Monday, October 18, 2010

values in science

In GAIA 3/2010, p. 175-177, one of the co-publishers, Hans-Jochen Luhmann, asks “Auf welche Wissenschaft beruft sich die Politik beim Zwei-Grad-Ziel?“ and summarizes his answer like this: Die multilaterale Politik bekennt sich zum Zwei-Grad-Ziel, um den Klimawandel zu begrenzen. Sie stützt sich dazu explizit auf Empfehlungen „der Wissenschaft“. Bemerkenswert ist, dass sie sich dabei nicht – was doch naheläge – auf das IPCC beruft. Dieses Gremium hat sich nämlich explizit versagt, „Werturteile“ wie das Zwei-Grad-Ziel zu formulieren. Da die Politik aber nach solchen Urteilen verlangt, bedient sie sich pragmatisch an anderer Stelle – bei einer Wissenschaft, die nicht strikt zwischen Fakten und Werturteilen trennt. Letzteres sollte auch ein Kennzeichen einer Wissenschaft von der Nachhaltigkeit (sustainability science) sein.

After having been confronted with a similar analysis by S. Keller in “Poiesis & Praxis”, Dennis Bray and I wrote a rebuttal of this approach in this journal Poiesis & Praxis (2010; 7:211–219 DOI 10.1007/s10202-010-0085-3; open access)


Anonymous said...

For improved usability:

(bezahlpflichtig:) Hans-Jochen Luhmann: "Auf welche Wissenschaft beruft sich die Politik beim Zwei-Grad-Ziel?" ("What Science do Politicians Refer to When Setting the Two-Degree Target?"); in: GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, Volume 19, Number 3, October 2010 , pp. 175-177(3).

(open-access:) Hans von Storch, Dennis Bray: "Against politicization of science"; in: Journal Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science (2010) 7:211–219.


Hans von Storch said...

Ich bekam noch den Hinweis, dass ich
das Inhaltsverzeichnis und den abstract verlinke. So geschehen.

ingno said...

Thank you Dennis and Hans; an excellent paper! And there is much to think about as well.

I fully endorse your view on the necessity to keep science out of being a part of, or even taking over, politics. That is absolutely necessay if we still want science to be a truth seeking process. But it may also be added that politics need to take the responsibility for its descisions and not to try to hide behind science and "expert". The post-modernist believe that responsibility should be a part of "research ethics". But who gave scientists that mandate? After all, politicians in a democratic society are chosen by the people. Scientists are not (and should not be).

Ingemar Nordin

PS. I am not fond of the term "post-normal science", but that is different story. DS

Anonymous said...

I hope you won't see following as too off-topic. In a variety of ways you may incorporate in further studies what -- according to reports just coming in (cf. Phoenix, Der Tag (Mo, 18.10.10, 23.00 - 00.00h)) -- the german Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, solicited from us (or the participants) at the 'Zeit-Konferenz zur internationalen Sicherheitspolitik' (not covered yet?), to bear in mind that confronting as well climate change as international/-govermental security policy we came face-to-face with the facts of claims about ownership of the arctic.

I recall for my part (zu Guttenberg didn't mentioned it) – if my memory does not fail me – this year's 100+ ships which cruised around that pole or even crossed some "trade channel" passages. – – Where sheets of ice were ruptured for shortcuts – in my mind – a visible geo-engineered widespread disruption of glocal predominant climatic conditions emerges.

I remember there were well funded expeditons in the latest years due to the 'International Polar Year from 2007-09'. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation brought the news of the "first opportunity to look at what the Arctic Ocean looks like in the middle of winter." Seemingly almost obligatory the CBC-article enjoined us a few times to caution: "They found that Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than scientists expected."

The news ended with an 'affidavit of means' by Prof. David Barber, head of this largest climate change study ever undertaken in Canada, in which were 156 million canadian dollars and 370 scientists from around the world involved:

"'[Scientists] don't just write for each other. We have to write for the policy-makers,' said Barber."
(Cf. CBC, February 5, 2010: "Arctic ice melting faster than feared: study".)


Werner Krauss said...

