We thougth that the post on climategate.nl about Ravetz’ Post-Normal Science was interesting enough to translate in English, so that followers of the discussion on Watts Up With That and other blogs can also read it. So here it is, almost as long as Ravetz’ original essay.

Post-normal failings

By Jaap Hanekamp

Should climate-change trigger the switch from normal to post-normal science? Ravetz, as the major proponent of post-normality in science, thinks that it should. As stated in this blog post on WUWT:

‘We can understand the root cause of Climategate as a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation. But climate change had never been a really ‘normal’ science, because the policy implications were always present and strong, even overwhelming. Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits: facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent.’

He is quite on target to question the ‘evangelical science’ of ‘global warming’ that

‘took to be the plain and urgent truth …. There is little room for uncertainty in this thesis; it effectively needs hockey-stick behaviour in all indicators of global temperature, so that it is all due to industrialisation. Its iconic image is the steadily rising graph of CO2 concentrations over the past fifty years at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii (with the implicit assumption that CO2 had always previously been at or below that starting level). Since CO2 has long been known to be a greenhouse gas, with scientific theories quantifying its effects, the scientific case for this dangerous trend could seem to be overwhelmingly simple, direct, and conclusive.’

Equally, Ravetz is spot on when he observes that we

‘found ourselves in another crusading ‘War’, like those on (non-alcoholic) Drugs and ‘Terror’. This new War, on Carbon, was equally simplistic, and equally prone to corruption and failure. Global warming science became the core element of this major worldwide campaign to save the planet. Any weakening of the scientific case would have amounted to a betrayal of the good cause, as well as a disruption of the growing research effort. All critics, even those who were full members of the scientific peer community, had to be derided and dismissed. As we learned from the CRU e-mails, they were not considered to be entitled to the normal courtesies of scientific sharing and debate. Requests for information were stalled, and as one witty blogger has put it, ‘peer review’ was replaced by ‘pal review’.’

His referral to post-normal science as a solution to the failings of normal science in climate research, however, is utterly wrong-headed. The former is

‘based on the recent recognition of the influence of values on all research, even including the basic statistical tests of significance. It is the appropriate methodology when either systems uncertainties or decision stakes are high; under those conditions the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. … we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.’ (Ravetz, J. 2004. The post-normal science of precaution. Futures 36: 347 – 357)

The latter he derives from the work of Thomas Kuhn who defined normal science as research

‘firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice. Today such achievements are recounted, though seldom in their original form by science textbooks, elementary and advanced. These textbooks expound the body of accepted theory, illustrate many or all of its successful applications and compare these applications with exemplary observations and experiments.’ (The Structure of scientific Revolutions, p. 10)

Solving puzzles is the main preoccupation in normal science, in which reductionism plays a major part. Ravetz’ problem with normal science is that where the

‘systems under study are complicated, complex or poorly understood, that ‘textbook’ style of investigation becomes less, sometimes much less, effective. The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naïvely reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics. The temptation among ‘normal’ scientists is to work as if their material is as simple as in the lab. If nothing else, that is the path to a steady stream of publications, on which a scientific career now so critically depends. The most obvious effect of this style is the proliferation of computer simulations, which give the appearance of solved puzzles even when neither data nor theory provide much support for the precision of their numerical outputs. Under such circumstances, a refined appreciation of uncertainty in results is inhibited, and even awareness of quality of workmanship can be atrophied.’

First off, the four characterisations Ravetz gives for post-normal science is a conundrum in itself. Facts are never in dispute, otherwise they would not be called facts, but one can of course posit a factual issue, that is ask questions about the reality we live in and through research try to elucidate some facts about that specific reality. And if we have not arrived at the facts of that particular slice of reality (which is hardly unusual in science), climate change being the case in point here, how can we know that the stakes are, in fact, high or that decisions are required urgently? Sounds more like social and political hypochondria to me.

However, I will not defend my critique against Ravetz by simply pointing at the sole ‘fact-driven reality’ or the ostensible neutrality of science, or the maladies of science in the service of political agendas. I will address two issues – worldviews (values) and science and the democratization of science – that will put the climate debate in not an unfamiliar light that is however not of a post-normal colour focussed on the ostensible failings of reductionism or the superficial awareness of uncertainty, on the contrary.

