Hyperbole? Paranoia? Read on....
Buried deep within the furore over Climategate is a deeper and far more insidious issue, so far only mentioned in passing by a few in the odd comment on Climategate, and only one politically focused blogger recently (at least in direct relation to AGW "science"), along with a handful of lone voices scattered around from some time before climategate - for example here. Despite its critical seriousness, this issue didn't reach critical mass in the blogosphere, being commented on by a few disparate observers.
What is this hidden monster to which I refer?
It is the fact that many of those involved in what I will call the 'AGW confluence' (the historically unprecedented coming together of (many previously disparate) interests around the AGW issue), are followers of the philosophy of "post-normal science".
As BuyTheTruth explains in their blog on this topic. This isn't just a case of science being politicised and brought, or even a case of moving from modern to "post-modern" science (where post-modernism at least provides a useful contribution of highlighting the subjective element in everything). It is an altogether more fundamental shift. And in using the term "post normal science", they hoped we wouldn't notice. They were right.
BTT's blog really deserves very wide readership - wider than that of Climategate itself. The stakes here couldn't be higher. I've tried getting a few of the high-traffic Libertarian bloggers interested, but no joy so I decided to go into some detail on this issue myself and hope it will be picked up by my fellow bloggers:
The idea behind "post normal science" (PNS) is to make science instrumental and democratic (even "moral"). I hope you balked at reading that idea, just like I did. We libertarian minded folk naturally seek a political settlement that maximises the liberty of the individual. The idea of applying such a principle to Science however is pure anathema, yet that is exactly what has happened. And it has not simply morphed into a scientific tyranny of the majority (despite the oft cited "thousands" of scientists supposedly supporting the IPCC conclusions unequivocally) - it is the brought and paid for appearance of (tyranny of the) majority that counts. PNS scientists and philosphers don't care for truth you see - only 'values'.
The originator of this philosophy is one Jerome Ravetz. If the following quote from Ravetz doesn't make your head explode, you probably need to read it twice:
"…climate change models are a form of “seduction”…advocates of the models…recruit possible supporters, and then keep them on board when the inadequacy of the models becomes apparent. This is what is understood as “seduction”; but it should be observed that the process may well be directed even more to the modelers themselves, to maintain their own sense of worth in the face of disillusioning experience.
…but if they are not predictors, then what on earth are they? The models can be rescued only by being explained as having a metaphorical function, designed to teach us about ourselves and our perspectives under the guise of describing or predicting the future states of the planet…A general recognition of models as metaphors will not come easily. As metaphors, computer models are too subtle…for easy detection. And those who created them may well have been prevented…from being aware of their essential character."
This is as nasty and insidious as nasty and insidious gets.
And the glove fits more perfectly than you could imagine:
"The theory of Post-Normal Science…needs to be renewed and enriched…The time is not ripe for a modification of PNS, and so the best move forward is to raise the issue of Sustainability. For that I sketch a theory of complex systems, with special attention to pathologies and failures. That provides the foundation for a use of ‘contradiction’ as a problem incapable of resolution in its own terms, and also of ‘characteristic contradiction’ that drives a system to a crisis. With those materials it is possible to state the characteristic contradiction of our modern industrial civilisation, and provide a diagram with heuristic power."[emphasis mine]
I'll repeat BuyTheTruth's commentary here as there is no point paraphrasing what is probably expressed more succinctly than I would have done:
"Heuristic power is the power to explain ‘factual novelties’. ‘Contradiction’ and ‘characteristic contradiction’ are Marxist speak. Heard about ’sustainability’ recently? You bet! Ravetz gives the Greens the tools they need to do their dirty work. He gives them the philosophical blueprint to attack modern industrial civilization. Now, let’s be clear: post-normal science is one of the manipulative arts that Machiavelli would have been proud of."
Instead of "truth", what we should have instead is "quality" (c.f. the idea of "value added data" coming out of Climategate.....)
Another doozy is quoted by BuyTheTruth, from Eva Kunseler, Towards a new paradigm of Science in scientific policy advising:
"The exercise of scholarly activities is defined by the dominance of goal orientation where scientific goals are controlled by political or societal actors…Scientists’ integrity lies not in disinterestedness but in their behaviour as stakeholders.
....he guiding principle of normal science – the goal of achievement of factual knowledge - must be modified to fit the post-normal principle…For this purpose, post-normal scientists should be capable of establishing extended peer communities and allow for ‘extended facts’ from non-scientific experts
....Involved social actors must agree on the definition of perceptions, narratives, interpretation of models, data and indicators."
