The Republic of Science

by Judith Curry

The professional standards of science must impose a framework of discipline and at the same time encourage rebellion against it. – Michael Polanyi (1962)

A recent tweet by Andrea Saltelli reminded me of Michael Polanyi‘s 1962 essay “The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory.”

Polanyi provides an interesting perspective from the mid 20th century, as the U.S. and Europe were contemplating massive public investments in science.  Polanyi’s perspective was colored by his early years in Hungary, which led him to oppose central planning in the sciences.

I encourage you to read Polanyi’s entire essay, it contains many interesting reflections on history and political philosophy of science.  Below are some some excerpts with highlights that provide the springboard for my own reflections on the state of science (particularly climate science) in the early 21st century.


MY title is intended to suggest that the community of scientists is organised in a way which resembles certain features of a body politic and works accor­ding to economic principles similar to those by which the production of material goods is regulated.

The first thing to make clear is that scientists, freely making their own choice of problems and pursuing them in the light of their own personal judgment are in fact cooperating as members of a closely knit organisation. [T]he principle of their coordination consists in the adjust­ment of the efforts of each to the hitherto achieved results of the others. We may call this a coordination by mutual adjustment of independent initiatives–of initiatives which are coordinated because each takes into account all the other initiatives operating within the same system.

Such self-coordination of independent initiatives leads to a joint result which is unpremeditated by any of those who bring it about.  Their coordination is guided as by ‘an invisible band’ towards the joint discovery of a hidden system of things. Since its end-result is unknown, this kind of cooperation can only advance stepwise, and the total performance will be the best possible if each consecutive step is decided upon by the person most competent to do so. We may imagine this condition to be fulfilled for the fitting together of a jig-saw puzzle if each helper watches out for any new opportunities arising along a particular section of the hitherto completed patch of the puzzle, and also keeps an eye on a particular lot of pieces, so as to fit them in wherever a chance presents itself. The effectiveness of a group of helpers will then exceed that of any isolated member. to the extent to which some member of the group will always discover a new chance for adding a piece to the puzzle more quickly than any one isolated person could have done by himself.

WHAT I have said here about the highest possible coordination of individual scientific efforts by a process of self-coordination may recall the self­ coordination achieved by producers and consumers operating in a market. It was, indeed, with this in mind that I spoke of ‘the invisible hand ‘ guiding the coordination of independent initiatives to a maximum advancement of science, just as Adam Smith invoked ‘ the invisible hand ‘ to describe the achievement of greatest joint material satisfaction when independent producers and consumers are guided by the prices of goods in a market.

In the case of science, adjustment takes place by taking note of the published results of other scientists; while in the case of the market,  mutual adjustment is mediated by a system of prices broadcasting current exchange relations, which make supply meet demand.

[T]he decisions of a scientist choosing a problem and pursuing it to the exclusion of other possible avenues of inquiry may be said to have an economic character. For his decisions are designed to produce the highest possible result by the use of a limited stock of intellectual and material resources. The scientist fulfils this purpose by choosing a problem that is neither too hard nor too easy for him. The line the scientist must choose turns out, therefore, to be that of greatest ego­ involvement; it is the line of greatest excitement, sustaining the most intense attention and effort of thought. He should not hesitate to incur such a loss, if it leads him to deeper and more important problems.

BOTH the criteria of plausibility and of scientific value tend to enforce conformity, while the value attached to originality encourages dissent. This internal tension is essential in guiding and motivating scientific work. The professional standards of science must impose a framework of discipline and at the same time encourage rebellion against it.   They must demand that, in order to be taken seriously, an investigation should largely conform to the currently predominant beliefs about the nature of things, while allowing that in order to be original it may to some extent go against these.

The authority  of scientific standards is thus exercised for the very purpose of providing those guided by it with independent grounds for opposing it. The capacity to renew itself by evoking and assimilating opposition to itself appears to be logjcally inherent in the sources of the authority wielded by scientific orthodoxy.

But who is it, exactly, who exercises the authority of this orthodoxy? No single scientist has a sound understanding of more than a tiny fraction of the total domain of science. [W]hile scientists can admittedly exercise competent judgment only over a small part of science, they can usually judge an area adjoining their own special studies that is broad enough to include some fields on which other scientists have specialised. And, of course, each scientist who is a member of a group of overlapping competences will also be a member of other groups of the same kind, so that the whole of science will be covered by chains and net­works of overlapping neighbourhoods.

ADMITTEDLY, scientific authority is not distributed evenly throughout the body of scientists; some distinguished members of the profession dominate over others of a more junior standing. But the authority of scientific opinion remains essentially mutual; it is established between scientists, not above them.

Let me make it clear, even without going into detail, how great and varied are the powers exercised by this authority.  Appointments to positions in universities and  elsewhere, which offer opportunity for independent research, are filled in accordance with the appreciation of candidates by scientific opinion. Referees reporting on papers submitted to journals are charged with keeping out contributions which current scientific opinion condemns as unsound. Representatives of scientific opinion will pounce upon newspaper articles or other popular literature which would venture to spread views contrary to scientific opinion. The teaching of science in schools is controlled likewise. And, indeed, the whole outlook of man on the universe is conditioned by an implicit recognition· of the authority of scientific opinion.

Only by securing popular respect for its own authority can scientific opinion safeguard the complete inde­pendence of mature scientists and the unhindered publicity of their results, which jointly assure the spontaneous coordination of scientific efforts throughout the world.

DURING the last 20 to 30 years, there have been many suggestions and pressures towards guiding the progress of scientific inquiry in the direction of public welfare. I appreciate the generous sentiments which actuate the aspiration of guiding the progress of science into socially beneficent channels, but I hold its aim to be impossible and nonsensical.

I argued that the present  practice of filling vacant chairs by the most eminent candidate that the university can attract was the best safeguard for rational distribution of efforts over rival lines of scientific research. For the principal criterion for offering increased opportunities to a new subject was the rise of a growing number of distinguished scientists in that subject and the falling off of creative initiative in other subjects, indicating that resources should be withdrawn from them.

[L]ittle more can, or need, be done towards the advancement of science, than to assist spontaneous move­ments towards new fields of distinguished discovery, at the expense of fields that have become exhausted. Though special considerations may deviate from it, this procedure must be acknowledged as the major principle for maintaining a balanced development of scientific research.

Those who think that the public is interested in science only as a source of wealth and power are gravely misjudging the situation.  Universities should have the courage to appeal to the electorate, and to the public in general, on their own genuine grounds. For the only justification for the pursuit of scientific research in universities lies in the fact that the universities provide an intimate communion for the for­mation of scientific opinion, free from corrupting intrusions and distractions. For though scientific discoveries eventually diffuse into all people’s thinking. the general public cannot  participate in the intellectual milieu in which discoveries are made. Discovery comes only to a mind immersed in its pursuit. For such work the scientist needs a secluded place among like­ minded colleagues who keenly share his aims and sharply control his per­formances.

The more widely the republic of science extends over the globe, the more numerous become its members in each country and the greater the material resources at its command, the more clearly emerges the need for a strong and effective scientific authority to reign over this republic. When we reject today the interference of political religious authorities with the pursuit of science, we must do this in the name of the established scientific authority which safeguards the pursuit of science.

Consider, also, the fact that these scientific evaluations are exercised by a multitude of scientists, each of whom is competent to assess only a tiny fragment of current scientific work, so that no single person is responsible at first hand for the announcements made by science at any time.   And remember that each scientist originally established himself as such by joining at some point a network of mutual appreciation extending far beyond his own horizon. Each such acceptance appears then as a submission to a vast range of value-judgments exercised over all the domains of science, which the newly accepted citizen of science henceforth endorses, although he knows hardly anything about their subject-matter. Thus, the standards of scientific merit are seen to be transmitted from generation to generation by the affiliation of individuals at a great variety of widely disparate points, in the same way as artistic, moral or legal traditions are transmitted.   This conclusion gains important support from the fact that the methods of scientific inquiry cannot be explicitly formulated and hence can be transmitted only in the same way as an art, by the affiliation of apprentices to a master. The authority of science is essentially traditional.

Bur this tradition upholds an authority which cultivates originality. Scien­tific opinion imposes an immense range of authoritative pronouncements on the student of science, but at the same time it grants the highest encourage­ment to dissent from them in some particular.  Scientific tradition enforces its teachings in general, for the very purpose of cultivating their subversion in the particular.

The Republic of Science shows us an association of independent initiatives, combined towards an indeterminate achievement. It is disciplined and motivated by serving a traditional authority, but this authority is dynamic; its continued existence depends on its constant self-renewal through the originality of its followers.

The Republic of Science is a Society of Explorers.   Such a society strives towards an unknown future, which it believes to be accessible and worth achieving. In the case of scientists, the explorers strive towards a hidden reality, for the sake of intellectual satisfaction.   And as they satisfy them­selves, they enlighten all men and are thus helping society to fulfil its obligation towards intellectual self-improvement.

Since a dynamic orthodoxy claims to be a guide in search of truth, it implicitly grants the right to opposition in the name of truth–truth being taken to comprise here, for brevity, all manner of excellence that we recognise as the ideal of self-improvement. Th[is] freedom assures them the right to speak the truth as they know it.

JC reflections

Polanyi’s essay provides some interesting insights, as well as some striking contrasts with the Republic of Science in the early 21st century.

Polanyi’s analogy of the scientific process with markets  captures the pure incentives that drive scientists – search of truth, intellectual satisfaction and individual ego. What happens when the externalities of the Republic of Science produce perverse incentives, and careerism becomes a dominant incentive that requires publishing a lot of papers rapidly and producing headline-worthy results (who even cares if these papers don’t survive scrutiny beyond their press release)? (see What is the measure of scientific success?) What happens is that you get increasing incidence of scientific fraud (see Science: in the doghouse?), cherry picking and meaningless papers on headline grabbing topics that don’t stand up to the test of time (see Trust and don’t bother to verify).

And what happens when the ‘hand’ guiding science isn’t ‘invisible’, i.e. science is driven by politics, such as a political imperative to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy?  Federal funding can bias science, particularly in terms of selecting which scientific problems receive attention (link).

And what of Polanyi’s statement:  “Such self-coordination of independent initiatives leads to a joint result which is unpremeditated by any of those who bring it about.”  The ‘result’ of dangerous anthropogenic climate change and the harms of dietary fat were hardly unpremeditated.

When science is politically relevant and has been politicized, how objective are the authorities that are keepers of the orthodoxy — journal editors, officers of professional societies, university administrators — and how open are they to dissenting perspectives?  The experiences of Lennart Bengtsson (link), my being called a ‘climate heretic’ (see my essay Heresy and the creation of monsters), Christopher Essex’s essay (link), Roger Pielke Jr’s experiences, and MANY more examples among climate scientists speak to the fact that the keepers of the climate science orthodoxy are failing in this regard [link to Are climate scientists being forced to toe the line?].  Without the internet and the blogosphere, these dissenting voices would be rendered silent by the keepers of the orthodoxy.

Climate and environmental sciences are far from the only scientific fields suffering in this way – the problem is also rampant in medicine, nutrition, and psychology [link to Partisanship and silencing science.]

Where lies the solution to this?  Well, one possibility is reflected in Polanyi’s statement: “[L]ittle more can, or need, be done towards the advancement of science, than to assist spontaneous move­ments towards new fields of distinguished discovery, at the expense of fields that have become exhausted.”  Now that climate science is ‘settled’, i.e. at least it is perceived to be sufficiently settled to provide the basis for a very expensive international climate ‘agreement’ (not treaty), perhaps future investments should be directed towards other fields that are deemed important or where greater progress can be made.  This is exactly what has been happening in Australia, as the Turnbull administration has been axing climate jobs at CSIRO (link).

Is climate science ‘exhausted’ in terms of diminishing returns on future research?  I would argue that climate science is an immature field with many unknowns; however the current paradigm of using inadequate climate models to focus on human caused climate change has reached the point of diminishing returns.  Further, the intense politicization of the subject has adversely influenced the community of scientists — in terms of biasing the scientists and also in discouraging young scientists from entering and staying in the field.  So in a sense, climate science has become ‘exhausted’ by the politicization.

