The Illusion of "Scientific Consensus" on Global Warming

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D
The Corwall Alliance

Wanted for Premeditated Murder: How Post-Normal Science Stabbed Real Science in the Back on the Way to the Illusion of "Scientific Consensus" on Global Warming

Climate Change and the Death of Science is the most important article we've linked to in quite a long time. If you have time to read nothing else from this issue, read this. It's worth every minute it will take.

As Climategate and other transgressions of fundamental scientific procedure by global warming alarmists continue to unfold, it becomes increasingly clear that a great deal of what's been called "climate science" isn't science at all. It's ideological propaganda, often religious (but certainly not Biblical), masquerading as science.

In Climate Change and the Death of Science, Christian blogger Jerry Bouey nails practitioners of post-normal science fair and square, in their own words, demonstrating that even they know and admit they're no longer doing science but politics. To put it bluntly, they stabbed real science in the back. This article strikes at the very root of many environmentalists' routine practices.

Bouey explains brilliantly how science got hijacked by post-normal science along the hurried way to the "overwhelming scientific consensus" on manmade global warming. Bouey points out that one of the world's leading global warming alarmists is himself a devotee of post-normal science and therefore a traitor to real science.

The article quotes post-normalist (and therefore not to be suspected of presenting post-normal science in a bad light) Eva Kunseler distinguishing normal and post-normal science thus:

Normal science

[Normal] Science is a logic inductive process leading to theory formulation, while all the way put through critical tests that have been deductively derived from the theory; Popper's critical rationalist concept of science is an objective progression toward the truth. . . . The term normal science refers to the routine work of scientists within a paradigm; slowly accumulating knowledge in accord with established theoretical assumptions. . . . The paradigm is enlarged and frontiers of knowledge and techniques pushed forward.

The exercise of scholarly activities is defined by the dominance of the Mertonian CUDOs norms of science. They include:

(C)ommunalism - the common ownership of scientific discoveries, according to which scientists give up intellectual property rights in exchange for recognition and esteem;
(U)niversalism - according to which claims to truth are evaluated in terms of universal or value-free criteria;
(D)isinterestedness - according to which scientists are rewarded for acting in ways that appear to be selfless;
(O)rganized (S)kepticism - all ideas must be tested and are subject to structured community scrutiny.

Post-normal science

A new concept of science was introduced by Funtowicz and Ravetz during the 1990s . . . . The concept of post-normal science goes beyond the traditional assumptions that science is both certain and value-free . . . . 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. Normal science made the world believe that scientists should and could provide certain, objective factual information. . . . The 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 . . . . In post-normal science, the maintenance and enhancement of quality, rather than the establishment of factual knowledge, is the key task of scientists . . . . Involved social actors must agree on the definition of perceptions, narratives, interpretation of models, data and indicators . . . . scientists have to contribute to society by learning as quickly as possible about different perceptions . . . instead of seeking deep ultimate knowledge.

If real scientists don't rise up and point out that this emperor--"post-normal science"--has no clothes, the whole scientific enterprise will die. And the world will be a much poorer place for its demise.

To illustrate that people right at the top of the pecking order of alarmist climate-change "scientists" know exactly what they're doing--post-normal science, not real science--Bouey presents these telling quotations from socialist Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre and Professor of Climate Change (note that title--not of climate, but of climate change) at the University of East Anglia, home of the Climatic Research Unit, of Climategate infamy. Hulme prepared climate-change scenarios and reports for the British government, the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Program, the United Nations Population Division, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (as a lead author for the chapter on "Climate scenario development" for the 2001 Assessment Report and a contributing author on several other chapters), and the World Wildlife Fund. Says Hulme:

It has been labelled "post-normal" science. Climate change seems to fall in this category. Disputes in post-normal science focus...on the process of science - who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy...The IPCC is a classic example of a post-normal scientific activity.

Within a capitalist world order, climate change is actually a convenient phenomenon to come along.

The danger of a "normal" reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow...exchanges often reduce to ones about scientific truth rather than about values, perspectives and political preferences.

. . . 'self-evidently' dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth-seeking...scientists - and politicians - must trade truth for influence. What matters about climate change is not whether we can predict the future with some desired level of certainty and accuracy. . . .

The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved...It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change - the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals - to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.

Climate change also teaches us to rethink what we really want for ourselves...mythical ways of thinking about climate change reflect back to us truths about the human condition. . . .

The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identifies and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us...Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.

. . . climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences...climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes...climate change has become "the mother of all issues", the key narrative within which all environmental politics - from global to local - is now framed...Rather than asking "how do we solve climate change?" we need to turn the question around and ask: "how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations . . . ?"

The warfare between post-normal science and real science is important not just in the debate over "climate change" (see The REAL Climate Change Deniers), but in all kinds of issues in which science interfaces with policy. Like the pseudo-Christian cults that borrow vocabulary from Christianity but redefine all the terms, post-normal science is simply the application of rhetoric borrowed from the sciences to policy debates, cloaking one particular policy preference with the authority of "science," and successful at doing so only to the extent that policy makers and the public are ignorant of the fact that post-normal science isn't science at all.

Bouey's whole article is must reading for anyone who wants truly to understand how the once respectable discipline of science got hijacked and made the slave of environmental alarmism. One of the most amazing things about it is that it was written before Climategate broke. The mushrooming fallout of that shows all the more clearly how right on target Bouey was.




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