt it is until you get a sufficiently politicised audit it meets your expectations?

      • dorlomin | January 30, 2011 at 8:25 am
        “Any going to audit the crank blogs like Watts and Tallbloke ”

        Dunno, when billions of dollars of Joe Public’s money and the fate of the world economy rest on what we say I guess.

        When are you going to admit to the uncertainty and failings in the science as it stands?

      • Audit the blogosphere? LOL Not a chance. Welcome to the reality of the wild west. Nothing you can do about it.

      • We know, no matter how shit the fake science it goes uncontested.

      • We frequently contest the fake science put out at, but the blog owners delete the comments. That would be why it appears to be uncontested.

      • Bruce Cunningham

        McIntyre and McKitrick and McShane and Wyner and Lindzen and many more have demonstrated all too well who the real cranks are! Haven’t you been paying attention?

  9. Richard,

    I agree that a return to proper, ethical and accountable scientific practice would be good.

    But don’t think everyone involved in this is interested in the same goal, so we need to keep that in mind amidst all the flowery lip service.


    • Bad Andrew and Richard

      Yes, “a return to proper, ethical and accountable scientific practice would be good”.

      More disturbing is the concept of “post-normal science”, as this smacks of politics dressed as science.


      • manacker,

        I agree. PNS translated is this:

        “OK we aren’t really going to do science anymore and we hope this poetry might make some simple people feel better about it” lol


      • “We are now witnessing the emergence of a new approach to problem-solving strategies in which the role of science, still essential, is now appreciated in its full context of the uncertainties of natural systems and the relevance of human values.”
        Uh-oh. A more condescending and circuitous piece of posturing would be hard to compose. “in its full context” “the relevance of human values” — these are post-modernist cant for relativism, full bore.

      • Ditto! And…
        “Post-Normal Psyence” has NOTHING to do with Science. The world of Science is OK as long as it sticks to SCIENCE. When Humanists attempt to glump things together for the sake of “clarity” or “”understanding” and use a technique like, or similar to, “Post-Normal Psyence”, all they are doing is using a model to gain an insight (or make a “point”) regarding human mechanics and interaction. Is it true that everything is connected? Probably. Are we likely to see it all clearly someday? Maybe. Are we within reach of such an accomplishment? No way, Jose!

      • Richard S Courtney


        I agree. Please see my reply to Steven Mosher below.


  10. Judith,

    Having spent considerable time in pre-revolution Portugal (early 1970’s), I could have warned you about the salt cod ( bacalhau ). I would have steered you towards the scampi and real Oporto port :-)


  11. Bad Andrew


    It’s a political bastardization of the scientific method, sort of like Kevin Trenberth saying the new “null hypothesis” should be that (since AGW is irrefutable) AGW is the direct cause of all extreme weather events (which Dr. Curry has addressed on another thread).


  12. Let me see if I understand this: you had a conference to discuss reconciliation between Palestine and Israel, except nobody from Israel bothered to show up? (it’s a simile – don’t beat me up).

    • No. The usual is the reverse. For good reason: the ones bleeding the global PR and funding cows have no intention of stopping.

      • So, who paid the freight for this workshop? Seriously Judy.

        If you want “anecdotes”, take a look at the Form 990s for SePP, Fred Singer takes in about 180-200K a year, which is the size of a useful single investigator grant. Pat Michaels, between what goes to him from New Hope Environmental Services and through other places like Cato gets much more (after all Chip K has to eat) and Eli could go on and on.

      • I’m shocked that this 200k wasn’t mentioned in Andrew Montford’s Hockey Stick Illusion, Chapter 1, page 21, right after;

        “One can almost detect the germ of a [sic] idea forming in the minds of the scientists and beaurocrats assembled in Geneva: here, potentially, was a source of funding and influence without end.”

        or on page 24, after;

        “If they were going to persuade policymakers to vote them still more funds”

  13. This “Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation” is a fantastic step in the right direction to achieve better Climate Science!
    Thank y0u Judith Curry for your part in this and for sharing!
    I don’t think you and I agree on Climate Theory, but I think you and I agree that we should try to challenge and validate all the theories.

    • Herman,

      The problem with current science is that they miss so much in front of there face and blame it on something else.

      I seen the kilo of measurement was loosing it’s mass and they were blaming on on cleaning considering it is behind glass and in a vacuum. :-)
      But this brings to other areas I have seen the same in nature and science. The stronger hurricanes and tornado’s when changing the planets density air mass. Ocean salt changes would be in here as well.

  14. Judith,

    I find the biggest problem scientists have in trying to talk with the public is that their scientific finding go over the public head.
    The public wants to know the who, what, where, when and why.
    Not the “the theory states” or “scientists say” or “It could”.

    I find it quite easy to talk with others on the science I am following and they actually get what I am showing them as it totally makes sense.
    From the past to the present as I am following actual physical trails.

    I currently have 10 years of world weather news downloaded on any event that was in the news.

    • Latimer Alder

      Up to a point, Joe. I’m sure that what you say is part of the public’s big and continuing switch off about climate change as an issue, even among the young.

      But the public also do not like being shouted at that they are all evil and must change their bad ways right now.

      And especially do not like being told that they are too stupid to understand why they shoud do so (‘nobody without a PhD in Radiative Physics is entitled to have an opinion about AGW’). In UK parlance, it gets right up their noses.

      We had nearly fifteen years of a preachy government trying to regulate our day to day lives in ever greater detail to satisfy their ‘ideals’, and making a complete hash of it. The British public are in no mood to listen to some strident activist telling them yet again what to do and how to think. And this year’s early heavy snows combined with pictures of Cancun delegates sunning themsleves to save the world did nothing to draw sympathy to the AGW cause. Nor the debacle over ‘MetGate’

      AGW as a mainstream issue is dead in UK, and in much of the rest of Europe. Fred Pearce is a talented enough guy to mkae living writing about other things, but I don;t see public funding for AGW problems doing anything other than plummetting over the next few years

      As a mainstream issue it is

      • Latimer,

        The current science has made huge mistakes and just kept building on these mistakes. The whole concept is in danger of toppling due to generalizing science at the expense of truthful outcomes in science.
        It was fine when the AGW was performing somewhat what science wanted but it is falling apart.
        I’m still learning and my biggest mistake is listening to the parameter science should fall into than folling the science to it’s outcome.

      • Latimer

        You are correct. The climate change issue is being played out in the political arena with the science being used as a political football. The British public’s cynicism of politics and politicians is currently unbounded and so it’s no wonder that they shrug their shoulders and quietly get on with their lives. Many don’t have the luxury of doing anything else.

  15. Morley Sutter

    Thank you for your comments on the Lisbon “Conciliation” meeting. I wonder, however what “Conciliation” has to do with the methods of doing science. The word usually has to do with bringing together disputatious parties such as husband and wife with the kids caught in the middle and the conciliation attempting to prevent divorce. Who were the parties involved in conciliation at Lisbon: scientists vs non-scientists; sceptics vs warmers or perhaps establishment vs non-establishment people?
    Was the word “evidence” ever used in the debate? If it was not, I suggest that the meetings accomplished only improved personal relationships. That can be a good thing, but it should be recognised as such.

    • Indeed, exactly what I was thinking. It seems to me to have been a “group hug”. No mention of scientists actually doing their jobs properly.

      • We did cover some specific topics, but when you are dealing with a situation where things could ‘go postal’ very quickly, we felt the need to ease into discussion by selecting less controversial topics to begin with, to see how it went. Then we progressed to topics which people had said really annoyed them once we had each other’s measure.

        Baby steps, but you have to walk before you can run.

        It’ll be interesting to see what the journos make of it.

      • I confidently predict the journos will politicize it according to their viewpoint!!

  16. Steven Mosher

    Hi Judith.. from Hamsterdam. damn cold.

    I think getting van der Sluijs slides will help many understand what is meant by post normal science.

    lets start with a simple definition of normal science ( Simplified from Kuhn)

    In normal science there is an accepted paradigm or theory which scientists never question. They work within that paradigm, going in whatever direction of inquiry they like, solving the puzzles and little problems as they see fit. Truth comes out over time at its own pace.

    However, when values are in conflict, when the stakes are high, and when decisions need to be made quickly , the first casualty is normal science.

    I’ll give folks an example. Star wars. There we had values in conflict ( some thought the idea of a missile defense would make things better, others worse) There we had high stakes. And there too some argued that we needed to act quickly. Normal science went out the window.

    The same with global warming.

    It does no good to stomp ones feet and demand a return to “normal science”.
    scientists will be directed. They will be forced to make decisions before they are ready. science will not take a “normal course” of meandering toward the truth.

    The question post normal science poses is this. GIVEN that you are in a post normal situation, how do you want to handle that? be assured, it won’t be handled by a return to “normal science” where answers come when they are good and ready to come. The aspects of values, interests, and time limits will distort the ideal of science. PNS suggests that this process be made more transparent and as rational as possible.

    • Steven,

      That would mean thousands of people must die in order for science to change it’s course. When studying the area may have given a warning and saved lives.
      A good example is what do farmers plant this year that won’t get wiped out and start a cycle of not enough food?

      • Farmers know what to plant. They aren’t blithering idiots sitting waiting for the latest pronouncement of the climate priests. I should know as I come from a farming family. Indeed we have 1,000 acres under the plough at present. Small by US standards I’m sure.

        The tendency here is to first assume that climate science actually has something useful to tell us. In my view it doesn’t. If it can’t make short or medium term forecasts and if the long-term forecasts it makes are as good as flipping a coin, it’s simply nothing more than an obscure hobby that’s in danger of taking itself far too seriously. It isn’t as if we’re going to be planting olive groves in East Anglia any time soon, is it?

      • It isn’t as if we’re going to be planting olive groves in East Anglia any time soon, is it?

        Well, I don’t know about East Anglia, but folk do seem to be planting olive groves in Devon:

      • Mike, please let us know how the olive groves survive this winter and last! Perhaps they are a few decades early?

    • Well, allowing the post-modernists to set the terms of reference is not among the viable options.

      • steven mosher

        Brian, this is Not about post modernism or post modernists.

        “normal” science refers to this. ( from wikipedia)

        ‘In general, science is broken up into three distinct stages. Prescience, which lacks a central paradigm, comes first. This is followed by “normal science”, when scientists attempt to enlarge the central paradigm by “puzzle-solving”. Guided by the paradigm, normal science is extremely productive: “when the paradigm is successful, the profession will have solved problems that its members could scarcely have imagined and would never have undertaken without commitment to the paradigm.”[4]

        During the period of normal science, the failure of a result to conform to the paradigm is seen not as refuting the paradigm, but as the mistake of the researcher, contra Popper’s falsifiability criterion. As anomalous results build up, science reaches a crisis, at which point a new paradigm, which subsumes the old results along with the anomalous results into one framework, is accepted. This is termed revolutionary science

        So you can look at it THIS WAY.

        the normal course of climate science from pre science to “normal science’ has been disrupted. we are in a post normal situation. read this LITERALLY, post means ‘after’. You can see this as a descriptive extension of Kuhns position. Climate science was not allowed to take its “normal” course. Why? values in conflict, high stakes, short decision timelines. nobody who values normal science WANTS to be in PNS. Scientists do not want to be embroiled in the questions over values. they certainly dont want to do their science under time pressure (manhatten projects) people like me and tallbloke are not arguing that post normal science is SUPERIOR to normal science. It’s not.

        tommorrow we see an asteroid that will hit us in 15 years. Will that change the science? yup. will it change what people look at? yup. will you see certain scientists becoming advocates and activist? yup. will you see people selling substandard science using the precautionary principle? yup.
        would we like to exist in a world where there were not existential threats? sure. can we hope that scientists resist the urge to be human?
        sure. but history teaches us that they are human and some will not resist that urge. PNS recommends that we at least be aware that we are in a PNS situation. MOST SKEPTICS have already realized this. they just didnt have a name for it.

      • The problem with all this is that what is “prescience”, “normal science” and “post normal science” are not particular useful constructs because they essentially view science as a linear, dare I say it, dialectic process. It might be in the rarefied areas of academia, but as I said earlier on this thread in dealing with AGW we’re getting down and dirty solving real problems.

        I actually suspect we’re in the antithesis in climate science rather than the synthesis myself.

      • Steven,

        nobody who values normal science WANTS to be in PNS. Scientists do not want to be embroiled in the questions over values. they certainly dont want to do their science under time pressure

        How many of today’s climate scientists were around and doing science 30 years ago when the AGW scare first started? How many of them remember, indeed know, what doing normal science is like?

      • Steve Reynolds

        It sounds like what you are talking about is an interruption of normal science, not something (post) that comes after normal science. The ‘post’ also sounds suspiciously associated with ‘post-modern’ to many people.
        I wonder if calling it something like ’emergency science’ would be helpful.

      • “I wonder if calling it something like ‘emergency science’ would be helpful.”

        Only if you are trying to lie.

        Calling it ’emergency’ assumes the conclusion. That aint science.
        Call it “Crisis Politics”, or more accurately “Claimed Crisis Politics”, but dont call it any kind of science.

        “Creation science” isnt science. It is religion pretending to be science.

        “Post normal science” isnt science. It is left wing scare politics pretending to be science.

        We need more actual scientists, and way fewer political posers, working on this issue.

      • “MOST SKEPTICS have already realized this. they just didnt have a name for it.”

        Yes we do. That name is ‘Politics’.

        If people want to come up with a different name for ‘making decisions based on values rather than knowledge’ then they should pick one that does not steal the imprimatur of science.

    • Steven, as a Kuhnian my problem with your description is that it just sounds like good old decision making under uncertainty. Science does not happen to have the answers decision makers would like, but science does not have to change as a result. There is nothing to be post normal about. Science goes about its business while the decision makers decide. The fallacy is to think that science must have the answer to any given question, at any given time.

      On the other hand, these occasions do create a situation that needs to be understood, because some scientists will claim there are answers in the science, while others will disagree. But this is simply a disagreement, not a new kind of science.

      • Correctamundo!!!

        “Post Normal Science” is a Madison Avenue “NEW” package for a 30 second TV commerical. Different “Name”, different “Color”, different “Music”, different hollywood actor “Singing” a different “Song”. But it’s all about oat meal, oat meal, oat meal. BEWARE political scientists claiming to be ‘scientists’ and trying to stick their sticky fingers into the rhelm of “SCIENCE”. PNS is a NEW Name for political oat meal.

      • David,

        I share your POV that decision-making under uncertainty is hardly a rare event for those who have to make decisions. Having faced that situation many times in my “former professional life” in aerospace/defense technology, I never considered whether or not science would eventually resolve the uncertainty that I faced at that time.

        BTW, I was directly involved in Reagan’s Star Wars, as Steve M used in his example.

    • I found this seminar lecture of van der Sluijs clear in telling, what he is finding in PNS

      He is not proposing relativism or giving less value for normal science, but he is concentrating on the problems of using incomplete scientific knowledge in practical decision making (political or not). I have very little disagreement with what he is telling in this lecture.

      Reading papers of Ravetz I find very much relativism of the type I disagree with. It appears that there are different lines of thought in PNS. All are concerned with the interaction of science and society, but some are led to strong relativism while others are not.

      • It does surprise me that by Slide 72 of 74 we get to:

        Summary of Post Normal Science
        •Scientists’ integrity lies not in disinterestedness but in their behaviour as stakeholders.
        •Facts still necessary, but no longer sufficient.
        •Post-normal scientists should be capable of establishing extended peer communities and allow for ‘extended facts’ from non-scientific experts.
        •key task of post-normal scientists is maintenance and enhancement of quality, rather than the establishment of factual knowledge.
        •This new role of scientists is challenging and requires different professional capabilities.
        •Reflexive methods for Knowledge Quality Assessment: NUSAP, quality checklists etc

        The only point of substance in the above is he idea that quality rather than knowledge is the way of the future. Apart from being obviously incorrect if taken literally (quality rather than knowledge), having people worrying about quality (which is I should add a form of knowledge) is common place in science – although reminding climate scientists of this isn’t a bad thing.

        The last two points are bumph, and facts not being sufficient, well it sounds good but ….

        Otherwise pretty mainstream for applied policy scientists dealing with complex systems.

        The problem is really that climate science hasn’t been particularly good at dealing with uncertainty and handling itself as an applied policy science. No need to invent a new type of science to excuse that, better that they just got on with the job in hand.

      • HAS,
        What van der Sluijs is saying there is not to replace knowledge by quality, but to find solutions in situations where the knowledge is not enough to solve the problem and where a solution is any way needed (postponing the decision is also a decision). Seen in this way “quality” is not at all an alternative to knowledge, it is supplementing knowledge.

        In decision making the question is, how can the scientists contribute. The first non-controversial part is by telling, what the science has learned about the issues and how reliable that knowledge is. The second part involves more direct support in interpreting the results and their uncertainties, i.e. acting as middlemen between the knowledge and the needs of the application.

        Interpreting uncertainties is typically one of the most difficult issues and many think that scientists might help in finding a proper interpretation. Unfortunately scientists are not necessarily any better in that than, say, politicians. There might be a possibility of finding experts for this task, who would be clearly superior to a typical scientist or politician. The task of these experts falls in what I think to be “good PNS”.

      • Pekka Pirilä

        My comment about knowledge and quality was somewhat gratuitous, but my point is that these issues are well developed in other disciplines, and introducing something called PNS is an necessary distraction. The issue with much of climate science is that it often hasn’t been well done. The challenge is to improve that.

        At a practical level the question we should asking is “what climate science should we be buying today?” I don’t think it’s more of the same in terms of content, but that is definitely a controversial view.

        What isn’t controversial is that when we buy in the future we should be looking for wider involvement of other disciplines, greater attention to quality, greater focus and reportage of the complexity of the subject and on the uncertainty in the results, and better handling of conflicts of interests – particularly between public advocacy when undertaking of policy directed science.

        None of this is at all new in the world of policy directed applied science, and the last thing we need is something called PNS to make it all sound special. We need to get on with the job of doing better climate science, particularly where its being applied to policy making.

      • That obviously should have been “unnecessary distraction” in the first para.

      • I agree with many of your points.

        When you do the cost benefit analysis on Hansen’s plan and find that in the US for a cost of $1.5 trillion, we could lower CO2 levels to potentially impact the world temperature by .008C, it really makes one question the policy positions suggested by “Climate Scientists”

      • Re: Pekka Pirilä ,
        PNS is definitely PN, but it’s not S. It’s a prescription for coping with unresolved scientific questions that bear on public policy. It should not be allowed to say or decide anything about the Science itself.

        As for Schneider, what many are calling “open and honest” comes across to me (reading and watching) as dyed-in-the-wool brazen gormless arrogance. He truly doesn’t have Clue #1 about how far off his island of expertise he is wandering.

        Science conditions and therefore drives policy, therefore scientists should get in there and drive politics and politicians.

        No matter how unscientific they have to get; “the play’s the thing”. PR rulz!

      • That slide is taken from Eva Kunseler’s essay on Post Normal Science.

        Note that that slide also states “Facts still necessary”. The point is that for scientific questions such as “What will the climate be in 2100?” (but also questions that are not about the future but where the present-day scientific evidence is inconclusive) the truth cannot be known at the moment the policy decision has to be made and can thus not be a substantial aspect of the issue. In their 1990 book Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy” Funtowicz and Ravetz wrote “… good scientific work has a product, which should … correspond to Nature as closely as possible… But the working judgements on the product are of its quality, and not of its logical truth.” (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1990, Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy, p. 30 – note that this book is now also available in Chinese).

      • Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t discourage anyone working in Climate Science for policy-making from using techniques that help elucidate the nature and consequences of uncertainty, just don’t feel that this is something new within the realm of policy analysis or requires the invention of a new kind of science.

    • I have put the slides of my presentation online at:
      The last slide gives some suggestions for further reading.

      • Jeroen,
        Thanks for this. I think I’m not the only one who appreciated the clarity and precision of thinking you brought to the proceedings at Lisbon.

        I hope this will help others here who struggle with Ravetz’ abstract formulations, although I think many of them didn’t actually read Ravetz and are just reacting to the provocative title he gave the concept.

      • thank you for sharing: at first viewing the slides provide an excellent basis for teaching and discussion with both accuracy and humor.

    • Steven Mosher | January 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm
      “Hi Judith.. from Hamsterdam”

      Heh, brilliant!

    • ““…’When facts are uncertain, when values are in conflict, when stakes are high, when decisions seem urgent, the FIRST casualty is “normal” science.’ I would say the first obligation of policy makers, those with integrity to truth, should be to protect and defend “normal” science, and not let it be a casualty.
      It is the mixing that is the problem Steve. If it is deemed urgent, then perhaps we dedicate more funding to accelerate the “normal” science. Only a fool makes a decision before the facts. The percautionary principle can only be evaluated by protected science. The science was not protected.

  17. Judy,
    This is a superb summary of the event and expression of personal impressions of, and reflections on the issues raised. I feel that the workshop was a success and that it has generated a new current which will stir the waters around the core questions facing climate science.

    To me, the mainstream corpus of published climate science has become like like an overbuilt city with no free thorofare through it’s centre, no access to it’s academy by the path less traveled.

    The European Union Joint Research Council provided an open opportunity, and the Gulbenkian Foundation was a fitting venue for the revitalisation of scientific thought in a cultural environment. Those who took the time to attend enjoyed a breath of fresh air and an enrichment of personal experience which I hope will carry us all forward to a bright and sunny future for this young and evolving science.

    • Gulbenkian, hmm. Where do they get their money from??

      • Calouste Gulbenkian was an Armenian born oil millionaire who collected art and donated his riches to the foundation. He died 1955. That is at least the starting point, but I do not know, whether Lisbon or Portugal supports presently the foundation.

      • Given the price of their sandwiches, I should think they are able to support themselves. Entry to the museaum was 4 euro too. Worth every penny to stand close up to Monet and Rembrandt though. The Egyptian, Chinese and Sumerian artifacts are stunning too.

      • I was in Lisbon last summer at an operational research conference and walked in the park in the evening after closing time of the museum but didn’t have the possibility of visiting the collections. My wife was more lucky as she was not “disturbed” by the conference program.

      • I made some photos of some of the exhibits. They don’t compare to being next to the real thing though. What did she tell you about it?

      • We didn’t go to many details. She visited both the Gulbenkian collections and the Centro de Arte Moderna. She liked them, but I do not remember much more.

  18. “GIVEN that you are in a post normal situation, how do you want to handle that?”

    Steven Mosher,

    Except for in the case of AGW, it can be argued that we aren’t in a post normal situation and we don’t need to address a Phantom Menace.


  19. Steven Mosher

    Morley Sutter | January 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    Thank you for your comments on the Lisbon “Conciliation” meeting. I wonder, however what “Conciliation” has to do with the methods of doing science.

    First you must realize that the ground that got together included philosophers of science and anthropologists, and other from the social sciences as wel as people interesting in climate science.

    Like it or not science happens in-the-world. In normal ‘science’ we imagine that scientists are allowed to follow their curiosity where it leads them. They act without regard for politics or values or time frames. Nature reveals herself when she decides to and the scientist can only patiently test and look for the truth. If he makes a mistake or publsihes an error, he knows that science is “self correcting” that given enough time “truth” will out.

    That’s our ideal. It’s almost never achieved. In apost normal situation, the conditions are such that people disagree on the values at stake ( should be even study a intelligence and race? nuclear weapons? super plants? ) and the interests at play ( the stakes) are high, and the clock is ticking.

    Given that you can see ( we have all seen) that normal science ( even if it ever existed) is inadequate to task. Because the task has ceased to be “finding truth.” Science has never really done that. It has found answers that are useful to get things done. in the post normal situation what some find useful other find dangerous. What some want to do, others want to avoid, and what some want decided now, others want to delay.

    • Hey buddy, you didn’t brave the cold to check out Amsterdam’s finest at the Milkweg?

      You were doing fine until the last four words, an attrubution of motivation. Others simply feel that if they are right rather than the warmista (perfectly possible given the levels of encertainty), then there is no urgency over energy policy.

      Stay warm. ;-)

    • Relabelling every science and engineering (Star Wars) issue as “PNS” doesn’t achieve anything (positive). It merely moves scientifically-informed decision-making even further into the sphere of ideology (which post-modernists claim to be above, which is a howler of immense dimension).

    • Richard S Courtney

      Steven Mosher:

      I write to strongly disagree with you when you assert:

      “Given that you can see ( we have all seen) that normal science ( even if it ever existed) is inadequate to task. Because the task has ceased to be “finding truth.” Science has never really done that. It has found answers that are useful to get things done. in the post normal situation what some find useful other find dangerous. What some want to do, others want to avoid, and what some want decided now, others want to delay.”

      The error is that you are confusing ‘science’ (i.e. investigation of the physical world) with ‘technology’ (i.e. the use of knowledge to achieve goals).

      So, you are wrong when you say;
      “Because the task has ceased to be “finding truth.” Science has never really done that.”
      because science has ALWAYS done that.

      For example, Michael Faraday was conducting esoteric investigations when he was studying electromagnetism. The devices he invented (e.g. primitive electric motors, generators and transformers) were experimental tools to demonstrate, test and investigate what electromagnetism did and how it behaved. Nobody, not him and not anybody else, did or could foresee how those inventions would be developed to become “answers that are useful to get things done”and, hence, that changed the world.

      Throughout all human existence technologists have “found answers that are useful to get things done”. They have found their answers by utilising the knowledge available to them. Science is the major source of knowledge available to technologists. For example, technologists took Faraday’s primitive devices and developed them from being experimental laboratory tools into useful machines that “are useful to get things done”.

      Science provides knowledge. In the case of climate science it has provided the knowledge that there is a possibility that industrial civilisation might change global climate. Additional scientific investigation may provide sufficient information to refute that possibility or to quantify its potential.

      The problem is that some people see science as being “useful to get things done”. IT IS NOT.

      But their perception has distorted climate science by using it as a tool in attempt to “get done” social, economic and political objectives. The results have been unfortunate in many ways. In the case of climate science itself, the results have been a stagnation of the science (which has had no significant advances since 8 February 2001) and a corruption of the scientific process (as demonstrated by the ‘climategate’ emails).

      The imposition of PNS threatens to increase these unfortunate effects in that it attempts to formalise the mistaken idea that science is “useful to get things done”.

      Technologists, economists, businessmen and politicians “get things done”. They use information as tools in their activities and they always need to make decisions based on imperfect and incomplete information while “What some want to do, others want to avoid, and what some want decided now, others want to delay.”

      Scientists have the job of providing information. Adoption of PNS prevents scientists from doing their job and deflects them into activities which they are not trained to do and – on the basis of the record of climate scientists – they are incompetent to do.


      • Richard,
        Many different classes of research are beneficiary. The motives for selecting what to study, vary wildly. Some is done from pure curiosity without any thought on ultimate benefits from performing it. Some other research is done to solve immediate problems, e.g. finding a cure or prevention for AIDS.

        One can also classify the research based on the extent to which ideals of scientific methods are fulfilled. Everybody agrees that research based on curiosity and applying rigorously scientific methods is science. Everybody might also agree on some applied research, which is searching some practical solution fit to the purpose neglecting most of the rules of scientific method, that it is not science.

        Between these extremes the line between science and non-science is far from clear. It seems to be typical that non-scientists who are interested in science tend to draw the dividing line more tightly than most scientist do. Non-scientists have more often the perception that the scientific method is well defined and the same in all science, while professional scientists have learned that it is not at all the case. Good scientific research can be done in many different ways and the great scientists have indeed often reached their great achievements breaking most of the rules a purist would put on science.

        By this I do not want to support strong relativism. Every approach is not of the same value. Good science must always question its own premises and presenting good science must include telling about known uncertainties. Good science must aim for continuous progress through honest documentation of what has been done and how the conclusions have been reached. It must help other scientists in making their judgment on it and in building its results in their successive work. These general principles must be followed by all science, but they can be followed in many different ways not necessarily included in a description of proper scientific method.

        The issue of PNS as van der Sluijs describes it, is not so much in doing science but in the interaction of science with the society. The is much to improve in how scientific knowledge and the professional capabilities of scientists can help in solving identified problems. One area is in decision making, another is in applied research. Van der Sluijs has presented good views on these issues. Science is not an isolated activity, but it is still at some distance from the practical life. The area where PNS may contribute is in connecting the science to the societal problems in a way beneficial to all. One part of the connection is related to, what science and scientist may offer immediately to the society, the other part is, how the societal needs influence the choices done in selecting, what to study and how to present the results.

      • Pekka,
        2 points.
        Some people are being paid to research and others are not. This makes it more challenging and wide open the “couch potato researcher” in finding facts that make sense and not “this scientist says this so it must be factual”. I tried staying in the confines science dictated but the research was too big to be bound in this narrow corridor.
        Second the confusing terms and the way scientist use them to confuse people even more. Forcing and oscillations and post normal science. These mean many things to many people as these words have different meanings in different fields. Straight forward science or science fiction is more appropriate terms. Pick out the actual science from the theories.

      • Joe,
        Ask two knowledgeable persons to pick out the actual science. You will get two very different selections (or more with some scientists, who try to be objective).

        All these concepts lime “actual science” are vague and allow interpretation. Much research contains substantive points, but has still significant weaknesses. There is nothing like “the present scientific knowledge” to be presented to the public or to the decision-makers. The scientific knowledge is instead a collection of stronger and weaker arguments, of better and more suspect experimental observations etc. Each scientists working in the field has his or her own view of the situation, more precise in the narrower area of own specialty and less precise in wider fields.

        There is a lot of knowledge there, but it cannot be summarized in an objective fashion. Good professionals in demanded fields have a better knowledge of their field. That applies also to scientists. In both cases much of this knowledge is not documented and cannot be transferred to others in full.

      • Pekka,

        I find current science is too broad and unfocused in it’s interpretation in a generalized good enough attitude.
        Focus only on one point misses the whole interaction of multiple energies and actions taking place.
        Too much has been missed or misinterpreted then published as fact. The smallest insignificant fact can change a whole area of focused science.
        I have come across this many times, yet the bad science then has been build upon this foundation of bad theories.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Pekka Pirilä:

        Thankyou for your clear and considered response to my comment.

        Before addressing our disagreement, I need to say that I fully agree with you that there needs to be a distinction between applied and pure science. Indeed, I spent most of my adult life conducting applied science. However, we are discussing climate science and that is a pure science: geo-engineering that utilises the findings of climate science would be an applied science.

        There have been some such geo-engineering studies (e.g. iron-seeding the oceans) but to date climate science has not developed a sufficient understanding of climate behaviour for such geo-engineering to be viable. So, at present climate science is – and can only be – a pure science.

        Indeed, the stasis in climate science has been induced by the pretence that climate behaviour is sufficiently understood that effects of geo-engineering by moderating atmospheric CO2 can be ‘projected’ by models of climate.

        In other words, applied science is a form of technological development that uses and expands upon knowledge provided by pure science (see my Faraday illustration in my comment you responded). And climate science has not yet provided sufficient knowledge for it to become an applied science.

        Which that brings me to the point I am writing to say we disagree.

        You say;
        “The issue of PNS as van der Sluijs describes it, is not so much in doing science but in the interaction of science with the society. The is much to improve in how scientific knowledge and the professional capabilities of scientists can help in solving identified problems. One area is in decision making, another is in applied research.”

        No matter who describes it or how, I do not agree that scientists have any proper role “in the interaction of science with the society” except to conduct their science and to make their findings available to those who employ them with as much honesty and integrity as they can.

        Society employs specialists to assess and utilise that information. As I said in my post that you responded;

        “Technologists, economists, businessmen and politicians “get things done”. They use information as tools in their activities and they always need to make decisions based on imperfect and incomplete information while “What some want to do, others want to avoid, and what some want decided now, others want to delay.” ”

        Technologists, economists, businessmen and politicians use information from many different specialists (e.g. lawyers, accountants, sephologists, economists, etc.), and the information provided to them by scientists is no different a tool for for them to use than the information provided by other specialists.