Governments who fund science and universities who hire scientists need to make the hard decisions regarding which fields and subfields are most worthy of investment, in terms of new breakthrough science.  While I was Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, it was my privilege and opportunity to hire 27 faculty members (24 as primary appointments, 3 as joint hires) over the course of 13 years.  This is a rare opportunity for a department in the geosciences.  When I became Chair in 2002, the School had 4 divisions – geochemistry, geophysics, atmospheric chemistry, and atmospheric dynamics.  I made it a priority to bring ‘water’ into the School, and to hire faculty members that could interact with other scientists and engineers, beyond the geosciences, to stimulate new research areas.  Apart from these broad objectives, I hired the best people that we could attract, with little preference for specific research areas.  This approach resulted in a reconfiguration of the school to include oceanography, planetary and space sciences, biogeochemistry, and new subfields of geophysics.

I did not hire much in the areas of atmospheric dynamics or climate science (outside of oceanography and biogeochemistry), simply because the quality of the applicants was not as strong as in the other fields.  While I have inferred that my provost was not pleased that I did not hire more in ‘climate science’, the outstanding young scientists that I did hire are garnering substantial external recognition and are being heavily recruited by other universities (good luck to the new Chair in retaining these outstanding faculty members).  Why didn’t I hire more in atmospheric dynamics and climate science?  The atmospheric dynamics faculty candidates generally were in the areas of data assimilation and mesoscale modeling — areas that are important, but arguably engineering rather than science that is going to lead to a breakthrough in understanding.  In climate science, most of the applicants were using climate models, by running scenarios and inferring dire consequences — not the climate dynamics theorists that I was hoping for, that could help understand and untangle the complex physical, chemical and even biological processes influencing the climate system.

In a broader sense, which scientific subfields and topics are deemed to be important and why?  There is no easy answer to this, but it is the job of university Deans and federal funding agencies to prioritize.  There is an interesting example currently in the news, that comes from Georgia Tech’s David Hu,  Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering.  He has written an essay Confessions of a Wasteful Scientist. Subtitle: Three of my projects appeared last week on a senator’s list of questionable research. Allow me to explain…

I would also like to respond to Polanyi’s statement: “universities provide an intimate communion for the for­mation of scientific opinion, free from corrupting intrusions and distractions.”  I am very sad to report that this simply isn’t true of universities in the early 21st century. is responding to the lack of intellectual diversity at universities.  Universities are becoming very uncomfortable places for faculty members with minority perspectives on controversial topics.

As a result, many scientists with minority perspectives are leaving universities.  Further, the internet has enabled many individuals outside of academia to make important contributions to climate science (published in refereed journals, in books, and in other reports).  Polanyi wrote: “[T]he general public cannot participate in the intellectual milieu in which discoveries are made. For such work the scientist needs a secluded place among like­ minded colleagues who keenly share his aims and sharply control his per­formances.”  This is a perspective on scientists that is peculiar to the 20th century [see Scientist: the evolving story of a word].  Particularly in climate science, we are seeing the emergence of a substantial and influential cohort of non-academic scientists, contributing both to the published literature and the public scientific debate. This broadening of the notions of expertise away from university elites is leading some to question whether our traditional notions of expertise are dead [link].

So, what should the Republic of Science look like in the 21st century?  The overwhelming issue for the health of science is to reassert the importance of intellectual and political diversity in science, and to respect and even nurture scientific mavericks.  The tension between pure (curiosity driven) science and use-inspired and applied science [see Pasteur’s quadrant] needs to be resolved in a way that supports all three, with appropriate roles for universities, government and the private sector. And finally, the reward structure for university scientists need to change to reward more meaningful science that stands the test of time, versus counting papers and press releases, which may not survive even superficial scrutiny even after being published in prestigious journals that are more interested in impact than in rigorous methods and appropriate conclusions.

Failure to give serious thought to these issues risks losing the public trust and support for elite university science (at least in certain fields).  Scientists are becoming their own worst enemy when they play into the hands of politicians and others seeking to politicize their science.



222 responses to “The Republic of Science

  1. Pingback: The Republic of Science – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. catweazle666

    Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz have a lot to answer for.

  3. Indeed parts are settled. 3 C per doubling or 1 C for each 1500-2000 GtCO2 emitted are good enough for policy. However these are only global mean temperatures which don’t give you much for impacts. If the land continues to warm twice as fast as the ocean, you get 6 C for land, 3 C for the ocean for a 4 C average. Drought and heatwave frequencies depend on regional knowledge of changes. Polar areas could exceed 10 C. Glacier melt rates and tipping points are uncertain with implications for sea level. Rainfall changes are still uncertain regionally beyond some areas generally drying and some getting generally wetter. So, yes, even settled science leads to more important questions as a follow-on, and not just academically important but also of interest in adaptation and mitigation planning.

    • Jim D, you give yourself away. ~ 3C per doubling is only from provably deficient IPCC climate models. All the observational data say 1.5-1.8C. You exemplify the main point of the post. And the difference between 1.8 and 3 ECS is NOT good enough for policy purposes, despite your opinion to the contrary.

      • afonzarelli

        ristvan, doesn’t “all the observational data” say that we don’t really know what the climate sensitivity is? I’ve always found it kind of disturbing to see the same kind of group think surrounding low climate sensitivity estimates that we see with the high end. For all we know feedbacks could be negative. That would not be inconsistent with all the observational data…

      • Observations over the last 60 years give 0.01 C per ppm increase, 2.4 C per doubling. Sixty years of robust temperature rises during which we have had 75% of the emissions, is solid enough for projections and policy.

      • Curious George

        Jim – do you realize that “for ppm” and “for doubling” are – let’s say it politely – incompatible? Pick one, please.

      • CG, 1 C per 100 ppm may be easier for you to follow. Is that your question?

      • catweazle666

        Jim D: “CG, 1 C per 100 ppm may be easier for you to follow. Is that your question?”

        Oh dear, you truly don’t have the first clue.

        If it’s 1 deg C for the first 100 ppm, it will be 1 deg C for the next 200 ppm, and 1 deg C for the next 400 ppm, 1 deg C for the next 800 ppm and so on.

        You don’t understand the concept of “logarithmic”, do you?

        Why do you think no-one is going to be surprised?

      • Even a log looks linear over a certain range. In this case between about 300 and 400 ppm. See the graph. Linear enough. And from that gradient you can get the sensitivity which is expressed as per doubling (a log scale, if you can follow). So I think you can see where you went wrong now.

      • catweazle666

        Utter drivel, Jimbo, and insufferably patronising with it.

        Pure and unadulterated, like all your scientifically illiterate garbage.

        You wouldn’t know a logarithmic relationship from a hole in the road.

      • afonzarelli

        And yet we’ve only seen .4C, half of which, according to the IPCC, could be natural. (.2C)…

      • JIm D, “60 years of robust temperature rises”? Is Michael Mann at it again, this time eliminating the “Pause”? Or are you looking at the recently “adjusted” NOAA data, with early years adjusted down without physical reason and transparent algorithms, just to make later years look warmer?.

      • afonzarelli

        Jim, the same temperature data shows .8C from about 1910 to 1945 (with a CO2 increase of just 10 ppm)…

      • GISTEMP is the only one that correctly accounts for polar warming being larger than the global average.

      • afonzarelli

        And yet recent warming is hardly more than the warming a century ago…

      • afonzarelli

        Dr. C., how come i have a comment stuck in moderation?
        {8^(] )

      • “Observations over the last 60 years give 0.01 C per ppm increase…”

        Sheesh. If you assume:

        1) all the increase has been anthropogenic;
        2) all measurements are sufficiently accurate and precise;
        3) coverage is sufficient in density and coverage;
        4) all adjustments are correct and unbiased;

        I could go on, however, these will do for now. If you assume these, you can make the claim.

        But are these reasonable assumptions?

        1) is dubious based on peer-reviewed papers that posit “natural variability” as the cause of the pause (it cuts both ways);
        2) and 4) are dubious given the changes over time to the “standard” data sets (GISS, NOAAM HADCRU etc)
        3) seems dubious for data earlier in the record (yes, even limiting to 60 years);
        4) is dubious based on looking at adjustment vs raw graphs of the various data-sets.

        So IMO these are NOT reasonable assumptions – or more precisely, they seem to be reasonable as caveats in published papers, but hardly reasonable for public policy involving mandated redistribution of billions of dollars of resources.

      • David Springer

        I already went over this for Jimbo. He refuses to believe the IPCC report on radiative forcing components.

        CO2 is only half the anthropogenic radiative forcing. Methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, halocarbons, and black soot comprise the other half. So cut Jimbo’s calculation of CO2 doubling effect straight in half to start with.

        Now factor in some unknown amount of natural warming from Little Ice Age rebound, TSI increasing throughout the industrial era and reaching a high plateau around 1950 known as the Modern Solar Maximum.

        This takes us down to the observed 1.5C/doubling of CO2. And that’s taking the time/temperature series dating back to 1850 at face value without consideration of the books being cooked to some extent by so-called adjustments.

        Jimbo just ignores all this and sticks by his own simplistic calculation and the assumption that it’s CO2 all the way down. I’m not sure if he believes his own story or not but no one who is even modestly informed by the IPCC report puts any stock in Jimmy’s yarns.

      • I hope Jim D gets around to responding to this:

        afonzarelli on May 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm
        Jim, the same temperature data shows .8C from about 1910 to 1945 (with a CO2 increase of just 10 ppm)…

      • Steven Mosher

        3c is not from models rud.
        Paleo. Observational. 3c.
        Read more. Comment less.

      • Maybe you could cut it down to, two words Steven?

      • Steven Mosher

        Jim D. Not just giss
        Cowan and way.
        Berkeley earth.
        Read more. Comment less.

      • Occam’s razor, Vostok, what’s your problem now?

      • Steven Mosher

        Now factor in some unknown amount of natural warming from Little Ice Age rebound, TSI increasing throughout the industrial era and reaching a high plateau around 1950 known as the Modern Solar Maximum.

        Funny. Too funny.
        There is no rebound.
        There is no solar maximum.

        That said Jim D still does the calculation wrong.

        Look people. Read more nic lewis.
        Comment less.

        Then read Hansen on the LGM.

        That’s the battlefield. .not science by blog comment.

      • Are you able Steven, to make a complete sentence using the words: AGW scientist, sand, and Ostrich please?

      • The AMO is the biggest rabbit hole of them all, so read more AMO crap… go forth and continue stumbling backwards. The hilarity of it all is worthy of a stadium wave, but it ain’t coming.

      • Face the facts, your stadium is way, too small.

      • 3c is not from models rud.

        Ehhhh…. No.

        The glacials/inter-glacials are important to understand and even to compare and contrast with. ( humans were around through both the LGM and the HCO ).

        But the glacial cycles are not analogues of AGW. Why?

        1. The glacial cycles were not caused by changes in global radiative forcing or global temperature but of very regionalized forcing, during summer only, in the ice accumulation zones only ( mostly from 45N to 83N ). It is more accurate to say that the glacial cycles caused temperature changes than to say temperature changes caused the ice ages. AGW, by contrast, causes a global increase in RF, across all seasons and nearly all latitudes.

        2. The sea floor core samples (CLIMAP) even indicate warming in the some tropical oceans:

        The MARGO analysis seem to maintain this feature:

        That’s consistent with what I found in my hypothetical radiance runs for the LGM. Some tropical latitudes during the LGM had summer time maximum net radiances greater than today:

        ( Global Warming in the Context of the Glacial Cycles )

        ( CO2 and the Last Glacial Maximum )

      • “There is no rebound.” Dang, I keep forgetting there is zero evidence of long term persistence in the simplified slab model universe. Only emeritus crack pots would think of such a thing :)

      • DS, the other GHGs don’t help you out of the “its all GHGs” argument. Historically their effect has been proportional to CO2 which is why temperature follows such a straight line with CO2 forcing, as I showed, since 1950. If CO2 goes from 400 ppm to 700 ppm, their effect will also grow in a similar way. You take CO2+other GHGs-aerosols to grow roughly as the dominant part which is CO2. If aerosols grow less, it is warmer. If other GHGs grow less it is cooler, but that proportionality is a middle road. In AR4 aerosols and other GHGs canceled. In AR5 they think other GHGs have a bigger effect than aerosols, but CO2 remains at 80% of the total anthropogenic effect, and also the only long-lasting component.

