Science, Uncertainty And Advocacy

Judith Curry is attending an interesting conference in the UK, and has some formal comments:

Some people regard any engagement of a scientist with the policy process as advocacy – I disagree. The way I look at it is that advocacy involves forceful persuasion, which is consistent with the legal definition of advocacy.

In the code of ethics for lawyers, where forceful persuasion is part of their job description, they are ethically bound only not to state something that they know to be false. Lawyers are under no compunction to introduce evidence that hurts their case – that’s the other side’s job.

Unlike lawyers, scientists are supposed to search for truth, and scientific norms encourage disclosure of sources and magnitude of uncertainty. Now if you are a scientist advocating for a specific issue, uncertainty will get in the way of your forceful persuasion.

In principle, scientists can ethically and effectively advocate for an issue, provided that their statements are honest and they disclose uncertainties. In practice, too many scientists, and worse yet professional societies, are conducting their advocacy for emissions reductions in a manner that is not responsible in context of the norms of science.

Much of climate “science” abandoned science years ago, going back to Schneider.