klimazwiebel about Al Gore's new article, including Anthony Watts' critique etc. One reader commented: "The difference between Watts and Gore is that Watts is a meteorologist and Gore, well, isn't." I still have to think about this statement. How come that we obviously understand what it means? I think we all agree that our commentator wanted to say with this argument: Watts is right, and Gore is not.
I don't want to discuss here again Gore and Watts; I just want to discuss the very nature of this statement. Let's put it as neutral as possible: "He's a scientist, and, well, she is not". I ask myself, what is this difference about? The difference between a (natural) scientist and somebody who is not a natural scientist. This differentiation is an argument which more or less unconsciously structures many of our discussions on klimazwiebel. We should share some thoughts about it.
The argument goes: The natural scientist knows how the real world works. The others have only opinions about the world, they perceive the world through a fog of feelings, opinions, interests, traditions, or simply "culture". On the one side, there is the objective, real world, and on the other is the psychological, philosophical, cultural world.
Strangely enough, the natural scientist's world is empty. Into this empty world, humans are added as an additional problem for calculation. Those humans normally are not "living" individuals. The closest humans can get is when at least their "perceptions", their "culture" is added as a crucial (and disturbing) factor in models, scenarios, planning etc.
But what happens when we turn things upside down? Let's assume - just for a moment - that the inhabited world is the real world, with natural sciences being (only) a part of it. Science now does not define reality in opposition to non-scientists; instead, science adds knowledge to a shared and lived reality. Science now serves as a tool to sharpen our senses, to refine our perceptions, to deepen our feelings, to better shape our opinions, to improve the design of our environment etc. It does not replace other forms of experience and knowledge; instead, it adds something to them. In this perspective, humans (or: non-scientists) are no longer aliens in a real world defined (or designed) by natural scientists; science is now part of the world we seek to understand.
This would make a difference. The above statement: "He is a scientist, and she is, well, not" - well, this were just a statement, not an argument. I would prefer this; we wouldn't have to waste so much time anymore to draw the line between nature and culture, science and laypeople, objective and subjective, truth and ideology, and so on and on and on.... As the climate debate shows more often than not, these differentiations are not very productive. Quite the contrary, combatants stay caught in a vicious circle, with the uncertainty monster grinning behind every corner.
Can we even imagine how climate change would look like without this destructive rhetorical mechanism? If it were not only defined by science and misconceived by people, but accepted as a common problem we have to deal with - even though we don't fully understand it? We shouldn't overburden science. What is needed are alternative conceptions of climate change.
Suggestions are welcome!