Science on the verge

by Judith Curry

This book offers an uncomfortable but vital diagnosis of the trouble with science. – Jack Stilgoe

My post The Republic of Science has spawned some interesting reflections.  I have an interview on this topic with the Corbett Report [link].  Most interestingly, two WaPo articles feature an interview with Charles Koch, who has been heavily influenced by Polanyi’s Republic of Science:

The problems

Regular readers of this blog are no strangers to the problems with institutional science in the 21st century.  Apart from sloppy methods and bad incentives, we are seeing a crisis in reproducibility, collapsing peer review, dysfunctional interface between science and policy, the hubris of techno-science, etc.  Some recent examples discussed previously at CE:

There are three  recent articles in the Guardian that are very relevant and worth reading:

See also this essay published in Nature:

When James Corbett asked what can we do to address these problems, I mentioned a new book Science on the Verge, which provides the motivation for this post.

Science on the Verge

The Rightful Place of Science: Science on the Verge is a collected volume with essays by the following individuals: Alice Benessia, Silvio Funtowicz, Mario Giampietro, Angela Guimaraes Pereira, Jerome Ravetz, Andrea Salelli, Roger Strand, and Jeroen van der Sluijs, Dan Sarewitz.

The book can be purchased at amazon.com (price for kindle is $4.99).

Andrea Saltelli has provided a good website for the book:

About the authors. Most of the authors are associated with the ideas of ‘post normal science’, and I have met or interacted electronically with most of the authors.  Every time I mention the words ‘postnormal science’ on this blog, a reliable number of people wig out, and say ‘but Popper’.  Get over it.  Post normal science refers to science at the policy interface, it has nothing to say about sciences such as pure physics.  Previous CE posts on postnormal science include:

Praise from the jacket blurb, excerpts:

This book is about complex issues in science and governance relationships that need clarification. It is a fundamental contribution that should interest scientists, policy makers, practitioners and theoreticians involved in evidence-based decision making. In particular, it deals with the interface between research and policymaking, investigating some important areas where more research and discussions are needed. The book poses key questions and provides some answers. As such, the book is relevant to researchers and policy makers alike. – Professor Ron S. Kennet University of Turin (Italy) Founder & CEO, the KPA Group (Israel)

It is too easy when we talk about science to get nostalgic, to imagine a republic of independent, moral agents working for what Francis Bacon called ‘the relief of man’s estate’. We need books like this to remind us that 21st century technoscience is big business.  The litany of controversies, corporate distortions, ethical missteps, retractions, impact factors, league tables and other vices is lengthening. As economies become ‘knowledge economies’ and governments discover new forms of technocracy, we mustn’t pretend that ‘pure’ science is not politicised and marketised. This book offers an uncomfortable but vital diagnosis of the trouble with science. – Professor Jack Stilgoe, Senior Lecturer University College London

From the Foreword by Dan Sarewitz:

And what of the world portrayed in Science on the Verge? In this book you will read about a scientific enterprise that is growing in productivity and influence even though the majority of publications in many scientific fields may be wrong. You’ll see how scientists reduce complex, unpredictable problems to much simpler, manageable models by leaving out important factors, which allows the scientists to come up with neat solutions—often to the wrong problems. You’ll learn how doing this sort of science often makes our knowledge of the world more uncertain and unpredictable, not less, and how instead of leading to ‘evidence-based policy’ we end up with ‘policy-based evidence.’ You’ll find out why precise quantitative estimates of some of the im- pacts of climate change are so uncertain as to be meaningless. (How, for example, can we quantify to a tenth of a percent the proportion of species that will go extinct from climate change if we don’t even know the number of species that exist now?) And you’ll find out how economic analyses based on flawed computer coding served the interests of both economists and policy makers—and as a result caused long-term damage to national economies. You’ll discover how, in a human world that is growing ever more complex, our approaches to governing science and technology are turning decisions and action over to computer algorithms and technological systems. We transfer our agency to machines in the name of efficiency and predictability, but the entirely paradoxical consequence is that the human capacity to adapt to uncertainty and unpredictability may actually be diminishing.

If we have come less far than we might wish from Swift’s view of science and politics, the authors of Science on the Verge lay out the regimen necessary for avoiding nervous breakdown. Above all is the importance of recognizing that (as you’ll read in Chapter 1) “the problems in science will not be fixed by better training in statistics, better alignment of incentives with objectives, better regulation of copyright” and so on. The scientific community continues to understand itself as a self- correcting, autonomous enterprise, but the knowledge it creates is no longer containable within laboratories, technical publications and patents. It has now become central to many political debates, and can be wielded by everyday citizens during activities as mundane as visiting a doctor, buying food or arguing with one’s neighbour. Scientists can no longer maintain authority by insisting that they should be left alone to fix their problems. Recall what happened when the Catholic Church tried this approach after Gutenberg had loosened its hold on truth.

Many modern institutions and practices have been designed in the expectation that science was a truth-telling machine that could help overcome fundamental conditions of uncertainty and disagreement. The painful lesson of recent decades, however, is that real science will never construct a single, coherent, shared picture of the complex challenges of our world—and that the quest to do so instead promotes corruption of the scientific enterprise, and uncertainty and suspicion among decision makers and engaged citizens (exemplified in debates over GMOs or nuclear energy). At its best, however, science can provide a multiplicity of insights that may help democratic societies explore options for navigating the challenges that they face. Put somewhat differently, Science on the Verge explains to us why science’s gifts must be under- stood as actually emerging from science’s limits—much as grace is born from human fallibility.

Contents

Foreword – Daniel Sarewitz

Chapter 1: Who Will Solve the Crisis in Science? – Andrea Saltelli, Jerome Ravetz and Silvio Funtowicz. Who will solve the crisis in science? Is there a crisis? What is being done ‘from within’? Is this sufficient? What are the diagnoses for the crisis’ root causes, and what are the solutions ‘from without’?

Chapter 2: The Fallacy of Evidence-Based Policy – Andrea Saltelli and Mario Giampietro.  Quantification as hypocognition; socially constructed ignorance & uncomfortable knowledge; ancien régime syndrome; quantitative story telling.

Chapter 3: Never Late, Never Lost, Never Unprepared – Alice Benessia and Silvio Funtowicz. Trajectories of innovation and modes of demarcation of science from society: ‘separation’, ‘hybridization’ and ‘substitution’; what contradictions these trajectories generate.

Chapter 4: Institutions on the Verge: Working at the Science-Policy Interface – Ângela Guimarães Pereira and Andrea Saltelli. The special case of the European Commission’s in house science service; the Joint Research Centre as a boundary institutions; diagnosis, challenges and perspectives.

Chapter 5: Numbers Running Wild – Jeroen P. van der Sluijs. Uses and abuses of quantification and the loss of ‘craft skills’ with numbers; e.g. 7.9% of all species shall become extinct from human-caused climate change.

Chapter 6: Doubt has been Eliminated – Roger Strand. Gro Harlem Brundtland’s famous 2007 speech, after the Fourth IPCC report and the Stern review; when science becomes a ‘life philosophy’; science as the metaphysics of modernity; the Norwegian Research Ethics Committee for Science and Technology inquiry.

Andrea Saltelli also has a .ppt presentation Science on the Verge, with a wealth of material.

In the book, there is substantial material on climate change, with climate change providing the basis for the topics of Chapters 5 and 6.

JC reflections

This book is a very rich resource for grappling with the the problems with science in the 21st century – the articles themselves, as well as the extensive references.  I expect to be using this book as a resource for a number future blog posts.  This book deserves a wide audience, and I hope this blog post will help increase its reach.

Some comments that Andrea Saltelli  sent to me via email regarding the topics raised by the book:

Ethics in relation to the crisis of science is mostly dealt with in relation with fraud, which concerns us marginally here. Most of the existing analyses stay clear of diagnoses beyond the trite ‘sloppy methods’ and ‘bad incentives’ (not that these are missing of course!) – nor all capture all different threads of the crisis (lost reproducibility, collapsing peer review, perverse metrics, evidence based policy’s dysfunctions, techno-science and his hubris, science as metaphysics …).

The book instead tackle all of this head on and goes on to deeper level of analysis by asking the ‘how this came about’ question.  The question posed by the book are very serious and difficult to answer. 

Science is now clearly in a lock in situation which it has created itself. Most of the honest attempts to a solution will bump against a wall and the wall was built by the scientists themselves (see also the ‘Elephant’ piece of Colin Macilwain).

The implication is that change won’t come via technical fixes alone. Changing the system of incentives has implications which are both ethical and budgetary. It won’t come cheap, so maybe the market won’t be the best instrument to allocate resources.

As the problems have been created from within the house of science maybe help should also come from without, in the former of closer scrutiny and involvement of institutions and civil society. Perhaps concerned institutions should devote some thought about how to set in motion a process of reformation.

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217 responses to “Science on the verge

  1. Mike Jonas

    I don’t like the trite dismissal of “but, Popper”. The key to good science is scepticism, and the best ways forward include honest testing and open discussion. Call it modified Popper if you like, but the solution lies in getting back to the basic principles that Popper provided and that post-modernism ignores. [I won’t flatter it with the name “post-modern science”]

    • Postnormal science has nothing to do with postmodern science, two different things

      • Mike Jonas

        Regardless. The point remains. We have departed from the basic principles, and we are paying a terrible price.

      • The terms postnormal and postmodern science tells me next to nothing.

        Are there any particular characteristics which can summarized in short. Is it more than just a lot of words, is there a logical framework?

      • Mike Jonas

        From Danley Wolfe’s comment below: “there is clear evidence that we have failed to competently implement the scientific principles we espouse”.

      • Mike Jonas

        Science or Fiction : Postmodern sees science as a social construct, hence corrupts the entire scientific process. Postnormal recognises that science is incomplete but says that you can fill in the gaps scientifically, ie. it is more a delusion than a corruption. Its objective is simply honest decision-making, so it would be better to call it that rather than give it a fancy “science” name.

      • its a bad name, but their concept and approach is insightful and useful

      • Regardless. The point remains. We have departed from the basic principles, and we are paying a terrible price.

        If we have departed from traditional failed consensus and from traditional failed peer review, that is a good thing. As to principles, the consensus peer review clique have few, the skeptics do better, but even the skeptics adhere to too much consensus and flawed peer review.

      • Isn’t postmodern science “I changed my mind” and postnormal science “I can’t make up my mind”?

      • Steven Mosher

        “Regardless the point remains. ”
        Too funny.
        From a popperIan no less.

      • Science or Fiction : Postmodern sees science as a social construct, hence corrupts the entire scientific process.
        1. There is no such thing as post modern science.
        2. There are Post modern CRITICISMS of regarding science
        as an ultimate authority.
        3. post modern criticism of science vary from the benign to the extreme
        4. Kuhn can be seen as a rather benign form of post modern criticism. The “Ideal” of science (put forward by logical positivists) projects an image of the history of science as being utterly logical, linear, and rational. Kuhn, however, points out how certain social pressures actual inform, control, and determine the path science has taken.
        5. Feyeraband is a more extreme version. he rejects the notion of universal methodological rules. A look at some history of actual science shows he is factually correct. Science has not advanced by the simple application of universal methods.

        “Postnormal recognises that science is incomplete but says that you can fill in the gaps scientifically, ie. it is more a delusion than a corruption. Its objective is simply honest decision-making, so it would be better to call it that rather than give it a fancy “science” name.”

        1. If you cannot fairly characterize an argument, you need to read harder and comment less.
        2. The point is you cannot fill in the gaps scientifically.!
        3. PNS applies only to cases of APPLIED SCIENCE!
        4. IF you find yourself in a PNS situation, Then Ravetz suggests the following as a method.
        a) In ADDITION TO peer reviewed science, consider information
        that has not been peer reviewed.
        b) in ADDITION TO subject matter experts, consider information
        from other stake holders effected by the decision.
        c) IF normal science cannot give you an answer, And IF you need an answer, then democratize the decision. but do so in a methodical way.

        What is the alternative? By definition you are in a situation where Science has no answer. Do you just let a government official decide?
        Do you have pet experts who will go beyond what science can actually say? Do you accept bribes from stakeholders and let money decide?

        The point is that PNS recognizes the absolute authority of normal science. If normal science gives you the answer ( smoking is bad) you can make the decision without asking tobacco companies or smokers what they think. Normal science. Normal decisions. When science cant give you the answer and you still have to make a decision, then what?

      • So “Science” says there’s a systemic risk from digging up all that fossil carbon and dumping it into the system, via climate, but we don’t really have a good handle on how big or soon.

        So, let’s we assume that “economic science” (e.g. astrology 2.0) says there’s a systemic risk from trying to “mitigate” fossil carbon in too big of a hurry, but we don’t really have a good handle on how big or soon.

        Does that mean it would be “post-normal science” to suggest looking for solutions that minimize both risks? Or is that just politics? Or good sense?

      • Post normal science recommends that scientists provide to decision makers information about the quality of their evidence and the uncertainties.

        When uncertainties are deep, there are decision making frameworks to use (that I have discussed at CE many times, as well as in my congressional testimony), that include robust decision making that would act to minimize the risks of both action and the consequences of the action.

      • […] robust decision making that would act to minimize the risks of both action and the consequences of the action.

        I suppose I was being a bit facetious with a semantic quibble: is that “robust decision makingpart of PNS, or just the primary customer for its output? (But it is a valid question.)

