Institute of Physics in hot seat

The UK Institute of Physiscs (IOP) is currently the darling of the climate change deniers, but has upset its own members. The Guardian has found their submission to the UK Parliamentary “Climategate” Hearing was prepared by a small clique, including a well known climate change denier. Now members are protesting. Some may even resign. The IOP may be forced to withdraw their submission.

Climate change politics can be a poisoned chalice for scientists. Trained to deal with objective reality and to test statements and ideas against that reality they are ill-equipped to confront the prejudice, misinformation, emotion and outright nastiness of the political world.

Unfortunately “climategate,” the hysterical anti-science campaign organised around the release of selected stolen emails from the Climate Research unit of the University of East Anglia, is beginning to bring that political world to the scientists themselves.

UK Parliament “climategate” hearings

Looks like the staid old IOP may become the latest victim of “climategate.” Mind you, they did bring it on themselves with their submission to the recent Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament inquiry (see IoP’s evidence submission). They succumbed to politicking in their own ranks and used decidedly authoritarian, undemocratic procedures in preparing their submission. This has caused a backlash from members, and reporters from the UK Guardian have been exposing the kerfuffle. The Institute’s leadership have been forced to backtrack a little on their submission and may yet be forced to withdraw it, at least in part.

Never mind – the climate change deniers loved the submission. Reading those sources your wouldn’t have known that it was only one of 55 submissions representing all points of view. It was heavily promoted in the denier echo chamber on twitter and blogs – even in New Zealand. The local popular blog, Kiwiblog, uncritically reproduced sections (see Institute of Physics on Climategate).

Perhaps, though, this promotion has gone too far. Lord Mockton’s climate change denial organisation, SPPI, has now reproduced the submission, given it a pretty cover and made it available from their own web site. An “official document” in their reprint series! I should think this will be the kiss of death, credibility wise, and cause even more consternation to institute members.

Who wrote the submission?

The Guardian reports that the evidence for the submission “was drawn from an energy industry consultant who argues that global warming is a religion” (see Climate emails inquiry: Energy consultant linked to physics body’s submission). They also found “the submission was approved by three members of its science board, but would not reveal their names. The Guardian contacted several members of the board, including its chairman, Denis Weaire, a physicist at Trinity College Dublin. All said that they had little direct role in the submission.”

Three members out of 14! (Governance Science Board).

The Guardian was “unable to find a member of the board that supports the submission. Two of the scientists listed as members said they had declined to comment on a draft submission prepared by the institute, because they were not climate experts and had not read the UEA emails. Others would not comment or did not respond to enquiries.” (See  Institute of Physics forced to clarify submission to climate emails inquiry).

Apparently the report was prepared by the IOP’s Energy Group and the Environment Group was left out of the loop! While environmental and climate scientists generally overwhelmingly accept the IPCC conclusions from their review of climate science, energy and mining scientists are usually less accepting. Understandable given their commercial environment. Terry Jackson, the founder of the IOP Energy Group and Director of the Independent Climate Research Group in Bangor  (a denier group) publicly promotes naive climate denial arguments (see Sammy’s right, man is not responsible for global warming, Pouring cold water on global warming, and Scientists see signs of global cooling). This might provide an idea of the orientation of those physicists who approved the submission.

The IOP’s “clarification” to members

After protests from members the IOP produced a statement “clarifying” their position (see IOP and the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the disclosure of climate data). It said:

“the Institute’s position on climate change is clear: the basic science is well enough understood to be sure that our climate is changing – and that we need to take action now to mitigate that change.”


“these comments, focused on the scientific process, should not be interpreted to mean that the Institute believes that the science itself is flawed.”

However , members were not satisfied. The Guardian reported “the statement appears to contradict sections of the original submission, which suggests the emails showed scientists had cherry-picked data to support conclusions and that some key reconstructions of past temperature cannot be relied upon.” (See Institute of Physics forced to clarify submission to climate emails inquiry).

