It’s hard to stop thinking about all the oddities coming from Judith Curry. I think one could easily fill a blog just cataloguing them.
Astonishingly, after all that she has said in the last few months, whe writes a piece today asking “how we can end the war with skeptics”, where the collective pronoun includes herself not among skeptics but among mainstream scientists. Isn’t that peculiar?
I believe the US signed treaties with indigenous tribes in the 19th century using this methodology, appointing non-representative tribesmen of their own choosing to represent the tribes.
I don’t want to turn this into a blog about Curry’s hasty generalizations, sweeping self-contradictions and peculiar attempts at misdirection. Somebody might want to start one. “Fish-In-A-Barrel.blogspot.com” perhaps? But I can’t resist addressing her cure:
Well, lets try this. In 2010, lets assume that there are very very few climate scientists left that regard the IPCC as dogma. What might this look like?
- no petitions signed by members of the IPCC or national academy members
- Nature and Science not writing op-eds that decry “deniers”
- no climate scientists writing op-eds that decry the “deniers”
- no climate scientists talking about “consensus” as an argument against disagreement (argumentum ad populam, h/t Nullius in Verba)
- IPCC scientists debating skeptics about the science
- climate scientists stop talking about cap and trade and UNFCCC policies because the science demands that we do this
- no more professional society statements supporting the IPCC
Let’s wipe out dogma from climate science. I look forward to the “insiders” who don’t like my use of the word dogma convincing me that this no longer exists!
Wow. So that’s release from dogma, huh?
This has nothing to do with keeping politics out of science. All of these points (except perhaps the “debate with skeptics” one, as if there were no such debate now!) are about keeping science out of politics. This certainly would be the healthiest thing for science qua science.
But we are in the pay of the larger society, I would think, for reasons other than our own entertainment. If there are issues which the larger society is not properly accounting for by any reasonable estimation of what the society actually wants, it is surely the larger extra-scientific but ethical responsibility of the scientific community to make those issues socially salient. If organized opposition to that communication arises, it becomes an ethical responsibility to overcome that opposition.
Here scientists find ourselves far beyond our expertise or intellectual interests. This is part of the reason that it goes badly. (Also, the prospect we are selling, really large risks in the fairly distant future, is not a very attractive one.)
Does the science “demand” large up-front costs in exchange for avoiding large, far-off risks? No, of course not. That’s a category error. But it’s a perfectly ordinary short cut in speech. What is meant is that “in the light of the ethical frameworks held by most people in most cultures, the scientific evidence implies an ethical responsibility.” A mouthful. “The science demands” is close enough for most purposes.
Dr. Curry claims to be in the scientific mainstream of the climatological sciences, but seems quite unconcerned by the scientific evidence that only near-term action can blunt very large risks in the future. In this, I would say she is an outlier.
The rest of us see it this way: Until the nature and extent of the risk is understood by the political process, the decisions taken by that process are not only contingent and reversible, but in fact need to be reversed.
To say that scientists participating in professional associations should actually avoid taking extraordinary action to communicate implies a social structure wherein those actions are carried out by some other agency. In fact, IPCC was designed to be that agency. If IPCC is constrained from providing that function (by being maximally impotent and defenseless) somebody else has to step up. In fact, we see that IPCC is inadequate, so various scientists as individuals and organizations have been stepping up. But Curry wants that to stop as well.
It seems as if this keeping science out of policy (known as the “end to dogma”) is designed above all to create an ignorant policy. It might produce a more comfortable environment for science. Would this work in practice? I don’t know as the genie can go back in the bottle. But it would essentially guarantee bad policy and ever-increasing risk, not only on the climate front but on several others as well.
What scientists should or shouldn’t do is not an interesting or useful question. The question is this: