KZ: Today there is as much, if not more consensus among scientists about global climate change as there was 300 years ago about the laws of thermodynamics and the laws of motion. Polling shows that majorities of “ordinary” people in the USA, Europe, Asia, etc. accept the conclusions of this science. Yet around the world opposition to the science of climate change is well funded, unyielding, and denies the science at the highest levels of government and science. What explains this if science is, as many of us were taught in school just telling us the facts? The “school” explanation of science needs to be reconsidered. If scientific knowledge is like all knowledge, socially produced — and thus partial, fallible, contingent — science can no longer – in fact, never could – assert any sort of absolute grasp on “reality.” But the common culture of the modern era included the belief that by following the scientific method, scientists were able to arrive at objective facts that transcended their human origins. In his widely read, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” the physicist-turned philosopher Thomas Kuhn considerably weakened the Whig interpretation of science by showing how historical developments were governed by contingency and debate. The Social Studies of Science and Technology (SST) 30 years later points out the traditional view of science seems to be little more than a self-serving fiction. Observations of day-to-day research — what SST terms science in the making — appear not so much as a stepwise progression toward rational truth as a disorderly mass of stray observations, inconclusive results, and fledgling explanations. Far from merely discovering facts, scientists seem to be, as Latour and Woolgar wrote in “Laboratory Life,” “in the business of being convinced and convincing others.” During the process of arguing over uncertain data, scientists conspicuously announce they are, in some essential sense, always speaking for the facts; and yet, as soon as their propositions are turned into indisputable statements and peer-reviewed papers — what SST calls ready-made science — they claim that such facts had always “spoken for themselves.” That is, only once the scientific community accepts something as true are the all-too-human processes behind it effectively erased or, as SST says, black-boxed. Things involved in science – instruments, equations, test results, photographs, bacterial cultures, etc. – can acquire enormous power because of the complicated network of other items, known as actors (not just scientists, but non-scientists, as well as many nonhumans), that are mobilized around it. The more socially “networked” a fact is (the more people and things involved in its production), the more effectively it could refute its less plausible alternatives. For example, argues Latour, the medical revolution commonly attributed to the genius of Pasteur should instead be seen as a result of an association between not just doctors, nurses and hygienists but also worms, milk, sputum, parasites, cows and farms. Science is “social,” then, not merely because it is performed by people (this is a reductive misunderstanding of the word “social”); rather, science is social because it brings together a multitude of human and nonhuman entities and harnesses their collective power to act on and transform the world.
The idea that we can stand back and behold nature at a distance, as something discrete from our actions, is an illusion. Humans create their cultures. By so doing they create not just their ways of life, but the ways of life of nature. Climate scientists and others invented the term Anthropocene to recognize this interaction today. Humans have become tantamount to a geological force. In his book “Down to Earth” Bruno Latour writes, “Scientists have largely looked at the problem of climate-change denial through the lens of rational empiricism that has governed their profession for centuries; many limit their domain to science, thinking it inappropriate to weigh in on political questions or to speak in an emotional register to communicate urgency. Even though the evidence in support of global warming has long been overwhelming, some scientists continue to believe that the problem of denialism can be solved through ever more data and greater public education. Political scientists, meanwhile, have shown that so-called “irrational” individuals, especially those who are highly educated, in some cases actually hold onto their opinions more strongly when faced with facts that contradict them.” Instead of accusing Trump supporters and climate denialists of irrationality, Latour argues that it is untenable to talk about scientific facts as though their rightness alone will be persuasive. In this respect, “Down to Earth” extends the sociological and anthropological analysis that SST brings to bear on scientists to the minds of antiscientific voters, looking at the ways in which the reception of seemingly universal knowledge is shaped by the values and local circumstances of those to whom it is being communicated.
It has long been taken for granted that scientific facts and entities, like cells and quarks and prions, as well as for economists, economies, firms existed “out there” in the world before they were discovered by scientists. SST argues instead that scientific facts should be viewed as a product of scientific inquiry. Facts are “networked;” stand or fall not on the strength of their inherent veracity but on the strength of the institutions and practices that produce them and make them intelligible. If this network breaks down, the facts will go with them. This explains why climate change facts have trouble surviving and neoliberal economic facts do not.
Me: Correct Ken, and that’s why the best way to get climate deniers and neo-classical economists “off the dime” is to offer them a better self interested third alternative to the dualistic anthropocene-no anthropocene “debate”. Wisdom has always been about the third integrative and greater alternative to dualing orthodoxies, and as paradigms are the quintessential integrative phenomenon of a singular concept that defines and creates an entire plauralism/pattern the primary emphasis and activity of economics and economic theory should be on discovering and most rationally implementing the policies, regulations and structural changes of the new paradigm.
The problem with Kuhn’s analysis is it studies the mere historical process of paradigm change and not the nature and signatures of historical paradigm changes themselves. My book concisely exams both the Kuhnian signatures of imminent need for a paradigm change, and even more importantly the inherent signatures and basic operations of past accomplished paradigm changes. It shows that our current monetary, economic and ecological situation fulfill all of the imminent signs of such need for change and that the new paradigm of Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting fulfills all of the signatures of historically ACCOMPLISHED paradigm change. Irony is one of the accomplished signatures of paradigm changes and although one would think that increasing the ability to consume as Monetary Gifting would do, with policies, regulations and structural changes aligned with the concept behind even the concept of the new paradigm such could actually be the means of “cutting the Gordian knot” that keeps a thorough resolution of anthropocene climate change from becoming possible.
KZ: Craig, scientific facts are a product of scientific inquiry. Facts are “networked;” stand or fall not on the strength of their inherent veracity or connection to “reality” but on the strength of the institutions and practices that produce them and make them intelligible and useful. In other words, the network that creates and supports them. If this network breaks down, as is happening with the current broad attacks on the scientific process (not the scientific method) the facts will go with it. Western societies are on the threshold of losing science and scientists. The technicians will likely keep their jobs, but their connections to science networks is tenuous, at best.
Correct. And I’m just trying shine a light on the new paradigm that will re-integrate economics, make it more scientific, make it and the money system serve humanity instead of enslaving it and if properly understood and thoroughly implemented enable the financing of the huge projects necessary to resolve anthropocene climate change. That’s all.