And several IOP members have written open letters of protest. Andy Russell (see Dear Institute of Physics…) detailed his objections to the submission and finished with:

Finally, I am confused as to why the Energy group was tasked with preparing the statement and not the Environmental Physics group, who would have been more aware of the particular issues in this case.

I realise that a small clarification has been issued but if the IoP continues to stand by this statement then I will have no other option but to reconsider my membership of your organisation.

Ian Hopkinson (see A letter to the Institute of Physics) made the following specific complaints:

1. Item 1 mis-represents the current scientific practice of sharing of data and methodologies. Currently methodologies are generally shared by publication in scientific journals not by the explicit sharing of computer source code. Raw experimental data from third parties is not routinely shared. To imply that the researchers at CRU are acting out of step with current practice is false.
2. Item 4 specifically casts doubt on the historical temperature reconstructions based on proxy measures whilst not acknowledging that such reconstructions have been repeated by a range of research groups using a range of methodologies, as described in the IPCC 2007 report.
3. Item 5 accuses the researchers at CRU of “suppression” of the divergence between proxy records and the more recent thermometer based record. This is ridiculous, the CRU has published on this very divergence in Nature.
4. Item 6 makes no recognition of the un-usual circumstances that CRU found themselves in, subjected to a large number of Freedom of Information requests, culminating in the publication of a substantial fraction of their private e-mail correspondence.
So, an ongoing saga. I wonder if IOP members will be calling for their own inquiry into unethical behaviour in the leadership. (That’s all we need – another “climategate” inquiry!)
Are we going to see the IOP withdraw their submission to the parliamentary committee?
And how are they going to explain the republication of the submission as a reprint of Mad Mocktons SPPI denier group?
See also:

The IOP fiasco

Physicists’ message to world leaders in Copenhagen: Institute of Physics Press Release


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56 responses to “Institute of Physics in hot seat

  1. The best way to feast at the trough of climate cash is to promote alarmism. Just like in Soviet Siberia, where temperature stations manipulated data to appear colder in order to get more government cash. (Later, this made it appear that Siberia was warming drastically.)

    To fight for science, once must fight against the politicization of science – which means fighting against government involvement.

    People who evade or ignore massive evidence of fraud are not pro-science. On the other hand, people who see something odd and want to uncover it, no matter what or who is implicated – those people are pro-science.

    If you want to determine who the *real* anti-science group is, look at who screams the loudest to stop asking questions, to get in line with orthodoxy, and all the while jockeying for power and control over people’s actions and their tax dollars.


  2. So, Rob. What do you think of the undemocratic behaviour of this small clique in the IoP?

    Do you think they should be able to deny the transparency they demand if others?

    Don’t you think their submission was hypocritical given their behaviour?

    Sent from my iPod


  3. Ian Wishart

    Ken, I see you’ve failed to answer this challenge yet, which I repeat here given your insistence on wrapping yourself in the “transparency”flag:

    No Ken, please answer the specific question.

    Please disclose the demands you made to NIWA for information, and their responses, so that everyone here can judge whether you have been holding NIWA to the same standards as you attempt to impose on others.

    Nothing less will do, particularly given your demand for “transparency”.

    Walk the talk, disclose your email traffic on this point.

    Posted by: Ian Wishart | March 05, 2010 at 05:05 PM


  4. Ian, don’t be silly. I am quite happy with the information provided, and being provided by NIWA. All seems quite suitable to me. As you already know I am familiar with issues such as speculative calculations on filter paper and the backs of envelopes. I myself went through the period of transferring worksheets and decomposing paper records of data onto computer databases. Only naive people, or the poitically motivated like Treadgold and his mate Rodney Hide, demand such material.

    You can get a wealth of data from the NIWA website.

    However Richard Treadgold refuses to disclose his methodology and data. There is something wrong with some of his data (beyond his obvious “mistake” of claiming there were no site effects) he refuses to explain.

    You, Ian, helped circulate this discredited “paper”. You intentionally worked to spread disinformation about our scientists and our national data.

    I will be posting in due course the results of my analysis of the denier group’s “paper”. Despite their refusal to cooperate I have been able to scan and extract data from their figures.