        AFAIK I’ve read all the posts involved (but not all the comments), and what strikes me is this: most decision-making involves setting up some options and choosing one.

        In principle a valid response for decision-makers is to tell whoever brought the options that none of them are acceptable: go look for more. This puts a premium on “thinking out of the box”.

        But what I see (very clearly) is a large faction claiming the problem is too urgent to “waste” time looking for more options. IMO the whole mess exposed in Climategate could be fit into this category (with some scrunching).

        IMO, the same resources (e.g. blogosphere) that have been invoked for PNS could also contribute to the search for more options. But I don’t see much enthusiasm in some quarters.

        Is it any wonder I’m highly suspicious many are using the “urgency” as a cover for pursuing their own ideological agenda? And calling it “post-normal science”?

      • PNS relates to the interface between science and policy, not with the explicit decision making process per se.

      • AK

        “In principle a valid response for decision-makers is to tell whoever brought the options that none of them are acceptable: go look for more. This puts a premium on “thinking out of the box”.

        That would make it a Normal Science situation.

        The issue is the percieved urgency of the decision.

        A simple example:

        The policy maker asks you for the best science has to say
        You explain the science is a coin flip.
        The policy maker asks you to recommend heads or tails.
        You tell the policy maker that some unpublished industry science
        suggests “heads”
        You organize a immediate conference of all the experts and invite
        Dyson to listen and offer critiques.

        “Look for more” is an option that is off the table by definition.

      • “Look for more” is an option that is off the table by definition.

        Nope. It’s always on the table. But you’re not looking at options, you’re looking at science. Science does “how things work”, or even “whether an option will work”, hopefully with an estimate of uncertainty.

        Options are about what to do. If the scientist says “it’s a coin toss”, then any option that depends on the coin coming up heads is off the table. So is any that depends on it coming up tails.

        So if every option on the table depends on a specific outcome of the coin toss, the only acceptable option is to go back and look for more. That’s (part of) how I would interpret a phrase such as “robust decision-making”.

        “Urgency” doesn’t justify making a wrong decision because you “didn’t have time” to think it through. Especially if a wrong decision could have existential consequences.

        The key, IMO, to making decisions under pressure in great uncertainty is to start out looking for robust options, and especially options that will keep your options open later.

        (That’s why I’m always talking up power→fuel using ambient CO2 capture. Once you’ve developed a mature ambient carbon capture technology, it can be deployed if necessary. And can be over-deployed compared to fossil emissions. After all, there’s no way to be certain that bringing net human emissions to zero will stop the pCO2 from rising.)

      • “When uncertainties are deep, there are decision making frameworks to use that include robust decision making that would act to minimize the risks of both action and the consequences of the action.”

        Robust decision making under deep uncertainty seems to me to be a contradiction. However, for what it is worth, I strive for robust decisions under huge uncertainties in my profession. I must admit that I propose designs based on inductive reasoning all the time. The costs may be everything from huge to nothing. The economical risks might be everything from dire to a walk in the park. What I might state is: These are the alternatives I see, these are my estimates of uncertainty, these are the risks, this might be a back up plan if the design fails, these are the costs, and finally – this is my proposed design. But I never call it science – or knowledge – simply because it ain´t.

        My proposal to the stakeholders will be what I have reasoned will give us the best bang for the bucks. However, I would never say that the case is settled, that doubt has been eliminated, that it is based on science or that it is immoral or unethical to question my proposal.

        Problems occur when more certainty is demanded from science than science can possibly provide. If it is politics I think we should call it politics, if it is religion we should call it religion, if it is something else call it something else – what we should not do however, is to claim that our convictions are knowledge.

      • Robust decision making under deep uncertainty seems to me to be a contradiction.

        It’s not.

        If you examine the standard usage of the word in scientific literature, you’ll find it usually means something like “error-tolerant”. My own greatest familiarity with the term involves the genetic networks that specify developmental behavior (cells behave, the multi-cellular creature develops).

        A “robust” developmental network will produce pretty much the same result even with many errors (e.g. defective genes). This is typically due to considerable redundancy in specification of when, where, and how much certain genes will be expressed. (AFAIK the statistical rationale for such redundancy to evolve within the adaptationist paradigm/programme is pretty much “settled science”, but it’s always open for reconsideration.)

        By analogy (at least), “robust decision-making” would be tolerant to “errors” in basic assumptions: uncertainties about certain scientific factors, for instance, wouldn’t invalidate the plan: if the downside risk eventuated, it might drive up the cost somewhat but the plan would still be feasible.

        Of course, the whole field is hard to pin down, because almost everybody these days talks in “sound-bites” and buzz-words, without properly defining their terms. The Internet makes it easy to Google a term, and much harder to be sure the definition you find is consistent with what the user means.

      • Steven Mosher

        “Nope. It’s always on the table. ”

        Nope, its off the table by definition of the situation.

        In normal science you have more time to study.
        what makes PNS different is EXACTLY that time is of the essence.

      • Nope, its off the table by definition of the situation.

        Nope, it’s on the table. The definition is irrelevant to that fact.

        In normal science you have more time to study.
        what makes PNS different is EXACTLY that time is of the essence.

        You evidently didn’t really read my comment. I’m not talking about science, I’m talking about decision-making. Most decision-making involves two steps:

        •       creating a list of options (for actions)

        •       choosing one of those options to implement.

        The fact that the decision is “urgent” may mean there’s no time to gather further data, but putting it simply, “the decision not to decide is also a decision”.

        The division between creating an option list and choosing the preferred option isn’t always explicit. And the process of creating the option list is certainly open to dishonest manipulation.

        But in a properly run decision-making environment, if the one(s) making the decision (say a board of directors or CEO) don’t like any of the options, they always have the option of deciding not to decide, and throwing the process back to look for more options.

        Look at the outcome of Kyoto.

      • Postmodern has gotten a bad name owing to the laziness of its supposed practicioners.

        But in the original, say in Derrida, it’s paying scrupulous attention to how the result of a science interacts with the conventions of the science, without expecting that there is a way out of the interaction. Derrida did it by being a virtuouso reader, following explicators wrestling with a science they’re trying to settle.

        Lazy practicioners have no respect for the science; Derrida loves the science and its forces. You can’t do better.

      • As a nice analogy, think of the above as working both a problem and its dual at the same time.

      • Well, I’ve read the whole of the dialogue on this thread, including Judith Curry’s and Steven Mosher’s, and I’m now even more convinced that I got it absolutely right in the first place:
        “Postmodern sees science as a social construct, hence corrupts the entire scientific process. Postnormal recognises that science is incomplete but says that you can fill in the gaps scientifically, ie. it is more a delusion than a corruption. Its objective is simply honest decision-making, so it would be better to call it that rather than give it a fancy “science” name.”.
        Please note also that I called them Postmodern and Postnormal without the word “science” in their names.
        Why is it so difficult to understand that science very often does not provide an absolute answer, and that when decisions are required in those situations the prime requirement is for honest assessment and honest decisions.
        To suggest that science can fill the gap left by science is, by definition, nonsense.

      • AK said, “… what I see (very clearly) is a large faction claiming the problem is too urgent to “waste” time looking for more options. IMO the whole mess exposed in Climategate could be fit into this category (with some scrunching).” I agree with this, and the “too urgent” part always was too disturbing to me … the whole UNFCCC process being driven a) by the UN politics and b) wanting to lock in policy solutions because they there were uncertainties in the science …. on the data, the modeling the attribution / causality, climate sensitivity to CO2. So use the precautionary principle as your guidance. This spawned the movement on the left to label, isolate and use ad hominem attacks on anyone that wants to improve the scientific understanding, saying the deny the storyline “truth.” To the point now that state attorneys general and far left activist US senators are pushing RICO charges against not only deniers but even against anyone “not believing,” and activists groups going after energy companies on dereliction of fiduciary duty for not adequately informing shareholders. The political environment and regulatory bodies have allowed and encouraged this to happen. The toxic environment is not about the planet warming; the toxic environment to me is how this has developed as it has.
        How would climate science have been handled by participants at the 1911 and 1927 Solvay conferences – http://www.numericana.com/fame/solvay.htm. Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr might have argued for some time as they did about quantum mechanics. Werner Heisenberg might have come up with a new uncertainty principle to shed new light on the climate issues. But the Bohr–Einstein debates were about substantive issues on the science – calling attention to an element of quantum theory, quantum non-locality, which is fundamental to our understanding of the physical world and the role of probabilistic measurement in quantum mechanics. However, this lacked a political dimension and therefore was (just) about matters of science.

    • “We have departed from the basic principles, and we are paying a terrible price.”
      I tend to agree with you. I don´t get why I should get over Popper. Inductivism is logically flawed and potentially dangerous. Skepticism is our only defense against inductivism.

      • You can keep Popper. You will be wrong. You won’t settle any science by appealing to Popper.

      • If you want to get beyond Popper you need to include Poppers ideas. They can be clarified and improved – even though he was pretty clear and thoroughly: The logic of scientific discovery.

        The main thing Popper did was to point to the well known, and well understood weakness of inductive reasoning – the problem of induction. He understood that our only defense against inductivism is to deduce necessary consequences of our induced ideas and check if these necessary consequences materialize themselves. If not, there is something wrong with our idea – or the test of it.

        Popper revealed that scientists need to comply with strong ethical norms. The norms of openness and scrutiny – skepticism. Norms imposed on us by logical necessity – not because Popper said so.

        Your ideas about inference to the best explanation rest on the premiss that there is a non-falsifiable idea among your possible explanations – that isn´t always true. More often than not it isn´t true.

        “I would rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia!”
        ― Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

      • Steven Mosher

        “If you want to get beyond Popper you need to include Poppers ideas.”

        except she wrote “get Over”

        Let me translate. If you read around you will find a good number of skeptics uncritically applying “Popperian” terms as if an appeal to Popper settled anything or illuminated any scientific issue.

        Here’s a clue. Philosophy is useless. By design.

      • What about logic – is logic useless?

        Because that is what Popper is really about: Inductive logic is flawed – deductive logic is not – go figure the consequence for strive for knowledge – proper scientific conduct – ethical norms for science.

      • Actually an appeal to Popper illumiates scientific issues here is an example: If it isn´t falsifiable it is pseudo science.

      • Popper wasn’t about settling’ anything. No matter how
        many white swans you collect – as Hume argued,
        inductivism is illogical.

      • Mosher
        Philosophy is useless. By design.

        So what is it? A hobby like train-spotting?

      • SM: “Here’s a clue. Philosophy is useless. By design.”

        Wrong. Beyond wrong, actually – farcically and demonstrably false, in fact. As any even cursory reading of the history of science will demonstrate in short order. As you well know, but chose to ignore.

        It may be inappropriate in any particular circumstance, but it is not useless.

        Like religion, it has its uses, some good, some bad. Whether you agree with its tenets or not, others will perceive the benefits it demonstrably supplies, and (mis)apply it as they see fit.

        Here’s something similar: pure science is useless – by design. It’s only when it “devolves” to applied science (AKA engineering) that it becomes useful.
        As per your statement, trivially true in the strictest sense, but obviously false in the real world.

        Stop your wanton textual analysis and address the meat of the argument instead (hey – it’s not your fault, it’s just how you English majors and lawyers get taught)

      • Steven Mosher,

        You wrote –

        “Here’s a clue. Philosophy is useless. By design.”

        I guess that’s why Natural Philosophers such as Sir Isaac Newton were so useless. By design. Only joking!

        You have a BA with an English major, I believe. Was it an Englishman who designed Natural Philosophy to be useless? It seemed to be working all right. John Tyndall was appointed to a Professorship of Natural Philosophy, I believe.

        Maybe you are inadvertently referring to Unnatural Philosophy, such as that used by some climatologists. I agree – useless. By intent or accident makes no difference.

        I fear you gave away your only clue in your odd statement. Maybe you could ask someone to give you a clue, if they have one to spare. I won’t, because I think you’d just give it away, and become clueless again!

        Cheers.

      • “Popper argued that the only correct use of the hypothetico-deductive method is as a clincher, to deduce that hypotheses are false. The argument accepted by the Positivists, he pointed out, is a deductive fallacy
        …On the other hand, philosophers of physics maintain that the hypothetico-deductive method is the method by which physics theories are established.”

        –Nancy Cartwright, from “Are RCTs the Gold Standard?”

        http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1002668&fileId=S1745855207005029

        This can be found in working paper form quite easily for free download, though this link is paywalled.

        My point is that the claim that actual science proceeds according to Popper is contested; and Nancy Cartwright’s no postmodernist.

      • I cannot see that Nancy Cartwright contests that actual science may proceed according to Poppers method. She say that Poppers method works deductively, and she claims that there are other methods which also works deductively: Econometric methods,
        Galilean experiments, Probabilistic/Granger causality, Derivation from established theory, Tracing the causal process and Ideal Randomized Control Trials.

        She also states that: “… philosophers of physics maintain that the hypothetico-deductive method is the method by which physics theories are established. Nevertheless, medical science—and most of current evidence-based policy rhetoric—will not allow it.”

        She does not mention why she think medical science—and most of current evidence-based policy rhetoric—will not allow the hypothetico – deductive method.

    • Still on that quixotic search for an apodictic science that Descartes and Hobbes embarked upon four centuries ago?

      Good luck with that one.

