Real science, normal science, and
Recently it seems as if we are on the edge of history
in the making, with four, five, six hundred classical responses
at WUWT to Jerome
Curry, and the "slimer" Jeffrey
Sachs. And then, with the feeling of the trumpet calls
of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Willis
Eschenbach channelled his passion and his righteous
anger at the degradation of science that has led the whole world
astray, that still appears to be leading the worthy Judith astray.
Or is the ground shifting faster than any of these can adequately
express? Comparisons abound with the Gettysburg Address, with Churchill's
speeches, and with Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. And I'd like
to add Martin Luther King, the righteous voice of the downtrodden.
I think I've finally got a handle on why Climate Science
has gone so bad, and why the checks have failed so badly. This understanding
has eluded many of us for a long time; I believe it will also help
to show the way through. But it will take time. I need these three
concepts to convey patterns I've discerned behind the inexact situation
of real life. It's up to you to recognize the patterns and see that,
to name them, I've had to talk in generalizations.
First, let's look at "normal science":
a term used used by Thomas Kuhn in his book Structure
of Scientific Revolutions. The concept is central
because it reaches backwards to what I call "real science",
and forwards to what Ravetz has called "post-normal science".
Normal science, Kuhn says, is what normal scientists do most of
the time. They follow accepted procedures, they develop experiments
and tests, they collect data, they write up their findings, the
findings get peer-reviewed and published. Most items we buy today
depend on the practice of this "normal" science to make
them work. If the items do not work, refunds are expected. The workability
depends on the collaboration of scientists and others. All this
is "normal". However, things can shift ground. Anomalies
appear. At first these anomalies are discounted, but if they do
not go away, scientists have to think again about whether the principles
they believed apply, are sufficient. A new theory is found that
fits the data better. Traditionalists may object for a while, but
gradually the new theory is absorbed. A scientific revolution, a
paradigm shift, has happened.
Kuhn's "normal science" is in dynamic balance
with "revolutionary science". But I think he does not
take hold of human nature sufficiently; the situation has deteriorated
since his time. Let's look at people rather than situations:
three types of scientist. I am going to call them the "normal"
scientist, the "real" rather than "revolutionary"
scientist, and the "post-normal" scientist. The
"normal" scientists comprise, let's say, about
90% of all scientists. They do a lot of excellent science, they
make things work, they are faithful and methodical. Society depends
on them. They are Judith Curry at her best. But they trust the laws
of science as they stand, and they trust the scientific practices
including the peer-review process. They work within the system.
In contrast, the "real" scientist
is always essentially a loner. He checks stuff for himself. He thinks
laterally, he has creative flashes of insight, he does his own back-yard
experiments on a shoestring. Above all, he is curious and open-minded.
And he is so passionate about truth, about finding out stuff for
himself, that his passion simply bubbles over and informs his activities.
Whatever he does, the passionate quest for truth shines through.
It doesn't need to be labelled as "passion for truth".
It's clear in the work, the clarity, the data, methods, checks,
checkability, workability. It's clear in the challenges to bad science
and bad scientific practice. And it's clear in the human qualities
that underlie thoroughness and balance: knowing one's limits of
knowledge, not claiming what one cannot back up, and practicing
sufficient courtesy. His work actually feels good, it satisfies
the soul of other real scientists. Why does it satisfy? Because
they recognize their own story; and because they too are passionate
about Truth. Willis
Watts, and Steve
McIntyre are all real scientists; they all come from
the real truth-seeking spirit of Science.
The real scientist is the kind of scientist understood
by the Royal Society at its inception, 350 years ago this year.
He is strongly intuitive as well as rigorous in testing, his curiosity
leads him to become multidisciplinary, a polymath, and he may well
have strong mystical leanings too, even if he or history keeps quiet
about that side of him, even though it may be his driving force.
He is the source of the science on which we now depend: Newton,
Jenner, Pasteur, Faraday, Maxwell, Mendeleev, Einstein, etc. He
usually has to fight for recognition. The early scientists ran the
risk of the Inquisition. Later scientists fell foul of each other.
Now once again the real scientist has fallen foul of the authorities
- this time, authorities calling themselves scientists. We've seen
jeers meted out to Lindzen, Soon
and Baliunas, Seitz, Singer, Ball, Jaworowski,
and the rest. Nevertheless, the "real" scientist was responsible
for the huge advances in science that enabled the Industrial Revolution
and our modern world to develop. During the first and second World
Wars, his inventiveness was crucial to their outcome. And because
of this, Science became patronised by the State.
A subtle shift happened at this point. Science was
institutionalized, and with vastly increased numbers, many trained
who were temperamentally "normal" scientists, rather than
"real" scientists. At first, the business of Science flourished
"as normal". But the number of "real" scientists
with a passion for Truth was diluted more and more by "normal"
scientists until they could vote in "Consensus Science"
by sheer numbers. But they lacked BS meters and passion for Truth
at all cost, and forgot that Truth needs proof, not majority support.
The seeds were sown whereby the Trojan Horse of "post-normal
science" could later be smuggled in.
Often, all the "normal" scientist may understand
of a real scientist is a maverick, a misfit, a misguided minority.
