Lost in translation: In a Brazilian interview, Judith Curry incluir uma cena demasiado longa ou uma varia§£o do tema de um programa de televis£o indicando que este est¡ com os seus dias contados

And you’ll never guess who else is in the post-normal fan club!

Judith Curry, tribal elder for the confusionists, has now jumped the shark in two languages.

As Wikipedia explains, “Jumping the shark is an idiom used to describe the moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise. The phrase was originally used to denote the point in a television program’s history where the plot spins off into absurd story lines or unlikely characterizations.  These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline, usually through the employment of different actors, writers or producers.”


Tenney Naumer who blogs from Brazil on climate change, just posted, “More Currygate: Judith Curry has spread disinformation in Brazil. Interview from ‰poca magazine, May 1, 2010.”  Tenney did the translations and issues the often-crucial, often-ignored advice, “head vise warning in effect!”

For me, the confusing confusionist interview itself is not as fascinating as something I discovered in the course of writing this post.

[Note: For a change of pace, and since the subject seems to call for it, I’m going to try a Rabett Run approach here.  Do read his new post on Jindal and the berms.  I digress.]

If you plug the phrase “jump the shark” into Google Translate into Portuguese, you get “pular o tubar£o.”  If you plug that into Babylon 8, “the most popular translation software,” you get back “jump the shark.”

Ah, but if you plug “jump the shark” into Babylon, you get:  “incluir uma cena demasiado longa ou uma varia§£o do tema de um programa de televis£o indicando que este est¡ com os seus dias contados.”

Babylon gets big kudos for this effort to explain the idiom, since if you plug that into Google, you get:

include a scene too long or a variation on the theme of a television program indicating that it is with its days numbered

And so it is with Dr. Curry’s interview.

Indeed I think it is a brilliant strategy for the confusionist tribe to grant interviews in foreign languages, since it 1) makes them more confusing and 2) gives them an extra layer of plausible deniability.

Curry famously walked back her paraphrasing of Montford’s attacks on the Hockey Stick after NASA’s Gavin Schmidt eviscerated them (see “Hockey Stick fight at the RC Corral“):

Gavin, the post I made in #167 was a summary of Montford’s book as closely as I can remember it, sort of a review. I did not particularly bring in my personal opinions into this, other than the framing of montford’s points. So asking me to retract a point made in a book in a review of that book is, well, pointless. your attempt to rebut my points are full of logical fallacies and arguing at points i didn’t make. As a result, Montford’s theses look even more convincing. Once you’e in a hole, you can try to climb out or keep digging. Well keep digging, Gavin. My final words: read the book.

[Response: Thanks for passing by. In future I will simply assume you are a conduit for untrue statements rather than their originator. And if we are offering advice, might I suggest that you actually engage your critical faculties before demanding that others waste their time rebutting nonsense. I, for one, have much better things to do. – gavin] else you can say about Curry, she is also very good at refusing to define her terms or clarify her open-ended smears on the integrity and judgment of climate scientists — no matter how often you ask.

So who knows what she is trying to say in this Brazilian interview, since, as Tenney emails me, it seems rather unlikely that Curry is fluent in Portuguese. will

I’m reposting this because:

  1. It is a cautionary tale for anybody  giving interviews in foreign languages on the subject this complex and nuanced.
  2. It’s laugh-out-loud [cry-out-loud?] funny.
  3. In this theater-of-the-absurd version of the children’s game of telephone, the reporter got one thing right:  “The confusion began at the end of last year, when Judith….”  As for when the confusion will end, who can say?

Here is Tenney’s translation:

Judith Curry: “I am not afraid of the climate”
American researcher says that there is still a lot of uncertainty about global warming
by Alexandre Mansur, ‰poca, May 1, 2010
Hurricanes are a speciality of Judith Curry, director of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.A. Now she is in the eye of the storm. The confusion began at the end of last year, when Judith criticized the publications of researchers Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, and Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia, in the U.K., accused of distorting scientific data, via the released e-mails. Jones and Mann were cleared by investigations of the universities and by a British scientific committee. But Judith affirms that the problem of credibility is not over. She does not question that the Earth is warming. Nor that this is caused by human emissions. But she affirms that the catastrophic predictions emitted by the IPCC, a panel of scientists put together by the UN, are exaggerated.

