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Vol. 25 No. 5
September-October 2003

IUPAC Wire | News and information on IUPAC, its fellows, and members organizations
See also www.iupac.org/news

Letters from Readers - Regarding H. L. Senti’s Review of The Skeptical Environmentalist
Chemistry International, March-April 2003, p. 26

by David Shaw

I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of balance and candor in the review by H. L. Senti of The Skeptical EnvironmentalistMeasuring the Real State of the World by B. Lomborg which appeared in the March-April issue of Chemistry International. The dominant tone of the review is that Lomborg’s work is a fair, accurate, and scholarly analysis. Disagreement with Lomborg’s conclusions is dismissed by a single sentence that implies that any criticism is purely political. CI readers should know that, in fact, criticism of The Skeptical Environmentalist is widespread and substantive. The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty found that the work violates "the standards of good scientific practice" by selectively using data that supports his position and systematically ignoring contrary data. I have no wish to participate in a debate of whether Lomberg is factually correct in his views. However, by ignoring the fact that serious and knowledgeable people take issue with Lomberg’s work, Senti uses the same unscientific approach of which Lomberg is accused.

David Shaw <ffdgs@uaf.edu>, University of Alaska at Fairbanks

 

Reply from H. L. Senti

It is true, as David Shaw writes, that Lomborg's book was criticized. Especially the doomsayer branch of the ecolo-community expressed its anger. I am also aware that Lomborg was accused in a "Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty." But what the reader should know as well is that this committee itself was substantively criticized for its procedure; some critics mentioned the word "censure." Danish media, Danish universities, and legal specialists have also criticized this "court." According to them the court did not (could not ?) produce one single example of scientific dishonesty. In their critique of the chapter on the number of extinct species, two scientists did not shy away from the analogy of the number of Jews killed by the Nazis (Nature of 8.11.01). I consider that ugly and it shows that some criticisms of the book are colored by anger and politics. This is most unfortunate because Lomborg wanted nothing else but to launch a discussion about priority setting for combating environmental problems which he does not deny.

An afterthought: In contrast to other sciences, many politicians have adopted ecological sciences for their own use. In many countries politicians have made brilliant carriers on ecological platforms. In my view the "marriage" between politics and ecological sciences is most unfortunate. Research, detached and unbiased, becomes difficult. This may be the reason why the discussion of Lomborg's book has become so political and intense.

H. L. Senti <h.luzius.senti@bluewin.ch>


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