[Note: the following was written on October 31 and updated November 3, before the ‘Climategate’ CRU email scandal broke, and it is all the more pertinent in the light of those disclosures. The CRU emails show how science has been perverted into a political movement, and how scientists conspired to serve a ‘post-normal’ agenda where truth is trampled – exactly as the proponents of ‘post-normal’ science had anticipated. With the association between ‘post-normal’ science developed by Ravetz and its application in climate science by Hulme now widely exposed by this present post, Ravetz and Hulme jointly authored an article, published by the BBC on December 1, entitled ‘Show Your Working’: What ‘ClimateGate’ means in which they sought to promote post-normal science further by capitalizing on the public disgust at the corruption of ‘normal’ science. This is cynical because normal science was corrupted by covertly introducing post-normal activities in the first place.]
What has become of science? We thought that science was about the pursuit of truth. Then we became perplexed at how quickly scientists have prostituted themselves in the service of political agendas. We have seen the unedifying spectacle of scientists refusing to share their data, fiddling their results, and resorting to ad hominem attacks on those who have exposed their work to be fraudulent. We have seen the Royal Society becoming a shamelessly crude advocacy society. We have seen President Obama choosing notorious climate alarmists and liars to be his personal advisors. We have seen the peer review process and journal editors colluding to prevent publication of results that do not serve the politically-correct agenda, and scientists refusing to consider results that demolish their pet theories. What is going on here?
What is going on is that science is no longer what we thought it was. It is now a tool in the hands of socialists, and the smart money is flowing into the pockets of ‘scientists’ who will serve their agenda. Follow the money. Whilst traditional physics and chemistry departments are closing in British universities, and there is a shortage of science teachers, there is an abundance of cash being poured into departments that will serve socialist ends, and no shortage of acolytes desirous to use this as a route to power. Once there was modern science, which was hard work; now we have postmodern science, where the quest for real, absolute truth is outdated, and ‘science’ is a wax nose that can be twisted in any direction to underpin the latest lying narrative in the pursuit of power. Except they didn’t call it ‘postmodern’ science because then we might smell a rat. They called it PNS (post-normal science) and hoped we wouldn’t notice. It was thus named and explicated by Silvio O. Funtowicz and philosopher Jerome R. Ravetz, who in 1991 wrote the paper A New Scientific Methodology for Global Environmental Issues, followed in 1992 by The good, the true and the postmodern, and in 1993 by Science for the post-normal age, where they promoted the idea that
…a new type of science – ‘post-normal’ – is emerging…in contrast to traditional problem-solving strategies, including core science, applied science, and professional consultancy…Post-normal science can provide a path to the democratization of science, and also a response to the current tendencies to post-modernity.
The ‘response’ wasn’t to be a reaction against postmodernism, but an embracing of it, and going beyond it. And it has sinister ramifications.
We had already been warned about Ravetz in the 1987 work Changing Boundaries of the Political, which stated
From the perspective of Anglo-American liberalism it seems easy enough to…point out that the old predictions of the British Marxist J.D. Bernal about the triumph of basic research under socialism have proved hopelessly wrong, and that the demands of J.R. Ravetz of the University of Leeds that science be made instrumental and moral will destroy the enterprise whatever its short-term benefits.
Ravetz, who described himself as a peacenik intellectual, was a political radical who drew on neo-Marxism, and was a stalwart in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), anti-nuclear lobbies, and the Anti-Concorde Project. He is well known for arguing that the pursuit of truth in science is an obsolete and dangerous concept. He declared
…the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back; we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.
For us, quality is a replacement for truth in our methodology. We argue that this is quite enough for doing science, and that truth is a category with symbolic importance, which itself is historically and culturally conditioned.
To pursue truth is to make a category mistake, so pursue the nebulous concept of ‘quality’ instead. So much for facts: scientists need to learn how to serve the craft of rhetoric. Even though it was concealed from those who constructed the models, the purpose of climate models was to provide the power of metaphor to political rhetoric:
…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.
