New Developments in Climate-Change Battles Illustrate the Difference Between Science and “Post-Normal Science”

By Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
May 03, 2011

As one who, though very widely read in environmental and especially climate science, earned his academic degrees in religion and philosophy, economic ethics, and the history of political thought, I am tremendously grateful to the many scientists who, through their books and articles and in many instances their direct personal communications, have helped me understand the workings of science-and its corruption.

A little over a year ago I wrote an article titled "Wanted for Premeditated Murder: How Post-Normal Science Stabbed Real Science in the Back on the Way to the Illusion of ‘Scientific Consensus' on Global Warming."1 The article explains the difference between real science and "post-normal science" and refers to another article on the subject2 by British scientist Kevin McGrane. Understanding that difference is, I believe, one of the most important things for Christians-indeed for everybody-to grasp in today's world, for a great deal of dangerous nonsense now masquerades as science and undeservedly gets the respect real science has earned, and the consequences for mankind are deadly.

Now another scientist friend, John Swayze, a research chemist, having read about the hyper-politicized, misanthropic views of the editors of one scientific journal,3 has written two paragraphs that state that difference between science and "post-normal science" about as clearly, simply, and concisely as anything I've seen:

Traditionally, science worked something like this: "I was curious, asked a question, and had an idea. So, I tested that idea through experiment and observation, obtaining some results. Those results caused me to ask more questions, posit more ideas (including some which contradicted one another), and test them all through further experiment and observation. After examining all the data, I have reached this conclusion which I am sharing with you. Feel free to examine my data and conclusions, have alternate ideas, test yours and mine, and reach your own conclusions, even if they contradict mine. Eventually, a range of ideas and conclusions may coalesce into a coherent whole, which we will regard as true until a countervailing argument is found to be more compelling. I acknowledge that this process may take generations, also knowing that an upstart with new ideas may upset the applecart at any time. That is a good thing."
Unfortunately, the system has been transformed in many ways to be this: "I had an idea. I liked it a lot because it could transform politics and economics, in ways I would like, if people believed it. So, I set out to find only those data which supported it. When I found data which didn't support my idea, I sought other sources which would allow me to reach the conclusion I wanted. By combining some sources of data and information, and ignoring others, I was able to support the conclusion I had already reached. By joining forces with like-minded others and obtaining public support from news media and politicians, I was able to claim ‘overwhelming scientific consensus,' drowning out voices raised in disagreement. As I had become a prophet uttering profound oracular claims, it was both reasonable and necessary to stifle dissenting views. The truth is what I say it is. Anyone who disagrees is, therefore, a liar and a scoundrel. It is reasonable to use both the courts and the court of public opinion to silence heretics."

Such clear expression puts me, once again, in debt to a scientist friend.

I couldn't help recognizing its applicability to another development in the warfare between science and "post-normal science": the filing of lawsuits against Canadian global warming skeptic Dr. Timothy Ball.4 I take no position on the legal merits of the cases or the veracity of Ball's accusations against global warming alarmists Dr. Andrew Weaver and Dr. Michael Mann, or theirs against him. Canada Free Press, which published many of Ball's articles, has removed most from its site and published a retraction of some claims Ball made about Weaver in one of his articles. (Curiously, I can no longer find the apology at Canada Free Press's website, and links to it in past articles fail.5 But the text of the retraction can be read elsewhere.6) Aside from admitting "one small mistake" (saying Weaver was bowing out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Ball said, "I stand by the story."7 (Weaver earlier sued Canada's National Post; that suit is still pending.)

Whatever the merits of the lawsuits, in an interview about the lawsuits, Ball rehearsed what appears to be a plain example of "post-normal science" in action in the climate debate:

People find it hard to believe that the entire world could be so easily misled by so few people. They, particularly Maurice Strong, established control of all government weather agencies by co-opting the World Meteorological Organization. This gave them control of data collection and archives within each nation [and] then its global dissemination. Each national weather agency controlled politicians and funding of research. They directed funding to one side of the science debate[,] thus allowing later the circular arguments that claims that most scientists and most publications prove the science. The national agencies also determined who served on the IPCC[,] thus providing complete control. The group of scientists who controlled the entire process became so small that Professor Wegman was able to name names in his report to the US Congress. As he demonstrated, they controlled the peer-review process[,] thus allowing them to further control the publication process.8

The rise of "post-normal science," with its politicization of science and corruption of scientific process, is part of a larger philosophical corruption sweeping the West in the last fifty years: postmodernism and its literary sidekick, deconstructionism-according to which language conveys not truth but only power. In both the humanities and the sciences, the Western world is in full flight from its Biblical worldview foundations, jettisoning the rationality necessary for scientific endeavor.

That flight is nowhere more clear and widespread than in the environmental movement, where Western postmodernism and Eastern mysticism combine into a deadly poison. "Truth is being hijacked by radical environmentalism to smuggle in a whole worldview ... It is a religious philosophy which is no longer really secular but has become pagan," says Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi, Indian Christian philosopher and theologian, in his lecture "Logos vs. Mysticism: Environmentalism's Flight from Reason," in the recently published Resisting the Green Dragon video series.9

Fundamental to human nature is the imago Dei, the image of God, and fundamental to that is logos, the capacity to reason: "In the beginning was the Logos," wrote the Apostle John, "and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." That Logos, he added, is "the true light, which enlightens everyone" (John 1:1, 9).

The flight from, indeed the warfare against, reason in "post-normal science" is in fact the outworking of the rejection of God and His representative on Earth, mankind, which is His image (Gen. 1:26). It is no wonder, then, that in environmentalism it goes hand-in-hand with the kind of misanthropy that could lead two editors of the journal Water, Air, and Soil Pollution to write, "Currently, one could argue that the most significant form of global pollution is human population growth."10 Thus they vehemently demand population control to prevent catastrophic, man-made global warming. This is why the environmental movement also poses a challenge to the sanctity of human life, as Dr. Charmaine Yoest argues in her lecture in Resisting the Green Dragon.

The need is great to understand and resist these challenges to reason and the Christian faith.

1. E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., "Wanted for Premeditated Murder," Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, http://www.cornwallalliance.or...
2. http://buythetruth.wordpress.c...
3. J. T. Trevors and M. H. Saier, "A Vaccine Against Ignorance?" Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, February 23, 2011,
5. For example, see, which previously linked to the apology at Canada Free Press.
6. "Dr. Tim Ball: Corruption of Climate Science Has Created 30 Lost Years: Updated with a Retraction via Canada Free Press," Climate Realists, January 10, 2011,
7. John Collins Rudolf, "Climate Scientist Sues Skeptic for Libel," New York Times, February 8, 2011,
8. "Top Climate Skeptic Seeks Help in Double-barrel Courtroom Shootout," johnosullivan's journal, April 7, 2011, http://johnosullivan.livejourn...
9. http://www.resistingthegreendr...
10. Trevors and Saier, "A Vaccine Against Ignorance?"

Topics: American History, Biblical Law, Biology, Church, The, Government, Science, Socialism, World History

Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation,, a network of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, and policy experts dedicated to bringing Biblical worldview, theology, and ethics together with excellent science and economics to pursue simultaneously economic development for the poor, wise environmental stewardship, and the proclamation and defense of the gospel. He has written over ten books, including Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate (1997), and hundreds of articles, technical and popular.

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