Is *any* of this making you feel sick yet? For me its positively vomit inducing. Are you getting this? Scientists should no longer pursue the goal of being "disinterested", they should be considered, instead "stakeholders". This is a paradigm shift onwards from the post-modernist observation that no science, or scientist is value free. That's one of the whole points of the scientific enterprise - that different scientists correct one another's bias.
Another quote provided by BuyTheTruth from a critic of "post normal science", Richard Fernandez really hits the spot:
"All in all, the notion of “post-normal science” seems like a complete contradiction in terms or a perversion of the standard definition of science as commonly understood. It appears to be an elaborate and dishonest attempt to pass off the preferences of a single group as some kind of pseudo-science. There’s a much simpler term for this dishonest phrase: politics. Post-normal science is nothing but a cheap and lying term for a political diktat; for the rule of the self-appointed over everyone else. Whatever truth “Global Warming” may contain it has surely been damaged by its association with this disreputable and vile concept which brazenly casts aside the need for any factual basis and declares in the most unambiguous terms that whatever values it chooses to promote constitutes a truth unimpeachable by reality and a set of values that none dare challenge."
I'm at risk of repeating BuyTheTruth's entire blog, so I must recommend in the strongest possible terms that you read the original in full. As far as I'm concerned, the collated quotations from Mike Hulme are more damning than if he was caught anally raping goats (without lube) in sacrificial rituals to gaia and the almighty Al Ogre (and this list of quotes alone is worth reading BTT for). And claiming "out of context quotes" won't cut it. He hides these conclusions in amongst lots of reasonable sounding points. I've read enough of his quotes in context now to see that he does indeed mean it.
Look at the way Hulme, in the Guardian, dismisses sceptics Singer and Avery: "So this book from Singer and Avery can be understood in a different way: as a challenge to the process of climate change science, or to the values they believe to be implicit in the science, rather than as a direct challenge to scientific knowledge."
At points in Hulme's piece in the Guardian it seems that his main intention is to ask scientists to be very open about the values that inform their inquiry. Obviously this is something I applaud. However, his conclusion - here and elsewhere - appears to be that because scientists do bring values to the table, we should give up on rational truth-seeking traditional scientific behaviour and focus instead on transmitting these values, using science as a vehicle, as he reveals here: "What matters about climate change is not whether we can predict the future with some desired level of certainty and accuracy; it is whether we have sufficient foresight, supported by wisdom, to allow our perspective about the future, and our responsibility for it, to be altered."
Shockingly, the highest profile treatment this has received has been from Melanie Phillips, who draws equally sinister conclusions to myself, BTT and the few others who have encountered these carrion ridden philosophers.
The reason they escaped notice is because - in 2007 when Phillips was writing - no one even realised what the CRU was, or how critical it was to the IPCC conclusions, never mind the individual names of its members. What climategate has done for us is more valuable than reveal the dodgy science behind a key pillar of the "consensus" - it has revealed the work of this insidious bunch and their underlying philosophy. Instead of just asking "is this junk science", we are now obliged to ask - did they ever, at any point, even care that it was junk science if they believed in PNS?
One scientific blogger writes:
"Hulme has collected some of the most disgraceful, immoral, anti-scientific, and anti-civilization principles how science should interact with the society that I can imagine. He has brought the methods of the Inquisition right to the 21st century and combined them with the most modern methods to brainwash, corrupt, and intimidate people.
He is completely open that he wants to return us to the Middle Ages when a church ideology dictated what scientists could think and what they couldn't think, what they could learn and what they couldn't learn if they didn't want to lose influence or life, for that matter. It just sounds extremely worrisome."
And later he says... "Why should anyone sensible ever take Hulme's criticism of Fred Singer and Dennis Avery seriously if Hulme's approach to science is a self-described fraud?"
Why indeed. And this was precisely the question I was asking myself whilst originally reading Hulme's proclamations on Singer and Avery.
A problem we have is Hulme can make himself appear as one slippery customer. He makes a lot of valid points about the philosophy of science and subjectivity (I can fully appreciate this as I'm a philosophy graduate myself). Yet the fact he makes a few reasonable and insightful points should not, by any stretch of the imagination, distract one from witnessing the conclusions he draws. One trap that it is easy to fall into is to assess his writing using rationalist, scientific values yourself. To do that is to not understand Hulme et al. You see - he himself is already beyond those values, engaging in "Post Normal Science".
