Same Information: Different Opinion. Part 2, The Tragic versus Utopian Vision of Climate Science

WE know that General Circulation Models underpin the theory of anthropomorphic global warming, rely on supercomputers, are expense to run and mostly output nonsense [1].

Earlier this year I sat in a seminar as a UK climate scientist acknowledged all the limitations of General Circulation Models, but then went on to claim that they had to be the future of weather forecasting because they were grand and incorporated all that was grand about science and that one day they would be better at predicting the weather and the climate.Steven Pinker

The Professor suggested that statistical models, including artificial neural networks, were just pattern analysis. He stated that even if statistical models could forecast rainfall in Australia, for example, better than the best General Circulation Models, these statistical models were so limited and so ordinary that this is not where science should be investing.

This professor perhaps sees grandeur, where I see waste and hubris.

Steven Pinker has suggested the right-left political axis aligns an astonishing collection of beliefs that at first glance appear to have nothing in common [2]. He then goes on to suggest that these collections of beliefs can be traced to whether the person has an inherently Tragic Vision or Utopian Vision.

In the Tragic Vision humans are inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom and virtue, and all social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. In the Utopian Vision, psychological limitations are artifacts that come from our social arrangements, and we should not allow them to restrict our gaze from what is possible in a better world. Its creed, Pinker suggests, might be “Some people see things as they are and ask ‘why?’: I dream things that never were and ask ‘why not?’.”

Pinker writes:

“The two kinds of visionaries thereby line up on opposite sides of many issues that would seem to have little in common. The Utopian Vision seeks to articulate social goals and devise policies that target them directly; economic inequality is attacked in a war on poverty, pollution by environmental regulations, racial imbalance by preferences, carcinogens by bans on food additives. The Tragic Vision points to the self-interested motives of the people who would implement these policies – namely, the expansion of their bureaucracies fiefdoms – and to the ineptitude at anticipating the myriad consequences, especially when the social goals are pitted against millions of people pursuing their own interests. Thus say the Tragic Visionaries, the Utopian fails to anticipate that welfare encourages dependency, or that a restriction on one pollutant might force people to use another.”

In the context of climate science perhaps the Utopian Vision fails to see that climate science was never meant to be about morality and politics, while the Tragic Vision fails to expect an improvement in the skill of the weather and climate forecast despite such a large investment of public funds over many decades.


1.The Nature of Inclusive Climate Science

2. Steven Pinker in ‘The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature’, Chapter 16, page 290. Penguin Books. 2003.

57 Responses to Same Information: Different Opinion. Part 2, The Tragic versus Utopian Vision of Climate Science

  1. Beth Cooper November 22, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    Hmm … is it really as simple as this, SP? Utopean Vision versus Tragic Vision Human
    Beings, neat and tidy definition and division? If so how, come the Tragic Vision
    Human Beings, the T-V-H-B’s, seeing humans so limited in virtue or wisdom, are
    yet prepared ter trust those other baddies out there ter pursue their own interests
    while conversely, the U-V-H-B’s who don’t have this … er, jaundiced vision, want
    lots of nanny state controls ter make naughty human beings behave?

  2. Luke November 22, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    Jen – I await a serious comparison and even indeed any indication neural networks work for Australia.

    A good faith sign would be your public or semi-public web site where your skill testing, confidence testing, forecast archive and current forecast are located. A faux comparison with an out of date GCM and a method that is not used to even forecast isn’t a test.

    I also look forward to an explanation how neural networks reveal any knowledge at all about the climate system and are not a shaman’s black box of overfitted nonsense.

    I look forward to your neural network solution for cyclone tracking and short term weather forecasting.

    Spare us the amateur philosophy and give us the numbers. There’s a drought out there ! While some may have time to read esoteric books others are trying to manage real circumstances not coffee shoppe books.

    Until then – ah bullshit !

  3. Debbie November 22, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Yes, you’re right. . . there is a drought out there.
    It wasn’t predicted by the GCMs either. . .In Autumn. . .BoM predicted a high certainty of a wetter than average winter and spring.

    You can argue percentages/averages etc as much as you like but that would be confirming Jen’s basic criticism.

    I sincerely hope that : ” one day they (will) be better at predicting the weather and the climate ”

    I also hope that neural networks will play their part in improving our understanding of the weather and the climate.

  4. Robert November 22, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Had to watch weather/rain constantly this year. Weekly outlook, sat, radar…handy. Climate indicators…interesting curiosities, hopelessly incomplete, poorly understood by all, but interesting.

    Three month outlook…absolute tripe. Never mind how some low percentage has to come up because mathematically etc etc. If bookies continually miscalcuted percentages like that they’d be broke in three months.

    It’s tripe.

  5. Neville November 22, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    What about the very simple idea of not telling blatant lies about some of the pet IPCC nonsense.
    Just a few facts that are easy to understand.

    The early holocene ( hol opt) was much warmer and is cooler than other interglacials for the last 0.5 mill years.
    SL was 1.5 metres higher around OZ only 4,000 years ago.
    The Sahara wasn’t a desert just 6-7,000 years ago.
    Droughts in various parts of the world were much longer and more severe in the past than today.

    Southern OZ has been drying out for at least 5,000 years but interspersed
    with periods of higher rainfall . eg 1,000 years ago.
    During the LIA OZ had much more violent cyclones than today. Last super cyclone in 1801.
    Polar bears pop 5,000 in 1960 and 20,000 to 25,000 today. Geeezzzz they just stopped shooting them, easily fixed.
    SLR trend probably not much different by 2100 than trend for previous 100 years.
    Within 10 years of the new ice age scare of the 1970s Hansen Gore etc started the co2 CAGW scare.
    But over the last 30+ years there’s been a mixed result and certainly very little warming over the last 15 years. Of course Pachy told the OZ no warming for 17 years.
    Once again warming and cooling seems to follow the PDO cycle. Should we trust BOM temp record and why does RSS show little warming for OZ over the last 30 years?
    I ask again what’s wrong with just stating a few random facts? I couldn’t care less what category they try and fit me in.

  6. jennifer November 22, 2013 at 9:17 am #


    Hi Beth et al.

    I agree, there needs to exist a third way – no doubt there even exists a fourth and fifth.

    Quoting Pinker I’ve put up two polar opposite views – what he labels the Utopian and the Tragic Visions.

    These are perhaps also reflective of entrenched views at this blog site? Would you agree? I’m getting a bit bored of them.

    In order to move forward can someone articulate an alternative Vision – a third way?

    I am going to temporarily suspend comments at this thread for 24 hours, to give everyone time to reflect, time to think through what could be an alternative vision beyond the Tragic and the Utopian… as these two visions obviously each have so many limitations.

  7. toby November 22, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    If the IPCC and their gang were actually able to think outside the fields of theory they would be jumping with joy at the actions of Japan. Instead they despair and abuse, demonstrating how devoid of practical ideas they really are.
    Lomborg seems to be in the camp of being optimistic about our future and realistic about our currently insane attempts to control climate.

    Luke this is one for you because it is pro nuclear.

  8. jennifer November 23, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Re-opening comment thread. Let’s see if we can’t use our different perspectives to build some thing thoughtful and useful.

  9. bazza November 23, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    build something thoughtful?? Is there any evidence that promoting weak dilemmas and false dichotomies can ever be anything other than divisive?

  10. jennifer November 23, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention. Malcolm Gladwell.

