Scientific Understandings: Methodological Approaches of Scientific Community Science and Nature – Impact of Scientific Revolution? Your Viewpoints on Government

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  • Slide 1
  • Scientific Understandings: Methodological Approaches of Scientific Community Science and Nature Impact of Scientific Revolution? Your Viewpoints on Government Funded Scientists Media Portrayal of Environmental Science Scientific Method, Reliability & Public Perception A new view from science Sustainability Science
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  • Questions for today What role do you believe environmental scientists can play in providing solutions to environmental and social problems? How do you view Government-funded research scientists in terms of what they say / advise with respect to environmental issues?
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  • How do people think about the environment? ORiordan, 2000
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  • Nature and Science: Historical Views Scientific revolution from Copernicus in 1543 to Isaac Newtons Opticks in 1703 Francis Bacon (1561-1626) asserted that scientific knowledge equals power over nature (Pepper, 1996; p.143) & viewed mastery over nature as a divine journey sanctioned by God He viewed that scientists should assume the moral duty of improving societys material lot by mastering & manipulating nature A powerful justification that helped classical science become the dominant ideology over the last 250 years, with scientific advances seen as human progress (whatever their envtl or social impact) See Reading from Smith (1990) Uneven Development
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  • Nature & Science : Todays Links Science has become harnessed to industrial capitalism as never before, but has gained independence from direct productive needs (e.g. through Universities, research centres etc.) Systems approaches dominate (as they have since Darwin) Reductionist approaches (based on understanding of ever smaller components of nature) remains central to scientific advances (e.g. GM, atm chemistry) Perpetuates view of nature external to human system
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  • How do you view Govt-funded Research Scientists? They do a good job, but Govt relay it to us wrong Fairly good An essential part of public education In very high respect Highly as they can back up theories to make people believe something needs to be done Very valuable and useful They are essential as they not only offer solutions, they also give opinions on proposed ideas Credible and should be listened to Increasingly effective Cynically Sceptically with a pinch-of-salt as they may be pressured into decisions in the pockets of politicians, their views may be unreliable & unjustified They are biased towards big business Powerless as just argue about issues in offices rather than produce solutions They never give the whole picture and tell the public what they want to hear I dont believe them because they have a new theory every week Science is sometimes wrong so there must be some skepticism cannot be truly independent of funders as would lose their jobs
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  • Other Interesting Views for Module Advice is generally good but often too late for prevention as damage has already been done CC squabbles over extent rather than adaptation? I think they should be a lot more radical & do something about issues rather than debating them Is this the role of scientists, society or politicians? No real view Much public apathy & lack of awareness No news is Bad News Often start with answer then look for the evidence rather than using all evidence to come to conclusion Are scientific methods rigorous and objective?
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  • Reasons for Public Distrust of Science A different knowledge culture !? Scientific approaches - deductive approach Media portrayal - sensationalist and new alternative ideas Widened access to full range of scientific views via internet, especially problem for trans-disciplinary subject such as environmental science
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  • From Common (2000)
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  • Tabloids Stories about personalities & European politics Fuel duty not linked to carbon dioxide emissions The idea that carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming is wrong (a Distinguished Science Writer) Failure of the Kyoto Protocol will 'doom mankind' It was revealed that Mount Everest was MELTING because of global warming
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  • Broadsheets More consistent Before, during and after the conference But: Conspiracy theories & little review of real issues: Real subtext' to transfer jobs & prosperity from USA to Europe and the developing world Unbalanced representation of scientific consensus: A 'significant number of experts' deny the link from human activity to climate change.
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  • How do Scientists Work?? What do you perceive as the main characteristics of scientific studies?
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  • Scientific principles ? - The truth is out there .. Logical structure of the processes by which the search for trustworthy knowledge advances Marshall, 1985; p.113. Research endeavour to discover facts by study or investigation. Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1988 Positivist view - science is about explanations to laws that can be used together to explain reality / the nature of things Laws tested by developing theories and testable hypotheses
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  • Scientific Method How would you test the following statements? All Leeds students drink alcohol Environment and Society lectures are dull GM crops are damaging to insect life Global warming is the result of human actions
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  • Scientific Methods Available Theories converted to hypotheses - propositions whose truth is subjected to analysis Scientific study = theory building, testing and ongoing analysis Analysis: observations experimentation modelling Model - simplification of reality science is one of the few human activities in which errors are systematically criticised, and in time, corrected Popper, 1974 Peer review (by fellow scientists) ensures constant external evaluation: www having an impact on this?
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  • Scientific Approaches Two main philosophies Induction Knowledge gained only from facts of experience Observation driven, not theory driven Problems: Not logical - e.g. Some Env and Society lectures are dull This lecture is for Env and Society This lecture is dull Impossible to do inductive research cant measure everything
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  • Deductive Approach Views science as: Problem Theory Test E.g. GM field trials to assess impact on insect life To test a hypothesis much easier to prove it wrong than right Impossible to prove a hypothesis as true- e.g. all swans are white Requires a refutable hypothesis - aim is to disprove It is anomalies that advance theory Problems: Possible not to reject hypothesis even when falsified Requires split into multiple working hypotheses You never fully prove anything
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  • Implications of Deductive Approach on Environmental Science Uncertainty may provide justification for non- sustainable use of resources May create a false sense of security Link to political distortion a real concern - is there a political agenda to exaggerate env problem to maintain scientific funding? Needs new science-policy relations to meet public concerns over the integrity of science
  • Slide 19
  • Scientific Realities and Information Sources Science is constantly evolving its view Can never offer definitive statements of how it is Advances often lead to major changes in current thinking (paradigms) with major effects on best policy A model is never perfect, but can be constantly improved Published science advances through peer-review in academic journals (e.g. Nature, Science, Scientific American) No review of material posted on world-wide web, and yet widely accepted as legitimate information source
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  • Scientific Community Science operates as a society of its own, perpetuating certain ways of working & power relations (based on status, gender, age, social networks) Career success based on publications & grant successes regulated through v. thorough peer review process E.g. NERC QUEST 3 Proposal on Socio-economic Implications of Climate Change reviewed by 14 leading scientists from across the globe
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  • Societal Implications Must avoid using scientific uncertainty as an excuse for doing nothing to conserve envtl resources = Precautionary principle Must use science to anticipate and avoid, rather than react and mend Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation Rio Declaration, Principle 15 (UNCED, 1992)
  • Slide 22
  • Science and Policy Different perspectives of scientists & policy-makers Needs dialogue between generalisation and specific contexts = case-study approaches (Trudgill & Richards, 1997) Must admit, and attempt to quantify, uncertainty Must involve users - policy makers & public Science must beware of misuse for political, economic or social reasons
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  • Uneasy interface between science & people Scientific problems due to - Speed of research & manner knowledge evolves Selective use of data Environmental sciences role is to - Retain clarity of the issue Identify env responses to human disturbances Monitor extent of problems Identify appropriate scales of remedial action
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  • The modern environmental science framework (ORiordan, 2000) No longer simply scienc