To be fair to Ravetz, it appears that Hulme and others have taken and twisted his orginal philosphy somewhat, at least if one of the commentators on BTT's blog is to be believed (see the entries from 'tallbloke'). I've yet to spend much time on Ravetz's original work, though I intend to go through everything produced by these folks, from Ravetz onward, with a very fine tooth comb. Reading Hulme in the original is pretty clear though. He really does believe this philosophy, even if it is a distorted version of Ravetz's original vision. I'm having trouble believing Ravetz's innocence however, given that he has been appearing, with Hulme, to comment on Climategate. And if you read the comments from 'tallbloke' over at BTT, you realise he might have made the same mistake I almost made - forgetting that these guys are not writing from the same rationalist perspective as you, already having 'gone beyond' as it were.
Both of them have written an article for the BBC on this issue. I find this equally disturbing and hilarious and wonder what the hell the BBC editor was smoking when he agreed to publish it. Apparently "Doing science in 2010 demands something rather different from scientists than did science in 1960, or even in 1985." - it does? Other than perhaps now requiring a desktop computer and internet connection? Read their proposals for "extended peer review" - to include "individuals from industry, environmental organisations and government officials as peer reviewers of early drafts of their assessments".
In the article they also subtly (re)introduce the idea of the "democritisation" of science. Something that sounds so reasonable on the surface because so many unthinking dolts have been trained to think that "democracy" automatically equals "good"; worse they do this under the cover of demanding more openness. More openness and "democratised science" are most certainly NOT synonymous.
The calls for publicly owned scientific knowledge and increased openness are so seductive. Yet these are things that should affect the end-result of investigations, not redirect the flow of the scientific method itself. "'Show your working' is the imperative given to scientists when preparing for publication to peers.
There, it refers to techniques.
Now, with the public as partner in the creation and implementation of scientific knowledge in the policy domain, the injunction has a new and enhanced meaning."
Amen to the first sentence. Of course we want to see how scientists have worked out their data. As to the second part though - no, no and thrice NO! The 'public as a partner in the creation of scientific knowledge'? When it enters the realm of politics, there is certainly a case to be made for public involvement in the "implementation" stage (assuming this doesn't have a special "post normal" meaning). But creation? What is this supposed to be? Interactive myth making?
This is terrifying, even in the lamed-down version for the BBC (which, I suspect was much more subtle owning to Ravetz's influence...).
And its funny how so many of these confluences come together. Again - from BTT: Not just a radical Marxist past for Hulme. Also apparently a major player previously in CND. This is particularly apropos to note given the recent questions raised by UKIP's Nigel Farage regarding the most powerful woman in the world, Cathy Ashton, and her past. And then there's the revelations about just how much influence the Soviets had, via espionage, over (now) prominent Labour figures back in the 80s.....
The more I have looked into this, the more the metaphor of a snake is very appropriate, given the mythological links to notions of original sin and - of course - snake oil salesmen.....only in this case it isn't a snake in a tree offering us a bite of the apple of knowledge. Its one hidden in the grass at our feet, about to bite us and sap our strength before we even dare reach for the goddamned tree....
And some people appear to be making the dangerous mistake of thinking that Hulme is giving us description of what has occurred. No folks - he's selling us a prescription!!
From inside the science bunker
A quick bit of background - I'm a philosophy and politics graduate. Twice in philosophy (BA, MA) and once in Politics (MA). I've also spent the last three years working at a scientific lab in a university. So I thought I'd seek out some reactions on climategate - and boy, have they been depressing.
A lot of the scientists appear to have taken the official damage control line at face value. They simply would not believe the most damaging accusations. One of them, someone I actually hold in high regard, even patronisingly accused me of not being critical enough and of 'believing everything I read in the papers'. If only it had been in the damn papers! I asked him if he'd looked at the emails, or files himself? No. Interestingly I also argue with him frequently on the EU too. And no, he hasn't read the consolidated treaties as amended by Lisbon. Who the hell isn't sufficiently critical?
Another scientist said he was completely unsurprised and said he thought it was completely normal that they'd seek to protect their funding first and foremost. All well and good but this is research that will fundamentally change the world. Literally. He opined that research funding is fundamentally too politicised. Which was amusing to hear from a scientist. I've been pilloried by a number of my (now ex) friends who were committed AGWers for constantly asking the political questions. Climategate has completely vindicated me on that score (hasn't changed anything for them though, I got back in touch with one who's reaction was that 'even if it turned out CRU was an al-quaeda front, it wouldn't change anything because the rest of the science is settled and CRU were such a small part of it'). Right.
