SPEAKING OF THE POST BELOW, ABOUT ATTENTION, I keep meaning to post something on the latest Lomborg flap, but people keep emailing me information. It’s all great information, but most of it needs me to read, follow links, and digest it — and with classes starting today I just don’t have the time, or more accurately the mental energy needed to focus my attention on it right now. I’ll try to get something together later. In the meantime, Nick Schulz has a piece saying it’s bogus.
One key problem with the Bellesiles parallels that some people are trying to draw: Bellesiles’ critics made very clear statements charging Bellesiles with making up data and presented very clear evidence of what he had done wrong. Lomborg, on the other hand, has as far as I know been charged with nothing of the sort — no surprise, as he drew on data already published by the UN, etc. Instead, as I understand it, he’s charged with being “one-sided” in his analysis. Hardly the same thing. Indeed, comparing the Danish panel report on Lomborg with either of the two items linked above illustrates just how far apart the two cases are.
UPDATE: A reader suggests that I should add a link to Lomborg’s rebuttal of the critical article in Scientific American that seems to be the source of many of the panel’s complaints.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s The Economist’s take on it:
Why, in the first place, is a panel with a name such as this investigating complaints against a book which makes no claim to be a scientific treatise? “The Skeptical Environmentalist” is explicitly not concerned with conducting scientific research. Rather, it measures the “litany” of environmental alarm that is constantly fed to the public against a range of largely uncontested data about the state of the planet. The litany comes off very badly from the comparison. The environmental movement was right to find the book a severe embarrassment. But since the book was not conducting scientific research, what business is it of a panel concerned with scientific dishonesty?
One might expect to find the answer to this question in the arguments and data supporting the ruling—but there aren’t any. The material assembled by the panel consists almost entirely of a synopsis of four articles published by Scientific American last year. (We criticised those articles and the editorial that ran with them in our issue of February 2nd 2002.) The panel seems to regard these pieces as disinterested science, rather than counter-advocacy from committed environmentalists. Incredibly, the complaints of these self-interested parties are blandly accepted at face value. Mr Lomborg’s line-by-line replies to the criticisms (see www.lomborg.com) are not reported. On its own behalf, the panel offers not one instance of inaccuracy or distortion in Mr Lomborg’s book: not its job, it says. On this basis it finds Mr Lomborg guilty of dishonesty.
The Economist calls the panel’s report “incompetent and shameful.” Meanwhile Brian Erst notes this story and calls attention to the concluding paragraphs:
Most of the book’s contentions contradict the conclusions of a host of prominent scientists, who were astonished the book had even been published.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the daily Politiken he was considering an investigation of Lomborg’s institute, the Copenhagen-based European Environmental Agency.
Apparently, anything that questions the beliefs of “prominent scientists” is now not just wrong-headed or misguided, but so beyond the pale that all mention of such dissenting viewpoints must be silenced. Write a book indicating that the September 11th attacks were an American/Israeli conspiracy and you’re at the top of the French bestsellers list and invited to speak all over the world. Write a book questioning the scope but not the fact of environmental degradation and you better go hide in a cave. I’m surprised the aggrieved scientists haven’t issued a fatwa…
Oh wait – who needs the fatwa? Rasmussen is already on the case.
There’s modern Europe for you. Write anti-American slander? Rake in the millions. Run a terrorist breeding ground like the Finsbury Park mosque? Walk free on the streets of London while planning the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Algerians. Hurt the feelings of some climatologists? Go to jail.
I rather doubt that Lomborg faces jail, but the point holds. As the Bellesiles case surely demonstrates, those who charge fraud should be expected to produce evidence, and lots of it. If the two cases taken together prove anything, it seems, it’s that the standards of proof are much higher when the target supports bien-pensant opinion than when otherwise.