Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
1. Why controversies? Learning to be constructivist
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

×
Saving this for later? Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime – even offline.
Text the download link to your phone
Standard text messaging rates apply

1. Why controversies? Learning to be constructivist

555
views

Published on

Published in: Technology, Spiritual

0 Comments
4 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
555
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
3
Comments
0
Likes
4
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
No notes for slide
  • 27/08/12 This course is meant to help you to accept and make peace with controversies. Unlike what is often believed and hoped, conflict is not an unfortunate accident in the history of humanity and certainly not one that will be solved by the development of Science and Technology. In fact, far from being marginal or accidental, controversies play a crucial role in the practice of techno-science. Controversies do not constitute a failure of research and their existence doesn’t threaten the objectivity of scientific theories or the efficacy of technical objects. Controversies represent a normal stage in the development of most scientific theories and technical artifacts. Not only they are unavoidable, but, if correctly handled, they can also be useful. The problem with controversies is that our culture is poorly equipped to explore and describe them. Not only we lack the conceptual and methodological tools to understand them, but are also reticent to look at them.
  • 27/08/12 This reticence is due to a large extent to the ideology that, at least from the Renaissance, has accompanied the development modern science and technology. For no less than five centuries, we reassured ourselves with an abiding promise of peace and harmony, the grand utopia that techno-scientific progress will one day deliver us from conflicts and war.
  • 27/08/12 All the fathers of modern science sealed this promise and their words still resonate in our culture. The slogan often attributed to Francis Bacon (but in fact appearing in Thomas Hobbes books) ‘scientia potentia est’ is, for example, very close to the contemporary faith in industrial development. Giving us the power to control Nature, technoscientific progress will bring us to the land of plenty and liberate us from the competition for the resources.
  • 27/08/12 Along the same lines, the famous motto of Gottfried Leibniz ‘Calculemus’ summarize the belief that rational discussion and scientific methods will be able to solve peacefully (and in the best possible way) all human controversies. Instead of fighting for our disagreements, we will al sit around a table and, using ration logic and experimental science, we will calculate who is wrong and who is right and we will all be good friend again.
  • 27/08/12 To be sure, this is a rough caricature and modern reflection on techno-science is not exempt from fears and dystopias. All in all, however, popular conceptions of science and technology remain profoundly influenced by the hope that progress will ultimately dissolve controversies. Separated by almost a century, two covers of the journal ‘Popular Science’ preaches the same unshakable faith in the idea that one day collective life will be scientifically organized (to the point of eradicating the worst nightmare of modern society: urban traffic). Of course, as all utopia, its fulfillment is always postponed and the fact that we are still living the same dream as a century ago proofs that these dream is not becoming any truer.
  • 27/08/12 Five centuries after the Renaissance, controversies are still with us. Take any important subject in science and technology and you will find a controversy. Name any of the issues that trouble contemporary societies – energy production…
  • 27/08/12 … industrial manifactoring …
  • 27/08/12 … biotechnologies …
  • 27/08/12 … nanotechnologies …
  • 27/08/12 … global warming …
  • 27/08/12 … biodiversity …
  • 27/08/12 … and of course not just in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences as well – and you will find a controversy. Sciences and technologies have undoubtedly developed through the centuries, but we don’t seem to be any closer to the end of controversies. If something, the last decades seem characterized by an unprecedented explosion of conflicts around science and technology.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 There are many different ways in which the survival of controversies are explained (without renouncing to the utopia of a pacified and pacifying science), but they all share the same simplistic idea of the relationships between science and society.
  • 27/08/12 According to this idea science would proceed straightforwardly toward through (and technology toward efficacy) if it wasn’t for the social influences that in many different ways hijack or deviate the dynamic of science. It is because of this deviation that Science cannot reach truth directly but has to pass through the tortuous path of controversies.
  • 27/08/12 One popular explanation based on this simplistic idea has come to be called the ‘Public Understanding of Science’. According to this approach, scientific controversies still exist because the public opinion has not been informed and educated enough. Proponents of biotechnologies, for examples, often claim that GMOs are still the object of great public debate, because the public still don’t understand the basics of bioengineering. People don’t understand, thus they are scared and thus they refuse something that would only be beneficial for them.
  • 27/08/12 The opposite explanation can be called ‘Capitalist science’. According to this approach, controversies still exist because Science is not free from the influence of social pressures, economic interests and political forces. The opponents of biotechnologies, for example, often criticize them claiming that, despite their inefficacy and their many social disadvantages, these technologies are maintained by the economic interest of the corporations that invested in them.
