Science and Politics; opposing the extremes

Roger Pielke has a nice blog called Prometheus which is about science policy. Not just climate science, but others too. I only ever read the cliamte bit, naturally. RealClimate is about climate science, and we do our best to avoid policy and messy stuff like that. P's Jan 15 post is a response to RealClimate and it raises some interesting issues, although I disagree on some of them (which is why I commented on the post at his site. As an aside, its a shame how few comments he does get, given the quality of the site; perhaps his points are so completely argued that no-one needs to comment... that must explain my site, too :-).

His post makes four main points, which are:

1. No free passes.

He wants RC to attack hyperbole from the enviro side as well as the septic side. This is a semi-fair point. Its only semi-fair because, in the USA at least, the bias seems to be wildly on the septic side (I would place P himself on the skeptic side, though mildly). And also because I don't think P himself passes this "test". I said that in my comment (I was thinking of this post, in which he appears to be suggesting that Singer endorses the consensus, which is bizarre); he has responded; and I've responded to his responses; I won't detail it here, go to his site and see. But let me give on specific topical example (not about P) in this regard: I've read an awful lot of septic pieces attacking the enviro's for linking the recent tsunami with GW; but I haven't seen much in the way of enviro pieces doing the linking.

2. Be transparent.

This one was itself rather opaque, but P provided some links in response to me saying that. I've looked at the first two and I don't find them convincing. #3 is a bit better, but publishing your thoughts in Nature (scroll down to the bit by Rahmstorf) is hardly being secretive. #4 is in German, which I regret I can't read.

Our policy is, to blog about the science, and to do that fairly. Mind you, we *haven't* mentioned von S yet, on my part because I don't know whether I understand his paper yet, and nor have I finished Rutherford et al 2004.

3. Be diverse.

Ie, invite guest editors. Well, we do (we've had one from Michael Tobis already) and we'll have more. We won't be inviting Singer, but Lindzen is a possibility (whether he wants to write for us would be quite another matter). Von S? Maybe, but he's been a bit rude in the popular press.

4. Distinguish policy and politics.

We're doing our best to steer clear of both, perhaps because we (I) aren't terrbily good at distinguishing them. No, sorry, I shouldn't be flippant. We're avoiding policy because we're scientists and we're not good at policy, in general (though *of course* we could run the country better than those silly politicians). Oops, done it again. Policy is messy, hard to make sense of, and causes endless argument. That will do for now.


James Annan said...

"As an aside, its a shame how few comments he does get, given the quality of the site; perhaps his points are so completely argued that no-one needs to comment... that must explain my site, too :-)."

Private sites are always subject to arbitrary censorship, and the increasing fragmentation into disparate forums and bulletin boards makes it hard for any one person to keep up with what is being said. By all means archive your more substantive comments here and/or realclimate.org, but IMO debate belongs in the public domain.

Usenet may be awful, but it is still probably better than the alternatives...


William M. Connolley said...

Thanks for the comment. I largely agree with you... it *is* very hard to keep up with multiple fora. Of course, everyone wants to be *the* forum that everyone has to keep up with. As it happens, posts here aren't censored, but there's no way anyone outside can know that. And of course the relationship on blogs is very asymmetrical.

Debate belongs in the public domain... yes, it seems to be that way. I guess this is mostly my soapbox, where I can say things in a noise-free environment.