Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Can Philosophy enlighten climate science, part II

Today I would like to present an argument by the German philosopher Gregor Betz, In defence of the value free ideal, published in European Journal for Philosophy of Science (2013) 3:207–220.

Betz makes the case for maintaining the ideal of a value free science. He thus touches upon issues we have discussed many times on this blog, mainly under the labels of advocacy or honest brokering. Betz is a philosopher and approaches the question from a different angle. Conceptual analysis and logical inference are major tools for the job. Some may find the argument lengthy or tedious, but I find it illuminating.

The notion of a value free science was perhaps most famously put forward by Max Weber. Betz introduces it as follows:
The ideal of value free science states that the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic (e.g. moral or political) values. It derives, straightforwardly and independently, from democratic principles and the ideal of personal autonomy: As political decisions are informed by scientific findings, the value free ideal ensures—in a democratic society—that collective goals are determined by democratically legitimized institutions, and not by a handful of experts (cf. Sartori 1962, pp. 404–410). In regard of private decisions, personal autonomy would be jeopardized if the scientific findings we rely on in everyday life were soaked with moral assumptions (see Weber 1949 , pp. 17–18). [Betz, p. 207].
Weber's ideal has been contested by various authors and Betz summarizes the criticisms in the following way (I have shortened somewhat):
There are two versions of the methodological critique, which object to the value free ideal in different ways while sharing a common core. A first variant of the critique argues that the value free ideal cannot be (fully) realized, a second variant states that it would be morally wrong to realize it. The common core of both versions is a kind of underdetermination thesis. It claims that every scientific inference to policy-relevant findings involves a chain of arbitrary (epistemically underdetermined) choices:

Thesis 1 (Dependence on arbitrary choices) To arrive at (adopt and communicate) policy-relevant results, scientists have to make decisions which (i) are not objectively (empirically or logically) determined and (ii) sensitively influence the results thus obtained.

Thesis 2 (Decisions value laden) Decisions which (i) are not objectively determined and (ii) sensitively influence policy-relevant results (to be adopted and communicated) are inevitably based—possibly implicitly—on non-epistemic value judgments. From Theses 1 and 2, it follows immediately that science cannot be free of nonepistemic values.

Thesis 3 (Value free science unrealizable) Scientists inevitably make non-epistemic value judgments when establishing (adopting and communicating) policy-relevant results.

Thesis 4 (Policy-relevant results consequential) The policy-relevant results scientists arrive at (adopt and communicate) have potentially (in particular in case they err) morally significant societal consequences.

Thesis 5 (Moral responsibility) Any decision that is not objectively determined and has, potentially, morally significant societal consequences, should be based on nonepistemic value judgments (instead of being taken arbitrarily).

Thesis 6 (Value free science unethical) Scientists should rely on non-epistemic value judgments when establishing (adopting and communicating) policy-relevant results.
Betz then goes on to deconstruct this line of argument, showing that scientists are not forced to adopt a value judgement but have the possibility to communicate the uncertainties clearly to decision makers (you have to read the paper for the technical details). Betz then outlines some methodological principles which enable scientists to remain value neutral, yet communicating their knowledge in responsible ways. Then he gives the following example:

For illustrative purposes, we consider a ‘frank scientist’ who tries to comply with the methodological recommendations outlined above ... She might address policy makers along the following lines: “You have asked us to advice you on a complicated issue with many unknowns. We cannot reliably forecast the effects of the available policy options, which you’ve identified, in a probabilistic—let alone deterministic— way. Our current insights into the system simply don’t suffice to do so. However, we find that, if policy option A is adopted, it is consistent with our current understanding of the system (and hence possible) that the consequences CA1, CA2, . . . ensue; but note that we are not in a position to robustly rule out further effects of option A not included in that range. For policy option B, though, we can reliably exclude this-and-this set of developments as impossible, which still leaves CB1, CB2, . . . as a broad range of future possible consequences. These results are obviously not as telling as a deterministic forecast, but they represent all we currently know about the system’s future development. We, the scientists, think it’s not up to us to arbitrarily reduce these uncertainties. On the contrary, we think that democratically legitimized decision makers should acknowledge the uncertainties and determine—on normative grounds—which level of risk aversion is apt in this situation. Finally, the complex uncertainty statement I have provided above is as well confirmed as other empirical statements typically taken for granted in policy making (e.g., that plutonium is toxic, coal burns, earth’s atmosphere comprises oxygen, etc.). That is because all we relied on in establishing the possibilistic predictions were such well-confirmed results.”

This sounds quite like the Honest Broker role, identified by Roger Pielke Jr. in his book with the same title. In the following section Betz argues that the IPCC follows such a model and that - while still not perfect and not always applied - this is on the right path:
It is universally acknowledged that the detailed consequences of anthropogenic climate change are difficult to predict. Centurial forecasts of regional temperature anomalies or changes in precipitation patterns, let alone their ensuing ecologic or societal consequences, are highly uncertain. So, no wonder that climate scientists, in particular those involved in climate policy advice, have reflected extensively on how to deal with these uncertainties. A recent special issue of Climatic Change is further evidence of the attention climate science pays to uncertainty explication and communication. Some of the special issue’s discussion is devoted to the IPCC Guidance Note on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties (Mastrandrea et al. 2010 ). The current Guidance Note , which is used to compile the Fifth Assessment Report (5AR), is a slightly modified version of the Guidance Note for the 4AR. The Guidance Note may serve as an excellent example for how the very statements and results scientists articulate and communicate are modified and chosen in the light of prevailing uncertainties.

Based on Mastrandrea, Betz constructs the following typology:

A) A variable is ambiguous, or the processes determining it are poorly known
or not amenable to measurement.

B) The sign of a variable can be identified but the magnitude is poorly known.

C) An order of magnitude can be given for a variable.

D) A range can be given for a variable, based on quantitative analysis or expert judgment.

E) A likelihood or probability can be determined for a variable, for the occurrence of an event, or for a range of outcomes (e.g., based on multiple observations, model ensemble runs, or expert judgment).

F) A probability distribution or a set of distributions can be determined for the variable either through statistical analysis or through use of a formal quantitative survey of expert views.

Again, Betz comments as follows:

From state A) to state F), the scientific understanding gradually increases, and the statements scientists can justifiably and reliably make become ever more informative and precise. If, as is the case in state A), current understanding is very poor, scientists might simply report that very fact, rather than dealing with significant inductive risks when inferring some far-reaching hypothesis (as the methodological critique has it). Importantly, the statement that a process is poorly understood, that the evidence is low and that the agreement amongst experts is limited—such a statement itself does not involve any practically significant and policy-relevant uncertainties (contra premiss P2’). The Guidance Note thus provides a blueprint for making uncertainties fully explicit and avoiding substantial inductive risks.
This is not to say that the framework provided by the IPCC is perfect and flawless. In addition, I’m not claiming here that the actual IPCC assessment reports consistently implement the Guidance Note and articulate uncertainties in a flawless way. But even if the guiding framework and the actual practice might be improved upon, the IPCC example nonetheless shows forcefully how scientists can articulate results as a function of the current state of understanding and thereby avoid arbitrary (methodological) choices. This effectively defeats the methodological critique of the value free ideal.

I think this paper re-asserts in a thorough way the Weberian ideal of a value-free science which proceeds by other means than we have seen here on Klimazwiebel. I have defended the ideal on occasions but based on a utilitarian logic ('scientists will lose their credibility if they give up that ideal'). I think Hans von Storch has expressed such a defence with a similar rationale. So in this sense, perhaps we can learn from a philosopher of how to reason about a fundamental value of science, its value neutrality.


wottsupwiththatblog said...

Maybe I can ask a question about why we might want science to be value neutral. Is it because if it's not, then we can't be sure that the science is not being influenced by the scientists's value judgement? On the other hand, is it - as you seem to imply at the end - that if scientists do not appear to be value-free then they lose credibility? The science may well be un-influenced by whatever values a scientist might hold, but the public/policymakers will possibly regard the science as lacking credibility.

Anonymous said...

How should one interpret this blog/article (and your stance on the issue)? Does the blog/article show that we should now value the IPCC as a value-neutral organisation based on value-neutral science? And that this way of looking at it would give it credibility? This would be quite a contrast with the more usual attacks on the IPCC as peddling value-laden science and therefore having only limited value for society and limited credibility.