  • 27/08/12
  • More apparent than real (--- ADD REFERENCE ---), the recent proliferation of controversy is both a good and bad news. It is good news, because it derives in part from a growing demand of transparence. Sciences and technologies have become so pervasive and influential in our societies that more and more people demands their results and procedures to be publicly discussed.
  • Too many times the purity of science and the myth of its infallible consensus have been used to exclude non-experts from the discussion: “no need for public discussion, Science will decide”. Confining quarrels within the walls of scientific laboratories, of course, have never dampened controversies, but it did make them less visible. The increasing visibility of controversies is therefore a consequence of a long-awaited and legitimated demand for democratization of techno-scientific debate. And it is therefore good news.
  • At the same time, the recent proliferation of controversies is bad news because it partly derives from the increasing ability of some lobbies to deliberately feed scientific controversies in order to stall political action. First employed by tobacco industries to uphold the doubts on the connection between smoking and cancer (--- ADD REFERENCE ---), this skeptics strategy is now used on issues so distant as climate change, acid rains and ozone depletion (often by the same skeptics organizations) (--- ADD REFERENCE ---). The (evil) genius of this strategy is to highlight the disagreements among the experts amplifying the complexity of science to the point of making it completely opaque: “no need for public decision, since Science can’t decide no one can”. The strategy is opposite, but the result is the same: the exclusion of non-experts from the technoscientific debate.
  • A recipe that was so successful in blocking the political action against the tobacco industry and that is so successful in blocking the political efforts to mitigate climate change.
  • 27/08/12 The recent proliferation of controversies derives from these two parallel movements: the failure of the long-established strategy of silencing public debate through the supposed harmony of science and the raise of the new strategy of silencing public debate by drowning it in talk-shows’ cacophony. We will call positivism the first strategy and relativism the second. Both are opposite to controversy mapping.
  • 27/08/12 The recent proliferation of controversies derives from these two parallel movements: the failure of the long-established strategy of silencing public debate through the supposed harmony of science and the raise of the new strategy of silencing public debate by drowning it in talk-shows’ cacophony. We will call positivism the first strategy and relativism the second. Both are opposite to controversy mapping.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 This is one the best definition of positivism that I found. To summarize it, positivism is the idea scientific truth and technical efficiency exists independently from the work of scientists and engineers.
  • 27/08/12 The legend of Newton and his apple is a good illustration of this approach. Newton work has nothing to do with the existence of gravitational forces and gravitation laws. The apple exists and always existed independently from the English scientists. Newton has merely revealed gravitation, he has not constructed or influenced it.
  • 27/08/12 This idea of science explains, among other things, why the the sociology of science has long remained a marginal discipline. If scientific truth is completely separated from the work of the scientists, the only things that sociology can study are the careers of scientists and the role of scientific institutions. This ‘residual’ approach has been advocated, among others by Pierre Boudieu, who in is book on the sociology of science claims that the very role of scientific institutions is to shield scientists from social influences. Scientists, of course, need money and support to carry out their researches. Since these resources are to be found outside science, there is a risk that society can influence scientific research and thereby ‘deviate’ it. Scientific institutions, when they work as they should, are meant to provide scientists with the resources they need while ‘protecting’ them from outside influences.
  • 27/08/12 In this course, we will on the contrary propose another type of sociology of science: one that believes that scientific knowledge itself can become the object of sociological enquiry. But before arriving to that, let me present a few books that have played a crucial role in the progressive moving away from positivism.
  • 27/08/12 We are here very far from the sociology of science. Karl Popper is not a sociologists. He is a philosopher and his argument in “the logic of scientific discovery” draws entirely on formal logic (and not at all on the empirical observation of science). This book, nevertheless, is famous because for the first time it directly question the positive idea of science: that is to say the idea that something is scientific because it is true.
  • 27/08/12 Popper’s argument starts from the observation of a crucial property of formal logic. Universal statements can not be verified empirically because counterfactuals can not be empirically excluded. No matter if all the swans you have observed are white, not even if you have observed thousands. The truth of universal statements can not be ‘induced’ from empirical observation. On the other hand, universal statements CAN be falsified empirically. In fact a single counterfactual observation is sufficient to do so.
  • 27/08/12 The observation “all swans are white” cannot be proved true by the empirical method, but it can be proven false.
  • 27/08/12 Drawing on this logic asymmetry, Popper enunciates his famous demarcation principle. Theories are not scientific because they are true, they are scientific because they can be falsified. Popper then used this demarcation principles to deny the scientificity of marxism and psychoanalysis.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 With Kuhn, we are moving closer to the actual practice of science. Kuhn is an historian of science and a former physicist.