Science and worldviews – value as the constant presence

‘In traditional, ‘normal’ scientific practice, value-commitments were concealed to the point of being unknown to most practitioners, ….’ (Futures 36: 347 – 357) Conversely, is the recognition of the influence of values on all scientific research new, as Ravetz would have it? No, far from it. Max Weber already at the beginning of the 20th century published reflections on the interplay of science and values, which in the English language was published in 1949 in The Methodology of the Social Sciences. One of his well-known statements is that

‘The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself. It must recognise that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us. (p. 57; original emphasis)’

How (scientific) knowledge is understood and actually used in terms of e.g. the generated evidence clearly impinges on the ways in which policies are in fact conceived and implemented. So how could we define the workings of science and in what ways are worldviews involved? If good science, as is often stated, should be worldview neutral – that is to say that it is not aligned to, or does not support, a particular ideology, religion or worldview over another – then the activity of science needs to be specified more precisely. In order to refine the issues of (partial) worldview influences and elucidate the actual locations of these influences, it is helpful to distinguish at least four different stages of the scientific modus operandi (Stenmark, M. 2004. How to Relate Science and Religion. A Multidimensional Model):

The problem-stating phase of science (science1)
The development phase of science (science2)
The justification phase of science (science3)
The application phase of science (science4)

In relation to science1, scientists must first decide what is worth studying, what they want to spend their time, energy and their own, or other people’s money on. This might seem a trivial matter, yet Imre Lakatos expressed his trepidations on this matter already some decades ago quite clearly (Lakatos, I. 1978. Mathematics, Science and Epistemology: Philosophical Papers. Volume 2, p. 258):

‘In my view, science as such, has no social responsibility. In my view it is society that has a responsibility – that of maintaining the apolitical, detached scientific tradition and allowing science to search for truth in the way determined purely by its inner life. Of course, scientists, as citizens, have responsibility, like all other citizens, to see that science is applied to the right social and political ends. This is a different, independent question. …’

Lakatos’s overall concern was that science1 is threatened by political (ideological) interference. Obviously, in the contemporary scientific enterprise, this political influence has materialised more extensively than Lakatos could have anticipated. Research efforts like those related to climate change usually require large sums of money that only governments can provide. Consequently, people in power more often than not decide the kind of research that ‘should’ be initiated, and the kind that ‘should’ be neglected. Knowledge and power are, and always have been, related. So science itself is tainted with the a priori research choices and the concomitant results thereof. The extent to which world-view involvement has grown the past decades is exponentially.

After scientists have been ‘given’ their research arena and have defined the problems to be elucidated, they then try to devise methodologies suitable for solving these problems, and try to develop hypotheses that would provide adequate explanations of phenomena under scrutiny and test them against what they consider to be evidence. If evidence is lacking or insufficient to corroborate the hypotheses, scientists try to find better and more conclusive evidence. This is the development phase of science: science2.

This phase of the scientific enterprise is not without its problems in relation to worldview influences. One particular issue has to do with the fact that if a certain group of people with a particular worldview dominates a certain scientific area, then their intrinsic political commitment could well hinder development of certain hypotheses that might better explain empirical data than actually are developed by this group of people. The notion of the ‘epistemic community’, which indeed can dominate a certain field and prescribe the overarching paradigm to students and PhD students entering the field, is quite helpful (Morrell, K. 2008. The Narrative of ‘Evidence Based’ Management: A Polemic. Journal of Management Studies 45(3): 613 – 635).

The prevailing epistemic community could well hinder freedom of research, which could result in impeding certain research themes that are not regarded as in line with the dominating paradigm and thereby ignored for less than charitable reasons, the climategate emails being the case in point here.

Acceptance of theories
The application phase of science – science4 – is the most obvious candidate for worldview influence. Here, the societal, political, and economic expectations of science’s ability to provide clear-cut useful answers to an escalating range of issues and problems surfaces most poignantly. Governments in primarily the Western world, over the past half a century, have made increased use of an assortment of scientific techniques to justify a wide range of public policies. Scientific knowledge-construction or theory-formation is now generated to a major extent with a perspective specifically on application. What ‘useful’ means of course depends on the particular worldview one holds and one’s position towards government, industry, NGOs, et cetera. Our era could well be called the age of assessment (Rayner, S. 2003. Democracy in the age of assessment: reflections on the roles of expertise and democracy in public-sector decision making. Science and Public Policy 30(3): 163 – 170).

