Friday, September 27, 2013

History and Philosophy of Science

The current AGW debate (new 2013 IPCC report versus skeptical community embodied in NIPCC and mirrors the dynamic described in Leviathan and the Vacuum pump: two groups of men, both claiming to create knowledge and decide what is true for the rest of society.  One is composed of men of authority and credentials, the other composed of coffee-shop debaters and home-experimentalists.  In the 1600's,  the powerful men created knowledge to bolster the monarchy, while they feared the upstart debaters as crypto-revolutionaries.  Today, powerful scientists create knowledge to create societal demand for their power and knowledge, while they fear the "deniers".

(I first read Leviathan and the Vacuum Pump (about Hobbes' and Boyle's argument) in a History of Science course with Dr. Andre Wakefield at the Clarement Colleges.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Staying Realistic About Prescribed Burns

"In my 30 years with the U.S. Forest Service, I've worked on a number of prescribed burns.  In recent years they have become a popular thing to do.  In the flurry of burning stuff, the question we need to ask is not, "how many acres should be burned? But rather, "did the burn have the desired effect?" If the fire was to remove fuels and burn dead logs, did it replace that heavy fuel with waist-high weeds, brush and grasses -- more dangerous flash fuels?

Fire can be an excellent tool, but I think there are other tools that better manage certain public lands.  There are some places that are too valuable to risk a blackened landscape."
-Bob Damson response in The Nature Conservancy's September/October 2013 magazine.