MikeR said...

I like WUWT's question. In terms of the science being influenced, I think that the best example I know was the wars over "The Bell Curve" in the 1990's. I have no expertise; I have no idea whether The Bell Curve made valuable points or not. I am sure, though, that there is no way for anyone to easily find out, given the furious pressure created on the issues in the book. It was (still is) just impossible for scientists to do their jobs in any reasonable way, with furious people all around who knew what the answer had to be and wouldn't tolerate thought of any other possibility. They might even have had the right answer, but how can one know?

Eckhart Arnold said...

I agree that the article by Gregor Betz is really recommendable. (Native German speakers might be interested that Gregor Betz has also written an article in German on a similar topic in: Steeger / Hillerbrand (Hrsg.): Praxisfelder angewandter Ethik, mentis 2013) His argument may be tedious, but that is probably due to professional scrunity - and the argument as such appears absolutely sound to me. It boils down to two points: 1. Science can be value free. (This is contrary to Heather Douglas who believes that value judgements are unavoidable in science if uncertainty is involved.) 2. Science should be value free. Or, put it differently, if science does its job right then the validity of its results is independent of any value judgements.

From this point of view, scientists could indeed loose their credibility if their science is value-ladden. (In practice, though, this is very hard to avoid completely - at least in the social sciences. Here it might be more appropriate to demand that value judgements be made explicit rather than trying to avoid value judgements at all costs, in particular the cost of hypocrisy.)

This does not directly say something about whether the reports of the IPCC are value free science. Gregor Betz merely uses the IPCC's guidelines as an example that it is possible to communicate scientific uncertainties as uncertainties without necessarily letting value judments slip in (as, for example, Heather Dougles believes).

Regarding, the value-ladeness of the IPCC reports, I am quite confident (personal opinion) that it is based on value free science, but I'd hesitate to call the IPCC itself value free, because "Governments participate in the review process and the plenary Sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC work programme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved." (http://www.ipcc.ch/organization/organization.shtml) Therefore, although it describes itself as a scientific body (same link), it is in fact also a political body.

Anonymous said...

Is it easier or harder for a scientist to manipulate his results, if he is "value free"?


Anonymous said...

# 4 Thank you, Eckhart Arnold! That was very helpful.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Thanks Eckhart Arnold for your insightful comment. I would agree with most of what you say except the bit about the 'value free science' produced by the IPCC. As you know the IPCC does not conduct research but assesses existing publications (thereby, of course, creating new knowledge because it sets new points of reference). So in order to be able to answer the question about value neutrality of the IPCC, one would need to investigate a) the scientific research which being assessed; b) the work of the assessors (authors, and above all, co-ordinating lead authors). On both counts we can only speculate, at most we can make educated guesses about highly visible scientists.

@ReinerGrundmann said...


a very good question, how would you answer it?

Pekka Pirilä said...

In discussing the role of values in scientific work the main emphasis is mostly given on values external to the the scientific process, but for a practicing scientist the values related directly to the process may often affect the work more.

As many scientists are even emotionally deeply involved in the process, what they consider the right way of doing science affects very much their choices in doing and presenting science. Such values concern issues like:

- novelty vs. certainty of the results (publishing new results rapidly or postponing the publication until further checks have been done)
- emphasizing issues that scientist believes subjectively even when objective evidence is still lacking
- emphasizing uncertainties even when most other scientists consider evidence strong
- purely curiosity based research vs. considering near term relevance important.

Many of these issues come up in climate science due to the complexity of the issues and sparsity of the evidence (meaning that there's a lot of evidence, but not in a form that allows for step-by-step logical reasoning). One example of that is the "uncertainty monster" of Judith Curry. The weight given on that way of thinking is a value judgment. It's that internally for the scientific process, but it may be also influenced strongly by values external of the science itself.

Manfred Mudelsee said...

The admirers of the IPCC Guides, to which also Betz ("... may serve as an excellent example for how the very statements and results scientists articulate and communicate are modified and chosen in the light of prevailing uncertainties.") seems to belong, may note that not all of the professionals of the science that founded the language of uncertainty, namely statistical science, are enthusiastic.