  • The merit of Kuhn is to have shown that the development of science does not occurs in a gradual and incremental way. This is true for what he calls the periods of ‘normal’ science, where in facts science develops in a way that resembles to the positivist description that we give of it. Normal science, however, tend to exhaust is capacity for development and advancing require moments of radical break that Kuhns calls ‘scientific revolutions’. These are periods of turbulence (and sometimes violence) but they are necessary to renew the very basis of scientific research and revive its impetus.
  • The merit of Kuhn is to have shown that the development of science does not occurs in a gradual and incremental way. This is true for what he calls the periods of ‘normal’ science, where in facts science develops in a way that resembles to the positivist description that we give of it. Normal science, however, tend to exhaust is capacity for development and advancing require moments of radical break that Kuhns calls ‘scientific revolutions’. These are periods of turbulence (and sometimes violence) but they are necessary to renew the very basis of scientific research and revive its impetus.
  • The merit of Kuhn is to have shown that the development of science does not occurs in a gradual and incremental way. This is true for what he calls the periods of ‘normal’ science, where in facts science develops in a way that resembles to the positivist description that we give of it. Normal science, however, tend to exhaust is capacity for development and advancing require moments of radical break that Kuhns calls ‘scientific revolutions’. These are periods of turbulence (and sometimes violence) but they are necessary to renew the very basis of scientific research and revive its impetus.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 The rhythm of ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ science depends on the role played in the practice of research by ‘scientific paradigms’. According to Kuhn, a paradigm is the set of knowledge that are taken for granted in a given moment of normal science and that constitute the basis and the limit of all the research that is done in such period. Most of the time, most of the scientific observations fall within the paradigm. Still, since paradigms are by definition reduced ‘vision of the world’, there are always observations that fall beyond their limits. In periods of normal science these observations are forced in the paradigm or just dismissed as errors. Their accumulation overtime, however, forces more and more scientists to question the existing paradigm and to propose new ones. The passage between the old paradigm and the new one is never pacific, it always entails conflicts and controversies.
  • 27/08/12 Kuhn’s theory has the merit of highlighting the role of controversies in science, but it remains fully within the positivist paradigm of the sociology of science, as shown by the idea that subsequent paradigms are always ‘larger’ and therefore better than previous ones. In Kuhn’s book, however, there is an important notion that is incompatible with the positivist paradigm: the notion of paradigm incommensurability. According to such notion, two opposing paradigms are so inherently different that it is impossible to evaluate the validity of one by comparing it to the other. Leaving the old paradigm for the new one always requires a leap of faith: a complete shift in one’s way of looking at the world. This leap of faith cannot be based on empirical observations or logical deduction, but on other basis, like the trust in someone or the will to oppose to someone else.
  • 27/08/12 To move away completely from positivism, we have to way for David Bloor and the school of Edinburgh.
  • 27/08/12 According to the strong programme of the sociology of science, the explanation that we give of scientific dynamics have to be impartial and symmetrical. Being impartial means recognizing that not only the errors, but also the success of science need to be explained. And being symmetrical means explaining errors and success with the same type of explanation. You cannot say that Galileo believed in heliocentrism because the earth revolves around the sun and Tycho Brahe believed that in geocentrism because he was catholic. Scientific truth and falsity must both been explained by social reasons.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 One of the examples given by Bloor is taken from the history of mathematics and it is interesting because it shows how German mathematicians preferred to change the definition of polyhedrons instead of questioning the authority of Euler.
  • 27/08/12 One of the examples given by Bloor is taken from the history of mathematics and it is interesting because it shows how German mathematicians preferred to change the definition of polyhedrons instead of questioning the authority of Euler.
  • 27/08/12 One of the examples given by Bloor is taken from the history of mathematics and it is interesting because it shows how German mathematicians preferred to change the definition of polyhedrons instead of questioning the authority of Euler.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 Cercare nel Golem di Pin
  • 27/08/12 Another important book that radically questioned the value of positivism is the Leviathan and the Air Pump by Steven Shapin and Simon Shaffer.
  • 27/08/12 Analyzing the controversy between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes, the two English historians show how modern science it’s very invention based on three constructions or ‘technologies”.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 The material technology of the scientific laboratory (the air pump), the social technology of the scientific community (the Royal Society) and the literary technology of the scientific literature (the scientific literature). As Thomas Hobbes pointed out in his critics of Boyle’s system, none of these three technology is coherent with the positivist idea of science. Far from being independent from the work of the scientists, the empirical science defended by Boyle was from the beginning to the end a construction of the scientists who created it.