    P.S. Bazza, the “weak dilemmas” and “false dichotomies” that I outline above are based on the work of Steven Pinker who is consider a leading authority on language and the mind. If he has got it wrong, can you provide us with an alternative and better model?

  11. Debbie November 23, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Jen is considering a pathway to a less divisive place.
    The world is not black and white and policy and politics is not absolutely right or wrong.
    Don’t you think it is valid to search for ways where we can build on successes and learn from/repair mistakes?
    It’s clear IMHO that the Aus electorate is expecting that to happen.
    Stubbornly clinging to politically rejected policy and politically rejected public spending is not going to achieve a productive or workable approach.

  12. Johnathan Wilkes November 23, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    just got it from amazon in Kindle, will see what he is saying?
    never read the man but ordered his other two books in used dead wood, only costs a couple of $ +del.

  13. Debbie November 23, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I find Jen’s comments re ‘grand’ very interesting.
    Kahneman & Cater both highlight the dangers of hubris and the by products of hubris.
    Grand experiments and grand challenges are open to both grand successes and grand failures as well as everything in between.
    One of the biggest problems in our higher education system (IMHO) is an entrenched & overblown fear of failure and/or rejection.
    Despite the pretense otherwise, academia can be a ruthless and competetive environment.

  14. Luke November 23, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    No point in any discussion after Jen’s opening statement.

    “Society frowns on disagreeableness” Wonder why perversions Fox News and Andrew Bolt outlets exist then? It’s simply science war without end I’m afraid.

    Debbie the Australian electorate are just a bunch of serial whingers in pursuit of trivial quick-fix answers to complex questions. Look at the diversity of governments elected in recent years. What an electorate. Rejected policy – collectively we wouldn’t know. Like drunks we only look for our missing keys under the street lamps coz that’s where the light is.

    As for public spending – the best model example says you are 100% wrong. You don’t know successes from mistakes.

  15. Beth Cooper November 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Jennifer, I’ve been musing like yer said and so herewith:

    People have different points of view relating to temperament, (nature)
    or upbring, (nurture) and w/out differences we’d all think same ol’ same ol’
    and I guess there’d be no outlyer breakthrough discoveries by the odd-ball
    eccentric who doesn’t conform to the norm.

    The scientific revolution in the West has come from an intellectual tradition,
    Aristotle to Galileo, of critical argument, evidence, testing and refutation, an
    acceptance that science or history is about real world data, not, as in post-modern
    science, reduced to subjective bias. Did it matter that Newton believed in alchemy
    or whatever, what mattered was his theory’s relation to the reality it attempts
    to explain.

    I agree with Karl Popper that our response to events is necessarily theory
    impregnated but this is the way we learn through tentative questions we ask
    of nature, Popper’s’search-light (deductive) theory of learning, not passive
    absorption of facts, the ‘bucket theory of learning. See my Serf Underground
    Edition,’History’s Chequered History for Popper’s argument.

    The important thing, I’d say, is that if myths are to be revealed, deficencies
    in argument or theories refuted, freedom of speech must be upheld, on blogs
    as in the journals etc, sides in a debate allowed to be heard. Tactics of strong
    personal abuse and gate-keeping are attempts at censorship.

    I like what kim @ Judith Curry said, ‘Wage, wage war against the lying and the fright.’
    Open robust debate on the issue and context .. and say, a bit of humour doesn’t hurt.
    Here endeth me musing on the mount. Thx Jennifer for your open society forum.

    communicators’ themselves

  16. Beth Cooper November 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Oops, last line shouldn’t be there and it’s ‘upbringing.’

  17. Debbie November 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    that attitude re your fellow Australians is very poor.
    The last set of figs I saw says that small business has the highest % of population. They are far from whingers and short term thinkers. 🙂
    They also possess awesome BS meters.
    They deal with finances, compliance regulation, logistics etc etc etc and are willing to take risk and responsibility.
    Despite your inferences otherwise. . . There is nothing wrong with their comprehensiin skills either.

  18. Larry Fields November 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    My science-loving brain cannot digest large amounts of sociology or philosophy. And I need a dollop of Szechuan sauce even with the smaller servings!

    That said, the blog post reminded me of a couple things. First, in the defunct Totalitarian Soviet Union, the educational authorities actively encouraged “nonstandard thinking” in one area: maths. Mathematical games and puzzles were very popular. And the late Martin Gardner, whose Scientific American column spanned 3 decades, was revered there almost as a god. Talk about irony!

    More to the point, I’m very suspicious of “package deals’. Example: Here in the USA, being a registered Democrat almost guarantees that one also believes in the Flying CO2 Monster. However this does not necessarily mean that all Dems believe that the oceans will boil in 2100, unless we DO SOMETHING — and pronto! In contrast, Republicans and Libertarians tend to be very skeptical about environmental issues.

    Realistically, most people have not done their homework on AGW. And rightly or wrongly, they believe whatever their precious little opinion leaders tell them.

    Another irony: Americans who think of themselves as being themselves Progressive (a self-congratulatory synonym for Democrat), often pride themselves on having eclectic tastes in food, music, and cinema. Yet Americans of all stripes shut off their crap detectors when their minds are in political mode.

    They have great difficulty in wrapping their brains around the fact that the world of politics is a gigantic cafeteria. Some of the entrées are quite toxic. And one’s peers usually cannot be relied upon to sniff out the poisonous ones.

    As Christopher Monckton points out, one should be aware of the classical logical fallacies, which are still being used with great effectiveness.

    As ‘Deep Throat’ (from the Watergate era) advised, we should follow the money. And we should have a sense of proportion about that. The fact that a certain skeptic accepted a few thousand USD from ‘evil’ Big Tobacco is not a conversation-stopper. Big Al’s share from the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera is estimated to be $100 million. That’s not just Big Oil money; it’s Big Arab Oil money.

    Back in early 2008, I was inclined to believe the mavens about AGW, but was curious nevertheless. I had an epiphany when The Telegraph reported on the “warmest October on record” scandal. The intrepid Steve McIntyre exposed that one.

    The ‘researchers’ had — and still have — more grant money than they need. Why can’t they hire a Red Team to ferret out the ‘errors’ that make the putative problem appear to be much worse than it really is? These folks never make mistakes that UNDERestimate GW (if it really exists). Since then, there have been many such scandals involving Warmies.

    In the 2008 election, I voted for Obama, because he appeared to be the opposite of Bush. In early 2009, I began to regret that decision, when I learned about Barry’s appoint of John Holdren, a depopulation extremist, as his science advisor.

    Unlike Republican-leaning AGW skeptics in the USA, I think that we need to clone a successful national health care model from some other country. We get less bang for our health care buck than any other developed country. But the devil is always in the details. Obamacare is turning out to be a slo-mo train wreck. Millions of hard-working people have already had their health insurance cancelled. Barry had promised that that would not happen. How much beer went into the crafting of Obamacare?

    The take-home message: Being fair dinkum is more important than being a sheeple. Moreover it’s a great way to learn who your real friends are.

  19. jennifer November 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Comment from Larry reminded me of this piece from Peter Ridd which begins…

    “The legal and scientific processes of western democracies are based upon an adversarial system. In a court of law a prosecutor is appointed to make a case against the accused and a defence counsel is appointed to defend. Even in cases where it is completely obvious that the accused is guilty, they are still entitled to a defence, if for no other reason than to force the prosecution to prove their case. The strength of the prosecution argument is increased by its ability to stand up to the test posed by the defence. Hence there is far more public trust in the Guilty verdict. In science, scientists fight out intellectual battles in journals so that only the most battle-tested ideas emerge – or so we would hope.