In 1990 Ravetz published The Merger of Knowledge with Power, then in 2002 a paper The Challenge beyond Orthodox Science. Of the book by E.F. Pecci, Science and Human Transformation: Subtle Energies, Intentionality and Consciousness, a book about parapsychology, psychokinesis and extrasensory perception, he says it “creates a bridge between modern physics and the realm of subtle energies…it opens the way to an expansion of our scientific conceptions to include those other energies that are increasingly important for our comprehension of the world around us.” In 2007, Ravetz, then at the University of Oxford, published a paper Post-Normal Science and the complexity of transitions towards sustainability saying that post-normal science needed to be taken to the next stage.
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.
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.
We will take as classic examples and exponents of post-normal science the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and Mike Hulme, the founding director of this Tyndall Centre, and Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Hulme makes it clear that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is well and truly in the bag. Stuart Blackman interviewed Hulme back in May, 2009, and described him as “one of the UK’s most distinguished and high-profile climate scientists” and the Tyndall Centre as “an organisation so revered by environmentalists that it could be mistaken for the academic wing of the green movement”. The Tyndall Centre is deeply infiltrated by those serving the Green agenda, and produces work for advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and the IPCC. It is funded by the British taxpayer, receiving grants from the three Research Councils NERC, EPSRC and ESRC. We read today on their website
Situations Vacant: Three Lecturers in Climate Change at Tyndall UEA
These new academic staff appointments at UEA have been created as a result of substantial new investments in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The posts offer excellent opportunities for continuing, or developing, internationally outstanding research careers.
Notice that these are not lecturers in climate science, but climate change. We will see below what these lecturers will be expected to espouse and teach. The fig leaf that this might have been science has now been dropped. As Mike Hulme has said
[The] chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently urged the media to focus on the “scientific rationale for action” rather than the political aspects of climate…I disagree…In the end, politics will always trump science…we need better politics, not better science.
So what actually is ‘Post-Normal Science’? Dr John Turnpenny of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, in his paper What is post-normal science? A critical review of its development, definitions and usages (“Post Normal Science – perspectives & prospects” June 26/27, 2009 at Oxford), had this to say:
The concept of post-normal science (PNS) has been developed as a potential approach to addressing wicked issues…As such, the ‘science’ in PNS is not limited to a conventional understanding of the word…
So let’s stop calling it science. For a fuller description of post-normal science we turn to the essay by Eva Kunseler, Towards a new paradigm of Science in scientific policy advising (headings and italics added):
[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.
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.
So this is not science as we know it. Science has to re-invent itself as a political tool, just as it was under Hitler and Stalin. Scientists must learn ‘as quickly as possible’ what will please the political elite, and serve it up. As one Richard Fernandez has written:
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.
Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre, and Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia (UEA), prepared climate scenarios and reports for the UK Government (including the UKCIP98 and UKCIP02 scenarios, and reviewer for UKCP09), the European Commission, UNEP, UNDP, WWF-International and the IPCC, and was co-ordinating Lead Author for the chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, as well as a contributing author for several other chapters. Hulme has been a champion and exponent of post-normal science for some years to serve his own socialist agenda, and this is what he has to say about post-normal science (some italics added):
Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified this particular mode of scientific activity as one that occurs…where values are embedded in the way science is done and spoken.
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 largest academic conference that has yet been devoted to the subject of climate change finished yesterday [March 12, 2009] in Copenhagen…I attended the Conference, chaired a session…[The] statement drafted by the conference’s Scientific Writing Team…contained…a set of messages drafted largely before the conference started by the organizing committee…interpreting it for a political audience…And the conference chair herself, Professor Katherine Richardson, has described the messages as politically-motivated. All well and good.
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.
Climate change is telling the story of an idea and how that idea is changing the way in which our societies think, feel, interpret and act. And therefore climate change is extending itself well beyond simply the description of change in physical properties in our world…
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.
There is something about this idea that makes it very powerful for lots of different interest groups to latch on to, whether for political reasons, for commercial interests, social interests in the case of NGOs, and a whole lot of new social movements looking for counter culture trends.