Dennis & Hans, I read your really interesting rebuttal twice. First time I was pretty convinced of your argument; second reading made me think about HOW you convinced me.
As an eye-opener, I stumbled across a 'she' in your text and realized that S. Keller is a Sarina Keller. Let's have a short look how you characterize her: she makes a "complaint"; she "laments"; she "places any due blame on the shoulder of Bert Bolin", but "perhaps she is unaware" etc. Sounds like good ol' guys talking about a girl, eh?
But thanks God, help is coming: Cool Merton comes along, "abstract" and "impersonal", saving the CUDOS (Ruhm, Ehre, Ansehen in German) of science. Thanks Merton! That was pretty close! Now Bert Bolin, "this fine scientist and gentleman", can do his job and save climate science from - from what? Those girls, of course! There should even be law against them coming round: "this contract should contain explicitly a
prescription that the suggestion of S. Keller is not acceptable for a professional conduct of climate science."
Oh boys, social science is a slippery field, isn't it? Does there still remain an argument when we take away all of your unconscious qualifying of those you write about? I'll have to read it a third time...

sil_beck said...

Werner, that is: Good old, really hard science is man’s business. The leftovers like trust and values are a part of the girl’s programme.
And, blessedly, there are declared, not prescriptive “honest brokers” that know what is best for “us” all.

Anonymous said...

Ich verstehe nicht, warum immer noch um den heißen Brei herumgeredet wird. Das Problem ist nicht ein Terminus wie "Postnormalität", der, dafür sei ihm Dank und Ehre geschuldet, auf Prof. Storch zurückgeht.

Das grundlegende Problem ist die Anwendung von postmodernem!! Gedankengut auf die "harten" Wissenschaften. Man sollte sich ernsthaft die Frage stellen, ob es nicht an der Zeit ist, eine - nicht vorhandene Postmoderne - durch eine Neumoderne zu ersetzen.

Die Konsequenzen einer Privatisierung von Wahrheit und einer bewußten Unterminierung des Wissenschaftsethos für eigene Wertsetzungen und Zweckhaftigkeiten war schon in den 70er Jahren klar herauslesbar.

Ein schon von der Wissenschaftlichkeit entfremdeter Wissenschaftszweig ist die Psychologie, in welcher akademische Fragen der "Politischen Korrektheit" untergeordnet werden müssen und politische Agitation schon seit 30 Jahren neben wissenschaftlicher Forschung steht.

Mich haben die auftretenden Problematiken in den Klimawissenschaften in keinster Weise überrascht.

Vielleicht wird jetzt, ob der Dramatik und öffentlichen Präsenz, endlich der lange von der Linken, NGO's und dem Mainstreammedium blockierte und dämonisierte Diskurs geführt.

Hans von Storch said...

Der Begriff der Postnormalität geht auf Silvio Funtovicz und Jerry Ravetz zurück; mir wurde er von Dennis Bray beigebracht - Hans

Dennis Bray said...

Hey Werner

If you read the original article by Keller, perhaps you can clarify for us what she REALLY said/did - I love pomo interpretations; typically as clear as mud and as organized as a pig on roller skates. If we said instead Sarina Keller or simply Keller, would it lead you to the same conclusions?

Werner Krauss said...

@dennis #9
Hey Dennis, it is not "porno interpretation", this is good old gender studies. And it is not about Keller's article; instead, all quotes are from your article. By the way - I think, my interpretation is as clear as water. I like you bringing up the picture of the pig on roller skates. Psychoanalytically interesting, I guess (but I am not an expert).
By the way, I did not argue against your message (I tend to agree); I just wrote about the rhetorical strategies which you deployed to convince the reader. They are gendered (male = fine scientist, impartial, gentleman; female = lament, burden, unconscious etc); that's a fact.

Rainer S said...


There already are quite a number of research areas that have fallen prey to some kind of PNS.

To see medical sciences have quite a problem one does not need to read Ionnides or Grigerenzer (although it helps). And PNS in full swing can be viewed in the fields of nutrition and life style.

