Monday, February 28, 2011

The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory...

The title for this post comes from a reply to a comment in response to this post by Willis Eschenbach.

As with many people I am familiar with in the blogosphere, I have never met Willis in person.  Indeed, I know of him only through his posts at Climate Audit, at WUWT and at Climate Etc..  He has always impressed me with his insight, his candor and his constructive ideas.  In short, Willis thinks rather than merely reciting from dogma. Thus, I was very intrigued to get his back story and impressed that he took the time to reply to all the anonymous and sometimes very personal attacks at him personally as a result of his sharing his ideas.

Shaw once said that youth was wasted on the young.  I think if he was alive today, he might be tempted to say that education is wasted on academics.   An educated mind should be an open mind.  It is one of life's most perplexing paradoxes for me that so many academics are closed minded.

Willis puts many in the discussion of climate and environmental change to shame.  The dialogue would indeed be that much more engaging and productive if all involved were as sanguine.  Having letters after your name does not make you smart, informed nor enlightened.  It should, however, confer a requirement for open mindeness and intellectual curiosity.  Sadly, it does not.

The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

political change

Change is inherently messy.  Thus, as  much as some long to exert control over change, fearing that mess and loss of control as an inherent vice, change has a tendency to happen regardless.  Instead of fearing change as a vice, it is possible to view all change as opportunity to be embraced as the defining characteristic and purpose of human existence: we exist to change, to grow to become....Ah, but there is the rub: to become what?  It is the very uncertainty that unnerves people, especially the ruling class who view their own roles as leaders as a divine right but scorn the capability of the regular citizen to take a shift, to embrace and act morally and in good fashion.

Nowhere is this narrative of change more profound or entrenched than in politics.  Ruling elites have always sought to justify their oppression as a necessary indulgence for their essential role in firstly defining civilization (in their image, of course) and secondly, defining its maintainence (at the cost of others lives, of course).  The others ae minimized and demonized as a leaderless rabble without morality and any measure of that ultimate virtue, control.

Throughout human history, every empire has crumbled, every dictator has eventually fallen.  It has taken a long while, but finally literacy has empowered a greater majority of the world's inhabitants.  Moreover, elite regimes are no longer able to control all of the media, all of the information and all of the education.

Not to say that we, as people will not make mistakes. Mistakes are a valuable learning tool.  Change is messy.  It is imperfect, it is not controllable.  Moreover, change is not something we should seek to control: it should be something we seek to constantly create, adapt and share.  Utopian maybe, but not an elitist utopia, a democratic one.

Here is Brendan O'Neill's excellent commentary on the Libyan situation (and those in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain....).

The change indeed is going to come.

Monday, February 21, 2011

changing education paradigms

I blog to express my ideas around central concepts and constructs influencing the sustainability of the world.  A bit pretentious, but small goals lead to small results, so why no embrace really big, worthwhile goals like a better planet for future generations?

I write myself and I link to posts and other comments that stimulate and arouse my curiosity, inform my world and inform me.  Occasionally, I just want to link to something that requires no additional comment, but just a whole lot of reflective consideration.  Today's post is one of those.  Watch, consider and implement improved praxis:

I constantly seek to improve my own teaching praxis, which is encapsulated within this presentation.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

the spencer challenge

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.  With this post I am happy to follow the lead of WUWT and post the link to Roy Spencer's challenge that cuts right to the heart of the climate question:
  • I’ve been picking up a lot of chatter in the last few days about the ’settled science’ of global warming. What most people don’t realize is that the vast majority of published research on the topic simply assumes that warming is manmade. It in no way “proves” it. 
  • If the science really is that settled, then this challenge should be easy: 
  • Show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out natural, internal climate cycles as the cause of most of the recent warming in the thermometer record. 
  • Studies that have suggested that an increase in the total output of the sun cannot be blamed, do not count…the sun is an external driver. I’m talking about natural, internal variability. 
  • The fact is that the ‘null hypothesis’ of global warming has never been rejected: That natural climate variability can explain everything we see in the climate system.

The challenge has provoked some interesting responses. Many have objected to the reversal of the normal null hypothesis of scientific inquiry and many have simply retorted, kindergarten style, well show us how natural change precludes the effect of CO2.

I suspect that is the real purpose of Roy's challenge: to point out that AGW is not falsifiable but, instead is a presumed, axiomatic construct without refutable scientific basis.  Doesn't in itself mean it's wrong, just not a scientific imperative for global reorganization of the economy, society and the rules of scientific inquiry.

Science is a means to measure and understand things.  What those measurements mean and what we do with that understanding, are societal 
determinations: the social and political processes of decision making and not hard science.  Science, both good and bad, is but one input into societal decisions: it is not the sole determinant of those decisions.

What most activist scientists fail to realize is that politics is an exercise in power, not truth.  The truth of the science is irrelevant.  Climate science, like any science of the environment, is merely a convenient contrivance for the promotion and imposition of a particular ideological dogma. Science that promotes the advocacy of the dogma is favored, the science that challenges the dogma, marginalized.

But within democratic society, political power is exercised by the acceptance of the dominant narrative: if the mainstream, voting public sways in the belief, their trust in the dogma, then it loses its political traction, becomes a liability and the political imperative switches to an alternative narrative, with amended framing.

Because of its excessive use of authority and its presumptive use of the science, the climate dogma has spectacularly imploded as the narrative runs counter to so much of observed personal experience.  It has simply ceased to be useful as a presumptive political imperative, hence the desperate shift to recast the climate narrative as "climate disruption".

Trouble is, this time the exposition has been too fundamental for the narrative to be simply re-cast.  The very assertive power of ideological environmentalism as a political imperative is now being questioned and rejected by many, perhaps even the majority.