"It is fair to say, however, that how physicists approach scientific uncertainty has been scarcely touched by fundamental developments within statistics concerning mathematical representations of scientific uncertainty. An indication of the disconnect is provided by the guidelines used by the IPCC in its 2007 major report [AR4], where the terms `likelihood' and `confidence' were recommended for two types of uncertainty reports, apparently in complete ignorance of how these terms have been used for more than 60 years as basic textbook concepts in statistics, having nothing whatsoever in common with the recommended IPCC language (which I regard as operationally very confusing)." Dempster AP (2010) Notes on fundamental approaches to climate prediction. Satellite Workshop on Probabilistic Climate Prediction, University of Exeter, 20 to 23 September 2010.

Otherwise, however, I find what is reported about Betz' text accessible and helpful for a "rational scientist."

"Value-free": is it acceptable if one says that to aim at doing value-free science is morally imperative for a researcher? I mean, the best service a scientist can do for society, is to search for the (excuse me) truth.

Anonymous said...

Ich tue mich etwas schwer mit der Forderung nach "value free science". Sicher, die Auswertung von Daten etc. hat natürlich nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen so objektiv (und damit auch unabhängig von den Werten des Forschers) zu sein, aber im Text geht es ja um mehr als dies.

Die Forderung an den Wissenschaftler, seine Werte beiseite zu lassen, empfinde ich als inhuman, weil menschliches Dasein untrennbar mit Werten verbunden ist. Man sollte daher nicht fordern (und damit zugleich überfordern), dass jeder Wissenschaftler bei Kommunikation etc. zu einem wertefreien Vermittlungsroboter werden soll, es geht in der Praxis sowieso nicht.

Jeder Wissenschaftler ist sowieso (ich hoffe, ich klinge nicht altmodisch) durch ein wissenschaftliches Ethos gebunden. Davon abgesehen, lasst ihn bitte Mensch sein.

Viele Grüße

(sorry for German language. Too late, too tired)

Manfred Mudelsee said...

Andreas, you may explain "jeder Wissenschaftler bei Kommunikation etc."?

Of course, a scientist acts as a human being when communicating science, but "'etc.'/and so forth": when actually doing science (measuring, analysing or thinking), then (many) values disappear.

Example: when analysing trends in flood risk, I avoid thinking of the casualties of past flood events and instead try to find the mathematically optimal risk estimation strategy.

@ReinerGrundmann said...


thanks for the helpful differentiation of values.

I would also like to point out that there is a difference between individual scientists and scientific institutions.

We know that scientists are human (and therefore e.g. unable to handle conflicts of interest any better than other humans) and may be driven my an agenda (getting fame, securing the next grant, making an impact...). If they do so, they will normally will be exposed by other researchers (and increasingly by citizens).

Scientific institutions are different and should be designed in ways as to minimise such bias. This is why I think Honest Brokering is a collective enterprise. Advocacy is for individual researchers and lobby groups. It it usually not a good sign when Science institutions engage in policy advocacy.

Anonymous said...

@ Manfred Mudelsee

Das Nachfragen erwischt mich hier etwas auf dem falschen Fuße, ich befinde mich in einem Zustand der Verwirrung, und hätte lieber weiter gelauscht.

Was mich zunächst am meisten verwirrt hat, war der für mich völlig missverständliche Begriff "value free science".
Webers The ideal of value free science states that the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic (e.g. moral or political) values. ist ja auch schon wieder ein Wert an sich, und dieses Ideal geht ja genau in die Richtung ihres eigenen Beispiels zu Fluten oder dem, was ich als "wissenschaftliches Ethos" bezeichnet habe. Wenn ich lese, dass es Problem in pharmakologischen Studien gibt, dann sehe ich da zuerst ein Fehlen von Werten und nicht ein zu viel. Ok, ist nun abgehakt, "value free science" meint auch gar nicht frei von allen Werten.

Dennoch bin ich tendenziell mehr bei den beiden oben genannten Gegenargumenten, weil es die Beteiligten überfordert in dem Grad an "Reinheit" und weil jeder Mensch untrennbar mit Werten verbunden ist.

