Sunday, August 01, 2010

the honest broker, discussion

Roger at Face Value
Pielke versus Schneider

update, 2nd August: also The Honestly Broken and And in the End ( the comments are part of the essential reading)
update, 5th August: The Honest Broker (this one is at Pielke jnrs blog, Michael Tobis joins in at comment 63 and there is some to and fro with Pielke jnr after that)

Great discussion here, in the comments, between Michael Tobis, Roger Pielke jnr and others including Richard Tol about Roger's book The Honest Broker.

What is the nature of science, the nature of politics and how do they interrelate?

Extract from an informative review of The Honest Broker:
Roger A. Pielke, Jr., The honest broker: making sense of science in policy and politics:
(Pielke) develops four idealized roles for scientists in the policy process. The pure scientist attempts to remain detached from politics and policy, focusing only on research without consideration for its use. The science arbiter answers scientific questions for decision makers but avoids considering normative questions. The issue advocate uses scientific information to advance a specific political agenda or policy alternative. Finally, the honest broker of policy alternatives expands, or at least clarifies, the scope of choice for the decision maker through the integration of knowledge and a broad consideration of possible alternatives.
Pielke argues that the decision contexts in which scientists operate range from “Tornado Politics” to “Abortion Politics.” By Tornado Politics, Pielke means a context characterized by limited choices, agreement about values, and high certainty about the relationship between available alternatives and valued outcomes. Thus, a group of people deciding whether to seek shelter from an approaching tornado is engaged in Tornado Politics. In contrast, by Abortion Politics, Pielke means a context characterized by a large number of possible alternatives, competing goals and values, and uncertainty about how alternatives relate to valued outcomes. Pielke (p. 43) posits that scientific information can help “assess decision alternatives” in situations involving Tornado Politics, but it can only “justify decision commitments” in situations involving Abortion Politics. This is because, Pielke argues, scientific information only compels action in instances without substantial value conflict—science cannot reconcile conflicting values.
From the discussion at Michael Tobis's blog, Pielke jnr said "If you think that you are in a debate that can be resolved in some manner through appeals to science, you are wrong."

I have just ordered my own copy of The Honest Broker

The Michael Tobis blog discussion is about whether climate change is a Tornado type discussion (mainly empirical) or an Abortion type discussion (mainly about values). Since it does fit the latter category, Roger is correct IMO. We would end up achieving more useful results (for example, more research into energy alternatives such as the Boron car, serious development of pilot nuclear programs like the Integral Fast Reactor) if believers became less zealous about the necessity of achieving CO2 reduction targets in definite timelines.

The public believes in AGW but is not prepared to alter their lifestyle to achieve reductions. The demise of Rudd and Turnbull illustrate the non productive nature of a radical "must do" stance on this issue.

Also scientists should not pretend to be certain about projecting trends 50 years ahead, the should acknowledge the uncertainty involved in such projections (and the state of the science in general) more openly. For evaluation of the science itself I recommend the Pielke snr blog.

No comments: