As the rolling blackouts in South Australia provide a warning the Green renewables future, with the same prospect impending in Victoria, another factor has come to mind in the witches brew of influences which caused the failure of climate science. This is the academic teaching of the philosophy of science and the theory of knowledge at large. Another dot in the picture of climate science, previously sketched.
Just to give the flavour, Philip Kitcher is arguable the most decorated and published philosopher of science going around at present. This is his take on warming and the role of CO2 and the consensus. This runs over an hour but you only need a couple of minutes to find where he is coming from. OMG he is still promoting Mann and the hockey stick. I thought even the IPCC got over that.
This comes from 2015, another hour and a half that you don’t need, from a Communist party forum to explain that capitalism is the problem. I am gob-smacked that Kitcher was prepared to talk to this forum about the science, I thought he was an ordinarily decent but misguided social democrat. After all he has written books about democracy.
People who don’t like the sound of his voice can get the story from this book review.
He is now on the verge of phased retirement after a stellar career, starting with logical empiricism (mentored by the leading light of that field, Karl Hempel) and moving on to the post-positivist phase with mentoring from Thomas S Kuhn who is often regarded as the leader in that shift. Lately he has moved on to revive pragmatism a la John Dewey whose progressive politics he shares.
I don’t think scientists take much notice of the philosophy of science, any more than economists follow the large literature of philosophy and methodology of economics. Richard Feinman expressed utter contempt for philosophy (and the soft social sciences). He obviously never encountered Karl Popper which is a shame, although he didn’t really need to because he channelled Poppers approach; guessing – testing and relentless criticism to look for weak spots in the story.
My concern about the logical positivist/logical positivist – Karl Hempel – Carnap – Kuhn – Kitcher mainstream in the philosophy of science is that it has nothing useful to say to working scientists because their main concerns were: Explication of concepts – endless refinement of terms, after few useless decades spent on the meaning of meaning itself. And Confirmation Theory and Inductive Probabilities – trying to put probability values on theories.
None of that relates to the daily work of scientists. But countless tens of thousands of students have passed through mainstream courses in the philosophy of science since it became a thriving academic discipline. The main contents of the courses offer no sense of the critical process that drives science.
The critical rationalism of Popper offers an alternative view which speaks to working scientists, which explains why he is favourably regarded by scientists who are aware of his ideas – the likes of Einstein, Medawar, Eccles, Monod and the soil scientists and agronomists who attended his adult education courses in New Zealand. However Popper’s ideas, like those of the Austrian economists, are marginalized in their respective disciplines.