Disorganised scepticism

I was on a radio 4 programme last night called ‘Reclaiming the sceptic’. It was pretty wide-ranging, as you would expect from something trying to track a theme such as ‘scepticism’ (we take ours with a c here). But I think the producer,Toby Murcott, held it together nicely and made a thoughtful contribution to a few debates that are often idiotic (I am thinking in particular of an appearance by James Delingpole on Radio 5 earlier in the day in which he subtracted from the sum of human knowledge by discussing sunspots and inclement weather).

My contribution to the piece was about what I called ‘disorganised scepticism’, to contrast with the Organised Scepticism described (or prescribed depending on who you believe) by Robert Merton. The programme shied away from climate issues, which is understandable given the tendency for all discussions involving climate change to become discussions about whether it is happening. But climate, and climategate in particular still provide the best possible example of disorganised scepticism in action and why it is important for scientists not to wish it away. This, by Jerry Ravetz and Mike Hulme, is great. 

Toby also wrote a piece for Research Fortnight on the topic, which is worth a look. 


(picture from http://www.openureyes.org.nz/blog/?q=node/2523)


About Jack Stilgoe

Jack Stilgoe is a senior lecturer in science policy at the department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London.
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One Response to Disorganised scepticism

  1. Barry Woods says:

    It was good to hear Prof Stott on the BBC, what were your thoughts on the program as a whole..

    I definately agree with the short shrift given to the anti-evolution ‘sceptic’, however Prof Scott has been labelled in a similar manner himself by those with a climate change agenda.

    I thought Stott made a very good presenter, clealry on the side of ‘science’, yet he is labelled a ‘denier’ in the climate change debate. Your thoughts? (George Marshalls-Rising Tide)

    Perhaps the BBC have learnt somthing from the CRU emails after all, a very interesting choice allowing Prof Stott to present this program. Do you have any thoughts on other scientists (and BBC journalists) trying to get Stott and others off the airways?

    Mike Hulme:
    “Did anyone hear Stott vs. Houghton on Today, radio 4 this morning? Woeful stuff really. This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media/Environment Programme to starve this type of reporting at source.” (email 2496)

    by me: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/27/climategate-2-impartiality-at-the-bbc/

    and the issue about climate chnage is NOT whether it is happening, but how much, how much is due to humans, and whether the future is dangerous, catastrophic or mildly benign, or anything in between. Reducing it to a black/white ‘is climate change’ happening makes it impossible to have any sensible discussion.

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