Sunday, March 15, 2009


Rubric Change in Which We Can Believe

A lot has been made, and rightly so, of the new way of looking at scientific change authored by Thomas Kuhn in his work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), but, in a semeiotical sort of way, there is almost as much to be learned from a change in rubrics as there is in a change in paradigms. Although I've watched it and even made fun of it, the change from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" is actually a sign of victory by the Deniers. Or so says James Lewis here. I had not seen it that way before. Thanks, Jim.

Money quote:

But that’s not why I think the skeptics are winning. The rational skeptics are winning because the global warming crowd has simply dropped the two words “global warming” from its vocabulary. No more official global warming! This is like the old Soviet Communist Party. You have to analyze not just what’s said but what’s not said. You have to look to see who has been airbrushed out of the pictures of the Politburo waving on top of Lenin’s tomb watching the May Day parade. And “global warming” has disappeared from respectable scientific discourse. Only the elementary school teachers of the world will keep teaching about global warming, because their lesson plans are already written, and they’re a little slow on the uptake.


Comments: I'd say Jim's parallel to Soviet Russia was pretty accurate, but not in the way that you would like to think.
Thanks, Andrew. Interesting. I'll not put any doubt on the motives or the Union of Concerned Scientists. But there are millions of scientists. They sent out 1600 requests. How did they pick the scientists to send them to? Was it random, or was there a selection bias? Only 308 responded (or partially responded, as the story says), that's 19% (a troubling response rate) and only some of them said things which I find ambiguoous at best. For example, if an editor changed the report to make it more correct, that would be part of the 43% response but would not support the theme of the piece, that the Bush Administration was subverting science for political reasons. I believe that has been happening but not in the way this article sets out, indeed, just the opposite. But interesting. Thanks, again.
Having read this, I picked up this week's The Week, which carries the headline "Global Warming: Has It Stopped?" It's about an article from U of Wisconsin that says that temperatures have dropped since 2001 and will do so for the next few decades because of some double whammy of the synchronization of the Northern Hemispheric atmospheric and oceanic modes. Can't find the study, but here's a warmie article about it. It contains a link to here an article entitled Senators Debate Global Warming Policy Despite Global Cooling Evidence. So I'd have to say "global warming" is still with us, though check out Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.): "climate change is not just about temperatures going up. It’s also about volatility. overwhelmingly, scientists agree that the climate is becoming more volatile and that climate change is real." Oh dear. At least "global warming" makes a claim - I guess "climate change" is a vacuous substitute. Another quote, this from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), “I think there is a bipartisan consensus in the Senate that the science is in,” Can you be a little more vague Senator? And it clearly isn't in!(OK now I'm getting worried about the composition of the Senate).

Meanwhile, the study's authors conclude: "We are not saying there is not warming due to human activity. We are saying that there are natural shifts on top of that.when the earth begins to warm again in several decades,the globe could be in trouble because natural warming and man-made warming will occur simultaneously." Really. So man-made "global warming" is currently being smothered by "natural shifts". How could we know that? Ms Stabenow is right about one thing: "I don’t know what to make of them [the study's findings]."
Wow, Mark, good long comment. I always thought the most important thing to take away from the book 1984 was Newspeak, debasing language until it was impossible for it to carry meaning effectively. You've just shown a few examples of it in the Senate, I suspect. Stabenow is right-- climate change is everything concerning weather. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
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