Friday, March 23, 2007


Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, offers us a marvelous example of how the post-modern disdain for "truth" has begun to infect the practice of science. It's no longer objective facts that matter, at least for some scientists, but rather what has purchase with the reader, what resonates with him or her, what he/she discerns to be the truth from his/her perspective. Thus the near panic over global climate change regardless of what the facts of the matter might be is an example of what one advocate calls "post-normal" science.

Phillips begins with this:

From the horse's mouth - climate change theory has nothing to do with the truth. In a remarkable column in today's Guardian Mike Hulme, professor in the school of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia and the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research - a key figure in the promulgation of climate change theory but who a short while ago warned that exaggerated forecasts of global apocalypse were in danger of destroying the case altogether - writes that scientific truth is the wrong tool to establish the, er, truth of global warming. Instead, we need a perspective of what he calls 'post-normal' science:

"Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified this particular mode of scientific activity as one that occurs where the stakes are high, uncertainties large and decisions urgent, and where values are embedded in the way science is done and spoken. It has been labelled 'post-normal' science ... The danger of a 'normal' reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow."

Indeed! Facts first, conclusions afterwards is the very basis of scientific inquiry. But not any more, it seems, where the religion of global warming is concerned. Here the facts have to fit the theory.

Read the whole thing to see how "post-normal" science works. Here's a preview: It has nothing to do with truth.

HT: Uncommon Descent


Islam and the West

Bernard Lewis is a highly respected expert on the history of the Islamic world who has several fine books on the subject to his credit. He was invited to deliver the 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture earlier this month and gave a very interesting speech. It should, in fact, be read by everyone who desires a deeper understanding of the conflicts between the Western world and Islam. You can find the speech here.