  2. Ben Goldacre, a British physician has made a career of investigating and exposing failures in science mainly in the medicine and pharma sectors. He has had a popular TV show in Great Britain, has a popular web site/glob (“Bad Science), publishes regularly and testifies before government bodies. His web site covers all of the well known problems we are talking about in his areas of interest but mainly the same sorts of issues as in climate science. For example, his recent post titled “Fixing flaws in Science must be Professionalised’ discusses his recent paper published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.
    The post is at http://www.badscience.net/2015/07/fixing-flaws-in-science-must-be-professionalised-by-me-in-j-clin-epi/ which gives a link to his paper. This starts out: “It is heartening to see calls for greater transparency around data and analytic strategies, including in this issue, from senior academic figures … Science currently faces multiple challenges to its credibility. There is an ongoing lack of public trust in science and medicine, often built on weak conspiracy theories about technology such as vaccines. At the same, however, there is clear evidence that we have failed to competently implement the scientific principles we espouse
    … (an) extreme illustration of this is our slow progress on addressing publication bias. The best current evidence, from dozens of studies on publication bias, shows that only around half of all completed research goes on to be published, and studies with positive results are twice as likely to be published. Given the centrality of systematic review and meta-analysis to decision-making in medicine, this is an extremely concerning finding. It also exemplifies the perversity of our failure to address structural issues in evidence based medicine: we spend millions of dollars on trials specifically to exclude bias and confounding; but then, at the crucial moment of evidence synthesis, we let all those biases flood back in, by permitting certain results to be withheld.”
    But I find the bigger and more concerning issue to be politicization of science to achieve ideological goals and then using cherry picking and propagandist techniques etc. to “use” science to achieve some political goals..

    • thx for the link

    • Excellent. I would add the transition from science into engineering and economic analysis is shoddy. Somehow, we have scientists who have erected themselves into judges and decision makers when they don’t have the background to know what they are doing.

      • That is exactly it. The scientists are enjoying their increasing political influence but they have no clue as to what real world solutions should be to the problems they hypothesise.

      • The experts’ view of the general public is that it is ill informed and ill equipped to deal with the problems to which they, the experts, have devoted their lives.

        Unwittingly and automatically, they use technical jargon that excludes the public.

        They dismiss the views of citizens who do not command their factual mastery of the subject.

        They impose their personal values on the country because they fail to distinguish their own value judgments from their technical expertise.

        Our system of representative democracy assumes that those who act for the public have superior knowledge but that they share the public’s goals and values. But on many issues this assumption is invalid.

        Leaders and experts seek to advance their own values and interests. This is why so much emphasis is put on public relations.

        Correcting the public’s understanding is rearely the goal of public relations. The usual goal is to make it possible for special interests to achieve objectives and advance values the public does not fully share.

        — DANIEL YANKELOVICH, Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World

    • Danley,

      Judith Curry in her Corbett interview hits some similar notes as the article you linked above does (see the passage below I have included from your link).

      Curry is like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Maynard Keynes. They were unmercifully blasted as wanting to “destroy capitalism,” just like Curry (if I correctly understand what she has said in some of her previous interviews) is blasted as wanting to “destroy science.”

      The very opposite, of course, is true. As Bruce Bartlett notes:

      Keynes developed his theories in the 1930s precisely in order to save capitalism. He understood that it could not long survive the mass unemployment of the Great Depression. His goal was to preserve what was good about capitalism, while saving it from those who would destroy it completely.

      Said Keynes in “The General Theory,” “The authoritarian state systems of today seem to solve the problem of unemployment at the expense of efficiency and of freedom. … But it may be possible by a right analysis of the problem to cure the disease whilst preserving efficiency and freedom.”

      That Keynes’ theories were fundamentally anti-socialist can perhaps best be demonstrated by the way communists viewed his work. This can be found in the 1969 book, “An Analysis of Soviet Views on John Maynard Keynes” by Carl Turner. He shows that leaders of the old Soviet Union saw Keynes as one of their greatest enemies precisely because he saved capitalism from collapsing into socialism, as Karl Marx had predicted would happen.

      — BRUCE BARTLETT, Hitler and Keynes
      http://townhall.com/columnists/brucebartlett/2004/01/16/hitler_and_keynes

      Here’s the passage from the article you linked that I believe to be germane:

      Yet all too often efforts to improve scientific integrity, and fix the flaws in our implementation of the principles of evidence based medicine, are viewed as a hobby, a side project, subordinate to the more important business of publishing academic papers….

      If we do not regard this as legitimate professional activity – worthy of grants, salaries, and foreground attention from a reasonable number of trained scientists and medics – then it will not happen. The public, and the patients of the future, may not judge our inaction kindly.

  3. Curious George

    “Quantification as hypocognition.” Do these people be understood, or do they just want to demonstrate their intellectual superiority?

    Alan Greenspan comes to mind, ‘If I’ve made myself too clear, you must have misunderstood me’.

  4. Alcoholics don’t begin to tread the path to recovery until they both recognize their problem and decide to take action. Science at the policy interface won’t be reformed until both the science and the policy communities accept that there is a problem and decide to solve it.

  5. In the science of global warming the big issue seems to be that the specter of climatic doom has been has been way overblown and the blowhards remain wholly unrepentant.

    • They must first scare us and then we will allow them to tax and control us.

    • ​THE BEST SLAVE IS ONE WHO THINKS HE IS FREE…
       
      Saul Alinsky died about 43 years ago, but his writings influenced those in political control of our nation today…….
       
      Recall that Hillary did her college thesis on his writings and Obama writes about him in his books.
       
      Died: June 12, 1972, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Ca.
       
      Education: University of Chicago
       
      Spouse: Irene Alinsky
       
      Books: Rules for Radicals, Reveille for Radicals
       
      Anyone out there think that this stuff isn’t happening today in the U.S.? All eight rules are currently in play.
       
      How to create a social state by Saul Alinsky:
       
      There are eight levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a social state. The first is the most important. 
       
      1) Healthcare- Control healthcare and you control the people
       
      2) Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing  everything for them to live.
       
      3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.
       
      4) Gun Control- Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.
       
      5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income)
       
      6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school.
       
      7) Religion – Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools
       
      8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.
       
      Does any of this sound like what is happening to the United States?
       
      Alinsky merely simplified Vladimir Lenin’s original scheme for world conquest by communism, under Russian rule.
       
      Stalin described his converts as “Useful Idiots.” The Useful Idiots have destroyed every nation in which they have seized power and control.
       
      It is presently happening at an alarming rate in the U.S.
       
      It is presently happening in many European countries.
       
      “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

      • Did you cut and paste the fake Alinsky quotes directly from snopes.com?

        http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/alinsky.asp

      • Thanks for the link, opluso

        Here is the actual list of Alinsky’s rules from that link:

        “Always remember the first rule of power tactics: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

        The second rule is: Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

        The third rule is: Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

        The fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.

        The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

        The sixth rule is: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.

        The seventh rule: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on Sunday mornings.

        The eighth rule: Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

        The ninth rule: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

        The tenth rule: The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.

        The eleventh rule is: If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.

        The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right — we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”

        The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

        Trump appears to be master of the 4th tactic: ridicule.

        Hillary appears to be using many of these.

  6. I’m not sure the problem is in science.
    It is more in the development of a Mandarin class consisting of academia, government, and those strange EU, UN, NGO thingys.
    A social strata in service of the court.
    Nothing but pure intentions.

    Soon only these will have job security, good health care, retirement, and a real say in what happens. (ex. Democratic nomination process)

    Everyone here, with even as little education as me, knows what science should look like.

    These problems aren’t the result of folk being misguided
    It is power consolidating.
    Returning to the historical norm.

    • Not the old world where the atmosphere could not produce the rainbow. Maybe you did not need to water your garden in those days because the earth had a constant 70% moisture content, in good soil?. It would be a good question to ask on science game show. ‘How do you stop the rainbow?’

  7. We’ve gone full circle: at first bad politics helped change science for the worse and now we see that in the end it is bad science has helped change politics for the worse.

    • NO, bad politics caused the bad science, not the other way around.

    • German science and black racism—roots of the Nazi Holocaust
      http://www.fasebj.org/content/22/2/332.full

      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)⇓ .”

      • Interesting…

        Central to this affinity was the 19th century etiologic notion evolving from Social Darwinism that certain diseases (e.g., mental illness, feeblemindedness, criminality, epilepsy, hysteria, alcoholism [integrity and skepticism of AGW alarmism, honor and respect for the scientific method, personal liberty and free enterprise capitalism, policing our borders and making America great again]) are genetically determined. (Ibid.)

  8. The “link” to your Corbett Report interview doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Is this it?

    https://www.corbettreport.com/climatologist-breaks-the-silence-on-global-warming-groupthink/

  9. Way off topic but of concern to me. I have been a long time subscriber to this site and also Pointmans, both hosted by WordPress. Recently, for some unknown reason, I no longer receive emails from either. I have attempted several times to subscribe once again but without success. Repeated attempts to contact WordPress have resulted in no response of any kind. Is there anything else I can try to get back in the good graces of Worpress?

  10. “…scientists reduce complex, unpredictable problems to much simpler, manageable models by leaving out important factors, which allows the scientists to come up with neat solutions…”

    Yeah, I always thought that leaving out natural history, human history, the deep hydrosphere and the actual Earth was a bit odd. Plus what’s beyond the Earth. Oh, and cloud. Cloud was a big “leave”.

    – ATTC

    • Climate Scientists reduce the Climate Science by taking natural cycles out of it.

      Their Models do model the tiny part of climate that is caused by a tiny amount of CO2.

      They leave out the oceans and ice and water vapor and clouds and rainfall and snowfall. They don’t even try to understand what caused natural climate cycles in the past.

  11. Well, obviously have to buy and reqd the book before commenting. So just bought it.

    • Ok. Before reading book, see Saltellie’s .ppt concerning it linked in main post. Not a fan of that style of academic image enhancement (although Judith is). But a logical primer to the book I have not yet read. There are major echoes to many examples in my The Arts of Truth. False stats, perspectives, …

      • Well, am through the intro. A masterful take on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Well worth a skeptical read in and of itself. Nothing in the human condition has changed in hundreds of years.

      • The Jonathan Swift thing was brilliant in this context

      • Yes, hafta’ read the book and ‘The Arts of Truth’ also.
        Re truth, doesn’t trying to discover the nature of physical
        reality, the traditional task of science remain the process
        of science, (if not some of the scientists) as Russell,
        Popper, Einstein, Feynman argued?

        Judith Curry has a thread ‘Has science lost its way?’
        (01/12/13) that raises issues re perverse incentives that
        do not serve societally relevant applications of science,
        not that ‘Science’ has lost its way but the Science/Nature
        model and the way universities reward scientists are
        perverse incentives to the process of inquiry.

  12. I think Roger Strand hits the nail on the head in section Chapter 6: Doubt has been Eliminated:
    «It is possible to have a scientific belief in science— but if science is defined epistemologically as fallible and praxeologically as an activity that embodies norms of doubt and self-criticism, then belief in science can be neither too dogmatic nor too hostile towards criticism without becoming unscientific.

    This paradox is indeed evident in Brundtland’s statement. She claims not only that “Doubt has been eliminated” but also that to raise further critical questions would be immoral. It is very difficult not to see this as expressly unscientific and even at odds with the norms of the institutions from which she borrows authority for her statement.»

    • The Warmists/Alarmists have managed to transmogrify science into a religion.

      • Not all science. But for sure at least climate science. And there are parallels in nutrition.
        A nurse practioner recently told my significant other that gluten was a neurotoxin. Now gluten is a protein. All proteins are broken down in the digestive process and absorbed in the bloodstream as their constituent (20) amino acids. Basic metabolism. No gliten ever gets to the neevous system in normal biology. If you have ciliac disease, the immune system harms the gut reacting to gluten. There is possible leakage as a result of the inflamation, which the immune system cleans up (hence the gut inflammation). If you do not have ciliac disease, the claim is impossible. And the test for ciliac disease is simple. Eat bread containing gluten, await a bad stomach ache or not.

      • ristvan said:

        Not all science.

        Right.

        I was painting with too broad a brush there, over generalizing, even though I believe all scientists and science itself will pay a price for their transgressions.

  13. Despite the talk of bad incentives, “even the fossil fuel industry is generally willing to go along,” says Dr. Richard Lindzen. “After all, they realize better than most, that there is no current replacement for fossil fuels. The closest possibilities, nuclear and hydro, are despised by the environmentalists. As long as fossil fuel companies have a level playing field, and can pass expenses to the consumers, they are satisfied. Given the nature of corporate overhead, the latter can even form a profit center.”

  14. “Post-Normal Science (PNS) is a new conception of the management of complex science-related issues. It focuses on aspects of problem solving that tend to be neglected in traditional accounts of scientific practice: uncertainty, value loading, and a plurality of legitimate perspectives. PNS considers these elements as integral to science. By their inclusion in the framing of complex issues, PNS is able to provide a coherent framework for an extended participation in decision-making, based on the new tasks of quality assurance. The shift to a post-normal mode is a critical change. The approach used by normal science to manage complex social and biophysical systems as if they were simple scientific exercises has brought us to our present mixture of intellectual triumph and socio-ecological peril. The ideas and concepts belonging to the umbrella of PNS witness the emergence of new problem- solving strategies in which the role of science is appreciated in its full context of the complexity and uncertainty of natural systems and the relevance of human commitments and values”

    Sorry to include such a long quote from the Funtowicz and Ravetz paper describing post-normal science. An ordinary person might conclude that a paper titled Post-Normal Science, had something to do with the search for objective truth, using the accepted scientific method.

