Special Issue on Post Normal Science, Futures, March 2011
A selection of papers from the symposium "Post Normal Science – perspectives & prospectives 26-27th June 2009: Oxford On the occasion of the 80th birthday of Jerry Ravetz, has been published in a special issue of Futures.
- Davies, 2011 Postmodern times: Are we there yet?
- Ravetz, 2011 Postnormal Science and the maturing of the structural contradictions of modern European science
- Ravetz, 2011 ‘Climategate’ and the maturing of post-normal science
- Beilin and Bender, 2011 Interruption, interrogation, integration and interaction as process: How PNS informs interdisciplinary curriculum design
- France, 2011 How Post Normal views of science have contributed to a model of communication about biotechnology
- Hiis Hauge, 2011 Uncertainty and hyper-precision in fisheries science and policy
- Howard, 2011 Environmental nasty surprise, post-normal science, and the troubled role of experts in sustainable democratic environmental decision making
- Elahi, 2011 Here be dragons… exploring the ‘unknown unknowns’
- Healy, 2011 Post-normal science in postnormal times
- Cole, 2011 Alliterative logic: A theory for postnormal times
- Kapoor, 2011 Is there a postnormal time? From the illusion of normality to the design for a new normality
- Montuori, 2011 Beyond postnormal times: The future of creativity and the creativity of the future
- Gary, 2011 Toward a new macrohistory: An extension to Sardar’s ‘postnormal times’
Davies, 2011 Postmodern times: Are we there yet?
Abstract Ziauddin Sardar's declaration that we have entered ‘postnormal times’  has caused controversy and debate among those aboard the omnibus of futures studies. A few rejoinders have already appeared ,  and . At a time when the past is collapsing into the present at such a rate that nostalgia begins with last year could the future have imploded upon us in the guise of a new era? Do postnormal times really mark a sharp break from history – all our pasts? Is it not a normal human reaction to see our own times as different, uniquely distinct from everything that has gone before? Are the specific features of postnormal times unlike anything encountered in the past? And, are these features so different that they thwart our imagination? Or, are postnormal times merely strange? If so, are they sufficiently strange to produce a conundrum: that one can dispute whether the evidence for postnormality is cogent and compelling, question whether the case for catastrophe is a convincing argument – and yet concur with the conclusion?
The consensual conclusion being that current conditions culminate in a compulsion for change which can best be combated by conjuring value laden virtuous futures visions. Have I used enough Cs now? Or, strangely enough, are C words a key to a new way of conceptualising the crises and contretemps at hand: how to make sense of the incomplete jigsaw puzzle of today and what we conceive of tomorrow? And if the concatenation of C words constitutes a clue could we not decode them by reference to their origins in the past?
Ravetz, 2011 Postnormal Science and the maturing of the structural contradictions of modern European science
Abstract To analyze the sometimes paradoxical features of contemporary science, I use the concept of ‘contradiction’, namely a problem that cannot be solved within the confines of the system in which it is set. I study such contradictions as knowledge and power, knowledge and ignorance, the True and the Good, innovation and property, elitism/democracy, and reality and safety. I then sketch the reactions that have occurred so far, both official and popular, and advance some ideas of my own, including awareness and non-violence.
Ravetz, 2011 ‘Climategate’ and the maturing of post-normal science
Abstract In response to the Climategate scandal, I wrote a number of essays, including a posting on an important critical blog. There I explained the affair in terms of post-normal science. First, that the scientists concerned were doing ‘normal science’, not coping with uncertainties, and then that the ‘extended peer community’ had come into power on the critical blogosphere. There was already a current of criticism of PNS, seeing it as contributing to the supposed corruption of climate science through its denial of Truth. One important essay in that tendency is reproduced here. In my reply to my critics, I argued that we are on the same side, committed to the integrity of science; and I reviewed the progression of my own ideas on climate change. In the light of the criticisms, I conclude with some searching questions about post-normal science.
