What happened to climate science? The dots…

This is the first of a series of posts to “join the dots” to account for the state of climate science and the way that the mainstream views on climate change have been taken up in political circles.
The first of the dots are some general features of the intellectual landscape.
* The post World War 2 decline of education at all levels and the need for attention to what Jacques Barzun Called “the house of intellect”.
* The radicalisation of the environmental movement which grew out of the “Ban the Bomb” movement of the 1950s and the international campaign against nuclear energy which followed.
*The postwar development of Big Science funded by Big Government.
* The rise of relatively uncritical “normal science” flagged by T. S. Kuhn and the impetus which he unwittingly gave to it, in opposition to the critical approach expounded by the likes of Karl Popper.
* The long-term implications of the radicalisation of university students in the 1960s and ’70s.Then some of the features of climate studies.
* The role of environmental entrepreneurs in the United Nations, the proliferation of climate relate organizations and the defective governance of the IPCC.
Finally the contribution of Gordon Tullock to explain how certain motivational factors on the part of scientists and the institutional structure of science can combine to run down the quality of scientific publications to the point where the point of view becomes a criterion for acceptance for publication.

Jacques Barzun on education, the universities and public debate.

Jacques Barzun (1907-2012) was one of the most productive and interesting intellectual figures of our time. French-born and educated in the US he published thirty books and a mass of other writing on education, the history of ideas, cultural studies and music. A profile can be found in the first edition of the Revivalist series in the Rathouse.

He wrote about education, especially the universities, but his concerns extended much further to encompass the quality of critical commentary in the press and the way people exchange ideas in the daily commerce of life. He considered that the dictum “no politics or religion at the dinner table” marks a failure in “polite society” to handle serious disagreements in a civilized manner.

He published four significant books on the trends in US education, starting with Teacher in America in 1944,reprinted in 1983. (The Preface of the 1983 edition is on line).

To those who follow the news about education, the present state of American schools and colleges must seem vastly different from that described in this book. Thirty-five years have passed, true; but the normal drift of things will not account for the great chasm. The once proud and efficient public-school system of the United States, especially its unique free high school for all—has turned into a wasteland where violence and vice share the time with ignorance and idleness, besides serving as battleground for vested interests, social, political, and economic. The new product of that debased system, the functional illiterate, is numbered in millions, while various forms of deceit have become accented as inevitable—”social promotion” or for those who fail the “minimum competency” test; and most lately, “bilingual education,” by which the rudiments are supposedly taught in over ninety languages other than English. The old plan and purpose of teaching the young what they truly need to know survives only in the private sector, itself hard-pressed and shrinking in size.

Meantime, colleges and universities have undergone a comparable devastation.

The book is a survey the major deficiencies and impediments in the education system, like the idea that all learning has to be “fun” and the soul-destroying drudgery of the PhD ordeal. In The House of Intellect >(1959) he explored the influences that distract educated people from clear, direct and critical thinking. He described some problems which follow the well-meaning efforts of foundations and corporations to save the world by funding university-based research and the international exchange of ideas. One result has been the trampling of long-term research programs in the rush to obtain grants for “exciting and relevant research” followed by international conferences in exotic parts of the world.

In Science: The Glorious Entertainment (1963), he catalogued and criticised several popular misperceptions of science, some of them trivialising and others sensationalising the activities of scientists. This has become particularly relevant to the reception of climate science because misconceptions about the nature of science and research have contributed to the low quality of debate about climate science issues.

Finally The American University: How It Runs, Where Is It Going? (1968) documenting the confusion that prevailed about the purpose of higher education after decades of rapid growth. To underline his concerns, the book appeared in the year when students around the world started setting fire to their campuses, including his own home base, Columbia University, in New York. The fires were extinguished but the young radicals pressed on to undermine the integrity of the academies and set loose the half-educated agents of progressive leftism who dominate in education, the media, the white collar trade unions, the arts and political commentary. And, of course, commentary on climate change.

For more on Barzun in addition to the website material, see the essay “Style in the House of Intellect” which was on the site and has been published in a ebook in the collection Jacques Barzun and Others. The others are Bill Hutt (economist), Ian D. Suttie (Neo-Freudian revisionist), Yvor Winters (literary critic), Ludwig von Mises (economist), Cedric Emanuel (Australian artist and illustrator) and Liam Hudson (psychologist).

The next “dot” in the series is the role movement to oppose nuclear power which became a Trojan horse for the radical left to take control of the environmental movement as it became influential in the 1970s and ’80s.