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 ” Laboratory Life” is the book that more than the anyone else has contributed to the overcoming of the positivism. This book is innovative also in the methods that it uses, as for the first times the traditional methods of epistemology (formal logic and history of science) are abandoned for an anthropologic approach. For the first time, the work of scientists is actually observed in its practice. For the first time, instead of studying science on the basis of the account that is given of it in scientific textbooks, Bruno Latour has actually spent months of observation in Roger Guillemin's laboratory at the Salk Institute.
  • 27/08/12 The result of the observation was the discovery that the science within the laboratories does not resembles to the science that is described in the textbook. In fact it is almost opposite.
  • 27/08/12 This observation is interesting, but not ground breaking. Everyone knows that textbook provide a simplified version of science, describing the current state of scientific consensus more than how it has been reached. What is really original about Latour and Woolgar’s book it that they reverse the order of importance: claiming what is true in science depends on how scientific consensus is established and not the other way around.
  • 27/08/12 This has been show, for example, by showing how scientific statements has to pass through the stages of a long career before the can become true. Attention: it is not that they pass through the stages of their career because they are true; they become true because they pass through all this stages.
  • 27/08/12 Where to learn know more about the construction of science (1)
  • 27/08/12 Where to learn know more about the construction of science (2)
  • 27/08/12 Where to learn know more about the construction of science (3)
  • Arrived at this point, after all we have learnt on the co-construction of science and society, we can try to provide a better answer to the question that we asked in the first class of this course: why controversies? In fact, I will try provide not one but two answers to such question.
  • 27/08/12 The first answer is a methodological one. We have said that all collective phenomena are constructed as a intricate imbroglio of socio-technical connections. Our daily existence is constantly wrapped in networks and yet, most of the time, we are not at all aware of it. Most of time, collective phenomena come at us as (relatively) simple finite objects. And thanks god! If we had to deal with complex networks all the time, our life would be hell. Luckily most of these complex networks have been simplified and packaged and come to us in the convenient for of a ‘black box’. All we need to know is what do they take as input and what do they generate as output.
  • 27/08/12 The first answer is a methodological one. We have said that all collective phenomena are constructed as a intricate imbroglio of socio-technical connections. Our daily existence is constantly wrapped in networks and yet, most of the time, we are not at all aware of it. Most of time, collective phenomena come at us as (relatively) simple finite objects. And thanks god! If we had to deal with complex networks all the time, our life would be hell. Luckily most of these complex networks have been simplified and packaged and come to us in the convenient for of a ‘black box’. All we need to know is what do they take as input and what do they generate as output.
  • 23/03/12 For technology, this conception has been best illustrated in the initial scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “Space Odyssey”. In these scene, a group of primate receive the gift of technology as a alien black-box. They do not build it, they do not know what is inside, but the simple fact of entering in contact with it makes turn them from apes into human.
  • 23/03/12 Another famous black box
  • Though this black-boxing saves us a lot of time in daily life, it also makes it difficult to study science and technology. Harry Collins explains this difficulty by using the image of a ship in a bottle. If we only get to observe ships that are already in their bottle, we would have a hard time imagining how the ship can pass through the bottleneck and we may conclude that the ship has always been there: that it always existed within its bottle.
  • Now replace ‘ship’ with ‘scientific knowledge’ and ‘bottle’ with ‘truth’ and you will understand the metaphor. If you only observe theories and artifacts in science and technology handbooks, after the black-boxing process occurred, you will find it difficult to escape the impression that they had always been true and valid, independently from the work that has been necessary to validate them, to make them true.
  • 23/03/12 So, how do we learn how the ship get into the bottle? how do we open the black-box? One possibility, of course, is to break the black-box and look what is inside.
  • 23/03/12 This approach is actually often used in science and technology studies. One famous example is the tragic disaster of the Challenger shuttle.
  • 23/03/12 This is the shuttle before the explosion. A nice and perfectly functional black-box.
  • 23/03/12 This is the shuttle after the explosion and once the investigation of the Roger commission has begun (to be sincere, this is the picture of another exploded shuttle, the Columbia one). As you see the black-box is now open and we the internal complexity fully exposed.
  • 23/03/12 Analyzing such breathtaking complexity, it is possible to identify the causes of the disaster. This little plastic joint and the many others o-rings in the shuttle were crucial to contain the hot high-pressure gases produced by the propellant combustion. Because of the low temperature the morning of the launch, the plastic of these joints lost its elasticity and failed its containing function causing the explosion. In the photo, the famous mathematician Richard Feynman, member of the Roger commission, proving the fragility of the o-ring (after diving it in a glass full of ice). This proof was given at prime time on national television and covered the NASA engineers in ridicule. How could they ignore that temperature may affect plastic elasticity?