    The paper appears under the aegis of –

    “International Society for Ecological Economics
    Internet Encyclopaedia of Ecological Economics”

    The stated aims of the first – ”

    “The ISEE aims to facilitate understanding between economists and ecologists and the integration of the two disciplines.”

    The authors appear to be trying to redefine science. Science might become a minor part of a political decision making strategy. The authors say “The approach used by normal science to manage complex social and biophysical systems as if they were simple scientific exercises . . . “.

    As far as I am aware, science does not attempt to manage complex social or biophysical systems, as a rule. Science is the pursuit of objectively verifiable physical knowledge, in essence.

    PNS seems like yet another attempt to avoid inconvenient truths, and pretend that facts can be voted out of existence, to be replaced with a philosophical consensus.

    What’s so bad about normal science? Uncertainty abounds. The indivisible atom becomes divisible. God, apparently, does indeed play at dice. Chaos is real.

    If the future is unknowable, what’s so wrong with that? Will voting on the future actually change anything? I don’t believe so, so I’ll not become a disciple to the philosophy of the somewhat mis-named Post-Normal Science, if nobody minds.

    Cheers.

    • John Carpenter

      Conditions where PNS are used:

      1) facts are uncertain
      2) values in dispute
      3) stakes high
      4) decisions urgent

      Outside of these conditions, normal science is best used. PNS is not a substitute for normal science, it is an alternative under the specific conditions where normal science may not be capable of getting to an action quick enough.

      • John Carpenter,

        You wrote –

        “PNS is not a substitute for normal science, it is an alternative under the specific conditions where normal science may not be capable of getting to an action quick enough.”

        I don’t believe that normal science is required to “get to an action”, quickly or otherwise. PNS does seem to be a justification for precipitate action without being constrained by scientific uncertainty – or anything else.

        Want to make a wild guess, but claim it is science? Just say the stakes are high, the matter is urgent, the facts are uncertain, and values are in dispute!

        Post-normal science saves the day?

        One potential problem is that for every wild guess, there are several equal and opposite wild guesses, using precisely the same PNS excuses. Maybe PNS is a complete waste of time, with the authors not having considered the double edged nature of their blinkered approach?

        I’ll stick with normal science, complicated and uncertain as it may be. PNS will not improve the standard of the assumptions on which I base my life. Normal science might, on occasion.

        Cheers.

      • John Carpenter

        “I don’t believe that normal science is required to “get to an action”, quickly or otherwise.”

        Agreed.

        ” PNS does seem to be a justification for precipitate action without being constrained by scientific uncertainty – or anything”

        No, read the conditions again…. Specifically 1.

      • John Carpenter,

        Warmists usually cover their inability to engage in reasonable discussion by demanding that others bend to the Warmist will. For example “read this or that, do this or that . . . “.

        When you wrote –

        “No, read the conditions again…. Specifically 1.”, you deny, divert and confuse – in my opinion, of course – by blandly stating that I am wrong, without specifying where, or why, and then telling to me to do something for no particular reason. How do you know I haven’t already read the conditions? Telepathy, perhaps?

        Silly Warmist nonsense. I guess you are trying to be patronising or condescending. Others may make their own assessment, but to me you are merely demonstrating an aspect of the Warmist intellectual deficit.

        You may follow the prescriptions of Post-Normal Science if you wish. It seems you might need them to make up your mind for you, when facts are uncertain, and so on.

        I don’t need Post-Normal Science. Maybe it helps people who possess neither facts, morals, self assurance, or a modicum of intelligence. Maybe it doesn’t.

        If the future is unknowable, making a decision using your best judgement, might be the best that can be expected. I’m fairly sure the US intended to prevail in Vietnam, Somalia, and other places. Things don’t always work out the way we hope. That’s life.

        PNS? Looks like a convenient refuge for the incompetent to me.

        Cheers.

      • John Carpenter

        “by blandly stating that I am wrong, without specifying where, or why, and then telling to me to do something for no particular reason. How do you know I haven’t already read the conditions? Telepathy, perhaps?”

        Mike, read what I wrote… “No, read the conditions AGAIN”… Since you replied to the comment, I assumed you read it, including the conditions. You do read comments before replying to them, don’t you? So, telepathy was not needed.

        I was asking you to re-consider your position. To examine skeptically what your position about how PNS treats uncertainty. Instead you complain about the way I responded to you. The way I responded was not unique to warmists, skeptics or anyone for that matter. But to accomodate you, I will be more specific with the rest of my comment.

        You followed with..

        “You may follow the prescriptions of Post-Normal Science if you wish. It seems you might need them to make up your mind for you, when facts are uncertain, and so on.

        I don’t need Post-Normal Science. Maybe it helps people who possess neither facts, morals, self assurance, or a modicum of intelligence. Maybe it doesn’t.

        If the future is unknowable, making a decision using your best judgement, might be the best that can be expected…”

        I agree with the last sentence. In fact, by you recognizing that, you are agreeing with the principles of PNS. Let me explain why.

        If you have ever been in a leadership position, a position of being the decision maker where the decisions you make have consequences, you likely have run into the four criteria for employing PNS. The key point to what you said is making decisions using your best judgement. When faced with making a decision under PNS conditions, you have the following options for using your best judgement.

        1) Do nothing and hope for the best.
        2) Make a decision to do something based only on what you know at the time without any further input from anyone else.
        3) Make a decision to do something based upon input from peers/friends on what they would do.
        4) Make a decision to do something based on inputs from experts in Science/Engineering or fields of knowledge in and around the problem (extended peer community) and using their knowledge and expertise specific to the problem (extended facts) to help form the best decision. To seek as much information as possible to make the most informed decision possible (PNS).

        Option 4 seems like the best judgement no-brainer.

        Based on everything you wrote, you appear to gravitate to Option 2. That’s cool, but I wouldn’t want to be you when the $hit hits the fan. For some reason you don’t think seeking the best advice from as many sources as possible is a good idea.

      • John Carpenter

        Two comments disappeared.. what gives?

      • they landed in spam for some reason, has now been released.

      • John Carpenter

        Thanks!

      • John Carpenter,

        A couple of points.

        First, in fairly typical Warmist fashion, you asked me to read something again. Not the first time, but again. If you are capable of thinkng about your request, you might wonder why your action was necessary, rather than asking me . . .

        Second, you wrote –

        “4) Make a decision to do something based on inputs from experts in Science/Engineering or fields of knowledge in and around the problem (extended peer community) and using their knowledge and expertise specific to the problem (extended facts) to help form the best decision. To seek as much information as possible to make the most informed decision possible (PNS).”

        You then followed with –

        “Option 4 seems like the best judgement no-brainer.”

        I’m sure that option 4 appeals to someone with no brains.

        Fortunately, I have been in life threatening situations requiring urgent decisions, where facts were in short supply and opinions differed. I know a little about those situations. As it turned out, my decisions turned out to be correct. I’m still alive. So are others. There wasn’t time to sit around yakking.

        Maybe I was lucky, but who cares?

        A country may decide to invade a distant foreign country, following your suggestions, and become severely unglued. Obviously a no brainer! They may do it again, and even again, with similar results! No brains?

        As a manager, if I changed my mind after becoming aware of new facts, some would accuse me of inconsistency. If I rejected advice from others (often well meant), the I might be called rigid and inflexible. And yet, output remained high, my staff apparently spoke well of me behind my back, and even years later, so I must have been doing something right.

        No PNS needed. Use your best judgement, don’t agonise too long. Sometimes a bad decision is better than no decision, and sometimes no decision is the best decision. The trick might be in knowing the difference.

        It seems to have worked out for me. Sometimes I think that Feynman’s words are appropriate – “Science is belief in the ignorance of experts.” Sometimes.

        Cheers.

  15. Here is something else that science is on the verge of, constructing a human genome. Goggle “human genome synthesis”
    At this very moment teams of scientist have already begun the complete syntheses of the human genome. Here is where we are: The total synthesis of a human genome is becoming reality at an accelerating rate. Thanks to new production techniques developed since 2003 the cost of assembling the genetic material encoding genes, the “building blocks” of life, has decreased from $4.00 to just three cents per individual letter, or “base pair” of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). As a result, the estimated initial cost of printing the DNA fragments encoding a three billion base pair human genome has dropped from $12 billion to $90 million.

    — $90 million is pocket change for most corporations and the 1%. But the important point is that we can’t stop this process. It’s what technology does, always advancing, always accelerating and constantly evolving. Has anyone contemplated that we may all become genetically obsolete? Stay calm everyone – it’s going to happen so sit back and be amazed.

  16. I admire you for your tenacity. Some climate skeptics give up in disgust. The issue is not climate, but stoping the misuse of government science to deceive the public: A practice that undermines democracy’s basic premise of the public’s right to know.

  17. Interesting Chapter title “The Fallacy of Evidence-Based Policy”. What do they suggest as an alternative?

  18. Willis Eschenbach

    Ravetz? Again? And no, Dr. Judith, the problem is not “but Popper!”. It’s much deeper than that.

    Ravetz claims that we need “post-normal science” (which even he agrees is not science) in the situation where we have “facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”.

    This is nonsense. Throw it in the trash. All that mantra describes is everyday life. Facts are rarely certain in the real world, values are almost always in dispute. And people routinely claim that the stakes are high and we need an immediate decision. That’s not anything unusual at all. It doesn’t require throwing science out the window, quite the opposite. That’s a description of plain old life, everyday life, uncertain facts and all … and science has been very successful in dealing with it for centuries.

    w.

    • WE, could not comment on your post until read the book and some of the footnotes (Revetz). See comments below.
      IMO, high fallutin ‘much ado about not so much’. They have been teaching business guys ‘decision making under uncertainty’ since long before I went to Bschool. In the end, we learned to trust no-one, verify all ‘facts’, consider everything (don’t get trapped by framing), and use common sense. The difference between business and politics is that in business we are held accountable for results. In politics and policy, not so much. Accountability does tend to focus the mind and remove personal biases.

  19. In the book, 26% through the kindle version, we read that we need robust policy, ” based on a strategy of filtering potential policies through rigorous attempts at falsification rather than confirmations”. Sounds like Popper to me.

    He has been accused of being a postmodern because he insisted that even our best scientific knowledge is conjectural. And he was concerned with the practical application of knowledge, not just pure science. People who tell you to get over Popper need to actually read him with a critical and self-critical approach.

    He also flagged the need to look at the institutional context of science because science is a social activity. That was in 1945. See near the end of The Poverty of Historicism. https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Poverty-Historicism-Popular-Popper-ebook/dp/B00BX6IFRK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1465535292&sr=8-6&keywords=rafe+champion

  20. Judith

    Are you the high priestists that will nail the ninety-five theses to the White House door, and in so doing, ushering in a climate change reformation? The ninety-five theses that embodies the components of the uncertainty principle, skepticism and with-holding judgement?

    Excommunication from the consensus is already a reality. Nothing more to loose except…maybe…

    Rise up scientists! You have nothing to loose but your tenure.

    Are we in for another 30 year dirty war?

    • RiHo08,

      Climate scientists in Oz unhappy about being let go, in view of the science now being settled.

      “Dr Borgas and other angry scientists have now made the cuts a Federal Election issue, going door-to-door with leaflets dressed in their signature white coats.” – Herald Sun, June 7

      Priests of the Warmist Church of Latter Day Scientism handing out an indeterminate number of theses, dressed in their robes of authority?

      Reports of underground smoke in Wittenburg caused by Martin Luther spinning in his grave at high speed, are currently under investigation.

      Prof Curry might need to make sure she wears a white coat – preferably one of an inscrutably curious design!

      Cheers.

  21. Science ‘n other things on the verge.

    We live on the littoral,
    our knowledge equivocal,
    thus the socratical
    non-dogmaticaI
    ‘I do not Know.’
    is the only rational
    way ter go.

    • beththeserf,

      Many thanks.

      I hope you derived as much pleasure as I did when Feynman referred to “the inconceivable nature of Nature”.

      Cheers.

  22. ‘ Equivocal’ is the wrong word – serfs don’t know what is
    the right word regardin’ the state of scientists’ investigation
    of the inconceivable complexity of naychur.

  23. John Costigane

    Judith,

    My take on this is to concentrate on the individual scientist. The Hippocratic Oath guides doctors to do no harm. Why not have a similar declaration for scientists to do no harm to Science.

    This could be named after the first scientist, from, for example, the Classical Period. It would encourage skepticism, including self-skepticism, strict adherence to the Scientific Method and a focus on the pursuit of new knowledge.

    One aspect on Academia would be the protection of whistle blowers ie no ‘climate of fear’ would be tolerated.

  24. Post normal science refers to science at the policy interface, it has nothing to say about sciences such as pure physics.

    Climate science trades on the reputation of pure physics, however, taking it as representing itself as well.

    It’s the lab coat effect in advertising, taken as deluding the public; and cargo-cult science, taking it as deluding itself.

    • David Wojick

      I think you mean some climate scientists and many advocates so trade, not climate science. Climate science is not a person, so it does not trade.

      • When climate science has become so thoroughly corrupt and vitiated, do you really believe the public makes such fine-grained distinctions?