        I have not heard of anybody suggesting theadoption of post modern law, or post modern accountancy, or post modern sephology, or post modern etc.). And there is good reason why this is not suggested; as I said of scientists,

        ” Scientists have the job of providing information. Adoption of PNS prevents scientists from doing their job and deflects them into activities which they are not trained to do and – on the basis of the record of climate scientists – they are incompetent to do.”

        The same incompetence is true of almost all experts in any specialism because they know a very great amount about very little. This is a result of them having spent so much time and effort becoming expert in that ‘very little’ that they have been prevented from gaining as much as an average understanding of much else.

        This problem is exacerbated by scientists being payed to do ‘important’ work. It encourages the thought that their understanding of the issues that resulted in their being payed is ‘special’: it is not. The issue is important and the knowledge they provide is, therefore, important. But their work does not give them any special wisdom concerning the issue (in this case AGW) as it does not give special wisdom to other pertinent experts (e.g. economists).

        All the experts in the different disciplines are employed – directly or indirectly – by those who will make the decisions. In the case of climate scientists the employers are politicians who employ experts to provide them with information to be utilised by the politicians in their decision making.

        The decision makers (n.b. the politicians) provide “the interaction of science with the society”, and the interaction of economics with the society, and the interaction of lawyers with the society, and the interaction of etc.. They do this when they are formulating laws and policies which is what society elects them to do.

        PNS encourages the involvement of scientists into “the interaction of science with the society”. This makes scientists useful tools for the politicians who employ them because they can be blamed while the politicians can take any credit for results of the politicians’ decisions.


      • Dr Michael Cejnar

        Richard has beautifully explained the fallacy of PMS, thank you.
        Society already steers science enough through funding and by what passes for education towards its needs or fashions and scientists have no skills, required inputs and thus any place in the application of their science. At times of uncertainty, it is even more important to separate objective science from the subjective.

        Phil Jones wants to prevail “..Even if we have to redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is”. I fear this is being extended to science itself. In cAGW science itself is not broken, only politicised science is.

        If you want post modern, I would vote for post normal taxation – where hard percentage formulae are replaced by paradigms sensitive to the uncertainties of my social aspirations and needs. :)

        “In the Religion of Climate Change, I am a Protestant.”

      • Richard goes to some length to claim that climate science is only pure and not an applied science. To which Eli says meteorology the immediately applied side of climate science. Besides which policy requires climate data in order to allocate resources for such things as levee building (don’t wanna do that in the middle of the desert, now do we?).

        Finally, one can gather the shallowness of the last comment by reflecting that, contrary to Richard’s claim that there is no postmodern economics, the recent unpleasantness was nothing but a result of postmodern economics.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Eli Rabbett says:

        “Richard goes to some length to claim that climate science is only pure and not an applied science. To which Eli says meteorology the immediately applied side of climate science. Besides which policy requires climate data in order to allocate resources for such things as levee building (don’t wanna do that in the middle of the desert, now do we?). ”

        Meteorology is not climatology for the same reason that weather is not climate, but climatology is the study of average weather. Simply, climatology is the study of the types and ranges of weather events that occur or – to put it another way – climatology is the statistical analysis of weather records to determine weather events that occur in a locality and localities.

        The weather expected at a place is defined by the range of past weather events at that place. If a levee is built to not withstand weather events that have happened typically once every 30 years then – as happened to New Orleans – a disaster can be anticipated.

        But in this case we are considering climate science and not climatology. Climate science is the study of the behaviour, mechanisms and systems which determine climate in a locality and localities.

        None of this pedantic knit-picking has any relevance to ( and is a distraction from) my point concerning PNS.


      • Richard–with all due respect– you are making up your own definition of climatology.

        Webster’s defines climatology as “the science that deals with climates and their phenomena”

        Webster’s defines meteorology as “a science that deals with the atmosphere and its phenomena and especially with weather and weather forecasting”

        They are very similar definitions are they not?

      • Richard S Courtney

        Rob Starkey:

        I again say that this is a distraction from my point concerning PNS.

        However, to avoid the rudeness of ignoring your point, I say that I am happy to accept Websters definitions because they agree with what I wrote although they are less precise.


      • Richard, I would add to your excellent analysis that perhaps the greatest single confusion in the AGW debate is that between the applied science of model-based forecasting and the pure science of hypothesis modeling. Climate models are being taken as, and built as, forecasting tools, when the science simply does not support that application. All these models are doing is playing with hypotheses and that is how they should be viewed.

      • Richard S Courtney


        For clarity, I write to say that I completely agree with the statements in your addition.


  20. “Because the task has ceased to be “finding truth.” Science has never really done that.”

    Steven Mosher,

    You are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this. Truth is kind of important moving forward.


    • Not barrel scraping, just a different perspective. Steve sees the outputs of science as operational, rather than ontological. Given that Popper defines scientific hypothesis as necessarily containing the grounds for it’s falsification, Steve is correct that science doesn’t aim to supply ‘truth’. It aims to provide our ‘current best shot’ at describing and explaining the phenomena we perceive in the world around us.

      Truth comes from the pulpit, if you believe it.

      • No tallbloke, it is barrel-scraping. If you are going to invoke “falsification” then you have made it a two-sided coin. True/False. Truth is in the “true” part.

        This is kind of basic.


      • Andrew, what Popper says is that a hypothesis has to have ‘falsifiable content’. This is what seperates a scientific proposition from an assertion of faith.

        Truth (with a capital ‘T’) has nothing to do with science.

      • tallbloke,

        OK. If you don’t like the Big T make it a little T.

        This is silly.


      • That works for me, thanks.

      • “Steve is correct that science doesn’t aim to supply ‘truth’”

        True, but it can and should aim to remove error. Not simply adorn error with more, better and different states of uncertainty.

      • Agreed. The garden needs a damn good weeding.

      • I like that term! :-)

      • The mainstream needs to explore the floodplain and leave ‘global warming’ as an oxbow lake.

  21. This all seems rather surreal to me, the idea of a ‘reconciliation’ workshop in which the terms used to describe the two poles of the debate were ‘alarmists’ and ‘sceptics’ – is it possible that you do not see the problem in this?

    • They also got described as (among other things) as ‘the tribes’ and ‘The Roman Imperium’ :)

      As I said to one of the attendees:
      “Call me anything you like, just don’t call me early in the morning.”

      • This is very much the image that comes to my mind – 2 tribes on opposite hillsides shaking sticks and calling each other morons and zombies. It is not essentially about falsifiable science or post normal science – but is something in the human condition.

      • Well in the case of the ‘tribes’ thing, somebody on the other sides characterised the skeptics as chaotic horde of disorganised tribes and I replied that if they wanted to characterise us as ‘tribes’ then I would characterise them as the Roman Imperium, because I give as good as I get. It did seem to calm the rhetoric at the time anyway. :)

  22. The “post-normal science” concept is beyond doubt a deviation from the “normal” scientific method.

    It is also dangerous.

    It interjects something that is not scientific – namely the premise that, since the consequences of inaction are postulated to be so devastating, immediate mitigating action is required, despite the great uncertainty of whether or not the postulated consequences are realistic or not.

    This is not science. It’s manipulation of science for to achieve a political agenda. In other words, it’s pure politics.

    Let’s not fall for this ruse, no matter how nicely it’s packaged.

    Climate science, like all other scientific disciplines, should stick to the normal scientific method.

    A hypothesis, no matter how sophisticated the theoretical deliberations or computer models supporting it may be, remains an unsubstantiated hypothesis until it can be validated by empirical data based on actual physical observations or reproducible experimentation – or until it has scientifically withstood attempts at falsification based on empirical evidence.

    The premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of past warming and represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment has not passed this hurdle.

    Them’s the rules, folks – and we don’t need philosophers to change the rules in order to support a political agenda.


    • For a group of highly educated individuals to sit and ponder a non-existant something called “post-normal science” is commendable. It has an Eastern aire to it. I guess it’s better, or easier, than trying to imagine the sound of one hand clapping. Perhaps it would be of some value to convey the essence of “post-normal science” as “the sound of one hand clapping”? Really, what is it that we seem to be missing here??

      PS: For some strange reason I get the impression the attendees are speaking in the “R” language and the rest of us are speaking in “X”, “Y”, and “Z” languages.

      • Pascvaks,

        I understand what is trying to be accomplished here.
        There is a huge gap that current science overlooked due to just following a pre-prescribed order of how science is suppose to fit.
        Policies have been made and a great deal of commercialization built upon this.
        To save face, climate science has to change and allow the possibility of looking into different cause and effect scenarios. Billions of dollars are directly tied to this theory and the scientists need to change or be totally ridiculed for not looking at other contributing factors.

      • Perhaps your opinion will evolve when you see the outputs from the event. I hope so. The outputs are only one aspect of what was achieved however, and not all achievements can be neatly summarized in simple statements. The progress towards civility in disagreement for example.

        The aim was never to close climate science arguments, but to reconcile the proponents to the need for a less poisonous atmosphere in which science can better proceed via reason and argument, rather than by character assassination, ad hominem attack and corruption of the peer review process.

  23. Steven Mosher

    Andrew, you dont get it. You dont need BOTH SIDES agreeing to put you in a post normal situation. So the fact that you think that AGW is not a post normal situation, just kinda shows that it is. You see, to conclude for example that decisions are not urgent, you have to reject the science. Further, you can already see that “normal” science is not being done. You can stomp your foot and demand or argue that we should “return” to normal science. Sadly, reality, political reality, isnt going to allow that.
    Scientists will continue to be directed in their science and “mistakes” in climate science will linger for a longer time than normal. Did you know Piltdown man lingered in evolutionary science for 40 years.. and that was hardly even post normal.
    Another way to look at it is this. Science always goes forward with uncertainty. Uncertain results get published, wrong results get published. And we act on uncertain and wrong results. All the time. In normal science we dont complain very much about this because values are not at stake and interests are not in play. But in the current situation you have two forces at play. One which feels the need to act immediately and so accepts more uncertainty than normal, and another which feels the need to delay action and so demands a certainty from science than it normally does

    • The ones who “feel the need” to act immediately also presume to have the mandate to act on and on behalf of the entire planet, will-they or won’t-they. The rest of us say, “You and what army?” And then you set about assembling that army (AKA the UN and its nefarious weasel-worded treaties.)

      **** ***, and the horse you rode in on.

    • Mosher says”
      “to conclude for example that decisions are not urgent, you have to reject the science”

      This actually turn things upside down. I don’t think the default ever is to accept science in any form. I also don’t think science’s goal to to find truth, but to gain knowledge. I think in the current situation, people are confusing two very different things. AGW proponents are encouraging a “risky shift” by defining a significant problem exists based on results riddled with integrity problems. Frankly, I wouldn’t be convinced if it were a different problem defined with happenstance data off of a manufacturing line. Declaring there is a major issue automatically diverts resources from definite known problems. The research doesn’t meet any standard I’d endorse for the kind of use it’s being put to. The second use is the “what do we do about it” part. If I have a definate known problem, then I’ll use whatever I have available, imperfect or not to generate potential fixes, but then validate the fix(es) to make sure that what I think will work will actually work.

      So far, the discussion smears the two very different steps of deciding there is a problem and solving a problem. I don’t find a postmodern frame as particularly useful in helping this situation out. Also, since industry (at least the technology sector) faces these types of issues all the time, I don’t see whynthere needs to be some other communication model. The major goal of the communication plan is to develop trust and convey information that can be trusted. The underlying basis is integrity of the process, data, data analysis, conclusions, …

    • Steven Mosher,

      As one of the commenters over on WUWT recently commented, “your red slip is showing”.

      Your Special Pleading is becoming really rather repetitive and to be frank, it is wearing a little thin.

      Your utter refusal to except reality cannot be negated by simply distorting every one else’s reality with PNS, Alisnky, Delphi or any other variety of the Hegelian Dialectic.

      The AGW meme has burst. The fallacy that CO2 drives climate has been falsified again and again. The fact that you warmists have stuck your fingers in your ears and stamped your feet shouting ” la la la I’m not listening” will not change a damn thing.

      The more you persist the worse it looks for you. The more desperate you appear the more obvious become your motives.

      Money, money, money! Oh yeah, and power.

      PNS is simply Special Pleading.

    • “You can stomp your foot and demand or argue that we should “return” to normal science. Sadly, reality, political reality, isnt going to allow that.”

      Especially when political reality is given the out of continuing to do politics, while getting to call what they are doing ‘science’ – gaining the full benefit of the connotations that follow therefrom.

      This is what is called a self fulfilling prophesy.

      You want to do politics, crisis politics? Fine. Call it what it is. It aint science. It is just plain old politics. Not ‘post’ anything, let alone science. Old as the hills politics.

      • JJ and Will, right on! Once the Post Normal Scientists get rid of real science, all they are left with is “perception is reality” delusionalism, their own “armchair” verbiage, and apparently an overriding desire to tell everyone else what to do, instead of taking care of their own dissociation from reality as the first priority in dealing with life, their own.

  24. Steven

    Your argument with Andrew is a political and philosophical one – and as such might be quite reasonable.

    But let’s call it what it is.

    Don’t package it as “post-normal science”, because in actual fact it has nothing to do with “science”.

    It is a bastardization of science to support a political agenda.


  25. Steven Mosher


    I think you fail to understand that all science is contingent. That is the fundamental condition. It is never true, it is only presumed true. No amount of confirmation renders it true. What that means, of course, is that we always apply pragmatic tests when we “accept” the truth of a science. That is, when we stop trying to prove it wrong. When these pragmatic consideration come to include values, interests and timeliness, then you are in a post normal situation. In fact when you start to clamor for a “return” to normal science, you can be relatively sure that you are in a post normal situation. That’s a situation where values, interests, and timing ARE changing the pragmatic playing feild. In PNS the recognition THAT youa re in a PNS situation is the first step. Whining that it shouldnt be post normal is a useless activity. basically what you are arguing is that our values should not be in conflict, the stakes shouldnt be high, and some people should want to decide at the pace you desire. Nice wish.

    • “In PNS the recognition THAT you are in a PNS situation is the first step.”

      Are there 11 more steps? Is PNS really rehab for climate scientists?

      On a more serious note, isn’t labeling the confluence of science/politics/values with respect to climate “post normal science,” really just an attempt to give scientists more weight as experts in the politics/values areas than they would normally be given? Why is it post normal science, rather than post normal politics? And given the Manhattan Project, the Sputnik/Kennedy moon initiative, Star Wars, etc., how is this anything other than normal, let alone a recent phenomenon? Was Galileo operating in a less pressured/political environment?

      Did the physics involved in shooting down ICBMs change because 0f the political climate? The urgency? The competing value systems? What became post normal about the actual physics? The climate debate does not appear to this layman to be post normal anything. It is just another example of what happens when science must be done under difficult circumstances.

      The bottom line is that scientists will not be making the ultimate decisions in the area of climate change, no matter what you call it. The voters will. The best the scientists can do in such a situation is – do the best science they can, communicate their opinions (as loudly as they like), and let the people decide. It’s going to happen anyway, so why fight it?

      It would be nice if the raucous tone of the debate could be mitigated in the meantime, but it is hardly necessary. Nor does it appear likely, given the stakes involved.

  26. Morley Sutter

    The doing of science always has a context and perhaps truth and its seeking does too. There are several types of truth: personal truths or beliefs; revealed truths or faith (but God has not spoken to me lately) and scientific truths. The last sort are the only types that can be tested or falsified. Any one of the others is as good as another and perhaps this is why there are so many religious conflicts.
    Susan Haack has likened the doing of science to doing crossword-puzzles. A clue is presented that always has a context. Someone who does not follow baseball will have a hard time deciphering a clue for which the answer is “Yogi Berra”. So one inserts the believed-to-be correct answer and it might lead to many other words fitting the puzzle, or it might sit in isolation or it might be wrong. I think that this is a good analogy for the doing of science. I also think that scientists should think of this analogy rather than demean the truth or say truth does not exist.

  27. Uninformed Luddite

    Amongst my peers I find healthy scepticism. A lot of those around me have no problems at all with the idea of the climate changing. Where they have a problem is in that this is being caused mostly by human activity and that any actions taken at this point will be useless feel good gestures that will have little to no impact on the dynamics of the situation.
    I don’t think that they will ever find any common ground with the soothsayers predicting imminent doom. I know I couldn’t as there has been far too much mud slung and IMHO it has come from the pro-AGW side.

  28. Steven Mosher

    manacker | January 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Reply


    Your argument with Andrew is a political and philosophical one – and as such might be quite reasonable.

    But let’s call it what it is.

    Don’t package it as “post-normal science”, because in actual fact it has nothing to do with “science”.

    It is a bastardization of science to support a political agenda.


    Once again you fail to understand some things about how science is actually practiced. You should be more scientific in your study of how science is done. More empirical about empiricism.
    PNS is a RECOGNITION that the science IS being morphed by the pressures of politics and morals. The key way this is done is in the TREATMENT of uncertainty. All science is uncertain. by definition. The “place’ at which we decide to call a “science” true, is pragmatically determined. In some cases for example, when the uncertainty gets low enough that we can build something, a science is called true. Engineering is normally the post normal science. But when Reagan for example wanted to build Star wars the science was ‘rushed’. We didn’t care that the science was finished, it was “good enough.” And if you recall those on the left argued for more science, more testing.. Politics doesnt need to distort the science, it often just rushes it.

    Let me see if I can put it differently to you.

    Most AGW believers ( not me) try to pretend that it is a political.
    Most contrarians understand that it is political and wish it weren’t.

    PNS recognizes that it is political and also that attempts to “de politicize it’ are political. basically, you’re trapped in a problem that is political and wishing that away is a waste of effort. Because the political argument will not admit to scientific correction. I will give you an example.
    it is far better to ACCEPT that the fight is political and demand a piece of the research money pie for contrarians than to fight a futile fight to de politicize the issue. In a perfect world the NSf would fund all science without regard to politics. Well, this aint a perfect world, politics is changing the questions being asked and you fix that with political acts. Not calls for a “pure science” that never existed to begin with.

    • “it is far better to ACCEPT that the fight is political”

      Steven Mosher,

      We already knew it was political.


    • Steve, you analogy to Reagan’s star wars is eloquent, but inaccurate. The US and the USSR both posed an existential threat to literally anilliate the human race. Are you suggesting that global warming has the same capacity to destroy civilization as a nuclear holocaust. If you do, that clearly puts you in the same camp as cAGWers. How do you deny this, given your hysterical analogy. By the way Steve, were you so bemused with PNS prior to Lisbon, or did the Stockholm Syndrome bug bite you?

    • I must say I find this whole discussion not very helpful, particularly the idea that there is something called PNS that is reshaping science as we know it.

      Science has always manifested itself in various ways, and mission oriented applied research has always been a healthy branch of the tree, and within that there has always been policy directed mission oriented applied research.

      Policy directed mission oriented applied research strikes me as having all the characteristics of PNS (at least as described by Steven Mosher on this thread). When it comes to climate science much of it is of fits this category, but equally much of it occurring in universities remains undirected curiosity driven scholarship.

      Inventing a new name for what has always happened does two things. It separates us from our extensive experience in managing this type of science in the past, and it rather hides behind new terminology the basic nature of the institutions and interests involved.

      “Policy directed” means just that. It is science being directed essentially for political ends. Its “mission oriented” meaning there is purpose, and together they mean that if you don’t like the policy purpose that is a political issue, not a science issue (although issues from the science might pervade the political debate). IPCC only exists because of the political mandate it has achieved. Scientists might wish to organise themselves around political ends and that is their right just as teachers, doctors, workers etc do.

      “Applied” means we want results (and quite likely we want them now – best endeavors). This whole idea that there is something novel about scientists being asked to produce on time and deliver risk quantification rather than elegant theories is a joke, and only has legs because someone has dreamed up new jargon to conceal the real business that is being done. I’d hazard a guess that there is as much applied science going on in the developed world as there is curiosity driven stuff (and I’m not counting engineering and other prof consultancy here).

      So what this means is what we face in nuclear, genetic modification, germ warfare, AGW, poverty, crime, you name it, are simply political debates about what science should we get done to aid political decision making and ends. Sometimes there are political debates about the science itself, such as should we focus funding on economic growth or environmental protection.

      Now science obviously is expected to assist those debates by informing what science might be able to achieve, but critical to this discussion an expectation of best practice in the science when it is actually being done remains (just as it always has).

      My throw away parting shot on all this is that I think climate science has failed in delivering on the latter (or government science purchasers have failed in their specification of the required tasks).

      If we want to manage the risk that AGW is real should we be buying the mission oriented applied science the world’s governments are predominately purchasing today?

      Forget PNS and concentrate on the politics around that question would be my view.

      • ¨IPCC only exists because of the political mandate it has achieved.¨ Not! and,
        ¨…someone has dreamed up new jargon to conceal the real business that is being done.¨ We find that Someone at the following address.
        IPCC exists because UNFCCC needs it: ¨…jargon to conceal the real business…,¨ that {sur}real business/game/ploy/endeavor.

        C. Figueres, UNFCCC Exec. Secý, Al Gore trainee and senior level carbon/climate advisor, currently heads the enterprise. There is no extra-UN mandate. We are dealing with a confection concocted by international bureaucrats.
        Thank you, Dr. Curry, for your contributions. {Re}conciliation may be possible once all players/stakeholders in this alarm are clearly identified.
        UNFCC vision includes,
        ¨…provide organizational support and technical expertise to their negotiations and institutions and facilitate the flow of authoritative information on the implementation of the Convention.¨
        ¨Creating and maintaining necessary conditions for an early, effective and efficient implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.¨
        HAS, here is your Someone.

    • Steve:
      When you wrote:
      “Most AGW believers ( not me) try to pretend that it is a political.
      Most contrarians understand that it is political and wish it weren’t.”
      Assuming you meant “apolitical” , you nailed the issue for me.

      I guess that the confusion reigns because many believe that the scientific pursuit of truth is not normative, that is driven by values that are beyond those directly attached to the pursuit of “scientific truth”. In many instances the normative values associated with scientific research are invisible, have no discernible impact on the science that is being done or have minimal political import. Climate science was an uncontroversial field of research but it has become extraordinarily controversial and unquestionably political with a big P and as the climategate emails demonstrate it is impacting how the science is actually done.
      IMO, the labels of Normal and Post Normal Science are problematic in that they suggest that something has changed in Science.

    • Steven,

      I call the term “traditional teaching” past down generations.

    • “Once again you fail to understand some things about how science is actually practiced.”

      Once again, you practice the conceit that those who disagree with you dont understand. We understand. We disagree.

      “PNS is a RECOGNITION that the science IS being morphed by the pressures of politics and morals.”

      PNS is a cynical attempt t0 LEGITIMIZE the distortion of science by political and moral agendas.

      “The key way this is done is in the TREATMENT of uncertainty. ”

      Yep. You treat it as if it doesnt matter. Just make some wild eyed assertion that we’re all going to die, and Hey Presto! all that pesky business about having to demonstrate your claims and support your position just goes away.

      Whats that? More uncertainty has been uncovered (despite your best efforts to downplay or conceal it)? No problem! Just make even more strident apocalyptic claims, and throw in a ‘tipping point’ or two.

      “Most AGW believers ( not me) try to pretend that it is a political.”

      Yes. And one of the ways that they accomplish that pretense, perhaps even to themselves, is to pretend that their flagrantly political maneuvering is really just a new kind of science. Post normal science, dontcha know. Its new and improved. Its all the rage. Its science!

      No it isnt.

      Some Creationists tell themseves the same lie. But “creation science” is not science, and people doing “creation science” are not scientists. They are religionists, practicing religion. They are just pretending to be doing science, calling their religionism science, because they want to have the imprimatur of science, and enjoy the persuasive connotations that word carries.

      PNS is no different. PNS is not science, it is politics, and the people practicing PNS are political hacks, not “post normal scientists”. That is a contradiction in terms.

      Do what you will, but call it what it is.

  29. Because the task has ceased to be “finding truth.”

    Steve –
    If that’s true, then we’re no longer talking about “science” in any recognizable form. The very word “science” derives from the Latin meaning “knowledge” with the implied understanding that the knowledge is synonymous with “truth” as closely as possible. Finding TRUTH, of course, is the ultimate goal, the long-term goal. But for the short-term ( the next 10,000 years?) the word knowledge assumes some level of truth that is workable. Without that, there’s no point to the exercise.

    • Jim, truth doesn’t have ‘levels’. Something is true, or not. As it happens, nothing is ‘True’ (with a capital ‘T’) so we use science to do our best to discover heuristics which are sufficiently close to reality to be useful.

      If it’s ‘Truth’ you are wanting, then search within. Start by asking yourself why you feel the need for things to be ‘True’.

      You can decide for yourself to accept something as ‘True’, but be ready for disappointment when it turns out to be an approximation to what we perceive to be ‘reality’.

      If you want to avoid disappointment, then accept that nothing is true, including this statement. ;)

      • Tallbloke –
        Read what I wrote again. TRUTH is a long term (100,000 years from now) GOAL. But “truth”, meaning something reasonable approaching the real world as we know it today is, what’s expected of the knowledge derived from “science”. That “truth”, that “knowledge” has constantly changed over the last 5,000 years or more and will continue to do so. But until now, the effort to maintain the relationship between “truth” and “knowledge” has remained. If those two become separated, then “science” is simply a lie and “knowledge” is whatever is politically expedient.

        In the GW/AGW/CAGW context, there have been multiple levels of lies for at least 20+ years that HAVE separated the two. And for me, at least, THAT is the root of the conflict – that “science” has produced “knowledge” that is provable untrue.

        I was raised to have an ultrasensitive BS detector. I lived/worked for many years with scientists, day in and day out, who were my models for what “science” was and should be. And the flashing lights and alarm bells started over the casual dismissal of “truth” as an objective of science.

        I also lived/worked in engineering environments where, when “good enough” was accepted as the norm, projects and people died. I lived in a military environment where “good enough” was the fastest way to get dead – and to take others with you. I learned that sometimes “good enough” actually is. But rarely. And I have no illusions that “good enough” in science should be acceptable.

        If todays science become corrupted by political considerations (as it has) and fails to extricate itself, then the future of science will be that suffered by Lysenkoism – a bastardized non-entity that will be rejected by future generations. And cursed by those generations for wasting the time, energy and resources that should have led to a better world for the human race.

        Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

      • Hi Jim,
        You said:
        “THAT is the root of the conflict – that “science” has produced “knowledge” that is provable untrue.”

        There is no doubt that the clique of climate scientists at the centre of the controversy have underplayed uncertainty, and that this has led to a huge loss of trust as wheels have fallen off the wagon. They took the part of Schneider’s famous statement which included the bit about not mentioning doubts when communicating with the media and public too far and didn’t pay enough attention to the part of that speech which said they still had to remain honest.

        You said:
        ” THAT is the root of the conflict – that “science” has produced “knowledge” that is provable untrue.”

        Yes, and we in the skeptical blogosphere have been fighting the guerrilla war against untruths for years trying to keep up with the gish-gallop of mashed up science fed to the media to regurgitate down the throats of the public.

        You said:
        “I also lived/worked in engineering environments where, when “good enough” was accepted as the norm, projects and people died. I lived in a military environment where “good enough” was the fastest way to get dead – and to take others with you. I learned that sometimes “good enough” actually is. But rarely. ”

        Yes, and this is the dilemma which faces those who have to go with what they believe is ‘the best science can currently offer’ when they believe (rightly or wrongly) that the time has come when decisions have to be made and action has to be taken. Those who believe in AGW feel this urgency, skeptics don’t. So the argument is about the need to act now on the strength of half baked science vs the need to take it slower and get the science right before wasting resources and risking economic stability.

        I agree with what you are saying. Where we part company is that you outline things as they should be, and I’m tackling things as they are. The deal versus the pragmatic if you will.

        If you think I legitimise the alarmist approach by taking part in a dialogue with the mainstream advocates of AGW, and that is a bad thing, so be it. I believe those of us on the skeptical side actually have a real opportunity to affect outcomes here, and I’m willing to take the chance.

      • Tallbloke,

        Science big mistake was changing government policies on the word of scientists and the commercialization band wagon.

      • Tallbloke –
        We’re getting closer but we’re not there yet.

        First, I’ve spent my life as a pragmatic iconoclast. You won’t find many of those in your travels. As an idealist, I’m a very good mechanic. But then, you may not understand that expression.

        Second, the wheels didn’t just “fall” off the wagon – the wagon crashed on the rocks of Climategate because all the suspicions about unethical behavior were confirmed , not only to the sceptics, but to the public as well. That old saw about cockroaches and light applies.

        Third is that the “science” didn’t need a scientist to prove it untrue. Anyone with two brain cells that actually connected could find the holes in the arguments. Not that ALL the science was /is untrue, but there’s enough to invalidate the idea that the global economy has to be dumped in the crapper in order to “save” the human race.

        And then – I don’t believe we’ve parted company at all. I objected to one statement that apparently condoned the separation of truth from the intent of the scientific process in favor of political expediency. I believe at some point in the near future, the science will be sufficiently “robust” ( I dislike that word, but it fits) to indicate what direction policy should take. I have no belief whatever in the recent proposed policies (Cap & Trade, Carbon taxes, etc) . I’ve previously expressed my disgust with the utter ineffectiveness of those policies in dealing even with the threat perceived by the alarmists, much less with the actual threats.

        You said:
        I believe those of us on the skeptical side actually have a real opportunity to affect outcomes here, and I’m willing to take the chance.

        I’ll agree with that – as long as the “Reconciliation/negotiation” process doesn’t give away the farm. Or more to the point, sell the “people of the world” down the river.

        Another point – Eisenhower warned about the “military-industraial complex”. But the people who keep reminding us of that rarely seem to remember that he also warned against the subversion of science via government funding. As did several of my “History of Science” professors. The part that’s ignored is that the objectives of government and science are different. Science is about “knowledge/truth” as I outlined last night. Government wants value for the money invested (just like big business, only more so). Therefore when government funds science the purpose of the science is automatically warped to fit the demands and requirements of government. Da gubmint wants engineering applications – not theoretical edifices.

        What I just said there is that, generally speaking, the only reliable science is that performed without government funding. Same applies to “Big Business” funding. Both of them want “value” for their money.

        I know – that’s not always possible. It’s damn hard to design, build, launch and operate a spacecraft without massive funding. But it’s not impossible – there are university programs that manage all but the launch without major government funding. I know there are cause I ‘ve worked with a few of those programs. IOW- there are ways for those who aren’t too lazy to find them. Well, that just eliminated 99%, didn’t it? :-)

  30. The following statement is true.
    The preceding statement is false.



    • tallbloke,

      Do you expect constructive dialog to result from word games?


    • Derry MCCarthy

      The following statement is true.
      The preceding statement is false.

      Is a self referential paradoxial loop, seems related in some way to post normal science, any attempts to deny you are in a post normal condition confirm that in fact you are indeed in a post normal condition. Declaration of a post normal condition by a political body with enough clout, appears to ensure one exists.

      Can you flasify you are in a post normal condition? ;-)

      • No, but perhaps we can FALSIFY the relevance of post-normalism, as an effort to let shoddy science justify draconian suppression of industrialized society. But we can never “flasify” it. (Sounds vaguely exhibitionistic, anyhow.)

      • Derry MCCarthy

        Kepler said “to know is to measure by a known measure”, in his case, he was refering to geometry, the known measure being the diameter of the circle. In science , the known measure is the testability of the hypothesis to verify and refine what is knowable. My question is, does PNS facilitate circumvention of our measure?

      • I’m reminded of the monty python ‘argument sketch’.

        Part of the aim in Lisbon was to experiment by putting the ‘yes it is’ :’no it’s not’ impasse on one side and examine the common ground we might both be able to stand on.

        In round table discussion groups composed of people from various sides of the debate, plus some outsiders with an interest, we examined issues like assessing the extent of natural variability, the lack of standards and definitions in datasets etc. These led to formalised statements. I’ll put one of them on my blog later today.