She is the director of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the U.S.
Has recently published articles in which she criticized climatologists, members of the IPCC, the UN panel
Was on the board of the Society of American Meteorologists. Edited the Journal of Applied Meteorology. Worked for NASA, the American space agency

‰POCA – Do you have any fear of the consequences of climate change?
Judith Curry – There exist significant risks associated with them. This whole question of how “dangerous” is climate change has not been adequately evaluated. But I am not personally afraid of this.

‰POCA – Are scientists fulfilling their mission to inform the public?
Curry – The public’s perception that global warming is a planetary emergency probably had its peak between 2005 and 2007, with Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore’s film.  Since then, interest has been falling. The skepticism of climate change now questions if the impacts of warming are large or predominantly adverse. And if anything can be done to improve the situation. The public debate has deteriorated into attempts to discredit or censor scientists. And what we see is propaganda in order to influence the politics, and not to inform the public.

‰POCA – What is the risk of this?
Curry – Many researchers, genuinely worried about the risks of warming, including myself, are disappointed by the political decisions for confronting the climate challenge. To begin with, I believe it is necessary to make changes to the IPCC, in order to reestablish its credibility. The process needs to be more open. It is necessary to improve the selection of authors and reviewers. A team of inspectors should supervise the process and investigate complaints. Due to the release of the e-mails, we must change the manner in which we evaluate the uncertainties. Many times, in the IPCC reports, the mere judgment of a specialist replaces the degree of uncertainty of the data of a rigorous scientific analysis. We are talking about the imprecision in the time of adjusting the temperature data in order to compensate for the effects of urban heat (the growth of cities, with a concentration of cement and asphalt, artificially increases the temperature of the region). Or to fill in regions of the Earth where there are no data available.

‰POCA – What do we still not know about climate change?

Curry – There are still many uncertainties. They are associated with the records of temperatures in the past. And also the climate models that researchers run on their computers to simulate the behavior of the atmosphere and to make estimates of the future.

‰POCA – It possible that science will be able to establish the degree of seriousness of the climate crisis?
Curry – They do not know with certainty how much of the warming that occurred in the 20th century can be attributed to human activity. And the projections for warming for this century are not exact.

‰POCA – Do we need to wait until these uncertainties are reduced or eliminated before we make decisions that avoid the worst consequences of climate change?
Curry – This is not what I am suggesting. The uncertainties cannot be eliminated. We make decisions all the time in uncertain situations. It is that the degree of imprecision should be taken into consideration in the decision process. The chances of tragic consequences due to warming are at a minimum at least as great as arms of mass destruction in Iraq would have been. In the end, they did not exist, but we went to war anyway. We have a history of deciding to act in order to avoid bad things even when the probability is low.

“No one knows how much of the warming that occurred in the second half of the twentieth century can be attributed to human action”

‰POCA – How can we tell the legitimate skeptics from the industry lobbyists who just want to increase confusion?
Curry – The fundamental question turns on the data and scientific models. A genuine skeptic puts forth arguments and will debate these in scientific journals or technical blogs.

‰POCA – Do you see a lobby campaign by the fossil-fuel industry to increase confusion?
Curry – This also exists. But I do not see it as an important factor in skepticism in general in relation to climate change. The majority of people who write against the control of emissions use political or economic arguments. They are not concerned with the science. You can’t even call them skeptics. There are other skeptics who have a background in science. But few of them receive any money from oil or coal companies.  Entities like the American Enterprise Institute or the Competitive Enterprise Institute are preoccupied with the politics that could affect the competitiveness of the U.S. and our economy. So, they spend time and money organizing conferences and demanding information from climate researchers.

