Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pittsburgh Announces Rescher Prize for Systematic Philosophy

Details courtesy of Soul Physics.

From the press release:
Eminent, esteemed, wide-ranging, prolific-these are adjectives that have been aptly used to describe Nicholas Rescher and his contributions to the field of philosophy in a career that spans six decades, with nearly a half century of those years devoted to teaching and research at the University of Pittsburgh. In acknowledgement of his decades-long career at Pitt, Rescher, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, is donating his massive collection of materials on philosophy to the University's Hillman Library. In turn, the University is honoring Rescher for his lifetime of achievement and devotion to the University with the establishment of the Dr. Nicholas Rescher Fund for the Advancement of the Department of Philosophy, which will include a prestigious biennial award, the Nicholas Rescher Prize for Contributions to Systematic Philosophy.


Income from the Rescher Fund will be used to achieve key initiatives of the Department of Philosophy and to establish the Nicholas Rescher Prize. Awarded biennially, the prize will recognize an individual “for distinguished contributions to philosophical systematization” and include a gold medal, a $25,000 award, and an invitation to the University to deliver a lecture. Currently there is no major recognition in the field of philosophy, says Rescher, that is even remotely akin to the Field Medal in mathematics; the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, letters, and the arts; or the Nobel Prize in the sciences, medicine, economics, and literature.

The prize-to be awarded for the first time in the fall of 2010-reflects the seriousness of Pitt's commitment to philosophy. “It is our aspiration that the new Rescher Prize will become recognized as the most prestigious award in the field of philosophy, emphasizing the life's work and contributions to philosophy by a preeminent, world-renowned figure,” Maher said.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Disunity of Climate Science

While there has been a lot of misleading coverage of the stolen e-mails from East Anglia, the Guardian offers an intriguing look inside the fallout from the more significant retraction of the 2007 IPCC report claims about the Himalayan icepack:
Speaking on condition of anonymity, several lead authors of the working group one (WG1) report, which produced the high-profile scientific conclusions that global warming was unequivocal and very likely down to human activity, told the Guardian they were dismayed by the actions of their colleagues.

"Naturally the public and policy makers link all three reports together," one said. "And the blunder over the glaciers detracts from the very carefully peer-reviewed science used exclusively in the WG1 report."

Another author said: "There is no doubt that the inclusion of the glacier statement was sloppy. I find it embarrassing that working group two (WG2) would have the Himalaya statement referred to in the way it was."

Another said: "I am annoyed about this and I do think that WG1, the physical basis for climate change, should be distinguished from WG2 and WG3. The latter deal with impacts, mitigation and socioeconomics and it seems to me they might be better placed in another arm of the United Nations, or another organisation altogether."

The scientists were particularly unhappy that the flawed glacier prediction contradicted statements already published in their own report. "WG1 made a proper assessment of the state of glaciers and this should have been the source cited by the impacts people in WG2," one said. "In the final stages of finishing our own report, we as WG1 authors simply had no time to also start double-checking WG2 draft chapters."

Another said the mistake was made "not by climate scientists, but rather the social and biological scientists in WG2 ... Clearly that WWF report was an inappropriate source, [as] any glaciologist would have stumbled over that number."
As I understand the science, the climate models used to support the central claims of the report are unequivocal. But they don't always give information relevant to policy makers such as exactly how much hotter it is going to get in Indiana or what year the Himalayan icepack will melt. This creates a temptation to leap in and provide more precise predictions than the models support. What is interesting here is that the "hard scientists" are blaming the "social and biological scientists" for giving in to this temptation.