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8 Responses to What happened to climate science? The dots…

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    The quote which for me shows the essence of the political aims of the climatistas comes from lefty Naomi Klein:

    As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

    Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong.

    That last sentence sums it up: the power, the save-the-world conceit, the money, the control. It’s all there. Unfortunately for Naomi her subsequent statement that 97% of the world’s climate scientists say that Heartland is wrong about the science is itself incorrect – and supports the whole house-of-cards ‘climate science’ edifice. The real world climate data shows conclusively that AGW is mild and not dangerous. But the Left can’t let such a golden opportunity for their strategic victory go to waste.

    Unfortunately for them that very charge towards victory will destroy their cause, since it becomes increasingly difficult to believe in global warming when you have to shovel snow more and more often.

  2. struth

    It all starts in the schools.

  3. Stackja

    Ban the bomb was KGB useful fools followed by ban the thinking by more useful fools.

  4. Stackja

    struth – I left school before the rot set in. I feel sorry for students today who are deprived of knowledge.

  5. iampeter

    I think it’s more to do with the lack of critical thinking skills/lack of reasoning ability.

    For me the climate change issue was one that was never about science because the basic idea makes no sense.

    If you look at the environmentalists basic premise it basically comes down to: industrial civilization is good for man, but it is taking a toll on the environment. This basic idea is a contradiction and can’t actually be happening. Either industrial civilization is improving the standard of living for man OR it’s destroying our environment, but it can’t be doing both.

    Once you’ve resolved the contradiction you’ve invalidated the entire alarmist position without needing to have discussed any science.

    Having said that, the science to invalidate the climate alarmists position is high school level and isn’t that hard to grasp. Specifically how greenhouses work and how heat flows.

    The bigger story here is the sheer incompetence of our “scientific” community, the media and politicians that have allowed this absolute nonsense to become accepted wisdom and people advocating climate alarmist positions given unearned and uncritical authority on the subject.

    The cost of this is by some estimates reaching almost $300 billion per annum in subsidies but this doesn’t even begin to take into account the businesses destroyed, lives ruined and (irony alert) the actual environmental devastation caused by environmentalist stupidity.

    Heads should roll.

  6. The New Man is to be kept at Year Zero and told he is cool when he is just plain thick. If he’s not thick enough…we have modern education and media to finish the job.

    Just a quick glance at the natural history of the last fifteen thousand years, as it was widely understood and accepted till very recently, would show that the climate industry is all beat-up.

    Skeptics sometimes buy into the beat-up by arguing too vigorously against the possibility of some sea level and temp rises – as if that could matter in the slightest when you consider that a mere ten thousand years ago you could have walked across Bass Strait or the English Channel. At times, since the formation of those ocean barriers, sea levels have been higher than the present, and there are numerous ancient seaports you have to walk to now which could accommodate whole fleets. Don’t like it? Have yourself an ice age.

    No secret or mystery to any of it, yet our minds are to be kept focused on the latest “extreme” weather event as if a heatwave or drought or high Cat cyclone is some kind of angry protest from Gaia. If they think conditions since the 1980s have been a worry, how would our Green Betters handle an event like the Storegga Slides or the cool-event drought of 2200BC?

    Total beat-up.

  7. Michael of Five Dock

    A missing dot is the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991. The left lost its homeland and its raison d’être. Socialism/Communism had failed so obviously and so spectacularly that the left had nowhere to go. But hey, here is this so-called scientific theory that allows us to campaign for all our favourite causes, especially anti-capitalism, the de-industrialisation of the west, central control of all the organs of state, even down to preserving the smallest sapling. Brilliant. And we can say this theory will damage the world in, say, 100 years, and no-one can prove we are wrong until then. And we can scare children with it. And even get government grants to study it from a post-modern feminist perspective. Lives will be destroyed in the process but, what the hell, they are only kulaks and counter-revolutionaries.

  8. Rafe Champion

    Re iampeter on the need for critical thinking, there is a critical thinking unit at the Uni of Qld run by Peter Ellerton who has rubbished Malcolm Roberts for refusing to accept evidence thrown at him on Q&A. So much for teaching critical thinking at the uni of Qld:) I am told that there are many courses on critical thinking in the US but they mostly teach confirmation theory and inductive logic.

    Critical thinking at the Uni of QLD.

    The issue of critical thinking will come up again in connection with normal science and paradigms.

    Good point on the collapse of the wall. Robert Manne exemplified that syndrome. He was a fair dinkum cold war warrior but then he reverted to his Labor roots and took up every single progressive cause. He became a huge embarrassment as the editor of Quadrant monthly.

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