Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mike Hulme and post-normal science

Recently, Mike Hulme said some unflattering comments about the climate alarmism and if I remember well, he has even introduced the term "climate porn", later used by IPPR. I wondered how this superficially reasonable thinker could have become the director of an institute whose very goal - included even into the name of the institute - is to pollute science with the environmentalist ideology.

Unfortunately, now I seem to know what's the answer. ;-/ In
Hulme attacks the very fundamental principles of science and Enlightenment in the most brutal, medieval manner. I fully agree with Melanie Phillips that the stakes couldn't be delineated more clearly. It's a classical conflict between rational values of the Enlightenment on one side and the methods of the pre-rational era where the truth is heresy on the other side. Let me explain why.

Hulme tells us that if the scientists are going to be listened to in the future, they must "recognize the social limits of their truth seeking" - WOW. ;-) They must thus "trade truth for influence" - WOW. He also says that the "climate change is too important to be left to scientists" - WOW - "least of all the normal ones" - WOW. Hulme promotes the idea that the climate science should become a "post-normal science" - WOW. He says that the "danger" of the "normal science" is that it assumes that the truth is found before the policies are created - WOW.

In the post-normal science that he recommends, science is ready to change "as it rubs against society" - WOW - and the disputes should focus on sociological issues such as funding, personal evaluations, and the format of presentations - WOW. In order to make progress with the climate change, we must "take science off center stage" - WOW. Hulme correctly says that an honest scientist can't answer questions like "what level of CO2 is too much" because the answer depends on a value judgment which is not a part of science but the only reason why he says so is that he wants to urge scientists to become "post-normal scientists" who claim to be able to answer such questions - WOW.

If I summarize it, he wants to destroy the difference between science and politics completely. I just find it rather breathtaking. This is not a generic crank from Real Climate or Not Even Wrong. This is officially a director of an institute that pretends to be a scientific institute whom we have praised for certain things.

Hulme has collected some of the most disgraceful, immoral, anti-scientific, and anti-civilization principles how science should interact with the society that I can imagine. He has brought the methods of the Inquisition right to the 21st century and combined them with the most modern methods to brainwash, corrupt, and intimidate people.

He is completely open that he wants to return us to the Middle Ages when a church ideology dictated what scientists could think and what they couldn't think, what they could learn and what they couldn't learn if they didn't want to lose influence or life, for that matter. It just sounds extremely worrisome.

Sometimes we may find his comments convenient but is he trustworthy? Am I the last person who distinguishes the words "convenient" and "trustworthy"? How can he be a trustworthy scientist if he openly declares that his pronouncements are not as much about the search for the truth as they are about a search for "influence" determined by "social limits"? If my thermometer or watch told me the same thing as Hulme did, I would simply throw them away.

Why should I - or anyone else - be interested in the opinions of a person who has revealed that what he's looking for is not the truth but influence within social limits? What else can we get rather than some amplification of some fashionable myths of the general society pushed by activists? Is this garbage - or post-modern science - what the taxpayers should pay for? Why should anyone sensible ever take Hulme's criticism of Fred Singer and Dennis Avery seriously if Hulme's approach to science is a self-described fraud?

Is there someone who is gonna stop madness like that? Are Melanie Phillips and your humble correspondent the last two people on the planet who really don't intend to return to the age of witch hunts and heretics? ;-)

Via Paul Flett.


  1. Lubos

    Relax, you and Melanie are not the only ones - I'm drafting something for the HIssink File this week on the topic.

    Unfortunately post modernism has spread as a cancer in the civil service /government both here in Oz and elsewhere.

    I was wondering when this phase would start and it seems Hulme is the start of it.

    We must remember Voltaire's prescient remark, paraphrasing it - it's dangerous to be right about something on which the government (authority) is wrong.

    We have had witch hunts of the worst kind in the past, do now in Africa, so it is entireley likely that the Europeans might do so again.

  2. Very well put. I said something similar but less coherently. The real problem is not that he said this but that he is funded by government ghiven space by the Guardian (newspaper of the civil service) to do so.

    Richard Feynman once refered to such things as Cargo Cult Science.

  3. Comparison Between Post-Normal Science And Post-Science

    One of the earliest supporters of post-science is Prof. Paul Feyerabend of the University of California at Berkeley. Prof. Feyerabend is also one of the earliest philosophers of science, who inspired the development of Post-Normal Science (PNS).

    Both post-science and Post-Normal Science try to fill the deficiency of science or the so-called normal science, which is exposed by philosophers of science as based more on faith than on reason, as generally thought before the detailed historical analysis of science.

    Post-Normal Science proposes to fill the deficiency of science, that problems without sufficient data, particularly that of the environment, might be solved by relaxing the rigor of science. Post-Normal Science is also working toward increase the accuracy of the data.

    From over thirty years of experience in market testing both in predicting financial crises and in actual real estate investment and brokerage, the solution of price determination in Post-Science has found not only that rigor should not be relaxed, but should be increased, but also that accuracy needs not be improved, but should be relaxed.

    For example, over-valuation which causes market crash has generally be in the range of 50% to 100% or more. Inaccuracy or accuracy in the amount of over-valuation does not affect the outcome of a market crash. Similarly, an investor will care very little about whether the rate of return is 12%, 13%, 14% or 15%, if the investor likes a property. To be sure, the future investor of the property will feel the same. In theory, without actual solution for market testing, accuracy or uncertainty may appear important, but, in practice, it is not. Academically, now I realize that the late Gerard Debreu and now Kenneth Arrow are misleading economists into the research of Uncertainty, the last chapter in the book Theory Of Value by Debreu.

    From the point of view of life science, which generally gives a more overall view of knowledge, our creators have built enough flexibility into us to tolerate the inaccuracies in social science.

    Post-science believes that to handle problems more complex than those in science, greater not less rigor should be used. For example, mathematical rigor rather than the scientific rigor of empirical verification is needed in the solution of value in social science, and the rigor of logic is necessary in life science, whose problems, involving around 500 variables, are two orders of magnitude more complex than the problems in science, involving about 5 variables.

    The total inputs to the problem of value is around 50, as illustrated in the commercially available valuation software, the Infinite Spreadsheet, at:
    which has successfully predicted all the major real estate booms and crises since 1977, particularly, the US Savings and Loan Crisis and the recent Subprime Woe.

    Being mathematically rigorous, the solution of value is a non-violable law of nature in social science, as gravitation is a non-violable law in science, being empirically verified. What should be of great interest is that value, price, decision, or plan is not empirically verifiable because it depends on all the expected future consequences to infinity in time, which never arrives. Science deals with time-invariant quantities, and value is a time-variant quantity, which changes continually to infinity with changing expectations. Thus, past values should not be used for the prediction of future values.