‰POCA – How do you view the controversy generated by the e-mails that were taken from the University of East Anglia?
Curry – The e-mails fed the concern about the methods used to construct the chronology of temperatures on Earth’s surface over the last 1,000 years. It is call the “hockey stick” (that shows a long period of lower temperatures and a sharp increase in the most recent years, like the end of a hockey stick).  Also, the e-mails raised doubts about the behavior of the scientists in relation to the process of evaluation by colleagues of each study, before it is published in scientific journals. And maybe there were even violations of the Freedom of Information Act (or FOA, as it is abbreviated in English, a law that gives a citizen the right to ask for access to secret government documents).

‰POCA – Do the messages exchanged between Michael Mann and Phil Jones demonstrate any sign of improper conduct?
Curry – There exist various investigations for evaluating this. From what I know, the answer would be “yes.”

‰POCA – The investigations by the British scientific committee and the University of Pennsylvania exonerated Mann and Jones.
Curry – I agree with the conclusion of the investigations that there was no evidence of incorrect scientific conduct. I did not see a sign of plagiarism or falsification of data in the work of the scientists. Not using all the data, selecting data arbitrarily and using inappropriate statistical methods do not fall under incorrect conduct. But also it does not inspire confidence in the product of the research. The behavior of these scientists, such as disqualifying critics and showing little transparency, delaying the public availability of the temperature data they used. But I think it is time to stop focusing on individual behavior and to start a reevaluation of the entire process of the IPCC’s scientific evaluation.

‰POCA – What needs to change in the IPCC?
Curry – It needs to be more open to different opinions and to external verification. There is a rush to publish articles in scientific journals just before the IPCC closes. Clearly, scientists want their work to be included. There is the perception that the best way to get your work included is to support the basic narrative of the IPCC. And the scientists of the IPCC tried to disqualify researchers who published articles with contrarian opinions. Thus, in order to continue to be relevant, the IPCC can no longer limit itself to summarizing the scientific literature every five years. It needs to open the range of scientific views about warming and the political options for confronting it.

I won’t even try to debunk this because, frankly, halfway through reading it my vise failed containment and now I have to clean up a grey gooey mess all over my office —  I hate it when that happens!

And even if the translation back to English were 100% accurate, who knows if the interviewer got the original translation right — assuming Curry wasn’t speaking Portuguese.  She can clear that up if she wants.  Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re in the Tea Party (see below).

One final point.  I had never heard of this “postnormal” science stuff until Curry started using the phrase in the comments of my earlier post:

  • “Joe, what I’ve done is something very old fashioned in this postnormal, tribalistic environment”
  • “argument of Jerome Ravetz (associated with postnormal science)”

It seemed like another ill-defined term that allows users to smear science and scientists without actually defining their terms — see my reply to Curry here.

Now a faithful reader sends me an online chat that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli did after his absurdly soft ball profile in the Washington Post Magazine published today.  Although you wouldn’t know it from the profile, Cuccinelli is an anti-science pro-pollution extremist, whose actions have been denounced by leading scientists and the Washington Post editorial board itself:

This is from the chat:

richmond VA: Mr. Cuccinelli, I want to thank you for making yourself available to answer questions from the public. My question is in regards to your stand on climate change, a topic on which you have put a great deal of focus considering your position as attorney general. Do you think that our green house gas emmissions have no impact on the environment? Also, would you consider yourself an environmentalist? Under what circumstances would you put the health of the natural world above the desires of man and business?

Ken Cuccinelli: I presume that all emissions have SOME impact. However, it appears that some or much of the science surrounding determing the nature and scope of climate change may be either uncertain or severely biased. E.g., check “post-normal science” on wikipedia, google or bing.

I always want to see us pursuing a balance b/n the needs of mankind, including the need to make a living, and the conservation of our environment. Strikingly, that kind of attempt at balance appears to be badly lacking at EPA… leading to some conflicts b/n Va. and EPA.

Hmm.  That  kind of reads like a re-translation, too.