The concepts and empirical data produced are discussed at conferences, published in peer reviewed scientific journals and the like (and might even make it into the public media). In the justification phase of science -science3- scientists try to convince the rest of the scientific community of the adequacy of the descriptions and explanations they have put forward through the different (scientific) platforms of communication in order to have their theories accepted as a part of the corpus of scientific knowledge. Although the other parts of the scientific endeavour are in fact influenced by worldviews of different sorts, worldview influences on science3 are the most problematical and counter-productive. Worldview influences at science3 distort the process of science fundamentally.

My contention is simple: theories should be accepted only in the light of considerations that involve transparent and reproducible empirical data, other (accepted) theories, and cognitive epistemic values such as consistency, simplicity, transparency, and descriptive, explicatory and predictive power. Worldview (political and ideological) considerations, but also appeals to authority, consequences, force, and popularity – to name some of the argumentation fallacies – are illegitimate ways of deciding between theories. Here, the link between knowledge and power is highly problematical; within the confines of science3 the question ‘Who will win the power struggle?’ can never be on level pegging with ‘But is it true?’. Such equalling would eventually undermine the integrity of science, and make its ‘evidence’ unusable or even meaningless. Climategate is the example par excellence.

Obviously, serious questions can be raised whether science3 can ever be world-view neutral in the real world. The natural sciences are known for their quarrelsome history. Think of for instance the history of the theory of continental drift proposed by the meteorologist Alfred Wegener in 1912 and the ad hominum opposition levelled against him (Lightman, A., Gingerich, O. 1992. When Do Anomalies Begin? Science 255(5045): 690 – 695).

As a second example ‘[t]he Russian economist Kondratieff, is best remembered for his theory of ‘long waves’ or 70-year cycles in which economies reflect the rise and fall of dominant technologies. Less well known is his prediction of the inevitable superiority of capitalism over Marxist planning: correct perhaps, but a dangerous conclusion to reach and publish in Stalin’s Russia and one which saw Kondratieff executed. His misfortune serves as a stark reminder of the power of dominant ideologies to resist change in manner that is at least quasi-Darwinian; a selection process for the right of ideologies to reproduce.’ (Price, I. 2007. Lean Assets: New Language for New Workplaces. California Management Review, Special Issue on Workplace Design 49(2): 102 – 118)

Both examples within our argument are the same whether one treats them as a metaphor or as propositions about the scientific process and its progress. Overall, it seems that Ravetz has nothing new to offer in relation to science and worldviews. They are, and always have been part of the scientific discourse. Nevertheless, it seems to me that very few scientists seem acutely conscious of the effects of various worldviews and ideologies on the scientific questions asked, the generation of empirical data and on the formulation and assessment of theories. History (of science) is rarely a cure for human frailty, as Climategate shows. My basic tenet is that one does not have to agree as to what constitutes a good human life, a good society, what a righteous societal order is et cetera, when debating science3. Conversely, science1, 2, and 4 are recognisably influenced by world-views, simply because we, human beings, do science. We cannot have a view from nowhere, as Thomas Nagel aptly developed in his similarly titled book.

From reductionism to democratization
If science3 needs to be world-view neutral, does the whole business of complexity and uncertainty flout reductionism on which normal science thrives whereby we should democratize science through e.g. extended peer review? I think not. Here, Ravetz confuses different kinds of reductionisms. Regardless of the level of analysis at which we begin scientific inquiry, we always like to and in fact move to the next lower level for explanations (Hackman, J.R. 2003. Learning more by crossing levels: evidence from airplanes, hospitals, and orchestras. Journal of Organizational Behaviour 24: 905 – 922). Methodological reductionism is the widely practiced and quite successful scientific strategy of studying wholes through breaking them up into their constituent parts.

A second type of reductionism may be called conceptual reductionism, in which the concepts applicable to the whole are entirely articulated in terms of concepts applying to the parts. An example of a successful reduction of this kind is afforded by the use of the kinetic theory of gases as to accurately reduce the concept of temperature, originating in the thermodynamics of bulk matter, to the average kinetic energy of the molecules of the gas. Nevertheless, there are many examples that clearly suggest that reductions of this kind will not always be successful. Individual water molecules, for instance, do not possess the property of what we as humans experience as ‘wetness’. This is a conceptually irreducible aspect of the behaviour of a multitude of water molecules, which together generate hydrogen bridging that is the source of the bulk property called surface tension.