    “The process of argument is as essential to the scientific system as it is to the legal system. A big difference is that argument is guaranteed in the legal system with the two sides of the argument formally recognised in the legal system itself, but because of the structures of the present systems in science, a robust argument cannot be guaranteed. Because of this there cannot be a sufficiently high level of faith that some of the big scientific issues of our time such as Anthropogenic Global Warming, the fate of the Murray-Darling, or the imminent demise of the Great Barrier Reef, have been properly tested in the scientific equivalent of a court of law.

    “The job of a defence counsel is to defend, not directly to try to find the truth. They may concede obvious points of the prosecution case, but they will mainly try to tear apart the arguments of the prosecution. The consequence is that the chance of indirectly ‘getting at’ the truth is increased. We need a similar system in science – an organization the sole charter of which is to find out what may be wrong or debatable with current scientific propositions, and that hence need critical, sceptical testing. In the case of climate change, we presently rely greatly upon the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be the prosecution, defence, jury and judge. There is no independent defence. This is akin to a court case in China, or, it seems, in Russia where the government controls all aspects of the judicial system. If the system is fundamentally deficient, one cannot have faith in the verdict.

    more here…

    Comment from Debbie, reminded me that given current funding models for government research, including the very short time frames and need for research to be linked to a popular issue, there is limited opportunity for risk taking. While many assume Bob Carter would be all for dismantling government funded research, in the following piece that I often link to, if read CAREFULLY, explains how there is a need for more a-political, non-competitive government funded research…

    more here…

    Beth, I don’t actually think science ever really happens the way Popper suggests. And I note that Popper was an economist rather than a scientist. I think science happens much more in the way Thomas Kuhn explains. But I don’t consider Thomas Kuhn a post modernist, indeed I think he is very misunderstood and often misquoted. His book, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’, has been incredibly influential to my thinking about science and philosophy. It’s not that long, I recommend you read it.

  20. Jennifer Marohasy November 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    And Johnathan Wilkes,

    Thanks for going to the trouble of reading the book that I cite.

    I think that Steven Pinker does in fact come up with a solution towards the end of the chapter in terms of a new political philosophy, but I don’t have a copy of the book, and was using quotes from the beginning of the chapter that I photographed (on my iPhone) some time ago.

    I should down load it on kindle and do some more reading and thinking. In the meantime if you/someone could read the relevant chapter(s) and give us a summary in terms of Pinker’s potential solution/way forward BUT with particular reference to climate science. And much thanks in advance! 🙂

    And this might be a good place to close this thread again. To be reopened on perhaps Wednesday evening after we have all done some more reading, thinking and reflecting. Thanks everyone for your contributions so far.

  21. jennifer November 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Comments thread open again, for perhaps 24 hours or so.

  22. Beth Cooper November 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Deer Jennifer,

    I am preparin’ me response which, perhaps
    will be all – over – the – kitchen as I have jest
    posted me latest on Schumpeter and Keynes
    upon the inter-net and am somewhat brane-
    dead or what passes in we poor serfs (and
    I-N-F-Js’ ) fer a critical brane, but wll endeavour
    never – the – less- ter- put- me – case.


    Jest – a serf.

  23. Johnathan Wilkes November 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    I’m still reading it.
    It’s a fascinating book provided you are interested in something other than AGW although it explains a lot why ppl. behave the way they do.

    Suppose that was the general idea Jen?
    Thanks for recommending it, his next book I’m going to read is going to be ‘Angels…’ given time!

    Did you all notice how time flies past 50? not to mention 55?

  24. Jennifer Marohasy November 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Hey Beth and Johnathan.

    Yes, I’m interested in why we have AGW and why it has become such an entrenched theory. And clearly contrary evidence is not going to budge it. But attempting to move the discussion forward with reference to Beth’s comments in the above thread I will make some more comment about potential ways forward for climate science…

    My contention in the above post is that neither side in the climate debate is contributing in a useful way to science. Furthermore, the two sides essentially fit the left versus right dichotomy: what Steven Pinker describes as the Tragic Vision versus the Utopian Vision. In particular those who subscribe to the Tragic Vision want to destroy the Utopian Vision.

    Beth suggests that the scientific revolution in the West has come from an intellectual tradition where evidence is tested and evidence is about real world data.

    Beth mentions Aristotle…

    Aristotle is considered the most influential of the Greek philosophers. His work was rediscovered by medieval scholars and subsequently accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, in particular his theory that the Earth was the centre of the universe, all motion in the heavens is circular, and all heavenly objects are made from perfect material and do not change.

    Aristotle also studied plants and animals and made many novel and accurate observations, stressing in his work that reality was to found in physical objects, knowable through experience.

    Tim Birkhead in his book ‘The Wisdom of Birds’ explains that in the Newton Library, Zoology Department, University of Cambridge, there are many volumes of bird books written over several hundred years by different ornithologists. Apparently the leather bound volumes from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are particularly thick and Dr Birkhead claims to have been “bewildered” that the volumes could be so thick given so little was known about birds back then (Birkhead 2008). He then goes on to explain that much of the content was not what we would today recognise as science but rather “bizarre stuff” sourced variously from Aristotle and the Medieval Bestiaries. The bestiaries are animal encyclopaedias which embellished Aristotle’s works with a mixture of observation and Christian moralising.

    Back then animals were valued for their religious significance and their behaviour was recorded and reported as a way of teaching Christian values. To claim to know a particular bird species assumed an understanding of its associated folklore and mythology and also emblematic significance as well as some natural history. For example, a solitary magpie was thought to predispose you to bad luck and the direction in which that the breast of a dead kingfisher pointed, when suspended from silken thread, was considered a reliable indicator of the direction of the next storm.

    According to Birkhead, ornithologist Sir Thomas Browne demolished belief in the kingfisher myth by suspending two kingfishers side by side and showing that they pointed in different directions. Browne who published Pseudodoxia Epidemica in 1646 championed a new kind of evidence-based science that was to have a profound influence on ornithology. Sir Thomas, like many of his contemporaries, was profoundly influenced by the writings of Francis Bacon who many claim as the founder of the inductive method of scientific inquiry. Bacon was a contemporary of Galileo.

    A famous illustration of the power of observation and experimentation, more famous than Birkhead’s kingfisher example, is the story of Galileo dropping two balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to disprove the accepted wisdom of the time that the speed of falling bodies was regulated by their respective weights.

    Galileo invited University Professors and townsfolk to the tower, mounted the tower with one ball weighing one hundred pounds and another one pound. The accepted wisdom was that the heavier ball would hit the ground first. But Galileo demonstrated that in fact, contrary to the wisdom of Aristotle, it could be shown they fell evenly and struck the ground at the same time.

    But not all theories are so easy to test. Let me consider a more complicated example from popular science.

    Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases have been shown to absorb more of the sun’s energy – become more energized than other gases. Therefore more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more warming.

    The climate models predict that the warming will be most obvious as an observable ‘hot spot’ in the troposphere. In particular the climate models predict an increased greenhouse effect, a hot spot, about 10 kilometres into the atmosphere directly over the tropics.

    But measurements from weather balloons have found no hot spot. Should we toss out global warming theory? Not necessarily. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the apparent absence of a hot spot is because of likely errors in all the existing measurements of troposphere temperatures relative to the surface.