Beilin and Bender, 2011 Interruption, interrogation, integration and interaction as process: How PNS informs interdisciplinary curriculum design
Abstract We focus on the decision to include PNS in the curriculum for a first year tertiary environments degree. Building on case studies that described complex environmental issues, we understood PNS actions to require a critical gaze at our disciplines and then a process for change. We used the idea of disrupting—or interrupting—the established ways of reading the literature and ‘accepted stories’ of what occurred. The interruption allowed the creation of a space in the academic discourse to question the interpretation- and discipline-based assumptions underpinning subject discussions. This opening of a place for questions about the various case study situations allowed students to act as extended peer communities and to acknowledge other stakeholders in to the discussion. The commonest interruptions were to recast the issue as part of a wider and more complex system, to acknowledge uncertainty and to consider the drivers and risks in scaling up and down within systems and sub-systems. We actively promoted interdisciplinarity and extending science as cornerstones to dissolving paradigms and to facilitating negotiation of innovative ways of ‘seeing and knowing’.
France, 2011 How Post Normal views of science have contributed to a model of communication about biotechnology
Abstract The political debate on genetic engineering in New Zealand during 2001–02 provided a focus for the development of a model for communication about biotechnology. Ravetz's challenge to develop a pedagogy to explore a Post Normal view of science was taken up by this author when she developed strategies for biology teachers to examine biotechnological processes and products from a Post Normal science viewpoint. This view of system uncertainties strongly influenced the inclusion of risk as an element that affected a person's ‘view’ of biotechnology within this communication model. Further development of this problem-solving spectrum of Post Normal science is possible if biotechnology is analysed from a technological epistemological perspective where a biotechnological outcome can be judged according to its fitness for purpose. If this occurs there are opportunities for biotechnology to be characterised as an example of Post Normal science from a scientific as well as an technological epistemology. Such analysis could provide opportunity for such an integrative perspective to be proposed and characterised.
Hiis Hauge, 2011 Uncertainty and hyper-precision in fisheries science and policy
Abstract This essay discusses various uncertainty aspects of advice on fish quotas in the North-East Atlantic provided by ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea). A key conclusion is that while the epistemic uncertainties may be considerable, the advisory framework does not account for these, but sets considerable limitations on what issues, expertise and knowledge is relevant for quota advice. The uncertainty is treated as if it were quantifiable, i.e. a technical problem without epistemic uncertainty. However, since estimates and predictions of stock states are presented with hyper-precision, not even the technical uncertainty is reflected adequately. The inadequate handling of uncertainty is value-laden as the risks and the risk bearers change with different choices of theoretical models. Yet, the ICES framework for quota advice advocates a strict division between science and policy. ICES's claim of producing unbiased advice and the managers’ demand for scientific advice without interference with policy can be regarded as attempts to defend a clear-cut division. Further, the hyper-precision can be seen as a symptom of a sub-optimal management system and can be understood as an attempt to deny that the situation is one of post-normal science.
Howard, 2011 Environmental nasty surprise, post-normal science, and the troubled role of experts in sustainable democratic environmental decision making
Abstract An environmental nasty surprise is an environmental problem such as stratospheric ozone depletion that: catches scientists, technologists, regulators, mass media, and public off-guard; is already extensive by the time it is widely recognized; stems from entrenched technologies; and presents a potentially large-scale, long-term threat to humans or ecosystems. How might the need to minimize the generation of such problems – and address them as effectively as possible when they emerge – help us think more clearly about the role that experts should play in environmental decision making? Using case material on industrial chlorine chemistry, this paper considers the limitations of the theory of post-normal science as a framework for identifying appropriate and inappropriate modes of scientific and technical expertise in environmental decision making. The analysis highlights the need for a model of sustainability expertise that (a) recognizes how prevailing frameworks of environmental decision making allow technologists to actively produce – and exploit – uncertainty and (b) normatively promotes development and deployment of expertise in ways that actively confront these tendencies while making environmental decision making more democratic.