    When I post on this infantile analysis of Richards (and No Minister) I will be describing how Richard lied and manouvered to avoid revealing his data and methodology. How he claimed to have a “science team” behind him which “wished to remaiin anonymous”!

    First scientists I have come across so shy of discussing their work! Wonder if they really exist?

    Now I believe access to public data like this should require responsibility. This is the case with our scientists. I am demanding of Richard Treadgold & his denier organisations the same transparency we expect & get from our scientists.

    Interesting that you comment on this post. One of the UK MPs atvthe hearing commented on the hypocrisy of the IoP being so secretive about the preparation of their submission demanding transparancy from scientists!

    I am surprised you haven’t prepared a post on your blog misinforming us about the IoP. You seem to be a bit diverted from your usual tasks.

    Sent from my iPod


  5. John A. Jauregui

    Do you see any of these stories on television news after two decades of relentless press coverage of Global Warming with no questions asked? The national media’s continued silence on ClimateGate and increasing revelations of outright fraud and wrongdoing at all levels of government, academia and the media itself, tells the truth of the tail. That truth is there’s a lot more to this ClimateGate story than what little is being reported. The small (2 to 3 dozen) international cabal of climate scientists could not have possibly gotten to this point without extraordinary funding, political support at virtually all levels of government, especially at the national level and unparalleled cooperation from the national and world media. This wide-spread networked support continues even as we-the-people puzzle over what this is all about. I ask you, “What are you seeing and hearing from our national media on the subject?” Anything? What are you seeing and hearing from all levels of our government, local and regional newspapers and media outlets? Anything of substance? At all of these levels the chatter has remained remarkably quite on the subject, wouldn’t you say? Why? What points and positions are you beginning to hear on the radio and see on the television? This cabal of scientists has an unprecedented level of support given the revelations contained in the emails, documented in the computer software code and elaborated in the associated programmer remarks (REM) within the code. And —- this has gone on for years, AND continues even in the presence of the most damning evidence one could imagine, or even hope for. Watergate pales in comparison, given the trillions of dollars in carbon offset taxes, cap & trade fees hanging in the balance and the unimaginable political control over people’s lives this all implies. The mainstream media’s conspiracy of silence proves the point. Their continued cover-up is as much a part of this crime as the actual scientific fraud. ABC, CBS and NBC are simply co-conspirators exercising their 5th Amendment rights.


  6. Richard Christie

    Yeah well, John A. Jauregui, you know you’ll have a hard time proving it because the feds packed all the evidence into the planes before they hit the towers and Pentagon. I believe you though.


  7. Ian Wishart

    For those interested in some serious entertainment, mein host Herr Perrott has been fisked:

    And Ken…just answer the question.


  8. So, John. What is your opinion of the points in this post?

    What do you think of what the IoP has done?

    Sent from my iPod


  9. The best way to feast at the trough of climate cash is to promote alarmism.

    The best way to protect the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry is to promote denialism.

    (Just like the tobacco industry did for decades against medical science warning the public about lung cancer. Same tactics, same money, even the same people.)


  10. I say out them. If they have the chutzpah to speak for the society they should jolly well have the courage to put their names on it.
    Now I want a smoke.


  11. Ken, your comments on the internal politics of the IoP go right to the heart of what is troubling me about this whole climate-change debate. I fell in love with science because it WASN’T about polls or politics. Science was what you could prove for yourself, given enough time, patience, and the right equipment. It wasn’t a matter of opinion, but of hypothesis, experiment, and a steady accumulation of truth.

    Now science itself has become politicized–and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of it. If you don’t like the politics of this new “post-normal science” and try to stay out of the fray, you become one more part of the problem. To quote Yeats, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”


  12. John A. Jauregui,
    the most parsimonious explanation is that the media has recognised that the whole thing is a beat-up.

    Scott W. Somerville,
    I suspect that there are people who spend a lot of their time on creationist websites who get the impression that there is a huge amount of conflict in the science of evolution but this is simply not true and is only reflective of the amount of noise they are exposing themselves to. Similarly, there are people who spend a lot of their time on fringe sites like Ian’s who would get the same impression about climate science. There really isn’t the controversy that their noise would lead you to believe.