  • 23/03/12 Of course they knew, but as you should know by now, thing are always more complex than they seem and technology is always co-constructed with society. In this particular case, the reason of the NASA failure was not ignorance, but the fact that though o-rings had been observed to fail in many times in previous launches, no serious consequences had ever been observed. Nasa engineers knew that these consequences were possible and had prevented several time the NASA flight risk management. Yet, the fact that serious consequences never showed up paired with a rigid risk management structure at the NASA caused a general undervaluation of the problem.
  • 23/03/12 Now the bottle is opened and we can observe how the ship is build inside. The problem with this method is that it is slightly destructive.
  • Another (slightly less destructive) method, the one that we teach in this course, it to observe the controversies. Why? Because in situation of controversy, actors tend to verbalize their vewpoint. Imagine that you want to learn how to bake this delicious strawberry cake. Knowing the ingredients, of course, is not enough, nor is tasting the final result.
  • But now imagine that you can enter the kitchen and that the pastry chefs are quarreling about the ingredients, their quantities, the order to mix them, how to bake the dough and so on. There you’ll probably starting learning something about the pastry making.
  • The same is for bottle-ships. This is how they are actually constructed and the reason why I was able to discover it is that this is only one of two possible construction methods (the other is building the whole ship inside the bottle using long instruments) and there is much controversy in the bottle-ship community as to which method is the best one.
  • Another example is the one of the so-called “climate-gate” controversy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_email_controversy). This huge controversy (according to a study we made the most discussed Wikipedia page on the subject of climate change) was initiated by a group of hacker who stole more than one thousands e-mail from the server of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (one of the most important European research group on climatology). By quoting a few selected phrases from the e-mail, the climato-skeptics succeeded in creating a huge ‘scandal’ suggesting that the whole climate change research might be biased and unreliable. Published a few days before the Copenhagen UNFCCC COP, the Climate Gate has been said to have heavily contributed to the failure of the conference.
  • But the controversy is interesting for us, because it allows investigating a set of data that would otherwise be very difficult to access. In the slide a video produced by a group of American researchers and published on the Computational Legal Study Blog. The video shows the dynamic network formed by the e-mail exchange among the scientific community of climate science from 1997 to 2009. Without the controversy on climate change, collecting 12 years of correspondence between hundreds of scientist all around the world would have taken years and dozens of historians. Thanks to controversy, the data were just out there and visualizing them only a few hours of work by three researchers. Here is the original description of the movie: “Each node represents an individual within the email dataset while each connection reflects the weighted relationship between those individuals. The movie posted above features the date in the upper left. As time ticks forward, you will notice that the relative social relationships between individuals are updated with each new batch of emails. In some periods, this updating has significant impact upon the broader network topology and at other time it imposes little structural consequences. In each period, both new connections as well as new communications across existing connections are colored teal while the existing and dormant relationships remain white. Among other things, this is useful because it identifies when a connection is established and which interactions are active at any given time period. Each frame is rendered using the Kamada-Kawai layout algorithm. Then, the frames are threaded together using linear interpolation.”
  • The video represents a synthetic visualization of the data (twelve years ins just three minutes), but the dataset was rich enough to allow zooming in the data and reading the very verbatim of the email. Here the three quotations most frequently employed by climate-skeptics to support their claims. Of course, reading them after all we said in this course makes it clear that there absolutely nothing scandalous about the practices described in the mails (researchers have all the rights to visualize their data to hide of show what there are looking for; to discuss in which journals they will publish or not; to define and re-define the protocols of peer-review). It is only by reading this abstract from a positivist viewpoint that we can be scandalized by the content.
  • 27/08/12 Following the white rabbit of controversies will bring us far away from our simplistic ideas on science and technology. The world of controversies is a land of wonders, one where science and technology, scientists and engineers, theories and artifacts do not resemble a bit to the preconceived ideas the we have of them. Open the Pandora’s box of controversies and you’ll make the strangest encounters and in particular…
  • 27/08/12 The first thing you’ll meet by entering a technoscientific controversy is a plurality of heterogeneous actors. Science is by no means limited to scientists and any important scientific debate involves the most disparate actors. In the case of the climate change controversy, for example, polar bears seem to have played a role at least as important as climatologists. The dramatic images of these animals threatened by the melting of the arctic ice, have been crucial in persuading public opinion to support CO2 reductions policies.
  • 27/08/12 Of course, polar bears have not acted directly in the climate change debate, their influence on the debate have been mediated by the action of the scientists that have documented their decline, by photographers who provide heartbreaking images of their difficult survival and by activists who spoke as their spokespersons. At the same time, the same is true for most of the actors of the climate change debate: public opinion, industries, consumers, new generations and many other actors have played an important role in the controversies without participating directly to the negotiations, but acting indirectly through the actions of someone else.
