Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scientific deconstructionism

By Donald Sensing

Eduardo Zorita, a researcher on past temperature trends at the Institute for Coastal Research in Germany, writes,

... I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. ...

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.
I still insist that climate science is not primarily concerned with climate change. "Global warming" is on the whole a political movement, not a scientific discipline. Climate science has no "product." The outcomes of climate modeling cannot be used to do anything except what is being done with them - promote statist control of ever-expanding slices of national economies to conform to a transnationalist ideology.

If climate science could be used to do anything else, it would already be happening. But have you ever heard of any report of climate science's findings not in connection with expanding the power of the state or trans-state organs?

Now if climate scientists - products of universities co-opted by modified Marxism since the 1960s - find that their only paying customers are statist bureaucrats, and most of the scientists were taught beginning as undergraduates to believe that ideology, what do you think will be the result?

The result is that climate science will be subordinated to political goals. This is exactly what has happened, as more and more scientists working in the field are speaking out. What we are seeing, I think, is that linguistic deconstructionism has polluted its first scientific discipline.

One of the basic tenets of postmodernist linguistic deconstructionism (which I learned how to do in my postgraduate studies at Vanderbilt) is that all text is tainted by bias and that objective points of view are impossible. Hence, the objective of expression is to exercise power. (Formerly the type of expression so designated has been confined, mostly, to those of history, literature and politics. But now we see that even mathematics may be considered biased and subjective.)

Hence, there is no such as thing as objective truth and statements are never more than propositional in nature. A statement's truth content is never more than opinion, and opinions are nothing but expressions of power. Therefore, in a basic sense, all speech is power directed.

This is a fundamental world view of the Left and is derived directly from Marxism, as reworked by Leninism. Since Marx held that his communist theory was literally scientific, his economic-historical forecasts were not simply likely, they were certain. To understand and partner with this inevitability was to be "on the right side of history" (which is where that overused cliche comes from). As formulated by Lenin et. al., truth is therefore not statements of objective facts, but assertions that move the communist revolution and its fulfillment closer to reality. "Truth" is therefore pliable and impermanent, the concept of truth being only practical. In practice, all of language became subservient to the dominance of the party, a fact recognized by George Orwell in his novel 1984 and its concept of Newspeak.

The Left's domination of the academy began in the humanities departments. The penetration of the Newspeak mentality into the sciences probably began with what we now call climate science. In fact, Earth Day founding in 1970 has Leftist roots, the original April 22 date not coincidentally being the birth date of Lenin himself. From the original "grassroots hippie" event, the whole of modern-day environmentalism was born. And environmentalism has never been freed from its Marxist-Leninist roots.

What this means is that when climate science became dominated by the Left (well, it began that way), then its purpose was not to determine scientific truth, but to use science to exercise political power. A standard Leftist critique of the West's standing values was that they were social constructions, not rooted in objective reality (which does not exist, anyway), but in class struggles. That was the Left's entree into the sciences, as Richard Rorty explained in AtlanticOnline,
Starting with the claim that homosexuality, the Negro race, and womanliness are social constructions, they go on to suggest that quarks and genes probably are too. "Ideology" and "power," they say, have infiltrated sterile laboratories and lurk between the lines of arcane journals of mathematical physics. The very idea of scientific objectivity, they say, is self-deceptive and fraudulent.
If scientific objectivity is a fraudulent concept, it does not mean that science is of no value. It simply means that science is just another tool for the class struggle and that it can be used on the right side of history. Like any other expression, scientific expressions are therefore concerned not with facts but with power.

Power is the goal. When global warmists mount ad hominem attacks against skeptics, most of us see those attacks as tacit admissions of failure of the scientific argument. But the Left does not see them that way since the scientific argument is just a specialized form of power expression. Ad hominem attacks are, too, and so are just another tool in the toolbox of power plays. They are an attempt to change the terms of the battle (and battle it is.)

However, most of our country is not Leftists, far from it. We cannot let the Left set the terms of public debate. We have to keep hammering on the facts and that the Left has bent science to political power-play ends, and that environmentalism is a political movement, not a scientific discipline.

We need also to reject the idea that scientific expression is merely another way of expressing opinion. Although empiricism has its own difficulties, we need to recover a strong sense of a philosophy of science that undergirds science as relating to objective facts about nature. This does not mean that science has no social context, as NYU physicist Alan Sokal pointed out:
Science is a human endeavor, and like any other human endeavor it merits being subjected to rigorous social analysis. Which research problems count as important; how research funds are distributed; who gets prestige and power; what role scientific expertise plays in public-policy debates; in what form scientific knowledge becomes embodied in technology, and for whose benefit -- all these issues are strongly affected by political, economic and to some extent ideological considerations, as well as by the internal logic of scientific inquiry. They are thus fruitful subjects for empirical study by historians, sociologists, political scientists and economists.
The problem is that when the externals become dominant, then in a real sense it is not science that gets done, but something else dressed in scientific costume. There is a danger there that Sokal presciently pointed out 11 years ago:
There is nothing wrong with research informed by a political commitment, as long as that commitment does not blind the researcher to inconvenient facts.
The real "Inconvenient Truth" about climate science is that it is mostly serving, rather than informing, a political agenda.

Related:

Advocacy Science - Climate Science Has No Product

Scientific Constructionism Redux

Global Warming Elitism