    And if we toss it out: what will the Utopians/Progressives replace it with?

    According to Karl Popper it is the preparedness to test theories, to expose them to falsification that distinguishes true science from mere theorizing.

    Considering global warming, Popper would not be impressed with arguments that climate change is the greatest moral issue of our time, or that believing in climate change and trying to correct it is simply a better way to live. Popper would want the theory reduced to logically testable statements and then attempts made to falsify the statements.

    To claims that climate change is natural, a point often made by many so-called sceptics, does not constitute a theory amenable to falsification. But the dominant paradigm, the theory progressed by the IPCC that the accumulation of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, is contributing to dangerous global warming does provide testable universal statements that can potentially be falsified.

  25. hunter November 28, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    I call them “catastrophists”, rather than utopians. And allowing those people to call themselves “progressives” is obscene. “Progressives” are more like “anti-progressives”. The USSR, China under Mao, Cambodia under POl Pot, Venezuela today, Cuba for the last 60+ years are all progressive models. What “pregress”?
    The catastrophists tend to glom on to an apocalyptic narrative and stick to it long after the facts stop supporting the specific catastrophe that plots out the apocalypse in question. Take Paul Ehrlich and his gang fo population doom hypesters. They have been completely disproven on every prediction of doom they made. Yet not one of his gang of academic parasites have suffered in the public square, and one of his acolytes, John Holdren, is the US science adviser, cheerfully giving out terrible advice to the President and America with impunity.
    IOW climate is just the lates manifestation of whatever dysfunction drives the catastrophists.
    CS lewis, in another context, asserts that people are either moving towards a vision beatific or a vision horrorific. I think that metaphor applies to the catastrophists rather well. They are comitted to finding something terrible fisin’ to happen and arranging their lives (somewhat) but especially the lives of others around them by way of policies based on their perception of the catastrophe and the actions they deem important to deal with the catastrophe. A veneer of science is useful but not really important for the catastrophist rationalization. It is really power: Their demands of power over others based on the catastrophe they have decided is imminent, and their claim of moral superiority based on their perception of this catastrophe. Note that actions by the catastrophists is not needed. Only mouthing of the correct words to signify the perceive the catastrophe. Think of how Ehrlich has never given up his affluent lifestyle, or how Hansen or gore or other big AGW hypesters have not changed their lifestyles in any significant way at all. Yet how readily they demand others around them do things they, the catastrophist believe is important.
    Just a few thoughts,
    Interesting thread, Jennifer. I will seek out the book but we are in the midst of a serious holiday season here in the US and it will be light reading for awhile.

  26. Luke November 28, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    So you wish to have a philosophical discussion but you are culturally immersed yourself in the sceptic tribal meme.

    AGW would base itself on palaeo evidence to start with, then basic physics – not modelling – the results of injecting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are well documented. From that point alone we ought have concern.

    You can’t give AGW as a yes/no as changing the planet’s radiation balance causes a myriad of effects -how do we know history from the long past, recent and interannual variation. So we shouldn’t expect simply one uniform effect, that bifurcations will not occur, and that some trends may not invert (i.e. bet Antarctica will swing to a melt mid-century as GHGs increase and ozone recovers).

    Moreover a fair person would give AGW a probability of being broadly right based on a checklist of observations versus theory, future and past. You won’t get 10 out of 10. And there is more than one indicator.

    Looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like and tastes like crap – warmists view of sceptic science 🙂

    But on many things humanity will need to contend with you never do have perfect information. For example how large should a dam be for x degree of water supply reliability and y degree of flood protection. These are not yes/no calculations and so risk and probability are involved.

    The fundamental issue of chaos alone means some things can never be known for certain. Chaos exists both in mathematics and the real world.

    Mitigation and appreciation of future risk involves many of us driving at the speed limit wearing seat belts. Does a speeding sceptic’s view of the lucky hoon discredit the more general findings.

    Popper never dealt with complex grand challenge problems. He was contradictory on falsification with social policy. Popper himself far from being accepted as even a coherent philosophical approach. Natural selection would not have made the cut and relativity tossed out. So your GPS satellite clocks unadjusted would have our law abiding motorist driving into the creek or the cruise missile blowing up the kindergarten. So Popper says that and that – pffft poppycock ! Who cares. Popper is dead too.

    So philosophy is dead. Those with the best results and technology win.

    Sceptics are immersed in a tribal, political and cultural milieu which removes their supposed objectivity.

    Your utterly outrageous and unsubstantiated statements on AGW on this thread are actually Popperian proof of that.

    As for simulation and supercomputers – those involved in materials design, structural engineering, computational chemistry, drug and biomolecular research would give you a results based refutation of simulation as a third addition to theory and real world experimentation.

    Alas you don’t have the philosophical basis for a discussion. (but do keep trying !)

    But you would have to wonder if climate scientists might know a few things – I don’t think mathematical constructs like this would evolve from monkeys programming. What odds?

    Looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like and tastes like climate !

  27. hunter November 28, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    So as we can see, the fanatics won’t budge….which comes back to the catastrophist mindset and how durable it is once they glom on to the catastrophe meme. It is like religious fundies. It is rare to see them open up to differing interpretations of scripture. They would rather stand fast than allow evidence, or lack of evidence, play a role.

  28. Neville November 28, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    I don’t know why I bother but here goes. In my dad’s day they were called urgers and as always there were plenty of them around to BS about all sorts of problems/ dangers about to befall mankind.
    This is just the human condition or state of mind, e.g just look at religion. CAGW is just a new kind of religion, just look and listen to Gore in full flight. But unfortunately he and others are con merchants as well.

    My dad lived in a small town for a time in rural NSW and he related a story about a loon who turned up and wandered the streets by day quoting from the bible and howling about the end of the world.
    But it seems he had an interest in some of the young women in the town as well and sneaked around at night peeping in windows until he was discovered and thrown in the slammer.
    I know this is a bad example because this bloke was just a mad looney and oh so obvious hypocrite and perve.
    But the hypocrisy alluded to (and by many people on this blog ) over the years is the thing that really gets to me about this CAGW con and fraud.
    Just look at the lifestyles of these super wealthy people who always make a fuss about this nonsense. Gore extracts a hefty fee every time he gives a talk and so does Flannery etc.

    They both have houses on the seashore but so do many of these modern urgers it seems. They also spend a lot of time jetting around the globe to attend endless meetings and fundraisers.
    But the greatest example of their hypocrisy and stupidity is the mad rush to export as much coal, iron ore and gas every year.
    Of course most of the media are either too stupid or involved in the con to expose this hypocrisy. If Rudd really believed that this was “the greatest moral challenge of our generation” he would have tried his best to condemn the increasing exports of fossil fuels, but of course he and Labor chose to encourage it instead.
    Sure they wanted OZ to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020 but that pimple on a bee’s dick approach has always been a joke.
    So I’m positive that this was always about hurting the developed western countries and helping and promoting the non OECD because nothing else makes sense to me at all.
    I’m sorry to stick to just this one issue of CAGW but I’m just trying to get people to understand the stupidity and hypocrisy involved.
    If it cost zip dollars and didn’t involve so much fraud and corruption it probably wouldn’t matter but it’s cost OZ billions for a zero return for decades and will never change the climate or temp by a jot.

  29. hunter November 28, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    ….sorry hit enter too quickly. It is interesting that the main tactic seem sto be for th etrue believer to at once dismiss the nature of the argument and then to simply restate, in louder and more strident voice, that it is all true, even if important predictions are absent. It does help explain why Ehrlich has been able to wrong for nearly 50 years but still have credibilty with catastrophists: Facts somply don’t matter to the catastrophist. Everythign is seen through the lens of their grand catastrophe. Notice how they confuse basic physics with the output of a complex system. Which is exactly what Ehrlich does,and based on the divergence and triviality of the AGW promoters, them also. His models are impeccable, as far as the catastrophists can see. That his models diverge wildly from reality is not really important to his catastrophist audience.
    They like his results and so ignore that they are wrong.
    It is like those who are excited about the 4 Hiroshima per second app. For the believers or those with no critical thinking skills, it sounds profound and scary. For those who actually understand what it means, it is a metric that emphasizes just how trivial the alleged forcing is and how insignificant the impacts are.

  30. Luke November 28, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Well one does indeed need to be philosophical (despite it being dead) as to who is more tribal, more shrill, more alarmist and less evidence based. Indeed hunter might be the actual last person to bring up evidence having never presented any coherent argument on anything. And as to what is evidence has become a game of sophistry as we see daily with the monstrous rot that is advanced daily by SD and Neville from the secretly funded, shill-for-impact denialist war-machine (see ex-tobacco lobby and other dubious causes).

    There is probably an alternative universe with liberals campaigning against the right wing full implementation of nuclear technology as a solution to energy demand, and decrying AGW as a hoax.

  31. hunter November 28, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Reliance on demons and vast conspiracies is rather predictable of the catastrophists.
    As to conherent, I think the reliance on name calling, deciding to avoid the point of the entire thread- the philosophical distinctions between those enamored with the apocalypse or those willing to notice that the apocalypse ain’t happening is fairly clear.
    As world extreme weather metrics continue to show no discernable changes when measured honestly, when slr is time and time again shown to be not cooperating with AGW predictions, when AGW pushed solutions are shown to be failures in general and frequently rent seeking excercises, it is rather sad that the catastrophis simply digs in deeper, rather than admitting there is a difference between the ‘basic physics’ and what is actually giong on and what is actually well known and unknown unknowns.

  32. Debbie November 28, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    You may not realise it. . . or perhaps it’s deliberate . . . but you are demonstrating the reason why this particular debate has become so divisive.
    Look at your usage of name calling and your mostly irrelevant example re dams.
    Which commenter at this post is exhibiting the ‘symptoms’ that has led to a set of memetics centred on ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’?
    Note that the focus is on ‘morals’.
    Your ‘grand challenge’ seems to therefore be a ‘moral challenge’ ?

  33. bazza November 28, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Pinker claims ” Thus say the Tragic Visionaries, the Utopian fails to anticipate that welfare encourages dependency, or that a restriction on one pollutant might force people to use another.” Facts are welfare schemes have always understood safety net flaws and dependency possibilities just as economists have recognised that restricting the lowest cost pollutant will shift demand to a higher cost alternative thus reducing pollution.

  34. Jennifer Marohasy November 28, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Bazza

    Would you acknowledge that the concept of General Circulation Modelling is generally consistent with a Utopian-type Vision?

    Would you accept that there should be a test for AGW, whereby it can be falsified or proven?

  35. spangled drongo November 28, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    We see the rabid instances of Luke et al on a daily basis. The “progressive academic” who doesn’t spend time at the coal face but will hysterically push his theories and totally ridicule those with a more hands on approach.

    Who loves to wander the colonnades of learning invoking stuff like understanding “paleo” and machine-gunning messengers.

    Some simple paleo on his current favourite. The correlation of CO2 and temperature:

  36. bazza November 28, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    GCM is what it is – I find that a more useful analogy by a country mile. As for falsifiability, that is a very narrow self serving criteria that would wipe out many of the achievements of science.

  37. jennifer November 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Thanks everyone for your contributions. I’m going to close off comment here for another week. Will reopen next Wednesday evening, December 4th.

    Friday afternoon

    Then I get this message from Larry:

    “Last night (Wednesday, California Standard Time), I wrote a tentative comment for that other thread. Lo and behold! When I went to post it, the thread was already closed.”

    So it has been opened temporarily for Larry just now.

    And will be opened again Wednesday evening December 4, 2013 from about 6pm Brisbane, Australia time until about 10pm California, USA standard time. Cheers, Jen

  38. Larry Fields November 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm #


    Comment from: jennifer November 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm
    “Beth, I don’t actually think science ever really happens the way Popper suggests.”

    Larry’s comment #1. What about the Polywater fiasco of the late 1960s and early 1970s? This story is too long to describe adequately here. However one can read all about it at Wikipedia. Here’s a long story short.

    A Russian physicist thought that he had discovered a new form of water. Supposedly, the freezing point and density were different from ordinary water. This would have been truly revolutionary science if it had panned out. Kuhn would have been proud.

    The first fly in the ointment was the fact that other scientists had difficulty in reproducing the finding. Some could; others could not.

    Richard Feynman had an insightful biology-related take on the controversy.

    The coup de grace came from a scientist who had a great sense of humor. After playing a vigorous game of handball one day, he collected a bit of his own sweat. It turned out that this sample tested positive as ‘Polywater’.

    These days, scientists are loathe to discuss the Polywater story in mixed company. The initial ‘finding’ was an artefact of dirty glassware.

    The Polywater hypothesis was thoroughly falsified. This is one of the reasons that I feel comfortable with Popper’s popularization of the word, “falsifiable.”

    Jennifer also wrote:
    “And I note that Popper was an economist rather than a scientist.”

    Larry’s comment #2: A person who didn’t know you better could easily misinterpret this as follows:
    We should not take Popper seriously, because he didn’t have the right piece of paper.

    Larry’s comment #3: On a Kuhn-related side note, I have known two people who made revolutionary discoveries in the sciences — including macroeconomics, physics, and (yikes!) mathematics. Speaking of the devil, here’s a maths problem from one of these men. It’s absolutely unsolvable with integral calculus, but it lends itself to a much simpler albeit non-obvious approach.

    While out for a ride, you go through a long puddle of water, and get your bicycle tires wet. Then you make a right-angle turn onto a side street. The wet tires make a crescent shape on the pavement, because the rear wheel is always taking a shortcut in its ‘attempt’ to catch up with the front wheel. You know the distance between the hubs of your bicycle. What is the area of the crescent?

    Anyway, only one of these two guys is beginning to get the recognition that he deserves. Both men possessed a special gift for pissing off their peers.

    Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory remark about the Flying CO2 Monster. Here goes: AGW is the zombified 21st Century equivalent of Polywater.

  39. jennifer December 4, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Larry et al.,

    While the new type of water example is interesting, I don’t think it is particularly relevant. Also I think your comment “Kuhn would have been proud” as lacking an understanding of Kuhn.

    The Russian scientists who thought he had discovered polywater was working within established paradigms, indeed he was testing for freezing point and density. And the polywater hypothesis was falsified, suggesting at least in this example, and indeed within the paradigm in which he was operating, there was some respect for evidence and the concept of falsification.

    But within climate science, the subject of this thread, I think we have a scientific paradigm that has moved beyond evidence and certainly has no respect for the concept of falsification.