I also had a bad experience with senior staff from the EU commission who attended a conference I was supposed to be presenting research at last week. They seem to think the Commission's priorities and choice of research funding is value free. The discussion was on the future direction of technology and what the EU will fund. It seems decisions on this will be made on the basis of 'European values'. When pressed they said that "of course" principles like "solidarity" will trump those of "subsidarity". That 'value free' research funding again, from the body that is the buyer, seller *and* regulator of the research. I think I scotched a few career opportunities here by asking too many pointed questions and regularly trying to draw people back to the politics of the science. I guess maybe I'm behind the times and with regard to the EU, we're in the realm of "post normal" politics.
One minor victory I did have however was speaking to one of the lead scientists behind what one could consider the university's environmental unit. He didn't believe it at first, but went away and had a look himself at the climategate material, only to return quite shaken. Good. As much as I like the man, and didn't want to upset him it at least caused him to reassess.
The problem is, there seems to be an institutional bias to take things on trust from other scientists. I used to feel like that until I started investigating the politics, realising that - just like with journalists - I would finally have to check everything myself.
Hulme is - to repeat the point - a slippery one because he appears to occasionally attack the "consensus", including colleagues such as Jones. The problem is, he's not criticising them for having engaged in a travesty of science, not to mention academic integrity, he's criticising them from the position that they aren't engaging properly in Post Normal Science.
Also - see this bizaare op-ed from Hulme in the WSJ. A common thread in Hulme's work is to point out how unbelievably complex climate science is, whilst at the same time proclaiming that the AGW is certain. Apparently the old model of science, and how science should be used, "places much too great a burden on science, certainly on climate science with all of its struggles with complexity, contingency and uncertainty.". He goes on to identify the fact that climate science had been so politicised as a fundamental flaw in the traditional model of science itself. Never mind the fact that it was the AGW shills themselves who polarised it themselves. Lots of readers have already expressed disgust (and cancelled subscriptions) at publications such as Nature and Scientific American for shamelessly promoting the "denier" meme. That wasn't a failure in the scientific method, it was a consciously made and personal failure of the scientists themselves.
Another disturbing angle is the fact that we've heard this kind of thing before...
Back to the future - Neocons reloaded
The editor of Antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo, tirelessly documented many of the hidden links and shenanigans of that cabal we came to know as the 'Neocons'. One of the most striking aspects of his research was to spell out the philosophy underlying that collection of warmongering corrupt liars. The similarities with the philosophy of 'post-normal' science are striking.
The neocons were inspired by philosopher, Leo Strauss. For Strauss, society should be 'guided' by an appropriate self-appointed elite.He also praised the art of political lying - lying for the 'social good'.
Raimondo also details that other common thread - the radical left wing past of the main actors. Its a shame he doesn't go into more detail on that other pernicious strand - the fact that as soon as bad things are done with state power a concerted effort is made to associate this with the 'right'.
On that issue, Burt Blumert from lewrockwell.com is worth quoting: "Neocons, as ex-Trotskyites, are bad enough, but those who follow the pro-pagan Leo Strauss are deadly. He advocated the Big Lie. Forgive me for all the gory details, but these people – with their other leaders like Bill Buckley and Irving Kristol and the help of the CIA – perverted the American right into loving the welfare-warfare state."
These were also the chaps who famously derided the anti-war movement as part of "the reality based community". The neocon vision was to 're-shape' and determine reality (for social good, of course!).
It's one of those things that ensure partisan divisions keep the elements of the 'left' and 'right', who actually substantively agree on certain issues, fighting uselessly with one another. Meanwhile the powermongers at the helm continue directing the ship of state to despicable ends and they don't care whether we call them 'left' or 'right'. Worth noting perhaps how the current crop of neocons have lauded their new War President. The confusions in names, allegiances etc, almost seem sometimes to be consciously chosen to maximise confusion, doubt and conflict - acting like a chinese finger trap for your mind.
The similarity of vitriolic counter-attack is also striking: People attacking the neo-cons were labelled 'anti-semitic'. Critics of AGW - as we all well know now - are 'deniers'. Curious, no?
So what next?
Apologies to those who have been waiting for the next part of the Lisbon treaty analysis - it is coming. This current issue however, in my view, is so serious it trumps everything else I've been concerned about for the last few years. What these "post normal scientists" are discussing is the murder of reason. And for very particular political goals, supposedly for our own good. Climategate has given the opportunity to see how one particular cell has been influence directly by this kind of arrogant misanthropic anti-scientific thinking. What needs to happen now is not just a weeding out of everyone who was part of the Climategate team, and mapping the extent to which their flawed research has infiltrated and corrupted the body of research making up the IPCC. I, for one, intend to go far beyond that and seek out all of these 'post normal scientists'. They don't just threaten the end of our economies, or freedom, or even the end of science. They promise the end of reason itself.
I've found the enemy's heart and I intend to stab it.