Friday, December 15, 2006

Science wars or Climate change the ozone wars Déjà vu again

It is an interesting observation to see the manifestation of the phenomena of climate change and the cargo cult representatives mostly driven with agendas perceived or otherwise to react to the unified singularity that globalization and integration of diversity have brought, and will bring as barriers, both economic, technological, and cultural are reduced.

The reduction of the importance of government on a national or global scale has the command and control neo-Stalinists searching for new methodologies to re-introduce 1984 control manifestos since the inability to command economic parameters has been removed on the macro scales from governments.

Indeed it is a paradox that the obfuscation of science to promote political agendas was a direct reaction to the possibility of global nuclear holocaust, in the late decades of last century. The promotion and disinformation of the worst consequences of the innovative advancement of scientific achievements, all had their origins of Malthusian logic and constructivist agendas as a surreal sideshow in the geopolitical phenomena of the time.

A good background on the history of science wars from wiki is here.

The Science wars were a series of intellectual battles in the 1990s between "postmodernists" and "realists" (though neither party would likely use the terms to describe themselves) about the nature of scientific theories. In brief, the postmodernists questioned the objectivity of science and encompass a huge variety of critiques on scientific knowledge and method within cultural studies, cultural anthropology, feminist studies, comparative literature, media studies, and science and technology studies. The realists countered that there is such a thing as objective scientific knowledge and accused the postmodernists of having a poor understanding of the subject they were critiquing

This apparent attack on the validity of science from the humanities and social sciences worried many people, especially as the language of social construction was appropriated by groups attempting to assert political control over the use of science in society (for example, the Creation-evolution controversy). In 1994, scientists Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt published Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science, an open attack on the postmodernists. According to supporters, the book brought the shortcomings of relativism into sharp focus, claiming that the postmodernists knew little about the scientific theories they discussed and pursued sloppy scholarship for political reasons. According to scholars in science studies (the postmodernists under attack), the book brought into sharp focus the authors' failure to understand the theoretical approaches they criticize and relied on "more caricature, misreading, and condescension than argument." The book received a moderate amount of mainstream attention and became a flashpoint for the science wars.

The present phenomena of science war with regard to climate, the environment, energy etc raises immediate alarm bells when the promoters of scientific research into the possibility of physical changes ,are the ones who promote the uncertainty principle.

The polarization of the scientific questions and accusations of heresy by words such as deniers etc with regard to the IPCC and Kyoto are merely the sane manifestations of the phenomena we observed in the ozone wars prior to the Montréal treaty.

On July 20, 1969, America's Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon, realizing one of mankind's greatest dreams. As hundreds of millions of people watched and listened, a human being set foot on another body in the solar system. The future seemed bright, and the optimistic expression was born, ``If we could land a man on the Moon, then we can certainly....''

The next steps in the U.S. space program were to be the design and construction of an Earth-orbiting space station, and a reusable transportation system to and from orbit. These would be the stepping-stones to a manned mission to Mars, tens of millions of miles from Earth. Technological breakthroughs resulting from the space program had also produced new materials, engine technology, computers, and electronics, which opened up the possibility of developing prototype commercial aircraft able to fly faster than the speed of sound, and, one day, to take off from an airport and fly into outer space.

Even before the Apollo lunar module set down on the surface of the Moon in 1969, however, an intense fight over the future of the space program and related advanced technologies was taking place on Earth. Virtually as soon as President Kennedy announced the Apollo effort in May 1961, anti technology think tanks, like London's Tavistock Institute and the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, were worrying aloud that the space program would ruin their plans for a neo-Malthusian world. By the mid-1960s, Tavistock's Journal Human Relations reported that the space program was producing an extraordinary number of ``redundant'' and ``supernumerary'' scientists and engineers. ``There would soon be two scientists for every man, woman, and dog in the society,'' one commentator wrote. What worried them most was the climate of technological optimism that had been created.

The fabricated argument that a depletion of the ozone layer would result in a shower of ``cancer-causing'' ultraviolet rays onto the Earth became one of the most powerful weapons in the antitechnology arsenal. This weapon was wielded without mercy against America's economy through the 1970s and 1980s, in a series of battles that has become known as ``The Ozone Wars.'' The casualties of these wars include the SST project, the Dynasoar, and CFCs, some of the most benign and useful chemicals ever created by man, now banned from use.

The time is March 1971; the place, congressional hearings on the SST program. Testifying is James McDonald, an atmospheric physicist from the University of Arizona, one of the foremost proponents of the idea that space aliens regularly visit the Earth in UFOs and a passionate opponent of supersonic transport. The ozone depletion theory is about to be unveiled.

Taking the podium to deliver his testimony, McDonald announced a new SST catastrophe theory. His research, he said, had shown that water vapor released by the exhaust of the SST in the stratosphere would lead to a 4 percent depletion of the ozone layer. And, said McDonald, this ozone layer depletion would result in an additional 40,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year. The ozone wars had begun.
Congress, however, remained skeptical. Lydia Dotto and Harold Schiff chronicle the events that followed in great detail in their 1978 book, The Ozone War. According to Dotto and Schiff:
``McDonald came under sharp questioning, but the congressmen seemed more interested in his views on unidentified flying objects, than they were in his concerns about SSTs. McDonald had, in fact, been interested in the UFO problem for some time. He had done a study of UFO data, believed the problem to have been `scientifically ignored,' and had been a vocal opponent of plans to cancel a UFO observation program'' (p. 39).