    Interestingly Professor Ian Lowe in his book entitled ‘A Big Fix: Radical solutions for Australia’s environmental crisis’ gives us some insight into how to do science when there is no time for “the traditional scientific method” given the significant environmental problems currently facing us, and that if we are to save our planet from ecological disaster, including climate change, we need to move forward to something called “sustainability science”.

    Lowe writes:

    “Sustainability science differs fundamentally from most science as we now know it. The traditional scientific method is based on sequential phases of inquiry: conceptualising the problem, collecting data, developing theories, then applying the results. But this approach has run into difficulties as we study complex systems with long time lags between actions and their consequences. The traditional sequential steps must become parallel functions of social learning, incorporating action, adaptive management and experimental policy. Sustainability science will have to employ new methods, such as semi-quantitative modelling of qualitative data, or inverse approaches that work backwards from undesirable consequences to identify better ways to progress. Researchers will have to work with land-users to produce new understandings that combine scientific excellence with social relevance.”

    Teasing apart the ideas in the above paragraph it appears that Lowe is suggesting that scientists don’t need to necessarily start with a hypothesis or bother about cause and effect. We can begin by imaging the worst?

    Professor Bob Carter in that article that I link to early in this thread entitled ‘Science is not consensus’ explains how this type of approach is a consequence of the popular belief that science should work in society’s interests – that it must be relevant.

    In his book ‘Science and Public Policy: The virtuous corruption of virtual environmental science’ Professor Aynsley Kellow, shows through examples, including climate change science, how a reliance on computer models and the infusion of values has produced a preference for virtual over observational data.

  40. Larry Fields December 5, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    The whole point of my bringing up Polywater was to raise a counterexample to your earlier statement:
    “Beth, I don’t actually think science ever really happens the way Popper suggests.”

    To some extent, ‘normal science’ is self-correcting in the long run. For example, Polywater was thoroughly falsified in the Popper sense. (That poor Russian scientist must have taken a lot of piss from his colleagues back home.) Overstating our case, are we?

    You also wrote:
    “Also I think your comment ‘Kuhn would have been proud’ as lacking an understanding of Kuhn.”

    I was being sarcastic. It’s one of my endearing qualities.

    On the strength of your respect for Kuhn’s work, I looked a little deeper. I was able to sneak past my philosophy antibodies, by reading the Wikipedia article, rather than wading through the book. Kuhn is sufficiently PC that the Wiki folks should be accurate in their summation, and not off-the-wall in their discussion.

    Here is my impression of Kuhn’s magnum opus. Academic mafias exist. News flash: Some of these include scientists. Why?

    Because fragile egos are on the line. And research grants! ‘Mafia’ affiliation can help marginally capable academicians survive and thrive in publish-or-perish university milieus.

    Earlier psychological research provided evidence that when people ‘sell out’ for paltry sums, they adjust their inner views to match their public opinions. The upshot: When one ‘joins’ an academic mafia, his IQ — in that specific context — takes a haircut.

    When an academic ‘mafioso’ is hit over the head with truly overwhelming evidence that contradicts his formerly comfortable Weltanschauung — and when the same thing is happening to all of his colleagues — he will typically bow to the inevitable.

    Kuhn was being overly polite when he described this type of epiphany as a ‘paradigm shift’. However in doing so, Kuhn adroitly played academic politics. ‘Paradigm shift’ and ‘scientific revolutions’ were self-esteem-building manna from heaven for slightly-less-gifted individuals pursuing studies or careers in the Fuzzy Studies.

    Caveat: I’m not saying that Kuhn is wrong, and I’m not saying that scientific revolutions don’t happen in the way that he describes. The breakthrough in the treatment of ulcers — using antibiotics, of all things — is one example.

    Kuhn’s repackaging of the obvious contributed to the sociology of science — such as it is — and knocked scientists off their high horsies. The latter is not necessarily a bad thing.

    This is Wet Blanket Larry’s bare-bones summation and analysis, stripped of the philosophical BS. Does it pass muster?

  41. jennifer December 5, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Larry,

    Reading Wikipedia to then draw conclusions about Kuhn is, I’m afraid, like reading Wikipedia to understand Climategate. Ha!

    Kuhn, in his book, actually uses a lot of examples from chemistry – your field of expertise – to explain how science seems to mostly operate. But his chemistry examples draw not so much from the modern period of research grants and ‘mafia’ affiliations (your words) but from the 1700s etcetera when public opinion was less important and many scientists were self-funded gentlemen.

    Indeed Kuhn’s theory of paradigm seems to persist beyond the modern state-model of funding, but not beyond the idea that science is very much a group exercise usually intent on arriving at a consensus amongst practitioners, about what is, and is not, proven.

  42. Larry Fields December 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    Point taken about ‘scientific’ brown-nosing being less of a factor back then. Some 18th Century scientists did have wealthy patrons. It’s very possible that these rich guys were more tolerant of unfashionable ideas than grant-bestowing goobermint agencies are at present, and that back in the day, scientific truthfulness was condoned to a greater extent than it is in the early 21st Century.

    OK, I’ll bite. Besides grantsmanship, what else did I over-emphasize or get wrong? Did I leave out any salient points that are germane to our discussion? Weren’t fragile egos and petty academic sniping significant considerations in the 18th Century?

    Did I misremember or misinterpret the ulcer treatment breakthrough, whose story I take to be a scientific revolution in the Kuhn sense?

    I admire your tenacity in tilting at windmills (pun intended), and not getting royally PO’d in the process. (Ditto for Anthony and Judith Curry.) Given your unPC science-related pursuits, it’s understandable that you cross swords more frequently with scientific mafiosi than most other scientists do.

    Unfortunately, these days I do not have the intestinal fortitude to wade through an entire book of (yuck!) philosophy — even philosophy of science. To that charge, I plead guilty, Your Honor. I throw myself on the mercy of the court.

    Nevertheless I freely admit that both Normal Science and Scientific Revolutions exist. And my scientific crap detectors are fully operational, thank you. With or without Kuhn’s blessing.

    My overall impression is that Kuhn was putting lipstick on a pig, to use an Obama expression. That said, is generic RTFB the main thrust of your response, or do you have additional, specific reservations in mind?

  43. jennifer December 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Larry,

    Basically I don’t think you understand what Kuhn meant by ‘paradigm’. His book is full of examples from the history of science to illustrate the importance of the paradigm in which the scientist operates in terms of defining the problem, and the tools used to answer the hypothesis thrown up by the problem. He suggests adherence to a paradigm is much more than about “fragile egos” and “petty academic sniping” or funding. He also suggests that the way to destroy a paradigm is not ever through falsification or rebuttals, but only ever through competition… through the emergence of a new paradigm.

    The book is mostly about the history of science, rather than about philosophy.

    Most sceptics, which includes most of those at this blog who subscribe to the ‘Tragic Vision’, have no understanding of Thomas Kuhn, yet, in my opinion, he provides some understanding of how the AGW monster was created, thrives and also how it can be defeated. Popper provides no insight or solution.

  44. Beth Cooper December 7, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Jennifer, finally my response re Thomas Kuhn and normal science. Jest ter say,
    in the argument I could have used yr paper on the Murray and Lwr lakes cf with
    the Wentworth group of ‘Concerned’ Scientists. First thing I noticed, reading
    your paper, was the historical MAP and history context, evidence based, in comparison to
    theirs, (urgent) issues based.

