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Many activists still seem to think the difficulty is purely a matter of knowledge: if only they can explain what’s happening and what has to be done about it to enough people, they think, people will change their ways and everything will be fine.This approach hasn’t worked well, in case you haven’t noticed.The rise and fall of climate change activism, for example, makes a good proxy measurement for the failure of industrial civilization as a whole to engage in basic reality testing.With each year that passes, the annual cost of weather-related disasters rises, the broader financial impacts of climate change take a bigger bite out of the global economy, and such unsubtle signs as seawater flooding the streets of Miami Beach, methane explosions blasting craters in the Siberian permafrost, and freighters steaming through the formerly impassable Northwest Passage sound nature’s equivalent of a warning klaxon.
Those changes of angle happened partly because it gets boring to talk about the same thing in the same way over and over again, of course, but there was a deeper factor as well.
A few of his colleagues have taken up the gauntlet he threw down—last I heard, the number is up to half a dozen or so, out of the tens of thousands of scientists currently researching climate change.
The rest keep on flying carbon-spewing jets to conferences where they talk learnedly about how we all have to stop spewing carbon, and then wonder why so few people take them seriously. If climate scientists—the people who have the most reason to understand what we’re doing to the Earth’s climate by using its atmosphere as a gaseous trash can for our wastes—aren’t willing to change their own behavior in response to that knowledge, how can they expect anyone else to do so?
The difficulty with paradigm-driven science, though, is that no matter how good the procedures, questions, and answers mandated by any paradigm may be, sooner or later they stop yielding useful insights into nature.
At this point whatever scientific field has relied on the paradigm in question slams facefirst into crisis; you see the endless circular debates, the frantic elaboration of existing theory, and all the other signs of a discipline that’s lost its way.