        See my replies to Latimer and Jim concerning the alleged ‘postnormal condition’.


      • With bated breath — or maybe it should be “baited”, given the nausea-inducing character of most “formalised statements” from conferences.


    • Come on tallbloke, Bad Andrew’s right, is your whole point to start a cat fight over words. I see both of you correct along with Jim above, it is just that you will not spell out what truth with a capital ‘T’ is to you. I assume you mean absolute unquestionable truth and in the context of type three truth, scientific truth, that you innumerated above.

      There is absolute scientific ‘T’ruth. There is matter as we define it with capital ‘T’. There is a substance termed water with two atoms as currently define of hydrogen and one of oxygen, and it is ‘T’rue. However, there is ‘t’ruth in Newton’s gravitational laws within error limits that are wider than the error limits on Einstein’s refinement of those gravitation laws with relativity. His is also has a little ‘t’. So are there different levels of truth as Jim said above? Any sensible scientist would agree, to me anyway.

      Are you attempting to redefine truth in science’s context? I think your are pushing this out of common sense and most scientists do have common sense (but not all as I have learned in the last year ;-) ).

      • steven mosher

        hmm, sorry. absolute truth in science?.

        ‘There is a substance termed water with two atoms as currently define of hydrogen and one of oxygen, and it is ‘T’rue. ”

        i would say :

        ‘There is a substance termed water with two atoms as currently define of hydrogen and one of oxygen, and it is ‘t’rue. ”

        I have used the little ‘t’ and you used the big T. what’s the difference?
        we have an explaination of substances that includes constructs and entities called atoms. That’s useful. calling it, “T’rue, adds nothing. are you saying that it could never change? that its an absolute immutable truth? a necessary truth. Or are you saying this. its a truth that many other things depend upon so we would be very unwilling to give it up. basically don’t waste your time challenging the “T”ruth. Instead challenge the ‘t’ruth. Again, its more a statement of economy of action than an epistemic observation.

    • I really just thought you were still under the influence of that Portugal ‘air’!

    • Also – If this is the question – answer it.
      OK – If this is the answer – grade it. lol

  31. Steve, you say, “The question post normal science poses is this. GIVEN that you are in a post normal situation, how do you want to handle that”? Steve, just who is the deity or authority that declared we are in a “post normal” situation. Would it be Hansen, Gore, or even Trenburth? I am sorry but that is an acquiescence many are not prepared to accept.

    • steven mosher

      Hi Bob.
      a post normal situation is characterized by the following.

      1. facts are uncertain. This of course is always the case. The more uncertain the facts, however, the worse the situation is. In climate science, for example, I think all parties would agree that some important facts ( say facts about clouds for example) are uncertain. We even disagree about the meaning and definitions of uncertainty.

      2. values are in conflict. I think values are in conflict. Obviously you have some people who are willing to pay any present cost to keep more C02 out of the atmosphere. At the other extreme you have people who would like to see more C02 in the air ( people who farm plants for example) You dont find this same kind of conflict in values around the science of superconductivity, for example. So values are in conflict.

      3. Stakes are high. You and other might disagree that the dangers others fear might not materialize, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the stakes are in fact high. For example. a sea level rise of 1 mm is very low stakes. a sea level rise of 1000 meters is high stakes. What we mean when we say the stakes are high, is nothing more than a description of the magnitude of the problem under investigation. So, for example in science about bird flu the stakes are high. In the science around toenail fungus, they are not as high. Cancer science.. stakes high. The science of halatosis, stakes not so high.

      4. Decisions are urgent. Decisions about yellowstone erupting are not urgent. Decisions around the sun running out of “fuel” are not urgent. Decisions about climate change in the next hundred years are urgent in two ways. they are urgent in form ( the next 100 years) and more importantly they are perceived as urgent by a large number of people. You can argue, that the decisions are NOT urgent ( but you’d need to have some science to show that it wasnt urgent) while the other side argues that the decisions are Urgent ( using science you disagree with) and you will note that you are … in a PNS situation. Simply the argument over the urgency informs and controls the science debate and the shape of the science and the things that scientists look at. In a funny way the very argument over urgency SHAPES the science. Hence in Ar5 people will look at improving decadal skill. That change in the direction of the science happens, in part, because people debate the urgency.

      The point is you’re in a post normal situation. In these cases important pragmatics of science will get trampled unless you come to an understanding that you are in a PNS situation.

      • Lets see if I’ve got this straight Mosh.

        Back in the 70’s, if enough prominent people had of been in enough influential positions, then the population bomb and or the coming ice age would have been considered urgent and the stakes high. Therefore, we would/could have made some drastic decisions.

        For the above to be substantially different to the current AGW situation, the scientific evidence for AGW has to be presented. Nothing post(ab)normal about that is there?

        To simplify, the 70’s ice age scare didn’t have enough of a consensus so it didn’t take off. However, AGW does have some sort of a consensus so we call it a post normal science situation and go ahead with substantial policy decisions.

        If that’s correct, then it’s as bad as Trenberth trying to turn the null hypotheses on it’s head.

      • Sez who? And so what? “Post Normal” is a made-up concept whose sole purpose is, as I stated above, to give a pass to shoddy science as a rationalization for actions to be imposed on large populations, in this case all populations, by those who’d love to be the imposers.

        ” … and the horse you rode in on.”

      • The basic fact today is, revolution is needed, not reconciliation. If climate scientists won’t allow a peaceful scientific one that would throw out the bad science that has been promulgated by the IPCC, that is a fundamental error of science, due to scientific incompetence. They are throwing away their credibility. If politicians insist upon touting a non-existent “post normal science”, that is a political error, and only compounds the problem, as they are throwing away recognition of the real problem in climate science: The promulgation of already-disproved theories.

      • Abbie?

      • “a post normal situation is characterized by the following:”

        Precisely! The assumption here is that a normal “situation” is a little less hectic and/or uncertain. However the likelihood of “normal” at any single point in time is usually 50-50 at best. Something, be it the wife, the dog, your bank account, the weather, or a headache is very probably going to make things “abnormal”, not to mention some idiot launching a nuclear strike in the next 24 hours. BUT… what is the necessity of creating a new, special, unique field of human psychology mis-called ***Post Normal SCIENCE***? It doesn’t make any sense. Post Normal Situations are common to every aspect of life, it’s not special TO SCIENCE.

      • Do yourself a favour and read Jeroen’s presentation pdf here:

      • Can’t open. I’ll shut up and search for the missing link that I seem to have failed to notice. Shouldn’t the value of something so “significant” be more obvious?

  32. Tallbloke

    The Cretan paradox is so appropriate!

    I understand – and note here that I am only an architect… – that Kurt Godel used this in his very elegant proof that ‘No computable system can know itself’ This statement seems to have resonance for the PNS debate – doesn’t it?

    P.S. I see from the video that you are indeed tall… very good to see it and Judith’s award so richly deserved.

    • ‘No computable system can know itself’

      Or in another formulation:

      “Can science explain the scientist?”

      I’m so tall my fiancee tells me I’m the height of nonsense. :)

      • Tallbloke,

        My wife gave me a t-shirt ” According to my wife, I love her very much”

  33. Michael Larkin



    -ciled, -cil•ing.

    –verb (used with object)

    1. to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired: He was reconciled to his fate.

    2. to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable: to reconcile hostile persons.

    3. to compose or settle (a quarrel, dispute, etc.).

    4. to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent: to reconcile differing statements; to reconcile accounts.

    5. to reconsecrate (a desecrated church, cemetery, etc.).

    6. to restore (an excommunicate or penitent) to communion in a church.

    –verb (used without object)
    7. to become reconciled.

    Origin: 1300–50; ME reconcilen < L reconciliāre to make good again, repair. See re-, conciliate

    2. pacify, propitiate, placate. 4. harmonize.

    3. anger.

    My sense is that meaning 2. most closely fits what’s going on at Lisbon based on reports so far. Friendliness as in people holding very different views but being able to communicate with civility. Not sure in my own mind whether this is worth a great deal.

    As to PNS, I have the same kind of regard for it as I have for NLP – which is to say, hardly any at all. The reason “the stakes are high” is that one side began by insisting this was the case, and that the consequences of not dealing with AGW were serious, possibly catastrophic. This automatically implied that if it weren’t true, and many resources were thrown into acting as if it were, then that in and of itself would create many problems, not least of which would be a huge waste of time and money which could have been more usefully directed elsewhere.

    Sceptics played no part in creating the situation. It’s not like there being mutual belligerents in a war. It’s more like one side taking up arms and the other having no option but to respond. It’s not like England vs. France (or vice-versa) in earlier times; more like the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour. One doesn’t wish to extend a metaphor too far, but Japan found out the hard way it had awakened a sleeping giant.

    Switching metaphors, the “sleeping giant” in the climate debate represents lots of folk who would rather be snoozing in bed than having to deal with neighbours banging on the walls at all hours crying “Fire!”

    What fire? Ah, there’s the rub. The folk next door think they can smell smoke through the walls, but those who were in bed, and are now forced to investigate in the middle of the night, can’t smell anything. They’re pretty pissed off with all the fuss, and it’s not made any better by the fact that those next door are screaming insults at them for endangering lives both sides of the wall.

    For me, reconciliation is meaningless without investigation of claims and counter-claims with a view to arriving at the actual truth of the matter. Is anything like this going on in Lisbon right now? Are AGW proponents anywhere prepared to genuinely even consider sceptic arguments? It’s not worth tuppence if all they’re prepared to do is stop shouting and banging on the walls, but still insist on calling out the fire brigade, and, moreover, that the sceptics pay for the privilege. All done with a big smile, of course.

    It’s gone too far. It will play out to the bitter end and there WILL be a resolution one way or the other, if only because mother nature will have the final say. It’s immaterial whether there is bonhomie on both sides. One cannot reconcile chalk and cheese. Either it’s chalk or it’s cheese, and not some amazing stuff you can both eat with pickle and use to draw on a blackboard.

    • steven mosher


      “As to PNS, I have the same kind of regard for it as I have for NLP – which is to say, hardly any at all. ”

      works great for me. Perhaps you are using it for this?
      if so, I can tell you that all the skill in the world with NLP will not make up for general stupidity.

      “The reason “the stakes are high” is that one side began by insisting this was the case, and that the consequences of not dealing with AGW were serious, possibly catastrophic. ”

      Actually this is quite misguided. The reason the stakes are high is …the stakes are high. For example, in the case of an asteroid hittting the earth the stakes are high. In the case of yellowstone erupting the stakes are high.In those cases, facts are uncertain, values are not in conflict, stakes are high, but there is no urgency (percieved or real) in making a decision. SO, those are not post normal situations. get it yet?

      “Sceptics played no part in creating the situation. It’s not like there being mutual belligerents in a war. It’s more like one side taking up arms and the other having no option but to respond. It’s not like England vs. France (or vice-versa) in earlier times; more like the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour. ”

      this is also misguided. It matters little why one finds oneself in a post normal situation. What matters is recognizing that one is in it. And then realizing that you can’t wish your way out of it. You’re in it. Like it or not. Your fault or not. Typically assigning blame ( a moral judgement) only deepens the moral aspect of the post normal situation. Values are already in conflict.

  34. Excerpts from Dr. Curry’s summary that are encouraging for sensible nonalarmists (who absolutely should never be confused with deniers):

    1) “[…] alarmists shooting at the deniers, and deniers shooting at the alarmists, with a big group in the middle, with both the deniers and the alarmists ruining the situation for reasoned debate about the science […]”

    2) “[…] lack of alternative lines of investigation are detrimental to getting real scientific answers […] torquing the scientific funding […] at the expense of other areas of investigation (e.g. solar).”

    3) “Apart from competing knowledge claims, there are areas of ignorance that are not explicitly recognized.”

    Also encouraging: Acknowledgement of widespread & extensive disagreement between deniers, skeptics, nonalarmists, etc. For example, it appears that crucial perspectives were completely absent at the Lisbon 2011 gathering.

    A stern cautionary note:

    The concept of “uncertainty” is extremely misleading the way it is being negligently handled. While it is meaningful to speak of complexity, the kind of “uncertainty” which exists most certainly cannot be quantified (for example using statistical inference based on absolutely untenable assumptions) given present levels of ignorance regarding the nature of the complexity (for example the spatiotemporal version of Simpson’s Paradox, which has the attention of exceedingly few engaged in the climate discussion, and even fewer who understand it).

    Best Regards,
    Paul Vaughan, B.Sc., M.Sc.
    Ecologist, Former Stats Instructor

  35. Kindly permit me a few musings. Feel free to demolish them.

    Normal (classical) Science seeks to explain phenomena; to provide an explanation for observations. The explanation should be capable of confirmation, either by experiment or by prediction of independent observations. If confirmed, the explanation is held to be “True”, but only (strictly speaking) for the conditions of the observed phenomena.

    As an example, Newtonian mechanics could explain the observed orbits of planets. More precise observations qualified this: except Mercury. Einstein came along with curved space-time (general theory of relativity) and explained the precession of Mercury’s orbit. This worked well for a while, but then we found that curved space-time (gravity) did not square with the orbital speed of stars in galaxies. (Please forgive any mangling of science. Pooh, after all, is a bear of little brain.) :-(

    So, here is a proposition: Scientific “Truth” is a confirmed explanation for specific observations. It may be extended, modified, or annihilated (aether). Venture much further than that, and one is into philosophy. The humanistic question (What is Truth?) has been around unanswered for almost two millennia .

  36. Science is burdened necessarily by values and social context. More monkey than evolved humanity really. “As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice-there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community” (Kuhn, 1970, p.94).

    Is agreement on more than the basics necessary? We are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere where it is accumulating. This change must have some climatological and environmental impact. Do I really care after that what some wankers in ivory towers are arguing about. Well yes, but I don’t need to.

    This then becomes a moral and ethical question. Should we or should we not continue? My feeling has always been that we shouldn’t continue the climate experiment much longer than we need to.

    It then seems it is just the sort of practical and pragmatic cross-disciplinary environmental science that I was taught that can provide some of the answers. It has no claim to truth simply utility in bringing together science, law, engineering, sociology, planning etc to provide practical solutions. This is not new or threatening.

    I expect that, like myself, most people fit squarely between the ‘negative economic growth’ crowd on the far left and the ‘carbon is good for you’ grouping on the far right. Given extreme poverty in very many corners of the world, my heartfelt conviction is that continued economic development is a critical need. The argument against economic growth always involves grain and a hypothetical chess board. In the real world, the board is always swept clean daily to feed hungry mouths and no grain accumulates at all.

    As a hydrologist (as they say on The Simpsons – Chief Hydrologist is a vocation and not just a job) – I think you are damn near all wrong on the rest of climate science. Climate is at essence a complex and dynamic system in theoretical physics – and requires a different way of thinking about climate. Dynamically and not as simple cause and effect. This is definitely the emergent paradigm. Chaos theory is one of the 3 great ideas in 20th century physics, along with relativity and quantum mechanics and I’ll lay a 1000 to 1 that you don’t understand those either.

    I think Chief Hydrologist has to be my new online moniker.


  37. There is clearly a lot of confusion here about PNS versus NS. My sense is that PNS is invoking a mistaken concept of NS. The distinction that is lacking is that between scientific method and scientific situation, as follows. Steve talks about PNS situations. These are urgent, value conflicted, etc. But the concept of NS is not related to this dimension. If so then while PNS may be an important concept, it is not directly related to NS. PNS is misnamed.

    It is important to realize that what basic science thinks about is directed by the political system. In the USA this is the Congress. Almost all basic science is federally funded and the funding is pretty specific as to which problems or issues get how much money. Half the roughly $60 billion goes for health, divided up in very specific ways among the health issues. Climate science gets $2 billion, again carefully divided among various issues and problems.

    Issues of urgency, value, values, relevance to policy decisions, etc., play a large role in this political process, as do jobs, power, etc. It is, after all, the public decision making system. It sounds to me like PNS is talking about these situations, about how science is governed.

    None of this has much to do with how science is done, which is what NS is about. NS is about the relative stability of the big ideas about nature, at any given time, in any given field. NS is a period or framework stability. Interestingly, neither NS nor PNS is about scientific method per se, although both can involve which specific tools, hence methods, are used at any given time.

    So I think that the confusion is first that PNS is not an alternative to NS, and second that neither concept is about scientific method.

  38. I just love the way language is used to detract from real issues.

    Post Normal my a$$. ABNORMAL people, ABNORMAL.

    Or maybe those cancerous cells in ones body are Post Normal Cells?

    Using PC terms like PNS and/or getting a bunch of people together to see if they can sing Kumbaya in tune isn’t going to change the fact that AGW is NOT confirmed by NORMAL SCIENCE. There is NO observational evidence to claim mans use of fossil fuels has/will lead to drastic and dangerous climate changes, nil, zip, zilch, nada, sifir, zero.

    Convince as many people as you like. Introduce as many local, regional, national and global laws and regulations as you like, but unless nature behaves as your PNS implies she will, making science fit a hypotheses by changing terms is like pi$$ing into the wind.

    So I’ll assume the next IPCC AR and it’s accompanying SPM and Synthesis Report will declare itself to be the most comprehensive collection of Post Normal scientific papers on Global Warming, and it’s proponents will declare that the Post Normal Science is settled?

    Here, I’ll quickly re-write the next AR WG1 frontmatter opening paragraph.

    “Representing the first major global assessment of climate change POST-NORMAL science in six years, “Climate Change 2013 – The Physical POST-NORMAL Science Basis” has quickly captured the attention of both policymakers and the general public. The report confirms that our POST-NORMAL scientific understanding of the climate system and its sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions is now richer and deeper than ever before. It also portrays a dynamic research sector that will provide ever greater insights into climate change over the coming years.

    The rigor and credibility of this report owes much to the unique nature of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988, the IPCC is both an intergovernmental body and a network of the world’s leading climate change POST-NORMAL scientists and experts.”

    “It’s science Jim but not as we know it” indeed Mr Spock.

  39. Latimer Alder


    My man Joe Sixpack has just tried to wade through all the preceding stuf about Kuhn and post normal science and Ravetz and paradoxes and the like.

    And he remarks that its blindingly bleeding obvious why academics have a problem communicating their ideas with the general public. There is no linkage whatsoever between the ivory tower and their day-to-day lives. And Joe says he’s just switched off from listening to them.

    And as anybody who has worked in sales knows instinctively, once the ‘customer’ stops listening, it is very very hard to get them back.

    • Hi Latimer,
      I like to think I can bridge the divide between Joe and the ivory tower. I left school at sixteen to become a shop floor engineer. Then an injury at work drove me out of manual work and into university to study the history and philosophy of science, which I ended up in more by chance than design, as the computer science dept decided not to recognise that my polytechnic level 5 maths was more advanced than a maths ‘A’ level. I attended some of Ravetz’ seminars in the ’80’s while I was doing my degree.

      He had been sitting on committees deciding policy on some thorny issues such as the limits society should place on genetic research, medical testing etc, and gave us the benefit of his experience. This is the background to his recognition for a need to explicitly state the conditions in which the make-up of the team at the policy making table needed to extend beyond the usual coterie of scientific experts, policy gurus and politicians.

      He argued that Joe sixpack also had a right to be heard and his views taken into consideration, because at the end of the day, he was the person most affected by the policy, and would be paying for its implementation. He also argued for the inclusion of Joes in possession of ‘leaked documents and the outputs of investigative journalism. These additional people formed part of ‘the extended peer community’.

      I think in these terms, Joe might actually regard Ravetz as a bit of a champion, fighting on his behalf.

      What went wrong?

      Some of the ‘ivory tower’ AGW proponents such as Mike Hulme took the ‘postnormal science’ idea and remoulded it nearer to their hearts desire. This then led to denunciation of Ravetz as a convenient tool of the alarmists by some on the skeptical side ( a couple of whom also had a political axe to grind about Ravetz’ political past), and so the meme of PNS as undermining ‘normal science’ was born.

      But Ravetz’ work can just as easily be seen as a convenient tool of the skeptics, especially the bit about ‘leaked documents’ (climategate!) and ‘the extended peer community’ (blogosphere!). So as with a lot of ‘woolly ivory tower philosophy’ there is something for everyone and the more extreme members of the polarized debate will run with the elements of Ravetz deas which best suit their own agenda.

      The point is that Ravetz forced all this out into the open, where it can be argued about. He gave a means of articulation to some of the resentments and agendas which were lurking. This has eneabled us to have a workshop conference where we can debate the issues around the socialisation and politicisatio of science and that, as you can see from Judy’s intro piece, has been a good thing. It has got the two sides (or some of the many sides) talking to each other, both in the formal conference suite and over a beer afterwards. This as I see it, can only be a good thing.

      • Latimer Alder

        Thanks for the explanation, Tallbloke

        But Joe still thinks that while all this stuff might be of stunning interest to historians and philosphers of science, he cannot tell much difference between this argument and determining the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. He cannot see how the outcome will affect him one iota – apart from as new reasons to chivvy, lecture. punish, tax and fine him.

        And though he’s glad y’all had a nice time in Lisbon discussing this stuff and wining and dining, he hopes that it wasn’t done at the public’s expense or on the public’s dime.

        Overall he prefers Josh’s succinct and witty commentaries. Whether on a T-shirt for Judith or elesewhere.

      • Hi Latimer,
        The venue was donated by the Gulbenkian Foundation. Joe paid for the attendees travel and accommodation, and a bite to eat. If it helps save him a few trillion dollars later he might forgive us.

        If Joe is nothing more than glad to see Josh’s witty T-shirt being given to a climate scientist who has displayed integrity, courage, stamina, insight and determination of sheer hours of effort in providing this blog as well as doing her science day job then I’m glad I did it.

        By the way, Joe didn’t have to pay for the T-shirt. I did.

      • Let me see here HoN (Height of Nonsense)
        Joe, (or Jose’ as the case may be) coughed up, but he can’t know who said what because Chattam House Rule was invoked.

        Joe (Jose’) got great value ha?

      • Give us a chance. A lot of the attendees will still be jet lagged or still in the air at this point. Although Chatham House rules prevent us from attributing direct quotes to specific people, they don’t prevent us from discussing what was talked about, and what the outcomes were. This was agreed in advance and on location, that this less strict interpretation of the rules would be adopted.

        Strict Chatham House Rules would have meant we wouldn’t even have been able to say the meeting took place. Fred Pearce has experience of that.

      • I just note in passing that is a description of a political process and how it should work, not science. While political processes are run with all kinds of motives in mind, the attributes described are not novel if long-term quality political decisions are at stake, and would be the stock in trade in any professional public administration.

      • Agreed, But climate science is new to the policy making process and getting the actors to realise they are not the centre of the universe and that they need to see their outputs in the context of how the output of science gets used is important.

        One of the suggested topics from an attendee who is a real life policy maker was to discuss the lack of a forum in which relative importance of climate change at the regional and global levels can be discussed in context with the other issues facing societies and humankind as a whole.

      • I very much doubt the fact that there aren’t potential regional fora capable of doing this. In the case of US the federal government could easily do this, covering what is a significant portion of the globe.

        I think the priority policy issue for governments is to improve the purchase of climate science so it better informs the issues to hand. This probably includes better regional climate understanding, definitely includes better quality, and in my view greater emphasis on what can be forecast and where the material benefits of greater understanding lie.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘they need to see their outputs in the context of how the output of science gets used is important’

        This is not rocket science. The appropriate relationship should be that of a paid researcher to a principal. Just as in commercial science. It is partly the insistence on treating climatology as an academic subject, and using inappropriate academic structures of reward and recognition that has got us into this mess in the first place.

      • “He had been sitting on committees deciding policy on some thorny issues such as the limits society should place on genetic research, medical testing etc…” and “He argued that Joe sixpack also had a right to be heard and his views taken into consideration….”

        Committees “deciding policy?” Joe Sixpacks (ie. voters) have a right “to be heard?” Presumably by those same committees of “experts?” My how generous.

        This has it precisely backwards. Joe Sixpack doesn’t need to be heard by the denizens of the ivory towers. Nor does he need to convince the committees on which they sit (governmental or otherwise) of anything. The last U.S. election showed what happens when the “elites” get too far ahead of themselves, and forget they are just employees of the 300 million Joe Sixpacks of the country.

        The EPA is setting a current excellent example. Mere lowly citizens have been unable to convince the administrators to use common sense. And for now, it looks like the whole country could be stuck with draconian CAGW inspired regulations, as an expression of “post normal science.” But be careful what you wish for. There’s another one of those annoying election things coming along again in about 21 months. A whole bunch of researchers, bureaucrats, and politicians could be looking for post normal employment if they keep acting the way they are.

  40. Judy notes that:
    “Climate scientists seem frustrated by an apparent inability to communicate effectively to the public. They seem to think that knowledge speaks to power: if we communicated better, people would do what is needed.”
    Does anyone else get a sense of irony from the fact that so many involved in climate science are either (a) educators or (b) government employees? Both constituent groups would appear to have as a prerequisite good communication skills. Is it then the skill that is lacking, or the will?
    Is the explanation indeed in the latter part of the quote, the presumption that knowledge is power and that the science when applied to climate is less about the understanding of fundamental truth for enlightenment and more about the imposition of power to direct behavior towards a presumptive end? I will suggest further that the understanding of science, post-normal science and the politicization of science as exemplified by environmentalism (including climate) is enhanced by an appreciation of the ideology guiding the politics that direct the science through its funding.
    Reduced to a simple sound bite: the political interest in climate is a contrivance, an excuse to mandate presumptive political controls. The science is used selectively when it supports the political agenda of economic intervention by government and behavior modification consistent with the mantra of the environmental ideology seemingly made imperative by the selective science employed. There is no pervasive interest in “truth”, only in the science that provides the convenient answers: the control over funding and the predominance of the IPCC process, are the tools through which the conduct of science is thus “guided”. Self interest and wise career management tend to further correct the system, which is further reinforced by the normal processes of academia. For example, personalities are enveloped into the system, as we do not do a good job of differentiating ideas from individuals. This has the effect of furthering tribalism as individuals perceive themselves to be under attack whenever the ideas they have been promoting are queried, scrutinized or “attacked”.
    Thus, rather than extend a discussion about the relative merits of scientific method and PNS, I would suggest that all recognize the influence that both politics and ideological goals have on both the conduct of science, the framing of the questions asked of the science and the manner with which the findings of science are then communicated and received by different audiences. The corollary is that those who engage in the debate on climate do so for a wide range of reasons: some as “pure” scientists seeking just the “truth”, some as scientists seeking a particular truth, some as political activists seeking to use either sets of knowledge as an appropriate contrivance to some ends and others simply because it is the highest profile (best funded) are of research open to them: no labels, that only serves to obscure the variety of motives and activities that do exist.
    My point is that we can either continue to identify when, where and why people agree on our understanding of the science; or we can continue to differentiate what our preferred adaptive strategies are and when, why and how they differ. To continue to conflate the two, is to continue to confuse the primacy of the science with the exigency of the politics. To my mind, reconciliation of the science (the means) is not possible without first neutralizing the politics (the ends). At present, too much of the discussion of climate is characterized by the political ends justifying the scientific means.

  41. Latimer Alder


    ‘The corollary is that those who engage in the debate on climate do so for a wide range of reasons: some as “pure” scientists seeking just the “truth”, some as scientists seeking a particular truth, some as political activists seeking to use either sets of knowledge as an appropriate contrivance to some ends and others simply because it is the highest profile (best funded) are of research open to them: no labels, that only serves to obscure the variety of motives and activities that do exist’

    Joe Sixpack counted the words in this single sentence and it came to 86 (ish). Whatever its value, he has decided to go back to watching football.

    And they wonder why they have a communication problem?

    Example Sixpack speak: The Cat Sat on The Mat.

    Example Academic speak : The quadripedal feline domestic pet (cattus cattus) was recumbent upon the woven floor covering designed to (inter alia) provide a cleaning station for dirty human boots and to give warmth to bare feet.

    • only 86? But they are so eloquently arranged!
      In class and in lectures I am far more capable of Sixpack speak and it is my staple (promise).

      • Michael Larkin

        I didn’t read it because you forgot to divide it into paragraphs. I hope that to compensate you do actually speak in manageable chunks with pauses in between. Otherwise, eloquent or no, some may just skip past your message.

  42. Here’s how I see things at the moment,
    First of all – the Lisbon workshop sounds like it was an interesting time at the very least. I had a few questions about the idea of “reconciliation”, and it seems like these were discussed at the workshop and largely left open. That’s hardly surprising, but I hope that wherever this episode leads, it isn’t simply a dead end. At the very least, meeting people face-to-face can leave impressions you just don’t get on a blog, and hopefully result in some further interaction.

    Now as for this whole PNS thing… On the previous thread there was a considerable amount of misunderstanding regarding just what PNS was. It seems that some people, upon hearing the idea, realize that it simply does not match their idea of science, and must therefore be something non-scientific. Furthermore, if PNS is equated with some sort of politicized, relativized, or compromised version of science, then it becomes easy to identify it with undesirable scientific practices and dismiss anything associated with the term.
    On this thread, Steven Mosher has tried to elucidate the concept of PNS. I think he’s done a rather good job, considering how difficult of an idea it can be.
    I have yet to be persuaded that PNS as formulated by its advocates is the best approach both for understanding the current science-policy interface or resolving its problems. Much seems to rest on a distinction with Kuhnian “normal” science that I find questionable.
    However, the ideas of PNS are rooted in some fairly fundamental debates in the philosophy of science, and its descriptive dimension is broadly consistent with observations of how science-for-policy actually operates. The philosophy debates go back centuries, and the relevant studies of science & politics are decades old, but the ideas involved remain radical both for practicing scientists and laypersons.
    It’s unfortunate, but totally understandable that we’re still getting hung up on truth, values, the scientific method, etc. Some science scholars probably feel that these issues have been discussed ad infinitum, but in the public realm nothing has been resolved, and many of these discussions have never taken place at all.

    • Steven Mosher

      “I have yet to be persuaded that PNS as formulated by its advocates is the best approach both for understanding the current science-policy interface or resolving its problems. Much seems to rest on a distinction with Kuhnian “normal” science that I find questionable.”

      The distinction with Kuhnian normal science is this. In normal science scientists are usually involved in an activity that can best be described as “puzzle solving.” that is, they are motivated by curiousity. Motivated to figure things out, just because they figure things out. Call it “pure” or disinterested. They work on what pleases them, what interests them. In this science there is an element of self correction. There is no rush to judgement.
      In normal science, no body cares about the values of the scientist. people may or may not be interested in it. the stakes are low. There is no necessity to get at the truth TODAY.

      What ravetz has done, first and foremost, is identify circumstances and conditions where “normal” science is changed into something we dont recognize. It’s no longer “normal science” The very fact that people here can see how the science has changed shows Ravetz’ point. But rather than call it “non science” ravetz calls it “post normal science.” There isnt any epistemic priority given to it.

      • Latimer Alder


        ‘Post normal science’ is not a good description for the circumstances you describe. It has the implicit attribute of ‘improved upon’ normal science. Which is definitely what it isn’t.

        It is, as you say, something bearing only a limited resemblance to normal science. Using a similar term merely serves to confuse some people and aggravate many others. And totally switch off Joe Sixpack.

      • Latimer,
        While maintaining Joe’s attention is important, he might realise that his prejudices aren’t the only factor which sets the terms of the debate. People who have spent many years grappling with real policy making issues might feel they have a stake in that too.

        If that causes Joe to turn away, then he proves himself a solipsist. I suspect he’ll soon be back to berate us some more though…

      • Latimer Alder

        I dn’t think that Joe is immune to the idea that others as well as he have a stake in the debate.

        He does however note that it is his taxes that pay for all of it, while the particpants are being paid. And he would like to have some evidence that they are being spent on something more useful than a Philosophers of Science’s Spring Break to sunny Lisbon.

        As demands on the public purse increase and its contents decrease, increasing scrutiny will be paid to all aspects of climate change research. While the Lisbon participants unsurprisingly decided that it would be a win-win situation to spend more of Joe’s money on paleoclimatology, Joe views that as throwing good money after bad.