Ontological reductionism implies that the whole is nothing but the sum of its parts. Study the parts and it will reveal the whole. This type of reductionism is the most troublesome; it is quite possible to hold to methodological reductionism yet to deny ontological reductionism as, in fact, many scientists do. The overarching conundrum of ontological reductionism is that it breaks down the distinction between logical and scientific possibilities. Put differently, methodological reduction, which in any scientific procedure is a normal and even required routine as to make any research feasible, is expanded beyond its original research limits, erroneously making the evidence retrieved from scientific research all-encompassing: methodology becomes ontology. Science then becomes scientism: some form of illicit disciplinary imperialism is induced by the scientistic fallacy (Peterson, G.R., 2003. Demarcation and the Scientistic Fallacy. Zygon 38(4): 751 – 761).

Regarding CO2-emissions reduction as the catchall technique to affect the earth’s climate in the preferred direction no less, is grossly extrapolating beyond the results unearthed by methodological reductionism, which, as in any other scientific field, are limited to the fields of research and quite provisional as the history of science time and again shows. Compare only the scientific upsets in the fields of molecular genetics and climate research and the high tones of the IPCC that there is ‘very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming’ become laughable (IPCC, 2007. Summary for Policymakers, p 5).

As Albert Einstein once remarked, and climate researchers obviously have forgotten: ‘One has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists. If such humility could be conveyed to everybody, the world of human activities would be more appealing.’ (Dukas, H., Hoffmann, B. 1989. Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives, p. 48) Indeed.

So climate research confuses its methodology for a number of reasons I have discussed elsewhere , with disastrous effects any of the students in my philosophy class could pinpoint (Hanekamp, J.C. Vera–Navas, G., Verstegen, S.W. 2005. The historical roots of precautionary thinking: the cultural ecological critique and ‘The Limits to Growth’. Journal of Risk Research 8(4): 295 – 310; Hanekamp, J.C., Pieterman, R. 2009. Risk communication in precautionary culture – the precautionary coalition. Human & Experimental Toxicology 28: 15 – 20; Hanekamp, J.C. 2009. Neither Acceptable nor Certain – Cold War Antics for the 21st Century Precautionary Culture. Erasmus Law Review 2(2): 221 – 257).

Ravetz simply does not address these issues and regards reductionism as obsolete, wholesale, in dealing post-normally with the issues of complexity and uncertainty. As he states in his 2004 Futures-article (The post-normal science of precaution. 36: 347 – 357):

‘Science now finds itself in a new and troubled situation. The traditional optimistic picture is problematic and compromised at every turn. The scientific system now faces a crisis of confidence, of legitimacy and ultimately of power. We can usefully distinguish two sorts of science. The ‘mainstream’ is reductionist in style, and increasingly linked to industry. By contrast, the ‘post-normal’ approach embodies the precautionary principle. It depends on public debate, and involves an essential role for the ‘extended peer community’. It is based on the recent recognition of the influence of values on all research, even including the basic statistical tests of significance. It is the appropriate methodology when either systems uncertainties or decision stakes are high; under those conditions the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back; we can understand post-normal science as the extension of democracy appropriate to the conditions of our age.’

The democratization of science, instead of reductionism, is the method of Ravetz’s choice to move forward with science. Because of the many technological and scientific risks we are exposed to according to Ravetz and many with him, particular directions in scientific and social inquiry, because of their ostensible positive social, political, and environmental outcomes, should be favoured. Put differently, scientific inquiry, at the same time, should be explanatory, normative, practical and self-reflexive. Therefore, ‘an argument is cogent for an audience if, according to standards that audience would deem on reflection to be relevant, the premises are acceptable and in the appropriate way sufficient to support the conclusion.’ (Boger, G. 2005. Subordinating Truth–Is Acceptability Acceptable? Argumentation 19: 187 – 238) Ideally, this acceptability approach should empower people with capacities to reason critically and to assess sharply the conflicting (scientific) argumentations that play an important role in their lives. The UK government’s inquiry into the purported adverse health effects of mobile phones for instance, concluded that in future ‘non-peer reviewed papers and anecdotal evidence should be taken into account’ as part of the process for reaching decisions on these matters (Mobile Phones and Health. 2000. Independent Expert Group On Mobile Phones, National Radiological Protection Board, Didcot, p. 102.)

