A new insight on postnormal climatology

Keith Kloor’s Collide-A-Scape provides a valuable venue for engagement across a normally unbridgeable cultural divide. I hope Keith decides to keep it going.

For those looking for a fix of mt ranting, I’ve been hanging around at Keith’s this week. This is in pursuit of attempting to gather my withs for a reply to Mosher’s recent piece at Curry’s. The Collide-A-Scape discussion is an interesting thread in itself.

I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. Admittedly it’s the sort of observation that is a bit too neat and broad  to be perfectly true, but I think there is something useful to it.

Knowing what and whom to ignore and when is a central issue when science meets politics.

In normal science, your goal is to pursue truth. As soon as someone reveals themselves as stubbornly wrong on a subject which engages you both, you ignore them. That is a key skill in becoming effective in science.

In politics, your goal is to pursue social consensus. You cannot ignore anybody. That is a key skill in becoming effective in politics.

When science and politics meet, nobody knows what to do.

”Climategate” issues revealed in the stolen emails are almost entirely about scientists ignoring people who are scientifically irrelevant but politically relevant. I don’t see much in the supposed scandals in the emails that doesn’t relate directly to that.

Sometimes people who are wrong and clueless harass people who are informed. This is a very common configuration of postnormal science, perhaps the main one. The informed parties of course have been carefully trained to ignore any information that does not lead toward truth. What the past few years teaches us is that this plan fails when politics is involved.

 

Comments:

  1. Almost missed this post due to Internet deprivation during a recent trip.

    Some nice insights here, particularly: "Climategate" issues revealed in the stolen emails are almost entirely about scientists ignoring people who are scientifically irrelevant but politically relevant.

    Never saw it distilled that way. Very good.


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