Sylvia Tognetti: Cranking up the volume far post-normal

Posted: February 3, 2013 by tallbloke in alarmism, Blog, flames, Ice ages, Natural Variation, Philosophy, propaganda, Uncertainty, weather

stognettiFollowing a long period of reflection, or brooding, or something, Post-Normal-Times blogger and environment consultant Sylvia Tognetti has a new year’s resolution to go on the offensive against Post-Normal-Science originator and veteran philosopher of science Jerry Ravetz. Sylvia seems to have come to a judgement that Jerry has abandoned the principles of PNS and ‘gone over to the wrong side’ as a result of being ‘turned’ by the arguments of ‘cranks’, including Judy Curry, and me.  🙂

Jerry wrote a letter to Sylvia attempting to mark out his position, but this seems not to have gone down too well.  At least she’s stopped calling us ‘deniers’ after the quiet word I had on her site two years ago this coming week. But she obviously feels that the right way to balance her ‘concession’ on the ‘denier’ labelling issue is by using the ‘crank’ label 10 times in a few paragraphs, while berating Jerry for pointing out the negative consequences of alarmist claims made 12 years ago. It’s a bit of a rant, but not bad as spectator sport. The assembled warmista are trying to damn Ravetz by linking to one of his WUWT articles. For the wider world, the article he co-wrote with Mike Hulme post-climategate is far more important:
‘Show Your Working’: What ‘ClimateGate’ means

Now in comments on this latest thread, I’ve caused more upset by pointing out that Dr David Viner of the CRU/UEA should have known better than to mislead the public and Govt over the likely disappearance of snow from our lives here in the UK. Sylvia said I couldn’t blame Viner for failing to be aware of unknown-unknowns which have given us three hard freezing winters and 50,000 prematurely dead pensioners in the last four years. I pointed out that Viner was at a workshop at AGW central (Potsdam) shortly before his infamous ‘no more snow’ gaffe along with UEA colleague Mike Hulme, who had this to say about uncertainty in climate change impact projections in a paper he presented there:

Numerous examples were presented throughout the first Workshop to illustrate important uncertainties needing to be accounted for at different stages of an impacts assessment. A number of standard techniques were also described for addressing these uncertainties. The fact that climate change impact studies seldom apply such procedures suggests that proper guidelines are urgently required by the research community. It also draws a shroud over much of the published research on climate change impacts which may, at best, be understating the uncertainties, and at worst, providing blatantly misleading information. This is an uncomfortable situation for informing the decision process.

Viner even co-edited the workshop proceedings with Hulme after the event. Do have a read, it’s like a trip back to the future.

Going back to the Ravetz-Hulme piece published by the BBC, we find the real reason Sylvia and her sycophants have turned against Ravetz:

It is possible that some areas of climate science have become sclerotic, that its scientific practices have become too partisan, that its funding – whether from private or public sectors – has compromised scientists.

The tribalism that some of the e-mails reveal suggests a form of social organisation that is now all too familiar in some sections of business and government.

It is also possible that the institutional innovation that has been the IPCC has now largely run its course.

Perhaps, through its structural tendency to politicise climate change science, it has helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusive form of knowledge production – just at a time when a globalising and wired cosmopolitan culture is demanding of science something much more open and inclusive.

Of course, Tognetti was all fo Ravetz’ calls for inclusivity while they were limited to including her and the activist NGO’s. Now that Jerry has recognized the need to include the views of those critical of the IPCC it has become ‘a bad thing’.

  1. Brian H says:

    They (we) can’t say they (we) weren’t warned. “understating the uncertainties, and at worst, providing blatantly misleading information.” Spot. On.

  2. Streetcred says:

    Annan’s discussion with Revkin will leave her with a splitting headache …

    “[ … ] Anyway, there have now been several recent papers showing much the same – numerous factors including: the increase in positive forcing (CO2 and the recent work on black carbon), decrease in estimated negative forcing (aerosols), combined with the stubborn refusal of the planet to warm as had been predicted over the last decade, all makes a high climate sensitivity increasingly untenable. A value (slightly) under 2 is certainly looking a whole lot more plausible than anything above 4.5.”

  3. tallbloke says:

    Annan, has always been more of an independent thinker, so although he has co-authored with the likes of Mann, he is a bit more nimble and less committed. He commented on a cli-sci newsgroup back in 2005 that he found serious maths errors in Levitus 2000 and made private email comments to the authors which were stonewalled.

  4. tallbloke says:

    Reviewing the comments in the thread two years ago where I recommended Sylvia give up the ‘denier’ label, I notice I gave an explanation of the article she uses to brand me as a ‘crank’ back then too.

