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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Other Cases of Reticence

According to James Hansen:

I suggest that ‘scientific reticence’, in some cases, hinders communication with the public about dangers of global warming. If I am right, it is important that policy-makers recognize the potential influence of this phenomenon.

Scientific reticence may be a consequence of the scientific method. Success in science depends on objective skepticism. Caution, if not reticence, has its merits. However, in a case such as ice sheet instability and sea level rise, there is a danger in excessive caution. We may rue reticence, if it serves to lock in future disasters.

Barber (1961) describes a ‘resistance by scientists to scientific discovery’, with a scholarly discussion of several sources of cultural resistance. There are aspects of the phenomenon that Barber discusses in the ‘scientific reticence’ that I describe, but additional factors come into play in the case of global climate change and sea level rise.

I can illustrate ‘scientific reticence’ best via personal experiences. The examples are relevant to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process of consensus building, specifically to the issue of possible sea level rise.

There are other cases of ‘scientific reticence.‘ Nobody talks about phlogiston any more. Most scientists simply ignore the evidence that the sky is green. Most important of all, the global-warming believers are reticent about contrary evidence.

There are more examples here.

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