        Perhaps when you write your own report of proceedings, he will be reassured that something actually useful came from the meeting. Rather than just an opportunity to show off about practically irrelevant philosophical niceties.

      • I think Joe’s attitude is easier to understand than some might think. When it is urged on Joe to sacrifice his quality of life for the latest “big” idea, then simple-minded Joe expects leadership from the front and by example on the part of those urging Joe to do the right thing. But when Joe perceives that the guys with all the good advice have exempted themselves from the heavy-lifting, then Joe smells a rat.

      • :-)

      • Joe asks me to point out that he is not ‘simple-minded’. He would argue that he has a far wider perspective and span of interests than those obsessed with just a single issue.

        He would agree however that being shouted at and coerced by those who think they sanctimonioulsy know how he should lead his life better than he does – be they politicians, green activists, preachers or climatologits – is no way to win his heart.

        He prides himself that he can see a scam a mile off and notes that the key participants in promoting AGW all seem to have major vested interests in its continuation. And accuse him of the unlikely circumstance of being in the pay of ‘Big Oil’ to divert attention from their doings.

        He does, however, draw one lesson from the Alarmists. The Santerian solution to problems. So next time he meets an alarmist he will be tempted to take him down a dark alley and beat the crap out of him as recommended by BS himself.

      • Michael Larkin

        “climatologits” – I’m wondering if that was an unintentional slip, or a deadpan joke. If the latter, the Americans here may not get it! :-)

      • Latimer Alder

        Dearie me, tsk tsk. Did I write that? What a terrible thing to have done! Just shows how the unconscious mind can play tricks on one. It ‘hides the error’ when it wants to…..

        Perhaps I should think about being more careful next time………


      • Latimer,

        Joe agrees and wants to buy you a beer.

      • Tallbloke,

        I suspect Latimer felt my follow-on post to yours was directed at him. But, it was, in fact it was directed at your comments.

        You say: Joe “…might realize that his prejudices aren’t the only factor which sets the terms of the debate. People who have spent years grappling with real policy making issues might feel they have a stake in that too. If that causes Joe to turn away, then he proves himself a solipsist.”

        Let me stick up for Joe a bit. Joe doesn’t enjoy tenure job security or net-works that assure his employment. Joe doesn’t get invited to government funded blow-out parties at swinging international tourist-traps, even if Joe’s fate is the subject of the convivial conversation. On the other hand, it’s Joe who takes the first hit when it comes to unemployment, life-style loss, and, of course, it’s Joe’s children whose names appear on the casualty lists from our wars when his betters “who have spent years grappling with real policy issues” have another “big” idea.

        And Joe can’t help but note that his preacher is expected to live up to his preaching. Likewise, Joe recalls that during his service in the Marine Corps, officers were last in line for chow, when in the field, and that they led from the front in battle. And in contrast with all this, Joe can’t help but further notice that those “who have spent years grappling with real policy issues” seem to habitually take a powder when the real sacrifices are called for.

        As far as Joe is concerned, the biggest failure of the AGW business in the lack of leadership by example and from the front. But, Tallbloke, as long as “those who have spent years grappling with policy issues” and their kids are last in line for the chow and first in line for the sacrifices they advocate, and vice versa for the hand-outs, then you’ll not have any problem with Joe. Joe is used to self-sacrifice. Check out your local DAV. Lot of Joes there who can provide you lots of examples of self-sacrificing Joes. Not a lot of solipsists at the DAV. Also, not a lot of guys who “have spent years grappling with policy issues” at the DAV. Just guys who’ve been on the receiving end of the deal.

      • Latimer Alder

        Hi Mike

        Joe has asked me to pass on his very kindest regards to you and to thank you presenting his case so eloquently. A case that is often lost in the headlong rush among the ‘Great and the Good’ to ‘do something..anything’ about what may or may not be a problem. Whichever way, it is always Joe and his friends who suffer most.

        Plane taxes, petrol prices, consumer energy bills are all peanuts to the finances of the policy makers, but a big chunk of income to Joe. And all have increased in UK because of ‘climate change’. He would prefer to have a bit more of his money in his pocket right now rather than be taxed stupid supposedly for the benefit of his great-great-great grandchildren in a century or so.

        As we discussed earlier, Joe can see a scam a mile off, and AGW seems to be one to him.

      • Steven Mosher

        You again repeat that “In normal science scientists are usually involved in an activity that can best be described as “puzzle solving.” that is, they are motivated by curiousity. Motivated to figure things out, just because they figure things out. Call it “pure” or disinterested. They work on what pleases them, what interests them.”

        Whoever said that had no experience of applied science. Moving to science which is not curiosity driven can not be the defining characteristic of PNS. For example if you take the Queen’s shilling to do applied science you’ll find yourself quite properly accountable for exactly the things that PNS claims as its own – quality of science, quantification of uncertainty, etc. And typically if you take on the kinds of issues that are of strong political interest you will find yourself dealing with complex systems with large stakes and lots of uncertainty. That’s why we have politics.

      • Yes, but climate science is too important to be left to the climate scientists, who are clearly in need of governance, standards, definitions, and oversight. And politics is too important to be left to politicians. It concerns us all, and postnormal science argues for our right to be involved, for better or worse.

        PNS does not set out to REPLACE normal science. It offers a prescription for the way normal science gets used AFTER it has been done. It also makes OBSERVATIONS concerning the way that in situations where certainty is low, values are in dispute, stakes are high and decisions are (percieved to be) urgent, ‘normal science’ tends to take shortcuts underplay uncertainty etc. It also offers a way to formalise these problems and describe them in a way which makes explicit the forces and influences, so they can be addressed.

        It is a DESCIPTION of real states of affairs, not a PRESCRIPTION of how things must be handled. We decide that, if we choose and demand to be part of the process.

        That some people have reinterpreted PNS as a vehicle for their own agendas is not Ravetz’ fault, it is merely a human tendency to utilise tools after modifying them. At least PNS gives us a method of recognising that this is what is happening. Once we recognise processes are happening, we are able to deal with them.

      • “It is a DESCRIPTION of real states of affairs, not a PRESCRIPTION of how things must be handled. ”

        Yes, that’s how I read it, but I keep seeing evidence that it is being used prescriptively, by those who stand to gain from the standards of evidence it seems to prescribe. If it is indeed merely description, isn’t it just another way of describing the inherent shortcomings of the human mind which the Scientific Method was developed to obviate?

        In a perfect world, error would be corrected immediately. The scientific method does not yet bring this about, but it does seem to manage it eventually. Isn’t the take-home message that “traditional” (as opposed to “normal” or even “post-normal”) scientific method needs to be applied all the more rigorously in so-called “post-normal” circumstances. That is, simply to cope with the moral hazards he describes (if indeed describing is all he’s doing) don’t we need to exercise “positive discrimination” in rooting out error – giving prominence (but no relaxation of scientific rigour) to any attempt to disconfirm the prevailing paradigm? Precisely the opposite of what has happened in climate “science”?

      • tallbloke,
        So PNS both is and isn’t a prescription? There is a normative/prescriptive dimension to PNS (that recommends putting the emphasis on quality etc). This may be part of the confusion… One can accept much of the descriptive dimension of PNS without necessarily following the prescription.

      • Michael Larkin


        All well and good. But what cheeses folk off is the employment of the word “science”. It isn’t science. It’s something else, and one wonders if it is actually called for at this juncture. What has gone wrong in the AGW saga might be corrected not by “PNS”, but a fresh start on the science which embraces a plurality of opinion from the get-go.

        We do not know, had that been the norm thus far, whether it would have lead to much better scientific outcomes, more objective assessments of risk, and a complete absence of invective directed at segments of the population who have every right to express doubt.

        I don’t think it’s “PNS” so much as a kind of crisis management arising in circumstances where science has become politicised. If so, I think the problem is the politicisation of science, and the solution, making changes so that politicisation can be managed and minimised.

      • Michael Larkin

        This science is political because its being used to inform political matters. Don’t waste time objecting to that, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

        What you should object to is those who get paid to give input into the policy process not following widely accepted professional mechanisms for handling their desire to also do advocacy.

        In the end it comes back to the piper being more explicit about the professional standards required in doing this kind of work. Unfortunately it has suited some of the political players to have science advocates standing along side them, and the purchase agents on behalf of the taxpayers have been weak in enforcing normal professional science standards around conflicts of interest.

        Those are the things to change.

      • Hi Michael,
        I’m trying to work out how to do MatLab stuff here and manipulate some complex equations to work out how the Sun releases energy from overturning convection cells.

        What we did at Lisbon may make a small difference. I’m wanting to develop my hypothesis to the point where it can make a big difference and demand to be examined seriously.

        I believe in doing normal science properly first. Then I want to go back to a Lisbon type event armed with my properly quantified hypothesis and bang the table a bit harder.

        I get tired of the policy and science governance stuff. Especially when people from my own ‘side’ of the debate start telling me I’m a waste of time and I’m ripping off the taxpayer for my gratification and ego inflation.

        This last bit isn’t aimed at you. I’m just having a bit of a rant moment.

      • And lest you get depressed about my banging on about “the policy and science governance stuff”, part of the politics is about all comers doing the science better. It’s really what has got the public debate back to a more realistic position over the last little while.

        But the king hit will come when the priorities for purchasing science change to embrace uncertainty and professionalism etc.

      • Thanks, that helps a little. And believe it or not, that is what the organisers of the Lisbon Event were trying to facilitate; the embracing of uncertainty and the progression of the science to a more professional basis based on agreed standards.

      • tallbloke

        “And politics is too important to be left to politicians. It concerns us all, and postnormal science argues for our right to be involved, for better or worse.”

        This is a slippery slope, and essential circular because the way we all get involved and settle our differences is called “politics” and we do this per medium of “politicians”. In particular I hadn’t read anything in PNS that suggested it was the basis for a new political order (which this comment would imply), rather its more just the marketing vehicle for a decision making tool.

        I’ve always been an advocate of the plumber school of policy analysis – strike a problem, dig in your bag for a tool that fits. Perhaps NUSAP might earn a place, but using it won’t change science nor the likelihood that a range of other techniques mightn’t be better when it comes to dealing with complex political problems like future climate. And right now (to repeat myself) the immediate problem (and tool) revolves around the purchase of climate science services by governments.

      • How is it not “prescriptive”? Merely claiming not to be prescriptive doesn’t suffice. Suggestions/demands that the validity of scientific findings and theories be judged by “quality” rather than oldie von moldie falsification standards, etc., (said “quality” being a highly subtle and indefinable characteristic only properly determinable by those versed in PNS theory, of course) is a de facto prescription with the most far-reaching consequences.

        It is a claim to the permanent title of Gatekeeper. The “qui bono” and “follow the money” adages seem appropriate here.

      • No. ‘Quality’ has to permeate the whole enterprise of science, and as science is a bit of a special case when it comes to quality control, the ethical and moral standards of its practitioners is all the more important, and Feynman always told us.

        Ravetz had something to say about quality when I asked him to clarify it for Willis Eschenbach last year, but unfortunately. Athony Watts didn’t publish it. I sent a copy to Willis recently, but he has not replied to me.

        With Ravetz permission, I will publish it on my blog soon.

      • I’m sorry, that reads like circular, loop-dee-loop sophistry. Once you permit a new class of ‘sperts who are going to adjust for the sociology and mental limitations of the scientists, you effectively institute relativistic interpretation of everything. I.e., Feynman’s rule by data is abolished.

        No go.

      • What you’re apparently telling me is that in those very few places where “normal science” is still done nothing has essentially changed.

        But you’re also saying that most of the “science” that’s being done today is PNS because it’s government funded and da gubmint wants value for its money ( specific results) – all on a schedule. Which is something I’ve asked before in sarcasm – science has now become engineering?.

        All of which then indicates that climatology – and several otoher “sciences” – are now neither normal nor science.

        What did I miss?

      • Jim

        Just because governments fund activities with purpose in mind doesn’t mean that it ceases to be science. I noted earlier on this thread that much of the science done in developed countries is mission oriented applied science (whether publicly or privately funded). I also note in passing that there is a discipline called “engineering science”.

        In respect of PNS the argument seems to be (at least from some advocates) that it exists somewhere on a science to consultancy continuum. The idea being that somewhere out beyond consultancy the problems are very uncertain and the risks are very high you need super-professional “PNS” to leap on the stage with enhanced public accountability mechanisms to deal with all that uncertainty and risk.

        For my money I’d be happy if climate scientists routinely met the normal professional standards of applied science.

      • HAS –
        I noted earlier on this thread that much of the science done in developed countries is mission oriented applied science (whether publicly or privately funded).

        “Normal science” is when a scientist (or a team of scientists) stake out a piece of the world and start digging to get to the bottom of what makes it tick. Tallbloke and his Solar problem, for example. “Normal science” might very well lead in different directions than were expected when the project started. In some cases, the conclusions are startlingly different than anyone would expect (like that bison are not at all disturbed by snowmobiles in Yellowstone).

        BUT – mission oriented applied science requires the research to produce results that can be used by whatever government agency is paying for the research. It narrows the possible field of “interest” to only the information that directly applies to the government’s area of interest – and eliminates research in other branches of the “problem” that don’t directly apply. That’s what they’re paying for – and if it’s not delivered, then the next contract may well go to someone else. So…. what happens to all those other interesting research possibilties, those side trails that didn’t get explored? Like solar effects on climate that are ignored because the research being paid for only concerns the effects of CO2? The government isn’t interested in those so they don’t get investigated.

        Yup – mission oriented applied science = engineering.

        We’re not disagreeing, just using different words.

        I’d be happy if climate scientists routinely met the normal professional standards of applied science.

        I could buy in to that.

      • Jim

        I do think that “normal science” definitely includes “applied science” whether mission oriented or otherwise, and this is much wider than engineering – think for example of all the materials science that goes into the semiconductor industry.

        The important point though is the question about why is the government not funding research into solar influences on climate? (I don’t know enough to know if this is true or not, but for the sake of exposition …)

        This does come down to the process whereby purchase decisions are being made. In some respects it is quite likely that there isn’t enough politics (of the “national” not “science” variety) going into this decision making. If you are worried about AGW then you clearly want to understand the mechanisms that are influencing temperature. This obviously includes the potential controllable forcings and the natural ones (because they tell you more about the former). The implicit judgment is being made that there are greater priorities than solar. It is that issue that needs to be addressed. A more transparent process for determine research priorities is what is needed.

      • Doesn’t it appear that Hansen, would has a substantial budget is promoting his “post normal scientific” opinion? Reasearch into other ideas would not benefit his theory/opinion

      • HAS –
        A Venn diagram – outer circle is “normal science” – all questions, all lines of investigation are open to be pursued. Inner circle – completely contained in the outer circle = “Mission oriented applied science” – where the questions are limited to those lines of investigation applicable to the specific problem for which funding was supplied. Yes, it’s still science of a sort, but more akin to engineering in that the purpose is application/resolution to a specific problem with no consideration of side effects. I suppose you could call it “restricted science.”

        Example – the Manhattan Project. The science was directed at production of a bomb. No consideration of peaceful applications or even of side effects (radiation, for example). In 1962, they were still trying to figure out the biological effects – in order to evaluate combat effectiveness in a nuclear environment. That wasn’t part of the original concept. Nor was nuclear medicine part of the package – that also came later and from different sources and requirements. IOW – the science that resulted in the success of the Manhattan Project meets “my” definition of engineering. YMMV.

        why is the government not funding research into solar influences on climate?

        Let’s assume that’s true just for the moment. I don’t know that it’s true either. But – suppose you’re a government bureaucrat. Your job is to dispense grant money to scientific institutions and individuals that present requests for funding. You’ve been told that the government wants to determine the extent of anthropogenic influence on climate change due to CO2 (IIRC, this was the original IPCC charter). You get a request for funding to investigate solar effects on climate change. It doesn’t fit your criteria for climate change research (CO2). What do you do? Reject it, of course, because the government isn’t interested in that particular line of inquiry. Which is generally what the IPCC apparently did. And what any “good” bureaucrat would do. And make no mistake – in spite of all the hoopla about “politicians”, they’re not the ones who make the day to day decisions about this. They DO however, sit at the top of the food chain and give our hypothetical bureaucrat his marching orders (the criteria to be used for funding, for example).

        Now, what about that politician? He’s been told by the IPCC that CO2 is THE driver for climate change. No mention of solar – or PDO – or black carbon – or… anything else. What’s he to believe? Then he goes home, reads the evening paper , watches the TV news and sees all the potential disasters that have been dreamed up by people who have nothing useful to do with their lives, but lack the actual knowledge and/or data to back up those claims if challenged. But who challenges them? Even if they’re successfully challenged, they have nothing much to lose – especially since the media won’t report the falsity of their claims. The media rarely admits error, VERY rarely corrects error – and when they do, it’s never front page news, it’s always a small print block on page 3, section C.

        So… everyone’s in CYA mode, protecting their own turf, and staying out of trouble. nobody is responsible, there’s no “conspiracy” – and “science” loses. It’s not a “science” problem – it’s a SYSTEM problem. And it’s a result of having humans in the process. Note – there are infinite variations on this theme.

        The only check on this system process is — other humans – the sceptics, whether scientists or private citizens. And then, only if they’re willing to keep on asking the necessary questions even when they’re ignored, vilified, etc. It’s a tough life. :-)

        As I said before – We’re not disagreeing, just using different words.

      • Great discussion. Just to clarify my oversimplification about solar science funding and direction. In the UK where I live, solar science has become the poor relation, with huge cuts in funding, while atmospheric science gets big increases. In the U.S. NASA has launched a new solar probe SDO, which is bringing back great data. But some of the investigators on the SDO project are already committed to an unvarying sun theory, and you can be sure their biases will confirm their theory – see for example Manuel’s complaints.

        My angle is that the sun would only have to have got around 0.5-1.3% more active over the last 300 years to explain global warming, and the average sunspot number rose a lot during the C20th. This is well within the range of error in the data, so it’s possible to argue for the case where the sun has made no difference to climate too.

        Unfortunately, the mainstream scientists working on solar are re-interpreting the data to fit with the mainstream climate position on co2. I contend there is no valid scientific reason to do so. It is a consensus manufacturing exercise which supports the paymasters desire to have a taxable influence on climate. Maybe with a Republican majority this will change, but I fear there is a danger the baby will get thrown out with the bathwater.

      • So the question is what’s the series of experiments that would falsify the dominant paradigm?

      • I think what we’re worried about is “engineered science”. With social engineer-wannabes in charge of the project(s).

      • Jim, it may be just me, but I think we need to make the distinction between “normal” and “traditional”. “Normal” here doesn’t seem to mean “customary”, but rather what I would more clearly understand as “normative”, that is, constructed around, and practised within, a set of norms, that together constitute a “paradigm”. Perhaps the PNS afficionados here can tell us if there is a difference between “normal” and “normative” in this context.

        Be that as it may, if my interpretation is correct, then calling for a return to “normal” science isn’t going to get you what you want. I would instead call for a return to traditional, not normal, science.

      • You need to know sociological and post-modernist vocabulary to understand the phrase properly. In those contexts, “norm” and “normal” refer to the cultural standards and prejudices and shared illusions within closed groups. Only those enlightened by proper post-modernist, and thus “post-normal” viewpoints and eddycation, are qualified to assess theories and sciences and opinions freed from the shackles of mere normative thinking.

  43. All science is uncertain. by definition.

    This may very well be truth, but it doesn’t mean all sciences (or all propositions) are equally uncertain. So, first thing should be knowing where you are in every particular case.

  44. The word science must ever be hijacked.

    Science only deals with theories supported by repeated independent observations.

    Anything else is not science. Please call it something else.

    Post normal science does not make sense.

    Are we going to coin post normal mathematics?

  45. the problem I have with Post Normal science is that

    A decision is urgent…

    The null hypothesis, would appear to have been forgotten about..
    ie, AGW may be aGW and it’s actuall effect in the complex climatic system, is small, or even undetectable..

    I do not assume that this is the case.

    That decision are assumed to be urgent, has caused all the problems, ie alarmism, advocacy, etc

    • Barry says:
      “AGW may be aGW and it’s actuall effect in the complex climatic system, is small, or even undetectable..

      I do not assume that this is the case.

      That decision are assumed to be urgent, has caused all the problems, ie alarmism, advocacy, etc”

      This is the problem. Because of the level of uncertainty, we don’t know whether it is urgent that a decision to act is made or not.

      So it becomes an argument about the applicability of the precautionary principle, and how assessment of the level of precaution needed in the face of uncertain uncertainty and unknown unknowns is done. And by who. At least we got our knees under the table so we can make some input to the process. That’s a pragmatic approach. Some may say we lend legitimacy to the process by getting involved, others might agree it’s worth having a stake in it so we can affect it.

      That is a debate worth having in my opinion.

      • The debate is difficlut in my experience, if one side does not acknowledge the existance of the debate or belittles it or caricatures it.

        An example in the UK was the recent BBC Horizon program, where the establishment media (BBC) and extablishment science (President of the Royal Society) produced a risable program – Science Under Attack – It’s whole purpose in my view was aimed at preaching to the public, that the only people sceptical to AGW are the equivalence to AIDs deniars

        They wave away the ‘trick’ with a softball Jone’s (UEA) interview

        Fully aware of the implications of the trick, on proxy reliability and confidence in reconstruction. Pauld Dennis robustly criticise this, see Bishop Hill (Dennis is a respected scientist at UEA)

        no interviews with Mckitrick, Mcintyre, Lindzen, Carter, etc.. not even luke warmers like Pileke.

        Afew school boy howlers went on as well.. Ie Mans CO2 according to one sceintist with professor Paul Nurse nodding along, is SEVEN time natural!! Making this alarmist propagnad in my eyes

        Whereas the IPCC document it at 3.8% of total

        Picked up upon in the Telegraph today.

        “The most telling moment, however, came in an interview between Nurse and a computer-modelling scientist from Nasa, presented as a general climate expert although he is only a specialist in ice studies. Asked to quantify the relative contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere by human and natural causes, his seemingly devastating reply was that 7 gigatons (billion tons) are emitted each year by human activity while only 1 gigaton comes from natural sources such as the oceans. This was so much the message they wanted that Nurse invited him to confirm that human emissions are seven times greater than those from all natural sources.

        This was mind-boggling. It is generally agreed that the 7 billion tonnes of CO2 due to human activity represent just over 3 per cent of the total emitted. That given off by natural sources, such as the oceans, is vastly greater than this, more than 96 per cent of the total. One may argue about the “carbon cycle” and how much CO2 the oceans and plants reabsorb. But, as baldly stated, the point was simply a grotesque misrepresentation, serving, like many of the programme’s other assertions, only to give viewers a wholly misleading impression. ”

        There is little hope for reconciliation in the UK, when all are labbelled ‘Deniers’ in this manner by the BBC and Professor Paul Nurse

      • Has Booker worked out the difference between talcum powder and asbestos yet?

        Are you going to defend Bookers credibility by breathing in some asbestos to show how credible a source he is, or are we not meant to criticise these heros fighting ‘post normal science’.

      • I would have though it was staringly obvious that Paul Nurse not understanding the ratios of human and natural components in the Carbn cycle was an issue more important than any confusion Booker might have about asbestos, even to you.

      • this is a typical example of how impossible it is n the UK (Dorlomin is a Guardian regular)

        Would he care to comment whether or not the horizon program was correct or not on a basic sceintific fact (as in the IPCC report) or just abuse the messenger, hopin to distract from the message.

        Man’s annual CO2, SEVEN times natural or 3.8%?

        Should Horizon know this, should not Professor Paul Nurse?

      • no interviews with Mckitrick, Mcintyre, Lindzen, Carter, etc.. not even luke warmers like Pileke.

        Does Fred Singer not count? OK, not the most credible representative of the “skeptics” but a representative nonetheless.

      • Well, mebbe so, provided that upfront it is acknowledged that the consequences of the recommended actions are VIRTUALLY CERTAIN to be mass-murderous in their consequences.

        Slashing energy consumption world-wide will slam mostly those who can least afford it, the intended nominal targeting of the Fat-Cat West notwithstanding. And they will die in their hundreds of millions. The biofuel-fueled food price spikes have already made an excellent start on that.

      • Redundancy edit: “consequences of …” / “consequences”. Delete one.


    • Michael Larkin


      I wish I could have put it as simply and succinctly as that. Nail. Hit on head. :-)

      • Michael Larkin

        BTW, I’m referring to your message of January 30, 2011 at 5:44 am, in case you were wondering.

    • Steven Mosher

      you still dont get it.

      The decision doesnt ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE URGENT.
      in fact a dispute over urgency is enough to get the ball rolling.
      a concern over urgency is enough to get the ball rolling.

      think of it this way.

      preconditions that can lead to the death of normal science.

      1. The field has large uncertainties.
      2. Values are in conflict
      3 stakes are high for somebody
      4. somebody thinks it’s urgent.

      • PNS: “1. The field has large uncertainties.
        2. Values are in conflict
        3 stakes are high for somebody
        4. somebody thinks it’s urgent.”

        Steve-this describes ANY Public Choice economics problem put in “crisis” terms: recognizing that democracy disperses costs through regulation, taxation and bureaucracies, while the benefits are privately concentrated (eg, carbon trading markets–which are now dead in the US and dying in Europe).

        If so, then the Montreal Protocol outlawing CFCs is the historic model for “rent-seeking” politics you seek to grasp. Indeed, this is precisely the model environmental activists admitted pursuing subsequent to its political (not necessarily scientific, as Princeton physicist Will Happer found out at the hands of Senator turned VP Al Gore) “success.”

        CAGW is the son of outlawing CFCs, and DDT prohibition its clear grandfather. Because of political “necessity.” Not science.

        It is only UNclear muddled thinking that keep you (“PNS) enthralled at matters made clear by ordinary political analysis.

      • The only urgency therefore is dealing with the demands of those who feel a sense of urgency?

  46. by the way ‘Joe Six Pack is really patronising’.

    who does it apply to, engineers, architects, doctors, accountants, IT specialists, etc,etc,etc ?

    • Latimer Alder

      Joe couldn’t find the original quote, but just asked me to point out that if he is indeed patronising, he must have learnt it by osmosis from the great gurus of climatology – ‘trust me I’m a climate scientist – you guys are just too stupid to understand if you don’t have a PhD in Radiative Physics’

      And that if Joe’s interest and belief in climatology wanes, so eventually will the public funding for Portugese jollies and IPCC bunfights and Cancum and Copenhagen and the like. Any young scientist starting out now would be well advised to avoid climatology since he predicts that new opportunities will dry up, funding will be cut and ‘climatologist’ will soon be a description to conceal from one’s friends and gloss over in one’s CV.

      • Latimer,
        Barry is saying that you are being patronising not Joe.

        I for one try to speak in words all can understand, sometimes my sentences get overlong when trying to convey complex ideas.

        The “Portuguese Jolly” was about the first time skeptics have been invited to the table in a structured way. Do you or Joe really begrudge us that opportunity?

        Even if it might save us all trillions of quatloos further down the line?

      • The “Portuguese Jolly” was about the first time skeptics have been invited to the table in a structured way. Do you or Joe really begrudge us that opportunity?

        This is the key statement and question in this thread, for me. Answer: No, I don’t begrudge anyone who gets the opportunity to partake in something that makes history in a positive way. With everything that is at stake, this could be a immense milestone. It was certainly, at the very least, worth a try.

        My remaining questions would for Judith: who else would she have liked to have been there? What difference could that have made?

      • Latimer Alder

        I don’t think anyone was critcising your writing style. But the content of your Post modernist or whatever it is discussions seems to be so arcane and divorced from reality that for all practical purposes it is irrelevant.

        And surely both Sceptical Joe and yourself must view climatology as an intensely practical science or not one at all. It should be based firmly on rigorous observation and experiment..not on theoretical discussions of the meaning of science.

        I don’t begrudge you your trip to Lisbon, but I had hoped that your time would have been more usefully spent than on philosophical discussions about definitions. Fine for academics…but surely not for working scientists.

        FWIW – Joe Sixpack is my alter ego when I am at work. I do not believe that I can patronise myself, therefore am not guilty of the charge. And I truly am the ‘Man on the Clapham Omnibus’ in that role. Literally as well as metaphorically.

      • Latimer Alder

        Addendum…last sentence para 3 should read:

        ‘Fine for academics…but surely not for working scientists who are trying to figure out the problem of the climate (if there is one)’

    • It could well apply to me. Don’t get all wrapped around the axle about that. :-)

  47. “Disagreement with mutual respect”

    Yeah gods this is funny.

    You have to stand in awe at the self discipline required to write that without laughing. So you have the Goddars, Watts, Bookers, Delingpoles, Moncktons, Moranos and company and their paladins are striding forth to demand civility in the debate.

    Its like steely but with less carbon.

    • I’m nobody’s ‘Paladin’. I have my own point of view and my own way of expressing it. A typical mischaracterisation and an attempt to ‘lump all under one flag’.

    • Don’t know from paladins and don’t care.

      Nor do I demand civility in the debate. Civility would be nice, honesty would be much better, but I expect neither from your branch of the tree.

  48. “Post normal science”
    Argument ad hominem for psuedo intellectuals.

  49. @Judith C

    Thank you for these little ensembles … I suppose

    For most of it, I’ll simply suspend disbelief, based on the viewpoint that saying nothing is at least polite


    1) the oxymoron of “post normal science” makes me sick to my stomach. To conflate the various branches of hard science and mathematics with Ravetz’ squealy, squiggly, slimy, evasive “soft political science” and give them equal respect is one galaxy too far

    Even the definition you quote in italics contains the phrase ” … need not be interpreted as …” A deliberate ambiguity, designed only as a sop to post-modern dilatants, to give them to believe that they are important

    You plead the case for hard but sceptical scientists, and them insult with Ravetz’ nonsensical meanderings. Well reconciled !!

    2) Your recount of several useful journalists suggested a germ to me on this most vexed of issues – how to impress on the MSM that wild, exaggerated, sensationalist stories are grossly irresponsible ? After all, the main game for the MSM is increasing circulation, bums on seats, ratings etc and it appears that scarey-bear stories achieve this

    Well, given that you believe there are some journos who understand this, why not organise a series of forums across various countries where the highest rating organisations send their editors, sub-editors to listen to a structured presentation from those two people that you have listed ?

    Would take a year or two, but should pay better dividends than the irresposibility that occurs now

    3) You report like a proud Momma that Portugal now generates 53% of its’ power from two (2) “green” sources. You at least identify those two as hydro and wind, but fail to supply the proportion from each. Whenever I see that, I smell a great, big RAT

    • “You report like a proud Momma that Portugal now generates 53% of its’ power from two (2) “green” sources. You at least identify those two as hydro and wind, but fail to supply the proportion from each. Whenever I see that, I smell a great, big RAT”

      Hi Ian,
      We were told this at the workshop by the science advisor to the Gulbenkian Foundation. he didn’t give the breakdown. Judith is merely reporting what he said and the ‘proud Momma’ slur is uncalled for. I asked if extra base capacity was imported on demand from elsewhere, and was told, yes, from French nuclear capacity.

      • As far as I could understand Portugal has used 50.000 GWH in 2010, of which about 27.000 GWH were produced in Portugal. Detailing those 27.000 GWH:
        – 15.494 GWH from Hydroelectric plants
        – 10.224 GWH from Thermal plants (Natural Gas mostly)
        – 1.752 GWH from Wind farms
        The rest was imported from Spain and France, and are mostly originated of coal and oil based plants.

        Sources (in Portuguese):

      • And I call BS. Neither of those two is capable of even 10% reliable power supply, anywhere, without 100% backup. Which pretty much defeats the purpose.

        Portugal’s electric prices have doubled in the last few years, and it is being economically crippled. (It is the P in PIGS, the walking economic dead men of the EU). It is using hydro power and other conventional sources for backup “base” supply, as must any region depending on solar and wind — whose peaks, in any case, do not correspond anywhere to usage patterns.