    You are quite right though that climate science has become much more politicised and this is probably largely to do with the fact that the implications of climate change mean that our lifestyles will be (or, are being) affected directly. That’s when politics gets involved. And unfortunately politics is unlike science in that it seeks to spin rather than critically self-examine in the search for truth. If you don’t like the politicisation of climate science then minimise your exposure to the noise and listen to the scientists rather than the politicians and bloggers. Just read the peer-reviewed literature.


  13. I meant to end with:
    Just read the peer-reviewed literature; the scientific method is the best approach we as a species has found for establishing the truth and it is the only self-correcting method I can think of. And realise that even peer-reviewed research is prone to errors but it’ll be more peer-review that finds and isolates those errors. Not spin-merchants.


  14. Thanks Damian.
    Its quite easy to get a bit demoralised when you spend time reading some of the internet commentary, but I appreciate your very clear statement here.

    People need to spend some time considering the quality and credibility of their information sources.


  15. Ken, I have read this blog and others of yours. You have to be one of the most deluded liars I have ever seen.
    Your lack of intelligence is shocking. On another blog I saw a comment you made about Vincent Gray.
    How dare you infer such a man is senile. Your language is that of an immature child.
    Very shameful behaviour. I see also that some are asking you to release information you say you have on NIWA.
    Will you be doing that? You seem to demand the same standard from others you hypocrite


  16. Dianne – are you a robot?

    I have replied to exactly the same comment a few minutes ago at Etiquette for the office global warming denier.

    No need to repeat my comment here. You are mistaken as I have explained.

    And I guess you have come from Ian Wishart’s blog??


  17. Actually, I wonder if Rob and John are robots too?

    I notice that posts on climate change often draw comments arguing a denier case but not specifically related to the post. One replies to them but they never come back. Makes me suspect they are automated somehow.

    Read an interview with Micheal Mann recently where he suggested this was happening. People at his web site had analysed the IP addresses and claimed this supported the view. Wish I knew how to do it myself. Would be interesting to see if there is a pattern.


  18. John Duffield

    Ken: this isn’t about climate-change denial, it’s about the science being seen to be good science. Nobody is saying that human activity doesn’t affect the climate, the issue is how much, and how AGW stacks up against other threats such as pandemic, energy security, overpopulation, etc. The threatened extinction of the tiger in the wild isn’t down to climate change, nor is the rape of the seas. The root cause is human selfishness and greed, the kind of thing that results in the tragedy of the commons. Ideally cool rational impartial science will help save us from that, but if people think it isn’t impartial, they won’t listen, and then we’re in trouble. The reaction to the IOP submission has been counterproductive, because it reinforces the notion that propaganda has put AGW into the hole its in. So please stop digging.


  19. Nobody is saying that human activity doesn’t affect the climate…

    Yes they are.

    Would you believe that there are even people that loudly proclaim that the Earth is getting cooler and…the glaciers are growing?

    Yes, they’re morons but…there are millions of them and they vote.


  20. Ken, have you discussed the concept of “post-normal science”? It’s a category that has been developed to TRY to make it possible to deal with issues like global warming, and it’s directly on point with everything you’ve commented about above.

    I’d love to hear your take on it, if you have one.


  21. John Duffield

    Nobody at the IOP, Ken. And whilst the public vote, they aren’t morons, and they don’t like the propaganda that is laid bare by the simple expedient of buying two newspapers.


  22. And whilst the public vote, they aren’t morons….

    People who deny reality aren’t the sharpest tools in the box.

    …they don’t like the propaganda…

    Wrong. The public LOVE propoganda.
    They always have.
    That’s why propoganda works.
    Propoganda is alive and well, honest.
    Bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry.

    …laid bare by the simple expedient of buying two newspapers.

    (….oh the irony…)

    Yeah. There’s a good idea. After all, you can always rely on there never being propoganda in a newspaper. Right kids?
    Trust your local newspaper.
    Here’s a novel idea for you.
    Don’t get your science information from…a newspaper.
    Newspapers usually suck big-time as a source of decent science information.