      • afonzarelli

        “Jim D’ Troll”

        At this point, yer jus’ trollin’…

      • Harry Twinotter


        The IPCC does not have any climate models. “Provably deficient” your opinion only.

      • Harry Twinotter

        David Springer.

        Where do you get CO2 only contributing “half” of the warming from?

        “Now factor in some unknown amount of natural warming from Little Ice Age rebound”

        That sounds like an argument from ignorance. If you think it is “unknown”, then it could just as easily be natural cooling not warming.

      • Mike Flynn

        Harry Twinotter,

        From NASA –

        “Carbon dioxide (CO2). A minor but very important component of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is released through natural processes such as respiration and volcano eruptions and through human activities such as . . . “

        Note that CO2 is a minor component. Why are you not concerned about the major supposed greenhouse gas? Why so hung up on a bit player, so to speak?

        Maybe you should accept the opinion of the experts, and concentrate on the most important so called greenhouse gas.


      • Harry Twinotter

        Mike Flynn.

        You should read what you actually wrote:

        “A minor but very important component of the atmosphere…”

        Note the words “very important”? Not that it is relevant to global warming anyway.

        I am always amused when climate change deniers think they can trump science by using grammatical semantics.

      • Harry Twinotter,

        “The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.”

        As you say, CO2 is an important atmospheric component. Without it, we all die, as plants cannot live without it.

        As far as the supposed greenhouse effect, it plays but little part by comparison with the major player, H2O. I am assuming that you know that hydrocarbon combustion creates, at a minimum, CO2 and H2O – both necessary for life on Earth as we know it.

        If you read the primary peer reviewed literature, then get back to me with the supposed greenhouse heating effect of H2O compared with CO2, we might be able to discuss the matter in a rational fashion.

        Warmists tend to adopt deny, divert, and confuse tactics in my view, when they cannot find scientific support for their bizarre hatred of CO2. The benefits of increased plant life are anathema to Warmists, it would appear.

        I’ll just point out that the hottest surface areas of the planet have the smallest amount of the most important supposed greenhouse gas above them – namely the arid tropical deserts. Likewise the coldest recorded place on Earth, in Antarctica. Very interesting, the supposed greenhouse effect! Magical, even.


      • Harry Twinotter

        Mike Flynn.

        I know you are just a troll. You bring up irrelevant points to attempt to confuse the discussion. What climate change deniers never answer is why are all those research scientists wrong? Are you saying you have better research than them?

        Yes, CO2 is important. Without it’s greenhouse effect the global mean temperature would be around 33C cooler than it is ie frozen over. The fact that it is also good for plants is a bonus. If you dispute this, then please provide your calculations.

        I can give you a rough calculation contribution of the different gases to the greenhouse effect. If you dispute this, then please provide your calculations:
        water vapor, 36–70%
        carbon dioxide, 9–26%
        methane, 4–9%
        ozone, 3–7%

        “Warmists tend to adopt deny, divert, and confuse tactics in my view, when they cannot find scientific support for their bizarre hatred of CO2. The benefits of increased plant life are anathema to Warmists, it would appear.”

        A bizarre, Conspiracy Theory rant. You need to get out more.

        “I’ll just point out that the hottest surface areas of the planet…”

        Seriously? You cannot be that ignorant. But if you know better, then please provide evidence that the amount of CO2 warming varies significantly in those places you mention. While you are at it, also provide evidence that the amount of CO2 varies significantly in those places you mention.

    • David L. Hagen

      Climate alarmists checkmated by a mining statistician
      Steve McIntyre analyzed John Christy’s 2 Fewb 2016 testimony to Congress showing evidence that 32 models with 102 runs predicted warming 300% of actual tropical tropospheric temperature trends from 1979-83 to 2015!

      In the present case, from the distribution in the right panel:
      •a model run will be warmer than an observed trend more than 99.5% of the time;
      •will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.1 deg C/decade approximately 88% of the time;
      •and will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.2 deg C/decade more than 41% of the time.

      Steve McIntyre ClimateAudit May 5, 2016 at 4:42 PM
      As Judith Curry observed:

      Particularly in climate science, we are seeing the emergence of a substantial and influential cohort of non-academic scientists, contributing both to the published literature and the public scientific debate.

      McIntyre and Christy have dramatically exposed the “alarmist climate emperor” as having no scientific clothes!

  4. Yes, climate science is a very immature field. That is why it is so unsettling to hear from the warmists that the science is “settled.” I don’t think anything could be farther from the truth. The powers that be in the field of climate science have created a conformity that makes current peer review a joke. The predominantly liberal mainstream news media that cover climate science tend to go along with one alarming pronouncement after another because it conforms to their general world view and “sells newspapers.” The “consensus” on man-made global warming is a result of the things that Polyani wrote about 50 years ago. It is a dark period in science.

    • afonzarelli

      “It is a dark period in science.”

      Well, maybe… With the presence of the internet now illuminating science, the nonsense is being called out on a daily basis. (they can run but they cannot hide) It’s just a matter of time before science will be forced to correct it’s errors. In a sense it already has (to some degree) with the onset of “the pause”. Reality is catching up with climate science and the internet is lighting the way…

      • No, no, no, and no. The presence of the internet means that those with the most money can buy trolls to constantly harass anyone who holds views that are contrary to “the science is settled”; they can sponsor grass-roots or professional websites to counter any dissent. The presence of the internet means that the message can be carefully crafted and repeated again and again and again and disseminated until “we all know” what the truth is.
        My own area of inquiry is vaccines. I used to be pro-vaccine 100% because I “knew” just like everyone else does. Then I read, and I realized that what everyone believes is false, and there is evidence of this everywhere but boy, you just try and explain this and of course you’re anti-science, selfish, stupid, a tin-foil hatter and who knows what else. This comes from the internet. The pro-vaxers complain that the anti-vaxers get their info from “the internet” and this is true: you can download a lot of papers from Pubmed. What they don’t tell you is that they are deliberately using the internet to convince everyone that vaccines are completely harmless and completely necessary, neither of which is true. See for history; see for science.
        If the internet is lighting the way, it’s also darkening it.

      • afonzarelli

        i did say “maybe”…
        {;•) -|~<

  5. David Springer

    With public funding for specific scientific research all the players know what the other players have chosen before results are obtained. In that domain it seems to be guided more by Nash Equilibrium rather than Smith’s Invisible Hand.

    • David,

      John Nash was indeed a brilliant mathematician and his mathematical models were elegance par excellence.

      However, the assumptions that went into those models were flawed.

      There’s a great section in part 1 of the documentary The Trap that deals with Nash.

      The programme traces the development of game theory, with particular reference to the work of John Nash (the mathematician portrayed in A Beautiful Mind), who believed that all humans are inherently suspicious and selfish creatures that strategize constantly. Building on his theory, Nash constructed logically consistent and mathematically verifiable models, for which he won the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics….

      These games were internally coherent and worked correctly as long as the players obeyed the ground rules that they should behave selfishly and try to outwit their opponents,[citation needed] but when RAND’s analysts tried the games on their own secretaries, they were surprised to find that instead betraying each other, the secretaries cooperated every time. This did not, in the eyes of the analysts, discredit the models, but proved that the secretaries were unfit subjects….

      It was not known at the time that Nash was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and as a result, he was deeply suspicious of everyone around him—including his colleagues—and was convinced that many were involved in conspiracies against him. It was this mistaken belief that led to his view of people as a whole that formed the basis for his theories. Footage of an older and wiser Nash was shown in which he acknowledges that his paranoid views of other people at the time were false.

      • Nash non-cooperative equilibrium holds up well in a wide range of experimental games, less well in others. The failures are not and cannot be caused by human altruism, because Nash equilibrium is completely compatible with other-regarding behavior; an experimenter may fail to control all of a subject’s motives, but that is no flaw in the theory. The limitations on the range of applicability of the concept appear to be due to its assumptions about common knowledge of rationality, which can cause large errors when predicting the outcome of a game like “Have a group of people each pick an integer from 1 to 100 and give a prize to the person who guesses closest to 2/3 of the group average guess.”

  6. David Springer

    The Climate Change industry is a manufactured excuse to rollback the expansion of middle class rubes who elect candidates that support middle class objectives. By making the middle class poor and dependent on gov’t largesse, and making winning political campaigns a matter of who has the most money in campaign donations, control of the gov’t is granted to big money campaign contributors.

    Both parties operate this way they just have different big money interests funding them. Any professional politicians who’ve risen up through the ranks to senior positions already have big money owners.

    No one owns Donald Trump yet and I believe he can’t be bought, on principle, because his massive ego won’t allow anyone but him to be the boss. At this time this is what we need not more in a long line of yes-men beholden to those that brung them to the dance.

  7. Curious George

    The science is no better than the scientists. Or the “scientists”, mass-produced by modern universities. That’s the root of the rot. 95% of faculty belong to one party – why? Do we have a True party?

  8. Thank you, Professor Curry, for an important message I overlooked early in my research career. I will study it now with 20-20 hindsight on its success at predicting the current demise of science fifty-four years (1962-2016) ago.

  9. Curious George

    “The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory.” Not a word about Mother Nature as the final arbiter. Who cares for a real world, when we have our collective brains?

  10. This discussion has relevance to the idea of “consensus” in climate science. Traditionally, a consensus that emerges organically through the decentralized process that Polyani describes had some authority. Via the climategate emails, we discovered that the “baddies” in climate science set out to deliberately circumvent this process. For example, they sought control of the the journals to exclude alternative research perspectives and used the IPCC process to prematurely “manufacture” a consensus. Their excuse was that the issue was “too important” to wait for the normal process of scientific discovery and testing to develop a genuine consensus based on evidence as well as theory. It would take too long. Urgent policy action was needed. Since in their eyes the policy was “right anyway” (“whether or not the CAGW hypothesis is true, we have to get rid of fossil fuels”), no real harm was done by this process. In the event, however, harm has been, and will be, done not only to economic progress but perhaps even worse to the public trust in science.

    • It is proper to not trust the government. Governments have killed or caused the killing of people since the beginning of time. Our founding fathers tried to put safeguards in our constitution and amendments to protect us, but it appears to still fall short. Liberal colleges are turning out liberal graduates who are giving up our rights to even think and speak our opinion if we disagree with anything. The highest level of our government now wants to bring criminal charges if we disagree with official opinion.

  11. Ian Jarvie, a student of Karl Popper also wrote a book called The Republic of Science published in 2001 with a summary of key points here

    The message is that Popper drew attention to the written and unwritten rules and protocols of science to stress the importance of the social institutions that sustain or undermine good science.

    Jarvie argues strenuously that Popper’s first major work in early 1930s can be interpreted to anticipate the “social turn” in the philosophy of science. He suggests that Popper, for all his resistance to the sociological turn, in fact anticipated it to a significant degree although he did not himself “unpack” this aspect of his theories.

    Jarvie has argued convincingly that the decisive achievement of Logik der Forschung was to show the indispensable function of methodological conventions as “rules of the game” in science. This mirrors Popper’s approach to political philosophy; as the function of the philosophy of science is to formulate and criticize the “rules of the game” of science, so the function of moral and political philosophy is to do the same for the “rules of the game” of social and political life.

    • There seem to be opposing interpretations of Popper’s philosophy of science.

      Stephen Toulmin was one of those who argued that Popper was a defender of the old school philosophy whose trajectory can be traced from Plato to Descartes and then on down to Popper:

      Paul Feyerabend has followed up his earlier attack on rationalism, ‘Against Method,’ with a new collection of essays called ‘Farewell to Reason’; yet the “reason” that Feyerabend bids farewell to is not the everday ideal of being “reasonable” or “open to reason”, which Montaigne and the humanists embraced. Rather, it is what he calls “scientific raitonalism”: i.e., the 17-th century dream of a logical raitonality, shared from philosophers from Descartes to Popper.

      The appeal to reason [Feyerabend argues] is empty, and must be replaced by a notion of science that subordinates it to the needs of citizens and communities.