To find "studies" in these fields wanting, one does not need to know what PCA is or what coupled non-linear differential equations are about - simple statistics is sufficient, as well as some knowledge how n o t to measure something.

Imho, These fields show similar patterns as climate science: at the start there already is some kind of bias, you pour enough money into the system - and off we go.

Hans von Storch said...

Now, Werner, have you read our piece a third time? What did ou learn?

Jochen said...

I have read your paper and must write my first post here.
I found it bouth touchingly naive and unreadable (zum Kotzen).
Sure once one gets caught in a post modern acid trip, anything is possible but is the following real?

"Thus, science offers a knowledge-based service to society; science offers knowledge
about climate dynamics, change and impact; while recognizing the possibility for
revision, it both contributes to the societal contextualization of such knowledge, and
accepts feedback into the scientific arena of socio-politically significant issues."

Or is it just an attempt to emulate Sokal?

Well the reason to post is not because your paper made me soundly laugh.
It is because you live obviously on another planet (Keller übrigens auch).
If you came among the real people, you know those who go to pubs, work in farms, watch football and ultimately decide about who will govern us all, you would know that they don't give a ... about climate science and climate change.
And if you go among such people in the US, they not only don't give a .... but they have a gun against those who annoy them too much.

And for those people whether you like it or not, climate "scientists" have already been societally contextualized and recognised as the same kind of bastards like politicians.
Have no illusions - the (most) climate scientists choose to play the game of Hansen , Jones and Al Gore and the REAL people won't forget that they lost.
Tar and feathers will come in due time.
But don't make a mistake - this is not about science, this is just about a VERY specifical new hybrid of politics and science called climate science.

Hans von Storch said...

Jochen, why don't you try it again.

Write down what you mean, take out the insulting language, and present your key arguments in some specifity. You may be sure that I also speak with real people, that I have some insight, what some people think. Likely other people than those you communicate with, have other views? So, while your claims are interesting, try to explain how representative your observations are.

Difficult language is not necessarily indicative of nonsense, would you agree? -- Hans

ingno said...

"Tar and feathers will come in due time."

Well, that seems to me to be more or less inevitable, now with Pachauri staying at his post :-)

But what about us, that happen to be interested in the scientific question about the climate? (Not "real people" I presume.) When and how will we get an answer? How will climate science depoliticize itself?

What Hans von Storch and Dennis Bray is saying is simply that although scientists should not become politicians it is quite legitimate that science, now and then, pursues truths about things that are RELEVANT, and perhaps heatedly debated, in politics. That is unavoidable, and is often even a virtue. So, my question to you Jochen is how to go about this kind of research if you do not agree to the distinctions made in the paper?

Anonymous said...


As a skeptical lay man I appreciate Eduardos and Hans's efforts to be as honest as possible and to tell us all the truth about their work.

Everybody can make mistakes and it maybe that they make mistakes too.

What you post here is a shame for every honest skeptikal lay man. I would like both sides to stop this kind of behaviour, but above all lay men should do so.

In a scientific debate you are allowed to have your own opinion. Scientist may express their opinion in a more agressive way without being mistaken by their colleagues.

But we lay men should be more modest. And I am very happy and proud to have the opportunity to talk to these honest brokers.

Best regards

Jochen said...


There was nothing insulting in my language with the possible exception of the word "bastards" and, if one is too thin skinned, an imperfect equivalent of the word unreadable.
Even this word was a quote - I could tell you the name of the pub in Houston where I heard it and it was a consensus, but it wouldn't add much, right?
It is by the way telling that you would reduce my post to one word - is it possible that you didn't understand what I said?

Allow me to strongly doubt that you go much among the "real" people and that you have an idea what they think.
If anything is a proof, it is your paper.
It doesn't adress the problems they have with (climate) science, it doesn't say anything usefull and it VERY certainly isn't written for them.

Don't make a mistake, I perfectly understand what you wanted to say even if I would say it in a way that more than a handfull of "post modern" scientists understand it.
You see, you don't seem to realize that it is not only easy but very useful to say things so that they are clear for everybody.
We are not talking QFT here (my turf that) which, admittedly, can only be understood by a handful of trained people.
You confuse writing a scientific article with all the necessary jargon with a very trivial issue whether and how science is societally contextualised.