Bleiben wir doch mal beim Beispiel des IPCC-Berichts: Saubere wissenschaftliche Arbeit ist da noch das geringste Problem. Schwieriger wird es schon, wenn es an die Zusammenstellung geht: Welche Paper sind wichtig genug, referenziert zu werden, welche nicht? Was davon soll in die SPM übernommen werden? Bei der überbordenden Fülle muss eine Auswahl getroffen werden, und das geht eben nicht mehr nur mit mathematischen oder naturwissenschaftlicher Methodik, da agiert jetzt ein Mensch mit Werten.

Und meine Verwirrung wird noch weiter gesteigert, wenn ich mich frage, wer denn bewerten soll, ob das IPCC oder Roger Pielke in ihrer Kommunikation dem Ideal der value free science nahekommen. Man frage 5 Leute und man erhält 5 verschiedene Antworten. Bei Roger Pielke würde ich z.B. ganz klar mit "nein" antworten, hat vielleicht etwas mit meinen Werten zu tun. Aber wie soll man es denn überhaupt wertfrei messen?

Quantenphysik und Philosophie lösen bei mir immer Kopfschmerzen und Verwirrung aus. Das einzige, wo ich mir sicher bin, ist, dass Reiner Grundmann hier zweifelsfrei ein sehr überzeugendes Beispiel präsentiert hat, wo Wissenschaftler etwas von den Philosophen lernen können.

Viele Grüße

Günter Heß said...

Herr Mudelsee, Andreas,

mich verwirrt ebenfalls der Satz:
„The ideal of value free science states that the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic (e.g. moral or political) values.“

Vielleicht zurerst ein Paar meiner Gedanken auf Deutsch.

Denn für mich sind „scientific findings“ Ergebnisse die reproduzierbar sind und zwar in verschiedenen Arbeitsgruppen unabhängig davon in welchen Arbeitsgruppen sie gerade reproduziert werden. Nur so etwas als Ergebnis zu veröffentlichen ist für mich ein Wert nach dem ich als Naturwissenschaftler strebe. Ob das immer so gelingt ist eine andere Frage. Wir Menschen sind nie perfekt.

Es können nun in einem Paper auch Schlußfolgerungen veröffentlicht werden die aber nur den Charakter einer Vermutung haben, weil sie vielleicht nicht vollständig von den reproduzierbaren Ergebnissen gedeckt sind, dann fließt da eine subjektive Bewertung ein wenn ich die Vermutung als meine wahrscheinlichste Erklärung präsentiere. Hier habe ich aber die Pflicht das deutlich von den reproduzierbaren Ergebnissen zu trennen. Auch das ist ein Wert.

Meine Frage ist nun:

Wie ist der Begriff „scientific finding“ gemeint. Sind das Ergebnisse oder nur Schlußfolgerungen und Vermutungen.
Und was ist mit Wert (value) gemeint. Der Wert nur reproduzierbare Ergebnisse zu veröffentlichen oder ein moralischer Wert der mich dazu bringt bestimmte Vermutungen zu preferieren. Das letztere wäre für mich schon eine Konterkarierung der wissenschaftlichen Methode.

Günter Heß

@ReinerGrundmann said...

To clarify a possible source of confusion: the ideal of a value free science is a value itself. Nice paradox, and nice illustration that you cannot avoid them...

But the important point for Weber was to insist on a separation of science from politics. He felt the pressure first hand to pronounce on politics in the lecture theatre (just after the first world war, in midst the turbulences of the Bavarian revolution) - a pressure he resisted. He gave two speeches on the matter, Science as a Vocation [1917] and Politik as a Vocation [1919] (Wissenschaft als Beruf; Politik als Beruf).

In Science as a Vocation he famously states: 'I am ready to prove from the works of our historians that whenever the man of science introduces his personal value judgment, a full understanding of the facts ceases.'

volkerdoormann said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
@ReinerGrundmann said...


I deleted your comments as it did not relate to the thread. You are welcome to comment on the current thread if you want.

Manfred Mudelsee said...

@ Grundmann: Please do not delete.