  45. Jennifer Marohasy December 7, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    This comment thread will be reopened at 6pm on Wednesday for about 24 hours. Jen

  46. Beth Cooper December 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Hi Jennifer, here’s me thread re response to Kuhn’s paradigm, criticizing the post modern
    view of science as an irrational process of paradigm overthrow versus evolution of
    theories. and , tentative, growth of knowledge. I’d argue that plodding ‘normal’
    science can’t lead to growth of knowledge it’s irrational gestalt switch overthrow
    cannot either. Incommensurable and one not more explanatory in relation to
    the one it replaces.

    I consider incommensurability has been refuted and there is corroboration
    re evolution of knowledge eg from Ptolemy>Copernicus>Kepler>Newton>
    Einstein and advances in technology arising from the evolution of theories
    indicates this. I may be wrong (
    Beth the serf.

  47. jennifer December 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Hi Beth

    Thanks for your two commentaries on Kuhn et al.. It is my understanding, from what you have posted at the two links, that you have relied exclusively on reviews of Kuhn to understand Kuhn, rather than reading his work yourself? I think this is a major mistake.

    In particular I get the impression you are not making a distinction between Kuhn’s explanations of how science tends to operate, versus how science would ideally operate. Kuhn is concerned with the reality of how science operates. He doesn’t necessarily condone this reality. He also makes a big difference between ‘normal science’ and ‘paradigm shift’ science.

    What I like about Kuhn, is that he shows a way forward, but this is only possible if we first accept how science operates in reality. So I will leave the discussion of the way forward to a future post/future thread.

    I’ve grabbed some quotes from your first article to illustrate my point/try and explain Kuhn. I will do this in the context of climate science, because that is the big scientific issue of our time, and I belief that it is well explained by Kuhn’s model of how science operates. We can/could go back in history and choose another example if you wish, but be sure you have a well researched example, too many people rewrite history all the time and too many science historians have rewritten science in an attempt to suggest it is more as Popper claims… essentially fair and very rational.


    I agree with John Watkins’ observation (L&M 1970. p 26) that Kuhn views the science community as an essentially closed society, intermittently shaken by collective nervous breakdowns followed by restored mental unison, and Popper’s view that the scientific community ought to be, and to a considerable degree actually is, an open society in which no theory, however dominant and successful , no ‘paradigm,’ to use Kuhn’s term, is ever sacred.

    JEN REPLIES: I think it is very evident from Climategate that the climate science community is essentially a closed society. This has also been my experience in trying to get my recent work on rainfall forecasting published [1], and from my visit and discussions with the Bureau of Meteorology.

    While Kuhn would agree with Popper that the community “ought” be open, and that no theory should ever be “sacred”, this is not the reality of how scientists operate. Rather they get an idea, try and prove it, and will often defend it to the death even when apparently falsified.

    And I just popped over earlier today to Jo Nova’s and as she explains: In my opinion the real problem is death-by-committee — at every point individual responsibility is turned over to a group. Peer review becomes a committee decision, government grants are all committee recommendations and only when one person is held responsible for deciding an outcome will we get better processes and better outcomes.


    To rely on testing as a mark of science ‘ says Kuhn, ‘is to miss what scientists mostly do’ ( Ibid, p10)


    To reinterate, Kuhn is not against testing or the concept of falsification. He just shows that this is not what most scientists do. While Popper’s model is a great ideal, in reality, scientists set out to prove something and will band together to crush any opposition. Just consider for a moment how modern climate scientists operate!


    “Like Einstein said, after Hume, no matter the build up of corroborating data, one counter example destroys yer theory.”


    How many counter examples have been put forward to falsify the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AWG), but it persists.


    ‘First do not fool your self …bend over backward to present the weak side of yer theory.’


    So when does either side of the AGW debate ever present the weak side of their argument. Indeed it is the rare scientist that can ever bring himself to do this. Can you give me an example of any scientist who has bent over backwards to present the weak side of their pet theory?

    I could go on, and on. But suggest the above to keep the discussion going…


    [1]. But we are starting to get some papers out the most recent is here

  48. Beth Cooper December 12, 2013 at 8:02 am #


    Yes I have read Kuhn, first, his Paper, CH !, and the Responses proceedings
    of the International Colloquium of the International College in the Phil of
    Science, Bedford College, london, Published, Lakatos and Musgrave 1970
    and also a 6 page synopsis from the original, not a critique, of ‘The Structure
    of Scientific Revolutions’ presented by Prof Frank Pajares.

    The International Colloquium was centred on Kuhn’s book and was supposed
    to be a debate btw Kuhn on his normal and extraordinary science and Feyerband
    arguing the critical rationalism he share with Popper. Feyerband was unable to
    attend because he was ill, but sent his paper. Watkins stepped in to take his
    place and Popper chaired the debate. (Popper is a philosopher, not an economist.)

    In response to M Masterman’s criticism that Kuhn used ‘paradigm’ in a wide
    variety of ways, Kuhn for the first time explicily introduced an anti-realist
    element into his revolution of theories b denying that new theories could be
    regarded as more or less closer to the truth than those they replace.

    Presumably Kuhn would regard present theories as no truer than future ones.
    SO I guess doing science is just a game of puzzle solving. Why bother? This is
    relativism a break from what scientists of the past and B Russell considered
    the task of scientific ‘enquiry.’

    Jen: Re Climate Science, I discussed my distinction betw quantitative, (Kuhn)
    and qualitative (Popper) definitions of doing science. What Kuhn regards as
    normal science, Popper does not regard as doing ‘science’ at all. With the Hockey
    “team” et al, as Climategate showed, the prime goal was political, obfuscate,
    cherry pick, hide data, gate-keep, that’s political ‘n politics and science ain’t a
    good mix

    By the way, Jen, reading yer paper on the Murray, cf ter the ISSUES based
    Wentworth Group publications, I consider you were engaged in investigating what
    was the ‘reality’ of the Murray River and Lwr Lakes flow by means of the record.
    Critical, not value laden, as W et al involving predictions of CAGW and zeal regarding

    I also make the claim that until the issues I raised via Palmer and Watkins are
    dealt with to my satisfaction in the ongoing debate out there, 🙂 and Kuhn’s theory
    is yet able to explain growth of knowledge, however provisionally we need to hold
    our theories, and ‘do not fool ourselves,’ I will tentatively hold ter me present
    position. Thx fer the inter-action Jen, and I don’t think we speak ‘past each other.”

    Beth the serf.

  49. Beth Cooper December 12, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    PS. Einstein bent over backwards to present the weak side of his argument, see my
    reference ‘Confessions of a Philosopher’ Brian Magee ( Phoenix 1998) p 65

    ‘Einstein spent the second half of his life looking for a theory that would subsume
    or superse his own theories of relativity, in exactly the same way as he had
    superseded Newton.’

  50. Larry Fields December 12, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Comment from: jennifer December 5th, 2013 at 12:41 pm
    “Basically I don’t think you understand what Kuhn meant by ‘paradigm’.”

    Point taken. I went back to Wiki, and read up on paradigm. Again, I’d go nuts slogging through the original source. Although I’m missing out on a few pithy quotes, I think that I’ve got the essence now. Knock on wood.

    In retrospect, my original statement about academic mafias is incomplete. The AGW ‘scientific’ subculture — and a few other ‘scientific’ subcultures — are best described as a hybrid between academic mafias and mind-control cults.

    “He also suggests that the way to destroy a paradigm is not ever through falsification or rebuttals, but only ever through competition… through the emergence of a new paradigm.”