      For his part, Alasdair MacIntyre has published his critique of raitonality with the title, ‘Whose Justice? What Rationality?’ There, he explores the development of four European cultural traditions, in which the idea of “rationality” has subtly but crucially different meanings.

      The McIntyre study confirms what we found in our own inquiry, that the history of Western culture falls into a series of periods in each of which different ideals of reason and raitonality were dominant.

      • For 16th-century humanists, the central demand was that all our thought and conduct be reasonable. On the one hand, this meant developing modesty about one’s capacities and self-awareness in one’s self-presentation: all the things that Stephen Greenblatt calls “Renaissance self-fashioning.” On the other hand, it required toleration of social, cultural, and intellecutal diversity….

      • After 1620, many Europeans found this intellectual and practical tolerance inconclusive, permssive, and open to abuse, and adopted other, stricter ideals of rationality instead. For Descartes, rational thought could not rely on inherited tradition: empirical procedures rooted in experience rather than theory were in his view compromised, since they perpetuated the folklore of a given culture and period, and rested finally on supersitition, not reason. He felt that if everyone cleaned their slate, and started from the same sensory “impressions” or “clear and distinct ideas”, there would be no need to ask what personal or cultural idiosyncrasies each of the brought to their common debate….

      [T]he “rational” thing to do was to start from scratch, and to insist on the certainty of geometrical inference and the logicality of formal proofs. Only so could a way be found, he believed, to avoid both the interminable quarrels of the dogmatic theologians, and the uncertainties and contradictions implicit in Montaigne’s skepticism…..

      Unfortunately, little in human life lends itself fully to the lucid, tidy analyis of Euclid’s geometry or Descartes’ physics. Aside from these abstract fields of study, the methodology was unrealizable and practically irrelevant, though it kept its attractions for all those who welcomed the stability and hierarchy of the New Cosmopolis….

      This decontextualized ideal was a central demand of raitonal thought and action among “modern” thinkers until well into the 20th century.

      • After 1945, this view survived for some ten years without any real challenge: many people retained from pre-war days the dream of a Unified Science — a system built around pure mathematics, like Russell and Whitehead’s ‘Principia Mathematica,’ but encompassing the totality of scientific knowledge.

      The tide turned in the 1950s. A new generation of philosophers, with previous experience in natural science rather than in pure mathematics or symbolic logic, wrote about science in a new style: less exclusively logical, and more open to historical issues.

      This novel philosophy of science was a challenge to the orthodoxy of logical empiricism. Chronicling its early years, Theodore Kisiel finds its origin in my 1953 book, ‘The Philosophy of Science,’ but, undoubtedly, the most influential document of the movement was Thomas S. Kuhn’s book, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,’ published in 1962…..

      Not everyone saw at once just what a change this move represented, or how far it stepped back from the context-free questions of Cartesian rationalism, toward the historical candor of the humanist tradition. Let us therefore look for a moment at its outcomes.

      In analyzing a science, it replaces axiom systems, which aspire to universal timeless validity, by paradigms, which are the creations of a given age or phase of Science. It also substitutes the dream of a singular method, applied across the board, the fact of plural explanatory methods, each which is limited in scope and lifetime. In place of formal analysis of the logical structure of any scientific theory, as was aimed at by the positivist philosophers of Vienna in the 1920s, it relies on the historical analysis of diverse, variable concepts in different sciences, at different times…..

      All the same, rationalism died hard…. [A]t Karl Popper’s insistence, sharp criteria were used to “demarcate” genuinely scientific issues from other, irrelevant, or supersitious questions about ideology and metaphysics. In a rationalist spirit, the “demarcation criteria” were timeless and universal demands of a “critical reason” that operated above or apart from the changes and chances of history…..

      Karl Popper’s insistence that the criteria of scientific rationality are universal implies that we can decide, here and now, what it is “scientific” to consider anywhere and at any time. According to him, all “scientists” worthy of that name serve the same timeless interests everywhere and always. Others may conclude that we can master the scientific ideas of earlier times fully, only if we look at them in their original contests….

      • As we enter a fresh phase in the history of Modernity — seeking to humanize science and technology and reappropriate the aims of practical philosophy — we need to recover the ideas of raitonality that was current before Descartes…..

      Within a humanized Modernity, the decontextualizing of problems so typical of High Modernity is no longer a serious option. The axioms of Modernity assumed that the surface complexity of nature and humanity distracts us from an underlying Order, which is intrinsically simple and permanent.

      By now, however, physical scientists recognize as well as anyone that natural phenomenon in fact embody an “intrinsically simple” order only to a limited degree: novel theories of physical, biological, or social disorder (or “chaos”) allow us to balance the intellectual books.

      We may temporarily (“for the purpose of calculation”) shelve the contexts of our problems, but, eventually, their complete resolution obliges us to put these calculations back into their larger human frame, with all its concrete features and complications.

      Looking back at the intellectualy challenging years between 1650 and 1950, from a position of lesser confidence but greater modesty, we can appreciate why the projects of Modernity carried the conviction they did. Not the least of these charms was an oversimplification that, in retrospect, was unrealistic….

      The seduction of High Modernity lay in its abstract neatness and theoretical simplicity: both of these features blinded the successors of Descartes to the unavoidable complexities of concrete human experience.

      — STEPHEN TOULMIN, Cosmopolis

  12. The most helpful thing to the progress of science would be if academics stopped using “scientist” as a group name for academics who engage in things “sciency-like” without any real concern whether it adheres to the scientific method, and instead use scientist to mean any individual throughout society who gains that name BECAUSE they use the scientific method.

    However, given the failure of academia to uphold the scientific method, perhaps an alternative approach would be to adopt the word “sceptic” for one who is sceptical unless or until the evidence/experimental evidence proves the case.

  13. Great post. I agree with your reflections / recommendations excepting perhaps whether it is only ‘politicians and others who would politicize science’, i.e. implying ‘from outside’, who represent the main threat to the republic of science. When a major culture has gotten such a grip on many authorities both political and scientific, whose actions mutually reinforce each other, then to some extent attempting to identify who primarily drove who may no longer have much relevance. Yet it was scientists who approached politicians, scientized them as it were to support an allegedly super-urgent global cause, e.g. Hansen’s famous 1988 presentation, not the politicians who coerced or forced scientists to sex-up the issue to make a useful tool.

    The calamitous climate culture started on the watch of science, and was maybe out of control already by the time politicians supplied clout and money. And the authority of science is still a backbone of this culture. In a country like the US, the tribal division makes it easy to perceive the issue as primarily politicians strong-arming scientists one way or the other. Yet in countries like the UK where all main parties support climate action, it is easier to perceive that the true situation may be much more like an emotive scientocracy that has co-opted the politicians.

    I’m not sure this makes any difference to the fixes, but it does mean that many of those undermining the republic of science, live on the inside not the outside, and are those scientists emotively committed to the narrative of the certainty of calamity. Maybe your language already included this possibility, but I think this emphasizes that rather more literally, scientists are indeed their own worst enemy.

    • andywest2012 said:

      Yet it was scientists who approached politicians, scientized them as it were to support an allegedly super-urgent global cause, e.g. Hansen’s famous 1988 presentation, not the politicians who coerced or forced scientists to sex-up the issue to make a useful tool.

      The calamitous climate culture started on the watch of science, and was maybe out of control already by the time politicians supplied clout and money. And the authority of science is still a backbone of this culture. In a country like the US, the tribal division makes it easy to perceive the issue as primarily politicians strong-arming scientists one way or the other. Yet in countries like the UK where all main parties support climate action, it is easier to perceive that the true situation may be much more like an emotive scientocracy that has co-opted the politicians.

      andywest2012, Francois Haas I believe would agree with you:

      Leo Alexander, in his 1949 article “Medical Science Under Dictatorship” (NEJM), suggested that, “Science under dictatorship becomes subordinated to the guiding philosophy of the dictatorship (28)⇓ .” I am proposing the inverse, that Politics under Science becomes subordinated to the guiding philosophy of that Science.

      This article also touches on a potentially dangerous relationship between science and society that we tend not to recognize. As Ludwick Fleck noted in 1935 in Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, “This social character inherent in the very nature of scientific activity is not without its substantive consequences. Words which formerly were simple terms become slogans; sentences which once were simple statements become calls to battle. This completely alters their socio-cognitive value. They no longer influence the mind through their logical meaning—indeed, they often act against it—but rather they acquire a magical power and exert a mental influence simply by being used (29)⇓ .”

      German science and black racism—roots of the Nazi Holocaust

    • It dirties the word scientist, to call a consensus group scientists.

  14. John Costigane


    You have called it exactly right on the USA/UK divergence. Americans will provide the antidote by voting Republican in November, then watch the dominoes fall.

    I look at psychopathy with new eyes since following Professor Wilson in the UK. My take on the presenting factors of the condition(s) include personal magnetism, distorted impression of reality, refusal to listen to criticism and ultimate failure of their efforts. Do you see any link with alarmist climate science? Judith is not a consideration.

    • Presumably you mean criminologist David Wilson. No I don’t see any causal links at all. Scores for psychopathy in a general population (whether it actually manifests or not) are only around 1%, I believe. Explanations for movements encompassing wide swathes of the population are to be found in social psychology and cultural evolution, not the individual psychology of an extreme fringe of the polymorphic distribution. For clarity, I don’t believe adherents of CAGW are delusional, deranged, ill, or impaired in any other manner whatsoever. They are merely subject to cultural influence. Also bear in mind that we are all potentially subject to such influence, and in practice very many of us actually do adhere to some cultural narrative or other, or even several, such as nationalism or religion or whatever. Cultures akin to CAGW have occurred throughout history, occasionally even with climate issues as part of their primary narrative. This is business as usual for humans, which is why it is so hard to combat even when serious down-sides occur.

      • John Costigane


        I am referring to prime movers in the alarmist movement, where such characters may appear as leaders, Professor Wilson mentioned a 5% figure, not all killers by any means. The 30 odd characteristics, and subdivisions thereof,, can be seen in everyday situations, often associated with people having had head trauma or bad childhood experience.

        Narrative is the reality of human experience and just a few individuals can initiate a new one. Given this, the character of such individuals can be important.

      • John Costigane,

        A more comprehensive development of the theory you are suggesting can be found Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s Political Ponerology:

        The present investigation sought to answer some basic questions regarding the construct of psychopathy in non forensic settings… In so doing we have returned to Cleckley’s (1941) original emphasis on psychopathy as a personality style not only among criminals, but also among successful individuals within the community….

        The psychopath…never has any neuroses, no self-doubts, never experiences angst, and is what “normal” people seek to be….

        [C]onsequences that would fill the ordinary man with shame, self-loathing, and embarrassment simply do not affect the psychopath at all. What to others would be a horror or a disaster is to him merely a fleeting inconvenience.

        Cleckley posits that psychopathy is quite common in the community at large.

        His cases include examples of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Nowadays, some of the more astute researchers see criminal psychopathy – often referred to as antisocial personality disorder – as an extreme of a particular personality type. I think it is more helpful to characterize criminal psychopaths as “unsuccessful psychopaths”.

        One researcher, Alan Harrington, goes so far as to say that the psychopath is the new man being produced by the evolutionary pressures of modern life.

        Certainly, there have always been shysters and crooks, but past concern was focused on ferreting out incompetents rather than psychopaths. Unfortunately, all that has changed. We now need to fear the super-sophisticated modern crook who does know what he is doing – and does it.

      • John, reply awaiting moderation, must have a naughty word. Should pop out soon.

    • Hi John,

      I think it mainly works the other way around. Times of major cultural turnover, especially combined with chaos from say a financial crash or aftermath of war, provide more opportunity for strong characters to seize more of the levers of power than would normally be possible. Depending on how it’s expressed, that strength could be useful in the crisis, or completely disastrous. But when an established / stable society is working on a more even keel with a smoother / gentler cultural evolution, then checks and balances would normally work to share / limit / bound the power available to any such character, and especially prevent those with highly questionable expressions of strength from getting too far up the system hierarchy. Hence for causation, still look to cultures not to individuals. But is the swift rise of climate calamitous culture increasing opportunities per above? Well, it’d be unusual if that wasn’t the case.