        (You might, BTW, spend a few minutes researching the background of that Foundation beyond their PR releases. It is heavily into facilitating the advent of the New World Order, AKA global governance, and all projects likely to advance same. )

  50. J. Six-Pack Esq.

    ‘While the Lisbon participants unsurprisingly decided that it would be a win-win situation to spend more of Joe’s money on paleoclimatology, Joe views that as throwing good money after bad.’ – no i don’t

    It is, as you say, something bearing only a limited resemblance to normal science. Using a similar term merely serves to confuse some people and aggravate many others. And totally switch off Joe Sixpack. – Well, i’m listening. Keep the explanations simple though.

    ‘Joe couldn’t find the original quote, but just asked me to point out that if he is indeed patronising’ – well i haven’t got a degree in radiator physics but im pretty sure they didnt mean me…

    • Lol. Stitch that Latimer. :)

    • The real and original Joe Sixpack asked me to say that he’s flattered to be imitated, but asks that nobody confuses his views with those of others with similar names.

      • J. Six-Pack Esq.

        Lol, no i didnt me ol’ fruit, i am joe sixpack, joe schmoe, john q public on occasion and at certain parties tom dick and harry all at once. I represent the man on the street in these discussions from my blue collar standing and i will voice my own opinions tyvm. i speak not for the educated and expect the same courtesy in return.

      • Latimer Alder

        Well that’s a shame. because my man Joe Sixpack truly is (in the literal as well as metaphorical sense) The Man on The Clapham Omnibus.

        To be specific he is an habitue of the Transdev 57 service from Fairfield Bus Station, Kingston to Clapham Park, via Raynes Park Station.

        As an intelligent layman, he takes an interest in matters political and scientific of the day, but from a practical perspective. He also enjoys a glass of beer i moderation, a day at the races and football on the telly.

        And he is beholden to no political party or religion, no corporation or other institution. He is his own man.

      • J. Six-Pack Esq.


        Allow me to match your speedy research by saying im a proud member of the Merton Manor WMC and i as it happens i only hop on the ol’ rattler at Norbiton and then lets get to the point of this as my attempts at amusingly highlighting the issue clearly didnt get through earlier

        Quoting and referencing public opion polls when stating what we the people think is generally considered acceptable behaviour

        saying “Joe SixPack says…” is insulting for one, undermines the argument put forward for another and i think it should really be confined to those sixth form debates you mentioned earlier

        I point you again to earlier comments:

        “by the way ‘Joe Six Pack is really patronising’.

        who does it apply to, engineers, architects, doctors, accountants, IT specialists, etc,etc,etc ?”

        I ask you to consider how much the general public do which allows science to operate and form your arguments with less derision in future. However if as i suspect you genuinely mean no insult then check to see you havent missed your mark.

        Now to expand my earlier points,

        ‘While the Lisbon participants unsurprisingly decided that it would be a win-win situation to spend more of Joe’s money on paleoclimatology, Joe views that as throwing good money after bad.’

        – no i don’t, really i don’t. Consider that the overall bill for the conference i estimate to come in at just over twenty thousand euros (please check that figure and if you disagree let me know), but lets put it into perspective. As each speed camera on the side of the road can cost up to forty thousand pounds i think that half that cost being spent to bring an opposing side of a scientific argument which is oft subdued by the mainstream and which decides wide ranging policies which essentially end up with me paying more and more for all manner of bunk is a bargain. As most of the Taxpaying British Public or joe and jane as you call them trust the Authorities less and less daily the potential that maybe the canned line of “You did it with your cars and TVs” could be hoss would interest them greatly. Lets look to the science to see if what has been drawn from it is actually true, i know the conference didnt get an end result but it is progress in the right direction when looked at from a Practical Perspective.

        It is, as you say, something bearing only a limited resemblance to normal science. Using a similar term merely serves to confuse some people and aggravate many others. And totally switch off Joe Sixpack. – Well, i’m listening. Keep the explanations simple though. Using the term Joe Sixpack to describe the general public aggravates many of us and some of us indeed totally switch off, you sabotage your own arguments to any of us you describe as such.

        ‘Joe couldn’t find the original quote, but just asked me to point out that if he is indeed patronising’ – well i haven’t got a degree in radiator physics but im pretty sure they didnt mean me… Clarification: look to yourself, nobody appreciates open insults

      • Latimer Alder

        Some clarifications.

        No ‘research’ needed at all mon brave. Life as it is lived. I do actually work on the Number 57 bus route. Which does go to Clapham Park from Kingston Fairfield. And on a few others in the Kingston/Surbiton area. That’s my job. It’s what I get paid for.

        That I use a rhetorical device (Joe Sixpack) to illustrate my points is a standard literary technique, and no insult is meant to anyone – especially not the Joes and Janes that I work with everyday. But Joe can perhaps do a little bit more of pricking the pomposity of some of our more academic and arcane contributors than I can.

        In a previous existence I had a more high-faluting scientific and technical career and you can read about that in the Denizens thread.

        You missed the point about paleo. Not that I necessarily begrudge 20,000 euros. But what a surprise that a bunch of essentially academic people with a vested interest in climatology research decide that spending more money on it would be a good thing. Knock me over with a feather. It has been of no practical value so far so there is no reason at all to continue funding it….and the bill they suggets would be considerably north of 20, 000 euros.

        The quote about Radiative Physics was directly taken from Chris Colose, one of the earlier contributors to this blog and which has rankled with me ever since.

      • Lol, ok, my apologies, ill leave off the radiator physics :)

        Also fair enough if you’re not having a go at the working man as you say but myself and some others doubt that ‘Joe’ helps

        Of course people always appreciate more funding to their field or industry but would you agree that if we cut funding to what opposes the mainstream argument of essentially “we did it” we would have the result of a one sided argument which doesnt accurately represent the facts due to the system being so variable and detailed to model. If we dont pay for the boats then the earth remains flat even if the first ten break up on the rocks

        JS – Van Driver

  51. Hmmm. ‘Quality and beauty is all there is to know and all ye need to know’ doesn’t work so well for me. Sure, it’s shiny and feels good, but can it score in the red zone? Will it go the whole nine yards? With Livingston and Penn linebacking the defense, that beautiful shiny climate science is inbounding the ball at half court and slamming the football through the wrong basket.

  52. Bah!

    Back here in the real world, I am at an age where my cynicism and middle- aged anger has no bounds so let’s introduce some realism into all this pretentious social/philosophical scientific hoi polloi. Let’s be clear about a couple of things.

    First, conflict within science has always been present and is entirely healthy. It premotes knowledge and understanding and therefore any move to promote the reconciliation of opposing scientific views is counter-productive. The more passionate, the better. Scientists! Sharpen your intellectual knives and bring on the scientific conflict, I say.

    Second, politics is all about conflict and argument. There’s no point in worrying about this: it’s a fact of life. Similarly, as Mosh seemed to be saying, there’s no point in worrying about the politicization of science. That’s a fact of life too. In politics, any grubby little weapon can be used to further a cause and will be grabbed gratefully. Even war is the continuation of politics by other means so it would be unrealistic to expect science to be given a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Attempts at ‘reconciliatation’ in a political sense is merely a mechanism to allow both sides to jockey for an advantageous position. It will achieve nothing and this is why I think the Lisbon Conference, whilst idealistically noble, is a busted flush that will come to nothing. In my view, some of the conference attendees have had a little too much Vino Tinto and salted cod and have allowed the bon homie to cloud their judgement. There will be no political reconciliation or agreement on AGW. There never is during ideological battles. The best thing the skepics could do is hijack the science for their own purposes, go on the attack and conceed no political ground whatsoever. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em seems to apply.

    Right, I’m going back to the real world to feed my sheep. Good luck in your philosophical debate. It has litle meaning for the Joe and his mates. :) Rob

  53. If the world continues to warm, whether from CO2 or the sun, then we’ll all suffer from the depredations of energy prices raised artificially and there will be much suffering. If the world cools as I expect, there will be mass starvation, disease, and war. So the best hope for humanity is that temperatures stagger sideways and we never reconcile this debate.

    • kim | January 30, 2011 at 7:49 am
      “If the world continues to warm, whether from CO2 or the sun, then we’ll all suffer from the depredations of energy prices raised artificially and there will be much suffering.”

      I don’t understand this argument. What excuse would the powers that be have to artificially raise energy prices if it turns out the Sun is responsible for climate change rather than human emitted co2?

      • I’m cynical. With post modern science, I believe the debate will be decided by the temperature. Normal science might show that CO2 had only a small effect, but hoi polloi will assume the guilt anyway. The will to power is strong.

      • Some of that will to power is manifest by the change in terminology to ‘climate change’, which is much, much more unfalsifiable than ‘global warming’. The stage is being set for the herd to accept their guilt whether or not CO2 is at fault.

        Tallbloke, I think you are right that the sun drives climate. I think you are wrong that humanity will accept that if it is shown. Our only chance at the truth is global cooling and the revelation that CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Then we’ll still have to work around the phony excuses for guilt, like ‘ocean acidification’, ‘loss of diversity’ and ‘sustainability.

      • Kim,

        The sun does not create water vapor or precipitation. This is the changes of the ocean heat.

      • Joe, don’t try reason with Sun Worshippers. Ours is the only true God, Infidel.

      • Kim,

        I would say “Bite Me” but I’m not allowed. :-)

      • Heh, bite whatever you like, but bow in the right direction.

      • I asked for that!
        Open mouth…insert foot! :-)

      • Omigod, an infidel and podophage! Shun, shun, all ye righteous, lest ye become infected.

      • “Our only chance at the truth is global cooling and the revelation that CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Then we’ll still have to work around the phony excuses for guilt, like ‘ocean acidification’, ‘loss of diversity’ and ‘sustainability.”

        Kim, you may be right but we have to start somewhere. If the false idol co2 is shown to be a weakling chimaera on temperature change, maybe the public will be less willing to swallow stories about the other issues.

        In any case, I mainly want to be sure the science is correct and reclaim its credibility. What people do with it after that is beyond my control, and I refuse to worry about it.

        As things stand, solar variability, same as for co2, could explain none of the warming, or all of the warming, within the error bounds of its measurement and the theoretical uncertainty around climate sensitivity and attribution.

        My work concentrates on trying to discover the mechanism which causes solar variability, because if it is what I think it is, we will suddenly be able to predict and hindcast solar activity changes with far more precision and get some real answers about the solar contribution to climate change. Then we can know more about the co2 contribution too, which I expect to be small, but nonzero.

      • I do prefer your optimism to my pessimism. Maybe I’m just old and cranky, but ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ has been around for a century and a half, and the herd hasn’t taken to heart its message yet.

      • I like the H.L. Mencken quote:

        “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and thus clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

      • Tallbloke,

        At what cost? Lives and lifestyle? Money?
        Current policies have put a hell of a burden on the future.

      • Careful, there. “Deliberately” is dangerous ground.

        It will happen because of the (see the UK for Exhibit #1) cheap fossil fuel sources are being sidelined and mothballed in favo(u)r of very pricey unreliable green alternatives.

        As for “deliberately” — a good crisis should never be wasted, or words to that effect. I just read a quote but can’t locate the page, along the lines of “Politics is the finding of problems that don’t exist, for which solutions are offered which don’t apply, from which the wrong alternatives are chosen and vigorously pursued.”

        The current POTUS is on record as stating that energy prices will skyrocket, and his Administration is acting forcefully to close and hobble coal mining throughout the country. Meanwhile, China and India are grabbing all the coal they can; usage has increased 40% world-wide since 2000. This is not secret information.

        Perhaps there is some other explanation than a knowing effort to cripple the West’s power supply and economy. “Noble Cause” idiocy comes to mind. But that’s about all.

  54. What does endless discussion about philosophy of science have to do with the actual work of science? It all sounds terribly intellectual but what does it DO in terms of moving knowledge forward?

    And all this yammer about uncertainty! Uncertainty is inherent in natural sciences; there is no way that we will have all of the information we would like to have. If the oil industry worried about uncertainty the way the “skeptics” claim to do about AGW, then wells would never have gotten drilled. Even with advanced technology, there are still huge amounts of uncertainty in drilling exploration wells. But the companies go ahead and take the risk, even with the knowledge that only one or two out of every ten exploration wells may be a discovery.

    Uncertainty is part of the picture because there is NEVER enough data to be 100% sure. But science wouldn’t advance if scientists just kept saying they needed more data. Data collection is expensive, and in some cases key data such as fossil data just may not exist. Scientists assume there will be gaps, but they put together every piece of information they have and work with what they’ve got. If they are lucky enough to get hold of more data, they use it. They also evaluate data quality and may not use every data point. BTW tossing bad data is not cherry-picking.

    But the uncertainty is always there. Like climate scientists, geologists deal with data gaps, uncertainty, the inability to directly measure many phenomena and, perhaps most important, the issue of change over time. How fast did events change in the past? For example, geologic processes do not happen at a uniform rate. A five foot thick bed of sandstone may be the process of millions of years of deposition or it may represent a single event such as a massive submarine landslide.

    We cannot continue to use excuses like uncertainty or the need for more data, more studies, reconciliation between different groups and all the other reasons that we’ve done next to nothing about climate change. The really insane thing is that we desperately need to change course – even if we didn’t have climate change impacts hanging over our heads. The price of finding more oil is insanely expensive if you factor in all of the costs. How much longer are we going to fight wars and throw away lives in what really comes down to securing oil sources? Are we incapable of learning from history?

    Accept the fact that there will always be uncertainty and get on with changing the way we do things instead of continuing to argue and procrastinate. Just because we live in a fossil fuel built economy does not mean that change to a sustainable economy will result in massive taxes and deprivation for all. That’s alarmist thinking.

    • cgl24 | January 30, 2011 at 7:49 am
      “What does endless discussion about philosophy of science have to do with the actual work of science? It all sounds terribly intellectual but what does it DO in terms of moving knowledge forward?”

      The direction science moves in is at least equally affected by decisions regarding what we are going to remain ignorant about as what we are going to find out about. The allocation of funding is a policy issue, not a scientific one. The philosophy of science opens up and lays bare the facts about these non-scientific choices which affect science and the direction it ‘moves forward’ in.

      • Please provide some recent real practical examples where these sort of debates have been of use. And have caused the ‘problem’ to be solved more effectively than they would otherwise have been.

      • Hi Latimer,
        please read this response through to the end before replying with
        “Hah! I knew you couldn’t.”

        Politicians are not in the habit of admitting they have been swayed by anything except their own deliberations. It comports to their sense of self importance. However, politicians do take notice of their policy advisors, and at the Lisbon conference we had a real live E.U. policy advisor. He was a highly intelligent chap who made a very valuable contribution of his own, by pointing out that a perception that more people were suffering from extreme weather events than there used to be was largely a function of increased exposure. i.e. that it is a result of higher population forcing people to build homes on flood plains etc.

        He listened attentively to proceedings, and nodded in agreement at several key points, one of them made by myself regarding the prudence of pursuing several lines of investigation of the cause of climate change in parallel, with a huge money saving potential. Money which could for example be used to provide practical help to increasing numbers of people exposed to weather extremes rather than climate change.

      • Tallbloke – you say that the EU advisor said “a perception that more people were suffering from extreme weather events than there used to be was largely a function of increased exposure”

        The link below shows that the reporting of the number of extreme weather events has increased at a rate much higher than the reporting of earthquakes.
        Perhaps EU advisors don’t always check the facts?

      • Hi Louise,
        The blurb below the graph exactly reiterates the points made by the E.U. policy advisor, so I’m not sure what your point is?

        As for increase in the reported number of floods and cyclones, I note floods is the big one.
        Three points:
        1) Who reports floods which don’t affect people? Now we have more people forced to live in exposed areas, we get more reports.

        2) The cyclones graph is suspect. Google Ryan Maue’s graph on accumulated cyclone energy and compare.

        3) The centuries long Russian Chronicles such as Novgorod catalogue entire centuries where weather systems seemd to be more active and destructive, followed by calmer centuries where things were less extreme. Natural variability can occur on long timescales it seems.

      • Tallbloke – the point is not about the rate of change of reports of e.g. floods per se but why the reports of these have increased at a much faster rate than the reports of earthquakes.

        If this was just about demographics, population growth, increased access to information, etc then the reporting of earthquakes should have risen at the same rate – it doesn’t.

      • Earthquakes, even quite small ones, have registered on seismographic equipment across the world for a long time now. Floods which happened in uninhabited areas didn’t.

        Also, increased reporting of floods is of direct benefit to insurance companies who raise premiums on the back of them. Factors such as these introduce biases to the data, and they need to be taken into account properly. Drawing conclusions about climate change from such evidence is fraught with error.

        The fact that the AGW advocates are reduced to making arguments based on such evidence is itself evidence of the lack of truly compelling arguments in favour of their hypothesis.

      • tallbloke – so your point of view is that change isn’t happening. You don’t believe the world is warming and you don’t believe that this warming can influence the weather.


      • Oh, jeez, Louise; please.

      • That’s a non sequitur

      • Louise,
        It’s a matter of data and it’s objective assessment, not belief.

        I trust the temperature data far enough to say that it’s reasonably certain the global surface temperature increased during the C20th and that it hasn’t increased much if at all since the turn of the millennium. The amount that it increased is in my opinion unlikely to have had much effect on weather. The small amount the average temperature has risen is swamped by the natural variability in the range of extreme weather events. The frequency and of extreme weather events doesn’t seem to have altered much and the anecdotal evidence from historical records suggest centennial patterns in such events are part of natural variability.

        Having said all that it seems clear that in periods of glaciation the weather is calmer, so there probably is an increase in wild weather events when temperature is 5 or 6C higher. I’d still rather live in the Holocene interglacial than the ice age though.

      • Thanks. I read it through as you suggest.

        But I still didn’t see any particular point where the discussion had any practical value. Unless you suggest that public servant being seen to nod at an idea makes a huge difference.

        And I should b…y hope he listened attentively to proceedings – he gets paid enough by us to be very attentive to his work. Sadly however ‘policy makers’ do little other than find new ways to tax the general public, so I hope you didn’t give him any innovative ideas.

      • Hi Latimer,
        I think your view of policy makers is overly jaundiced, you old cynic you. ;)

        The conference was held under the overall Aegis of the E.U. Joint Research Council, but the actual organisation and running of it was done by a sub organisation of the JRC, the institute for the security and protection of the citizen IPSC. Check out their website to see what work they do.

        The exact role of the E.U. policy maker was not revealed so I can’t really comment on him, apart from to say he seemed more concerned with flood defense etc rather than revenue. A google suggests he is connected with work on remote sensing of the environment for the JRC.

    • @cgl24

      ‘What does endless discussion about philosophy of science have to do with the actual work of science? It all sounds terribly intellectual but what does it DO in terms of moving knowledge forward?’

      Exactly! Even Joe Sixpack notices that this is all very high-falutin’ but of no practical value AFAHCT. And I agree with him entirely.

      • J. Six-Pack Esq.

        I disagree, starting on the work of science without discussing where we should be going with it is like going on the job without knowing what tools you need, AFAICT.

      • I think that the way to do science with integrity and honesty has been well-established over the last 500 years. Both in theory and in practice. A cycnic mught suggest that all this talk of PNS and stuff is just a deversionary tactic to avoid the inconvenient truth that soem climatologists seem to be incapable of either.

        Meanwhile, back here in the real world further discussions of the ‘why are we here, what is the meaning of life, who will win Celebrity Come Dancing’ variety should be confined to sixth-form debates where they belong.


      • J. Six-Pack Esq.

        Huh, If what?

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry – no preview here.

      • J. Six-Pack Esq.

        no worries

      • Real science is not planned. It follows and pursues “interesting” questions. Politicians are really, really, really, bad choices for deciding what is “interesting”.

        Applied science and engineering, most of whose basics were discovered by accident in the course of basic research-type science, are another matter. And it’s where the Big Bux are.

        The cynical among us note that Climate Science is apparently attempting to collapse all of those into one, big, high-rent ball. But it doesn’t work that way. If the basics are flimsy, or outright BS, you’re building Great Pyramids to placate gods you invented for the purpose. No matter how big you make them, they achieve nothing, and deflecting all those resources will surely come back and bite you, big time.

    • cgl24,
      Your use of oil industry risk taking to justify the climate science community’s abuse of the concept of uncertainty does not hold up under scrutiny.
      – the oil industry does not demand direct government ‘investment’ to make a drilling decision.
      – the oil industry drills despite of most wells being failures
      – the oil industry risks its own capital in its decision making process
      – the oil industry ultimately delivers something people need: dependable energy at an affordable price
      Compare that to the Climate science community as presently constituted:
      – Climate science demands vast amounts of public money for no discernible direct benefit
      – climate science makes huge claims based on results that are at best barely outside the margin of error.
      -climate scientists risk none of their own capital
      Among a long list of notable points.

  55. Rob B says:
    “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em seems to apply.”
    I thought most of your preceding comment was saying the opposite.

    “You shouldn’t join ’em but beat ’em” ;)

    Different people have different things they want out of the Lisbon process. This is to be expected. Personally, I want open access to data and funding for research into alternative hypotheses to explain climate change.


    because I believe it will save us trillions further down the line which can be better spent dealing with immediate and urgent issues affecting people on an ongoing basis.

    Small investment now, big return later.

    • Sorry, Tallbloke, I was unclear. What I meant was that if one side wanted to employ science as a weapon in their politcal argument, then the other side should do the same. There’s no question of joining them in the sense you mentioned.

      • Rob,
        Fair enough, and you can be sure the politically minded will use whatever facts come to hand that support their agenda. I only put on my philosopher of science hat today to clarify what I see as misconceptions of Ravetz’ ideas.

        To be honest, I’d rather spend my time getting on with trying to prove it’s the Sun wot done it so we can all breathe easy about co2 emission and take the heat out of the debate. Less pressure, less controversy, a return to ‘normal science’ with properly done results, unhurried by manufactured ‘urgency’.

        Solar research has been chopped off at the knees and atmospheric research expanded. This is a political decision affecting science and I want to help redress the balance.

  56. My apologies for the seeming incongruity of using of an oil drilling analogy and then blasting our dependence on fossil fuels. Obviously I did once work in the industry and the experience has made me horribly aware of our vulnerability – and our societal amnesia.

  57. So a small group of trees in the middle of the USA are representative of global temperature are they? True or False?

    You have one group of “scientists” who whatever is published by others say that they do and admit no error in their analysis. They continue to use this data in their work. They also make it difficult to replicate their work by stalling the release of data and methodology. They are incredibly rude to those that disagree. [ Schmidt called the MM05 paper “garbage” on video last year]

    On the other side are a very small [allegedly] number of scientists and a large group of citizen scientists and engineers who carry out analysis of the same data and strongly question the conclusions. [They also have great difficulty getting their research published]

    I am fully aware that there are other subjects with climate science that are more important than temperature reconstruction, but until that boil is lanced we will not make progress.

    While I hope I am wrong I suspect that your Lisbon trip was a waste of time and money.

  58. Judith,

    The biggest problem I see is that science has/had slammed the door to anybody who wanted to contribute to the understanding of how this planet operates.
    Does not matter how good or bad the research is SLAM! As it does not fall under the strict parameters currently in place. I have seen area even yourself will not look at at it may cross the “what the hell did I learn in the last 20 years” barrier.
    So prejudges have been created in climate science.

  59. Folk are getting in a muddle about truth, post-modernism etc. Stick with the word honesty mentioned about.

    If, for example, a hurricane model reports a 50/50 chance of something happening, don’t tell the world to expect imminent disasters because of this rubbish modeling exercise. And don’t say a model is useful when it isn’t even adequate.

    If there is a divergence between theory and data don’t handwave it away, make sure everyone knows about it. Theory does not trump ever data regardless of how bad the data is.

    Do not try to invent data from model runs or infilling via stats and then present it as truth. Get in the field and get the truth, there is plenty of money available for that; it’s just currently misdirected.

    Do not try to tell us that 20 runs of a model, all of them indivuidually incorrect when compared to reality, must somehow be correct because they all agree with each other.

    Stop the post facto science. eg If you predicted drought and we got floods just admit you were wrong and fix it. Do not claim this, that or the next thing is consistent with your earlier claim.

    Stop trying to confuse weather eg jet stream blocking, with climate. Only then can you complain about others doing it.

    Try to reconcile your own various handwaving explanations because they are very often contradictory. ie Try to keep track of your own shifting storylines because some of us have long memories.

    Try to ensure that a paper discussing eg negative feedbacks is treated with the same scientific interest as an inferior one that projects positive feedbacks.

    Stop belittling those who believe your proposed cure is much worse than the disease. They may very well be right, regardless of motive!

    Stop cherrypicking. Yes there surely was an increase in several extreme weather events over a short timescale but if the longer timescale shows no trend then your idea fails.

    And yes throwing away bad data may be considered a good idea, or it may be considered a bad idea. It depends on the reasoning behind it. Too often we see only that the result is not what was expected therefore it must be wrong; That is a science fail! In engineering when we do that there is a potential disaster.

    • Listing the perceived faults of your opponent is not a productive path to compromise.

      • Compromise was never the aim of the Lisbon event.

      • Who said anything about compromise? What sort of compromise would you like?

        Some sceptics think that sea level rise will not be much of a problem in the next 100 years….alarmists bandy around 20 feet. Will it be happy compromise if we all agree on 10 feet and build sea walls accordingly?

        A legislature once decreed that pi should have the value 3.00. Mathematicians insist that it is 3.14159…….. Would a compromise be to split the difference – 3.078……..?

        Or do you believe in the idea of being ‘half pregnant’?

        The faults listed are all demonstrable anti-scientific actiosn on behalf of some in the alarmist camp. They should not be condoned becaue of a spurious need for compromise.

      • I am not condoning anything. However, I do regard my pro-AGW opponents as honorable and honest for the most part, so I have little regard for the “liar, fraud, crook, pseudoscience, anti-science, etc.,” line of rhetoric. It is stupid, on both sides. For that matter, my liars are just as good as their liars.

        The compromise I am looking for is one where climate science gives up alarmism, and sets out to explain natural climate change. This is a compromise compared to gutting their budget. The system seems to be trending toward this compromise. It is my understanding that President Obama did not use the terms global warming or climate change in the SOTU speech. If so I think it has been along time since that has happened before; I would like to know how long. Of course we still have the rhetorical trick of “clean energy” where clean means low or no carbon emissions. But I am patient and able to enjoy each victory. One win at at time.

      • I have heard it said many, many times that climate scientists dismiss without examining the evidence the possibility that climate change may be natural.

        Here is a good essay that shows how known natural influences have been looked at.

      • “Here is a good essay”

        Thank you for your opinion.

      • At least is does show the claim that ‘climate scientists have not considered natural influences…’ is just not true.

        I find it ‘good’ as it was easy to read yet still linked to the relevant scientific papers.

      • Define “considered”.

      • Yes, anyone can trade links although yours is merely to a blog post and I couldn’t find any of the linked papers you mentioned. This is a paper that covers the subject much more comprehensibly but from a different viewpoint.

      • sorry for *comprehensively* and for the size of the linked file. There are a lot of graphs so it takes a while to load.

      • I am talking about something far deeper than occasional, add-on or even dismissive consideration. The hallmark would be mainstream modeling work that attempts to explain the 150 year temperature profile entirely with natural factors, probably in the context of a 1000 year timeframe. Or how about a major effort to answer my favorite question: By how much does the CO2 increase reduce the probability of a major ice age starting in the next 1000 years? How about a solar cycle program to replace the present carbon cycle program? And an ocean cycle program to replace the present water cycle program? How about looking at abrupt events instead of aerosols? The existing science programs assume AGW. The questions are defined within AGW.

        A natural variability paradigm would look at the issues very differently. The CO2 increase would be the add-on, not the starting point. I am sure many scientists would welcome such a challenge. In short, it is time to rethink the climate change research program. We must try to understand natural variability. It dwarfs all other issues in climate science.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘The compromise I am looking for is one where climate science gives up alarmism, and sets out to explain natural climate change’

        I imagine that you are a very saintly and trusting soul. For it is not in climatology’s interest to give up alarmism.

        No alarmism = no funds = no jobs.

        And most people are quite happy to accept that the climate changes naturally without needing hordes of academics to remind them of this basic fact.

      • Not saintly so much as in the loop. Funding for US climate science has just passed into the hands of skeptical Republicans. They need ideas. Mind you I am not expecting big changes fast, but one never knows in this game. The government put the alarmists in charge of climate research and the government can change that equation.

        By the way, this week the skeptical Republicans plan to introduce several bills to block EPA from regulating GHGs. This will put the science debate back into the news for a bit.

      • Latimer Alder

        OK. Here’s a simple idea.

        Thirty years of funding of ‘climate science’ have produced almost nothing of any practical worth. We have climate models that can’t forecast anything, a bit of evidence that maybe the global average temperature has gone up a bit and some good satellite observations that sealevel is rising at about the same rate it always has for centuries. And an argument about feedbacks or sensitivity or whatever that can never be settled.

        Apart from those meagre pickings, the value of all this ‘research’ is just about zero. As a job creation scheme for mediocre scientists it has been very successful. And it’s been very good at whipping a few environmental activists into a frenzy. But apart from those, nada. ‘La Climatologie – zero points’

        So dramtically cut the funding for it. Nobody, apart from the ‘climatology producers’ will care. The man in the street isn’t bothered whether he has paid for thirty useless models or two – the fewer the better from his perspective. His interest in bristlecones from Yamal or elsewhere is zero.

        It would be good politics for whoever does this, and very little will be lost scientifically. Do it tomorrow.


      • I disagree with your disparaging assessment. We have learned quite a lot, in fact the weather forecasters now use a number of natural cycles that were unknown 30 years ago. Moreover, basic science is not about practical stuff. We are spending billions looking for the Higgs boson. My interest is in taking part in moving forward.

      • Latimer Alder

        Basic science is not about practical stuff.

        But funding for it is an extremely practical exercise. For every pound you spend looking for the Higgs Boson, you cannot spend it on anything else. There is not a limitless purse for such endeavours, however much they may satisfy your curiosity. And IMHO climatology has almost no case for any more funding.

        We will have to agree to disagree.

      • Indeed, plus I will be on the inside of the decision process and you will not, because your view is impractical. We have to find something good for these folks to do.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘We have to find something good for these folks to do’

        So climatology funding is really a just a job protection scheme for otherwise unemployable ‘scientists’

        Thanks, for admitting that that is what the climatology industry has become.

        I don’t know about your country in detail, but here in UK protecting jobs at UEA or the Met Office would be a very unpopular move when others of considerably more societal value have to go because of austerity measures.

        Joe Sixpack would rather have a teacher for his kids than another useless climate model.

        Maybe your electorate/taxpayers have different priorities.

      • David W;
        Uh, no, you don’t. It is not up to the political machine, or anyone, to find work for a particular group of scientists. Or anyone else, for that matter. It is shocking that you should think otherwise.

      • David
        You seem quite impessed with yourself. Funding of climate science has certainly not yielded results thus worthy of the investment.

      • David – I have to agree with Latimer here. If the alarmism were taken out of climate “science” it would simply cease to exist. We would be back where we were before the whole hideous edifice was constructed – climatologists, meteorologists, physicists, chemists, etc.

        Any useful knowledge gained over the last 2 decades by the practitioners of these fields has been despite, rather than because of, the Prosecution of Combustion, which is all that climate “science” amounts to – or ever will. And all this stuff about PNS is just persiflage, intended to distract us while the climate scientists reposition their alarmist message to take account of Nature’s latest refusal to behave as they predicted.

      • Dr. Trenberth and other “Climate Scientists” wish the others to prove the AGW is not happening. They and other so called Climate Scientists ask:
        How do we speak to the public?
        How do we listen to the public?
        How do we reflect on ourselves?

        Steven Mosher writes about post normal vs. normal science and this is all so important to study.

        WHAT AN UTTER CROCK and a waste of taxpayer money. Since most of these Climate Scientists are publicly funded, isn’t it reasonable to ask that something useful is gained from the use of taxpayer money.