  • 27/08/12 Polar bears have acted indirectly, but it is their actions, not those of some other actor that affected the controversy (think of the thousands of animals that are threatened by global warming who have been happily ignored by the press and the public opinion).
  • 27/08/12
  • 27/08/12 The second element that you will find in controversies are a multitude of unexpected association and dissociation. Until some ten years ago, for examples, no one though that farming could be a major source of CO2 emissions. It turned out that it is, in particular because of the intestinal emission of industrially bred cow. Cows’ farts and climate change, it seems, are intimately connected.
  • 27/08/12 And of course, it is not just cows, but industrially bred animals in general.
  • 27/08/12 At the same time, controversies are also able to dissolve the strongest associations. To remain on the example of farming, climate change debate has contributed to questioning the connection (often taken for granted) between agriculture and soil tillage.
  • 27/08/12 The supporters of reduce tillage or no tillage have used the global warming debate to revive the controversy around the necessity and the value of tillage in agriculture. According to them, tilling is negative for at least two reasons: 1) it can liberate significant amounts of CO2 otherwise stored in the soil; 2) it leaves the soil unprotected and therefore exposed to the consequences of climate change (soil erosion).
  • 27/08/12 The third element that is to be expected when opening the black box of controversies is a proliferation of issues and discussions. To say it with other words, controversies are difficult to close. Every time an actor employ a proof or an argument that is supposed to close the discussion, what he/she obtains is usually even more discussion. This is the case, for example, of the diagram in the slide (representing one thousand years of world temperatures), which was published in the third IPCC report in 2001 and that was supposed to close the controversy on the existence of global warming. In fact, the publication of the diagram stirred even more controversy: on the difficulty of reconstructing the temperature before direct measure (through ice carrots and other proxies) and on the statistical methods employed in the design of the curve.
  • 27/08/12 But the controversy raged even on the part of the curve that was based on direct temperature measures. Climate skeptics argued that an important part of the measured temperature increase was in fact due to the change in the setting surrounding the weather stations. At the time of their construction, most of these stations were located in the countryside where the local interferences are less important. With the time, however, most stations have been enclosed by the expansion of urban areas. Part of the change in the measured temperature is therefore caused by the change of local conditions (and not by climate change).
  • 27/08/12 Interestingly climate skeptics employed a participative approach to review the possible local interference, asking citizens to participate in a collective survey organize through the website surfacestations.org.
  • 27/08/12 Urban expansion is only one of the many phenomena other than the greenhouse effect that can explain the change in measured temperature (as illustrated in the schema above). It is therefore necessary to measure and subtract out all these influences, in order to calculate the actual consequences of greenhouse effect. Each of this subtractions is potential (and often an actual) controversy.
  • 27/08/12 And this is only one of the many reasons why climate change can become the subject of debate. This does not mean that we have to be skeptical on the subject. It means that we have to recognize that if 95% of climatologist agree on the existence of global warming and its connection with the greenhouse effect (despite all the difficulties that we mentioned), it is because an enormous amount of scientific work has been done to construct this scientific fact and prove its truth (see Paul Edwards beautiful book).
  • 27/08/12 The proliferation of issues is also closely connected to the fourth item to be found in the black box of controversies: endless discussion.
  • 27/08/12 Not only the dynamics of controversies bring to the multiplication of issues, but each of these issues often becomes an endless discussion. For example, one of the biggest controversies in the history of Wikipedia arose around the page “climate change”. The controversy concerned the way the page ‘climate change’ was to be managed and ended with the ban of several key contributors of the page.
  • 27/08/12 Of course, Wikipedia is not the only arena in which climate change controversy is endlessly discussed. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) itself is based on a protocol that implies many different revisions, in order to make possible to reach the largest possible consensus. This is the reasons why IPCC reports requires years to be completed, although these reports do nothing else than reviewing the existing literature on climate change with no original research.
  • 27/08/12 Because of the incredible complexity of its procedures and the time that they require, the IPCC has been bitterly criticized by some of its members.
  • 27/08/12 The last element that compose the highly explosive formula of controversies are violent conflicts. Controversies are not gentleman discussions, where actors would sit around a table and discuss the matter while sipping a cup of tea. Controversies are fights and often violent ones. In the slide, the highly charged manifestations of the Copenhagen Conference in 2009.
  • 27/08/12 The violence of the conflict in controversies is not necessarily proportional to the number of actors involved. Small controversies can be as violent as larger ones and, in the case of the Copenhagen conference, the conflict inside the Bella Center (the main building of the Conference) was not less harsh than the conflict in the streets.