    I think some of the inferences drawn from the experimental results are flawed, and that they do not provide a sufficient basis for sweeping some other experimental results under the carpet of history. But as a qualified historian and philosopher of science, I’m not alone in that.

    So on my blog you will find various posts about ‘anomalous’ results which merit discussion. Regarding ‘the aether’ results experimentally determined by Miller in 1926 and successfully replicated with modern equipment by Galaev in 2002 for example, I find more than one plausible explanation which is consistent with currently accepted ‘laws of physics’. By making a superficial survey, the troll mistakes my playfully provocative presentation as a statement of belief rather than the invitation to informative discussion that it actually is.


    Rather than any genuine concern Sylvia has for Jerry Ravetz being led astray by ‘cranks’, she is just re-casting discredited slurs. Which is a bit of a yawn.

  5. It’s good to know that you can obviously appreciate how Sylvia feels, tallbloke.

    For now, I will point at this:

    > [S]he obviously feels that the right way to balance her ‘concession’ on the ‘denier’ labelling issue is by using the ‘crank’ label 10 times in a few paragraphs, while berating Jerry for pointing out the negative consequences of alarmist claims made 12 years ago.

    And I will point at the next sentence:

    > The assembled warmista are trying to damn Ravetz by linking to one of his WUWT articles.

    Would you care to justify the standard applied in both sentences?

    Many thanks!

  6. tallbloke says:

    Ah! A visit from one-name-man. The guy who insinuated I (Roger Tattersall AKA Tallbloke) had posted on Josh Halpern’s (AKA Eli Rabbett) website anonymously rather than using my regular handle.

    Naturally I won’t refer to you individually with a collective noun, no matter whether or not it is perceived by you as being as offensive as I find the individual and pejoritive label ‘crank’.

    Shall we talk about identity and imagery and dehumanisation by oh-so-humanist people, or science, or philosophy of science?

  7. I have no reason to believe you are the frolicsome bunny over there, tall one:

    Your persona might not appreciate sock puppetry and the comments do not sound like you.

    What I said was that you were using the same kinds usual bag of tricks. This “anonymous coward” is one of them, incidentally.

    Using this trick helps you shy away for answering my criticism. No, tall one, collective nouns are not more kosher than individual ones. On the contrary, in fact, for nominalists.

    You’re applying a double standard, tall one, and your tricks won’t distract me from this point.


    Here are my strictures on labeling:

    I still have three more to go to make it **Seven Strictures on Labeling**, to echo a famous nominalist.

  8. You give yourself too much credit for my choice of terminology. The reason I started to use the term “cranks” instead of “deniers” is because of a slide in a presentation by Jeroen van der Sluijs, which reminded me that it is the term used by Funtowicz and Ravetz in a table in their 1990 book on Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. In my comments on Jerry’s recent work, I wanted to adhere as much as possible to the terminology used in PNS. As a bonus, used with the term “climate”, and or “contrarians”, it forms an alliteration – much easier on the tongue, as well as easier to remember.

    I never argued that climate science is perfect or does not face institutional challenges with respect to policy – there are legitimate critiques of science even if it is difficult to make them in the current context. The argument in my posts is simply that this is not an excuse for legitimizing crank arguments.

    Why now? Because the issue did not just go away on its own. I would have preferred not to have to write about this at all. But Jerry’s WUWT article was actually published as a journal article and somebody has to respond to it. As someone with a publication on PNS, and a blog inspired by it, I have a stake in the PNS discourse. If PNS cannot come to grips with this, I also have to consider whether or not to dissociate myself.

  9. tallbloke says:

    Sylvia: My copy of ‘Mind and Nature’ sits on my ‘treasured books’ shelf, alongside Lovelock’s ‘Gaia: A new look at Life on Earth’. Indispensable.

    However, there are some serious problems with climate science, both structurally as Jerry Ravetz and Mike Hulme ponted out in their BBC piece, and scientifically, e.g. in the lack of standards for data acquisition, storage, retrieval and statistical manipulation. I find it strange you didn’t engage with my take on those more pertinent issues, rather than dredging up the same old post on speculative cosmology I explained the shape of to you fully two years ago. It makes it look like you’re looking for a cheap shot-easy win, rather than engaging with the substantive issues.

  10. tallbloke says:

    By the way Sylvia, much as I hate to say it, I think that the PNS ‘brand’ was probably irreversably tarnished after Stephen Schneider took it up. But then, books that get burned in both the East and the West are usually the ones really worth studying.

    One example: The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich.

  11. michael hart says:

    I’m glad I read that link to the Ravetz letter, mostly because I had never before heard the Lord May quote:

    ‘I remember Lord May leaning over and assuring me: “I am the President of the Royal Society, and I am telling you the debate on climate change is over.”’

    If we are allowed to have mantelpieces in the future, then I think I want to have that one in a frame above it.