      • John Costigane


        I am thinking of the Green movement as an example. While it is now toxic, was once simply a number of blogs with myself and 2 outspoken gals , none of us psychopathic, trying to be Green and drawing in others of like mind. A certain stridency developed which put me off, causing my loss of interest though I still compost food scraps and note that food waste collection is well established.

        The climate alarmist movement was a different animal. The few characters at the outset are more likely to be psychopathic, judging by their actions and pronouncements. Their type of like mind. no doubt, piled into the movement giving us a flawed consensus.

        Both examples start out with a few instigators, within growing undefined cultures.

      • John, I don’t buy this. There will be a few over ambitious plus charismatic plus even psychopathic and goodness knows what else type of folks in any sufficiently large movement. They play an interesting part, no doubt, some theorists have psychopaths down as catalysts, but not a root cause part I think. Nor are small minority individualistic behaviors of this kind needed to explain what’s going on. As psychologists slice and dice humanity into higher and higher resolution conditions, its easy to look at the next one to come along and suddenly think it’s everywhere, and a prime mover. No doubt this one is an interesting facet of humanity, but I don’t believe it holds any useful explanatory power specific to the climate domain at all. On average climate orthodox folks, or indeed ‘the green movement’ if you want to identify that separately, are just like everyone else. Which is to say the same spectrum of humanity you might find in Spanish Catholics or New Guinea hunters or atheist coffee drinkers or anyone who’s ever worn a striped shirt / blouse. They are not ‘different’ people in some way.

      • John Costigane


        What do you think of Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’? Could this be the basis for a new version of an old narrative?

  15. It’s been a while since I read Thomas Kuhn but 21th century climatology seems more like business as usual in science.

    Science advances in fits and starts instead of a slow methodical discovery of truth.

    From Wikipedia on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

    “…scientists will only consider the possibility that a theory has been falsified if an alternative theory is available that they judge credible. If there is not, scientists will continue to adhere to the established conceptual framework.”

    Is there an alternative credible theory?

    • John Costigane


      How about: the climate changes, of itself.

      • Steven Mosher

        “How about: the climate changes, of itself.”

        Not a theory. Causa sui is not an explaination.

      • “The climate changes, of itself” whether or not it is a theory, is a saw well worth repeating, and better than raw, mechanistic theories which blithely disregard the complexity and enormity of the subject (talking about “climate science” here). Best available knowledge is not adequate knowledge. Only adequate knowledge is adequate. (Another saw worth repeating.)

        And a century of shabby min/max and some laughable opinions-made-fact concerning “extremes” etc are beyond insufficient, especially when the mood for burying or dismissing history is so strong. (It now seems that a lack of marine biologists, activists and journalists crawling all over reefs in 1878 means that nothing happened to the reefs in 1878.)

        I actually believe in the possibility of recent global warming and some human causation. As for Greenhouse, I’m a believer and will be very careful of high levels of CO2 when residing in glass receptacles.

        But considering the rest of the Holocene I wouldn’t be complaining about present conditions. Global warming and AGW are trivialities if they are real. Bond Events are not trivial.

    • Steven Mosher

      Is there an alternative credible theory?



      • My theory is credible to me too, now what?

      • I am not talking about my theory about Dark Matter, being the ashes leftover from the Big Bang, either.

      • I can certainly help disprove X, simply by asking you a real good, why.

      • It isn´t credible that manmade CO2 lifted the earth out of the little ice age either.

      • Mike Flynn

        Steven Mosher,

        You ask if there is an alternative credible theory. To what?

        Warmists don’t have a written theory supporting the strident assertions that increasing CO2 concentrations causes the global temperature to increase.

        You can’t point to a scientifically testable credible hypothesis. Demanding rebuttal of something non existent is pretty silly.

        Where is this wondrous AGW theory set out? Does it involve CO2? Was the theory ever published? The U.K. Met Office apparently has a hypothesis –

        “It is now clear that man-made greenhouse gases are causing climate change. The rate of change began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long term.”

        This is not a theory, merely an assertion – untestable, and quite unscientific.

        Have you someting better? Merely referring to other unsubstantiated assertions doth not a theory make!


      • Evan Jones

        I accept the theory. But even if we have a good basis for the “how”, we still have the open question of “how much”.

      • How will we ever be able to know ‘how much’ according to the comment made by Phil Jones, after he had already ‘dumped’ the original data which had consisted of… whatever it was? AGW science marches on.

      • catweazle666

        Steven Mosher: Is there an alternative credible theory?



        Not if your income depends on there not being, obviously.


        But for the rest of us…

    • stevenreincarnated

      Yes there is and until it has been shown that an increase in poleward ocean heat transport didn’t cause a significant portion of the modern warming there will continue to be an alternative theory.

      • I agree that you have the only skeptic alternative that is even remotely interesting.

      • Would you please explain the 5 Tops, then? Over 400K years… that being just 1/10,000 of our geologic history. Quietly, since Steven seems to be taking a nap.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Changes in ocean heat transport changes the earth’s energy budget assuming you put that comment in the right place, Arch. If you want something more specific you’ll have to refine your question.

      • stevenreincarnated, As a True Witness, I am unable to say anymore than anybody else is able. Looking at Vostok, we are very close to another top. It could still be thousands of years and I would not be surprised. But if I see the picture correctly we would need to begin glacier mitigation immediately…

      • Steven Mosher

        “Yes there is and until it has been shown that an increase in poleward ocean heat transport didn’t cause a significant portion of the modern warming there will continue to be an alternative theory.”

        Not a theory. Making demands that a theory explain X, does not constitute an alternative theory.

      • stevenreincarnated

        SM, how nice of you to respond with incomprehensible gibberish. Now explain what you mean since I never claimed one theory must explain the other. The fact is that a change in ocean heat transport could have caused most of the warming of the modern era. The only reason I don’t say all is because I happen to agree with you that increasing CO2 must cause some warming.

    • Here’s a credible theory:

      Some people get on the interwebs and pretend they know how the climate works, but no one else does.


    • Is there an alternative credible theory?

      Some estimates of natural variability and models of such appear to be about 0.5C. So up until 0.5C of warming, natural variability was certainly a credible alternative theory.

      But earth temperature appears to have crossed that threshold some decades ago.

      Warming is certainly consistent with the theory of RF.

      However, a lot of flotsam drifts in ( drought, fire, extreme weather, tropical cyclone energy, etc. etc. ) that is not only inconsistent but refuted by the observations to date.

      Those are among the garbage collection that needs to take place with climate change theory.

      • Steven Mosher

        “Some estimates of natural variability and models of such appear to be about 0.5C. So up until 0.5C of warming, natural variability was certainly a credible alternative theory.”

        An estimate is not a theory.

      • Mike Flynn

        An assertion is not a theory either.

        Stating your testable theory before you demand an alternative might be considered reasonable by a scientist. You have no theory at all. Just demands that people follow and obey, otherwise you’ll hold your breath until you turn blue.

        What’s your AGW theory, Steven? Or is it a Warmist figment? Maybe you know what it is, but you’re keeping it secret, in case unbelievers might find out what it is!


      • “The only way to explain the pattern is to include the effect of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by humans.” What kind of argument is this? For instance, they only way to explain the current and future positions of the planets is gravity (and maybe a bit of space distortion). The argument is similar to algebra with one missing variable. It seems to be inductive.
        “…inductive reasoning may or may not provide you with a correct outcome.”
        Next we say, It has the best fit. It is the best explanation we have. People have been looking for a better explanation for decades.

    • James

      “Is there an alternative credible theory?”

      Silly question on your part and another silly comment by Mosher. What specific theory do you reference?

      Is it that additional atmospheric CO2 will lead to some warming if all other conditions remain unchanged? Ok- that theory should have limited immediate impact on government policy in and of itself.

      Is it the “hypothesis” that human released CO2 WILL lead or probably will result net negative changes to the overall climate. The scientific data to support this position is very weak. Let’s review that data that allows someone to conclude that AGW will result in a net worse climate around the world. Does this data seem remotely reliable to anyone?

      • The null hypothesis of climate change, the default
        position, is that the warming we are experiencing at
        the end of the 20th century is natural. That’s the null,
        despite the IPCC bureaucracy and travesty AGWers
        claiming otherwise.Burden of proof is on the AGWers
        and hey, cloud and other feedback attributions remain
        uncertain, positive or negative?

      • Beth
        The basic impact of additional CO2 to the system is simple physics and not debatable. What is subject to debate is what the impact may be on the earth’s actual climate system which has many factors other than CO2 driving temperature and the overall climate.
        What is largely missed in the discussion is the great leap to the conclusion that a rise in temperature will result in net negative changes to the overall climate. Temperature is generally not the most important factor that drives humans to believe that the “climate” has been improving or worsening. Rainfall is more important and what reliable data is available to forecast changes in rainfall patterns as a function of increased CO2 levels? (answer none).

      • “The basic impact of additional CO2 to the system is simple physics and not debatable.”

        If the net impact of C02 is unknown, how is the basic impact determined?


      • Andrew

        You have read about the basic physics many times but seem to want to ignore and argue the basics. They are not subject to debate.

        What is subject to much debate are the vast number of additional forcings that impact the system and how the total system will change- where and when. Debate the right issues.

      • Rob,

        You didn’t answer my question.


      • Rob,

        Your Wikipedia link doesn’t mention C02 at all.


      • What is subject to debate is what the impact may be on the earth’s actual climate system which has many factors other than CO2 driving temperature and the overall climate.


        Rainfall is more important and what reliable data is available to forecast changes in rainfall patterns as a function of increased CO2 levels? (answer none).

        Yes. And it’s pretty striking to me the counter examples to the memes.

        The reputed warm episodes ( Eemian and HCO ) had greater vegetation and evidently more widespread precipitation. The LGM had reduced vegetation and evidently constrained precipitation. (

        Dynamics were probably more important than temperature, and were probably unrelated to global average temperature, but the counter examples remain.

        Precipitation is largely a function of the vorticity and convergence associated with jet stream waves and the ITCZ. If nature had the goal of increasing the area of precipitation, there would be greater meandering jets and ITCZ. But nature does not have goals.

      • Don’t disagree, Rob, it’s the over and above
        hockey schtick long flat handle and modern
        up trick blade attributions … yikes!

    • James Cross, How many theories are combined to create the “climate change theory” versus the “Greenhouse Gas Effect” theory, or the Climate Disruption Theory?

      I have a theory that combining numerous theories and assumptions into one mega-theory doesn’t require a single theory to offset.

    • David Wojick

      There are actually several credible alternative theories that have been proposed. The problem is that the modelers and their funders refuse to consider them. I call this “paradigm protection” and Kuhn describes it well.

      Note that a credible alternative theory need not be well developed, in fact it cannot be, which Kuhn also notes. (I did my Ph.D. Dissertation on Kuhn’s model of science). A theory that has not been developed obviously cannot be as well developed as one that many billions of dollars have been spent on.

      For that matter, simply emerging from the LIA is a credible alternative theory. The fact that we do not understand why the LIA (and its predecessors) happened does not make it not a theory, as Mosher seems to claim. Same for solar variability, ocean circulation and chaotic oscillation, all of which are credible alternative theories. These are all sufficiently well developed to be credible.

    • My question “Is there an alternative credible theory?” was mostly rhetorical but some of you made some feeble efforts to answer it anyway.

      One of the main paradigms of modern climate science is that recent warming (late 19th century to present) has been caused primarily by greenhouse gases.

      Suggesting there is no cause – it is natural variation or rebound from the LIA – isn’t an explanation.

      Certainly the models supporting this paradigm could be better and there is considerable variation in global temperature even during this time period that the paradigm does not account for very well. However, there is no alternative theory that comes close to accounting for it. So the fact that most climate scientists accept it to one degree (ha!) or another isn’t surprising. When we add to that the sociological and psychological aspects of actual, real-world science, we would understand that modern climate science is mostly just like any other science – neither better or worse. Science operates in the real world with egos, reputations, and careers on the line, not in an Ivory Tower.

      I doubt the paradigm of anthropogenic climate change will be overthrown even though it has some cracks – the poor model performance and the so-called “pause”. I think it will more likely be refined with better understanding of clouds and circulation. I also think anthropogenic influences on climate probably extend back to almost the beginnings of civilizations and can be found even in the LIA. So eventually a better paradigm will emerge but it will mostly include and expand the current one rather than overthrowing it.

