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Henceforth, we will investigate postmodernism. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I should state that my argument about postmodernism is weak. It is weak in the sense that I can not even definitively show that postmodernism exists. This follows from the very nature of postmodernism itself, but it is a weakness that we should recognize.
The term 'postmodernism' is applied to many disciplines of art. These do not interest us. It is also applied to philosphy, and one may find definition like: Postmodernism sees “truth as socially constructed.” Such a definition is close to ours.
If the reader perceives this as a rather vague definition, he should know that it is only downhill from here. For example, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who self-identifies as a postmodernist, except perhaps in French philosophy departments in the 1960s. Furthermore, postmodernism lacks a locus classicus: there is no single, clear example of an application.
The postmodernist does not categorically deny the truth of empiricism or rationalism. But those simple truths are superseded by the higher truth of the narrative. The narrative is a complete story, perhaps containing elements like facts or proofs, but covering these elements in a story of motives, beliefs and intentions.
In the postmodern view, the identity of the narrator is important. For example, if someone is accussed of shoplifting, a postmodern judge will acquit if the accused indentifies as a minority and claims to be the victim of discrimination or oppression in the past. The mere facts of the case are superseded by the narrative of oppression. Sometimes, idiom is considered to be of importance. For example, a postmodernist would argue that the IQ of different cultural groups can not be measured reliably because these groups have different idiom.
If we accept that postmodern premise that the narrative is the truth-carrier, this begs the question how the truth of a narative may be ascertained. This is, in fact, the Achilles heel of postmodernism. The question is often deflected by statements like “truth is a social construct.” But that is a diversion, not an answer. For the question how the truth of social constructs is determined, remains unanswered. However, we can look at how this works in practice. Postmodernism has become generally accepted in academia, politics, courtrooms and the media. How then, are false narratives weeded out, and true narratives lauded? This is done by a mechanism that we have come to know rather well: authoritarianism. In the postmodern case, a narrative is true if it is underwritten by the priests of science: the professors that populate the academia. Thus, the magic word is “research”. Media-pundits and politicians alike claim that their proposals are supported by research. If they can name an Ivy League professor, then that seals the argument.
Of course, no in the audience will verify the reseach of the professor, or even investigate whether the research actually supports the proposals. They lack both the time and the means.
the rise of postmodernism
The 1800s were the heydays for gentleman-scientists. As Olbers showed, one could make a fundamental discovery about the cosmos during an evening stroll. With a good mind, anyone who immersed himself in a subject could rise to the top of the field in a handful of years. The very frontiers of scientific discovery were -metaphorically speaking- visible from the comfort of the gentleman's study. After 1900, with the advent of general relativity and quantum-mechanics, the frontier of science became much harder to reach. Both theories required higher mathematics as a pre-requisite, seriously lengthening the learning curve. In 1919, Arthur Eddington famously quipped that only three people in the world understood general relativity, and he had serious doubts about number three.
During the 20th century, that situation only compounded. Experiments required ever more expensive equipment. Theories became ever more mathematical. In other words the gentleman scientist became extint. His place was taken by a caste of professional scientists, tenured in the academia.
Today, there is still widespread interest and fascination among lay-people for physics and especially cosmology. The big bang theory is a household name. Most people have heard of concepts like the curvature of space-time or the Higgs boson (a.k.a God's particle). But the people's understanding is not gained through study of these subjects, let alone surveying experimental results. Rather, the understanding comes from the Dicsovery channel, where professors opine about the universe, set against a background of ominous music and spectular artist's impressions or computer simulations.
If this development is regrettable, it is also inevitable. The twentieth century saw enormous scientific progress, and with it science became inaccessible. It is not hard to see a parallel between medival priests divining God and His works to the unwashed townspeople, and scientists explaining the wonders of the universe on Discovery Channel.
In fact, both castes had ulterior motives. For the priests of science, it is funding for their academia. Thus an unassuming particle like Higg's boson is marketed as God's particle. And Global Warming is used to scaremonger the people into paying their taxes.
One can point to other factors than science became ever more reclusive and . Technological advances gave us machines to do the work for us. It removed us from primal activities like farming, slaughtering animals. It created homo industrialis: a breed of man whose primary Man became alienated from physical work, became shielded from the unpleasantries of war, disease and death. Even pain was removed by medication. Today, most high paying jobs are reserved for knowledge-workers, people who type on a keyboard for a living. Most people have an ever dwindling interaction with the real world. Their job is to create and perpetuate naratives, be it on paper or on the internet.
the hollowing of democracy
By most standards, democracy has been a succesful form of government.
One Hundred Authors for Global Warming In 1931, the book Hundert Autoren gegen Einstein was published. In it, mathematicians, physicists and philosophers purported to refute of the theory of relativity. As the story goes, Einstein replied:“Why one hundred? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.”
Clearly, Einstein did not subscribe to postmodernism. He apparently held that truth existed independent of human opinion, and that a multitude of adherents did not strengthen an argument.
