Saturday, February 13, 2010

sociology of climate science

A quick thought experiment: If climate scientists were infinitely intelligent, would their results be any more useful for policy?

My claim is "no."

And the reason is because of a selection bias for people who enter the field and sociological influences.

If scientists where infinity intelligent, they’d still be herd animals like the rest of us. If the herd is going in one direction, only a small portion of the population will choose to go the other way. This theoretical herd of infinitely intelligent scientists will apply their intelligence to mock them.

To my mind, the best scientists are borderline autistic (a la big bang’s Sheldon). These people can abandon their own ideas with no thought to social consequences.

And herein lies the problem with the "save the world" sciences (social work, environmental science, climate science, etc). They inadvertently select for people who want to save the world: people who are both highly socially aware and who have chosen their field because they see it as a way to bring positive change.

Being socially aware is a hindrance in science because it makes it harder to bear the scorn of the herd when you disagree with them.

Choosing a science as one's path in life based on the hope to be able to help humanity is a hindrance because it means that if it turns out that there actually isn't anything wrong (that there is no danger to save humanity from) is a form of failure to achieve one's hopes. Additionally, it'd likely mean the eventual loss of one's funding, since climate science without anthropogenic global warming is pretty boring.

So, no I don't think greater intelligence or capability would be remotely useful, but a little bit of impartiality would go a long ways.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

無一事而不學,無一時而不學,無一處而不學。 ..................................................