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02 August 2011

On The Settling of Science

Today on the Environmental Anthropology listserv, the continuing drama of climate change deniers vs. climate science rages on.  I won't go into the details - you can read the emails yourself in the listserv archives if you really want to - but the most recent argument for the representative climate denier on the list (Roz Anderson) is something to the effect that "the science is not settled, because science is never settled."  Ahh, but this is a flawed argument.  If in fact science is never settled - and I agree that this is the case - then the argument that the science of climate change is not settled is meaningless.  We do not question the heliocentric theory of the solar system or the roundness of the earth simply because "the science is not settled."  Those are easy - let me use a better example - we do not question the existence of neutrinos simply because "the science is not settled." 

It's true that science is not settled, but some science is more settled than others.  In Latour's words, some science is well constructed other science is poorly constructed.  The "science" of climate deniers is decidedly poorly constructed - it fails to hold up, doesn't speak for the facts, but only speaks for the interests of the climate deniers themselves.  Climate change may not be as solidly constructed as the heliocentric model of the solar system or the round earth, but it seems to be fairly well constructed - at least it is far better constructed than the claims of climate deniers.

When it gets down to it, climate deniers question the science of climate change, not because the "science is not settled," but because it is politically and economically harmful for them to not question it.  This should not be mistaken for the usual given and take within the science community, but rather a concerted effort on the part of certain special interests to undermine the science in order to avoid regulation or change.  This is pathology.

1 comment:

strangetruther said...

The FIRST ploy in every scientific argument should be the claim that one's own argument merely explains the most.

And no-one should expect to be taken seriously unless they next accept that there never is any proof for anything in the real world.

The deniers should have been stopped at stages one and two by an argument culture which scientists and others should have been consolidating for decades.

But scientists are too obsessed with shouldering philosophers out of the nest and parroting that stupid Feynman quote about birds and ornithology, to get it right.

So Steve Jones, Simon Singh, the blessed Brian Cox etc etc can feel they are top of the intellectual pile, at the expense of the planet. (What did those three discover/invent etc by the way?)

Instead, just throw this at pseudo-scientists:

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