Climate change has moved from being a predominantly physical phenomenon to being a social one…It is circulating anxiously in the worlds of domestic politics and international diplomacy, and with mobilising force in business, law, academia, development, welfare, religion, ethics, art and celebrity.
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…?”
We need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us…we open up a way of resituating culture and the human spirit…As a resource of the imagination, the idea of climate change can be deployed around our geographical, social and virtual worlds in creative ways…it can inspire new artistic creations in visual, written and dramatised media. The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future….We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects. Whereas a modernist reading of climate may once have regarded it as merely a physical condition for human action, we must now come to terms with climate change operating simultaneously as an overlying, but more fluid, imaginative condition of human existence.
We always said that Climate Change was a belief system, and there you have it. It has abandoned the pretence of objective science. As Hulme reveals, it is a postmodern narrative and the IPCC is a “classic example of a post-normal scientific activity”. This is leading to ridiculous situations. In early November 2009, a certain Tim Nicholson was granted permission to take his former employer Grainger to a tribunal. Commenting on this, his lawyer states:
Essentially what the judgment says is that a belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperative is capable of being a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by the 2003 religion or belief regulations.
Nicholson said he had tried to set up a carbon management system for the company, but was unable to work out its carbon footprint because staff had refused to give him the necessary data. He accused the chief executive, Rupert Dickinson, of showing “contempt” for his beliefs by not minimizing carbon emissions. Commenting on this issue in The Guardian, Andrew Brown, clearly in favour of coercion, writes in an article entitled We’re doomed without a green religion:
The justification for burning heretics was perfectly simple: dissent threatened the survival of society…not to coerce, itself becomes immoral…Compulsion will be needed but compulsion alone won’t do it…They need to believe in what they are forced to do…and that will also mean its dark side: the pressure of conformism, the force of self-righteousness, huge moral weight attached to practically useless gestures like unplugging phone chargers. They need, in fact, something that does look a lot like religion…Should that happen, the denialists, who claim that it is all a religion, will for once be telling the truth…
Mike Hulme has recently published a book entitled Why We Disagree About Climate Change from which some of his quotes above are taken. I can do no better than quote extracts of the book review by Joseph Bast in American Thinker:
More than a few people will be tempted to buy this book based on the promise, implicit in its title, that it offers an examination of the ideas and motives of both sides in the global warming debate. But that is not what this book is about. Rather, it is the musings of a British socialist about how to use the global warming issue as a means of persuading “the masses” to give up their economic liberties. The fact that the author, Mike Hulme, is a scientist who helped write the influential reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other influential government agencies makes this book more disturbing than informative.
…socialists like Hulme can frame the global warming issue in such as way as to achieve seemingly unrelated goals such as sustainable development, income redistribution, population control, social justice, and many other items on the liberal/socialist wish-list.
It is troubling to read a prominent scientist who has so clearly lost sight of his cardinal duty — to be skeptical of all theories and always open to new data. It is particularly troubling when this same scientist endorses lying by others to advance his personal political agenda.
Read this book if you want insight into the mind of a scientist who has surrendered all moral authority to speak truthfully about global warming. Avoid it if you are looking for a book that explains why we disagree about climate change.
From what Hulme has admitted, the climate change debate is not about truth and physical reality, but a way of making it the “mother of all issues” in order to achieve socialist and Marxist aims, including de-capitalizing the West, and bringing about global governance by an elite. Hulme is delighted to be in the vanguard, and it is paying him handsomely. Critical to this is capture of the scientific institutions. Hulme says, we are all actors “in the unfolding story…alongside the personal gods of the heavens”. Climate change is a new lying narrative serving an agenda as old as the hills. Here is an account of the very first post-normal science experiment, pitting against ultimate truth a lying agenda and narrative with an ‘extended peer community’ and ‘extended facts’ in the pursuit of power:
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
[For further development of these thoughts by a reader ‘berniel’ (comments below), see his posts ‘Post-normal science and the corruption of climate science‘ and ‘Revolutionary Science: Post-Normal Climate Science and neo-Marxism‘ ]