    Methinks that you’re sugar-coating on the problem. Let’s look at a few possible addenda to a ‘new and improved’ paradigm for climate science (and science in general).

    •Circular reasoning does not count as climate science — or any other kind of science. The obvious example: GIGO computer models about climate change. One begins with a foregone conclusion: AGW. One writes that algorithm into a computer program. The computer does exactly what it’s told, and it outputs a prediction/’projection’ that does not hold water — or ‘excess heat’ — in the real world. Example: the putative mid-to-upper tropospheric hot spot over the tropics (which does not exist). This is immediately hailed as a significant step forward in understanding how the Earth’s climate works. Where is that darn barf bag?

    •DATA always trumps shrill emotional projection. From a true scientific perspective, ‘Post Normal Science’, as explained by Jerome Ravetz — is garbage. It’s politics masquerading as something more substantial.

    •Speaking of the devil, RAW data should be shared IMMEDIATELY upon request by anyone. Not just to people who are deemd to be ‘worthy’ by the Tarzan of the Temperatures. FOIA requests should not be necessary in the case of goobermint-funded climate or environmental ‘research’. Lets post all of the raw data and data analysis programs online when it’s published in a scientific journal. Phil Jones, if you’re reading this, you owe Warwick Hughs a huge apology.

    •When one’s pet hypothesis is thoroughly and irredeemably falsified from several points of view, throw it out. Do not make lame excuses about ‘missing heat’ hiding out at the bottom of the ocean. Kevin Trenberth and Susan Solomon, are you listening? Please pardon the Popperism.

    Oh, wait a minute. This isn’t a new paradigm at all; it’s the old, old paradigm from the halcyon days of science — before the Flying CO2 Monster reared its ugly head. This raises the question: Does AGW count as a legitimate paradigm? One might also ask the same question about Lysenkoism in the old USSR.

    In legitimate scientific revolutions, paradigm shifts are usually improvements over the old paradigms. We cannot say that about Lysenkoism or AGW, can we?

    Another question: Is Kuhn’s paradigm shift hypothesis about scientific revolutions recursive? Does it apply to itself? The Kuhn Hypothesis is a paradigm in its own right. And a slightly outdated one at that.

    To a large extent, AGW is a criminal enterprise — in a moral sense. Caveat: Not being a lawyer, I can’t go into great detail about that aspect.

    AGW does not deserve to be described as a paradigm. AGW ‘research’ is simply mediocre people behaving dishonorably in pursuit of less-than-noble goals: protecting their otherwise marginally productive academic careers; lining their pocketbooks from speakers fees, and movie and book royalties; basking in the undiscerning adulation that’s normally reserved for rock stars; preening their ruffled egos; and Schadenfreude from screwing people they don’t like.

    Let’s call a spade a spade. We have reached the point where AGW fraud is no longer a scientific problem. It’s a problem for the criminal justice system.

    Yes, some of the major players are useful idiots who have actually conned themselves into believing in what they’re doing. In criminal law, a mentally retarded person who is conned into participation in a bank robbery, is nevertheless accountable for his actions. At the time of sentencing, the judge may take the felon’s mental impairment into account.

    In both cases, people are responsible for their actions. However diminished capacity would be a tougher sell at the time of sentencing in the case of a convicted PhD-level AGW fraudster.

    Food for thought: Assuming that the Kuhn Hypothesis is both true and recursive, are those who view the world of science through the lens of the KH, capable of seeing beyond their paradigm? Wouldn’t Kuhn would say no?

  51. jennifer December 12, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Hi Beth,

    Can you please provide me with the complete reference and/or link to the text actually written by Kuhn that you are referencing and/or the basis of your understanding of Kuhn’s thesis?

    Also, the two issues raised by Palmer and Watkins were ignored by me in the link you provided, because they are a total misrepresentation of Kuhn’s work. If you want to state the two points in this thread, so others can understand what you mean, and I can look a fresh at the statements, then I will respond to them here.

    I would prefer to discuss what Kuhn actually wrote, and his ideas which I think have much application particularly to understanding and slaying AGW.

  52. jennifer December 12, 2013 at 9:28 am #


    Thanks for your comments.

    To answer your last question first… because Kuhn saw science as something different to the social sciences, because it deals with real world physical phenomena that can be proved or disproved… To the extent that a better theory usually emerges because it can better explain and/or predict real world phenomena Kuhn would argue that we make progress and we can see beyond our own paradigm.

    Indeed in understanding Kuhn, I feel better able to structure my scepticism.

    A lot of your other commentary in this thread seems to be about how science should be reformed. Kuhn would agree with many of your recommendations. But the problem is, that science is undertaken by mere mortals and they tend to corrupt whatever they get their hands on.

    So we need to put in place systems were there is more accountability, as you suggest.

    At the moment, however, we are stuck in a non-productive paradigm when it comes to climate science, we are stuck with AGW. It now dictates what is, and is not a legitimate question to ask within that discipline. It has the endorsement of all the key academies and royal societies, and in Australia both sides of politics.

    How do we overthrow it, how do we bring on the revolution?

  53. BethCooper December 12, 2013 at 10:04 am #


    The first source ‘Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge’ I Lakatos &
    A Musgrove, Cambridge Uni Press was a text for Philosophy of Science
    which I bought when I was studying Philosophy of History at Melbourne
    Uni in the 70’s. Sorry I can’t debate further, pressed fer time. bts

    The second source here.

    You might like to read Popper’s ‘Papers In Objectice Knowledge’ that
    i’ve cited on Serf Under_ground journal, numerously ) BC

  54. jennifer December 12, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Hi Beth

    Thanks for your reply.

    Your first source is a book edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Mugrave. Is there a chapter in that book written by Thomas Kuhn… or is it simply the academy of philosophers attacking what they don’t want to admit?

    Your second reference is to an article by Frank Pajares, that claims to be a synopsis of Kuhn’s book.

    Again I ask, have you actually read a paper or book by Thomas Kuhn?

  55. Beth Cooper December 12, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    I mentioned to you that there was a chapter Jennifer, Chapter 1
    Its title is ‘Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research.’ pp1 -23.
    Also pp231 Reflections on my Critics. pp 231-278.

  56. Larry Fields December 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    If I’ve understood correctly, your solution to the rampant fraud in climate ‘science’ is a paradigm shift. If you were the Benevolent Dictator fo Life of the scientific world, what would your replacement for the current Climate Change paradigm be?

  57. jennifer December 13, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Hi Larry

    In a article published in the latest IPA Review, I write:

    “The history of science provides some insight into how to respond effectively. It suggests that the overthrow of an established paradigm only occurs when there is competition. Competition can manifest as something wholly political and strictly within the scientific discipline, or it can be about the evaluation of a theory based on its utility to those external to the discipline. Indeed if skillful medium-term rainfall forecasting was a goal of climate research, then evaluating the relative skill of competing theories could be an objective measure of their respective utility and by extension we would argue, their essential truth.

    In short, those skeptical of AGW theory may be able to help precipitate its overthrow by demanding better medium-term rainfall forecasts. At the moment, however, there is no understanding that such a choice potentially exists.

    The BOM is a taxpayer-funded monopoly that, with the assistance of CSIRO and participating universities and cooperative research centers, enforces a particular paradigm. Indeed in Australia, and the west more generally, unless significant political pressure is brought to bear, entire research and development budgets will continue to be spent on POAMA and other GCMs with limited utility beyond politics simply because they are modern climate science.”

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