      • James Cross, “Suggesting there is no cause – it is natural variation or rebound from the LIA – isn’t an explanation.”

        Since ECS includes a change in heat capacity term, observations showing that bulk ocean heat capacity has been increasing for several hundred years supports a recovery theory and challenges a predominately CO2 forcing theory.

        ” We show that water masses linked to North Pacific and Antarctic intermediate waters were warmer by 2.1 ± 0.4°C and 1.5 ± 0.4°C, respectively, during the middle Holocene Thermal Maximum than over the past century. Both water masses were ~0.9°C warmer during the Medieval Warm period than during the Little Ice Age and ~0.65° warmer than in recent decades.” Rosenthal et al. 2013.

        This is only one paper with a few issues, but when you reconstruct the past using ocean temperature proxies the results are considerably different than the past as reconstructed using haphazardly mixed land based proxies with “novel” methods.

        Part of the central theory is that LIA recovery ended at the “pre-industrial” reference and that circa 1880 – 1899 is THE “pre-industrial” reference temperature to be used to show ALL anthropogenic impact. That is an important point because climate models in general are assumed to be finding boundary values and if initial conditions are incorrect, they will produce nonsense requiring parameter adjustments to force them to behave “as expected”.

        That is an explaination, if you want a “theory” the I theorize that using unproven and “novel” statistical methods can bite you in the butt.

      • John Costigane


        You seem very certain that mankind is affecting the climate to a great extent.

        Let’s look at your null hypothesis: man is changing the climate to a dangerous (one) degree.

        The real null hypothesis is: the climate changes, of itself.

        For you to convince me you must exactly quantify the past variations in climate during this current inter glacial period, with many varied peak and troughs each unaffected by human influence. You can then calculate a human component of the warming since the depth of the Little Ice Age.

        You did admit that computer models are not fit for purpose in the matter of clouds, for instance. I welcome your self-criticism. That suggest you are willing to learn from experience. There is no need for alarmism. You should ditch it.

      • A better paradigm than the current one does need to explain the MWP and LIA but I see only confirmation of the MWP and LIA in what you cite.

        To expand somewhat on my comment about the LIA and anthropogenic influences.

        The MWP came during and after a period of expanding population growth. Population growth meant in those times expanding agricultural lands and destruction of forests through burning. The LIA came at a time of precipitous population decline in the New World as indigenous populations died off due to disease. That meant decreasing agricultural lands and increasing forests. The rebound from the LIA came not only with increasing agricultural lands and population growth but also with development of wood and coal burning engines and eventually fossil fuel burning technologies.

        This may not be a complete explanation but we could certainly envision some feedback process between volcanic activity and human populations to enhance this explanation. A few bad years of eruptions kills crops and results in population and agricultural decline. An extended period of light volcanic activity and populations increase. In other words, anthropogenic influences could magnify volcanic or solar influences to account for most of the pre-industrial climate variation.

      • John,

        I am not actually an alarmist.

        Because I accept the basic premise that anthropogenic influences on climate are significant does not mean I am necessarily alarmed about that.

        How and how much we alter human behavior to reduce anthropogenic influences is a different issue from whether there are anthropogenic influences. It is also in many ways a more complex issue.

      • John et al

        Take a look at Ruddiman

        Humans have probably been influencing climate for thousands of years.

      • James Cross, “A better paradigm than the current one does need to explain the MWP and LIA but I see only confirmation of the MWP and LIA in what you cite.”

        The paper provides a range of “unexplained” variability and provides some information on how long it may take for the oceans to recover from a perturbation. Both of these contradict assumptions in the current paradigm i.e. “natural” variability is limited to +/- 0.1 C and reverts to mean in ~60 years. Fine tuning a theory to eliminate invalid assumptions doesn’t require a new theory.

        As you note there was some human influence prior to the industrial period that mainly involved land use like large scale burning of acreage, deforestation for fuels etc. but those have been assumed to be negligible in order to maximize the impact of the CO2 portion of the AGW theory. If land use had a larger than expected impact prior to 1950, there is no reason to assume it doesn’t have an impact post 1950, other than assumptions made to maximize the impact of the CO2 portion of the current paradigm.

        This observation could be call the theory of over egging the pudding. Determining an unrealistically high “Worst Case” based on business as usual which is also a “worst case” then having evidence that members of the “team” have no problem using less than scientific means to inspire political action are all parts of the over egging theory. This would be a social science based theory perhaps a political science based theory. You could add the perception of a “hoax” and unrealistic demands of producing a theory of everything to that scientific endeavor.

        In reality there are plenty of valid questions being derailed by defenders of the paradigm which is detrimental to the “science”.

      • captdallas

        The land use is a CO2 and methane influence. Methane from rice paddies. CO2 from the burned forests to create the agricultural land.

        Yes, I would assume that land use is an important part of the whole equation even today. And part of the solution. We need to stop cutting down the rain forests. A good idea for so many reasons. The soil is actually poor and not suited to agriculture. We are all much poorer from the lost of diversity.

      • James Cross, “The land use is a CO2 and methane influence. Methane from rice paddies. CO2 from the burned forests to create the agricultural land.”

        There is also albedo and hydrology changes. Spreading dust and ashes on snow and ice is a great way to get fields ready for planting whether it is intentional or not. Since the warming in the 30 to 60 degree north range is considerably larger than expected via the models, I doubt it is the GHG part that is missed. Black carbon impacts by themselves appear to have been seriously underestimated. Snow removal is a pretty big industry on its own.

  16. The real change with climate – was not that academia behaved much differently than it has done for decades. It was not because academia was suddenly politicised or didn’t bother with the scientific method – because that has been going on since at least WWII.

    Instead, it was that the internet allowed non-academics to view what academia was doing and created an alternative non-academic politically sympathising forum to discuss the behaviour of academia. And because academia is very tolerant to “misjudgement” but those outside by the demands of real life with real life threats of going to court work in an environment which is intolerant of “misjudgement”, the views and work of academia was not found to be credible by the critiques on the internet.

  17. re: “Federal funding can bias science, particularly in terms of selecting which scientific problems receive attention”

    A simple example illustrating that is to picture of a funding agency needs to choose 1 of 2 proposals to fund. One says “there may be a danger to the human race, even if you aren’t sure you should fund me just in case” and the other says “this is just something useful to study, we don’t see a danger”. Presumably a government funding manager will view it as most important to use the public’s money to fund research into a claimed danger “just in case” even if they have some skepticism about it. In a field in its early stages with lots of uncertainty there will be lots of potential for fearful prognostications to be made which can’t be ruled out with certainty, which will lead funding to be skewed in that direction. Up and coming grad students looking for funding and career paths to “make a difference”, who aren’t skeptical of the fears, will be drawn into help grow the body of literature that promotes fears.

    Economists explain that “incentives matter” in how a human system evolves over time. A slight bias towards funding projects claiming danger “just in case” can lead to the result we see now in the climate field.

    • And then there’s the theory which Curtis Adams developed in The Power of Nightmares. The film deals with the rise of neoconservatism, but the neocons have the same MO as the Alarmists.

      In the past, politicans promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people.

      Those dreams failed, and today people have lost faith in ideologies.

      Increasingly, politicians are seen merely as managers of public life.

      But now, they have discovered a new role that restores their power and authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares….

      And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.

      • That film has never been broadcast in the USA. It was released in the UK just a few weeks before the 2004 elections but was censored. Nobody, including PBS would run it. You sir must not be a patriotic American or perhaps a subversive who hates capitalism.

        See also “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, “Bitter Lake” and “The Century of Self”

      • jacksmith4tx,

        Not a “patriotic American”?

        A “subversive who hates capitalism”?

        Are those as evil as being a “racist”? A “misogynist”?

        Sorry Jack, but I don’t do patriotic correctness any more than I do political correctness.

      • Someone doesn’t handle irony very well.
        If I put a /snark tag on a comment is that the inverse of being politically correct?

  18. Methodological conventions as ‘rules of the game.’
    Rules of doing *science,* not rules of doing *magic*
    … deception and sleight of hand. Rules of doing
    science, posing refutatable predictions concerning
    aspects of physical reality, no chicanery, no cherry
    -picking or inoculating your theory.

  19. Isn’t scientific opinion a oxymoron?

    “the methods of scientific inquiry cannot be explicitly formulated”
    Popper be damned.

    Seems to me, that climate change is not limited by great unknowns of climate science. That the future state of the atmosphere is unpredictable due to the chaotic solutions to the equations of motion is well known.
    We already know what we can’t know.

    Rather, it is ignoring the knowns of climate science.

    We know that all else being equal, increased CO2 tends to warm the troposphere.

    We also have reason to believe that all else being equal, increased CO2 does not significantly change the gradients responsible for the major features of weather and climate: the jet streams and the ITCZ.

    The political rebranding of global warming to climate change was effective, but quite wrong inspiring great imagination of change without a physical basis.

    • We know that all else being equal, increased CO2 tends to warm the troposphere.

      We know that all else being equal, increased CO2 should tend to warm the troposphere.

      We now know that all else is not equal, data shows that increased CO2 has not warmed to the troposphere. Increased CO2 only warms model output.

  20. Polyani’s statements:
    “universities provide an intimate communion for the for­mation of scientific opinion, free from corrupting intrusions and distractions.”
    “[T]he general public cannot participate in the intellectual milieu in which discoveries are made. For such work the scientist needs a secluded place among like­ minded colleagues who keenly share his aims and sharply control his per­formances.”
    Sounds like an exclusive club of scholarship.
    On the other hand, when politicians push a consensus on the “science” and then claim that action must be take because the sciences says we must, science becomes a club of coercion to force people to fall in line, generally behind some desired political outcome.
    Is this the price to be paid for generous financial support from governments?

  21. I posted this essay a couple months ago, but it’s worth repeating under this topic. The essay describes the philosophy of cooperation and consensus that lead to the formation of the IPCC:

    “…in the mid 1950s, when a small band of scientists got together to push international cooperation to a higher level in all areas of geophysics. They aimed to coordinate their data gathering and—no less important—to persuade their governments to spend an extra billion or so dollars on research. The result was the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957–58.”

    “Fostering transnational scientific links became an explicit policy for many of the world’s democratic governments… the ideals and methods of scientists, their open communication, and their reliance on objective facts and consensus rather than command would reinforce the ideals and methods of democracy. As political scientist Clark Miller (2001, 171, passim) has explained, American foreign policy-makers believed the scientific enterprise was “intertwined with the pursuit of a free, stable, and prosperous world order.”

    • As political scientist Clark Miller (2001, 171, passim) has explained, American foreign policy-makers believed the scientific enterprise was “intertwined with the pursuit of a free, stable, and prosperous world order.”

      That’s one way to look at it. But there exists a far darker point of view:

      Military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies such as the Department of Defence and the Central Intelligence Agency helped bankroll subustantially all of the post-World War II generation’s research into techniques of persuasion, opinion measurement, interrogation, political and military mobilization, propagation of ideology, and related questions….

      Put most simply, they saw mass communication as an instrument for persuading or dominating targeted groups….

      They helped create networks of sympathetic insiders who enjoyed control over many aspects of scholarly publishing, rank and tenure decisions, and similar levers of power within academe….

      Entrepreneurial academics modeled the scientific tools needed for development of practical applications of communicaiton-as-domination on those that had seemed so successful in the physical sciences: a positivist reduction of complex phenomena to discreet components; an emphasis on quantitative description of change; and a claimed perspective of “objectivity” toward scientific “truth,”….

      U.S. psychological warfare programs between 1945 and 1960 provide a case study of how the priorities and values of powerful social groups can be transformed into the “received knowlede” of the scientific community and, to a certain extent, of society as a whole….

      [T]he targets of U.S. psychological warfare were not only the “enemy,” but also the people of the United States and its allies.

      — CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON, Science of Coercion

      • I do appreciate the darker point of view in the quote. There’s undoubtably a spectrum of influence that serves to exploit climate science in particular for myriad reasons; much of it comes with benevolent but misguided intent, but there’s darker forces too. Group think is a malignancy to science. I do believe that at a minimum group think created through consensus building has been the most destructive to truth, whatever the motivation.