  • 27/08/12 Nor was the conflict among the few political leaders who eventually decided the failure of the Conference.
  • 27/08/12 It should be clear by now that exploring technoscientific controversies is no piece of cake. Controversy mapping resembles more closely to the study of magma: to understand how science and society are formed, it is necessary to dive in the context were both these collective beings are more volatile and therefore more dangerous. Welcome to controversies.
  • 27/08/12
  • Transcript

    • 1. WHY Why controversies? Learning to be constructivist Tommaso Venturini tommaso.venturini@sciencespo.fr
    • 2. Once upon a time…
    • 3. Technology will end controversies Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) Scientia potentia est!
    • 4. Science will end controversies Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) Calculemus!
    • 5. Technoscience and the end of conflicts Popular Science 1925 and 2010
    • 6. Energy production
    • 7. Industrial manifacturing
    • 8. Biotechnologies
    • 9. Nanotechnologies
    • 10. Global warming
    • 11. Biodiversity
    • 12. Economics and development
    • 13. A simplistic idea of science in society
    • 14. A simplistic idea of controversies
    • 15. Public Understanding of Science
    • 16. Capitalist science
    • 17. A reassuring explanation www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf12310 /
    • 18. A reassuring explanation
    • 19. A disturbing explanation
    • 20. A disturbing explanation
    • 21. A proliferation of controversies? From: no need for public discussion, Science will decide To: no need for public discussion, since Science can’t decide no one can
    • 22. A proliferation of controversies? From (positivism): no need for public discussion, Science will decide To (relativism): no need for public discussion, since Science can’t decide no one can
    • 23. What is positivism? Alain Sokal, 1996 Positivism is the idea that “There exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological structures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method” (p. 217)
    • 24. What is positivism?
    • 25. The sociology of scientific careers Pierre Bourdieu, 2001
    • 26. The sociology of scientific knowledge There is William advocating again for his little bang theory
    • 27. The Logic of Scientific Discovery Karl R. Popper, 1934
    • 28. The asymmetry of falsification Karl R. Popper, 1934 Universal statements can not be verified empirically because counterfactuals can not be empirically excluded  swans are white → ~  black swan Yet, universal statements can be falsified empirically If a single counterfactuals is observed empirically  black swan → ~  swans are white
    • 29. The asymmetry of falsification Karl R. Popper, 1934
    • 30. The demarcation principle Karl R. Popper, 1934 Theories are ‘scientific’ not because they are true, but because they are falsifiable Scientific theories must be formulated in a way that allows to submit them to empirical tests
    • 31. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962
    • 32. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 time knowledge
    • 33. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 time knowledge normal science
    • 34. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 time knowledge normal science scientific revolutions
    • 35. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 observation X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    • 36. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    • 37. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    • 38. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    • 39. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 observation 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
    • 40. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 2nd paradigm X X
    • 41. The Structure of Scientific Revolution Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962 1st paradigm X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 2nd paradigm X X X X X X
    • 42. Paradigm incommensurability Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962
    • 43. Knowledge and Social Imagery David Bloor, 1976
    • 44. The strong programme of the sociology of science David Bloor, 1976 1. It would be causal, that is, concerned with the conditions which bring about belief or states of knowledge. Naturally there will be other types of causes apart from social ones which will cooperate in bringing about belief. 2. It would be impartial with respect to truth and falsity, rationality or irrationality, success or failure. Both sides of these dichotomies will require explanation. 3. It would be symmetrical in its style of explanation. The same types of cause would explain say, true and false beliefs. 4. It would be reflexive. In principle its patterns of explanation would have to be applicable to sociology itself.