@ Weber, Andreas, Heß, Grundmann

Even if Weber may be said to proclaim "value-free" science, he at least confesses that a researcher has to make some assumptions: "Vorausgesetzt ist bei jeder wissenschaftlichen Arbeit immer die Geltung der Regeln der Logik und Methodik" (In: Wissenschaft als Beruf). Maybe that allows to introduce some subjective judgement?

Whereas few, but still nonzero, researchers would dispute the used logical system and allow for a third (besides yes or no) or a continuum (fuzzy), even more researchers would dispute the validness of the assumed methodology.

Take as example the global temperature over the past 200 years. Climatologists would consider to describe this as a longer-term systematic trend (which is related to increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations) with superimposed short-memory noise, some hydrologists or other believers in long-memory stochastic climate processes (Hurst phenomenon) would have a view on the very same data as a no-trend realization of that complex type of noise.

This antagonism (climatology/hydrology) has been observed in the past. I personally would say that physics (greenhouse effect) supports the climatologists view here.

However, in general, there may exist situations where it is not at all clear which view to take. If the choice of viewpoint is called value-laden, then this is OK with me (maybe not for Weber). One 'just' has to report the set of assumptions made for a scientific analysis or assessment. When crossing disciplinary boundaries, researchers might miss that they enter a new area, where (often implicitly (Polanyi)) other assumptions are usually being made.

Manfred Mudelsee

Manfred Mudelsee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
volkerdoormann said...

"@ReinerGrundmann said... 18

I deleted your comments as it did not relate to the thread.
November 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM

Rainer Grundmann,
it is not up to you to delete my comment. Reinstall it, or you will have problems with yourself.



Günter Heß said...

@Manfred Mudelsee

What you describe is for my opinion not a "scientific finding", but rather a proposition.

I do think a proposition does not need the rigor of a reproducible "scientific finding".

I think Weber's rigor applies to reproducible "scientific findings" and not to propositions or conclusions based on assumption that are not backed by results, but rather by experience or gut feeling.

I agree with your last sentence for conclusions and propositions:
"One 'just' has to report the set of assumptions made for a scientific analysis or assessment. When crossing disciplinary boundaries, researchers might miss that they enter a new area, where (often implicitly (Polanyi)) other assumptions are usually being made."

Best regards
Günter Heß

Eckhart Arnold said...

@Rainer Grundmann
" the ideal of a value free science is a value itself. Nice paradox, and nice illustration that you cannot avoid them..."

The idea of value freeness could be considered as instrumental to the purpose of science to explain nature. If this is accepted then value freeness is not a value itself, but a means to an end. It is because otherwise "a full understanding of the facts ceases" (Weber) that value-freeness is needed in science. It is only a question of value whether the end, i.e. science itself, is worth while.

With respect to climate science, the ideal of value freeness is important, because without it, it would be difficult to critise the IPCC in case it turns out that its reports or summaries for executives are skewed for political reasons.

@Gunther Heß
There is a difference between science-internal and science-external values. E.g. publishing only results that are reproducible by different research groups ("Nur so etwas als Ergebnis zu veröffentlichen ist für mich ein Wert") is an internal value of science. (Pekka Pirilä mentioned something like this earlier I think.) These "internal" values are out of dispute if the question of value-free science is concernced. External value in are moral values or political goals. For example, publishing only results that are considered morally or politically acceptable would be contrary to the ideal of value freeness.

@Gunter Heß and Manfred Mudelsee
Sometimes subjective judgements are unavoidable as for example if the choice of a particular methodology cannot really be decided on scientific grounds, because different scientific fields would suggest different methodologies (e.g. climatology/hydrology). But then the ideal of value-free science would demand that this case should be treated as any other case of uncertainty. That is, the uncertainty or the arbitrariness of choice of methodology should clearly be indicated as such. It is to be feared though that when uncertainties or hard to justify methodological choices are concerned the danger of political or moral values actually slipping in is the greatest (as suggested by Pekka Pirilä earlier) - in particular if the research is related to a heated public debate.

Hans von Storch said...

volkerdormann # 21 - yes, it was up to Reiner to delete your comment because it did not deal with the issue of this thread.
However it is up to you to show some discipline, namely to stick to the issue of what is discussed.

