George Monbiot is concerned — very concerned! — about the exoneration of Dr. Phil Jones. The failure of other people to be as concerned as he is points, as such failures often do, to systemic corruption. Or maybe to something even more troubling.
Monbiot concludes that journalists and scientists live in Two Different Worlds. You'd think that someone who's been following the climate "debate" for years would've figured that out long before now.
None of it made sense: the intolerant dismissal of requests for information, the utter failure to engage when the hacked emails were made public, the refusal by other scientists to accept that anything was wrong. Then I read an article by the computer scientist Steve Easterbrook, and for the first time the light began to dawn.Easterbrook, seeking to defend Jones and his colleagues, describes a closed culture in which the rest of the world is a tedious and incomprehensible distraction. "Scientists normally only interact with other scientists. We live rather sheltered lives … to a scientist, anyone stupid enough to try to get scientific data through repeated FoI requests quite clearly deserves our utter contempt. Jones was merely expressing (in private) a sentiment that most scientists would share – and extreme frustration with people who clearly don't get it."
What scientists might regard as trivial and annoying, journalists and democracy campaigners see as central and irreducible. We speak in different tongues and inhabit different worlds.Or as Pierre Bourdieu puts it in Science of Science and Reflexivity, "each discipline (as a field) is defined by a particular nomos, a principle of vision and division, a principle of construction of objective reality irreducible to that of another discipline." Roll over Wittgenstein, and tell Saussure the news!
Obviously, this raises interesting questions. But I think it's fair to say that the possible advent of a new "scientific" species — Homo sivanus, let's call it — is not one of them.
Perhaps eventually we'll split into two species. Reproducing only with each other, scientists will soon become so genetically isolated that they'll no longer be able to breed with other humans.Perhaps. But another, more likely possibility is that Monbiot worried that the CRU hack posed a threat to his own credibility, was accordingly a wee bit hasty in calling for Dr. Jones to resign, and is now trying to backpedal by, like, getting all philosophical and shit.
Anyway, if we're to forestall Monbiot's imaginary evolutionary catastrophe, scientists must stop walling themselves off from the everyday world.
Painful and disorienting as it is, they must engage with that irritating distraction called the rest of the world. Everyone owes something to the laity, and science would die if it were not for the billions we spend on it. Scientists need make no intellectual concessions, but they have a duty to understand the context in which they operate.See, I'd argue that Phil Jones et al did understand the context in which they operate, on the grounds that they recognized McIntyre's FoI filings as "trivial and annoying." Had these scientists really been as cloistered as Monbiot suggests, they may've been more likely to view McIntyre as an honest truth-seeker with whom there was no good reason not to cooperate. And indeed, political calculation is precisely what they tended to be accused of, precisely because they ran afoul of the Virgin/Whore Complex that outsiders tend to impose on the sciences.
Monbiot understands that while science and journalism are both closed worlds, one of them is much better at self-regulation than the other. Instead of thinking about why that might be, and considering "Climategate" — and his own reaction to it — in that context, he resorts to maudlin abstractions like these:
The incomprehension with which science and humanities students regard each other is a tragedy of lost opportunities. Early specialisation might allow us to compete in the ever more specialised labour market, but it equips us for nothing else. As Professor Don Nutbeam, the vice-chancellor of Southampton University, complains: "Young people learn more and more about less and less."Right. 'Cause the orchestrated misrepresentation of a bunch of hacked e-mails has everything to do with the philosophical schism between science and the humanities, and little if anything to do with the political and economic interests of the people who own the media.
Which just goes to show that OMG we all live in different worlds, and as Krazy Kat pointed out, "lenguage is, that we may mis-unda-stend each udda."
We are deprived by our stupid schooling system of most of the wonders of the world, of the skills and knowledge required to navigate it, above all of the ability to understand each other. Our narrow, antiquated education is forcing us apart like the characters in a Francis Bacon painting, each locked in our boxes, unable to communicate.Oh, please. Once again: What happened here is that some climate scientists had their e-mails stolen, the media allowed denialists to define what those e-mails meant, and Monbiot found it professionally expedient to portray himself as God's Last Honest Man. Now that the hysteria has died down somewhat, and someone owes someone else an apology (hint hint), Monbiot sees fit to hide his head in the sands of existential angst.
The cheaper the hood, the gaudier the patter.