    Go to science sources for your science information.
    It’s a radical concept, I know, but that’s how educated people do it.
    Why get your science from second-hand sources?
    Go direct to the source.
    NASA is a good start. They do real work.


  23. Cedric, I’ve been a believer in buying two newspapers ever since I started reading the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe side-by-side every day in the early 80s. It’s generally a good rule to follow, although it is surprising to think anybody would ever have to apply it to issues of science.

    Now that I think of it, though, it was helpful to compare the Globe to the WSJ on the hot science/technology issue of the 1980s–Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” (AKA “Star Wars”) program. The Globe was full of stories about how it was technologically impossible to shoot down a moving missile, while the Journal argued that the U.S. could and should attempt the challenge. The articles on both sides always quoted “experts,” but the science and the politics of the issue got very muddled very fast.

    I wish every citizen of every democracy would read at LEAST two papers every day.


  24. Hmm – wonder how your comments relate to this post, Dianne?

    You are confused about my request for information., I have accessed data from the NIWA database – just as others have. It’s public.

    However, I have been demanding of Richard Treadgold that he provide me with information on the methodology used in his “paper” “Are we warmer yet?”

    This ” paper” has been discredited, but even so there seems to be problems either with their data or the methods used. I believe that anyone using public data is ethically obliged to be transparent with its use. Particularly if they use it to make serious charges against our institutions and scientists (as Richard has done).

    Richard has refused to provide me with the information, or the spreadsheet used. That is hypocritical of him as he is demanding that NIWA release ol;d worksheet, backs of envelopes and scraps of filter paper. (Practically evertything else is in the public domain).

    So Dianne – I suggest you redirect your anger to Richard Treadgold. He is the dishonest one.

    Re my comment on Vincent. I think I was responding to someone else in a discussion – but you provide me with the link and we can then discuss it.

    My only personal comment made to Vincent was that he was ethically obliged to publicly admit to being mistaken in allowing the Treadgold paper to be approved. He admitted by email to me that he made the mistake. But meanwhile his organisation still keeps promoting the lies.

    Ethically, a scientist should not stand by allow that to happen.

    Dianne // March 7, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Treadgold didnt call Gray senile. You did.
    You made a post on Feb 4 insinuating that Vincent Gray was senile. I am not going re post your own words. Look it up your self.
    You are an incredibly rude, ignorant and despicable man making fun of an older person.
    Shameful behaviour and we do not see one word of regret or apology.
    I can see that others are successfully discrediting you and good on them. You deserve it for such an abusive manner with your agism.


  25. Scott – you will have to say what you mean by “post-normal science”. My reading of it is that is was a tired old attempt to redefine science into a post-modernist “point of view” approach than an attempt to understand reality. I saw it as an attempt to bring “any thing goes” into science.

    On the one had to discredit genuine climate and evolutionary science. On the other hand to justify binging in a “theistic science “or emotional denierism.

    That was my take but why don’t your in form us what you mean by it?


  26. John, people are saying that humans don’t contribute to climate change, and some of them are in the IoP by looks of things.

    I agree it’s not the only issue we face. Far from it. And all these issues are probably interelated anyway.

    But it is disingenuous to call on The Guardian, etc. to “stop digging” in their inquries about the shenanigan’s within the IoP. Especially when its leadership is not being at all transparent about their preparation of the submission. Which is hypocritical given their call for more transparency in science – a point not lost on others.

    I reject your claim “The reaction to the IOP submission has been counterproductive, because it reinforces the notion that propaganda has put AGW into the hole its in.” Surely it has been the bad publicity around the CRU emails (“climategate”) artificially promoted and distorted by the denier gate echo chamber that has presented climate change as propaganda.

    The IoP’s submission contributes to that – why else would Mad Monckton’s organisation reprint and distribute it.


  27. Richard Christie

    Dianne, you come in here and publically accuse Ken of ad hominem attack on Mr Gray but refuse to provide your source.
    As this is a public forum please put aside your antipathy and simply provide the quote for the rest of us, I for one haven’t the time or inclination to check. Until then your action can only be viewed as being as base as the accusation you level.