Karl Kuhn said...

Value judgments are most effectively at work before research as such starts: when choosing the research topic and question. This is unavoidable, as scientists have only limited reseources and therefore cannot deal with all sorts of questions. So the research topic is chosen following different criteria: is the topic relevant, is it hot, does carrying out this research create public utility, isn't it too sensitive, will it be funded? The latter question has become much more important (public research programmes and grants).

Manfred Mudelsee said...

@ Karl Kuhn

Please give an example of your own experience where you selected your research topic beforehand on such mundane grounds. In my view (and experience), you forgot to mention the single most important reason for an individual to do science: curiosity and interest.


volkerdoormann said...

“Hans von Storch said...24 volkerdormann # 21 - yes, it was up to Reiner to delete your comment because it did not deal with the issue of this thread. However it is up to you to show some discipline, namely to stick to the issue of what is discussed.”

Reiner Grundmann has presented an argument given by the German philosopher Gregor Betz, In defence of the value free ideal. Betz introduces it as follows: „The ideal of value free science states that the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic (e.g. moral or political) values. It derives, straightforwardly and independently, from democratic principles and the ideal of personal autonomy: As political decisions are informed by scientific findings, the value free ideal ensures—in a democratic society—that collective goals are determined by democratically legitimized institutions, and not by a handful of experts. In regard of private decisions, personal autonomy would be jeopardized if the scientific findings we rely on in everyday life were soaked with moral assumptions. “

This argument for a value free ideal rejects moral or political values, independently from democratic principles and independently from the ideal of personal autonomy, and adds that political decisions from scientific findings have to be democratic processes of the society and not by a handful of experts. Private decisions therefore cannot be a value free ideal because they are moral values.

I think it must be remarked that the democratic process is not an object of the value free ideal, as it is correct mentioned as independent from democratic principles.

In my first deleted comment I have argued on lacks of strong arguments in the scientific argumentation of Betz himself (bottom of http://www.volker-doormann.org/frage_hvs.htm).
Moreover the personal autonomy is not a criterion for a value free science. He says what is not an ideal of a value free science, but he does not say explicit what IS a criterion of the ideal of a value free science.

The points why my first posting do relate to the thread are many. If the argument of Betz is introduced by Reiner Grundmann, who is connected to utilitarian logic, meaning ethics, it is not compatible to rejects my critics on the practical argumentation of Betz giving his personal beliefs and assertions. Moreover, he contradicts himself, if he follows the goal of handful experts in climate science which he says is out of argumentation in his related paper on ethical aspects.

If Reiner Grundmann is connected to utilitarian logic, he is connected to the science of ethics, and this is not compatible with suppressing counter arguments to the authority of the philosopher Betz, without any readiness to perform strong scientific counter arguments. This is exact the practice Betz has excluded from his ideal of a value free science.

It is not my problem if Reiner Grundmann do not see that the 'ethical' statements from Betz are related to this thread. Neither climate science has an owner, nor any other science. You can own your personal opinion, but you cannot own the personal opinion of the other; it would hurt the utilitarian logic an the ideal of value free science.


Karl Kuhn said...

@ Mudelsee

You call my criteria mundane. So let's repeat them:


"Is the topic relevant?"

Is that mundane?

"Is it hot?"

As part of the research community you will want to contribute to the current scientific or even public discussions ... this is then a hot topic, and going for them is totally okay.

"Does carrying out this research create public utility?"

As most research is taxpayer-funded, this is (at least for me) a very important criterion.

"Isn't it too sensitive?"

This is often a problem ... there are taboo topics, some justified, others not. Taboos or quasi-taboos carry value judgments by society or your peer group which find their way into what you are not doing.

"Will it be funded?"

I have to feed a family on such funds... yeah, very mundanee.

The monestrial ideal of the scientist preached by some here may preclude the use of science to satisfy your curiosity. I say this with a twinkle in the eye ... I am not a proponent of such an ideal or notion. I prefer proper scientific institutions containing checks and balances, as, indeed too many "mundane" incentives are at work to remain pristine. Individual control of moral or professional norms is not sufficient.