Fuller goes on to claim ‘The main virtue of Little Democracy is that its members hold a sufficient number of beliefs and values in common to agree on courses of action ...’ (p.5). Big Democracy, on the other hand, is said to be ‘a dialectic of countervailing interests’ (Fuller p. 5) ‘Consensus is a key issue in the climate debate and countervailing interests are often ignored or discredited, putting climate scientists, not all by any means, in the camp of Little Democracy.
According to Fuller, the Little Democrat tends to worry that a lack of consensus acts to undermine the sense of solidarity needed to collective action, and this definitely appears to be the case. The Big Democrat, on the other hand, worries that a lack of open-mindedness leads to authoritarian tendencies.
The debate between Little Democracy and Big Democracy, Fuller points out, is analogous to the debate between Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, as to whether science was a closed or open society. In Kuhn’s Little Democracy science presents its claims of self contained expertise to a public and the public should defer to this expertise. Popper, on the other hand, sees science as somewhat more participatory, where the expertise of science might be modified or resisted by other communities.
Figure 1. Climate Scientists’ Perceptions of Participatory Action
Q30 - Q33 refer to questions concerning adaptation to climate change, Q31 - Q33 refers to questions of mitigation of climate change. The Y axis, number one to seven asked where priority should be given in the issue of decision making, A value of 1 refers to political opinion, public opinion or the opinion of industry and commerce. A value of 7 refers to scientific expertise. As the figure indicates, a majority of climate scientists tend to think that in the decision processes concerning the adaptation to or mitigation of climate change, priority should be given to scientific expertise, definitely the camp of Little Democracy.
One point for Kuhn.
From a sociological perspective, science is sometimes seen to gravitate towards two polar ideologies, namely the Enlightenment and the Positivist traditions. The philosophical stance of those following the Enlightenment tradition is ‘falsifiability’; the sociological function, ‘deligitimization’, and; the opposite of science is seen as, ‘unquestioned’ prejudice. The positivist endorses ‘verifiability’; ‘legitimation’ and’ perceives the opposite of science as ‘unruly opinion’. So where do climate scientists fit on these accounts?
Climate Scientists and Kuhn vs. Popper (or Enlightenment vs. Positivist)
Figure 2 Q68. The main activity of science is: to falsify existing hypothesis; to verify existing conditions; other
The obvious majority claim here is that the main activity of science is ‘other’. The verification of existing facts has a slightly higher number of adherents than does the falsification of existing facts.
Score one point for Popper.
Figure 3. Q69. The role of science tends towards deligitimization of existing facts; legitimization of existing facts; other
Here we the deligitimization of existing facts taking a back seat to the legitimization of existing facts. However, ‘other’ is perceived of by a significant number of scientists as being the role of science.
Another point for Popper.
Figure 4. Q70 The opposite of science is unquestioned prejudice; unruly opinion, other
Here, it is obvious that a large number of scientist perceive the opposite of science as being unquestioned prejudice.
Another point for Kuhn
The score then seems to be 2-2 in the Popper vs Kuhn debate. But what of all the ‘other’ responses? One possibility is evidence of Ravitz’s Post Normal Science, driven by concerns extraneous to the ‘logic of puzzle solving’. Or is there perhaps a new variant in the making?