Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sympathy for the Deniers: the clash of ideologies

I have an odd feeling in the current furore over climate change.

The battle is between the scientific consensus, and a tiny minority of independent scientifically trained people who are trying to attack the bastion of consensus.

I have been in their position on three issues in the past:
on the issue of the relation of leukaemia to low level radiation and powerlines. Official science denies a causal relationship. Green scientists affirm a causal relationship. Chris Busby and the LLRC is continuing this battle, and I think that history will prove him right.

I had a clash with official science over Lowermoor incident, when illness followed the accidental dumping Aluminium Sulphate into drinking water.

In both of these cases, official scientists used the scholastic method, not the scientific method, to refute causality. They argued "The book says that the substances could not have caused the illness we observe, therefore the events are not causally connected".

The third issue was in the 2001 Foot and Mouth incident, when I was Green Party campaigner joining with a small group of independent vets and campaigners calling for vaccination rather than slaughter.

So how come that I was proud to be in a minority then, but proud to be in the majority now?

First, the climate scientists have a real scientific approach, not the scholastic approach used in leukaemia at Sellafield and Lowermoor, nor the bureaucracy-knows-best approach used in FMD2001.

Second, there is the issue of paradigm shift. The climate change "skeptics" claim that they are challenging the current paradigm, which is what happens with all big shifts in science - plate tectonics being the classic example. This does not really apply, because the AGW theory has been built up on an evidential basis over the past 30 years, although its concept goes back 200 years to Arrhenius.

The deniers characterise the IPCC as a "political" body, though its real status is as a scientific advisory body to the UN, which is a political body. Equally, they are a political lobby group, wedded to the ideal of free market fundamentalism.

There is indeed an ideological clash of historic proportions here, between the old paradigm of individualistic, free market idealism, that views the individual as a self-existent being, and the ecological ideology that views mankind in the context of our planetary life support system.

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