Franziska Hollender, a social scientist from Vienna, has taken on the climate change blogosphere, particularly that part of it that demands time-honored scientific methodology and standards of proof based on actual evidence. In other words, she targets the skeptics – in this particular case Anthony Watts‘ well-known WattsUpWithThat blog – who are so often smeared with the “denier” label. Apparently a convert to the post-normal form of science, Frau Hollender concludes the following about the troublesome blog-ridden critics of the purveyors of Higher Truth of Climate Change:
Finally, it is concluded that the climate change discourse has been stifled by the obsession of discussing the science basis and that in order to advance the discourse, there needs to be a change in how science as an ideology is communicated and enacted.
So, Frau Hollender, who will be lecturing on this very subject in Colorado on 9/11, thinks people are “obsessed” with the scientific basis of climate science, and they ought to knock it off. Instead, people should adopt the new, postmodern (or, if you will, post-normal) definition of science as a “narrative stream” in which ideologically immaculate conceptions and stated good intentions trump critical thinking and careful, empirical procedures. The “subtext” here is that, to “advance the discourse,” one must avoid critical analysis of ideologically motivated people’s methodologies and conclusions and get on the bandwagon.
But there is too much evidence (there is that ugly word again!) that this approach does not work. The thing called post-normal science has been tried before whenever intentions were considered to be sufficiently “noble” and scientists were amoral enough to fall for ideological nonsense and cozy up to favor-dispensing politicians. But problems inevitably arise, to wit:
• Comrade Olga Lepeshinskaya proclaimed loudly that the “bourgeois Virchowian” concept of cell development (i.e. only a living cell can produce another cell) is obsolete. Her “dialectical-materialistic theory on the origin of all living cells from non-living matter” became the norm. But no matter how many times she speechified and no matter how many times her opponents were denounced and dethroned, she remained wrong and the “bourgeois Virchowian” scientists remained right. A chicken will not regrow a severed leg when its stump is thrust into a mass of protein. Lepeshinskaya’s “dialectic-materialistic theory” is and was a figment of a post-normal ideologist-scientist’s imagination; and many legitimate scientists had paid for it with their careers and, in some cases, imprisonment.
• Comrade Trofim Lysenko proclaimed loudly that “that priest,” Gregor Mendel, was wrong and his ideas on genetics obsolete. Lysenko’s own Lamarckian notions on genetics were the new higher truth. But no matter how many times Lysenko shouted from Soviet pulpits, Mendel remained stubbornly right and Lysenko remained wrong. Moreover, Lysenko’s fantastic “agrobiology” notions were not the answer to plentiful agricultural production but instead led to disaster. Both of Lysenko’s notions proved to be figments of a post-normal ideologist-scientist’s imagination, and his victims numbered in the millions.
These are just two of many instances in which post-normal science had been trumped by the pedestrian “bourgeois science,” but not until genuine science disciplines had been set back decades and, in some cases, millions had suffered greatly. One could cite other post-normal scientific “achievements” like intelligent design, Mao’s Great Flop Forward or Pol Pot’s emptying of the cities to purify the nation, but this is not intended to be a catalogue. The point is that whenever ideological considerations trump open research and empirical knowledge, criticism must be stifled so the fragile ideology and thin-skinned scientist-ideologists’ egos can survive. Once the fawning scientists’ egos are safe, then they are at last free to implement the guiding ideologists’ plans, and the stage is set for disaster.
Indeed, we may be watching the very same scenario unfold before our very eyes, and I suspect that Frau Hollender approves. Consensus climate science gains absolute sway, critics (mainly the free-thinkers in the blogosphere) are silenced, climate ideologists’ and scientist-ideologists’ plans are uncritically implemented. Then the great suffering begins – and is conveniently blamed on The Other.
What this finally means is that the ideologist-scientists are the true deniers – deniers of reality.
For this there is no excuse, and never has been.
And so I say: let us continue being obsessed with “mere science,” even though progressive ideologists and their pet scientists – the real deniers – view it as drearily pedestrian and bourgeois.