One of the greatest problems faced by the ``ozone priesthood'' was that the SST threat to the ozone layer could not be rendered realistic by a computer model. The search was on for a real world phenomenon that could be modeled in such a way as to produce computations predicting catastrophic depletion of the ozone layer caused by the injection of nitrogen oxides into the stratosphere.

As this work proceeded, the perils of nitrogen oxide poisoning of the stratosphere by nuclear explosions soon became a major international issue on its own. Predictions of a ``nuclear summer'' began to fill major newspapers. This new doomsday scenario predicted that the immediate result of a nuclear war would be the total destruction of the ozone layer, which would allow lethal doses of ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth. All life on Earth would be wiped out.
This new ozone depletion theory came just at the right time to play a major role in the SALT I negotiations managed by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. According to Dotto and Schiff:

``[I]n the fall of 1974, Fred Iklé, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, gave several speeches in which he emphasized the hazards to all life on Earth that might result from the ozone depletion caused by nuclear war. His remarks received considerable press coverage.... Iklé was hopeful that the ozone connection might be a useful bargaining tool in disarmament talks, and he asked the National Academy of Sciences to do a study....

``The Academy held a five-day workshop in January 1975 and released a report that summer. This report did not consider casualties from the direct hits of belligerent nations, but the aftermath effects of the war, particularly on noncombatant nations. Nor did the study confine itself solely to the ozone question but, as we shall see, the ozone effects were a prominent feature of the report. In fact, the Academy's president, Philip Handler, said that the `principal new point' developed in the study was that the ozone effect, not dispersion of radiation, would be the major impact on countries not directly involved in the conflict.

``The study considered what would happen if ten thousand megatons of nuclear weapons--about half of the then-existing arsenals--were exploded. The conclusion was that the amount of NOx in the stratosphere would increase by factors of from five to fifty.... This in turn would lead to an ozone depletion in the atmosphere over the Northern Hemisphere of from 30 to 70 percent and from 20 to 40 percent in the Southern Hemisphere. The peak effect would occur within a few months of the event, and the atmosphere would take twenty to thirty years to recover. In addition to predicting increases in skin cancer lasting for over forty years, the report said that short-term effects would include `severe sunburn in temperate zones and snow blindness in northern latitudes.... For a 70 percent decrease in ozone, severe sunburn involving blistering of the skin would occur in ten minutes.'[pp.| 302-4]
As was the case concerning all the other hoaxes perpetrated by the ozone depletion theorists, the actual evidence flew in the face of the theory and made a laughingstock of the National Academy of Sciences' report in scientific circles.
In 1973, P. Goldsmith definitively repudiated this ``nuclear summer'' theory in an article for Nature magazine. Goldsmith wrote:

``Analysis of the ozone records reveal no detectable changes in the total atmospheric ozone during and after the periods of nuclear weapons testing. Although two models of nitrogen oxide injection [SSTs and nuclear bombs] may not be identical from the meteorological viewpoint, the conclusion that massive injections of nitrogen oxides into the stratosphere do not upset the ozone layer seems inescapable'' (p. 551).
The same view was echoed by most leading scientists, among them James K. Angell and J. Korshover, writing in the January 1976 issue of the Monthly Weather Review.
``If there was a reduction in total ozone following the [nuclear] tests, it is difficult to see how it could exceed 1 to 2 percent...,''
they asserted.

``We hereby raise the caution flag, and suggest that perhaps the theoreticians and modelers are in error somewhere along the line, and that at the very least they have overestimated the magnitude of the nuclear (nitric oxide) effect on total ozone'' (p. 72).

Since then, it has been discovered that most of the nitric oxide in the atmosphere results not from any of man's activities, but from the solar wind, [which] carries vast amounts of energetic solar protons, which generate nitrogen oxides when they collide with the Earth's atmosphere.

Our misplaced expectations for science derive in part, I believe, from an overly restrictive view of how science extracts truth from nature. This restrictive view assumes that the culmination of science is the ability to develop predictive hypotheses and theories through highly controlled experiments (real, or imagined). Experiment serves to hold nature's complexity in abeyance, so that nature can be parsed into its component parts and governing laws. This is the physics view, dominant in modern culture, and for very good reason: the character and quality of modern life are derived in no small part from the transforming impact of science and science-based technologies, which in turn reflects a perspective on nature and a method of research derived from the success of physics. But nature can be viewed from another angle that is no less scientific, which is to say, no less devoted to creating a true picture of what is really out there. This might be called the geological view, and it recognizes that nature, as experienced by humans and as recorded in the lithosphere and cryosphere, is the evolving product of innumerable complex and contingent processes and phenomena, revealed through historical reconstruction, and through analogy with what we see in nature today.


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