    Now. Deniers, Warmistas and the Self-Deluded aside, who are the prostitutes that Ravetz refers to? And how do I join them? And what is the going-rate, that sort of thing. 🙂

  12. tallbloke says:

    Eli said:
    “choosing up sides happens in the Pre Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus emerges, but it persists afterwards but is only important if there are economic or philosophical drivers blocking acceptance of the science.”

    However, if ‘the consensus’ is itself a political contrivance achieved by suppressing alternative legitimate scientific viewpoints, then those rebels/cranks (TM NUSAP) will persist not because of economic or philosophical considerations, but because they care about scientific ‘truth’ as they see it.

    And when they see ‘the consensus’ gathered together in a single place debating amongst themselves about climate sensitivities ranging from:

    “one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political action.”


    “say S falls to ~2.5K. Does it mean the sceptics are correct and we can all go to the pub and forget about AGW?”


    “1.77 K – over 1 K short of the unsupported 2.8 K number that you plucked out of the air.”

    then the rebels/cranks (TM NUSAP) perceive that there is no such thing as ‘the consensus’ but a ragtag mixture of rent-seekers/ranters/liars/realists who don’t own ‘the science’.

    Oceanologist Professor Judith Curry probably knows better than Sylvia (who cheerfully admits her inexpertise) how to distinguish the various elements.

  13. Doug Proctor says:

    Once a machine is up and running, nobody wants to or should include one who advocates shutting it down. The principle is that, like a captain at sea, you need help getting to the next port, not being told how rough the waters are.

    The time for skeptical inclusivity (again) is when the signs are that the project isn’t working, i.e. you are not getting to port or anywhere like a port. Then the whole thing is rethought. Until then you chug away with those who are prepared to chug away.

    Simple project management.

  14. ReTallbloke comment: “By the way Sylvia, much as I hate to say it, I think that the PNS ‘brand’ was probably irreversably tarnished after Stephen Schneider took it up.”

    I met Stephen Schneider at a workshop, a year or so before he passed on, and actually had a conversation with him about this. If you are versed in PNS literature, you might recall I wrote an article on PNS, “Science in a double-bind” revisiting Bateson, which I mentioned to him because of his writing on science as being in a “double-ethical-bind.” His reply, “I lived it..” If you read the paper attached to my first post, there is some mention of Schneider’s experience. But neither you or Jerry have responded to any of the substantive points raised in either of my posts – instead, changing the subject and trying to get me to respond to your blog. Pardon me for being selective in the use of my time. Good bye.

    [co-moderator writes: I’ve held this message since the 5th because I knew Tallbloke was absent. It’s been getting in my way and I think the subject is stale, let things die, never going to be resolved as such. –Tim Channon]

  15. tallbloke says:

    Ooh look, a substantive squirrel. (TM Willard)

    Sylvia S Tognetti says:
    February 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

    If “cranks” can have “legitimate scientific viewpoints” then the term “science” is also meaningless, regardless of the type.

    Sylvia, if sociologists are to sit in judgement on whose scientific views are legitimate and whose are “cranky” then that is what will make “science” meaningless.

    As Jerry points out regarding your pejoritive use of half a label (Cranks/Rebels) from one of his NUSAP diagrams:

    “The difference between a crank and a rebel may become clear only in retrospect. Which was Galileo? He spent a huge part of his working life on a theory that anyone could have told him would never succeed.”

    If the definition of “crankiness” is to be “views with contrary implications to those of the institionalised science consensus” then all you have is an appeal to authority. That’s a logical fallacy.

    “those who don’t even want to recognize that there is a problem and whose world view is perhaps being challenged.”

    The world has many problems. Fortunately the level of co2 in the atmosphere isn’t one of them. This is because the hydrological cycle has massive redundancy in its capability to adjust the general circulation of the atmosphere as a negative feedback to any increased co2 forcing. Forget positive water vapour feedback, it’s a failed conjecture.

    “As there is consistency among different lines of evidence,”

    This is too woolly to reply to in a specific way. Paradigms accrete lots of confirmatory narratives – that’s ‘normal-science’.

    “perhaps it will help to move away from the obsession with uncertainties in models, and consider value conflicts.”

    I can see why anthropologists, and policy people, and climate scientists who know perfectly well that their models can’t predict the future would want to do that. But it doesn’t change the fact that the underlying co2-driven-climate theory is fatally flawed.

    “can I suggest that it is from Jerry that you should request a correction, since he stated that the claim about an end to snow in Britain was made by the UK Met Office, which is quite separate from Viner’s institute.”

    “According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

    CRU/UEA works very closely with the MET office, as Bill Hartree knows full well.

    Goodbye Sylvia, it was lovely being labelled by you.