        Perhaps these “Climate Scientists” seem to believe this issue is so important because they receive funding from the study of the issue.

        Humanity is not going to move away from emitting CO2 until alternate forms of energy production are similarly cost effective to produce electricity or personal transportation. The potential impacts of emitting CO2 are long term and the costs of not doing so are economically prohibitive.

        Policies regarding the issue of climate can only be enacted at an individual nation state level. Therefore, the cause and effect of any potential climate related policy needs to make clear sense for individual nations.
        This situation is different in today’s world than in the recent past due to the changed economics of the world today. Today, and for the foreseeable future; no nation has the economic capacity to pay other nations to implement climate related policies. As a result policy implementation for individual nations will be based upon the basic economic considerations of normal long term construction of infrastructure .

        Since CO2 levels will undoubtedly continue to rise until new technologies become cost competitive, the answer becomes building the proper infrastructure to adapt. In the economic environment of the next 20 years that becomes every country looking out for themselves. In the US, we are clearly at the stage of massive spending cuts/higher taxation. Even continuing to fund $5B per year to study this issue is wasteful. Funding in the near future should be much more focused and only continued only with useful results.

      • The race to “invent” lighter than air flight was also publicly funded. But private sources, a certain duo of bicycle repairmen, bested the scientists “sponsored” by the Smithsonian.

        Whether looking at comprehensive modern economic statistics kept by the OECD or the well-known rivalries of the centrally funded French versus the British in the 19th century, privately funded science outperforms government funded science.

        At least this is the argument and evidence of the work of clinical biochemist turned economic historian Terrence Kealey. It took Vanevar Bush and his friend and Harvard President James Conant to launch Kuhn into intellectual influence and publishing, while the first founded the NSF to guide US science, ala WWII’s Manhattan project.

        Ever since, the US has followed failed French ways, instead of learning from British leadership. The US is now in decline.

        The “climate science” fiasco is only yet another failure of centralized science to trump the McIntyres of the world. But Kealey could have told you how wasteful all this would turn out to be back in the 1990s.

  60. Despite all this talk of normal versus post-normal science, I am prepared to argue that climate science is in the throes of a paradigm revolution. AGW became the paradigm back in the 1980’s, based on a fundamental assumption that climate is stable, in equilibrium, balanced, etc. Explaining climate change was viewed from that starting point. We now are moving toward a view of natural oscillation and variability. This will be a fundamentally different way of approaching the issue of climate change, if it succeeds that is. No revolution is a sure thing, including in science.

    • And I might argue that ‘post normal science’ can and has corrupted the evolution of paradigms.

      • Kim: Since I still do not understand the concept of PNS I have no way of agreeing or disagreeing. I think the environmental movement has corrupted the dominant paradigm in climate science. Is that the kind of thing you have in mind, or are you referring to some broader movement in science? If so I would be interested to know what it is, since I study science for a living.

      • I think I’m only trying to make the narrow point that the CO2 demonization paradigm has illegitimately replaced, and is now delaying the return, to the old paradigm that natural cycles predominate. The record of the cycles is in the temp record, in the paleo record, and in historical records. That the ‘natural cycle’ paradigm was ever replaced at all is the measure of the corruption that post normal science brought into the question.

      • See my comment above. “Normal” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It is a social science term, meaning the culturally bound expectations and beliefs of a particular society. But post-modernists claim to have transcended those bounds, uniquely, and thus “Post Normal” means judge by their standards, no longer limited by the constraints of cultural bias and philosophical and conceptual errors, such as the ones beloved of “scientists” (that reality can be reliably investigated, and that their procedures and “Method” are capable of obtaining valid results). Only the “Post Normal” among us are qualified to adjudicate.

        How d’ya like them apples?

      • Exhibit #1001: Steven Mosher’s post immediately following this one.

      • Steven Mosher

        Yes. But note that you are using an evolution metaphor. Science is a human behavior. you might think that it is a truth finding behavior, but all I can say is that sciencing has been an adaptive behavior. I’ve seen some counter theories that were donkeys.

    • David, like you, I struggle to follow PNS, but ever since the post-modern movement of the 80s I have been deeply suspicious of anything called “post”. However, you talk of AGW being the “dominant” paradigm. The recent floods in Australia have reminded us that there is a group of, by now aging, scientists for whom the dominant paradigm has NOT become AGW, who have NOT forsaken their old paradigm. Furthermore THEIR dominant paradigm had the predictive skill to forearm Australia for the events we have just experienced (and are still experiencing). Trouble was, they were ignored, and people got killed as a consequence.

      I wonder if any of the PNS fans here can deconstruct that situation in a Ravetzian way?

  61. CGL24 says:
    “If the oil industry worried about uncertainty the way the “skeptics” claim to do about AGW, then wells would never have gotten drilled. Even with advanced technology, there are still huge amounts of uncertainty in drilling exploration wells. But the companies go ahead and take the risk, even with the knowledge that only one or two out of every ten exploration wells may be a discovery.”

    The claim that skeptics are concerned with uncertainty is rather uncertain. It would seem to be another way of upending the Null Hypothesis, placing the burden of proof on the Skeptics rather than the Proponents (which, I believe, is the appropriate term for those advancing the AGW or CAGW theory).

    Skeptics, in general, accept that there is GW (or at least acknowledge the global rise in temperature since the LIA), but are skeptical of AGW that exceeds the “tolerable” levels that the doubling of CO2, absent forcing, would theoretically yield. They are particularly skeptical of CAGW. In short, the Skeptics say that the arguments advanced to date have not met a reasonable burden of proof. They do not “yammer about uncertainty”, in fact for the most part they are pretty certain.

    Steven Mosher explains that were we merely in a situation where this debate could be resolved over time with the unfolding of the “normal” scientific process, then we would be in a “NS” environment. But the Proponents add a rider of urgency to their theory of AGW (raising the stakes to a point where they say the risk is intolerable.) We are thus propelled, ipso facto, into a “PNS” situation. In fact, we entered into this Post-Normal environment with the formation of the IPCC.

    The result of this shift was that the burden of proof has been placed by the Proponents upon the Skeptics. Dr. Trenberth, in his recent AMS remarks, was not proposing something new when he said “the null hypothesis should now be reversed, thereby placing the burden of proof on showing that there is no human influence [on the climate]” – he was merely affirming what has already been the case for some years in the political/scientific realm.

    However, there is a factor in PNS that is important, and that is public opinion. NS is somewhat protected from this force: PNS is however subject to its full force, and that force is often – though not always – overwhelming. For many years it appeared that the Proponents had captured the imagination of the public: now it seems that the forces have reversed, and the public have developed a clear Skeptic bias.

    This may reverse, once again, the burden of proof.

    • Larry, this is a good thoughtful post. Personally I think the burden of proof should always be on the proponents of the hypothesis, but as you say, because the AGW meme was driven into the consciousness of the politicians and public by the media, we found ourselves in a situation where the scientific method was successfully upended by the alarmists.

      This kind of situation was identified and predicted by thinkers such as Chomsky, who observed that to a large extent in wider society, ‘reality’ is a tacitly agreed consensus construct of society at large.

      Again it should be noted that this is not always a desirable situation, such as when mass delusions cause harm and oppression – scientists and writers being locked up in mental institutions etc. The point is, Chomsky, Ravetz and other thinkers are not saying this is how it should be. they are observing that this is how it is.

      The fact that J. Public has (according to opinion polls) seen through the ploy indicates that ‘commonsense’ reality is more resilient than the alarmists, politicians and media types thought.

      • I agree Tallbloke!

        If the theory has any flaws, they may be looked at and changed. If it completely fails then science can move on to actually understanding this planet.
        Too much emphasis has been put on being in a certain format to the exclusion of all other input.

    • Larry,

      The planet then changed the playing field of the dynamics of the AGW theory.
      This theory is failing due to the parameters science put on itself to stay within certain borders even when these borders fail.
      The problem with staying in this arena, the changes are happening faster than the theory can change. So now, we have “Global Warming causes cooling” theories coming out rather than LOOK AT THE SCIENCE.
      Really is pushing the boundaries of common sense.

    • Steven Mosher


      Well put.

    • Indeed. And I remind all, once again, that what is not uncertain is that the Precautions recommended/demanded have a mass-murderous pricetag (which, inevitably, will be primarily paid by the persons and nations least able to afford it). Which the biofueled food price spike has already begun collecting.

  62. Dr. Curry,
    Thank you for this report. It was very interesting. Are the organizers planning to do this again? It takes time to build trust and credibility with people.

    I do not understand the use of Chatham House Rule if the workshop was recorded on audio or video. I have never heard of both being employed at the same time.

    I am certainly for greater civility in discourse, but not at the expense of honesty. It is rare, but there are cases in which the term “fraud” is appropriate in climate science. Any attempt to ban the word from discourse opens the door for those so inclined to act as they will without fear. I fear much harm comes from not calling a spade, a spade.

  63. Over at Climate Resistance, Ben Pile has a simpler, less wordy version of the sentiment I was trying to express earlier:

  64. Why is the word “normal” part of PNS? Is there a “Post Abnormal Science”? If there is, I’m unaware of it. There is science with its associated uncertainties. Then there is everything else.

    I see the insertion of the word normal as an attempt to confuse the public by imparting an unwarranted aura of objectivity to policy decisions. Decisions which are being made subjectively after they may or may not have thoroughly examined the available science.

    As far as I can tell, it appears those using the PNS banner want to add some artificial layer of mystique to what they do. They don’t want to be considered just another policy wonk. They want to associate themselves with objectivity when what they do is nothing of the sort. Its just politics.

    • “Why is the word “normal” part of PNS?”

      As far as I can see, because its enthusiasts posit the existence of a set of “norms”, which, taken together, constitute a “paradigm”. Nothing to do with “normal” as used in ordinary discourse. In fact very little to do with ordinary discourse at all.

      • Steven Mosher

        “normal’ is used to explain its connection to Kuhns work.

        What is science? For the most part you will find people here and people like popper describing an ‘ideal’ of science. Their rationalist theory of ‘what’ science should be. Typically, they choose physics as an example to derive this abstraction. Kuhn and others take a more empirical evidenced based view of what science is. That sounds strange doesnt it. Take a scientific view of what science actually is. In Kuhn’s work he identified lets say three stages.
        2. NORMAL science
        3. REVOLUTIONARY science.

        And just for simplicity sake we can say that in phase 1 people who do science are really not forming hypotheses yet, they dont understand how things work, maybe they are just collecting data ( like collecting weather data ). Then over time one progresses into normal science. In normal science a dominant paradigm or theory emerges over time and scientists for the more part work within this paradigm building it into a bigger system that explains more and more. In normal science scientists are seen as solving the puzzles of the universe. they are just interested in how things work. They have no agenda.

        When we look at climate science we can see that they are not doing normal science. what do you want to call it?

        Ravetz calls it PNS.

        is that really that hard for people to get?

      • Michael Larkin

        Well, Steve, if you put it like that, it’s not at all hard to get. It is unfortunate, however, that the word “science” comes into it at all. If it’s not one of the three Kuhnian categories you mention, then what is a better name for it? Whatever climatologists are doing, to me it seems to some degree pathological.

        But then again, to say that normal science doesn’t have an agenda also makes me wonder. As does saying it too isn’t in places pathological. Much of modern cosmology, for instance, strikes some, and certainly me, as simply barking, with an underlying agenda of mathematising the universe. Look far and wide, and nowhere in nature will you find a mathematical entity. Such things reside only in the heads of mathematicians.

        I wish the investigation of the Goethean scientific approach were more popular. But poor old Goethe was, I suspect, too far ahead of his, not to mention our, time.

      • Steve, isn’t it also true to say that “normal” is used not to mean “customary”, but according to a set of “norms”, together cnstituting a “paradigm”? And if so, might it not be better called “normative”, or even “paradigmatic”, to prevent the confusion arising from the use of “normal” which has a quite different colloquial meaning?

        So much of this controversy seems to revolve around whether PNS is used:

        a/ the tallbloke version – as a description of the ineradicable shortcomings of the human mind that scientists bring to science,

        b/ by “proponents”, who approve of PNS and want its use extended.

        If the former, then it amounts to a strong case for rigorous application of the TRADITIONAL (not “normal”) scientific method, which was created specifically to annul the many shortcomings of the human mind, including those of which PNS is a description. These have been apparent to scientists and philosophers for centuries. All the PNS writers have done is express it less competently and more opaquely than their forebears.

        If the latter is the case, then it’s dangerous twaddle.

      • I agree that Ravetz can be a bit opaque to those not used to the riddles philosophers apparently speak in. But I’ve spoken with Ravetz in depth, back in the 80’s at a couple of his seminars, via email over recent months, and face to face over the last week, and I can tell you that he is all for normal science being done properly in accordance with the traditional scientific method. The thing is, it hardly ever has been, as Steve Mosher pointed out.

        This is why he bangs on about quality control, and adherence to agreed standards. Institutional science is under pressure to perform in a way which suits the agendas of its paymasters. This has been the case for a very long time. It’s individual free thinkers who break the mould and innovate without preconceived outcomes. Ravetz is trying to help us identify where things go wrong and help us see how to make the best of a bad job.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘I agree that Ravetz can be a bit opaque to those not used to the riddles philosophers apparently speak in’

        Then, asks my esteemed and wise colleague Joe Sixpack, can he – and all other ‘Philosophers of Science’ learn to speak and write in ways that can be understood? Many others (possibly even of lesser intellect than he) are capable of doing so.

        Outside of academia, it is not ‘clever’ to write in riddles. You do not gain extra brownie points for being obscure and hard to follow. In the saloon bar of the Jolly Farmer you are just considered to be a bit of a pillock.

        The two most popular newspapers in the UK are the Sun and the Mirror. Neither would claim to be highbrow, but they can both tell a story in simple direct language accessible to those of even basic literacy. They *communicate* with their readers. They do not confuse and perplex them.

        And in the commercial world, if you cannot easily make your point and persuade others of it, you are (unless supremely talented) most likely ignored.

        Is there any particular reason my Ravetz and all the others cannot learn the simple techniques that are available to the rest of the public? Or do they prefer to be ‘mysterious’ and ‘challenging’ because they assume that it bestows mystique rather than betrays incoherent thought.

        Tallbloke – you are a good guy I’m sure.Presenting Judith with the Josh Short was great.

        But please don’t be seduced entirely into the farthest corners of obscure philosophical debate. Back down on Earth, there are real problems to be getting on with. Arguing among yourselves about the meaning (if any) of Ravetz’s work is irrelevant outside your little clique.

        Come back to us!

      • Latimer,
        It’s a shame this thread was derailed by the misunderstandings over what PNS is. It was hardly even mentioned in Lisbon, and we’ve lost the opportunity to discuss the more interesting aspects of the meeting.

        I’ve done my best to speak plainly, but there seems to be a dogged determination to ignore or disparage all the explanations I’ve attempted. I don’t think it’s all a failure on my part, but I’m done with it and I’ll head off to get on with some work.

      • Tallbloke, I agree, not sure why PNS has dominated the discussion. And I certainly don’t know why the PNS group is taking such grief from the climate skeptics blogosphere, since the PNS crowd is working to legitimize the extended peer community and the blogosphere, and actually did something really novel in inviting bloggers to the Workshop (not to mention skeptical bloggers).

      • Tallbloke,
        My understanding is that formal quality controls and adherence to agreed standards is more important for the PNS than for normal science. The ultimate control in normal science is in unformalized control by the peers, further research, and new experiments that repeat or extend the earlier ones. In many fields of normal science errors are a nuisance, not a serious problem.

        Certain requirements of scientific method must be followed to limit the number of errors, but ultimately this is not as important as the creativity of the scientists. For this reason many fields of science take pains in not being too restrictive and not making too many formal requirements for the work.

        PNS is research performed on issues of immediate potential importance and under pressure to get results soon. For this the quality controls and formalized procedures are much more essential than for most normal science.

        Climate science is far from the only area with PNS properties. One recent example is the case of swine flu. There was an urgent need to make decisions on proper action. Little was known about the disease, when decisions were made about vaccination campaigns. There is no shortage of similar issues in the present world.

      • Thanks Pekka, this is a timely comment, and a good reminder that I’m focussed on climate science and shouldn’t be making generalisations about the rest of the scientific community.

        I agree with what you are saying, and would only add that some individual scientists in other related disciplines need to have their work interpreted in the context of their personal biases and institutional affiliations. There are some stealth advocates out there.

      • TomFP,
        One description for the normal science (in the meaning Kuhn gave to this concept) is: Normal science is what all scientists are doing most of the time and most scientists all of the time.

        This separates the revolutionary science from normal science. Only some scientist create revolutions in the science and even they do most of the time normal science.

        Post normal science is not part of the same family of activities than normal and revolutionary science. It is indeed not a form of science but something else with connections to science and done by some scientists when they venture outside the proper science. The name “post normal science” is not good, because the basic concept in this expression is science. PNS is something else.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Pekka Pirilä:

        You say;
        “Post normal science is not part of the same family of activities than normal and revolutionary science. It is indeed not a form of science but something else with connections to science and done by some scientists when they venture outside the proper science. The name “post normal science” is not good, because the basic concept in this expression is science. PNS is something else.”

        Yes! I understand that. And that “something else” is why I reject PNS.

        Please see my earlier reply to a comment that you made to me.


      • Richard,
        I read your comments. There is much we agree upon, but I think my views on what is allowed in good science are more complex than yours. I definitely reject relativism, but at the same time I do not think that any well defined and fixed rules apply. Good science is something that cannot be defined, but we do recognize it, when we see it. Sometimes the correct verdict cannot be given soon, but reaching it may take years or longer.

        Similarly I find much valuable in, what has been called PNS. I would like to rename it, but the wrong name does not make in less important, while it may cause confusion in discussing on the concept.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Pekka Pirilä:

        Thankyou for your reply.

        I am certain that there are some “fixed rules” in the scientific method ( e.g. the ‘Piltdown Man’ broke the rules) but I think it would be a distraction for us to debate that now.

        The imporant issue as I see it is that PNS introduces scientists into the policymaking arena. Or, as you phrased it;
        “In decision making the question is, how can the scientists contribute.”
        But policymaking is not science unless you want to say it is political science. So, the question arises as to why scientists should “contribute” to it other than as as individual citizens with a right to universal suffrage.

        As I explained above, the formal introduction of scientists into policymaking provides no benefit to science, hinders the conduct of good science and provides a threat to the reptations of scientists and science as a whole.

        Furthermore, scientists are generally inept at policymaking. There is no more reason to expect that they, their science or the policymaking would benefit from such involvement than there is reason to suppose that their science and automobile reliability would be improved by scientists being involved in the conduct of car mechanics.


      • Richard,
        It would certainly not be wise to involve all or most scientists in the policy process, but getting the best possible data and understanding on the status of science to the policy process with minimal distortions requires help from the science community.

        Handling uncertainties and risks in the decision making is certainly not unfamiliar to the politicians and other decision makers, but it is well known that they do not always succeed well in using the best data. How to improve on the present situation is not at all clear, but based on their publications this is precisely one of the central issues studied by the PNS community. Some of the references of the presentation of van der Sluijs contain good material on this subject.

        How to use existing material is one of the problems. Another problem is, what kind of applied research should be performed to improve timely on the knowledge on points where improvements are both needed and attainable. This is another issue considered within PNS.

        The basic science should continue undisturbed by PNS, but PNS may help in directing applied research and in the interface between science/research and policy making.

      • Pekka, thanks for this clarification:

        The basic science should continue undisturbed by PNS, but PNS may help in directing applied research and in the interface between science/research and policy making.

      • I agree. The “normal” is the norms of the scientific and cultural community; To say Post Normal is to say Post Modern, the deconstructed enlightenment possessed only by The Few.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Steven Mosher | January 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

        … Then over time one progresses into normal science. In normal science a dominant paradigm or theory emerges over time and scientists for the more part work within this paradigm building it into a bigger system that explains more and more. In normal science scientists are seen as solving the puzzles of the universe. they are just interested in how things work. They have no agenda.

        When we look at climate science we can see that they are not doing normal science. what do you want to call it?

        I call far too much of it “imitation science which has been fatally compromised, done by pseudo-scientists with an agenda”. It does have a more scientific, technical term — Garbage. You call it PNS. Which to me means, by simple math, that

        PNS = G


      • Willis, i don’t understand your attitude towards PNS. I thought Ravetz’s original essay at WUWT was harshly critical of climate scientists and climate science. His reason for why this was such a mess was the politicization, which is a symptom of PNS. He is stating it is very difficult to do good normal science in this kind of environment, and without acknowledging the politicization the science can get polluted, so that needs to be looked out for.

  65. For nearly 30 years alarmists have argued that the stakes are high and that there is an urgent need for lowering or eliminating anthropogenic CO2 emissions. During the same period we have seen increases in global Total Factor Productivity in agriculture and an increase in terrestrial biomass. No doomsday prediction of climate alarmists has thus far passed the test of time. Hurricanes are not more frequent or intense, the rate of sea level rise has not changed in spite of nearly 30 years of alarmist arguing that it will inevitably increase. The Northwest Passage has yet to open as confidently predicted for decades. Those are only a few of many examples of doomsday prophecies invalidated by the passage of time. I recommend Burt Rutan’s excellent summary of trends found in his presentation at

    The claim that the stakes are high is a product of the dog’s breakfast of junk science found in the IPCC WG2 report. There has been no rigorous scientific investigation of impacts. An increase of 2-4 degrees in GMST may end life as we know it, be largely beneficial to the biosphere or pretty much inconsequential with positives offsetting negatives. We need much, much more genuine scientific research with respect to impacts and that research must not be agenda driven. We need lots more normal science in order to estimate what is truly at stake.

    The arguments for urgency are for the most part driven by arguments for large stakes. The greater the supposed forthcoming catastrophe the more urgent the need for action. This is a palace erected on a foundation of sand.

    Imagine that you have been invited to gamble your money on a new and innovative game. Each round can have one of three outcomes: losing all of your net financial worth, losing a penny or winning a dollar. You must ante up your net financial worth for each round. But what, you ask, are the odds? And the answer is that no one knows. What to do? Don’t play the game until you are convinced that the odds are in your favor.

    This in a very roundabout way brings me to the PNS issue. The PNS model does, in fact, provide an analytical framework that can usefully describe attributes of a particular kind of scientific problem. However, it provides no good answers in the case of not knowing enough to know what to do. It prescribes “democratization” involving “stakeholders”. That is another way of saying that organized special interest groups that stand to profit or lose as a consequence of policy decisions should be invited to the table. Unfortunately, the ignorant masses are by this definition excluded from stakeholder status.

    Worse yet, PNS introduces the notion of “quality” in scientific investigation and expert judgement. Quality is the salient attribute of the science that helps promote the interests of some democratized aggregation of stakeholders who in turn were elected by no one and do not represent anyone but themselves and their special interest constituencies.

    PNS provides a useful model of how politics and science interact under a very rare set of circumstances. Its descriptive value is obvious. However, its prescriptive component lands it squarely in the toxic province of postmodernism where, we are told, reality is socially constructed. So, let us not throw out the baby with the bath-water. But we should take care to throw out the baby’s dirty bath-water.

    For PNS to be applicable there must be high stakes at risk. The precautionary principle is otherwise irrelevant. In this regard, there must be relatively little uncertainty. Further increases in the GMST must, on the whole, be a very, very bad thing. But has this been proven? I think not. We have not yet dispassionately addressed impacts. Given the deplorable skill of climate models in hindcasting or forecasting regional climate changes we have little to work with. The lavish use of gray literature in supporting the conclusions of IPCC WG2 provide ample evidence of a shortfall of normal science.

    The catastrophic AGW scenario has from the get-go been a political contrivance that finds its sketchy scientific support in the bizarre claims of a handful of climate scientists who have put their shoulders to the political wheel. The science is post normal in its operation not because of its findings but because of its utility in advancing the interests of stakeholders. The cart has been put in front of the horse.

  66. This is the first time I’ve ever posted on a climate site of any type and readily admit I have no expertise in science nor philosophy, merely curiosity and a great fear of actions taken in ignorance.

    This conversation regarding Post Normal Science, especially when defended by some whose opinions I’ve come to value, is to me, frankly, scary. I’m an unreconstructed Spenglerian who is convinced that postmodernism (and its various offshoots, including PNS) is a symptom of our civilization’s decline. It is perhaps, therefore, inevitable, but something I think to be resisted as much as one can. It seems to me that those who are arguing for the “purity” of science represent the glory days of our past and those who welcome the coming of PNS represent the coming end. Perhaps Mr. Mosher is right in telling us to get on board, the ship is sailing.

    But I can’t and won’t do that. Postmodernism in all its aspects seems to me a surrender, an abandonment of what has made us great.

    Anyway, all that to make a reference to a wonderful little essay by Philip Bess, professor in the School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, regarding deconstructionism in architecture. If we can accept without tiny little quibbles that deconstruction, postmodernism, and PNS are all examples of the same phenomenon, it is easy to replace “architecture” in this essay with “science” or even “climate science.” In fact, one of the cited architects uses the phrase “post-structuralism” to describe postmodern architecture.

    I encourage all to read this article, which, I think gives a wonderful insight into the problems of PNS.

    • “This conversation regarding Post Normal Science, especially when defended by some whose opinions I’ve come to value, is to me, frankly, scary. ”

      I’m not defending it. I’m just trying to help clear up misunderstanding about what it is.

      “If we can accept without tiny little quibbles that deconstruction, postmodernism, and PNS are all examples of the same phenomenon”

      Sorry, we can’t. Ravetz, in my opinion made a big mistake in choosing such a provocative title for his analysis. It seems it pushes people’s buttons and they react to it before they get to actually read and understand what it proposes.

      On the other hand, if he’d called it something dry and academic, no-one would have read it either. :)

      Anyway, whatever the merits or otherwise of Ravetz’ work, it has been effective in creating a debate around the issues of policy decision making and who should be involved in it, so some of its aim is fulfilled even if it is rejected as postmodernmarxistdeconstructionistclaptrap by many.

    • That is a very rich and interesting essay. Some of it passed me by because I completely reject any formal system of aesthetics as a measure of value. This is what adherence to the Von Mises Austrian school of economics does to you. Value exists entirely in the eye of the beholder and the only objective aggregate measure of subjective value is price. There is no objective better or worse, good or bad. There is only that which is more or less satisfying to someone or aggregates thereof.

      Aesthetics, to me, has proven to be a completely dry hole. It is, inherently, idealistic and in that regard subject to the devastating critique of idealism provided by Karl Popper in his book “The Open Society and Its Enemies”.

    • Tried to read the essay. Got half way through and gave up totally confused, sorry. Never found out what deconstructionist architecture was all about either, can you explain in a few words?

      • Deconstructionism is itself a Construction and one which binds you to a terrifying wheel.

        How’s that?

      • Architecture is a product just like the IPod or or XBox. Deconstructing commercial products that for a time are more of less pleasing to some set of consumers is a fool’s errand. Don’t feel bad because you can’t make sense out of the nonsensical.

  67. Postmodernism appears to me to be the latest, greatest arrow in the quiver of Marxist critical analysis. While the control of information was once thought to be enough to create the New Socialist Man it has proven to be insufficient. What is needed now is a new epistemology that creates a New Socialist Reality. Fortunately, the architects of the new reality are amongst the least influential people on the face of the planet. Normal reality continues, unabated.

    At the same, it is chilling to see efforts to build the New Environmentalist Man continue unopposed. On the bright side, creating a New Environmentalist Reality has largely been unsuccessful. This is where the good fight is being fought and the results have been thus far encouraging.

    • Postmodernism is far too ambiguous to be associated with any one project. Much “postmodern” thought directly contradicts the fundamental distinctions of Marxism, but the term is also loose enough that you could conceivably slap the label onto critical theory, or anything else that seems to challenge any given convention. Postmodernism has become the Enlightenment’s bogeyman, freely identifiable with whatever intellectual malaise is troubling us at the moment. Is PNS postmodern? Maybe, or maybe modernity never existed in the first place. What I do know is that some linkages work better than others. Critical theory actually has a form, postmodernism is a nebula.

      • I am well acquainted with Marxist Critical Theory and its origins. It certainly has a consistent form aimed at destroying all social conventions that are obstacles to the advance of socialism. It is a bullet aimed at the heart of free enterprise. Postmodernism is, as you suggest, more diffuse. It is a shotgun aimed at destroying all social conventions regardless of origin or utility. In this regard, critical theory and postmodernism are, in my opinion, complimentary insofar as they share many common objectives with little in the way of ideological conflict.

      • Steven Mosher

        oh please, dont confuse ‘post normal’ with post modern.

  68. I agree with Tallbloke. PNS is here. The train has left the station. PNS describes general features of the climatic debate. That is the debate we are stuck with, like it or not. I think that the science isn’t sufficiently mature to warrant PNS treatment. Policy has, in my opinion, leapfrogged the relevant science. Nevertheless, PNS considerations are stubbornly unavoidable. Bemoaning the current state of affairs does nothing to improve them.

    We can and should contest the prescriptive aspect of PNS. There is a big difference between characterizing an issue and offering a preferred method for resolving the dispute.

    • Spot on Ken.
      Ravetz himself recognises the difficulties in applying the Ravetzian PNS/Van der Sluijs uncertainty formula to the data and the unknown unknowns.

      This leaves room for my argument that to get a better handle on things we need to pursue alternative hypotheses so we have something to compare the uncertainty of the co2 driven model to. So, an internal natural variability oscillation model, and a solar/ocean heat content model. I’m working on the latter.

      I do a day job and run my food growing project as well as finding time to work on the problem. If I could get a modest sum guaranteed so I could give up the day job for a few years to work exclusively on the problem I think I could provide some useful results which might save Joe Public a large number of trillions of dollars in the long run.

      • “We can and should contest the prescriptive aspect of PNS. There is a big difference between characterizing an issue and offering a preferred method for resolving the dispute.

        tallbloke | January 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply
        Spot on Ken.”

        Public Choice political economics describes the problem-situation better — more veridically and completely. And the solutions more explicitly, ie, either sever science from politics, or – much as the late Michael Crichton did when recommending pro-AGW and anti-AGW scientists be funded – make the interested parties compete fairly and completely!


  69. please, Judith come back to earth again. Holidays in Europe is fine. 53% wind and aqua made you happy but made me sad considering the State debt of Portugal mainly caused by this fact. I, as a German resident and taxpayer now am forced to guaranty for that debt as well as to the German debt also caused partly by the same sort of … . Where you (and others, Steven Mosher, Tallbloke) involved in some brainwashing sectarian camp over there? I love(d?) your blog and have followed your brave attempts from the beginning at Keith’s blog. OK I’m a lurker that felt finally forced to comment. No PNS with me, there is enough esoteric stuff on the web already.
    PS: and yes Steven, a fact is a fact and is true. Therefore it is called “fact”

    • “a fact is a fact and is true. Therefore it is called “fact””

      According to the IPCC, it is a fact that it’s very likely most of the warming since 1950 was caused by human emission of co2.
      This ‘fact’ is widely accepted by politicians and the media, and so becomes part of social reality.

      This is the problem, and the reason why we have to grapple with the ‘esoteric stuff’. I’d rather be spending my time wearing my engineer’s hat and calculating the forces which cause solar variability so we can put an end to the nonsense. But as someone who also has a qualification in Philosophy of Science, I feel duty bound to try to explain the ‘esoteric stuff’ in a way everyone can understand.

  70. Steven Mosher

    Contrary to what you may think, I believe I understand very well what is going on here.

    What is the difference between (as HAS dubbed it) “policy directed mission oriented applied research” (e.g. “Star Wars” during the Reagan administration) and “agenda driven science” (the IPCC process we are witnessing today)?

    The former is a policy-driven, goal-based project with a specific tangible deliverable, using a scientific or technological research and development process to reach the stated goal. As is the case with all projects, there are uncertainties and these must be “designed around”.