  28. John Duffield

    You don’t reject what I’ve told you, Ken. You deny it.

    Over and out.


  29. Don’t understand your point, John. You will have to elaborate.


  30. Richard – I have replied to Dianne on another post: Etiquette for the office global warming denier.

    She seems to be operating in stereo. Probably confused because I think she came from Ian Wishart’s blog.


  31. February 4, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    No problem. I am flattered that I may have helped with the link.

    I was aware that Vincent Gray had retired but didn’t realise his age. The local deniers promote him as their expert which shows some poverty of imagination.

    He appeared to forget that he had acknowledged to me that they made a mistake on claiming no site effects. He had also forgotten that NIWA had sent him information on this several years ago while his organizations were accusing NIWA of lying.

    Perhaps it’s just senility.

    Sent from my iPod


  32. The articles on both sides always quoted “experts,” but the science and the politics of the issue got very muddled very fast.

    Which is why you shouldn’t get your science from newspapers.

    An isolated quote from “experts” placed in a story by non-experts facing a deadline, subject to unsympathetic editors wanting to “sex it up” a story is a very poor medium for science communication.

    I wish every citizen of every democracy would read at LEAST two papers every day.

    Not very helpful if they are owned by the same person.
    Not very helpful if they both have equally ignorant journalists using the same superficial sources.
    Plenty of newspaper stories just parrot each other.
    The medium is bady flawed.

    Science in the media is routinely abused whereas fraud and quackery is regulary fawned upon.

    How about a flu pandemic? Doctors regularly tear their hair out at how the media reports them.

    It can be any science subject:
    Evolution, AIDS, Pluto, asteroids, moon-landings, water conservation, global warming, nuclear power etc.
    Show me responsible journalism where a journalist gets it right and I’ll show you plenty more where the journalist gets it badly wrong…and doesn’t give a flying damn.
    Sometimes, one side is simply just wrong.


  33. Richard Christie

    [i]Sometimes, one side is simply just wrong.[i]

    Which, due to the flaw inherent in the journalistic ethic of providing “balance”, means that equal prominence is often given to total cranks by writers who are too lazy or untrained in the topic to research it competently.


  34. While we’re on the subject of journalists reporting on science, does anybody remember that oh-so-miraculous “Coma Man” case in Belgium from a couple of moths ago? The media gushed endlessly about it.
    It was the ultimate “feel-good” wonder story.
    The editors and the gullibe public lapped it up.
    Nary a trace of critical thinking to be found on any of the major networks.
    Here’s the details.

    Well, it turns out that that there’s been an update. Guess how it turned out?

    If journalists can screw that story up, they can screw up anything.
    Get your science from science sources.
    There is no substitute.


  35. (sigh)


  36. Ian Wishart

    Still waiting for you to hand over the emails to NIWA seeking information that you boasted you had, Ken…or has the reality that this was a fib now hit you?


  37. All the fibs are yours, Ian.

    As always.

    What about commenting on the topic of the post?

    Sent from my iPod


  38. Ken, so you have edited and censored my post.
    What an act of hypocrisy.
    Will you apologise for calling Vincent Gray senile?

    “Perhaps it’s just senility”

    These are your words. Will you retract this offensive statement?


  39. Dianne – what are you going on about? I don’t edit or censor comments here. But I think you have a memory problem as you are posting the same thing on two threads at one. Or perhaps you are jsut cofused.

    I responded to you last at March 7, 2010 at 2:42 pm. You ignored that.

    Now, perhaps you would like to withdraw your last claim on censoring and editing and apologise for your unnecessarily hostile tone.

    More importantly, why not comment on the posts themselves? That’s what commenters normally do.


  40. But I think you have a memory problem as you are posting the same thing on two threads at one.

    The next thing she’ll do is start posting in ALLCAPS.


  41. Ken, the concept of “post-normal science” was developed by Jerome Ravetz (and others) in an effort to explain why extraordinary actions must sometimes be taken on the basis on incomplete evidence. Ravetz has been a long-time supporter of AGW theory, and has generally used his “post normal science” concept to promote more action in response to it.