I have a new phrase for Cuccinelli and Curry:  post-normal climate.   After more than 10,000 years of relatively stable climate that allowed modern human civilization to develop and ‘sustain’  several billion people, post-normal climate is what you get when you ignore decades of observation and research and warnings by the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists, leading scientific organizations, major journals, and National Academies of Science around the world.  It’s what you get when you demonize real science and try to label it post-normal or tribalistic or severely biased.

What does a post-normal climate look like?  Well, of course nobody knows for certain, and nobody rational wants to find out, but we have some paleoclimate clues:

Assuming we keep listening to those who keep blowing smoke into our faces by focusing on trivialities and the emails of individual scientists rather than working as hard as possible to explain to the public the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, then it probably looks something like this:  Hell and High Water.

Hmm.  Might need to do a whole post on post-normal climate.

Apologies to Eli if this was all lost in translation!


36 Responses to Lost in translation: In a Brazilian interview, Judith Curry incluir uma cena demasiado longa ou uma varia§£o do tema de um programa de televis£o indicando que este est¡ com os seus dias contados

  1. Why do we waste energy on these kooks? Because the MSM does.
    MSM grants these idiots credibility they do not deserve in order to create the illusion of lively debate and controversy… MSM wants to cover a perpetual OJ trial.
    Which means MSM has abducated their primary responsibility.

  2. homunq says:

    Clearly, your point of view is that “post-normal science” is in this case yet another distraction used by deniers to tar the entire scientific understanding of AGW. You’re saying that actual self-defined PNS is the basis for a negligible part of that understanding, and that septics are deliberately exaggerating that role.

    Sounds right to me. Certainly, I’d be surprised if even 1% of the cites from the IPCC were from studies influenced by PNS.

    But reading the Wikipedia article, your point is almost entirely missing. Do you have any “reliable sources” by Wikipedia standards which argue your point of view?

    [JR: The point is, the term is meaningless, or, rather, it means whatever the user wants it to. The next comment nails it.]

  3. Ron Broberg says:

    Postmodernism is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the rejection of objective truth and global cultural narrative. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Postmodernism has influenced many cultural fields, including literary criticism, sociology, linguistics, architecture, visual arts, and music.

    Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from modernist approaches that had previously been dominant. The term “postmodernism” comes from its critique of the “modernist” scientific mentality of objectivity and progress associated with the Enlightenment.

    Sound familiar? A rejection of scientific objectivity. Emphasis on language, motiviations, and the power relations between social classes (Shall we call them Tribes?).

    [JR: Precisely!]
    I’m not sure what ‘post-normal science’ is either. But in practise, it sure sounds like ‘postmodern science.’

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    ” But I am not personally afraid of this. ”

    I’ll wager most of Russia wasn’t afraid of this six weeks ago either :

    Russia is experiencing intensifying wildfires amid a heat wave and strong winds, the country’s Emergency Situations Ministry said.

    More than 128,000 hectares (500 square miles) were burning as of 6 a.m. Moscow time today, the ministry said on its website. New fires are appearing as temperatures in central Russia approach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds reach 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour).

    [JR: Now imagine what Russia will be like if we listen to the post-normal gang and let temperatures rise perhaps 9F globally, and as much as double that way up north!]

  5. Wit'sEnd says:

    I wish I had posted this comment to Denial Depot, but since I didn’t, I’m sure glad I read it (do not spew coffee onto keyboard while reading!)

    “Dirk Hartog said…

    My apologies for being quiet on the comment front for the last couple of months. Rest assured that I have been cheering you on silently from the sidelines as you hammer yet more nails into the bloated corpse of AGW.

    Although I am very busy at the moment trying to complete a paper before leaving on travel, I am taking a few moments to comment on your post here. Note, this is off the top of my head, and I don’t have a copy of your post in front of me, as it has scrolled off the top of my computer monitor.

    Any comments I make here are not necessarily my own words or beliefs, and any mistakes are not my own but those of others. If I make any specific comments that are wrong, it is pointless to ask me to retract them, since it is simply the result of me framing the debate by reporting the opinions of others. I am merely trying to build a bridge between the warring tribes of concerned polite citizens and snarky Mannian-deifying ivory-tower peer-reviewed-litchurchur-obsessed stripbark phrenologist upside-down-Tiljander bristlecone “psi-en-tists”

    Anyway, the key point is that seven of our most eminent thinkers have now come out in opposition to AGW. The fact that four of them had to wait till after they died is an indication of the stranglehold that the self-appointed oracles of the IPCC have on the debate.

