Science has changed. More precisely, in post normal conditions the behavior of people doing science has changed. Ravetz describes a post normal situation by the following criteria:
- Facts are uncertain
- Values are in conflict
- Stakes are high
- Immediate action is required
The difference between Kuhnian normal science, or the behavior of those doing science under normal conditions, and post normal science is best illustrated by example. We can use the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson as an example. Facts were uncertain–they always are to a degree; no values were in conflict; the stakes were not high; and, immediate action was not required. What we see in that situation is those doing science acting as we expect them to, according to our vague ideal of science. Because facts are uncertain, they listen to various conflicting theories. They try to put those theories to a test. They face a shared uncertainity and in good faith accept the questions and doubts of others interested in the same field. Their participation in politics is limited to asking for money. Because values are not in conflict no theorist takes the time to investigate his opponent’s views on evolution or smoking or taxation. Because the field of personal values is never in play, personal attacks are minimized. Personal pride may be at stake, but values rarely are. The stakes for humanity in the discovery of the Higgs are low: at least no one argues that our future depends upon the outcome. No scientist straps himself to the collider and demands that it be shut down. And finally, immediate action is not required; under no theory is the settling of the uncertainty so important as to rush the result. In normal science, according to Kuhn, we can view the behavior of those doing science as puzzle solving. The details of a paradigm are filled out slowly and deliberately.
The situation in climate science are close to the polar opposite of this. That does not mean and should not be construed as a criticism of climate science or its claims. The simple point is this: in a PNS situation, the behavior of those doing science changes. To be sure much of their behavior remains the same. They formulate theories; they collect data, and they test their theories against the data. They don’t stop doing what we notional describe as science. But, as foreshadowed above in the description of how high energy particle physicists behave, one can see how that behavior changes in a PNS situation. There is uncertainty, but the good faith that exists in normal science, the faith that other people are asking questions because they actually want the answer is gone. Asking questions, raising doubts, asking to see proof becomes suspect in and of itself. And those doing science are faced with a question that science cannot answer: Does this person really want the answer or are they a merchant of doubt? Such a question never gets asked in normal science. Normal science doesn’t ask this question because science cannot answer it.