Words of wisdom from Daniel Sarewitz:
Whatever science you’re doing on a post-normal problem, it is always going to be incomplete, and it is always going to be subject to revision, and highly uncertain. It can be viewed from numerous scientific perspectives. So multiple scientific studies can come up with multiple results, so it leads to a profusion of truths that can be mobilized on behalf of different sets of values. Values and facts can pair up with each other in different ways.
One example I love is how everyone talks about how there’s a consensus on GMOs. Well there is consensus around a narrow part of the GMO issue, like there is a consensus around a narrow part of climate change. But the real problems have to do with the ‚what could be done?‘ questions. So for GMOs for example, when people say there is a consensus, what they mean is ‚we know they’re not a health risk‘. So I’ll accept it on health risk, I don’t have a problem with it. But then you say, ‚and we know that they’ll be an essential part of the economic future of Africa‘. Well, maybe that’s true — whose model are you using? What kind of data have you used to generate that? What are your assumptions? I mean anything dealing with projections of the future and claims about how the world is going to look, in a multi-variate, open system, are going to be subject to different people coming up with different claims and conclusions. And that’s exactly what happens.
And when you bring science into the political debate, you have to pick and choose which science you want to use. You have to match that with particular priorities about what policy problems you want to solve. I think science is really important, I think we want to be factual, I think we want to have a grip on reality and I think science can help us do that. But for problems where there are so many paths forward, so many competing values, the systems themselves are so complicated, I don’t think science is a privileged part of the solution.
…The post-normal science idea really does challenge the notion of science as a unitary thing that tells us what to do, PNS really says that we have to think of science in a different way in these contested contexts, and I don’t think most scientists want to go there. The deficit model puts them in charge: “we communicate the facts, you listen and take action.” So if the problem isn’t solved it’s not science’s problem. This is a self-serving superstition that the scientific community generally holds. And superstitions are hard to destabilize.
Over on Twitter, I’ve been having arguments with people about the proposed cut at the EPA, in which the budget for “protecting the climate,” is reduced to “only” $29M.
What in the hell does “protecting the climate” even mean?
— Rand Simberg (@Rand_Simberg) March 2, 2017
a) There is no "the climate." Climate is local, not global.
b) The ideal climate is a subjective opinion, not a scientific fact. https://t.co/yq930Qp4pH
— Rand Simberg (@Rand_Simberg) March 3, 2017