    The latter is simply a misuse of basic science to support a political agenda.

    At what point does the “agenda” outweigh the “science” and the whole thing become a sham? How does this manifest itself?

    Understating (or ignoring) uncertainty in order to add emphasis in support of a particular viewpoint is the first tiny step onto the slippery slope toward outright lying. The next steps follow very easily.

    The politicization of science is nothing new, to be sure, but it is also nothing desirable.

    To grace it with the nice-sounding term of “post-normal science” is simply political hype.

    My opinion, of course.


    • Max

      Don’t be hard on “agenda driven science” particularly if it occurs through the exercise of due process. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so there is no intrinsic difference between star wars and climate.

      If you don’t like what’s being done (and/or how well) the answer lies in the politics not in reinventing science.

      As I keep saying the issue is “what science should we be buying?”

      I also actually think that it is around that question that there is some hope for reconciliation.

    • Steven Mosher

      Well, you still don’t get it. I can explain it for you but I cannot understand it for you.

  71. “The train has left” on PNS is rather a fatalistic viewpoint.

    That “train” may well be derailed by an even stronger force: the TRUTH.

    • No, it is not fatalistic. It is realistic. This is how the debate is being framed in policy-making circles. While I don’t think that the debate should be framed that way, there is nothing I can do to change the way it is being framed.

      In the end, time will tell. Will GMST after 10+ years of no trend go up, down or largely remain the same? If, as some reputable climatologists claim, GMST will decline for the next 20 years all that needs to be achieved is an effective rearguard action that stymies disastrous economic policies justified by AGW alarmism.

      The climate future is up for grabs right now and anyone who confidently predicts what will happen next is engaging in guesswork. I suspect that time is on the side of skeptics. Direct personal experience of one harsh winter after another in northern temperate zones is already swaying popular opinion.

      I am, in fact, optimistic. Hold the line, wait and let nature take its course.

  72. Ken Lydell

    This is how the debate is being framed in policy-making circles. While I don’t think that the debate should be framed that way, there is nothing I can do to change the way it is being framed.

    Yes, there is (in a democratic society). Vote out the “policy makers” and replace them with others.

    Of course, if it continues not to warm despite record increases in CO2 (as you wrote) the whole debate may have become irrelevant due to the facts on the ground.


    • We can vote out the policy makers if we can put together a governing coalition with the mandate to do so. We can’t vote out self-serving NGOs with their scare of the week stories or the legacy press that retails those stories. We can’t vote out EU and UN institutions with a heavy investment in promoting warmist propaganda . We can’t vote out the government of the Maldives that hopes to cash in on bogus claims of increasing sea rise. And we certainly can’t vote out the European greens intent on destroying modern industrial civilization. Our influence is severely limited. It is best used to thwart draconian American energy restrictions.

    • Yes, there is (in a democratic society). Vote out the “policy makers” and replace them with others.

      Max –
      Fact is that the sceptics were outflanked a long time ago by the media, the alarmist scientists and a few politicians. Just as the US was set back by Pearl Harbor.

      But like that situation, this “war” isn’t over. The Lisbon Workshop was one small step, even though I also have questions, and maybe doubts, about the results. But one of the basic rules of war is to “know your enemy”. And there’s no better way to do that than to have this kind of face-to-face with them. Sometimes it turns out that they’re not the enemy at all. Sometimes one’s worst enemy is one’s best friend – and sometimes it becomes evident that Pogo was right and “We have found the enemy and he is Us”.

      As you say, one of the things to be done is to “vote the rascals out”. Which is, to some degree what happened in the US in November. How effective that will be remains to be seen. But we need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing to convince Latimer’s Joe Six-pack that the rest of the rascals also need to be shown the door – and led, if not booted, through it.

      Whether or not the train has left wrt PNS, there are still people out there doing real science – Lindzen, Spencer, and many others. They need to be supported and encouraged.

      And finally, arguing the case only on this blog is of limited value. Not that Climate Etc should be abandoned – that would be stupid. But there are thousands of other blogs out there, many of which are sceptic but need input from those with real knowledge of the subject to support them. And then there are the alarmist blogs. Not all of them are as restrictive as RC and Romm (yes, I was banned on RC within 3 days of its startup). If we don’t inject “real” data into those places then, like mould growing in the dark, the denizens of those places will fester in ignorance. Will you get beat up, vilified, spat upon, called nasty names, etc? You can bet your sweet patootie that’ll happen. But – IF you’re polite, even-tempered and informed – you can also raise doubts about alarmism, provide “real” information – and references that can be checked. There are also a lot of “neutral” blogs that will listen, some with scepticism, some with interest, some with actual thought. I’ve been doing this kind of activity, off and on, for nearly ten years. I got pretty well bloodied the first time, but I learned. And there aren’t a lot of places where I can’t hold my own now – if given the opportunity to actually “speak”. Two years ago I wandered into a hiking forum (read: 90% leftist/alarmist) after a knee operation. I had lots of time and a computer. I spent 5 months “talking”, never lost my temper, never got insulting and ALWAYS presented verifiable information – and before I left, some of the principal alarmists were forced to admit that they knew far less than they thought they did. Two days ago I wandered back to that same forum and the discussion had been resurrected. It is, after all, a “zombie” subject. This time there was little argument – and none of it was extreme pro-alarmist. And some of those people actually asked intelligent questions. That would not have happened without the discussions of two years ago – and none of it would have happened if I’d been overly nasty, overbearing or authoritative two years ago. Hikers don’t accept that kind of argument.

      So …. go forth and preach to the unwashed. Sit with them and break bread. And educate them for they are ignorant. And THEN point them to a ballot box. :-)

      • Good post Jim. I too have been having a long conversation about AGW on a hiking forum (backpacking light) and it is notable that while I got harangued 12 months ago the situation is now a lot better. Especially since some of my predictions came true, (End of Australian drought, cold winters in northern hemisphere, record snows in Eastern US). I also have a $1000 dollar bet running for this decade…

      • LOL !
        I can tell we need to talk more. When you go back there, tell Ryan I said hello. We go back a long way.

      • Ahaa! :)

  73. I’ve read this and think I understand now the Post Normal Science issue. I will state up front that it cannot lead to reconciliation and here’s why. It boils down to a popularity contest. The science is incomplete because there’s no time to complete it, and opposing sides (it turns out neither side needs to have any scientists as they are not unnecessary) will turn all effort toward policy and play the cards they’re dealt.

    By example: We are both hugely eminent scientists with letters trailing down the hall. We have done our best to study a festering problem for which a solution must be found quickly. My PNS position is in opposition to yours and we are both desperate to influence policy (and absorb grant money) so we start peddling our goods to the public. If along the way we have to MSU (make stuff up) and trash talk our opponents (starting to sound familiar?), no matter so long as the pols suck it up and vote our way.

    This is not science – this is advocacy. Show me where I’m wrong.

    • Steven Mosher

      I’ve read this and think I understand now the Post Normal Science issue. I will state up front that it cannot lead to reconciliation and here’s why. It boils down to a popularity contest.

      Wrong on several points.

      1. PNS has nothing to do with reconciliation.

      2. PNS is EXPLICITLY NOT about a popularity contest. The ‘consensus’ approach is one that PNS would reject.

      “This is not science – this is advocacy. Show me where I’m wrong”

      Well, you’ve fundamentally misunderstood what PNS is and what it ISNT.
      Think of it this way post ‘normal science’ as opposed to ‘post normal’ science. POST normal science as opposed to POST-NORMAL science

      Simply, what happens when ‘normal science’ is a casuality. what happens when values and interests and time constraints disrupt, prevent, subvert, ‘normal science’. What happens? we all know what happens.
      1. some people try to replace science with “consensus”
      2. Some people try to pretend that interests are not driving decisions.
      3. Some people clamor for a return of ‘normal science’

      A PNS practioner recognizes that
      1. Replaces science with politics
      2. is bad faith.
      3. is false hope.

      Since most people here think that #3 is the option.. ‘just return to normal science’ you have to ask yourselves ‘how’s that working?
      You dont control the budgets. You argue that NASA should just return to doing normal science and they say ‘but we are doing normal science?’
      and you say, no you aren’t. and they say, ‘yes we are’. And they just keep on doing what they are doing. As I said before, ONCE the line gets crossed, you have no effective apolitical means of just going back. And even if you apply political force, you have no simple path back to normal science, principly because ‘normal science’ is an ideal which really isnt practiced.

      So basically when facts are uncertain, when values are in conflict, when stakes are high and when decisions appear urgent, you enter ( like it or not) a post ‘normal science’ situation. That’s just an observational fact. do you want to call that a ‘corruption’ of normal science? thats fine. Climate Science is no longer innocent. re virginizing it aint gunna happen. So PNS is a recognition of that and a decision to work deliberatively rather than unreflectively.

      • So Steven Mosher knows that Climate Science is corrupt and still wants to make decisions based on it, so let’s just call it PNS and pretend we’re doing something constructive.

        I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with that.


      • So said another way, when you believe the stakes are high and the science does not provide definitive answers to questions; “Climate Scientists” wish to utilize the term “Post Normal Science” to define their certainly unproven, and frequently unsupported conclusions about policy questions?

        You seem to be advocating that the opinions of a “Climate Scientist” should be given more weight in regards to climate policy issues when the Climate Scientist” used “post normal science” to reach their conclusion.
        Do I misunderstand your position?

      • “A PNS practioner recognizes that
        1. Replaces science with politics
        2. is bad faith.”
        Money quote, thanks Mosh.

      • Steven Mosher

        Let’s see if we can get on the same page here.

        We have a corrupted process in climate science today, basically driven by the IPCC (a political body), fueled by billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research grants often doled out by politicians (who have their own agenda) and supported by a mainstream media eager for disaster predictions to improve circulation or ratings. Then there are all sorts of powerful people and organizations on the sidelines hoping to profit in some way from the “wave” as long as it lasts: money shufflers, hedge fund operators, industrialists, environmental activist groups, etc. The political leadership of many scientific organizations has also jumped on the bandwagon with endorsements of the “mainstream” (IPCC) view. All of this is occurring in sort of a “collusion of separate interests”, rather than any kind of a conspiracy.

        Having read some of what you have written, I believe that you and I may both generally agree on the above statement regarding the current situation.

        Where we apparently disagree is that you seem to accept the new “rules of the game” according to the concepts of PNS, whereas I do not.

        This has nothing much to do with whether or not these are the rules that are being applied by “policymakers” today, but more whether or not these rules are acceptable.

        My stand would be simply that if these rules are not acceptable, and if “policymakers” are playing by them, we need to get the “policymakers” to change their approach or simply replace the “policymakers”.

        Is this easy to do in a non-democratic organization such as the EU or the UN? Probably not.

        But in my opinion it must be done.

        This is not a matter of “revirginizing climate science”. Science, itself, is pure and there are many climate scientists who are not simply activists in disguise or who have not “sold themselves”.

        It’s a matter of honestly recognizing and conceding that there is an extremely low level of knowledge about natural climate forcing factors (viz. the past decade) and, as a result, a high level of uncertainty in all the projections being made by “climate science” today, rather than overstating certainties in order to further a purely political agenda.

        You were there(in Lisbon) and you heard what other participants thought about PNS. Given the fact that the meeting was organized by individuals who support this concept, I’m sure there was some discussion of this. I’d be interested in hearing more about the other reactions.

        Maybe Dr. Curry will give some more comments from her standpoint, as well.


  74. Dr. Curry writes:

    “Postnormal science. The organizers of the Workshops are proponents of postnormal science. There are many misinterpretations of PNS (many of which are evident on the previous Lisbon thread.) I won’t delve on the topic here, put pull a quote from Funtowicz and Ravetz that I found on van der Sluijs web site:”

    “Postnormal Science,” or whatever one wants to call it, is a combination of the mush that came from the writings of Thomas Kuhn in his “Structures of Scientific Revolutions” and a greater mush of Marxist inspired writings. None of it addresses scientific method except that part which directly contradicts scientific method. It is a formula for Marxism whose sole achievement would be creation of a host of government jobs for people who are unemployable in the private sector. Your meeting was sponsored by Marxists.

  75. Thanks, Professor Curry, for helping us see the core issue:

    “The organizers of the Workshops are proponents of postnormal science.”

    Thanks to the unfolding climate scandal – and the deep embarrassment of world leaders, Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, etc. – this group of philosophers of science came out of hiding to admit that a new philosophy of science was invented that allowed politicians to promote incomplete government science as a “settled science”.

    What a sad, sad day for science.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  76. “the mush that came from the writings of Thomas Kuhn”


  77. The race to develop the atomic bomb was an example where facts were uncertain, values were in conflict and stakes were high. It did not require scientists to become post-normal scientists did it? There’s always an interface between science and politics. And much of science did not develop under a benign ‘curiosity’ environment but developed in the ‘post-normal environment’.

    We frequently have threats of pandemics, another situation that qualifies as post-normal, but is actually a part and parcel of the threat to human civilisation we have dealt with through normal science. Hundreds of millions have died. How exactly would becoming a post-normal scientist help? Or is there something tangible and specific we can learn from PNS here?

    Now a hypothetical example. Let’s say I believe that the Indians are inadvertently incubating a retrovirus lethal to Caucasians. The stakes are high, the facts are uncertain, and I’m a ‘scientist’ without any proof whatsoever. Would it be reasonable to give credence to my beliefs, declare the situation post-normal and usher in post-normal scientific policy? Which may including quarantining/ deporting/ genocide. At what point do we pull the trigger on a wild and whacky belief and decide that because the stakes are high and facts are uncertain, we need to go post-normal?

    Because for me, the theory of CAGW is about as credible as this hypothetical example. In fact, by the alarmists’ own admissions, the stakes aren’t high now but will be in decades. So it’s not even a situation that qualifies for post-normal science

    • Michael Larkin

      Great post, Onion, and one that articulates something I couldn’t articulate very well myself. Somewhere in all this is the feasibility of the primary view under consideration. Without that, any number of propositions could in theory be given the PNS treatment, when what they really need is some straightforward examination.

  78. Some principles/strategies that were discussed to improving the scientific debate:

    May I suggest one more in the interest of bolstering perestroika? All parties concerned comply with the law in regard to FOIA requests.

    Withholding information from someone is a reliable way to make them suspect that you are hiding something.

  79. It didn’t take long for Oliver Manuel to show up. He is a retired academic whose highest position during his career was that of chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Missouri at Rolla. While his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas might be somewhat underwhelming, he has published legitimate scientific studies in peer reviewed literature. He was once associated with a NASA experiment before moving on to a position teaching chemistry at the University of Missouri. He has for about 40 years championed his theory that the sun is mostly made of iron. For this his colleagues have shunned him as completely as Alfred Wegener was shunned by the geologists of his time. In this regard Oliver Manuel is a tragic figure. For me, ordinary human compassion requires a measure of sympathy and tolerance. Nevertheless, Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri fits a bit better than Former NASA Principle Investigator for Apollo.

  80. Steven Mosher writes:
    “And even if you apply political force, you have no simple path back to normal science, principly because ‘normal science’ is an ideal which really isnt practiced.”

    It does not have to be practiced. It does have to be understood. It is there all the time whether you have turned your back on it or not. It can be used to explain to others that, for example, Phil Jones’ “trick” to “hide the decline” is a case of hiding 55 years of data which showed that tree rings are not a good proxy for temperatures. Hiding data that tends to discredit one’s so-called theory is a violation of scientific method and it requires deception to achieve. So, Mr. Mosher, now that you are out there, beyond mere “normal science,” how do you like it? Do you prefer lies to the truth? Or have you simply forgotten the difference?

  81. “Do you prefer lies to the truth? ”

    Welcome back to the daily grind Mosh. ;)

  82. Geoff Sherrington

    Good science needs good scientists. It does not need appeals to authority which impede progress at present.

    The unedifying rubber stamping of a particular view of science, by august bodies and their Presidents, is very poor science. One can dissect the public statements of these self-important people and find many specific errors, with the main general error being the acceptance of scientific summaries without participation in the benchwork that arrived at the results.

    Fame is not a substitute for verification of science.

    The essence of the problem above is given in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand 1975, at several places. Here is one, a statement issued by the State Science Institute after failing to control the succes of the new alloy, Rearden Metal, and its owner –

    “It may be possible that after a period of heavy usage, a sudden fissure may appear, though the length of this period cannot be predicted …. The possibility of a molecular reaction , at present unknown, cannot be entirely discounted … Although there is no evidence to support the contention that the use of the metal should be prohibited, a further study of its properties would be valuable.”

    In the book, Reardon did not call for a Lisbon conference to settle differences. When asked if he understood that “The State Science Institute is a government organization … Business men are particularly vulnerable these days, I am sure you understand me.”

    Reardon replied “No, Doctor Potter. I didn’t understand. If I did, I’d have to kill you.”

    Many economists regard the whole book as essential reading for a rounded education. It has very pertinent messages for the current global warming topic. Read it – then don’t claim thereafter that all this is new to you.

  83. Dr Michael Cejnar

    I feel that Reconciliation with alarmists is like reconciliation with cancer.

    Because the dishonesty and corruption of cAGW opportunists is spread throughout our society lake a disseminated cancer. Look around – it festers on hundreds of crazy statutes from planning to energy, in carbon trading, in wind turbine farms, on our roofs, in universities, in workplaces, in board rooms, on public transport on billboards, in schools, in banks – it is absolutely everywhere.

    The sceptic’s fight is all but lost already, because cAGW is now a gravy train ‘too big to fail’. Why? Because cAGW now stands solidly on four pillars: Greed, environmentalism, politics and last, science. To borrow from Tina Turner, “What’s Science got to do with it?

    cAGW proponents in my experience don’t care a hoot if it’s true – they freely admit they want the mitigations in their own right – clean energy, security, green jobs, peak oil, consumerism, guilt, profits – the juggernaut no longer needs the useful idiots in science any more.

    So, brave Judith Curry can restart civil scientific discourse (ignoring the PNS nonsence, IMHO). Admirable, but I challenge her, to what end ? So misguided or even corrupt alarmist scientists can be treated with civily while Rome burns?

    cAGW is squarely in the legal and political arena. Sceptics by all means indulge in science blogs, but in my opinion, the fight against this Gaia madness and corruption is in the real world all around us. And time is against us – because Alarmists are paid – they can do this forever, while our moral outrage will burn out – as did Jeff Id’s at Air Vent.

    The fight is in promoting outrage against the outrageous consequences of insane mitigations – the billion dollar carbon trading frauds in Europe, wind turbines, unmitigated floods here in Australia, where less than $30 Million was spent on levees while over a $1000 Million on useless climate change mitigations of insulation and solar panels and others.

    This is not post modern science, this is post modern society, where the uncertainties of truth and integrity play second fiddle to political and business opportunism.

    • Funny thing is that the science and technology really does not work well in cold weather. Neither does this theory.

  84. Dr Cejnar

    Being an optimist I hate your summary of the current state of cAGW but fear that you are correct. To my mind the single strongest indicator of dishonesty in the cAGW meme is that every time there is evidence that there might be something wrong with it – think temperature trends, cold winters, etc., – we do not find welcoming statements from the cAGW activists (remember that this is a potential ‘catastrophe’) but the reverse – ‘no, no cold winters are global warming no matter what I said before’

    How does PNS fit into this situation? It seems to me that honesty is required no matter how we set up our paradigms and axioms…

    • PNS demands quality control. Honesty is a pre-requisite. This is why PNS sanctions the use of leaked documents by the extended peer community to reveal bad science.

      • So one of the underpinnings of solid “science doesn’t matter, we have decisions to make now” thinking is nothing bolsters the point like a good set of leaked documents. I don’t think so. Look what happened when there was a lead (ClimateGate): three investigations, three exonerations.

        It’s going to take some doing to get that honesty spread around. And peer review, or pal review as it is practiced today, is not likely to be part of the solution so long as the names of peers is not drawn blind from a database of qualified peers.

        I fear PNS is science for people who are bad at math but have great communication skills.

      • If you think Ravetz observations about what tends to happen in PNS situations is what he believes should happen, then you have missed the point, and misunderstood what he as a philosopher of science is describing.

        I recommend you read Jeroen van der Sluijs presentation paper to get a better handle on PNS methodology. The point is to make the process EXPLICIT, not to hide it under a pile of BS like the IPCC does.

  85. I would like to see agreement on three issues:
    (1) I have yet to hear how the null hypothesis for AGW can at least in principal be proved. I also understand that in science, if a theory cannot define a null hypothesis which (as an integral part of itself) provides a statement of how it (the null hypothesis) can be proven, then it isn’t science but something else (e.g. a belief system). I would love to read of a group of experts agreeing on a null hypothesis for the AGWH.
    (2) The AGW hypothesis (AGWH) depends (as I understand it) on positive feedback from CO2-based “greenhouse” warming. I believe from what I’ve read that this feedback effect is more of an assumption than a widely-agreed theory, and that there is lttle or no physical evidence to support it. If would be nice to see this matter discussed fully in a collegiate environment by experts in this area.
    (3) There have been claims and counter-claims as to whether the 20th century warming is unprecedented. This surely is an area where some agreement should be able to be reached.

    • Oliver- The physics of additional atmospheric CO2 warming the planet is almost “universally”, and at least “widely” accepted as “proven science”.

      The rate of any warming, given the other “factors” on the planet is abosolutely not known. It is also not know that the warming is bad or good for humanity overall.

      • Richard S Courtney

        Rob Starkey:

        You assert:
        “The physics of additional atmospheric CO2 warming the planet is almost “universally”, and at least “widely” accepted as “proven science”. ”

        Sorry, but No!

        The physics of additional atmospheric CO2 providing a warming effect on the planet is “proven science”. However, whether that warming effect would result in warming, cooling or negligible change to global temperature(s) depends on all the effects and their interactions which affect global temperature(s) and – at present – several of those effects and their interactions are not known and/or understood.


    • I think even if it no one can figure out how to prove a given null hypothesis, the null hypothesis could still be stipulated. It might be that a method of proof just hasn’t be thought of yet. Even if it isn’t provable, it would still be the null hypothesis, it just wouldn’t be classical science.

  86. Dr Michael Cejnar | January 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Reply

    I feel that Reconciliation with alarmists is like reconciliation with cancer.
    = = = = = = = == = = =
    Thank you. Great quote.

  87. I’m not sure how to clear up the confusion about postnormal science. The term is applied to the science-policy interface, and it refers specifically to complex scientific problems associated with natural systems, that cannot be resolved by laboratory experiments. It focuses on understanding and managing uncertainty, both in the science and decision making. It focuses on quality of information. It also provides a framework for robust and resilient decision making. It actually provides a framework to minimize corruption of the science by politics. Skeptics should like PNS! Note, in my Italian flag post, the section on quality and pedigree comes from PNS.

    Note, climate science and the IPCC has not adopted the PNS framework, although Steve Schneider did write about this in some of his essays.

    • The name PNS itself is offensive, and apparently some of the writings are too. It sounds like a new kind of science and no one wants that in a case of total distrust.

    • I applaud your wonderful work. I applaud your wonderful personality. But you do not have any more of a clue about scientific method than does any other scientist. I do not expect you or other scientists to have such a clue. It is not part of your job description. However, climate science is in crisis because many of its practitioners do not follow scientific method. Some climate scientists must learn a sophisticated version of scientific method. As a starting point, I recommend Isaac Levi’s “The Enterprise of Knowledge” (1983). He has published many books. All of them are on Amazon. By contrast to Levi, “post normal scientists,” or whatever they call themselves, will not address questions about evaluating scientific theory or evidence; rather, they will rush ahead to questions of political outcomes in dangerous situations. Because they offer no standards for evaluation of theories or evidence, I would think that a scientist would not find them appealing though an activist might just love them. In scientific method, the foundational works from the Sixties are Carl G. Hempel’s “Aspects of Scientific Explanation” and Israel Scheffler’s “Anatomy of Inquiry.” They are easier starting points than Levi.

    • Summary of Post Normal Science
      •Scientists’ integrity lies not in disinterestedness but in their behaviour as stakeholders.
      •Facts still necessary, but no longer sufficient.
      •Post-normal scientists should be capable of establishing extended peer communities and allow for ‘extended facts’ from non-scientific experts.
      •key task of post-normal scientists is maintenance and enhancement of quality, rather than the establishment of factual knowledge.
      •This new role of scientists is challenging and requires different professional capabilities.
      •Reflexive methods for Knowledge Quality Assessment: NUSAP, quality checklists etc

      As a skeptic, why do I find this less than enthralling? Why do I find the mission statement found at appalling? What is to like about:

      Policies for sustainability cannot wait until all the facts are known.

      We must plan and implement radical changes in technology and lifestyle, in spite of irreducible uncertainty, ignorance, and value-conflicts.

      The commitment of all of civil society is necessary for such changes to be accomplished; thus sustainability is a moral issue.

      Those are the vaporings of Jeroen van der Sluijs who evidently snookered the lot of you in Lisbon.

      • When you consider what a tiny percentage of the sun’s energy reaching earth is used to sustain our present population, it is trivial to understand that a tiny increase in the efficiency of our use of that energy will sustain a much larger human population in fine style.

        Sustainable? These sustainability zombies simply have no imagination. Point a Julian Simon at them and they shrivel and whine.

      • Kim–it all comes down to economics. The sun’s energy can not be converted to electricity in a reliable, cost effective manner today. Maybe someday, but not today.

      • Who said electricity? How about increasing crop yields? Someone should have done that about 40 years ago.

      • How do we use the sun’s energy better to increase crop yields?

      • Do you really not know the answer to this question?

      • Norman Borlaug wouldn’t be this coy.

      • His was a tiny increase in our efficiency of the sun’s use. And we can quantitate how many more people his ‘green revolution’ has sustained.

      • Sorry to be so coy. My point is that the ‘sustainability movement’, which is at the base of a lot of this nonsense, is composed of latter day Malthusian hallucinotons, who seem unable to imagine that earth can sustain many times its present population.

        For fun, calculate how many people would be theoretically sustained if all of the sun’s energy reaching the earth were dedicated only to the sustenance of human life. Of course, it is practically impossible, but the figure is roughly a million times more humans than presently infect Gaia’s skin.

        So when they talk about limits to sustainability, I know they are really talking about limits to their imagination.

        Hope inspires imagination, and hope springs eternal in the human beast.

      • Just what we need: an apostle of a New Age Solar religion who generates non sequiters in comment threads.

      • Just deconstructing ‘sustainability’, thank you. ::grin::

      • It is also true that increasing numbers of humans do affect the global environment in a variety of ways pretty quickly. We create a great deal of waste. We adapt the environment to meet our needs/desires in many ways. I wonder what the global population will peak at and when, but it is not relevant to this site.

      • Oh, I agree, there is work to do.

    • Isn’t what James Hansen has been doing “post normal science”? He has taken scientific facts, and then forecasted a future situation and then advocated very specific policies that he believes will help to avoid his forecast. He has used his “scientific expertise” to give greater “authority” to his proposed governmental policies.

      • I believe that James Hansen’s actions, which seem to be an example of “post normal science” are a great example of what is wrong in the field of “climate science.” Hansen has used his position as a climate researcher to claim special expertise in the proposal of governmental policy.

        In fact Hansen has absolutely no special expertise in regards to governmental policy implementation. I do not understand why some “climate scientists” think that their “policy positions” should be viewed with any additional weight under the proposed “post modern science“.

    • I followed your link. Someone in trying to foist upon you a system that uses three valued logic. Over the years, I have conversed with quantum physicists who have considered departing from standard logic. They had reason to do that. Ask yourself a simple question: Is climate science in the same position as quantum physics? I don’t think so. At least, climate science will not be building its own CERN accelerator in the near future. I think climate science is more in the business of creating hypotheses which explain and predict the behavior of clouds in Earth’s atmosphere under conditions of changing temperatures. Sorry, but that kind of activity just does not call for a change in the laws of logic. People who think it does are really confused.

    • Judith –
      Dave Wojik is right – it needs a new name. At least.

      It also needs a whole lot of exposure so everyone can figure out just what kind of animal we’re dealing with. What it doesn’ t need are more obscure explanations like what Ravetz put on WUWT. I’m sure he’s a very nice person – and undoubtedly smarter than I am, but that piece was a turn-off for me. As have some of the comments here been.

      I need more meat, less fluff. Rabbit good, rabbit fur not good.

    • Dr. Curry

      Let me comment on your post

      I’m not sure how to clear up the confusion about postnormal science. The term is applied to the science-policy interface, and it refers specifically to complex scientific problems associated with natural systems, that cannot be resolved by laboratory experiments.

      Good. I can accept that premise as valid. The “science-policy interface” needs to be more closely defined, however. Which one is the driving force? I fear that if it is “policy” we have a de facto politicization of science. This has not worked well in many past totalitarian societies, and I doubt seriously that it will do so in climate science today.

      It focuses on understanding and managing uncertainty, both in the science and decision making.

      If it really does this, then this is great. However, if it uses the “uncertainty” to exaggerate the “consequences”, then this is bad. In other words, if it is used to support action based on the “precautionary principle”, it is a misuse of science.

      It focuses on quality of information.

      As you have stated elsewhere this includes recognition that there are major unknowns and uncertainties. And there are frequent “reality checks” on the quality of information provided by physical observations. An example is the recent lack of warming despite record increase in CO2 levels which has shown that the quality of the model projections was poor. Saying, “well the projection was correct, except for…” is simply a cop-out.

      It also provides a framework for robust and resilient decision making.

      Here is where I have a problem. An incorrect decision based on bending the rules slightly is wrong, no matter how “robust” or “resilient” it may have seemed. Decision making should be based on robust data following the scientific method; if these data are not available, then no “decision” should be made.

      It actually provides a framework to minimize corruption of the science by politics.

      I have read some of the bases, but I see the opportunity for exactly the opposite. In fact, I would be concerned that PNS opens the door for corruption of science by politics.

      Skeptics should like PNS! Note, in my Italian flag post, the section on quality and pedigree comes from PNS.

      Yes, your “Italian post” is a very good treatise. I very much enjoyed it and your logic. The words describing quality and pedigree of knowledge (from PNS) sound very good, but I fear that the underlying motive behind all this is to circumvent the normal scientific process in order to further a political goal.

      So as a rational “skeptic” of the premise that AGW (caused primarily by human CO2) has been the principal cause of past warming and represents a serious threat to humanity or our environment, I have to admit that I do not “like” what I see in PNS.

      These are simply my thoughts on this. But it seems that several others here have similar thoughts (at least partially).

      Maybe you can convince us that we are being overly skeptical.



    • I’d just observe that the debate is confused because there are a couple of levels to it, and they happily cross over one another.

      “Post normal science” at one level is a theory about the development of science a la Kuhn. This is at heart a philosophy of science that incorporates within it views about “paradigm shifts” during which the pursuit of “normal science” isn’t helpful. Other tools are needed. This revolutionary process (h/t Marx) drives science.

      There is no doubt an interesting academic argument to be had amongst believers in Kuhn about whether Climate Science is at the “post normal phase”. From what I’ve seen I’d say not. There are a number of incidental characteristics of Climate Science that appear to validate this view, but they are completely spurious in Kuhnian terms.

      In Kuhnian terms Climate Science is still at the pre-paradigm phase. There are several competing theories, incomplete understanding and no agreed paradigm.

      The attraction of the post normal concept in these theoretical terms to the participants in the Workshop would be obvious. Like the proletariat the promise of a new unifying paradigm just around the corner is highly seductive. We just need to have the revolution.

      Believe in it if you will. I say the reality is going to be a lot harsher.

      At another level “post normal science” has been captured as a marketing platform for improved decision support techniques, best characterised by Here you will find a post normal science more suited to Dr Curry’s comment. claims we have a class of problems that are unique and are not science “as we know it Jim” i.e they are “post-normal”. (As I’ve said a number of times on this thread I think these various assumptions about uniqueness are incorrect.)

      This calls for a new special set of tools to help manage these new challenges of complexity, uncertainty etc. And as they say: “Have we got the deal for you – NUSAP!”

