Don Aitkin on thinking about things

Another contribution from Don Aitkin, settled into his retirement accommodation and back in the groove with his column to demonstrate his status as a National Treasure.

It was not until my honours year (and I was lucky to get into it) that I began seriously to ask questions about life, nature and the rest. My History teachers had equipped me for such work: I was always to go to the original source, and question it. How valid are you, the source, anyway? Who says so, and how do they know, and so on? Before long I was a doctoral student, and these approaches were part-and-parcel of my intellectual life. I was creating new data, to some degree, and my work had to be as good as I could make it. Postdoctoral work, especially in the USA, intensified that priority. ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ I first heard in 1965, in Ann Arbor. Thereafter that was the way I tried to approach all issues in thought.

Perhaps that style of work brought me to the attention of elders and betters in other areas. By the time I was forty I was being asked to do things for which I had little prior experience, and each new task filled out my knowledge base, and seemed to intensify my way of doing things. In the middle 1980s I was a member of the Australian Science and Technology Council, the Chairman of the Australian Research Grants Committee, the Chairman of the Board of the ANU’s Institute for Advanced Studies, and involved in a number of other activities that spun off, as it were, from these responsibilities. All of them led me into new fields of inquiry, and that was exciting, because I kept on learning.

And all the above now merges into a short thought-piece about ‘climate change’, among other things about the ways in which organisations, especially scientific ones, have felt the need to have a position on it. The number that do so grew from none to a lot once governments started pumping money into the issue of how to deal with the twin scares of increasing global gas emissions and the change to climate thought to be resulting from the increase (always a negative effect, in this case).

I know of no case where the entire fellowship of any learned body was asked to express its view. If there is one case, then someone will tell me. Very often, as in the case of the Australian Academy, a small panel was asked to write the position paper, and the panel seemed to consist only of those of the alarmist persuasion, or, if that is too strong (because there was one sceptic, if I recall it properly, who had a lot of trouble with the procedure), not to be balanced by the inclusion of an appropriate number of well-known sceptics. ‘We’ll look bad if don’t follow their [the Academy’s] example!’ was a cry voiced in another Australian scientific body, according to one of its sceptical fellows, who told me what had happened in his outfit.

Read it all!

This entry was posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Don Aitkin on thinking about things

  1. Boambee John

    Debate over at Don’s Party is fun.

    There are two or three diehard “true believers” over there who are over ripe for a good schooling.

  2. Rafe Champion

    Yes they keep the ball in play.Don is very patient with them.

  3. Boambee John

    Rafe

    As at the Cat, commenters are given a fair degree of latitude. Some of the responses from the true believers are farcical.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    I know of no case where the entire fellowship of any learned body was asked to express its view.

    My direct experience with learned societies (as a member of RACI) is that those driven to it are the ones ending up in control of them. It’s a classic example of O’Sullivan’s Law, that any organisation not explicitly right wing will become left wing over time. It’s a self selection process.

    The rest of us science types just want to do science and live our lives in peace and quiet.

    The administratively-charged types all go for the climate crap because there is money, power and glory attached to it. That it isn’t actually supported by the data is unimportant. As leaders of learned societies, if they profess belief in Gaia they get invited onto all the TV programs!

    Scientists have inordinately large egos. All scientists go into science to change the world, including me. That the world doesn’t need to be changed is a minor obstacle in the way of glory and hot women.

  5. mem

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #3047723, posted on June 20, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    The rest of us science types just want to do science and live our lives in peace and quiet.

    The administratively-charged types all go for the climate crap because there is money, power and glory attached to it. That it isn’t actually supported by the data is unimportant. As leaders of learned societies, if they profess belief in Gaia they get invited onto all the TV programs!

    The same goes in many fields. In agriculture it is the laziest and most vocal that get themselves onto water boards, show committees and shire councils. The rest are busy making a living so they let this lot take the glory and the grants etc with the public service crowd. But their glory is shallow because everyone in the district knows that they are shoddy farmers and grifters.

  6. Entropy

    into the issue of how to deal with the twin scares of increasing global gas emissions and the change to climate thought to be resulting from the increase (always a negative effect, in this case)

    Always a mystery that. I actually put this too one of my evangelical graduates, how it’s a curious thing that increasing carbon dioxide never seems to result in any benefit, any at all. She looked uncomfortable for a moment, before smiling and saying that is because there can’t be any benefit! Quite so.

    In agriculture it is the laziest and most vocal that get themselves onto water boards, show committees and shire councils.

    It is surprisingly common for the producer local agri politician, particularly mayors, property to fall into bankruptcy. Of course, it then becomes a cause célèbre with the ABC Rural and the usual loud politicians defending them.

  7. max

    Nothing will change until government checks bounce or don’t buy much.

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