      • David Wojick

        I think we, here, need to think clearly. Nor is climate science corrupt. The journals are full of good work. Your hyperboly is just as bad as Hardin’s confused statements.

      • David,

        Your Positivism is showing again.

      • David Wojick

        Glenn, actually I am a neo-rationalist, hence the opposite of a positivist. In any case demonizing science just drives the scientists into the arms of the warmers. It also means you cannot use the useful science.

      • David,

        The debauchery of climate science will not be solved from within. The accountability will only come from without, from the broader society.

        On the naïveté scale, the belief that scientists can auto-police themselves ranks right up there with the notion that police, or politicians, or priests can self-police themselves.

        Science is long overdue for what Cornel West called “a correction from below.” The current orgy of elitism is for the birds.

      • Even our hostess, on whose side I’d be and who is greatly needed today as a voice in the debate, puts it that the problem is just too horribly complicated rather than it’s not a science in the first place.

  25. David Wojick

    PNS seems like yet another reaction to the unique scale of the climate change debate, wherein an entire scientific community has been politicized. Science at the policy (debate) interface has always been politicized, with experts arguing for every side. (It should always be policy debate, not just policy.) There is nothing new in this.

    What is new is that the policy debate is so pervasive that it has taken over much of the scientific activity. I do not think we can study or talk our way out of this situation.

  26. Geoff Sherrington

    John Carpenter,
    In my mineral exploration science career
    1. Facts were uncertain. Ask 20 geologists of the facts of ore formation and you get 21 answers.
    2. Values were in dispute.
    3. Stakes were high. If we did not succeed we got no pay. A dollar invested could leverage to $1000 returned.
    4. Decisions were urgent. Social unrest results from loss of resources. There was a need to discover quickly (lso for our pay).

    Well, we resisted the temptation to go post- normal, because more than 97% of us knew that one could not adjust observations to show a mine was there, when it was not. Wishful science was not considered, straight science was our friend. We found billions of dollars of new resources in a dozen or so new mines, straight science being the nice way to go for a team of 30 scientists over 20 years.
    When people feel that they have to go post-normal because the normal science has not yielded enough answers, that implies an inherent trust in the
    normal science to arrive at that conclusion. In the cases I have seen where people bleat about precautionary principles, the normal science is still far superior in the sense that to go other ways you have to resort to guesses – best to relax and give normal science more time.
    When more time is not given, there are cases when the guessing approach of post-normal is likely to do more harm than good. That is one cost of straying from good science to wishing science. I don’t understand the motivations of those who promote the latter, it seems nuts.
    Geoff

    • David Wojick

      You are misconstruing PNS. It is not an alternative to normal science. This has been explained several times.

      • Judging by most of the descriptions, PNS is an opportunity to pursue orthogonal objectives with sciency-sounding arm-waving because real science doesn’t have any certain answers.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        David Wojick | June 10, 2016 at 9:13 am | Reply

        You are misconstruing PNS. It is not an alternative to normal science. This has been explained several times.

        Sez you … others say different:

        Post-normal science and learning systems

        The alternative to normal science is post-normal science. Post-normal science concentrates on extended facts beyond measurable, reductionistic or peer reviewed information, and emphasizes the the role of communities in decision making. Governments should not make decisions based on just normal science anymore, because the funding of private sector and the differing values of scientist have made scientific certainty questionable. Instead should be used community based research that focuses on local knowledge, participation and differing views that don’t have to follow strict scientific paradigm. (Ravetz 2004, 348-351.)

        Or you might prefer the folks at the NUSAP website, the uber-repository of post-normal science wisdom, who contrast the following:

        Model of science/policy demarcation
        • Acknowledges expert disagreement and bias, but diagnoses and prescription differ from framing model
        • Framing: make values explicit; demarcation: values are domain of politics, facts are domain of science, keep them separated.

        etc, etc,

        and

        The alternative model
        Extended participation:
        working deliberatively within imperfections
        • Science (the activity of technical experts) is only one part of relevant evidence
        • Critical dialogue on strength and relevance of evidence
        etc, etc,

        So yes, David, while YOU might not think post-normal “science” is an alternative to science, Jerry Ravetz and the folks who contemplate PNS for a living absolutely see it as an alternative to modern science, even naming it “The Alternative Model”.

        w.

    • David Wojick

      Geoff, your examples actually helps understand PNS. The question is this: Given the 21 scientific opinions, how does the company decide whether or not to take the next step and do a drilling program? I am assuming some of the opinions are positive and others negative.

      This issue is not new; it is called decision making under (scientific) uncertainty. (This happens to be my field.) What is new is the scale of the policy issue, which includes decarbonizing the global energy supply, among other things. This order of magnitude is unprecedented in history, as far as I can tell. But I do not find the PNS approach particularly useful.

      • To my mind, the useful parts of PNS in this context are characterizing data quality and uncertainties associated with the inferences (summarized by NUSAP http://www.nusap.net/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=14)

      • Steven Mosher

        In his example there was no urgency since they took the time to do normal science.

        His fabricated example ( he’s adjusting his past) was simply a veiled attempt at self agrandizing.

      • David Wojick

        You have missed my point Mosher. There is lots of urgency in a company deciding whether to take the next exploratory step. Their near term future depends on actually finding stuff.

        Nor does PNS rule out considering the actual policy related science. PNS is talking about what to do when that science is inconclusive, as in climate change, with experts on both sides.

        Unfortunately PNS is wrong, yet another example of academics thinking that there is an analytical method that can replace democratic decision making. The political system is the decision system. PNS fails to address this fundamental fact, as do many of the denizens here. Policy making is a highly distributed social decision system, analogous toa neural net. No one is in charge. There is no individual decision maker to use such a method. That is not how it works.

      • As an addition to normal science and not an alternative, I’m prepared to believe that PNS has something offer (I’m not well versed enough to know how valuable the contribution might be). But apart from a very poor name (seems to constantly miscue people), there is an aspect that I think is an issue. This is one of the conditions which is said to be necessary for PNS to be applicable, namely urgency.

        A problem with this condition is that it is part of the job of cultures to create consensuses in the face of the unknown, i.e. socially enforced consensuses, not scientific consensuses. Part of how this works (the process is emergent, via iterative selection of memes), is that the apparent urgency of issues is amplified, in some cases massively so, which has the effect of bringing everyone on-board. In the worst cases the ‘issue’ may even be entirely a cultural story and not a real issue at all. Hence if culture heavily influences a branch of science, or even completely hi-jacks it, society will perceive the domain issues to be far more urgent than they actually are. To this end a rising culture can change the law and our very morals and values via which we judge urgency in the first place. History is littered with examples, and not all are from religious cultural cases. For instance the apparent urgency of preventing ‘noble races’ from becoming diluted by allowing the disabled to breed and / or allowing ‘lesser races’ to mix in, was promoted by a secular culture whose early growth was nourished by the authority of science, an authority which had in fact been co-opted by culture. We all know how that worked out, and how accurate the science turned out to be.

        Whatever the physical climate happens to be doing and whether it turns out to be good, bad, or indifferent, the certainty of imminent (decades) calamity is only a cultural narrative, not a reality. Given that all major cultural narratives of this kind have never been true throughout history, the associated urgency is highly likely to be unwarranted. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we avoid PNS completely, the uncertainties about the climate system will be around for a long time and if it can help us to characterize those, so much the better. Yet if we are taking the urgency to mean that we hand over major policy decisions to a PNS process and let it grind through to implementation on the basis of that urgency, I think this would be a major mistake. But OTOH perhaps no more of a major mistake than picking policy by any other means also upon the grounds of that same urgency, and possibly less of a mistake; maybe the PNS output would at least be more balanced?

      • Geoff Sherrington

        David Wojick asks “how does the company decide whether or not to take the next step and do a drilling program?”
        At that stage, the main players, being the discipline heads of geology, geophysics, geochemistry and statistics, continue with the ‘retreat’ system. They gather at international resorts where the geology is known to be different and rewarding to study in passing, to plan the issue of new axioms. One example might be “There is only a 1 in 1,000 chance that a prospect will become a mine.” The purpose of this and many like it is to re-assure outside stakeholders that there are valid excuses for failure. As more results come in over time, there are more meetings, sometimes with leaks to the press, to consolidate the imminent event of the mine being economic since the decisions made at the retreats have moved towards consensus.
        At the next retreats, there is discussion of what to say (for example) to observations that a very similar case to the present one failed. This gives more axioms like “The past cannot predict the future.” “We know how to calculate confidence intervals”. etc. The press are informed that the project is breathing.
        When several drill holes have intersected economic grades of ore, there are more retreats, these with more attendees. The scientists who did the actual work on the ground are sparingly invited, to discover how nice promotion can be. The very top boss comes along, so that he can be armed with reasons why more funds are needed. These reasons, he/she takes back to the Board and selected major shareholders, with succinct messages like “The science is settled.” There are more press interactions, with selected reporters sitting on in some deliberations. Economists are also briefed.
        In parallel with all this, there is frequent interaction with decision-making politicians. They receive generally the same messages and axioms to quote to placate the populace. Cash grants are made to indigenous groups, scholarships are given to family of these and nearby landholders, more grants go to NGOs who are uncomfortable or just plain greedy. This political stage has to be well funded, but not seen to be.
        When the scientific/technical staff are ready to announce that it would be economic for mining to proceed, there is an extra large retreat where anyone interested in mining can attend, though at a cost to them large enough to enhance the sponsor’s coffers. The City Mayor comes along (from the host city to the retreat, that is) and generally a good and lavish time is had by all. The airport at the host city, able to take more than 200 bizjets, limits the choice of retreat location.
        A few influential politicians quietly receive brown paper bags. They are feted to make the grand announcement that all will go ahead.
        David, that is the pattern these days for how new mines are started.
        In brief, it is mainly political. Science? People are forgetting what it means, being educated to hate mining from junior school up.
        Yes, it is mainly political.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        curryja at 11.04 am re your Ravetz et anor link
        Ravetz here seems to work by putting up past scenarios, some actual, some invented, then asking how standard science would cope with them.
        The mistake here is that the scenarios should never have been attempted. They are therefore invalid as a test of standard science. What do you make of the Ravetz statement that “For example, only with the debate over “Star Wars” did the public learn that computer programming is a highly uncertain and inexact art”? I think it is junk and not fit to be part of a persuasive argument. Likewise with “our system of numbers, which was designed for counting and for simple calculation, and not for performing and expressing estimates.” Sez who? Was the design frozen from day 1 of number science? By whom?
        I don’t disagree with all he wrote in the paper you reference. The quote from Ruckelshaus is valid, but the proposed consequences from Ravetz are not.
        For years I have been pleading for the proper approach to estimation of error, particularly in climate work. The methods are well described for example at BIPM Paris, but there is overall reluctance for their use to disclose ignorant practices. Do the standard work properly and there is less need for Ravetz solutions.
        A good example of the misuse of numbers – with important consequences at present – is shown in this year 2007 graph from https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/solar/solarirrad.html
        SolarIrradianceGraph[1].jpg
        The numbers in that example are so widely spread that they should not ever have been corrected to an alignment, partly because the ‘best value’ cannot be discerned from the data.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        David, on reading again, we diverge even more. Some of your comments are almost of alien language status. You ask of geologists “I assume that some of the options are positive and some negative.”
        It is wrong to assume we advanced by opinion. We advanced by detailed study of vthe numbers available, with respect for precision and bias, which is ever present. Individual scientists might have had private opinions, but there was no need for a formal framework to address them. The numbers told the story, numbers from several disciplines, combined in general ways that had previously been shown workable. That is, there was value in comparing data from past relevant examples. It was important to understand as much as feasible of the natural state in order to appreciate those rare beasts named anomalies, some of which are indicators of a new mine. These are also understood by their numbers, not by somebody’s opinion.
        Geoff.

      • David Wojick said:

        Unfortunately PNS is wrong, yet another example of academics thinking that there is an analytical method that can replace democratic decision making.

        Is that what PNS advocates?

        Or does PNS advocate that science ought to confine itself to the scientific realm — conveying its best guesses regarding technical matters to the policymakers, including an evaluation of how certain its best guesses are — and leaving making judgments and policy up to the politicians and, in a democracy, the public they supposedly answer to?

      • David Wojick,

        What I have found is that almost all scientists are Positivists, or to use another term used to describe the Platonicity that runs amock among scientists — Rationalists.

        The historian Jacques Barzun noted that “the human intellect is imperialist,” and scientists, being no different than most people, want to lord it over everyone else. And they do this under the aegis of doctrines like Positivism or Rationalism.

        There are, however, some notable exceptions, for instance:

        Nonoverlapping Magisteria

        by Stephen Jay Gould
        http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

        and

        Albert Einstein on Religion and Science
        http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm

        On the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum from Gould and Einstein we find the skeptic and atheist movements — Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, etc.:

        Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements

        https://scientiasalon.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/reflections-on-the-skeptic-and-atheist-movements/

      • Geoff Sherrington,

        I’m not convinced that the analogy of a political enterprise to a business enterprise is appropriate.

        They do, after all, have entirely different agendas.

        The alpha and omega of a business enterprise are profit margins, return on equity.

        The holy grail of politics, on the other hand, is power.

        Granted, the two overlap. As Amitai Etzioni has noted, businesses often seek interventionist power:

        [G]overnment provides a commonly used and highly effective way of capturing and holding on to market shares, of curibing the entry of competitiors, and an avenue for collusion, to make some economic actors powerful.