Even if one were to agree, in a preliminary sense, with the acceptability approach as democratically laudable and worthy of effort, given the wide divergence of audiences and participants not sharing a common interest, resolving an argument’s validity on the basis of acceptability of premises and acceptable inferential links embedded in a given value-based context will in all likelihood inexcusably favour the stronger of the ‘disputants’ and place the weaker at a decided disadvantage. Thus, if we are to excise external authority (as previously hypostatised in the notion of God, by the way) that is thought to frustrate democratisation of the scientific discourse and thereby subverts the cause of justice, then the acceptability requirement re-imposes another, but hidden, authority that it sought to eliminate, namely the will to power. As Boger argues (Boger, 2005):

‘Such recourse to audiences and to their own standards of acceptance raises not only the specter of relativism … but the more serious problem of allowing what intuitively seems impermissible when we look beyond the restricted interests of specific audiences. … Are we committed to finding acceptable the statements of the racist when his like-minded audience approves of them? When an audience does not see the sleight of hand involved, or raises no objections, should we allow the questionable reasoning of an arguer? These questions point to a serious problem … The point is itself implied by the reference to ‘questionable reasoning’, because to whom is it questionable? If we are prepared to extend to individual audiences carte blanche authority to set the standards of acceptability, then we fall prey to the vicissitudes of popularity …, primarily in the form of ad populum arguments’.’

The tendency to suspend judgment about truth by lending primacy to the approach of acceptability, the democratization Ravetz so praises, re-establishes the very anti-democratic practices it thought to avoid. Adherence to acceptability results in a pernicious relativism that renders it duplicitous. Indeed, raising acceptable benchmarks, and strongly connecting argument appraisal with audience adherence and contexts, subverts the aim of science to secure objective knowledge. Within the context of risk of climate change, it is always possible to assume that a particular risk exists and subsequently project more stringent policies, yet impossible to prove or assume that any and all possible risks are absent. Thus, the search for acceptably results in ever-increasing regulatory efforts of escalating dimensions. This development fuels the apprehensiveness of ‘doubt beyond reasonable proof’ licensing open-ended policy structures, resulting in a thrust to reduce personal freedom. As Hottois remarks (Hottois, G. 2000. A Philosophical and Critical Analysis of the European Convention of Bioethics. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25(2): 133 – 146):

‘This argument postulates that once man has engaged in a direction that might lead to deep errors, he will no longer be able to stop or choose the good aspects and resist the bad. This argument is deeply antihumanist, for it supposes that individuals lose their capability to judge and decide freely, after reflection and deliberation, as soon as they have made one -fatal- step in a direction that might lead to evil. One may wonder what direction is perfectly ‘safe’ and ‘pure’ and what choice is totally free from ambiguities and ambivalent possible consequences. … It is the belief in irresistible concatenations, entailing the negation of human freedom and of any positive contribution of rational analysis that leads the supporters of the ‘slippery slope’ argument to want to impose definitive and massive prohibitions. Such absolute prohibitions suppress, from the very beginning, freedom of choice (there is nothing left to distinguish or choose when one describes an issue or a field in a confused and amalgamating way), since this suppression of freedom is thought to be the only way to prevent future wrong uses of freedom.’

Dogmatism of peer review – some concluding points
The role of science to secure objective knowledge is disregarded if one wants to democratize science, resulting in the opposite of what was anticipated or hoped for: limitation of scientific and public freedom as to prevent the ostensible disasters we so fear or we buy in to. Reductionism is not obsolete as Ravetz proposes, on the contrary; it is narrowed down further whereby paradoxically it is given an all-encompassing outlook, the ontological reductionism I criticised earlier. Rival theories, that need to be tested against a reality we cannot control or mould according to our wishes, are excluded from the climate change debate, not because of its return to ostensible pernicious reductionism, but precisely because of democratic demands. Data and theories are moralized in climate research for the sake of the planet’s safety, to the detriment of science’s sanity. As Furedi remarks (http://www.frankfuredi.com/index.php/site/article/378/) in relation to peer-review:

‘The usual problems associated with peer review … have been exacerbated through the transformation of peer review into a form of authorisation. Increasingly, peer review is cited as kind of unquestioned and unquestionable authority for settling what are in fact political disputes. Consequently, the findings of peer review are looked upon, not simply as statements about the quality of research or of a scientific finding, but as the foundation for far-reaching policies that affect everything from the global economy to our individual lifestyles. …

The philosophy of the Noble Lie – revealing a ‘higher truth’ with little regard for meaningful facts – allows people to stretch the truth in good conscience. One apologist for the sordid Climategate affair has reminded the public to ‘not forget the context in which many of these emails were sent’. Apparently, ‘this is a saga that goes back to a time before the current political and media concern about climate change’. He reminds us that this was before Al Gore got his Nobel Prize and when ‘well-funded climate sceptics routinely spread disinformation’. From this perspective, the ‘context’ lightens the burden of moral reproach. Climategate is an understandable if not 100 per cent justified response to the ‘context’. Which is precisely how Noble Lies are hatched.’

Extended peer-review, as seen by Ravetz as a new post-modern process to overcome the debate’s problems, is nothing new in science, yet in the thrust to democratize science has yielded to the majority’s voice that embraced the CO2-thesis as the one and only allowable theory in the scientific ‘house of parliament’. Ravetz incontrovertibly makes from scientists mere diploma-holders in the right field of science, to which he subsequently begs to let the extended peer reviewers enter the debate. The answer to that we already know: access denied. This is what you get if unearthing the truth of reality is traded in for democracy: ‘Saving the world is on our agenda now, ergo, there is no time for scientific debate.’ Truth yields to power, and the results thereof are well recorded in history. In a sense, the Climategate emailers resemble the Utopians of Karl Raimund Popper in his article Utopia and Violence (World Affairs 149(1): 3 – 9):

‘Utopian aims are designed to serve as a basis for rational political action and discussion, and such action appears to be possible only if the aim is definitely decided upon. Thus the Utopianist must win over, or else crush, his Utopianist competitors who do not share his own Utopian aims and who do not profess his own Utopianist religion.
But he has to do more. He has to be very thorough in eliminating and stamping out all heretical competing views. For the way to the Utopian goal is long. Thus the rationality of his political action demands constancy of aim for a long time ahead; and this can only be achieved if he not merely crushes competing Utopian religions, but as far as possible stamps out all memory of them.’

Then again, if scientists try to convince the rest of the scientific community of the adequacy of the explanations they have put forward in order to have their theories accepted as a part of the corpus of scientific knowledge, then their evidence e cannot constitute personal or authoritative reasons based on some majority consensus for believing hypothesis h. Scientists must claim that e provides grounds for anyone to be convinced that h, regardless of world-views. Although evidence in science cannot be relative to a person or peer-group, it is contextualised in relation to historical and epistemological circumstances surrounding the evidential claim. Scientists can invoke evidence the moment it is understood as evidence, within the context of a certain theory grasped by the experts, whether or not they are diploma-holders. Before that, evidence is still evidence yet simply not recognised as such (Snyder, L.J. 1998. Is Evidence Historical? In: Curd, M., Cover, J.A. (eds.) Philosophy of Science. The Central Issues. W. W. Norton & Company, New York). Democracy is of no use to science, on the contrary.

Bloggers have a similar obligation as scientific experts, at least if they want to enter or be part of the debate with the focus on scientific content instead of rhetorical contentment. They are asked to come up with evidence that anyone versed in the field can understand and retrace. The epistemic values I mentioned earlier are important to everyone trying to add to this or any other scientific discourse. Finally, the words of Thomas Nagel seem appropriate here:

‘… for objectivity is both underrated and overrated, sometimes by the same persons. It is underrated by those who don’t regard it as a method of understanding the world as it is in itself. It is overrated by those who believe it can provide a complete view of the world on its own, replacing the subjective views from which it has developed. These errors are connected: they both stem from an insufficiently robust sense of reality and of its independence of any particular form of human understanding.’ (Nagel, T. 1986. The View from Nowhere. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 4)

Dr. Jaap C. Hanekamp teaches chemistry and philosophy of science at the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg (The Netherlands) and is an independent researcher. He has published extensively on precautionary culture and sustainability. This blog is an excerpt of his book (PhD thesis) on precautionary culture.