    I’m intrigued by your initial reaction to it, though. I would have expected a “denier” to dismiss it out of hand as a post-modern end-run around “real science,” but in this case, you may be overlooking something that was SUPPOSED to present a well-thought-out case for the kind of things that the climatologists have been calling for.

    (Note: I’ve only looked into “post-normal science” a little bit, and may be missing something or misreading it. That’s why I’d appreciate your insights, Ken.)


  42. Cedric, I get most of my science from blogs, these days, but a lot of them are still starting with news reports. Saw a fascinating little blip on the evidence that great white sharks prey on giant squid–never would have caught it without the help of the “news.”


  43. Scott, my only real outline of the concept was by a climate change denier who was having it both ways. Claiming on the one hand that scientists are allowing their desires to substitute for real evidence and objective analysis. On the other hand claiming that this therefore justified deniers interpreting the evidence to fit their desires. (You can see the motive, can’t you).

    Hardly a new problem. Not worth naming, I would have thought.

    However, if you wish to elaborate, do so. Or at least give links or refs to attributions like the one you have made.

    Sent from my iPod


  44. I see I am going to have to look at the primary articles. Your post doesn’t actually describe the concept. And “Whats Up With That?” is hardly a recommendation on such matters.

    Humanity has always had to operate in situations where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent”. In the end the problems become political, not scientific and we should not be changing the scientific method for that reason. Quite the opposite.

    Humanity needs the best scientific advice in making its political and ethical decisions.

    His comment on peer review seems strange. Surely peer review (well more general the process of checking within science) does involve scientists with different so-called “paradigms”, different pet or favourite theories, etc. In the end the best check is the one we make against reality.

    Scientist must continually allow their ideas and conclusions to be critiques by a very scepitical audience, and to be checked by these sceptics against reality. The better scientists easily admit mistakes and wrong interpretations. Personally, I got to seeing a mistake, or evidence which didn’t accord with my theory, as an opportunity to learn, to develop a better theory, a better understanding of reality.

    Handling over this checking to a hoard of bloggers is hardly an improvement. Just look at the mess they have made with “climategate.” Look at the lies that have been propagated around Phil Jones.

    I will look into it a bit deeper, read his article, etc. But I am attending the Global Atheist Convention so may have little time for this.


  45. Ravetz’ post at “What’s Up with That” was newsworthy, in its own right–sort of like having Anwar Sadat speak to the Israeli Knesset back in 1979. (I may be dating myself, here.) I was impressed by the fact that he tried to explain his thesis to the “enemy camp”–it made me pay attention to what he was saying instead of merely dismissing it as more of the same old same old.

    What intrigues me about his argument is that it actually does take into account the “clash of paradigms” problem. Ever since Thomas Kuhn wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” I’ve been aware of the problem of the paradigm. Our reliance on the peer-review process assumes the existence of “peers,” but peers are (pretty much by definition) those who accept the paradigm and work within it. How does one subject science to the scrutiny of people OUTSIDE the paradigm?

    To put it into terms a delegate to the Global Atheist Convention might appreciate, is there any way for non-Christians to contribute to theology? The skeptic does NOT accept the Christian paradigm–does that mean that anything he says is meaningless? As a Christian, I don’t think so. I WANT to hear what freethinkers are saying about my ideas. I may disagree with them in the end, but I’d rather disagree after hearing what they have to say than merely write them off out of hand because they don’t accept my paradigm.

    Ravetz suggests there MIGHT be a way to bring more than one paradigm to bear on a problem. That’s enough to get me to think hard about his theories.


  46. Re-reading your post, Ken, I see that I may not be using “paradigm” the same way you do. To clarify–scientists may have different pet theories and still be working with what I would call the same “paradigm,” just as Baptists may disagree strongly with Presbyterians yet still be committed to “theology.” The “clash of paradigms” appears when people are working with such fundamentally different assumptions that the words they use don’t even mean the same things to each other.