Elahi, 2011 Here be dragons… exploring the ‘unknown unknowns’
Abstract Since ancient times, the phrase ‘Here be Dragons’ has been used to signify dangerous and unexplored territories. While wayfarers of the past realised that lack of knowledge necessitated increased vigilance and caution, today's ‘Here be Dragons’ generally remain hidden and unwanted. Human psychology, institutional frameworks and scientific convention have removed these unrecognised sources of ignorance from the mental maps of modern society. This omission is critical in today's interconnected, interdependent world. It is now time to counter current myopia by using the new digital tools available to draw on wider societal framing in conjunction with scenarios methodologies. This process could provide the meta risk analysis suitable to enable the ‘Here be Dragons’ to be identified, monitored and tackled, thereby ensuring that decision-makers and ultimately society become more aware of intractable uncertainty and adaptive in the face of inevitable change.
Healy, 2011 Post-normal science in postnormal times
Abstract Post-normal science (PNS) was a herald of postnormal times. For Functowicz and Ravetz contemporary issues in which ‘facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ necessitate PNS. PNS deals with the postnormal character of contemporary challenges by bringing the contextualised insights of non-scientific stakeholders to bear through the formulation of ‘extended facts’. However, while the contextual content of ‘extended facts’ caters to the indeterminate character of postnormal issues this remains in tension with an implicit assumption that outcomes reflect the quality of the ‘facts’ informing them. This paper takes the claim that postnormal times involves ‘that we abandon…ideas of ‘control and management” seriously by arguing that science should be the servant of outcomes framed in, primarily, societal terms, rather than the other way around. This argument is illustrated using the example of fashioning an effective response to climate change.
Cole, 2011 Alliterative logic: A theory for postnormal times
Abstract This commentary responds to some of the issues raised in Zia Sardar's paper “Welcome to Postnormal Times” noting and attempting to explain points of difference and similarity. From Sardar's invocation of the 3C's of complexity, chaos and contradiction emerges the idea that our postnormal times might be likened to the strange times following the Great Plague that gave rise to the Alliterative Revival. Speculating further, it is questioned whether, in such strange times, utopian futures studies substitute for prayer.
Kapoor, 2011 Is there a postnormal time? From the illusion of normality to the design for a new normality
Abstract Ziauddin Sardar's characterization of ‘postnormal times’ elegantly captures the mood of despair, uncertainty and insecurity in the West due to the multiple shocks of terrorism, economic recession and climate change. However, the prevailing mood in India, most of Asia and developing countries in general is confidence and optimism for the future. The label ‘postnormal times’ is inappropriate for resurgent Asia and other ‘emerging markets’. Similarly, these countries – as illustrated by examples from India – need more modernization and efficiency to save and improve the lives of their citizens. This paper argues that the seeming normality of twentieth century in the West was an illusion arising out of the ignorance and neglect of environmental and health consequences of unbridled industrial growth. The distorted assumptions of neoclassical economics are largely to blame for this. It is now time to pay back for those excesses. A new normality will emerge only by addressing these distortions and by creating democratic global institutions that can reflect the changed global balance of power of the 21st century. The intellectuals, opinion-makers and leaders of the world have to exercise their ethical responsibility and creative imagination to enable this new normality to emerge.
Montuori, 2011 Beyond postnormal times: The future of creativity and the creativity of the future
Abstract Creativity and imagination are the most important ingredients for coping with post-normal times, according to Sardar. This paper looks at the way creativity itself is being transformed in the West, from the individualistic/atomistic view of Modernity towards a more contextual, collaborative, complex approach. It explores the potential and possibilities for this more participatory creativity to help go beyond the “crisis of the future,” and argues that the centrality of creativity must go beyond the mythology of genius and inspiration to inform philosophy, ethics, and action. Philosophical reflection and the imagination of desirable futures can emerge from a creative ethic that stresses the value of generative interactions and contexts that support creativity.
Gary, 2011 Toward a new macrohistory: An extension to Sardar’s ‘postnormal times’
AbstractHow should futurists evaluate Sardar's announcement of ‘postnormal’ times? In contrast to existing images, what light does the postnormal metaphor shed on our global age? This paper views Sardar's postnormal times as embryonic, and extends it using ecosystems theory. To develop Sardar's concept as a macrohistory, Holling's adaptive cycle and panarchical systems are proposed as mechanisms of change that create postnormal times.