      • Passion not career, everything sorts out.

  22. “universities provide an intimate communion for the for­mation of scientific opinion, free from corrupting intrusions and distractions.”


    Sounds a lot like group think.

    “‘People who interact with each other regularly tend to think and behave similarly.’ A phenomenon, typically labeled ‘groupthink’ or ‘herding’, emerges where ‘groupthink causes members of a group to unconsciously generate shared illusions of superiority that hinder critical reflection and reality testing’. The mechanism that underlies this phenomenon is a desire by members of the group to be judged favorably by their superiors and peers, leading to facile consensus at the expense of constructive dissent.”

    Of course, that would include not just formal pursuits of universities, but more casual groups on blogs.

    • Curious George

      That’s how the theory of relativity was discovered by a patent office clerk.

    • “Of course, that would include not just formal pursuits of universities, but more casual groups on blogs.”

      Here’s the difference: We, as blog denizens, are highly mobile, and can choose whatever blog we see fit. Academics need to adapt to their university and political environment.

      Also, it is our free time we spend on blogs, while academics depend on their universities to earn their livelihoods. Pressure to conform is much greater.

      • Here’s the difference: We, as blog denizens, are highly mobile, and can choose whatever blog we see fit.

        Yes, and seek out someone to argue with, which seems, from my own behavior, to be the main attraction. As long as we don’t gravitate toward mutual admiration societies. And that’s good, right? Subject your ideas to criticism if not legitimate critique?

  23. David L. Hagen

    How can we restore objective peer review without conflict of interest?
    A major challenge in climate science and in other fields is to restore objective peer review, especially in grant funding from reviewers rejecting grant application to protect their own budgets and reputations!

  24. ctaylor22014chtaylo5

    This has been happening in “science” for at least the last 25 years. After completing my chemistry Ph.D., I purposefully avoided academics for the reasons pointed out in this essay. I seriously doubt that any academic scientist publishing more than 4 papers a year is really doing science. Even 4 is a stretch. Think of the size of the research group one would need to publish that many quality papers. The grad students who are teaching classes the first year or two and then the post docs (of course those are cheap now a days); it has to be an enormous group if the work quality is anything more than adequate. Professors are now starting companies, yet maintaining their university appointments. No wonder the quality of science is declining. You should take a look at your local universities. I think you’d be surprised at how little time a tenured professor actually spends in the research group or teaching a class.

  25. Geoff Sherrington

    For this scientist at least, the Polyani extracts and Judith’s comments read as a normal day at the science office. There is a difficulty though, when Science is split into classes, like pure and applied, privately or publicly funded, performed in universities or in the commercial world etc.
    It has seemed to me for decades that an important split is into accountable or non-accountable for findings. Accountability throws a strong net of discipline over research groups. Given the climate science difficulty of seldom being able to run experiments at natural scale or even being unable to separate natural causes from anthropogenic, there is an abundance of non-accountability in global warming work and a consequent deplorable scientific quality for much of it.

  26. I believe the economic analogy can be carried a bit further.

    Economic history clearly shows that prices and price expectations (values)
    often deviate from their “fair value” (just see stock market history), governments try to manipulate value by debasing the currency (values) and market participants engage in reckless speculation and fraud, all exacerbated by group think.
    All these deviations correct themselves when it finally turns out that the commitments of market participants can’ be squared with physical reality.

    The ultimate arbitrator in science is also mother nature in the end.

    But it can take a very very long time until the correction ultimately occurs.
    Mostly much longer than the prescient estimate (why its so difficult to actually profit from being prescient).

    Societies can wildly deviate from equilibrium.

  27. It is really difficult for any skeptical person to achieve higher education with credentials. Only the people who conform to consensus will pass the classes. Dressler told some of us NASA skeptics that we would not pass his basic climate class. He is right about me, I would not.

  28. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Excellent read on how ‘groupthink’ and ‘confirmation bias’ pollutes the sciences.

    Especially relevant in today’s – environmental “save the planet” scientific realm.

    Important read.

  29. “Climatology, even by the standards of science, has been distinguished by a remarkable degree of interdisciplinary and international cooperation. As the world continues to grapple with the profound issues posed by the CO2 buildup, it could seek few better models of international cooperation than what we have already achieved.”

    — E.E. David, Jr. (President, Exxon Research & Engineering Co.), 1982

  30. David L. Hagen

    The Vitality of Science and Life

    “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

    <a href= Chesterton – The Everlasting Man

  31. Further, the intense politicization of the subject has adversely influenced the community of scientists — in terms of biasing the scientists and also in discouraging young scientists from entering and staying in the field. So in a sense, climate science has become ‘exhausted’ by the politicization.

    Citation needed..I think making sweeping generalizations about a field with no real evidence is not very scientific.

    • The politicization of climate change: problem or solution?

      • Yeah I don’t see any support there for the claims by Dr. Curry that I quoted.

      • Joseph,

        I am gobsmacked that, with as much research that’s been done on the subject, that anyone still argues that climate science is not politicized.

        Dan Kahan has probably done as much research on the politicization of climate science as anyone.

      • Glenn –

        … in terms of biasing the scientists and also in discouraging young scientists from entering and staying in the field. So in a sense, climate science has become ‘exhausted’ by the politicization.

        Kahan’s data speak to none of that sweeping generalization from Judith.

        By definition, Judith’s assertions require longitudinal data – which Kahan doesn’t provide. They also require evidence w/r/t scientists, not the general public – whereas Kahan’s data in reference to the general public.

      • Joseph,

        So what are you proposing, conducting a poll exclusively of climate scientists, asking them if they believe their work is biased by their politics?

        While we’re at it, maybe we could poll reporters too, asking them if they believe their reporting is biased by their politics.

      • That was Joshua, Glenn. And yes I think making such claims requires evidence.

      • Joseph,

        Evidence of what?

        That climate science has become politicized? Or that you and Joshua have taken your leave from reality when you deny that climate science has become politicized?

        Your arguments remind me of Steven Mosher the other day when he claimed that climate scientists didn’t create the “C” in CAGW, but it was a straw man invented by AGW skeptics.

      • No Glenn I am talking about the claim that climate scientist (in general) are biased by the politicization. I see no evidence for this. Do you have any?

  32. Prof Curry, good essay. Thank you for the link to this work by Michael Polanyi. I think his works are always worth reading. The tension described here either anticipated or inspired Thomas Kuhn’s “The Essential Tension”.

  33. Dilbert on science:

    “Does Trump really believe climate change is a hoax? Let me tell you the answer to that question in the clearest possible terms, based on everything I know about the field of persuasion.

    Answer: No

    But he might have doubts about the predictive ability of models. That’s a separate question.”

    I would agree that climate change is not a hoax. We all know climate changes… and that rain is wet, snow is cold and CO2 is not a poison.

    • The Washinton Post did a scathing editorial on Trump’s energy policy.

      Donald Trump’s dangerous, nonsensical energy plan

      The editors point out a number of factual errors in Trump’s policy, and in their zeal to discredit Trump they make some factual errors of their own.

      Does Trump believe everything he says on the campaign trail?

      Answer: No

    • Here’s Wiki on Hoax:

      “A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth.[1] It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment,[1] or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools’ Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.[2]”

      When Trenberth say AGW is gonna lead to monster hurricanes, but the expert, Landsea, says no and quits the IPCC in protest, is that the truth? or a deliberately fabricated falsehood?

      When observations since 1979 are all less than Hansen’s testimony, but he still runs his trap about worse than expected, is that not a masquerade of the truth?

      Hoaxes can be of degree, not necessarily of a dichotomous falsehood.

      And what of climate change? People believe there will be greater droughts, tropical cyclones, extreme weather, fires, etc, without understanding at all how tenuous any causal link may be. Allowing the impression of certitude of these events amounts to most charitably obfuscation but still a hoax.

      • Hoaxes can be of degree, not necessarily of a dichotomous falsehood.

        That is all well and good TE. But Trump has claimed that AGW is a hoax that was made up by the Chinese. Good attempt at a diversion, though.

      • Yes, Trump says all kinds of things to manipulate voters.
        But in many ways, global warming and climate change are hoaxes of exaggeration.

      • But in many ways, global warming and climate change are hoaxes of exaggeration.

        I think there is a difference between an “exaggeration” and “deliberately fabricated falsehood” (a hoax). And the question is really about intent which is difficult to determine without reading minds or someone admits to it.

    • It’s ironic to see Scott Adams write about climate change and persuasion techniques and then to not grasp that he’s been persuaded by another irrational argument: appeal to consensus!

      “I hope I don’t need to tell you that Trump’s opinion on climate change disagrees with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that considers climate change science a fact, not a hoax.”

      So he believes it not because he understands it, but because everyone else does! Not very Dilbert like.

      • When it comes to allowing the Left to take over the economy and change the culture to prevent global warming, we essentially are volunteering to become lab rats for Western government science.

  34. It is simpler to follow the money. I was a lab slave in an ancient era when the Cyclamate Model ruled cancer research: Read the label on some retail product, find a toxic-sounding item, order 20 liters of it and 200 mice. Inject the critters with as much as would not kill them outright then hope that somewhere in all that damaged tissue a pathologist could find a lesion that qualified as cancer and publish.
    Any idiot could do it. It required no innovative engineering or biochemical skills or new ways of thinking. The people who reviewed your funding applications made their careers doing the same thing. And BONUS: journalists might run with the “[insert common product here] linked to cancer” story and promote your work.
    It was also a vast waste of money and mice.
    We do not need sophisticated philosophy of science analyses to know why so many climate scientists confirm a politically correct but increasingly suspect paradigm. Without tenure and safe funding, doing otherwise is high risk.
    It is also noteworthy that philosophy of science as a field of study has been largely eradicated in favor of ‘science and public policy’ or some other explicitly ideological treatment of science. Kuhn, Polyani and Popper had little to say about gender politics etc and are thus increasingly irrelevant to modern scholarship.

  35. David L. Hagen

    A Statesman of Science, Prof. Pekka Pirilä passed away November 24, 2015. His active participation and key insights will sorely missed.

  36. Great lines near the close from the essay; yet I doubt Al Gore will ever get his head away from central control and the promise RICO holds:

    “Since a dynamic orthodoxy claims to be a guide in search of truth, it implicitly grants the right to opposition in the name of truth—truth being taken to comprise here, for brevity, all manner of excellence that we recognize as the ideal of self-improvement. The freedom of the individual safeguarded by such a society is therefore—to use the term of Hegel—of a positive kind. It has no bearing on the right of men to do as they please; but assures them the right to speak the truth as they know it.”

  37. Judith wrote: “While I was Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, it was my privilege and opportunity to hire 27 faculty members (24 as primary appointments, 3 as joint hires) over the course of 13 years. While I have inferred that my provost was not pleased that I did not hire more in ‘climate science’, the outstanding young scientists that I did hire are garnering substantial external recognition and are being heavily recruited by other universities (good luck to the new Chair in retaining these outstanding faculty members).”

    I found the discussion on this topic to be some of the most profound i’ve read at Climate Etc. During half of this period, you were a supporter of the consensus and half you were not.
    Where should we be putting our precious research dollars and why? The answer is the same no matter which tribe you belong to – Put the money where our science is most limiting progress and in faculty who are educating students in subjects most in demand. I hope this is a topic you include in your talks.

  38. For those of you (notably Joshua) who are concerned by my lack of documentation regarding the politicization of science etc., I refer you to this new book Science on the Verge

    • Dr. Curry,

      Just point them to all the “official positions” of various “scientific” societies, groups, institutions, and gov’t depts related to climate conclusions they take.


  39. Mike Flynn

    “Tyndall in leading the fight against the Survey management led ultimately to the dismissal in September 1843 of which his father had warned. A contributory factor in this dismissal was Tyndall’s series of articles in the Liverpool Mercury which brilliantly exposed the disgraceful mismanagement of the Ordnance Survey.”

    John Tyndall – of experimental and scientific fame.

    In Tyndall’s day, things were much the same in some ways. Point out problems, get the sack. On the other hand, Tyndall rose to prominence as a scientist (and mountaineer) after being dismissed as a surveyor.