  47. Science is messy – it can’t be squeezed into an algorithmic “method” imposed for ideological reasons.

    In the end it is evidence based and scientific ideas are tested by mapping against reality.

    In my experience commentators who resort to talking of paradigms and some outdated and distorted ideas of Kuhn in justification for their ideas are trying to introduce non-evidence based dogma.

    This is a common ploy of the creationists.

    So stop talking about paradigms – start talking about evidence.

    In the end reality keeps us honest. Not paradigms.


  48. Ken, I’ve just finished an eight-year writing project: a high school “history of philosophy” course that includes a number of weeks where we focus on the philosophy of science. I work through Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend in historical progression.

    It’s all well and good to say that “science is about facts and evidence,” but that assumes we can define what a “fact” is, and why it is any different from a theory. I believe Popper did the world a service by showing why empirical science is different from “scientific Marxism,” Freudianism, and other ideologies that try to use the name of “science” to advance a different agenda. I think Kuhn made a BIG discovery when he realized how people could use the same words to talk about two completely different things. (I wish I could think of something nice to say about Feyerabend, but I can’t–he just scares me!)

    I’m not going to say that any or all of the philosophers are “right,” but I will say that I believe it’s important for scientists (and amateurs like myself who love science) to work through the assumptions and implications of science.

    I’m a HUGE fan of “reality,” but I’m increasingly aware that I impose a lot of preconceptions on what I think “reality” is. For example, I’ve asked the question “How many futures are there?” enough times to think that “reality” may be a cluster of timelines–a “multiverse” instead of a “universe.” That changes what I mean by simple sentences like “What happened?” or “Who am I?” The “evidence” hasn’t changed, but the mental framework that the evidence fits into has been transformed.

    You may dismiss questions about alternate timelines as “speculation” or “metaphysics,” but it’s not inherently different from what Galileo and Copernicus did when they visualized a sun-centered solar system. The word “up” meant one thing before Galileo and another thing after him. That’s the difference a “paradigm” makes.


  49. Scott – “but I’m increasingly aware that I impose a lot of preconceptions on what I think “reality” is.”

    That’s why science must be involved with reality. One needs to get one’s hands dirty.

    People impose perceptions becuase that’s how we have evolved.

    Scientific methodology has developed to overcome that problem.

    Science is, in the end, about facts and evidence.

    Now, pseudoscience – that’s a different matter. But it’s not science.


  50. …but that assumes we can define what a “fact” is, and why it is any different from a theory.

    Creationists certainly love to play word games with that one.

    Scott, if you’re interested, you might want to check out Phil Plait’s web-site from time to time.
    He has an excellent way of cutting through the waffle and the woo to explain what science is and why it’s important.
    Here’s a sample…


  51. I think in some respects the Institute of Physics is actually the victim here. They need experts on energy use and energy extraction and these people tend to work for oil companies. Unfortunately that can then give them anti-science agendas.

    The Energy Group of the IoP used to contain two such people: Terri Jackson and Peter Gill. Both have left that group under something of a cloud. Gill though is on another group, the Energy Sub-Group and is at least in part responsible for this submissiont o parliament.

    Hopefully though they’ll learn their lesson from this and vet any future oil people they take on.


  52. New to denialism

    Yes we don’t want any of that nasty oil stuff do we? Drives the internet and stuff. Pure evil


  53. New to denialism

    On the subject of reality, try this paper from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change

    “The Social Simulation of the Public Perception of Weather Events and their Effect upon the Development of Belief in Anthropogenic Climate Change”

    Click to access wp58.pdf

    Some quotes from this paper:

    Obviously influenced by the substantive issue, we have labelled the scale we use as belief
    temperature. We assume that events (direct and indirect encounters) provide the impetus
    for belief change. One should keep in mind, that although we are dealing with a public
    construction of reality, the reality per se has not yet manifest. The public are assessing
    clues to confirm the conclusions of science. In effect, it is the social construction of


  54. Pingback: Officially a fake scandal from science perspective « Open Parachute

  55. Pingback: The heart of opposition to climate science « Open Parachute

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