How representative are my observations, do you ask?
Statistically very.
I travel much (>75% of my time) and I like nothing more than to spend my time with "ordinary" people.
I was in China not a very long time ago (Xian). As my Chinese is poor, I had a friend interpreting. I launched the discussion on climate science. Would you believe that they know (almost) nothing and care nothing about climate science and climate change?
Considering their profile, very representative.
Russia too. I could add Namibia, Argentina, Czechia, Botswana, Mexico etc for only 2010 observations.
So yes, I think that it is very representative.

Jochen said...

(Folge : sorry, didn't know the word count was restricted)

What is the key argument do you ask?
The key argument is that you (wrongly) believe that "societal" observations based on limited experience with a few countries in Western Europe generalize on the 6.5 billions people.
You seem to write what should be the relations between (all) scientists and (all) politicians and for some reason choose a Sokalian style.
But as politics is just what some group of people conjuncturally wants, there is no useful answer on this issue.
Because people want many different things and their wishes vary enormously with time and space.

If on some places people want that politicians "obey" scientists, on other places people want that scientists "obey" politicians.
Generally these contradictions are not a problem because a crushing majority of people everywhere doesn't care about scientists who are very far away from their (people's) decision about who should wield what REAL power.
There is one exception, perhaps genetics is another, and it is climate science in Western Europe today (note the precise time space coordinates:)).
Here the politicians and climate scientists are inseparably mixed.
Only look at our Schickelgruber (or is it Schellnhuber?) to immediately understand what I mean.

But neither the (present european) politicians nor the (present european) climate scientists can do anything about it, they are too much compromised, they went too far.
One day when the west European people have enough, they will elect new politicians and they will DEMAND that they remove the compromised scientists and send the rest of us to our labs.
That way we'll spend more time on the work for which we are paid and less time on tinkering with economy and society for what most have neither the knowledge nor the legitimity.
Note that in most places in the world , that's what already happens anyway.

I did not actually write that I disagreed with your paper (when restricted to the relevant coordinates I would even rather agree with it) , I merely wrote that it was naive and the syle made me laugh.
And laughing is good for the health, isn't it ? :)

Werner Krauss said...

@hans #12 and Dennis
finally, I read your fine essay a third time. I do agree mostly (as you know, of course), and I also don't with some parts. This makes things difficult.

To put it very short: your argument is based on the strict separation of science and society. But what if science is part of society? You also strictly separate climate from society. But what if climate and society are exclusively interdependent?

You want to single out politics and values from science. Let's single out gender, too (even though I liked my own previous contribution!). Let's single out S. Keller, too. What is left is a purified world which is ordered along strict dichotomies: climate - society; science - society; pure - impure; objective - subjective; truth - value; and in sometimes unfortunate consequence, honest broker - stealth advocate etc....(I bet you always find man - woman in the end of the chain).
In ordering the world along those oppositions, you are no longer a pure scientist, but you turn into a cultural producer of a value-ridden belief system yourself. You actively (re)produce 'our' (Western or whatever) world view - instead of contributing to the understanding of the climate-society complex).

I subscribe to all of your scientific goals, as well as to your critique of the two-degree goal etc. I just do not subscribe to some of the criteria you lay down to single out specific approaches. It is not about purity, it is about good or bad science. If you want to study the effects of climate on society, you do it already on basis of a certain belief system. As long as you lay open your premises, this is no problem. It's not 'neutral' or 'objective' - it is well done or not.

To put it very simple: As soon as Schellnhuber says that two-degrees is not exact science but a suggestion for politicians based on scientific considerations, everything is fine. In case he forgets to say that, it's wrong and a misuse of science. It' as simple as that. It is not necessary to create (or reproduce) a belief system based on oppositions in order to criticize two-degree goals or bad science (recommendations). You just need better arguments. Values, politics, gender etc are always part of the game. It is not about their elimination, it is about being aware of them.
Hope that helps to clarify my argument...