    He received little to no Government support. In one publication, he expressed his gratitude to a private individual for lending him a rock salt sample (which was used as an end cap on his gas experiment equipment), as Tyndall could not afford the expense himself.

    The Republic of Science produced some awesome results in those days. Does the spirit of scientific endeavour wither and die without massive Government research support? Government prizes for particular achievements – along the lines of Harrison’s chronometer – seem reasonable. Harrison was self educated, a carpenter and amateur wooden clockmaker. He achieved what nobody else had been able to – without Government support.

    Most citizens of the present day Republic of Science would not have the faintest idea of the practical science involved in constructing a chronometer, let alone the ability to build one. My point is that educational qualifications, authorship of peer reviewed publications, and membership of august bodies, does not guarantee the ability to think, or to innovate.

    Giving people more money has not been shown to increase their intelligence. Pity.


  40. Pingback: “A Major Malaise of Climatology is Pervasive in Science” – An Outsider's Sojourn II

  41. Modern science — no quality control, no transparency, no accountability.

  42. Filed under, another example of the usefulness of alarmism to continue the funding worthless junk science

    Still, he disapproves of Dr. Myhrvold’s scolding tone. “There’s very much a schoolteacher attitude about it,” he said.

    You’ve got love this article about a scientist that is outside the discipline but manages to blow holes in NASA’s research as the government scientists involved in the funding charades practice duck and cover to protect of their arses:

  43. Reminds me of global warming pseudoscience (see ibid). “Dr. Myhrvold insists he has no vendetta against the Neowise scientists. But, he added, ‘I don’t think it’s unduly mean of me to point out their data is irreproducible.'”

    • Wag,
      Thanks for the article link on the killer asteroids.

      Very interesting. Nothing recent on the B612 detector proposal that is published but good to see the competing proposals described. An asteroid slamming into earth is catastrophic. That is a much more serious threat than maybe 2 degrees C increase in the arctic and 7 inches seal level raise by 2100. But this is how science progresses with competing studies and analysis without attorney generals attempting to criminalize the first amendment.

      Thanks for the article.


  44. Global-Warming Alarmists, You’re Doing It Wrong

    The arguments about global warming too often sound more like theology than science. Oh, the word “science” gets thrown around a great deal, but it’s cited as a sacred authority, not a fallible process that staggers only awkwardly and unevenly toward the truth, with frequent lurches in the wrong direction. I cannot count the number of times someone has told me that they believe in “the science,” as if that were the name of some omniscient god who had delivered us final answers written in stone. For those people, there can be only two categories in the debate: believers and unbelievers. Apostles and heretics….

    It has certainly rallied the tribe, and produced a lot of patronizing talk about science by people who aren’t actually all that familiar with the underlying scientific questions. Other than that, we remain pretty much where we were 25 years ago: holding summits, followed by the dismayed realization that we haven’t, you know, really done all that much except burn a lot of hydrocarbons flying people to summits….

    Unfortunately, when you rally your own side with these sorts of tactics, you also rally the other tribe, and if they’re as numerous as you are, this can lead to defeat as easily as victory. It would be a lot better for everyone — including the planet — if we left off the tribalism and the excommunications and went back to actually talking about the science: messy, imprecise and always open for well-grounded debate.

  45. My good friend, E. M. Smith, reports an intriguing analysis of the importance of good statistical analysis in climate science:

    It should be mentioned that the paper was published in a journal of social sciences.

  46. In the Republic of California this is what the republic of science hath wrought:

    SB-1161 Statutes of limitation: California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016

    “SECTION 1. This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016.
    SEC. 2. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
    (1) There is broad scientific consensus that anthropogenic global warming is occurring and changing the world’s climate patterns, and that the primary cause is the emission of greenhouse gases from the production and combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
    (2) The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) states that the buildup of atmospheric greenhouse gases results in impacts that include the following:
    (A) Changing temperature and precipitation patterns.
    (B) Increases in ocean temperatures, sea level, and acidity.
    (C) Melting of glaciers and sea ice.
    (D) Changes in the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events.
    (E) Shifts in ecosystem characteristics, such as the length of the growing season, timing of flower blooms, and migration of birds.
    (F) Increased threats to human health.
    (3) Impacts and damages from emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change have been occurring for many years and will be felt from decades to centuries after those emissions have occurred. The USEPA states, “[b]ecause many of the major greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of years after being released, their warming effects on the climate persist over a long time and can therefore affect both present and future generations.”

    Politicians are not doing science any favors and as this technocratic theology continues science will become ever more indistinguishable from religion.

    It’s hysterical to me that a legislature granted authority by a constitutional republic thinks it can just repeal the declaration of rights within the same constitution that grants them authority their limited authority. Tragically funny, so hysterical.

    As long as the technocrats are louder than scientists who still have regard for the rule of law, science is doomed to become what the above bill suggests it is.

    • First Shukl then the State
      of California (cayshun.)

      O no Copernicus,
      the universe is THUS.
      O no, Galileo, you’d
      better believe US.
      O no James Hutton,
      Charles Darwin and co,
      yer describin’ an antipodes
      – world that jest ain’t so.
      U must necessarily agree,
      or we’ll get the Inquisition
      on to ye …
      ( Plus ca change,
      regardin’ climate change,
      plus meme chose
      within privileged

    • Good news is that opposition from chamber commerce and others let the restrictions on the first amendment miss legislative deadlines. So for the time being luke warmers and others who don’t toe the political line have free speech, until the tyrants decide they can win in the courts.

  47. Well this is rather astonishing . . . in the WaPo today

    But none of them shaped Koch, in his rise to personal fortune and political fame, as much as a 10-page tract from a relatively obscure British scientist named Michael Polanyi.

    Polanyi’s “The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory,” published in 1962, is the text that best illustrates what Koch is trying to do with his massive personal fortune — and the contradictions and controversies that come with it.

    • curryja: relatively obscure British scientist named Michael Polanyi.

      More about Michael Polanyi here:

      He was elected member of the Royal Society, and two of his students earned Nobel Prizes. I think it is unfair to call him “relatively obscure”.

    • Kock is a free agent. He isn’t a centralized authority like the Federal government which funds oodles of scientific research. The “critics” just don’t like the ideas he espouses. More and more, the lefties are the enemy of free speech. From the article:

      We may be entering a new age of court sponsorship similar to Renaissance Europe when landed nobility adopted painters, sculptors, playwrights, choreographers and writers, supporting their efforts and in return reaping some of the glory of creation. But in this new age, it’s not aristocrats by birth who provide the support but the aristocrats of money such as Larry Elison, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Gordon Moore, union-hating liberal Michael Bloomberg and the nefarious David Koch. And the support is going not to the arts, but to research scientists.

      The New York Times article that details the enormous amounts given by these and other billionaires to support scientific research zeroes in on the big problem of the ultra-wealthy selecting research topics: they decide what’s important and not scientists or the government, which represents all of us. Traditionally, peer-review groups at campuses and research facilities or government agencies decided what research deserved funding. When the government did it, it mostly let scientists make the decisions and awarded research on merit and importance and not politics, except partially during the Bush II faith-based Administration. It is true that industry has often had an outsized say in setting scientific policy; for example, when Truman decided to implement the results of a white paper advocating commercialization of nuclear power and denied funding for recommendations in a white paper on solar energy. But having influence is not quite the same thing as making the decision without any checks or balances.

    • David L. Hagen

      What Charles Koch Really Thinks About Climate Change

      Charles Koch: Yeah. If we apply the republic of science here and use the scientific method rather than of trying to shut down and shout down and punish anybody who wants to enter into debate about it. And not do it through corporate welfare. . . .
      Not approving the Keystone pipeline – so the oil is produced, now it’s shipped by rail and shipped to China, rather than by pipeline. So that’s symbolic. And making wood pellets, subsidizing making wood pellets, I mean, we’re back in medieval times, we’re going to burn wood. And shipping them to Europe. How is that reducing CO2? And we’re going to put a tax on natural gas, on BTUs, here, so we’ll be making less chemicals and fertilizers here, and we’ll be doing it in China, where they make it out of coal gas, and per unit the production has five times the CO2 emissions. . . .
      CK: China and India are going to do what they’re going to do anyway. So we just hurt ourselves, even under their theory. And their theories aren’t working very well, because they keep predicting all these theories that aren’t happening. And if they start happening, or they get evidence, and they’ll enter into a debate rather than shut down anybody who has questions about it or wants to challenge any aspect of it, then I get a lot more sympathetic, yeah. If we’re all trying to find the truth of the matter, then I’m all for that. I’m all for applying the Republic of Science on climate, as I am on anything. . . .
      CK: I think it will, just like we’re doing all these things (at Koch Industries). We’re investing heavily in biofuels, in biotechnology, in information technology, to do this. Why do we do it? Because we think through innovation we can make it competitive, better than competitive. And that’s the way to go. And like, Bill Gates is raising billions to go find it — that’s the way to do it, is innovation. So it’s win-win, rather than more cronyism, which so far, all it does is enrich a few people and hurt the average and particularly the poor. . . .
      CK: Yeah, I say that a lot of what is done by the climate lobby is anti-science. But there is some science behind it. Like, there are greenhouse gases, and they do contribute to warming. But if you look at the last, say, 160 years, the first 80 of that period, they went up four-tenths of a degree. And now, the second 80 that CO2 has gone up, what, 30 percent or something, it’s gone up five-tenths of a degree. And there’s been in the last 30 or 40 years, there’s been no real increase in storms or bad weather. So, let’s use the part that’s real science and then apply the Republic of Science to the rest of it. . . .
      Every policy — and by the way, what you read about us, if you assume the opposite is true, you will bat a higher average. But every position we take is, by trying to answer the question, will it make people’s lives better or worse? And are we applying the scientific method?

      Charles Koch has an excellent understanding of actual climate evidence, the consequences of current policies, and pragmatic business sense with an appeal to the Republic of Science.

      • thanks for the clips, i couldn’t read the article since i’ve used up my monthly quota of free WaPo articles

      • Mike Flynn

        Professor Curry,

        Monthly quotas can usually be reset on iDevices and such by removing the appropriate cookies. If the cookies are on your device, you may spike, fold, multilate, or delete them without fear of retribution – copyright or RICO laws notwithstanding. You own them. They are your property.


  48. curryja: a relatively obscure British scientist named Michael Polanyi.

    More about Michael Polanyi here:

    I don’t think it is fair to call him “relatively obscure”.

  49. It is a ‘feature’, not a ‘bug’ that capitalism creates these ultra rich dynasties. Koch seems to be a big fan of this “directed science” stuff. This is the core idea “science should function like an economic market, with research dollars flowing to the very best scholars and ideas, as determined by scientific consensus”.
    I’m not the least bit concerned about the Koch brothers because I believe technology and it’s hand maiden, science, are unstoppable and can not be subverted by human ideologies. We are the slaves to technology not it’s masters.

  50. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #228 | Watts Up With That?

  51. Pingback: Science on the verge | Climate Etc.

  52. Pingback: Interview 1177 – Judith Curry on The Republic of Science : The Corbett Report

  53. Pingback: Judith Curry on The Republic of Science |

  54. Pingback: Judith Curry Explains “The Republic of Science” : The Corbett Report

  55. Pingback: A new definition of academic misconduct | Climate Etc.

  56. Pingback: A new definition of academic misconduct – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  57. “But the authority of scientific opinion remains essentially mutual; it is established between scientists, not above them.”

    Unlike today’s world in which there is a thing ‘above’ scientists – which is their publication record. We don’t judge them on the quality of their work directly, we objectify – and reify a measure – publications – and then let it do the work.


  58. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #229 | Watts Up With That?

  59. Good comment there –
    ” the reward structure for university scientists need to change to reward more meaningful science that stands the test of time,”

    How has “Role for Eurasian Arctic shelf sea ice in a secularly varying hemispheric climate signal during the 20th century” stood the test of time?

    Under the “good science” model, what should somebody do after criticising AR5 for being wrong, when AR5 turns out to have been more correct than the criticism?

  60. Pingback: How Dr. Frankenstein is making research sick | Climate Etc.