Just like real climate scientists, we at Cliscep keep our best remarks for private emails between ourselves: For instance, Ian Woolley, à propos of Paul’s recent article on Sharman & Howarth, said:
It’s a painful process to watch, though, isn’t it? The slow dawning… the lumbering, plodding research to discover.. what? The bleeding obvious that political conviction might just be a big factor – in all sides! – of this. Who knew? Who the fucking-fuck knew?
That’s scientism for you. Scientism is like a man watching pornography presented with a novel problem he’s decided to address by designing looser, more comfortable trousers.
I was still chuckling about Ian’s remark when I came across this podcast at the Graun featuring George Monbiot and Ed Miliband arguing the toss off the cuff before an invited audience. Listen if you must. (Or watch a similar discussion between Peter Cook and friends from 1979 but written in 1961, long before the Club of Rome, Kyoto and COP21.)
But back to the Miliband / Monbiot podcast, which is scientism at its wackiest.
Scientism, defined as “the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable” (see Wiki for this and other definitions) is rare among -isms in being almost always used pejoratively. While scientists are almost universally admired, no-one will admit to espousing scientism – above all its most fervent believers among the climate catastrophist community, who are not scientists – and who often express a deep-seated hatred for the scientific method – but who nonetheless are willing to follow any guru with a graph and a PhD in something environ-mental.
The fact that the Guardian has raked up these two hasbeens does rather support the theory that climate catastrophism is on its last legs. Why do they do it? Or rather, why do they do it with these two Jurassic jerks?
Monbiot will be eternally beatified in the hallowed halls of climate scepticism for being the first mainstream journalist to demand, in the wake of Climategate, the resignation of Professor Phil Jones. Then remorse or the Inquisition got to him and he reneged, promising to leave off the subject of climate change If Jones was cleared by the official enquiries – the first case in recorded history of an investigative journalist promising to call off his investigation if the powers-that-be would assured him that there was nothing wrong. This is his first venture back into the fray, as far as I know, since Professor Jones was cleared of all blame by seven independent enquiries.
Miliband is – well – the Wrong Trousers personified. Both Miliband and Monbiot believe in Science the way Art Critics and Ministers of Culture believe in Art. It Exists. It’s Good. And if you don’t believe in it the way they do, there’s no point in discussing it. In fact there’s almost nothing interesting to be said about their discussion at all. They disagree on just one point. Monbiot believes Growth is Bad, while Miliband believes Growth can be Good if it’s Green Growth. (And the Caps are there for a Purpose, because that’s the way they Think. Rational Thought to them is like a game of Scrabble, the Aim being to land your Idea on a Triple Word Score.)
I did intend to transcribe this event, but my heart’s not in it. Not again. Not yet another attempt by the Guardian’s finest minds to try and grapple with their own inability to understand why they can’t understand why they’re not succeeding in making the rest of us understand that the crisis which we all understand to be the biggest threat to our civilisation needs to be understood. No.
Just one example of Moliband/Minbiot trying to face up to their impotence in the face of our indifference is this from about 36 minutes in. You can practically hear Monbiot’s trousers stretching to breaking point as he tries to figure out “quite why it is” that he hasn’t yet managed to get us all to react as he does to the greatest crisis of our times. He concludes that it’s the fault of the media. What we need to do is to:
“…break the media stranglehold and I’ve yet to see the social media realise its potential. There’s still a sense that what drives politics and public perception in this country remains the mainstream media. Now I realise I’m talking myself out of a job here, but it’s this tremendous potential for us to communicate without having to go through the Murdochs or even the Guardians of this world and to be able to reach people directly with the issues that are self-evidently the most important, that is a potential that we have yet fully to tap. And I don’t know quite why that is, but there is something tremendously exciting about the unrealised potential for social media to catalyse political change, and I think we’ve just seen one percent of that potential has become visible so far and a great majority is still to be gained. But at the same time I believe we must be having some much more fundamental discussions about economic structures, about the very basis…”
and so on. An’ on an’ onan’ onan’….
[What would I do, I wonder, if I were one of the thousands of bright young aspiring Monibands and Milibots employed on “alternative media”, churning out article after article that receives no comments, no tweets – nothing – month after month on websites with six-figure budgets financed by governments and billionaires’ trust funds? Would I shoot myself? Or would I try and take some of those nasty deniers with me when I go? But what’s the point since we’re all doomed anyway? It’s not difficult to understand the odd mood swings of the Green Blob.]
By far the most interesting participant was the moderator Helen Czerski, an oceanographer from University College London, who gives her own original version of what science is and how it should be taught right at the outset:
“Just before we get started into what they have to say I just want to say a little bit as well because I’m a research scientist. I work at University College London. I study the surface of the ocean and my perspect… so in a way the scientists have moved on from the science in some ways which is great – the science is now answering other problems about adaptation – but my perspective as a scientist is that the – we can think of ourselves as human beings as having three great life support systems, and if I was in charge of science teaching this is how it would be taught, right? We’ve got our human body, we live in this. This is one life support system. We have our planet which is a life support system in other ways. It provides us food and resources and energy. And now more than any other generation we have a third life support system and that is our civilisation. And the problem we’re facing with climate change is that two of those life support systems are clashing up against each other, and the way the earth works as a life support system is affecting and being affected by the way our civilisation works as a life support system. So when we’re debating these issues, I think those are the terms to think about them, the terms in which to think about them, because we are dealing with two of the great systems that we rely on, and they shouldn’t be underestimated.”
So out go boring old deduction and induction, hypothesis and theory, right? So much for “a systematic enterprise that creates, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.” [Wiki] In comes the Clash of Life Support Systems, right? So, following the reasoning of the chirpy Ms Czerki’s definition of what science is all about, what is the role of the scientist? According to her logic, I’d suggest: the construction of Life Support Systems for Yours Truly, starting with a university teaching post, following up with fronting some BBC science programmes, and topping it off with some part time debate-moderating for the Guardian. And if one life support system clashes a bit with another, so much the better for the career.
Remember, for the thousands of Milibots and Monibands who interpret and legislate climate matters, what the Science says is unquestionable. And the science is what scientists say it is. And the scientists who matter are the ones who talk to the Molibands and Minibots, the ones on the government committees and in the TV studios and hanging around the Guardian’s offices. It’s about Lifestyle Support. I’ll support yours if you’ll support mine.