Next Up: Wendy Parker and Bjornar Egede-Nissen

October 18, 2010

UPDATE 10:34: Q&A. Christopher Preston just asked a question about Rumsfeld. Alan Robock is now picking up the unknown unknowns thread, suggesting that Wendy doesn’t know what unknown unknowns are; but she disagrees. She thinks we can be in a position to judge the likelihood of unknown unknowns coming into play. Robock is charging forward again, and now he’s on her case about the models. He says that if you’re worried about climate change, you’re trusting in models, because those are the things that freak us out with regard to climate change. Parker just steps right up to the plate and smacks Robock backward. Now David Keith is saying something about the left-right divide, specifically with regard to Wendy’s very interesting comments about unintended consequences. She defers due to time. Clark Miller is now asking about breast cancer and geoengineering, or something like that. (Not really. He’s asking about the panels of people from a range of disciplinary backgrounds who evaluate the variety of considerations associated with things like breast cancer. But it’s much crazier to think about breast cancer and geoengineering without that conceptual bridge. Holly Buck made  a point about trust being down across the board.

I’m finding it very hard to liveblog and formulate a question, so I feel like I’m not participating as much as I should be. Multitasking is my nemesis.

UPDATE 10:17: Bjornar is talking about scientists and the role of science in the public debate. Here’s his abstract. Scientists, essentially, are supposed to be the neutral umpires of truth. According to many, they’re not supposed to be advocates of change. When issues get complex and uncertainty grows, there are a lot of legitimate perspectives on what can be done. There’s not just one truth out there, he says. Scientists share the public space with many other people, he says. There are four fault lines, he says, quoting here:

1) complexity and the limits of science

2) scientists as gatekeepers; (Oh no he di’int.) He just accused scientists of being foxes who guard the henhouse.

3) pushing boundaries; science is leading society on this issue.

4) paraochialism and conflicts of interests.

UPDATE 10:02: Wendy Parker is up. Here’s her abstract. She’s quoting Dale Jamieson right now. Wants to focus on the natural scientists, and specifically on the reliability of prediction, thinks we should instead talk about the trustworthiness of consequences. The responsibilities are:

1) to attempt to foresee and predict both the positive and negative consequences

2) to carefully evaluate the extent to which trustworth predictions of the consequences of specific SRM interventions can be made.

3) to communicate to the public the results

Wants to focus on 1 and 2.

Prediction, she says, is the “best available” pitfall. She just quoted Donald Rumsfeld. Why do so many philosophers do this?

What are the unintended consquences of SRM inquiry? Seems unpopular with some groups, even those who are otherwise concerned about climate change… this may reinforce concerns about the legitimacy of scientists and the climate science. Very interesting idea. So I guess the thought is that people who otherwise might support action on climate change are those who might also be turned off by SRM, and so therefore we could end up totally undercutting the climate case simply by going forward with research.

Is public involvement an answer? Having some public involvement may help to provide some sort of answer.


I am surrounded by empty cream cheese packets.

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