        Nevertheless, business enterprises also have other ways of making money, for instance by being the one who can put the oil in the tanks for the least number of dollars. And of course science and technology play an important role in this competitive endeavor.

      • Geoff Sherrington,

        Most oil and gas producers base their investment strategies and risk analysis on Gaussian math — on the law of averages in the large number of drilling ventures they participate in and on the rational behavior of oil and gas markets — and hope they can end up on the right-hand side of the bell curve.

        We all know, however, that it is those fat tails that Gauchy predicted that are the real game changers.

        Gaussian math is easy and fits most forms of reality, or so it seems.

        But with the sharp hindsight provided by fractal geometry, the Gaussian case begins to look not so “normal,” after all.

        It was so-called only because science tackled it first; as ever in science, there is a healthy opportunism to begin with the problems easiest to handle

        But the difference between the exptremes of Gauss and of Cauchy could not be greater. They amount to two different ways of seeing the world: one in which big changes are the result of many small ones, or another in which major events loom disproportionately large. “Mild” and “wild” chance, described earlier, are my generalizaitons from Gauss and Cauchy.

        — BENOIT MANDELBROT, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

  27. When the facts are uncertain,
    maybe best proceed with caution,
    put yr left foot in, toe.even and shake
    it all about, but not your whole self in
    and do the hokey-pokey, that’s not
    what it’s all about. Decisions urgent!!
    Policy requiring Great Leap Forward,
    Ten Year Plan? Do not ferget Mencken’s
    warning regarding keeping the populace
    alarmed.

    • 6:35ff:

      Once you have politics and commerce entering into this it becomes very difficult to be a maverick.

      Not to mention ideology.

      But I was especially reminded that Kuhn said roughly the same thing about his social models for science: that they weren’t intended to apply to situations where politics or government/industry money were involved.

      I also suppose Polanyi never heard of Kuhn, Well, checking this statement, I discover I was wrong. OF COMMITMENTS, COMMUNITIES, AND PARADIGM SHIFTS: KUHN AND POLANYI IN CONVERSATION (sorry for the caps, that’s how it came) by S. Alan Corlew:

      Somewhat ironically, one might place blame on both Kuhn and Polanyi for the “myth of sameness” that has developed about their work. In 1961, Kuhn read a paper at The Symposium on the History of Science at the University of Oxford. This paper was a condensation of the major points of his soon to be published Structure.[10] Two respondents commentated on his paper, one of which was Polanyi (then a research fellow at Oxford). Polanyi was largely favorable in his remarks. At the end of his commentary, Polanyi noted that Kuhn’s “excellent paper” was but a fragment of a larger enterprise that lay ahead for science, a “revision of the theory of scientific knowledge.”[11] Consider also the following:

      The paper by Mr. Thomas Kuhn may arouse opposition from various quarters, but not from me. At the end of it he says that the dependence of research upon a deep commitment to established beliefs receives the very minimum of attention today. I could not agree more; I have tried in vain to call attention to this commitment for many years. I hope that if I join forces with Mr. Kuhn we may both do better.[12]

      I don’t have time to read this paper, and chase ref’s, today, but here it is for anybody else interested. Here’s the first two paragraphs:

      Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi in conversation; many might think this a mismatch. After all, Kuhn is arguably both the most well-known and significant historian and philosopher of science of the twentieth century. Comparatively, Polanyi is almost obscure. What significant contribution could Polanyi offer to a dialogue with Kuhn on topics related to commitment, community, or paradigm shifts? This paper advances the idea that there is much Polanyi might contribute. Typically, those works discussing Kuhn that even make mention of Polanyi vis-à-vis Kuhn dispatch Polanyi’s work in short order. Perhaps a few sentences in a journal article, or a page or two in a book, and at that, the comments generally follow the same line. First, they might note that there exists a conceptual commonality within the work of these two scientists. Secondly, they typically make a few broad observations to the effect that, on the whole, there largely is agreement between them.

      The phenomenon seems to hold whether or not the author is critical or favorable to Kuhn’s views. [1] This essay will argue that while there are similarities, that the differences are far more significant. In doing this, the author hopes to give Polanyi a voice at the table in the continuing dialogue over matters related to the philosophy of science—a dialogue largely set in motion by Kuhn’s magnum opus, The Structure of
      Scientific Revolutions.[2]

  28. Outside climate science and in all other disciplines selling climate change as a man-made disaster — a conjecture that is not validated by any objective scientific evaluation of the evidence and therefore a false, misleading or unproven claim at best and possibly fraudulent at its core — is behavior that is rightly labeled as snake-oil salesmen touting wares.

  29. Is PNS even a science?

    In the public sphere, at best, it seems like an attempt at a methodology to present the science for decision makers.

    But does it have theories on how to do that? Are those theories reproducible?

    How does it measure outcomes?

    Since it applies to complex issues, there is likely to be significant disagreement on the facts of the science. So what does it say about how to select what science to present?

  30. This is too funny. The people who practice PNS, skeptics, are the first to object to it.

    Lets start out by defining what PNS is

    PNS arises in areas of APPLIED SCIENCE and use inspired basic research

    Start here:
    https://judithcurry.com/2013/05/15/pasteurs-quadrant/

    Lets start by recognizing that PNS has no role to play in pure research.
    Looking for the Higgs? you dont need no PNS. Looking for exo planets?
    you dont need no PNS.

    PNS can come into play in the following situation

    1) facts are uncertain
    2) values in dispute
    3) stakes high
    4) decisions urgent

    Lets go over that to see how climate science fairs.

    1. Facts are uncertain.
    A good number of skeptics take this as gospel. Examples would
    be that climate science cannot explain the warming of the 30s and 40s.

    2. Values are in dispute
    Alarmists care about potential future damage
    Skeptics care about damage to our current economy

    3. Stakes are high
    Alarmists worry about catastrophic changes to our planet
    Skeptics worry about damaging the economy and freezing poor people
    4 Decisions Urgent
    Alarmist want carbon limits now
    Skeptics want the over regulation of FF stopped now, drill baby drill

    So what does PNS recommend?

    1. Consider all the science. You dont throw science out.
    2. Include MORE information
    3. Include more voices

    specifically they recommend democratizing the process. Extending peer review to include things like blogs or public comments.
    Expanding the literature you consider beyond peer review.
    Listening to experts OUTSIDE of the field of inquiry.

    So who practices PNS? Skeptics.

    Want proof? watch how Watts and Mcintyre changed their normal behavior.

    https://judithcurry.com/2012/08/03/post-normal-science-deadlines/

    • Listening to experts OUTSIDE of the field of inquiry.

      Scientific “field of inquiry” — there’s another myth.

      It’s all interconnected. The divisions are artifacts of human mental limitations.

      • Steven Mosher

        its all connected !!!!
        nice metaphysics
        What would count as evidence that its all connected?

        Silly me what was I thinking, when particle physicists are strugging of course they call in the biologists!!

        and when a my Machine learning falters, I call on the guys in chemistry.

        its all connected !!!

      • What would count as evidence that its all connected?

        I was learning about the quantum-dynamical foundations of chemical interactions in high-school back in the ’60’s.

        Silly me what was I thinking, when particle physicists are strugging of course they call in the biologists!!

        Ever heard of biochemistry? And I can think of a few places where biochemistry could (IMO) use some help from quantum physics. (Such as a vesicle containing only one instance of an enzyme molecule. Do we have to assume that it’s only in one place at one time, or can we assume that its wave function can be interacting in different locations at once.)

    • Seems like you are blending postnormal science and postnormal politics. Scientists are supposed to be providing the best available science complete with uncertainties to the policy makers. Scientists are not suppose to usurp the authority of the policy makers, that would be stepping over the double ethical bind line by say over egging potential damage, underestimating uncertainty, attempting to discredit opposing views and using RICO and the courts to gag the opposition.

      Since there is an attempt to “democratize” the process, everyone should have a voice shouldn’t they?

      • “Postnormal” politics? Sounds pretty normal for politics to me. Gerrymandering?

      • Postnormal politics? Yep,

        ” This post-normal politics involves power sharing between
        conventional political institutions and a proliferation of newly legitimated bodies across the public sphere which focus upon decision making within their area of concern. Extended peer communities will be pre-eminent among these in the resolution of matters of techno-economic development and as the forums in which new forms of public knowledge, amalgamating technical expertise with lay insights and knowledge, are articulated. The democratic and discursive means by which this knowledge is realised exemplifies the basis of a new political order in which traditional power relationships are usurped by others resting upon the dimensions of trust generated by these new political arrangements. These insights suggest that attempts to buttress present arrangements can only be achieved at the cost of increasing levels of coercion, and ultimately in the failure to meet our common challenges.”

        http://tbauler.pbworks.com/f/Healy-extended%20peer%20communities%20post%20normal.pdf

      • btw consider Mosher lambasting tonyb because of his “anecdotal” evidence. tonyb and his evidence are a part of this Utopian concept of “postnormal science”. Open dialog and engagement, you know like Gavin on Fox, are also a part :)

      • Steven Mosher

        I am simply describing what PNS is.

        “Since there is an attempt to “democratize” the process, everyone should have a voice shouldn’t they?”

        huh.. we dont let 12 year olds vote.

      • Yet.

      • “huh.. we dont let 12 year olds vote.”

        who does get a vote?

    • I can’t really think of PNS as science.

      I could go with calling it the art of science advice to government.

      http://www.nature.com/news/policy-the-art-of-science-advice-to-government-1.14838

      Also, there are many decision points in actually executing the methodology that will affect the outcome of the process.

      “Extending peer review to include things like blogs or public comments.
      Expanding the literature you consider beyond peer review.
      Listening to experts OUTSIDE of the field of inquiry.”

      Who is doing the considering? Which blogs and public comments are being considered?

      There has to be some filtering and synthesis of the science, the information, and voices; otherwise, we end up with a information dump that nobody but the cognoscenti of the particular subject area can understand. But then you are left with decisions about how to filter and synthesize. And what do you draw to the attention of the policy makers? Do you put Svensmark on equal footing with AGW theories or does Svensmark go in a footnote or appendix or maybe even unnoted?

      I see PNS offering mostly bromides that could be used to carry out any program instead of a specific methodology that leads to resolution of the filtering and synthesis questions. Its success or failure would mostly be a result of integrity of actors than the use of the methodology.

      • Steven Mosher

        all good points
        maybe other folks will learn from you.

        you cannot begin to evaluate PNS without an understanding of what it suggests.

      • PNS is wrong when it cannot even suggest how Building 7 was brought down or how they already had the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act ready, to sign? You are a scientist, what is your best guess Steven? AGW could be the capstone of Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism-Act and the best part was it was written and signed in 45 days. Amazing how fast thing can go when the government is the one doing all the driving.

      • Never forget, Steven,

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_Resolution

        It was faked too. We all can learn from our mistakes.

      • “Extending peer review” has been done. External groups to those working on climate science exist within the AMS. AGU, APS, NAS, RS, etc., and they all endorse the peer-reviewed view. So, been there, done that, what’s next?

      • External groups to those working on climate science exist within the AMS. AGU, APS, NAS, RS, etc., and they all endorse the peer-reviewed view.

        Nothing but a corruption of the political process firmly in the tradition of Lenin.

      • AK, so you don’t trust any scientists in any countries, which means you have now exhausted all the possibilities for a decent “extended peer review”. How does your version of PNS progress from that point?

      • AK, so you don’t trust any scientists in any countries, […]

        Straw man alert!

        You’re putting words in my mouth. What I said was that the fact that bunch of “scientific groups ” all “endorsed” the IPCC dogma (which you call “the peer-reviewed view”) demonstrates that they’ve been corrupted in the Leninist tradition.

        This has nothing to do with the scientists who are members of such groups. It refers to the takeover of those groups by watermelon types using intellectual hooliganism.

        After all, if they hadn’t been subverted, they’d never have issued such statements on any subject.

        The majority of members of those groups are (probably, IMO) still perfectly honest scientists, though perhaps reluctant to endanger their careers.

        [… W]hich means you have now exhausted all the possibilities for a decent “extended peer review”.

        Nope. All I’ve done is point out how the “scientific societies” have been corrupted using political technique that have nothing to do with science.

        How does your version of PNS progress from that point?

        What makes you think I have a “version of PNS”?

      • You don’t trust even the “honest” ones who write papers, because somehow they are being dishonest in writing those papers that support AGW. You have no honest ones among them, nor the independent societies and industries. Maybe you agree PNS is quackism, at least.

      • You don’t trust even the “honest” ones who write papers, because somehow they are being dishonest in writing those papers that support AGW.

        Are you on drugs? That doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything I said.

        You have no honest ones among them, nor the independent societies and industries.

        What I said was that any “scientific society” that issued the sort of “endorsement statements” you referred to had clearly been subverted. Else it wouldn’t have issued such a statement on any subject.

        Maybe you agree PNS is quackism, at least.

        Best I can tell, the term has a number of conflicting referrents when used by a number of different actors. It’s just a buzzword, designed used to manipulate people same as those “endorsement statements” you referred to.

        That doesn’t mean there aren’t some individuals using the term in a consistent manner. The key to PNS, as far as I can tell, is that it offers the potential for people outside the “scientific establishment/in-crowd” to participate in the scientific process.

        The corruption of the peer-review process exposed in “climategate” demonstrates that:

        •       There actually is (or at least was) a group dedicated to subverting the scientific process for the sake of their own political/ideological agenda, and

        •       They made a concerted effort to subvert the peer-review process in pursuit of that agenda, at the expense of the proper scientific search for truth. That subversion was clearly intended to exclude the same “outsiders” PNS is set up to include.

      • No, your theory appears to be that some “Leninists” are going around the world suppressing “honest” scientists to the extent that there are no good anti-AGW papers anywhere, even privately posted on blogs. The rational view is that there just is no good anti-AGW science, and it is not about Leninists at all.

      • No, your theory appears to be that some “Leninists” are going around the world suppressing “honest” scientists to the extent that there are no good anti-AGW papers anywhere, even privately posted on blogs.

        There’s plenty of “good anti-AGW papers” published in places like Science, Nature, etc. Especially in the last few years.

        The rational view is that there just is no good anti-AGW science, […]

        There’s plenty of “good anti-AGW science”. The reason you don’t see it is (probably, IMO) that you don’t understand science at all: what it is or how it works. Unless somebody comes out with a loud press release explaining why their science represents another nail in the AGW coffin, you don’t even connect it.

        [… A]nd it is not about Leninists at all.

        The Leninism is about subverting organizations.

        Scientific organizations were never intended to meddle in political controversies the way they have recently. IMO the only reason they did is that their “leadership” was subverted in the Leninist style. In the end, I suspect those organizations will wither away (heh), as scientists find little or no benefit to maintaining membership in organizations that have been turned into megaphones for political/ideological agendas.

      • If there was any anti-AGW science that had any validity, this site and WUWT would be all over it. Instead they promote cosmic rays, sunspots, and ocean internal variability as their best hopes but those can’t even explain the observed forcing change over the past century.

      • If there was any anti-AGW science that had any validity, this site and WUWT would be all over it.

        There’ve been plenty of posts here.

        WUWT? I seldom visit.

        BTW, check out David Appell’s “proof” that the effect of solar “forcing” is about

        ~ 0.05 K/(W/m2)

      • The forcing has increased in excess of 2 W/m2 entirely from the increase in GHGs (Lewis and Curry concur, by the way), and the warming has come from that. Next question.

      • The forcing has increased in excess of 2 W/m2 entirely from the increase in GHGs […], and the warming has come from that.

        Argument by assertion. I could just as easily assert that the warming has come from unforced variation, just as that from 1910-1940 did. Neither assertion would mean jack without proof. Which isn’t available.

        (Lewis and Curry concur, by the way)

        As I understand it, they started with IPCC assumptions to demonstrate what happens, not because they necessarily “concur, by the way”.

        Next question.

        Can you do anything beyond empty rhetoric and arm-waving argument by assertion?

      • What would it take, for example?

      • Steven Mosher

        Ak is practicing PNS and doesnt even know it

      • Ak is practicing PNS and doesnt even know it

        Whether or not I’m “practicing PNS” depends on the definition of “PNS” being used.

        Whether or not I “know it” depends on how (and whether) I define “PNS”, and how I relate to your definition of “PNS”.

        And whether I’m “practicing PNS” also ultimately depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

      • JimD, “The forcing has increased in excess of 2 W/m2 entirely from the increase in GHGs (Lewis and Curry concur, by the way), and the warming has come from that. Next question.”

        Since LC used the “standard” methods to show that response to the “standard” forcing estimates was considerable less that conventional wisdom, that would be expected. Since LC, L has been questioning the validity of the assumption that all forcing mechanisms have the same efficacy and that door was opened by Marvel et al. You need to be careful since these dastardly skeptics are attacking from inside the gates :)

      • LC don’t disguise the fact that the 1 C we have already had is due to our emissions and more is due even if we stopped now. This alone tells us what happens if we continue on this path through 2100. Do the numbers. 1 C and only half a doubling of CO2 to date.

      • JimD, “LC don’t disguise the fact that the 1 C we have already had is due to our emissions and more is due even if we stopped now.”

        Clairvoyance? The paper LC uses the standard assumptions to produce a range of numbers. Based on her comments, C happens to think that there are issues with the standard assumption, namely longer term natural variability which could reduce the A portion by up to 50% and questions how well indirect impacts of some forcing/feedback mechanisms are considered. Not particularly sure what L thinks.

      • Jim D, There is a new paper out of efficacy but behind paywall for me.

        http://www.bjerknes.uib.no/en/article/news/why-some-climate-processes-are-more-effective-warming-earth

        Basically it just notes that all forcings are not created equally and they wouldn’t combine linearly. Nothing earth shattering if you understand basic thermo, which it seems like is becoming a lost science amid all this PC PNS crap.

      • There is a new paper out of efficacy but behind paywall for me.

        I followed the link to here which got me the full paper.

      • Thanks AK, That is a pretty solid reference and easy read.

    • PNS can come into play in the following situation

      1) you know what you want to do irrespective of the facts
      2) for the unconflicted– i.e., when values don’t matter
      3) winning is everything even if it takes breaking the rules
      4) no one wants to consider unintended consequences

      • You don’t trust even the “honest” ones who write papers, because somehow they are being dishonest in writing those papers that support AGW.

        Are you on drugs? That doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything I said.

        You have no honest ones among them, nor the independent societies and industries.

        What I said was that any “scientific society” that issued the sort of “endorsement statements” you referred to had clearly been subverted. Else it wouldn’t have issued such a statement on any subject.

        Maybe you agree PNS is quackism, at least.

        Best I can tell, the term has a number of conflicting referrents when used by a number of different actors. It’s just a buzzword, designed used to manipulate people same as those “endorsement statements” you referred to.

        That doesn’t mean there aren’t some individuals using the term in a consistent manner. The key to PNS, as far as I can tell, is that it offers the potential for people outside the “scientific establishment/in-crowd” to participate in the scientific process.

        The corruption of the peer-review process exposed in “climategate” demonstrates that:

        •       There actually is (or at least was) a group dedicated to subverting the scientific process for the sake of their own political/ideological agenda, and

        •       They made a concerted effort to subvert the peer-review process in pursuit of that agenda, at the expense of the proper scientific search for truth. That subversion was clearly intended to exclude the same “outsiders” PNS is set up to include.

      • Sorry, posted in the wrong spot.

    • “This is too funny. The people who practice PNS, skeptics, are the first to object to it.”

      That is just too silly – are you being paid for making up things like this?

      • Steven Mosher

        You tell me.

        1. Who claims facts are uncertain?
        2. Who accuses climate scientists of having horrible values
        3. Who argues that science itself is at stake? and that our economy will be ruined
        4. Who argues that we have to take action and stop funding climate science?

        Those are the conditions that make way for PNS

        and what is PNS?

        1. Extended peer review (Ravetz cited blog science as an example)
        2. Looking at literature outside the peer review system
        3. Bringing in other stakeholders

        Heck…. There is nothing MORE PNS than appealing to Popper
        as if philosophy could be brought in to settle matters.

        Every time you mention Popper you are practicing PNS

      • Thanks for the neat summary of Post-Normal Science. I think I have to read through all of “Science on the Verge” before I comment any more.

      • SM:

        You tell me.

        1. Who claims facts are uncertain?

        No-one is claiming facts are uncertain – some, including our host, are claiming that some things proclaimed as “certain” are not. “Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack” may be apropos to recall at this point. IOW, stop with the straw-men already.


        2. Who accuses climate scientists of having horrible values

        The 97% appear to be saying the 3% do, for even pointing out that there ARE uncertainties and they are not minor! Refer Curry on this site.


        3. Who argues that science itself is at stake? and that our economy will be ruined

        The proposed solutions are expensive and pervasive – ANYTHING that is so is an economic risk to all that we have created.
        IF the science proclaimed to be “settled”, “indisputable” etc (by politicians AND scientists) and scientific societies betray their roots in the rush to ride that wagon, AND it turns out that the future climate path is at the low end of IPCC AR5 projections, who will wear the blame? IMO, politicians will fold faster than superman on laundry day and blame their advisors – standard practice and precisely why they have them in the first place. Who do you think will ultimately wear the blame in this scenario? Hint: it will be those with no real political power at all – viz, the scientists and science generally.

        4. Who argues that we have to take action and stop funding climate science?

        Seems to me it is those who have been marginalised for pointing out a few inconvenient facts – YMMV.

  31. Have now read Verge cover to cover. Painfully verbose. Some good observations and ideas once they have been distilled to a more condensed essence.
    Some retreads. Science to technoscience transition is fanciful. The distinction between basic and applied research has been known since before Thomas Edison. I found many of their ‘solutions’ to be either impractical or naive based on my own experience.
    The chapter on numeracy is well worth a read, but IMO did not go nearly far enough. At a minimum, the distinctions between frequentist and Baysian probability statistics is part of basic numeracy. Still, contains many good observations on how numbers can conceal uncertainty.

    One of the important things that IMO was too lightly touched on is the role of the ‘citizen scientist’ in the era of the internet to serve as an external watchdog. Not perfect because largely still ‘outside’ normal science communication channels, but still impactful. McIntyre’s dissection of Mann being exhibit A. His dissection of Gavin Schmidt’s two twitter objections to Christy’s CMIP5 versus balloon and satellite observations being exhibit B. Not so much pushing knowledge forward as catching and eliminating bad stuff and clarifying and simplifying (‘deobfuscating’) good stuff for more general ‘sound bite’ communication. That is a useful corrective function, faster and outside pal review gatekeeping.

    Since policy is inherently political, one thing Verge did not touch on is a third dimension of general understanding. Different than ‘science consensus to policy’. This is the ‘science’ to MSM to the public to the policymaker roundabout. It has largely been coopted by warmunist sympathizers in the climate sphere. The disappearing of comments at many MSM web versions shows again how the internet is disrupting the once imposing MSM fortress.

    • …it should be recognized that the basis for a climate that is highly sensitive to added greenhouse gasses is solely the computer models. The relation of this sensitivity to catastrophe, moreover, does not even emerge from the models, but rather from the fervid imagination of climate activists. ~Richard Lindzen (at EIKE)

  32. Mass Science:

    “…some of the most powerful incentives in contemporary science actively encourage, reward, and propagate poor research methods and abuse of statistical procedures.” ~Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath (The Natural Selection of Bad Science)

    • Steven Mosher,

      Thanks. I think he got at least one thing right –

      “Perhaps those who engage in what we might call ‘shoddy science’ or even ‘sleazy science’ don’t even know that it is sub-standard.”

      Cheers.

      • –e.g., Trenberth isn’t even aware he’s incompetent? No wait… too harsh: his science is “sub-standard.” That’s the ticket!

  33. CLI-Sci-mote-in-eye,
    then there’s the other
    gate-keeping-moat.

    • There are other castles. The Old school fortresses are being bypassed. I doubt we could have been published some years ago. And even now, we’ll get the hairy eyeball.

      P.S., Mosh, sorry about the delay on the data. It became obvious we’d have to do the equipment adjustments ourselves. Probably not the way you–all do it. But now that’s finally done. It took me awhile.

  34. From the Koch article, quoting Polyani :

    any authority which would undertake to direct the work of the scientist centrally … even in the pursuit of a ‘public interest’ … would bring the progress of science virtually to a standstill.,

    And in the same article, complaints that Koch funding is corrupting academia.

    ie, Koch’s crime is adding to the marketplace of ideas. He is corrupting the bringing of science to a (politically correct) standstill.

    But for the likes of Koch, all science would be government-funded and hence skewed to stand still and be government-serving wherever possible. As we plainly see in a science dear to everyone here’s heart.

  35. Mosher is in rare form.

    “1. Facts are uncertain.
    A good number of skeptics take this as gospel. Examples would
    be that climate science cannot explain the warming of the 30s and 40s.”

    If the models had explained the cooling in the 10s and 20s the 30s and 40s wouldn’t be a problem. So 1. Control of the facts is uncertain, might be a better choice.

    “2. Values are in dispute
    Alarmists care about potential future damage
    Skeptics care about damage to our current economy”

    Values, moral versus economic. Interesting conflict there. I wonder who is seeking the higher moral ground?

    “3. Stakes are high
    Alarmists worry about catastrophic changes to our planet
    Skeptics worry about damaging the economy and freezing poor people.”

    Alarmists seem to be more worried about losing the fat tail of uncertainty. The probability of catastrophe is the same as the probability that the problem doesn’t exist. Of course “catastrophe” to some is intermittent wifi access.

    “4 Decisions Urgent”

    Haste makes waste, especially when the sense of urgency is manufactured in order to raise the stakes. Oh wait! Cliques and metaphors are verboten.

    PNS is about open and honest engagement which would include all stakeholders. It is a Utopian concept and Utopia is fiction. There would need to be a prepostnormal consensus on what is science and what is BS. Most of the BS seems to be coming from the philosophers promoting Utopian concepts, which isn’t particularly news worthy.

  36. More of the politics of fear:

    Globalization made economic production more vulnerable to climate change
    http://phys.org/news/2016-06-globalization-economic-production-vulnerable-climate.html

  37. And even more of the politics of fear:

    Climate change could trigger tropical evacuations, researchers advise
    http://phys.org/news/2016-06-climate-trigger-tropical-evacuations.html

  38. Scientists, like investors, believe they can ignore political risk. Big mistake:

    Remember when political risk was an emerging markets thing?
    http://www.ifre.com/remember-when-political-risk-was-an-emerging-markets-thing/21250949.article

  39. Harry Twinotter

    Dr Judith Curry.

    This wouldn’t be part of your “shoot the messenger” anti-science series would it? You know, you do not agree with established climate science so you attack science. The old FUD method in action.

  40. Ancel Keys promoted the “cholesterol causes heart disease” postulate, was on the take from the sugar industry, rose through the establishment ( American Heart Association ), and corrupted government policy ( USDA recommendations ).

    Pretty much the same as cadre promotin “CO2 causes climate disaster”, except substitute government grants for sugar industry.

  41. Pingback: Science on the verge? | …and Then There's Physics

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  44. “Climate Scientists reduce the Climate Science by taking natural cycles out of it.

    Their Models do model the tiny part of climate that is caused by a tiny amount of CO2.

    They leave out the oceans and ice and water vapor and clouds and rainfall and snowfall. They don’t even try to understand what caused natural climate cycles in the past.”

    Flawed premise that is unequivocally factually incorrect. Maybe try and educate yourself before making meaningless posts like this? Lots of good posts on this thread. Why obfuscate discussions about science with pure fantasy?

    Now if you want an outside the box POV that is science based, I can easily provide you with one. Then you wouldn’t need to just make up silly fantasies.

    For example:
    An alternative solution parallel to Freeman Dyson’s geoengineering “solution” of just plant more trees.There are many reasons this won’t work, but the basic one is that planting trees increases stocks, but doesn’t stabilize fluxes. Using the bucket analogy (a stocks and flows analogy you would be familiar with if you actually knew anything at all about climate science), you have a created a bigger bucket, but still a bucket with no drain. It helps temporarily … until the new bigger bucket gets full. We call that Saturation. It’s a temporary fix that helps, but it is not a long term solution.

    However, maybe even accidently, Dyson might have stumbled onto something that can solve AGW to the benefit of all.

    It comes down to the carbon cycle and the CO2 fertilization effect. Dyson is correct BTW that there is more carbon in the soil than in biomass and atmosphere combined. Also correct about the fertilization effect on plant growth. This is what is called a stabilizing feedback. The debunkers of Dyson are also correct about the increasing emissions from the labile fraction of soil carbon as temperature increases. Called a reinforcing feedback.

    Here is where it gets interesting. BOTH Dyson AND the vast majority of the Dyson debunking sources have focused on the wrong biome. It is NOT the forest plants that have the capability to mitigate AGW. It’s the grassland/savanna biome that actually can be a forcing for global cooling, and counter the current global warming trend.

    In a forest, the stabilizing feedbacks and the reinforcing feedbacks largely counter each other, and little is done long term to mitigate rising CO2 levels. Once you reach that saturation point you are done. But grasslands sequester carbon very differently than forests. Most grassland carbon is not sequestered in biomass, nor labile carbon in the top O horizon of the soil, but rather the newly discovered liquid carbon pathway.

    Most terrestrial biosphere carbon storage is in grassland (mollic) soils. Where trees store most their products of photosynthesis in woody biomass, grasslands instead of producing a woody tree truck, secrete excess products of photosynthesis (exudates) to feed the soil food web, especially mycorrhizal fungi. Those fungi (AMF) in turn secrete a newly discovered compound called glomalin deep in the soil profile. Glomalin itself has a 1/2 life of 7–42 years if left undisturbed. The deepest deposits even longer with a 1/2 life of 300 years or more in the right conditions. Then when it does degrade a large % forms humic polymers that tightly bind to the soil mineral substrate and can last thousands of years undisturbed. Together they all form what is called a mollic epipedon. That’s your really good deep fertile soils of the world and they contain far more carbon, even in their highly degraded state currently, than all the terrestrial biomass and atmospheric CO2 put together. This LCP is what built those famously deep and fertile midwest soils.

    Even though wood is resistant to decay, the biomass of forests is still considered part of the active carbon cycle (labile carbon) That litter layer on the forest floor is relatively shallow, and most that decay ends up back in the atmosphere, unless locked in some kind of peat bog or permafrost. Tightly bound soil carbon in a mollic epipedon is considered differently than the labile carbon pool. It is the stable fraction of soil carbon, and grassland biomes pump 30% or more of their total products of photosynthesis into this liquid carbon pathway.

    The importance of this recent discovery of the Liquid Carbon Pathway (photosynthesis-root exudates-mycorrhizal fungi-glomalin-humic polymers-mollic epipedon) to climate science AND agriculture can not be stressed enough.

    http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-06668-4_5#page-1

    https://web.anl.gov/PCS/acsfuel/preprint%20archive/Files/45_4_WASHINGTON%20DC_08-00_0721.pdf

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080629075404.htm

    http://amazingcarbon.com/PDF/JONES-LiquidCarbonPathway(AFJ-July08).pdf

    http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/1261

    http://blogs.uoregon.edu/gregr/files/2013/07/grasslandscooling-nhslkh.pdf

    So while specifically Dyson was wrong, he has identified in the most general terms the pathway forward. “Plants” is too general. Forests is categorically wrong, although we still need them for their rapid buffering capability on climate as well as many other important ecosystem services, not to mention lumber. But the forcing of CO2 mitigation long term comes from the grassland biome, now largely under agricultural management and that is plants after all. Dyson got the wrong plants and the wrong soils, but did hit on the right concept.

    The real question is can this mitigation strategy work within the conservative ideals currently obfuscating the issue, so that a political coalition between both liberals and conservatives can be made to devise a plan acceptable to both? it is pretty obvious that a carbon tax has and will continue to meet with opposition.

    I believe it is possible, yes. But certain areas will take dramatic change for that to happen. Most importantly energy and agriculture. Right now both those sectors have already overgrown what can be sustained. Quite predictable since they were never really sustainable since the industrial revolution anyway. Just took a while for people to realize it.

    For it to happen though, agriculture production models will need to be changed to regenerative systems, energy will need technological fixes like solar and nuclear etc. and overall since population has already exceeded environmental capacity, a large amount of ecosystem recovery projects will be needed as well. So yeah, reforesting can be a part where appropriate. All of these are possible, however I personally believe they are unlikely to happen given social and institutional inertia.

    My focus is on agriculture. Having studied it quite intensely for years, I believe we currently have the ability to fix that one. Only a few minor gaps remain. I can only hope others committed to the other two big ones meet with similar success. But then comes the hard part, actually doing what we know how to do before these unsustainable systems currently in effect start failing world wide, collapsing even our ability to do what we know how to do! That’s the actual tricky part.

    For example, if agriculture fails before we fully institute regenerative models and the infrastructure changes needed, civilization collapses. Not much going to be done about it then. AGW will see to it that all three will fail if changes are not done soon enough. Once again with the potential to collapse civilization, or at least many nations including ours. Again making it near impossible to implement what we already know how to do.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

    So how do we institute the changes needed in a free market economic base beneficial to mitigating AGW?

    The climate experts have the energy and ecosystem cycles down pretty good actually. That leaves the most important leg, agriculture. The answer may be more simple than you think.

    There is somewhere between 35 and 40 Gt CO2 emissions yearly worldwide. To draw down CO2, (decrease the stocks in the atmosphere) we must adjust the flows into and out of the atmosphere until we achieve a net negative flux.

    There are approximately 5 Giga Hectares of land in the world currently being used to produce food for human populations. Agriculture has been proven to be capable of being an emissions source or a sequestration sink depending on the methods used. Currently right now agriculture is an emissions source.

    Working backwards, for agriculture to offset emissions and achieve a net negative flux for atmospheric CO2 worldwide each hectare of agricultural land producing food would need to sequester long term into the soil over approximately 8t CO2/year. 8t CO2/ha/year X 5 Gha = 40Gt CO2/year

    The case studies mentioned by Dr. Christine Jones above show a range in results between 5 & 20 tonnes CO2e/ha/year increases in soil carbon by using pasture cropping methods. (direct seeding grain crops into perennial pasture and cell or pulse rotational grazing integrated together) There are multiple case studies at the USDA NRCS & SARE showing similar results with various organic/permaculture/ecoagriculture methods.

    So it would quite likely if done on enough land, offset between 62% and 250% of all emissions worldwide. That is VERY conservative BTW, because it doesn’t even include the oceans or the forests which already are removing about 1/2 of the ~35 to 40 Gt CO2 emissions yearly worldwide. So we have some wiggle room.

    My biggest gripe with the ipcc and climate scientists is the fact that the potential of changing agriculture as a mitigation strategy is completely either ignored, or underestimated. It is the blind spot in this whole thing that I have mentioned multiple times on every climate science website I can find, and as of yet not once has been properly refuted. It is as if the subject is taboo.

    My biggest gripe with politically motivated denialists is by ignoring the problem, they insure solutions that are acceptable to their ideology never get any political backing. It also guarantees that the liberal tax and spend solutions unacceptable to them, after long delays, are guaranteed to be the strategy taken…eventually. as there is no politically backed conservative solution. Guaranteed fail strategy.

    Of course to work it would also need to be economically sound.

    The rise of “king corn” can be seen as a direct result of a series of changes in agriculture instituted by Earl Lauer Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Most important to this policy change was the Buffer stock scheme (ever full granary) combined with urgings to farmers to “get big or get out”. Which happened by the way. Now there is actually a crisis from too few family farmers, average age being 60. That lead to huge surpluses which we then were able to successfully use for many purposes, including major grain sales to Russia and China and many humanitarian aid projects.

    Something has changed though. Now China has opened up beef sales. This is a value added commodity over grain. It makes more sense to drop the buffer stock scheme on grain, and instead I propose a buffer stock scheme on grass fed beef instead. You can do this on the same amount of subsidies that we currently use for grain, and instead put them on restoring the great prairies/steppes/savannas of the world….raising beef and pasture cropping. This would positively affect carbon sequestration, pesticide use, erosion, seasonal dead zones in our productive coastal waters, biodiversity, energy budget, economic growth, international trade balance, rural economic development, etc… AND if done properly, as many case studies at the USDA-SARE & USDA-NRCS clearly show, even increase total yields of food for humans.

    So instead of adding a carbon tax, one way to solve this is simply change what we subsidize. No need for new taxes. In agriculture instead of a buffer stock scheme on king corn, a buffer stock scheme on carbon being sequestered in soils. Just redirect the same amount of funds away from one to the other. Same goes for energy. Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $493 billion in 2014, with subsidies to oil products representing over half of the total. Those subsidies were over four-times the value of subsidies to renewable energy. Simply redirect the subsidies for fossil fuels over to renewables. Doesn’t need to cost one penny more.

    The idea that we are still subsidizing AGW, while trying to find solutions to AGW is quite frankly ridiculous. Goes to the wise old saying, “A house divided against itself can not stand.”

    It would probably be just as hard to change agriculture as to change energy. It’s not a technology problem IMHO. It’s a people problem. People just don’t like change. I don’t see 100% changing agriculture any more than I see 0% fossil fuel emissions. What I do think could potentially happen is the powers that be finally get serious and decide a 50/50 split between the two? 40/60? or even 80/20? Whatever works out to end up as a net negative flux. Profit could be a prime motivator here. Once people understand this improves profits for the farmer, and also is a benefit to the larger general economies, both national and international, I think there is a potential to motivate. The only losers being those entities with a vested interest in the current systems that are incapable of adapting to change. Everyone else benefits.

    • Scott Strough, In reading your comment, I noticed you did not mention God, as being a possible solution to all our problems. Why, ask yourself if the Rapture had happened yesterday, how big a problem would AGW be to you today? When we believe that a one in seven-hundred and twenty thousand chance is still a lot better than playing Lotto, how does science overcome the obvious? Big numbers don’t even scare us anymore with all of our trillion dollar deficits, real big numbers have no relationship with our day to day stuff anymore. Remember the one about the Pharaoh and the chess borard… nobody did anything about it but tell a story, see what I mean?.

  45. Like the old bard would often say, there is nothing new under the Sun.

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/1292009/my-favourite-thing-is-to-be-hogtied-the-growing-trend-of-stressed-workers-who-are-using-bondage-to-relax/

    Is it real or is it Memorex, who cares when it’s Noah time!

  46. “Post-normal science is … a methodology of inquiry that is appropriate for cases where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”.

    The scientific method usually involves extensive testing of multiple hypotheses until one hypothesis emerges as a generally accepted theory – a scientific ‘fact”. Or it may involve measuring a constant or parameter (such as climate sensitivity) until its range has been narrowed to a useful range. When combined with economic and biological uncertainties, a 3-fold range (70% ci) for climate sensitivity is not a “fact” policy-makers can use to make policy using a cost benefit analysis. Any method of inquiry when facts are uncertain has nothing in common with SCIENCE. Call it post-normal philosophy or post-normal inquiry or religion or politics-as-usual or instinct. If scientific advisors were scrupulously honest, without traditional scientific knowledge, they have relatively little to contribute to the decision-making process when facts are uncertain. (The usual biases found in academia certainly shouldn’t be over-represented with facts are uncertain and values in dispute and high-stakes decisions must be made.)

    The decision to attempt to build an atomic bomb was made when scientific facts were uncertain, values were in dispute, stakes were high, and a decision was urgent. Looking back at that decision, what did the scientists involved really have to contribute?

  47. There are no inductive inferences.
    Karl Popper

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  49. Consider: if CO2 emission control is irrelevant or even counter-productive, as I believe, then all the above is wrong-headed (literally). Give it up!

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