Sunday, October 11, 2020

Again, and Again

 In which Eli explains what is going on in the world by going back to 2015 when the bunny clarified what Normal Science is. So OK this is recycling, but sometimes it is necessary to repeat until the hard of learning catch on

Post Normal Science was formulated by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz. While the concept was useful it really missed what science is about and how it works and the title was unfortunate. It is really Pre Normal Science and the key is how the detrius is used in denial to distort. Funtowicz and Ravetz tried to chart a path when

  • Facts are uncertain, 
  • Values in dispute, 
  • Stakes high, and
  • Decisions urgent. 

It was a response to problems that came to the fore in the 1980s such as environmental tobacco smoke, HIV/AIDS, acid rain, ozone depletion and, yes, climate change.  The observant amongst the bunnies will have noticed that science only has something to say about facts.  Values are a question of ethics, stakes economics, and decisions policy. However, the misleading formulation leaves much room for ClimateBall.  
The science part is Pre-Normal Science, the stage at which something has been observed, but no one quite knows where it came from, what it means or how to understand it.  Science actually has a way of dealing with such situations.

The initial flailing about to reach a useful understanding is later used by those who oppose action to obfuscate by insisting that still nothing is known, what is known is wrong, or at best that more research is needed.  Oh yes, natural variability.

Science starts with the Pre-Normal Science stage. What was the cause? Every idea could be proposed and is. Normal science sorts through them. Discarding ones falsified by observations and those inconsistent with basic principles. 

So the question policy has to answer in the Pre Normal Science stage is what to do, and often, including in the Covid disaster the answer is buy time. Do what can be done, wear masks, socially distance, produce ppe and don't frack.  Finally after a consensus forms the Jedi Council (IPCC, Ozone Secretariat, NRC, RS) clues in the policy makers.

Often after the science becomes sufficient there is no need for the last step except say, that’s a really cool paper. But sometimes the initial flailing about for a scientific solution can produce long lasting Post Normal Policy responses. These can be pernicious, and involve serious denial of reality.

Proposers of the discarded theories often still clutch them, but mostly they become opinionated Christmas Turkey Uncles/Aunts ignored within the scientific community and at the Family Festivals.

Post-Normal Policy ensues when normal science has reached a coherent, consilient consensus and it is clear that action is needed but it is economically or philosophically impossible for some to accept.

The response is to deny the utility of science and scientific judgment, thus the attacks on scientists and scientific panels that provide policy makers with their best scientific advice. It is always pointing back at the initial confusion.  It is important to remember that choosing up sides happens in the Pre-Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus emerges, but persists

Vested interests will frame research outside of the scientific consensus

Recognizing the division between Pre-Normal Science and Post-Normal Policy and the uses of the former to block action by in the later stage is useful for understanding the course of controversies that require normal science to understand policy responses.  

1 comment:


The Council model has a problem- they have to react to Emergencies in real, electoral cycyle time.

The Energy Crisis is cautionary. Whle the Aspen Jedi sang the praises of superinsulation and thick sweaters, the Swamp Sith actually focused on energy, and turned the Energy Crisis into the Oil Glut by rediscovering the conucopian abundence of American coal and gas. Radiative forcing did not get much play in Harvey Brooks Pre-Normal but Normative CONAES report

Though a lot of old policy playbooks are still in play in the old Climate Republic , the ClimateBall playing field has ben un-leveled not just by Climate Foreverwar reports nobody lives long enough to read, but by a new class of internet-enabled fact-averse media for the disingenuous and hard of learning-- hallf the electrate cottons to DisEducational Private Television channels like Fox, and Un-edited Op-ed zines like The American Thinker.

Worse, both Public Television , and flagship science journals have layely forged political alliances with political media. What could possibly go wrong ?