    Four out of seven, that’s 57.14285% of eminent scientists who are brave enough to speak out posthumously. With uncertainty levels this high, it is clear that the IPCC’s catastrophic exaggerations are unsupportable.

    And can I also say that there have been several investigations into inappropriate behavior on the part of Phil Jones. And from what I know, the answer would be yes.

    Blog Science Expert Reviewer
    61 posts to Blog Professorship

    30 July 2010 16:19″


  6. AnnieNomNomNom says:

    Comerciantes de confusão?

    What’s Sokal up to these days?

  7. John Mason says:

    There is certainly something strange going on here. It’s as if much of the organised denialism has pupated and emerged as the next stage – leaving behind in its wake those who reject the fundamentals, such as the greenhouse effect as witnessed on Spencer’s blog and on WUWT lately.

    Any fans of humorous sci-fi monster-movies out there? If so, remember the 1990s series of films “Tremors”?

    For those who don’t, the first movie involved giant prehistoric carnivorous worms that was busy eating folks up in a Nevada township. In the second film, set in Mexico, the worms (“Graboids”) died and the next stage of the lifecycle – voracious hermaphroditic carnivores emerged from their bodies. Appropriately enough these were termed “Shriekers”….

    I tell you, folks, there’s a change in tactics here across the board.

    Cheers – John

  8. fj2 says:

    Off-topic but powerful Op-Ed — and a powerful indication of pending change — and potentially powerful quotes comes from David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan.

    “Four Deformations of the Apocalypse,” NY Times, July 31, 2010

    “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing . . . and the $7 trillion of new deficits baked into the cake through 2015 — will soon reach $18 trillion. That’s a Greece-scale 120 percent of gross domestic product . . . ”

    [JR: I’ll post on this later.]

  9. Peter Mizla says:

    Dr. Curry seems naive at best when she says that Skepticism about climate change has ‘little to do with special interests’ like the Energy industry- naivete is to nice a word- perhaps delusional would be better.

    Dr. Curry I suppose did not expect to see the many nasty climatic events of 2010 – They fit perfectly into what events will occur in a warming world as The IPCC (Which she scorns)the NOAA and others have visioned.

  10. Paulm says:

    Curry becomes stew. (& we are only .8C warmer)

  11. Peter Mizla says:

    Colorado Bob

    I also have been reading with great interest the drama being played out in Russia- eerily uncanny- but its a text book example from every climate model; an interior land mass location, mid to upper-latitudes-with drought, extreme heat out of control fires and air pollution.

    The Russian heat wave is going to be repeated elsewhere else soon.
    Does the American western corn belt and wheat belts from Kansas to the South Dakota look increasingly vulnerable?

  12. Ron Broberg says:

    Mashey: I tell you, folks, there’s a change in the tactics across the board.

    Putting on my tin foil hat for a moment …
    [tin foil hat]
    1. Tear down trust in traditional science.
    2. Offer an alternative, no-consequences “scientifical” narrative.
    3. Toss out the Old Guard in science institutions.
    4. Insert New Guard.
    aka “Crashing the Gates”

    What you see with Spencer and Curry is an attempt to build a foundation for the narrative that is not bluntly anti-science, but rather a climate science with no-consequences. Pielke Jr plays into this by telling climate scientists to STFU when it comes to public policy (although he is much more polite about it).
    [/tin foil hat]

    But see! Now I am engaging in the conversation about language, motives, and tribes. What a seductive game!

  13. Ron Broberg says:

    And btw – you know you have met another player in that game when they start talking about the ‘need to restore trust in climate science.’ There is a established process for traditional science (which, granted, changes slowly over time. Believing we need to invent a new process to restore trust is a sign that the speaker no longer has faith in the traditional (modern) process and is seeking a post-modern process.