    • 45. Euler Theorem solid of polygonal faces In polyhedrons vertices - edges + faces = 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler_characteristic 8 – 12 + 6 = 2
    • 46. Euler Theorem solid of polygonal faces In polyhedrons vertices - edges + faces = 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler_characteristic 8 – 12 + 6 = 2 16 – 24 + 12 = 4
    • 47. Euler Theorem solid of polygonal faces convex solid of polygonal faces In polyhedrons vertices - edges + faces = 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler_characteristic 8 – 12 + 6 = 2 16 – 24 + 12 = 4
    • 48. Empirical School of Positivism H. M. Collins (1981) Social Studies of Science, 11(1): 3-10 1. Demonstrating the “interpretative flexibility” of experimental data (experimenter's regress) 2. Showing the local social mechanisms by which closure is effected 3. Linking the local closure mechanisms to wider social forces
    • 49. The Seven Sexes: A Study in the Sociology of a Phenomenon, or the Replication of Experiments in Physics H. M. Collins (1975)
    • 50. The Seven Sexes: A Study in the Sociology of a Phenomenon, or the Replication of Experiments in Physics H. M. Collins (1975)
    • 51. The Golem at Large: What you should Know About Technology H. Collins and T. Pinch (1998)
    • 52. Leviathan and the Air- Pump Steven Shapin & Simon Shaffer (1985)
    • 53. Science VS Philosophy The greatest match of the XVII century
    • 54. Science VS Philosophy the air pump the Royal Society the scientific prose artificial, unreliable and elitist snobbish and antidemocratic boring and formal Robert Boyle Thomas Hobbes
    • 55. Laboratory Life Bruno Latour & Steve Woolgar (1979)
    • 56. Science vs Research
    • 57. Science in Action Bruno Latour (1987)
    • 58. The career of scientific statements “What if carbon emissions might change world climate” (said by Callender in his lab.) “The data persuades us that carbon emissions may change world climate” “Callender study convincingly proved that carbon emissions could change world climate” “Carbon emissions can change world climate” (Callender et al. 1938) Carbon emissions are changing world climate “What if the melting of artic ice…” Laboratory Life (1979) Latour, B. & Woolgar, S.
    • 59. A realistic account of the construction of science Bruno Latour, 1987
    • 60. A realistic account of the construction of science Ian McEwan, 2010
    • 61. A realistic account of the construction of science www.phdcomics.com
    • 62. Why controversies? 1. A methodological answer 2. A political answer
    • 63. The blackboxing of networks
    • 64. The blackboxing of networks
    • 65. Technoscience as a black box Stanley Kubrick (1968) “A Space Odyssey”
    • 66. Technoscience as a black box
    • 67. How to observe the construction of scientific facts
    • 68. It is as though epistemologists are concerned with the characteristics of ships (knowledge) in bottles (validity) while living in a world where all ships are already in bottles with the glue dried and the strings cut. A ship within a bottle is a natural object in this world, and because there is no way to reverse the process, it is not easy to accept that the ship was ever just a bundle of sticks (p. 205) How is scientific thruth constructed? H. Collins (1975) “The Seven Sexes”. Sociology, 9(2): 205-224.
    • 69. Opening the black box http://www.rapidrepair.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc? Screen=cp-iphone3g
    • 70. Challenger shuttle 1986 disaster January 28, 1986
    • 71. Challenger Shuttle
    • 72. Roger Commission In fact, this is the Columbia shuttle
    • 73. O-ring failure Richard Feynman TV demonstration
    • 74. Normalization of deviance Vaughan, Diane, 1997 The Challenger Launch Decision
    • 75. How do we learn how the ship get into the bottle?
    • 76. Exploiting quarrels
    • 77. Exploiting quarrels
    • 78. How the ship gets in the bottle
    • 79. Climategate http://www.emapsproject.com/blog/wp- content/uploads/WikipediaClimateDiscussions.png
    • 80. Climategate e-mail network computationallegalstudies.com
    • 81. Climategate « I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to  each series … to hide the decline » « I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate  peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in  the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in,  this journal » « I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report.  Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine  what the peer-review literature is!  »
    • 82. Accepting the challenge of controversies
    • 83. A plurality of heterogeneous actors Polar bear Ursus maritimus
    • 84. A plurality of heterogeneous actors
    • 85. A plurality of heterogeneous actors Antarctic krill Euphausia superba
    • 86. A plurality of heterogeneous actors
    • 87. Unexpected associations and dissociations
    • 88. Unexpected associations and dissociations
    • 89. Unexpected associations and dissociations no-tillage conservation tillage
    • 90. Unexpected associations and dissociations controverses.sciences- po.fr/climateblogs/tillage/
    • 91. Proliferating issues (the hockey stick) E. Mann et al 1998, IPCC 2001
    • 92. Proliferating issues surfacestations.org
    • 93. Proliferating issues surfacestations.org
    • 94. Proliferating issues Mitchell, 1953
    • 95. A Vast Machine Paul Edwards, 2001
    • 96. Endless discussions
    • 97. Endless discussions (Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_cha nge_controversy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Climate_change
    • 98. Endless discussions (IPCC)
    • 99. Endless discussions (IPCC)
    • 100. Violent conflicts 2009 Copenhagen Conference
    • 101. Violent conflicts 2009 Copenhagen Conference
    • 102. Violent conflicts 2009 Copenhagen Conference
    • 103. Diving in magma T. Venturini (2010) Public Understanding of Science 19(3)
    • 104. tommasoventurini.it tommaso.venturini@sciencespo.fr