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Global Research, September 22, 2014
Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Global Research 30 November 2009

Abstract

For a variety of inter-related cultural, organizational, and political reasons, progress in climate science and the actual solution of scientific problems in this field have moved at a much slower rate than would normally be possible.

Not all these factors are unique to climate science, but the heavy influence of politics has served to amplify the role of the other factors. By cultural factors, I primarily refer to the change in the scientific paradigm from a dialectic opposition between theory and observation to an emphasis on simulation and observational programs. The latter serves to almost eliminate the dialectical focus of the former.

Whereas the former had the potential for convergence, the latter is much less effective. The institutional factor has many components. One is the inordinate growth of administration in universities and the consequent increase in importance of grant overhead. This leads to an emphasis on large programs that never end. Another is the hierarchical nature of formal scientific organizations whereby a small executive council can speak on behalf of thousands of scientists as well as govern the distribution of ‘carrots and sticks’ whereby reputations are made and broken. The above factors are all amplified by the need for government funding.

When an issue becomes a vital part of a political agenda, as is the case with climate, then the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research. This paper will deal with the origin of the cultural changes and with specific examples of the operation and interaction of these factors. In particular, we will show how political bodies act to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.

1. Introduction.

Although the focus of this paper is on climate science, some of the problems pertain to science more generally. Science has traditionally been held to involve the creative opposition of theory and observation wherein each tests the other in such a manner as to converge on a better understanding of the natural world. Success was rewarded by recognition, though the degree of recognition was weighted according to both the practical consequences of the success and the philosophical and aesthetic power of the success. As science undertook more ambitious problems, and the cost and scale of operations increased, the need for funds undoubtedly shifted emphasis to practical relevance though numerous examples from the past assured a strong base level of confidence in the utility of science. Moreover, the many success stories established ‘science’ as a source of authority and integrity. Thus, almost all modern movements claimed scientific foundations for their aims. Early on, this fostered a profound misuse of science, since science is primarily a successful mode of inquiry rather than a source of authority.

Until the post World War II period, little in the way of structure existed for the formal support of science by government (at least in the US which is where my own observations are most relevant). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the major contributions of science to the war effort (radar, the A-bomb), to health (penicillin), etc. were evident. Vannevar Bush (in his report, Science: The Endless Frontier, 1945) noted the many practical roles that validated the importance of science to the nation, and argued that the government need only adequately support basic science in order for further benefits to emerge. The scientific community felt this paradigm to be an entirely appropriate response by a grateful nation. The next 20 years witnessed truly impressive scientific productivity which firmly established the United States as the creative center of the scientific world.

The Bush paradigm seemed amply justified. (This period and its follow-up are also discussed by Miller, 2007, with special but not total emphasis . . .

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