  14. John Mason says:

    Ron (#13),

    Science just needs to get more media-savvy. The opposition has always been political in nature and well-connected in terms of its PR machine. This is not talking “post-normal”: it is simply leveling the political playing-field. Climate Science itself has not been damaged at all, but via thoroughly dishonest media machinations its public image has taken a kicking, through no fault of its own but via this relentless political pressure. We need to mobilise, in other words.

    Cheers – John

  15. Re: #3

    Postmodernism = the condition of being dumbed down

    Synonymos with “mental laziness”

  16. oops — synonymous — sorry1

  17. Argument by manipulation of inexact, sliding definitions is an old trick used by political types. Dana Houle, a political consultant and Dailykos front pager was so adept at this kind of argumentation that it has been named after him – the Houle hoop.

    For your reading pleasure, check out this link written by a law professor and political consultant. Carrot eaters will love this one.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    Peter Mizla –

    When the largest fires ( The Amarillo Complex Fires ) in the record struck Oklahoma and Texas in late Feb/March of 2006 , Inhofe was in the well of the Senate railing , as his state burned. The next summer, the extreme rain events came just to the east of these areas. Each case was not matter of a day or two , but several days to weeks to play out. Now these events are into multiple weeks .

    If my hunch is right, Pakistan is just beginning to get pounded as China has the past 2 months , the next monsoon low is due in there tomorrow. The Pakistani met office said they’re getting 10% more rain this season.

    34 years ago I was at Estes Park , Colorado when the Big Thompson flood struck.
    I’ve taken these things sorta personal ever since.

  19. Edward says:

    11 Peter Mizla: The corn belt is getting an extra foot of rain per year now. The extra rain is having a negative impact, as in seeds washed away, fields too wet to harvest and crops destroyed.

    Judith Curry’s undergraduate degree was in geography, not mathematical and not science. Her PhD was in ???? Check her CV at her Georgia Tech web site. If I were Georgia Tech, I would be embarrassed. Why would they hire a map maker to head a supposedly science department?

  20. (My first attempt to post the below simply vanished. I am trying again, this time not including the URL to the Alternative Cosmology Group.)

    “Post normal science” is a made up term that is attempting to “tweak” (that is, make a slight adjustment &/or fine-tuning of) ideas of Thomas Kuhn’s Structures of Scientific Revolutions. While it is not explicitly stated as such, the obvious homology between “post normal” and “post modern” is suspicious at the very least. I am personally inclined to believe it is deliberate, and the failure to make the homology an explicit analogy disingenuous at best.

    However, the effort to “tweak” is itself a failure. Even if one stays exclusively within the bounds of Structures — that is, one does not incorporate Kuhn’s later writings where many of the ambiguities of Structures were clarified &/or walked back — it is manifestly obvious that the term “post normal” as presented is nonsensical and that climate science is a robustly NORMAL science to boot.

    (1) The situations of high ambiguity, unclear data sets, etc, that advocates of the term “post normal” claim their term characterizes are not POST anything; they are, in point of fact, Pre-normal. These are the historical situations that Kuhn describes as preceding the initial establishment of an actual science. In Kuhn’s terms, this is the pre-paradigm phase. So this is the first broad sense in which “post normal” is meaningless.

    (2) The only “post normal” phase of a scientific inquiry is that of scientific revolution, when the problems with an existing paradigm have become so profound that a competing one has emerged that effectively challenges the dominant one. In this sense, the phrase “post normal” again fails entirely to say anything real.

    (3) That climate science is a fully normal is, again, manifestly obvious. One has a robust and interlocking system of paradigms that make strong predictions, effectively account for a vast array of observations and data, and stipulates an exciting range of puzzles for further research. That there is a fringe of 2% — 3% ranging from ineffective skeptics to barking-at-the-moon crackpots in no way challenges the normalcy of climate science. That there are puzzles which require further research also does not challenge said normalcy; in point of fact, there are a sine qua non of climate research (or anything else) even qualifying AS science.