I can understand Judith's incomprehension. I had a six-month email
conversation with a "normal" PhD scientist who could not
understand me challenging peer-reviews, and could not check the
science for himself. Since I had no science degree, I could not
possibly "do" science, in his books. When I said that
CO2 caused no appreciable heat increase, UHI was neglected, the
ice core CO2 was suspect, etc, and provided the evidence, he kept
slipping gear and reverting back to his start position. He had a
big blind spot. Many cannot understand that the passion for truth
could motivate some people to work for thousands of hours without
Now consider the science institutions. A front of
excellence has to be maintained. "Normal" scientists get
key positions. Trained in universities that teach the passing of
exams rather than fostering allround curiosity, inventiveness, originality,
passion for Truth, or integrity, they may be competent administrators
but secondrate scientists who are unappreciative of the crucial
difference between "real" and "normal" scientists,
and remain ignorant of these limits of their capacity. Not being
inquisitive polymaths, they fall back on belief in matters outside
their discipline, and dismiss mavericks outside their professional
training; they assume peer-review is good enough.
The scene is set for the entry of the Trojan Horse
within "post-normal science". Now I believe PNS has crucial
work to do in the future, if it chooses to build and re-integrate
holistic awareness, including responsibility as planetary citizens.
But first it needs purging of its dogma, its fanaticism, its superstition.
Its genesis in apocalyptic fanaticism can be described thus: After
the Communist "enemy" had gone, the "enemy"
was redefined by the Club of Rome as - ourselves. We are wrecking
the planet - strict laws are needed to control us - let's scare
people into accepting draconian laws - what can we use? ah, carbon
dioxide and flaky science - build on flaky global warming - let's
control the naive scientists. It has been described well by Lindzen
and others: how the august institutions of Science left the back
door open to activists, who crept in and then installed their cronies.
you can see Bob Ward, former PR for the Royal Society, in full idiotic
flow. They are the polar opposite of the activists who said "let
my business thrive - no matter how corrupt and environmentally damaging
it is". But although twenty years ago a number of such activists
were indeed among the climate skeptics, they have long since been
totally dwarfed by the apocalyptic activists and their funders,
a fact which the apocalyptic activists strenuously hide.
"When the stakes are high and the uncertainty
is great, we may have to act even if the science is not very good"
seems to be a key statement of "post-normal science".
But this notion is dangerous rubbish. Anyone who thinks for herself
can see that the higher the stakes, the more important it is to
check the basic facts, to establish the truth, to let the evidence
speak for itself. When alarms are sounded, the first thing real
scientists do is check the science, the evidence, the data; use
commonsense; use backup checks from other sources. The last thing
real scientists would do is confuse correlation (rising CO2 to rising
temperatures) with causation, or suppress or exaggerate the data
or the results (as the Climategate scientists did). To a real scientist,
it is self-evident that Truth matters at all levels, both practically
and to the soul. Mistakes can happen; they can be painful to acknowledge;
acknowledgement brings fear of public censorship and punishment;
but to pass on without checking, or to suppress, exaggerate, or
lie is even worse for the soul; the worst of all is to suppress,
without fair hearing, those who might have better explanations.
The Climategate scientists would still do well to read Charles
Colson's story: his involvement in Watergate, and his
spiritual awakening that sustained him with miracles throughout
his subsequent prison sentence. The issue is not being formally
a Christian: it is closer to following the Twelve-Step Program,
originally developed for, and by, alcoholics.
All these virtues linked to Truth seem self-evident
necessities to real scientists. But "normal" scientists,
cosseted within a still-workable tradition, think about such things
far less in the course of their work, if at all. Therefore they
have been all the more vulnerable to the infiltration and takeover
by activists, who like the inquisitors before them, have projected
personal shadows into political attacks, and have changed the direction
of Science, particularly by controlling the purse-strings of research
and specifying that research must support AGW. Thus the activists
have created the illusion of supportive Science. But it is all puppetry,
hysteria and fraud. The warming that has happened lies well within
natural limits of both rate and extent and cyclic fluctuations;
carbon dioxide follows warming (from the sea); almost certainly
a significant quantity of UHI has been neglected, despite the appearance
of peer-reviewed papers saying otherwise. And more and more and
more. Read my primer
and update it through the blogs.
Now increasingly excluded from mainstream "science",
the real scientists, the loners, have gathered in the skeptics'
blog oases, particularly Climate Audit and Watts Up With That. They
have exchanged the real science and gained wisdom and the support
that, due to the substitution of Real Science with Normal Science
followed by a corrupted Post-Normal Science, has been missing where
it should be found. For me, one use of PNS was to make me see more
clearly the importance of recognizing Truth as a spiritual reality
and light to Science that we all know and touch and can claim, and
the reality of current PNS as impostor and trojan horse. But there
may be other more positive achievements of PNS that deserve recognition.
Responsibility as planetary citizens is essential for the future.
But without transparent, checkable truth in the form of data, methods,
articles, statistics, peer-to-peer-reviewing, etc, we have no foundation
of evidence from which we can determine the actions we really need
to take as planetary citizens. Despite Climategate, the fight to
reclaim the real Climate Science has not yet been won. Right now,
reactionary forces are working to whitewash the enquiries - and
more. This raises the question, what can real scientists do? Perhaps
it is time to formulate a scientists' equivalent to the Hippocratic
Oath - or Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses. Another very practical
way of seeking and defending the truth in Climate Science would
be to help build up the skeptics' wiki that now exists in "alpha"
state - Neutralpedia.
Here are ways we can channel positively the passion, the indignation,
and the anger.
Page created 25th February 2010