      Now rather than being just the next old paradigm along the road (as Kuhn would have it), this form of “post-normal science” is talking about the one, and how we can help you cope with it.

      All well and good. Climate Science is complex etc etc and any tool will be useful. But one does rather ask why you would use the term “post-normal science” rather than just “good science and policy analysis”. At least you wouldn’t confuse the one with the next Kuhnian revolution.

      However Hegel did use the dialectic to prove the existence of God and Marx revolutionary socialism.

    • Judith, sometimes we make things more complicated than necessary. The alarmists have essentially offered the world a Hobson’s Choice, i.e we are apparently free to make a choice on limiting CO2 , but if we don’t we are all doomed. Of the numerous sub-specialities in climate science, the overwhelming presumption is that doubling CO2 will lead to X degree increase in GMT. Given that everyone agrees to the Tyndall gas effect, why do you insist that this experiment is not testable? So for the moment, let’s ignore everything else in climate science. We continue monitoring CO2 from Mauna Loa and compare to temp, assuming we can wrestle the records away from Hanson and Jones (who are both arguably post-normalists and by skeptical consensus, untrustworthy). Occum’s Razor, Judith, no need for PNS. We are already in a ten year period were there is no significantly correlation between temp and CO2. Let’s wait 20 more years and look at the results.

  88. Judith Curry,

    Will future projects come with a visible PNS label? Like it’s the new Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? Will we be able to document how it’s performing?


    • I’m imaginging a Green Checkmark, the letters “PNS” and tallbloke’s smiling visage on… something.

      Maybe a graph with a line representing temperatures spliced onto a line representing temperature proxies and the PNS Logo Check where the lines diverge, and Steven Moshers grin and thumbs up with a text balloon saying “It’s OK!” lol


      • Right on! We need a PNS quality assurance label that we can paste on anything that pleases that elusive entity known as stakeholders. Where shall we begin? How about shrinking Himalayan glaciers? Oops! Devastated Amazon rain forests? Maybe later. Incomplete mathematical models with no predictive skill? For sure!

      • And maybe a sticker on Bad Andrew’s forehead with the PNS ‘Muddled thinker alert!’ too… ;)

        Quality control is best performed by the scientists themselves, they know when they are troweling on the BS. However a good slice of integrity and honesty is also required. Otherwise, more bureaucracy in the form of oversight and checking. Either way, an absolute requirement to archive data and code before publication would help, even if it is embargoed for a year before being made public, to give the researchers a chance to use their IP to make further progress.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘Quality control is best performed by the scientists themselves, they know when they are troweling on the BS’

        I think I’d need a great deal of persuasion to believe this about climatology. The record shows that their current idea of quality control is limited to pal review and ‘data adjustments’ to make it confirm their pre-existing theories.

        When they are not outright cherry-picking or hiding stuff.

      • OK, maybe I needed to put:

        “However a good slice of integrity and honesty is also required”

        in bold block capitals. In fact I think I will.



      • Latimer Alder

        OK – let them do it themselves.

        With an independent – and hostile – third party to convince that they have done it with integrity and honesty. If teh AGW problem is as important as some would have us believe, we cannot afford to treat its investigation as an academic puzzle using the niceties of academic protocols.

        We need to do it as a proper project (maybe President Obama was right about the ‘Sputnik moment’). We know pretty much how to organise ourselves to get such things done…and it is definitely not the academic way.

        It’s far too important to let mediocre scientists work on their pet problems of choice and squabble among themselves.

      • Yeah, I stated that climate science is too important to leave to the climate scientists in the submission I put to the Lisbon Conference. With apologies to George Clemenceau.

      • Here, from 2007, is a pertinent hon. PhD acceptance speech by Dr. Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl (murdered journalist).
        Science and Human Freedom. Promotes rigorous honesty and adherence to Scientific Method, etc.
        Jerome R. didn’t like it much when I sent it to him. Not Post Normal enough, it seems.

  89. Total reconciliation is a total no brainer. Simply get together a panel of AGW scientists and sceptics that is satisfactory to people on the internet, broadcast their meetings live on the internet, and give each panelist a live internet connection. The topic to be debated is the most important in all categories listed. The topic is:

    Design a measurement system for temperature and other essential items, such as heat, that will satisfy both sceptics and AGW scientists on the panel and that can be readily understood by the educated citizen. Design a system for management of the measurement system that is transparent to every educated citizen and, thereby, guarantees that measurement reports are not biased. Design a system for implementation of both the measurement and management systems. Until these systems are up and running, redirect all funding for climate research to the creation and implementation of these systems.

    This no-brainer proposal is necessary to the stated goals because:

    1. Disagreement with mutual respect
    There can be no respect until the data are trustworthy and their management transparent.

    2. Find better ways to communicate criticism.
    Science cannot engage in its own natural process, which is data driven criticism, until there is trustworthy data and transparent systems for data management and reporting.

    3. Find better ways to admit mistakes without damage to reputation.
    Accept that the data shows that your hypotheses are not confirmed. Such acceptance is part-and-parcel of science and should occasion no harm to reputation.

    4. Find some common ground, something to work on together.
    Trustworthy data and transparent management of reports on data.

    5. Find where interests intersect.
    See 4.

    6. Importance of transparency
    See 5.

    7. Communication engenders trust.
    Communication about trustworthy data managed in a transparent process not only engenders trust but embodies it.

    8. Search for win-win solutions.
    The first and only win-win solution that is available is a system of measurement that everyone embraces, a system of management that is transparent to all, and a system of reporting whose transparency renders bias impossible. Until this win-win solution is embraced, there are no other win-win solutions.

    • Alarmists and skeptics alike accept the GMST anomaly figures generated by UAH and RSS. There is no dispute about the last 30 years or so of data. Except for GISS, satellite measurements trump surface station measurements. In this regard we are all on the same page.

      If we had a hundred years of satellite data and all parties took it at face value nothing would change. The issue is about the interpretation of data. Cleaning up the surface station record would be nice but in the final analysis is irrelevant. Data does not speak for itself. It is not self-explanatory. It is not science. Data is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Your notion of how science ought to work is about as far off the mark as you can get.

      • Indeed! With the correct interpretation in hand in advance, data can simply be infilled.

        Or SLT.

    • Yes! This is exactly what the table I was on discussed and produced a statement on. I will reproduce your comment on my blog.

      Feel free to visit, to discuss science, not politics.

  90. Julian in Wales

    It all comes down honesty and trust. The honesty comes first the trust follows and finally respect and friendship across the divisions.

    I can’t see that this point was really grasped. Anyone on the other side who is unable to publicaly called for Pachauri (with his “green charities” swollen with grants on the back of the IPCC reports and after his voodoo science remark) to go is not worth trusting.

    Anyone who is unable to publicly ask that Phil Jones and M Mann to clear the air about the plot to delete emails is not worth trusting.

    Anyone who is unwilling to drop words like denier when discussing the science of climate change with opponents or the press is not worth trusting.

    Unless you have honesty you do not have trust – full stop – nowhere else to start.

  91. Well if we are going to play bridge, I’m going to lay my hand on the table, if any of you can find things of value in the pile of accumulated ideas I remember from every thing I have seen and read over the past 50 years. First an over draft of how I think the picture on the puzzle box looks like.

    All of the universe affects the rest of it, it all sits in a bowl of gravitational and magnetically driven mass of ions and regular atoms, that respond to the basic physics detailing the “normal rules or laws”. To think that there are voltages or ions that move with out magnetic fields attached violates first principals. The magnetically permeable inductive components of planetary bodies are susceptible to Ohms laws, and power equations apply to the full spectrum of from DC to most energetic particle seen.

    So we should be able to figure forces at work when planets have synod conjunctions, by determining the shifts of flux of the magnetic fields, with the shifting density and speed of the solar wind. When the Ulysses satellite was on polar orbit of the sun “they were amazed that the patterns usually seen in the solar wind were still there, but also much stronger than they expected by several orders of magnitude.” To me this means that the main crux of magnetic connections between the planets is in the normal distribution of concentrations at the poles/apexes of lab magnets and the large sweeping fields are weakest along the circumference, neutral current sheet, or equatorial regions, and also not only flowing with the neutral sheet of the solar wind but focus concentrations down onto the poles of the planets, as evidenced by the polar Auroral displays from the much larger loops further off of the ecliptic plane.

    The galactic magnet fields are also influenced by basic rules of action as well, which leads me to the conclusion that the interactions of the composite system from the rotation of the Galaxy, and the declinational movement of the solar system in that larger frame of reference, as well as the density waves that propagate around driving the spiral arm flux variances give rise to the longer cyclic term climatology of the Earth. Some have been found, other underlying cycles that as yet we do not have their specific drivers identified. (back to this point later)

    The heliopause seems to have auroral knotted bands (recently spotted ribbons of ion activity) on its leading side as it progresses through the interstellar gases and dust clouds, the solar system passes through in its travels. I think that this is due to the conductance of the galactic fields into or through the heliopause, coupling through the polar regions of the sun and planets, at near equilibrium, or the balance felt as steering currents in the slow transition of the orbital slowing and swaying of the solar system as it winds its way through the gravitational and radiation gauntlet, shoved around ever so slowly by the rest of the individual stars.

    So then as a result the makeup of the planetary interaction periods have become some what stable, and have formed harmonic coupled interactions between themselves, and the non-random long term slower periods. Not much is said about the tilt of the magnetic poles, of most of the planets and the sun from their spin axes. I think even this has something to add about long term climate effects. In the common hospital use of MRI scanners, the magnetic induction pulses are used to flip atomic spin axes in line with the dense fields momentarily formed with pulse current on, and watching the return to ambient spin axes when current goes off. (back to this point later) If people have learned to control the effects would not they also occur in nature if they are so predictable? If you apply the calculations with the right power increase needed to satisfy the balance of the equation, the same effects should occur with reference to stars and planets.

    If all of the planets and the sun are running along, in near balance with changes in outlying fluxes upon the solar system, disruptions in the periodic patterns should be minimal, with much greater stability being found in the harmonic patterns in the interactions between the planets of the solar system, as a result milder climate with less wild extremes would dominate at times of stability.

    Currently the magnetic poles of the sun are running ~12 degrees off of its vertical axes of rotation, with a period of rotation of 27.32 days, as a result the Earth and Moon themselves move above and below the ecliptic plane alternately, while the system barycenter scribes a smooth ellipse responding to the gravitational and tidal tugs of the outer planets as we pass them almost every 12 months plus a few days. The resultant periodic 27.32 day flux of the polarity of the solar wind as it passes the Earth creates and drives the declinational swings North and South in the two bodies, as a giant pulsed oscillator circuit, dampened by the tidal drag of the fluidity of the various parts of the Earth, small solid core, outer liquid core, fluid mantel, and fragmented floating crust, that is itself creeping along tectonically in response to the dance of the combination of the additions of the other planetary tidal, gravitational, and electromagnetic induction fluxes that keep the inner fluids warm.

    The further off of vertical, and/or the stronger the total magnetic flux of the sun’s magnetic poles, the more energy available to be driven into the lunar declinational cycle balanced by the tidal dampening into the Earth, hence the greater the solar magnetic impulse input the greater the resultant tectonic turmoil, the more extreme the weather and climate. The weaker the magnetic fields of the sun relative to the near DC fields of the galactic background levels, and the more vertical the magnetic fields of the sun the less energy gets driven into the lunar declinational movement and resultant tidal dampening energy into the Earth.

    As the spin axes and magnetic axes of the sun approach straight on alignment, the whole declinational drive component of the Moon orbital dynamic decreases, to maybe as little as a degrees either side of the ecliptic plane, changing to a more synergistic combination of the solar and lunar tidal effects at an angle of 23.5 +/_.5 referenced to the equator, keeping the atmospheric global circulation in the kind of high turbulence blocking pattern, sort of weather we have been having the past two years and the next two as well. When continued past the normal length of time (about 3 years on the down and up side) in the 18.6 year variation of the mechanism of transport of equatorial heat towards the poles, stalled in the most active section of atmospheric lunar tidal effects, coupled in sync to the solar tides as well, the long term trend then becomes a constant la nina, and an ice age sets in.

    Just as in MRI scanning the initial pulsed spin flip is nearly instantaneous, and does not seem to affect the covalent bonds the atoms are part of, so maybe the solar magnetic orientation to polar axes of rotation, flip is hardly noticeable over 100 years or less, just as the wandering of the Earth’s magnetic field pole positions are hardly noticed by the public. The ongoing dampening of the tidal movement of the lunar declinational extent at culmination would regulate the dropping rate due to actual amount of tidal dampening load transferred to the Earth. As the declination off of the ecliptic plane drive energy lessens and becomes slowly coupled out by tidal inter action, and the Lunar orbital diameter expanded to compensate slightly. This would explain the rapid onset of ice ages, and then the re-flip to off axes solar magnetic polar alignment, renew the declinational driver system again and cause the pulsation type exit usually seen from ice ages.

    The short term inter ice age, realistic application of these ideas is in the much more recent history (due to short instrument records) of the past three to five maybe (Ulric Lyons says 10 cycles works best because it = the 179.5 year cycle period.) Can be assembled in composite maps that use the 6558 day period of 240 declinational periods that shows analog synchronization of the inner planet harmonic effects on the weather, from just the past three cycles as seen on the daily maps here.

    The problem left is that the outer planet have a set of harmonics of their own that induce the 179.5 years envelope on the 18.6 year mn cycle pattern that have in turn a finer 27.32 day oscillation imposed, so the complete long period of compounded modulation is as Ulric Lyons suggests 179.5 years long as the effects of the outer planetary returns driving the solar sunspot cycles due to SS Barycenter displacement due to Uranus Neptune synod conjunctions. The available data base gets extremely thin out ~180 year ago. Due to data limitations, I have so far stayed with just the last three cycles of 6558 days or ~17.95 years.

    Tallbloke is more concerned with the effects of the tidal and gravitational and maybe magnetic effects of the outer planets having an effect upon the sun via the displacement of the sun around the SS barycenter, which the inner planets seem to be bound to follow. I will leave that part to him to explain, I am more concerned with the inner planet harmonics. Below is but one illustration of how the Null hypothesis can be further defined.

    On April 20th of 1993 we had the most recent synod conjunction of Neptune and Uranus, which the Earth passed on July 12th of 1993, presenting as an epic precipitation surge globally with heavy rains through the summer and massive flooding of several river system around the world. It is my contention that the increase in magnetic couplings through the polar magnetic field connections induces a homopolar generator charge increase at these times and a quick global discharge just after synod conjunction. The results of these increases in pole to equator charge increases drives positive ions off of the sea surface along the ITCZ, where by mutual static repulsion of the condensation nuclei inhibits cloud formation and precipitation, and at the same time allows more SW radiation to reach the tropical sea and land surfaces promoting rapid warming driving ENSO extremes, with the rapid precipitation that results on the global discharge side, post synod conjunction, also leaving clearer skies for additional warming after the flooding subsides.

    The lunar declination phase of the 18.6 year mn cycle was in an increasing through 23.5 degree culmination angle at the same time, being in phase with the temperature increases. By early 2005 the declinational angle at culminations was at its peak extreme, and the distance between Uranus and Neptune was separating again to about 29 days apart August 8th of 2005 for synod of Earth and Neptune and September 1st of 2005 for synod conjunction of Earth and Uranus. The Southeast gulf coast was ravaged by Katrina and Rita as a direct result of these influences. Combining with the 27.32 day period lunar declinational tides culminations they rode in on, to produce the storm intensity that resulted.

    As the outer planets Neptune and Uranus continued to separate and the declinational angle shifted past peak angle at culmination the resultant peak warming period shifted further into the late Summer and now is in the Fall in 2010. The reason I think the last season 2010 was so active but not as powerful in ACE production as 2005 was due to the addition of Jupiter in Synod conjunction on April 3rd in 2005 kicking things off, and on the 21st of September 2010 with Uranus on the same day, creating a late fast finish in 2010. But having a half hearted start of a season in 2010 as a result of the difference.

    Over all the whole period of the close Neptune and Uranus synods in the mid to late summer allowed the extra clearing of clouds and resultant heating the last 15 years of the SST and ENSO intensity periods, CO2 just was in the air along for the ride. This is all part of the 60 year patterns in the weather cycles, and can be explained as such. Now that the outer planet synod conjunctions of the Earth with Neptune and Uranus are moving into the fall and early winter, we can expect them to produce the increased snowfall events and cold polar blasts being seen in both hemispheres.

    Trying an experiment by using this natural periodicity of the repeating patterns of the composite effects of the inner planets and the Earth/Lunar/Solar 27.32 day harmonics as a natural analog showing a base length of the 6558 days repeated three times as an ongoing day to day forecast gives enough weight to the promise that natural variability is actually driving about 85% of the short term variability of the weather.

    The longer cycles already identified with the progression of the Milankovitch Ice Ages orbital interactions, give me encouragement that the midterm length cycles associated with the outer planet Synod periods and possible effects on solar cycles will be fruitful as well. With all of the public grant funds going to the CO2 boondoggle, it is necessary that some funding be made available for the parts of the climate research endeavor that have been fruitful already, and form the basis of most of the accepted body of knowledge of how the null hypothesis works.

    With the investigation of these methods of predicting the extreme effects of the weather patterns they produce, long range forecasts for both weather and climate will become possible. I am betting my life saving and the rest of the creative efforts of my life time on it.

    • Encountering what amounts to a word salad in your first paragraph or two I didn’t read the rest. Good luck in advancing your take on solar physics. At least you can do no worse in this regard than Oliver Manuel.

      • Oops! I should have said climatology rather than solar physics. Sorry.

      • Ignoring things does not make them go away or become invalid,
        on the other hand the continual expansion of your knowledge base, leads to wisdom, even if what I said is invalid.

    • Is it correlation or causation?

      • correlation does not prove causation, but proof of causation does not come with out correlation! The difference is IF it can predict this next cycle better than mainstream science’s numerical models, with the lead time of over three years my forecast is now running, compared to theirs of less than 10 days.

    • well unlike Ken I did read the whole piece. I will freely admit I have no basis on how to judge the veracity of all that is asserted.

      But if there is one thing I have learnt in all the discussion around climate science, it is not to dismiss an alternate explanation, automatically and out of reflex, or just because it conflicts or undermines my own preferred dogma.

      I will believe in the potential for reconciliation when the majority engaged in climate discussions similarly seek first to understand the implication of such alternative perspectives, rather than presumptively and pejoratively dismissing them.

    • Hi Richard
      I read your post and found it interesting. The only comment I would make is that it is a bit off-topic and therefore unlikely to generate many responses. Try putting it in a more technical thread when an appropriate one comes along.

      • That’s where the rub comes in, on this site there will not be an on topic place to post on the natural variability driven by the solar/lunar/planetary interactions. Judy will ride the AGW horse side saddle, all the way to the sunset, complaining of the discomfort of using a regular saddle of uncertainty given by others.

  92. Atomic Hairdryer

    Ok, so as a bit of a Joe Six-Pack, I think I get it now. I think I’ve also been a post-normal engineer when my beloved sales people told me “I sold this, can you make it work?”. I still have to do normal engineering, just under additional pressures and constraints as it’s post-sale. Same rule should apply to PNS it seems.

    My concern is PNS seems to get used as an excuse to ignore more traditional scientific practices for expediency and to drift into advocacy, which IMHO has created a lot of the divide between sceptics and alarmists. It’s also why I like this comment-

    Confusing the group of scientific skeptics with individuals that are against the policies associated with climate change, and using this as an excuse to ignore scientific skeptics, is to the detriment of actively challenging the science and making scientific progress.

    I think it’s equally important not to confuse scientific alarmists and plain alarmists who are using (and abusing) the science in an attempt to drive policy, or in some cases profits. So for example Hansen and his anti-coal or anti-carbon trading, or Gore. The $300m he allegedly spent training thousands of alarmists might have been better spent on more paleoproxies or helping solve the divergence problem and ‘settle’ that part of the divide. Any time there’s urgency, or a post-normal situation though, there are people who are willing to exploit it, and I think it’s important for science that they’re not exploited as well. Otherwise, it’s not PNS, it’s just high pressure selling. With a naive or complicit customer, that rarely ends well.

    To me the problem seems to be whether the evidence is good enough to make policy. Some think not, hence the debate about uncertainty and scepticism in general. Some think it is, hence the pressure to act now. But the decision should rest with the policy makers, not the scientists, or science advocates. Especially when there’s little appetite or it seems funding to test the null hypothesis. That again is a decison for the policy makers or fund holders to make though and much of the advice seems remarkably one sided.

    If current decadal trends are tracking below model predictions, there does seem less urgency and perhaps time to test the null hypothesis more thoroughly before committing to policy. One example may be to try finding Trenberth’s missing heat. If it is 3-700m down, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find with some survey vessels, not models.

    • Your analogy gets very sharp-toothed when you roll in the “enforced purchase” clause, whereby the entire planet’s population gets to enjoy drastically curtailed and much pricier energy.

  93. The PNS error:

    Although following scientific principles (“truthing”) never produces the whole truth (“settled science”), it can and did demonstrate the absurdity of PNS “lock-step consensus”) opinions that prevented climatologists from understanding Earth’s unstable heat source.

    For example, the probability, P, that the interior of the Sun has the same composition as its surface (91% H and 9% He) was reported to be much, much less than 0.00001 % (P<<0.00000001) in 2002 ["Composition of the solar interior: Information from isotope ratios," Proceedings of the 2002 SOHO/GONG Conference on Helioseismology, ESPA SP-517 (editor: Huguette Lacoste, 2003) pp. 345-348].

    The probability, P, became many orders of magnitude smaller in 2005 when it was shown that mass fractionated abundances of s-products in the solar photosphere also indicated that the interior of the Sun was composed mostly of Fe, O, Ni, Si, S – like rocky planets and ordinary meteorites [“Solar abundance of elements from neutron-capture cross sections,” 36th 36th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, 14-18 March 2005]

  94. Judy,
    I think this is an excellent summary of the meeting, and I recommended it on my blog.

    However, I see Lucia has picked up the comment:

    “One scientist wanted an elite group of skeptics with whom to negotiate and debate.”

    So I think it is worth noting that “elite” was not his word. In fact, in discussion he was explicit that he didn’t care how the skeptics to engage were chosen – there just had to be some identification of the representatives of the viewpoints to be discussed. Since he was talking about organising sessions at meetings, this was really a matter of practicality.

  95. Post Normal science is an Oxymoron. It is part of the ridiculous post-modernist movement that is in essence anti-science. It is the use of subjective criteria to replace objective knowledge.

    If these people are advocate for post normal “science”, then no wonder no one takes them seriously!

    • Mike Haseler | January 31, 2011 at 3:22 am | Reply
      “Post Normal science is an Oxymoron. It is part of the ridiculous post-modernist movement that is in essence anti-science. It is the use of subjective criteria to replace objective knowledge.”

      Groundhog day again…
      Mike, try this PNS presentation and report back:

      • Latimer Alder

        A great content-free hand-waving presentation. But with nice graphics.

        All it really says is ‘other approaches have disadvantages. I propose a Third Way and I’ll call it PNS’

        Great introduction to perhaps wake people from their post-prandial torpor. But where’s the rest of it? Where’s the beef?

        What about things like how you do it, where it has worked in the past, tools and techniques of PNS, proof points that it is actually better than other approaches, why should this be better than tried and tested methods,analysis of some common objections etc etc etc…………….

        As a sales pitch for PNS especially to those inclined to be sceptical, it fails to get much beyond first base.

      • Hi Latimer,

        Actually, you’ll have seen that the ‘third way’ didn’t say
        “I propose a Third Way and I’ll call it PNS’”
        It said:
        “explore the relevance of our ignorance: working deliberatively within

        What is not to like?

        You ask:
        “why should this be better than tried and tested methods?”

        Which tried and tested methods are you referring to?
        The one where the politicians and the policy makers meet behind closed doors and cook up something which fits their tax-raising agenda?

        Surely not.

      • Latimer Alder

        Forgive me for being a middle-aged cynic, but I used to work in technical sales – and taught some of the upcoming staff as well. Most every presentation I have ever sat through (and I’ve sat through *a lot*) start with some words of motherhood and apple pie that everybody can agree with. Example:

        ‘In these challenging days – when costs are rising, time reducing and the demands on senior managers and decision makers like yourselves are ever increasing – it is of even more vital importance to focus our attention on ‘x’.

        Where ‘x’ is the problem you wish to draw to their attention, waiting for the magic answer, which of course if ‘Product Y’, handily concealed about your (virtual) person.

        This technique works in F2F sales of consumer products, but equally well in the sale of high-value capital goods like seriously grown up IT infrastructure and software.

        What’s not to like in the first bit? – absolutely nothing. But nobody is going to say that actually their predecessor had it harder and that today’s life as an executive is a bit cushy by comparison. It is the introduction… the throat clearing if you will, and the real stuff comes later. When you get to see the content, you can decide whether this is just BS or whether there is any substance.

        The presentation that you linked to gave a good throat clearing introduction. But there was no content.

        Do not be so easily seduced by the fancy labels and the warm words….wait until you see exactly what is inside the poke that you’ve just bought.

      • So no tried and tested methods then?

        As well as the pdf, remember that Jeroen was delivering this verbally to an audience. There was more substance than is contained in the visual presentation. He injected a bit of humour when he came to:
        Nihilist approach: Dump the science and decide on another basis.

        he said:
        “So for example, you look out the window and you see angry farmers coming towards the building. You decide to go with expert #1. or you look out the window and you see environmental activists waving banners. You decide to go with expert #2.

        There is more truth to this than a lot of policy makers would like to admit. And this is part of the issue. When policy makers and politicians get to decide stuff without reference to proper procedures, in private, without accountability, they tend to do what is expedient.

        This is what happened with AGW I think:
        Greenpeace was taken over by cold war worriers with nothing to do. They latched onto environmentalism to continue their anti capitalist agenda.
        The Climategate scientists came to believe their own hype and saw it amplified and validated by vociferous greens who saw it as a useful umbrella for their environmental cause.
        The politicians needed to appear hip and up to date with their electorate and saw the shifting of public concern towards clean air etc. They were also under pressure from downwind governments who didn’t like their neighbour’s acid rain falling on their trees. They also had shares in the nuclear industry.
        The Media loves an impending doom story and inflated the bubble. The BBC invested it’s pension fund into Deutsche Bank’s green portfolio.
        the whole thing gained momentum and became a circularly self inflating ‘grand project’ with business getting on board to take advantage of the new market opportunities in alternative energy etc.

        Which “Tried and trusted method” do you recommend we use to unravel this mess?

        Short of bloody revolution, I think getting philosophical and using reason and argument to open up the issues might be a better precursor to a velvet revolution than the alternatives.

        You may disagree, but I’m not seeing much more than general griping coming from you at the moment. Which is a shame, because you are obviously a bright bloke. How about some positive suggestions for a change?

        Hmm? ;)

      • Latimer Alder

        Very simple positive suggestion number One.

        Spend your indefatigable efforts trying to et the climatologists to do Actual Science.

        Not Post-Normal Science or Pre-Menstrual Science or Norwich-Method or Cancun-Method Science. But good old-fashioned science.

        You may remember the stuff from far-off pre-Climatology days

        It involved collecting data accurately and honestly, analysing it with open and transparent methods, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments to test these hypotheses. Rejecting them if reality does not reflect the theory, or building on them if it does. Honestly describing your work and how it was done and then publishing it of of wider interest.

        Maybe the latest obscure and unreadable works of various philosophers suggest that this is an inadequate or incomplete model of science.

        But for all practical purposes it has stood humanity in good stead for 400 years across a whole range of endeavours. I am not persuaded that climatology is a special case – however vociferous the special pleading of climatologists – that says that these methods properly applied with rigour, honesty and integrity, will not lead to a better understanding of climate.

        Further reading : almost anything by Richard Feynman.

        Oh that we had a man of his integrity, vision and communication skills with us to help with fixing climatology today!

        Very simple positive suggestion number Two.

        See Number One.

      • You’ve brought up the key issue here:

        “good old-fashioned science.
        You may remember the stuff from far-off pre-Climatology days
        It involved collecting data accurately and honestly, analysing it with open and transparent methods, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments to test these hypotheses. Rejecting them if reality does not reflect the theory, or building on them if it does. ”

        The issues are:
        1a)Collecting the data accurately is a problem. We have reasonably accurate data for the last 30 years, less accurate data before that, and very accurate data for the last 8 years only. In addition, the instrumentation is a problem, sensors for solar output degrade in the space environment and require adjustment to data, positional accuracy is crucial for sea level but is questionable.
        1b) The adjustment of data is where bias can creep in.

        2) Analysis of data means using theory, because interlinked phenomena mean trends have to be disentangled from data which reflects effects from several disparate sources. So you already have to have hypotheses before you get to your number three.

        3)Designing experiments is a problem because we don’t have a spare Earth where we can control some parameters and change other to isolate their effect. The laboratory is ful of noise, dirt, unexpected influences and nonstationary variables we don’t yet understand.

        4)Reality reflecting the theory is a problem, because within the error margins and uncertainties, any one of several theories could be potentially correct.

        I use point 4) to argue for parallel lines of enquiry into causation which can provide cross checking and validation/elimination exactly for this reason.

        I have a post on my blog about Feynman so please don’t think I’m unaware of traditional good science principles. As Steve Mosher pointed out, we don’t think PNS is SUPERIOR to traditional science, it isn’t. But what we are saying is that given the problems outlined above, PNS does at least make the uncertainty EXPLICIT, and encourages us to embrace it, and work deliberatively within it. Which is more than the mainstream climatologists have done so far.

        Now there is a strong argument to say:
        “This science isn’t ready yet, come back in 50 years when we have enough accurate data and we’ll let you know if there is a problem”

        But the politicians who pay for the science have got their knickers in a twist and want answers now. PNS practitioners are saying:
        “If you must make decisions now, here are the tools to use on the best science we currently have, imperfect though it is, and despite the disputes around it.”

      • Atomic Hairdryer

        “So no tried and tested methods then?”

        I think there are, and having shared Latimer’s experience working in technical sales, complexity is more of a known unknown.

        Much of it involves knowledge transfer to iteratively reduce uncertainty. The customer knows their business and drivers, I know the technology, costs and ‘art of the possible’. There are knowledge gaps both sides, but by effective communication, gaps and uncertainties are reduced and hopefully we arrive at a solution that’s fit for purpose, flexible, affordable and sign contracts. Effective communications are key, as is a degree of compromise on both sides.

        CAGW is a similar sales problem. We’re being sold on the idea that we have only X years to save the planet. The price to solve this problem is extremely large and may involve some unpopular social changes. Some of the sales pitch looks plausible, but some of the elements in the pitch do not. It’s a huge, complex and interlinked problem.

        So break it into more manageable pieces. CAGW says we need to reduce CO2, so one driver. We need to be smarter or better custodians of the land, so that’s another. We need to manage resource competition, or food supply, or water, or population growth. All those problems or challenges exist anyway, so it’s how to set policy to balance demands. At the moment, CAGW seems to be driving policy too hard, so we end up with what looks to be anti-scientific (or certainly anti-engineering) solutions based on ‘science’. Case in point being wind power, which largely seems driven by environmentalists opposition to nuclear and that’s often for less than scientific reasons. Or anti-coal. Mountain top removal for coal extraction has an impact on the environment, but could you fill that hole with water afterwards and use it for pumped storage or hydro power? The UK sort of did that with an old slate quarry at Dinorwig.

        So in sales terms, what I see is goverments being sold a bill of goods with few bidders and possibly a rather biased bid review process, ie Jeroen’s “real life approach”. In the UK, that seems rather worse when the bidders are also advising the government and conflicts of interest abound. Perhaps there is a need for a funded expert group of ‘sceptics’ to provide balance, ask the awkward questions and help highlight (and reduce) uncertainty. Feynman described something similar in his investigation of the shuttle disaster with the concept of ‘tiger teams’ working in competition with each other to produce the best results. It costs, but often produces better solutions.