    Items 1 — 3 stay entirely within the explanatory framework of Structures, which was notably and appropriately criticized for evidently arguing for a great deal of subjectivism in science. In his later work, Kuhn backed down from this evident claim and clarified his argument. He was not arguing against the objective reality of scientific, he said, but only trying to point out the very real sociological factors that “complexify” (my term) the real process of scientific inquiry beyond the rather dessicated logical models proposed by Popper and others. Insofar, the post normal/post modern homology is again a grotesque failure.

    By the bye I hope I may be forgiven for mentioning this again, but if anyone is interested in seeing what a REAL scientific controversy looks like, I recommend the field of gravitational cosmology. One can see how real it is by skimming the summaries of published, peer-reviewed challenges to the Standard Model posted in the newsletters of the Alternative Cosmology Group.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Why would they hire a map maker to head a supposedly science department?

    Good Pencil Pushing skills ?

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    Something to smile at –

    Bear #338 discusses the Federal Budget Deficit.

  23. Sable says:

    “Post normal” is what you get after your brain ceases to function normally. It’s pseudo intellectual window dressing for bullshit. Curry’s pet terms remind me of so much writing about art, strangely enough, where shiny words and and made-up concepts are a cover for lack of substance.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    A ship wreck with lotsa flotsam and jetsam.

  25. Susan Anderson says:

    Great article, nice job Tenney and Dr. Romm! In my eclectic way I picked up “People of the Lie” recently – a relic from my religious days (let’s not go there, please) but Scott Peck was objective enough that I think his point bears repeating.

    Evil – in its personal, group, national, etc. form – can be identified as a product of laziness and narcissism.

    My thoughts about denial are moving towards clearer and clearer understanding that there is simply nothing honest or good in there, though a lot of the fellow travelers are just lazy.

    Thinking we are somehow different and above reality, and avoiding doing something about stuff we should know is wrong, leads to bigger and bigger evil. That’s what denialism is becoming.

    BTW, Judith Curry seems to exemplify a kind of “higher laziness” in her approach.

  26. Gary Herstein,

    Terrific post on Kuhn–“post normal” immediately reminded me of a weird hybrid between the phrase
    “postmodernism” and the concept of normal science described in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, bringing me back to my undergrad history of science days. I, too, think it’s likely that this hybrid is a deliberate attempt to meld the two concepts in a misleading way.

    I recall that the philosopher Ken WIlber had some very powerful critiques of postmodernism sprinkled throughout his writings, which I boil down as follows: It’s important to understand different perspectives, which is the basic lesson of postmodernism, but extreme postmodernism devolves into people arguing that there is no particular truth (one truth is just as valid as another). For cultural constructs, there is some value to understanding these different perspectives, but it’s just plain silly to argue (as some academics continue to do) that there is no such thing as truth. In certain domains (like climate science or other physical sciences) there are things we can appropriately regard as established facts, and it doesn’t matter what your culture says about them–they are true (or as close to true as we can get given our current knowledge, technology, and limitations). If anyone doesn’t believe this, I invite them to spend a month out in the desert without food or water. You’ll soon find out that some facts are not relative or subjective.

    It’s good that Joe is keeping tabs on Judith Curry. She kind of reminds me of another Judith (Judith Miller) the NYT reporter who spent way too much time hanging out with the neocons and bought their crazy narrative about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately she forced that narrative on the rest of us with her misleading reporting, and the rest, they say, is history (of course, she’s not the only reason we took on that war of choice, but she certainly contributed). Curry doesn’t have quite as much of a bullhorn, but she still could cause some trouble, alas.

  27. toby says:

    Curry’s remarks are disgraceful, especially her personal attack on Mann and Jones. A lt of her other remarks were just sloppy, but she clearly has a grudge against some leading climate scientists.

  28. Jonathan Koomey @26: It astonishes me how some conservatives (at least) will denounce liberals/progressives for their supposed “relativism,” and yet so aggressively endorse the most subjectivistic principles imaginable when their ideology is challenged by scientifc facts.