But we have come a long way since 1931. Let us juxtapose Einstein's words with the following article, published by the Associated Press in February of 2013:
CLIMATE CONTRADICTION: LESS SNOW, MORE BLIZZARDS
BY SETH BORENSTEIN, AP SCIENCE WRITER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit. Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming. How can that be? It's been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction. But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that's likely to continue with man-made global warming. Consider: - The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation - both rain and snow - in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center. - Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years. - And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study's author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century. "Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch," Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. "That's the new world we live in." Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards. "Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature - warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Increasingly, it seems that we're on that ragged edge." Just look at the last few years in the Northeast. Or take Chicago, which until late January had 335 days without more than an inch of snow. Both have been hit with historic storms in recent years. Scientists won't blame a specific event or even a specific seasonal change on global warming without doing intricate and time-consuming studies. And they say they are just now getting a better picture of the complex intersection of man-made climate change and extreme snowfall. But when Serreze, Oppenheimer and others look at the last few years of less snow overall, punctuated by big storms, they say this is what they are expecting in the future. "It fits the pattern that we expect to unfold," Oppenheimer said. The world is warming so precipitation that would normally fall as snow in the future will likely fall as rain once it gets above the freezing point, said Princeton researcher Sarah Kapnick. Her study used new computer models to simulate the climate in 60 to 100 years as carbon dioxide levels soar. She found large reductions in snowfall throughout much of the world, especially parts of Canada and the Andes Mountains. In the United States, her models predict about a 50 percent or more drop in annual snowfall amounts along a giant swath of the nation from Maine to Texas and the Pacific Northwest and California's Sierra Nevada mountains. This is especially important out West where large snowcaps are natural reservoirs for a region's water supply, Kapnick said. And already in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest and in much of California, the amount of snow still around on April 1 has been declining so that it's down about 20 percent compared to 80 years ago, said Philip Mote, who heads a climate change institute at Oregon State University. Kapnick says it is snowing about as much as ever in the heart of winter, such as February. But the snow season is getting much shorter, especially in spring and in the northernmost areas, said Rutgers' David Robinson, a co-author of the study on extreme weather that will be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The Rutgers snow lab says this January saw the sixth-widest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere; the United States had an above average snow cover for the last few months. But that's a misleading statistic, Robinson said, because even though more ground is covered by snow, it's covered by less snow. And when those big storms finally hit, there is more than just added moisture in the air, there's extra moisture coming from the warm ocean, Robinson and Oppenheimer said. And the air is full of energy and unstable, allowing storms to lift yet more moisture up to colder levels. That generates more intense rates of snowfall, Robinson said. "If you can tap that moisture and you have that fortuitous collision of moist air and below freezing temperatures, you can pop some big storms," Robinson said.
The 2013 article lists read like a “One Hundred Authors for Global Warming”. There is indeed a reference to direct observation, but that serves only to discount the “climate contradiction” of “less snow, more blizzards”. The article then produces a list of studies, institutions and scientist coming assuring us that more blizzards contain in fact less snow, in coherence with the Global Warming theory. We have no reason to doubt the veracity of these claims. How could we? The article references “two soon-to-be-published studies”. So at writing, these studies were nameless and unpublished; it is unknown how they have fared since. The article quotes a handful of scientists, but we do not know in what context they are speaking. Are these scientist voicing an opinion? Or are they representing facts and measurements? Now, all of this is understandable. Perhaps it is even unavoidable. Climate science is built upon computer models, on global data collected by satellites, on proxy measurements to reconstruct the historical record such as tree ring widths, coral growth, isotope variations in ice cores, ocean and lake sediments, cave deposits, fossils, ice cores, borehole temperatures, and glacier length records. Who could, independently of said institutions, acquire these measurements? Who could interpret them? In pre-postmodern science, the hallmark of a scientific theory was if it could be falsified. For example, the theory of relativity predicts the perihelion precession of the planet Mercury, and thus could be falsified by experiment. (Such an experiment was performed during a total solar eclipse in May 1919 and it confirmed rather than falsified Einstein's theory.) But what experiment could falsify Global Warming? We are assured that more blizzards are coherent with Global Warming. The NOAA has a sorts of Frequently Asked Questions on their website. Responding to the question if snowstorms suggest that global warming is not really happening, they respond: “No. Although record low temperatures were experienced in February 2010 in some regions, these are part of the short-term regional variability that has always been a characteristic of weather and will continue to be even as the Earth’s climate experiences an overall warming trend.” The postmodern Global Warming theory predicts the sea levels, or the global climate in one hundred years from today. So how could it be falsified? A central tenit of science is the concept of falsifibility. According to the work of the 20th century philosophers Popper and Kuhn, a scientific theory is, at first, nothing more than a hunch or a wild speculation. In order to qualify as scientific, Global Warming is a complex theory. In fact, it is the culmination of several theories. But in essence, it comes down to this: humans cause global warming, and global warming does great damage to the planet. I should be noted that in its essence, Global Warming fails to meet the falsifiability criterion. It is true that Global Warming can point to a vast array of measurements, ranging from satellite measurements of global temperatures to reductions in arctic ice coverage. And some of these measurements are certainly falsifiable. However, at this writing the planet is just peachy. No great damage can be detected. In fact, the opposite is true. At this point, Global Warming is making earth a more suitable place to live. Or a Freeman Dyson notes: more people die from cold than from heat. It is only one hundred years in the future that Global Warming predicts its disastrous results. Barring time-travel, this prediction can not be falsified. In this respect, the Global Warming theory is simply unscientific. It is safe to say that 20th century giants such as Popper and Kuhn would not give Global Warming the time of day. But matters are not that simple. Suppose that a century hence, people find earth to have become uninhabitable. Looking back, they would find that we were aware of this danger, but took no measures because Global Warming failed to meet a formality: the criterion of falsifiability. So with this, the argument has come full circle. The postmodernist lends credence to the Global Warming narrative. He than looks to science to either confirm or falsify the theory. He sees that Global Warming is not being falsified. He also sees plenty of confirmation from bonafide measurements. The logical consequence is that in the postmodern view, the science is settled. Global Warming is real. The realist has a starkly different take. He has no interest in a narrative. He notes Global Warming is essentially unscientific. This Global Warming is no more than wild speculation, even if that speculating is being done by ivy league professors, with full tenure. It should come as no surprise that the global warming debate is frustrating and fruitless. It is a cacophony of voices differing not so much on the measurements, but on what is the essence of truth: narrative or fact. When people are no in agreement on their truth source, a dialogue is pointless.