  29. I still think Curry was a trial balloon, and she did not fly well.

    She will fall, just as Monckton has fallen.

  30. Edward says:

    Thomas Kuhn’s Structures of Scientific Revolutions: Kuhn seems to have not gotten the memo, or rather the big lesson: Reference: “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”

    Memo expanded: Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]
    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else.

    In the book: “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler 2006 Chapter 19, FILTERING TRUTH, page 123 lists six commonly used filters people use to find the “truth”. They are:
    1. Consensus
    2. Consistency
    3. Authority
    4. Mystical revelation or religion
    5. Durability
    6. Science

    As the Tofflers say: “Science is different from all the other truth-test criteria. It is the only one that itself depends on rigorous testing.” They go on to say: “In the time of Galileo . . . the most effective method of discovery was itself discovered.” [Namely Science.] The Tofflers also say that: “The invention of scientific method was the gift to humanity of a new truth filter or test, a powerful meta-tool for probing the unknown and—it turned out—for spurring technological change and economic progress.” All of the difference in the way we live now compared to the way people lived and died 500 years ago is due to Science. The other truth filters have contributed misery, confusion, war, fanaticism, persecution, terrorism, inquisitions, suicide bombings, false imprisonments, obesity, diabetes and other atrocities.

    The sociology of physical science is incidental and secondary. Although it has impact on individuals, in the great sweep of history it is nothing.

  31. adelady says:

    Tenney, I think that Curry believes that *she’s* flying trial balloons.

    Right now she’s putting together some notions about this tribal stuff. I suspect she’s made the same kind of mistakes that early anthropologists made when dealing with stuff they knew nothing about. She’s not investigating the existence or structures of tribes, she’s pre-defined them. And stirring up the ants’ nests to watch the critters scuttle is not a valid sociological or anthropological technique. She can’t discover anything about the way these things work because she’s already made up her mind about who is involved and what is going on.

    Looks a lot like a 4 year old coming home from kindy and trying out the swearwords. Knew it would cause a ruckus and confirms everything they previously thought. The 4 year old is unlikely to understand the complexities of socialisation and of appropriate social conduct. Just as Curry is unlikely to discover any complexities or interesting aspects of group dynamics from this exercise.

  32. GrueBleen says:

    Messrs Herstein (@20, @28) and Koomey (@26)

    Thank you for an illuminating and clarifying narrative on ‘post-normal science’. I think you have captured the essence.

    My only contribution would be that the ‘science’ displayed by WUWT is far more closely related to Feynman’s “cargo cult science” than to anything Kuhn ever postulated.

  33. juicycouture says:

    Great article, nice job Tenney and Dr. Romm! In my eclectic way I picked up “People of the Lie” recently – a relic from my religious days (let’s not go there, please) but Scott Peck was objective enough that I think his point bears repeating.

  34. Susan Anderson says:

    Please do not click on 33: it’s an advertising site.

  35. PurpleOzone says:

    Cuccinelli’s legal brief claims climate scientists use “post-normal science”. (Brief responding to UVa’s request to the 12th district court to not fill C’s “overlybroad” search request.

    The Wikipedia article on it claims it was invented to justify global warming. I don’t follow philosophy of science. I’m skeptical that many climate scientists ever heard of PNS. Be curious if you can find out. Whatever PNS is, it is needed to prove that the ice is melting.

    Ravetz posted on WUWT. Why, I can’t fathom. Nor do I wish to read his article there.

    UCUSA has a great dissection of C’s legal brief today.

    I’ll be interested in your comments on PNS.

    [JR: The Wikipedia article is not well written, but I don’t think it is making the case that it was invented to justify global warming. Fundamentally, I think it is just BS or at least so poorly defined and open-ended, like deconstruction or postmodernism, that it means whatever anybody wants it to.]

  36. The strategists of the Climate Denial Machine will use whatever catchy phrase or obscure, vague concept they can get their hands on to keep everyone trying to figure out what they mean. They don’t really mean anything. The only point is to confuse. It is useless to try to figure out what Curry thinks she is doing….