The Intersection

i-5d05043d57cfd919beb3d057b961646e-SkepticalInquirer.jpgI was very disappointed to see, when my latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine arrived, that it had an article by Bjorn Lomborg in it–downplaying the risk of global warming, as usual.

I started out my career working for SI, am currently a correspondent, etc…but I felt that in light of this big a mistake, I had to call the magazine out publicly.

I mean, how does publishing Lomborg’s totally misleading underestimation of the risk of sea level rise help the cause of skepticism? I don’t get it.

For my full take on Skeptical Inquirer‘s folly, see here.


  1. #1 Alex
    March 3, 2008

    Something slightly more infuriating, as McCain wades headlong into something he should be nowhere near.

  2. #2 Dark Tent
    March 3, 2008

    Just because they have the name “Skeptical” in their name does not mean anything.

    It seems that everyone these days has adopted the word to the point where it has become almost meaningless.

    “Skeptical” Enquirer should stick with debunking stuff like UFO’s and spoon bending and leave the analysis of real science to scientists.

  3. #3 Orac
    March 3, 2008

    Actually, it’s contagious. Skeptic recently published a bunch of tripe about how animal research is utterly useless for predicting human response.

  4. #4 writerdd
    March 3, 2008

    But perhaps in part because the organized “skeptic” movement in the US has so many overlaps with global warming denying free-market libertarianism–for complex reasons that I can’t really address here…

    I, for one, would love to hear what you have to say on this topic.

  5. #5 Mary
    March 3, 2008

    Oy. The truthiness. It burns. Really.

  6. #6 Dr. Worm
    March 3, 2008

    Actually, the SI article on why animal models are poor predictors for human outcomes was one of the best and most annotated pieces they’ve run in a long time. Maybe if you had actually read it and the cited references…

  7. #7 Dark tent
    March 3, 2008

    “perhaps in part because the organized “skeptic” movement in the US has so many overlaps with global warming denying free-market libertarianism–for complex reasons that I can’t really address here…”

    I don’t think it’s very complex at all.

    Many libertarians subscribe to Ayn Rand’s “objectivism” (at least in principle, if not in the details)

    “Skepticism” has traditionally been associated directly with science, which is pretty much the standard for “objectivity” (though far from perfect) when it comes to human endeavors. Though “objectivism” as a philosophy is not the same as “objectivity”, the former obviously derives directly from the latter.

    so, by calling themselves “Skeptics”, the libertarians (and others) lend themselves (or at least hope to lend themselves) an air of “objectivity” — and credibility in a technologically based society like ours.

    It seems to me that “Skeptic” in it’s current use has become pretty much synonymous with “contrarian”. Of course, one can be a contrarian without being the least bit “objective” or skeptical (in the scientific sense).

    But, with libertarianism, (as with all other philosophies), the buzz words are nonetheless very important.

  8. #8 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    March 3, 2008

    It’s because they believe in free and open dialogue. They have published several articles critical of Lomborg’s viewpoint in the past, so they specifically solicited a piece from him. Free speech even applies to people who disagree with you, and sticking your fingers in your ears and refusing to listen does not qualify you for the label “skeptic.” Wait a couple months and see him (and the editors) get lambasted by letter-writers.

  9. #9 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 3, 2008

    Dr. Worm said: “Maybe if you had actually read it and the cited references…”

    Dr. Worm, you should follow your own advice and read the article that Orac referred to. The Greek et al article LOOKS impressive, but is extremely misleading.

  10. #10 Barry
    March 3, 2008

    “Free speech even applies to people who disagree with you,…”

    And doesn’t extend to giving them space in your magaizine to promote fraud.

  11. #11 Rien
    March 3, 2008

    Very good point, Barry. There is sometimes a confusion about that. I don’t have to help spread viewpoints I consider wrong, that doesn’t have anything to do with free speech. There is no censorship there. If the state (or a media monopoly) makes sure they are not spread, then there is censorship.

  12. #12 Steve Nordquist
    March 3, 2008

    Sometimes these magazines (and I should mention that whatsisbloviation Buckley was an all-in-one) devote space to a sort of immune exposure and settling of stance. It’s useful so that people dealing in making a cool outcome from dire stuff aren’t stymied by mere excess stupidity in transformed states.

    The feedback here and at your link, which I think can be cited as an example of FAIL for you (you’ll pass through, though) shows some serious allergic reaction where there should be a slam dunk.

    a) Bjorn is not just transformed stupidity, and they published him without editorial bracketing (a lead and close to contain the dustup, for example) so give him and Skeptical Inquirer (the editors) what’s theirs and
    a1) ask them what’s up first. It is not as if they do not operate on the cliffhanger method for retractions and dialogue the next month!
    b) If you can’t link the article online, fuck whining about it. Although evidently you have a -sound track- with the cute Marine Biologist so good job on the monetizing side. I’m just here looking for Lynne Kiesling’s blog but couldn’t remember her name.

  13. #13 Dark tent
    March 3, 2008

    They print Lomborg “because they believe in free and open dialogue.”

    I don’t believe it.

    It’s not like Lomborg has not already had more than ample opportunity to get a hearing for his (long since debunked) claims in the US media.

    It’s far more likely that Skeptic prints Lomborg for the same reason so much of the American media continue to quote Anne Coulter after she has been shown time and again to be full of it.

    Lomborg is a controversial figure who sells (magazines, in this case).

  14. #14 Christophe Thill
    March 4, 2008

    Lomborg is just the kind of guy who usurps the words “skeptic” and “skeptical”, and for whom the word “contrarian” was created.

  15. #15 bob koepp
    March 4, 2008

    I have no problem accepting the label ‘contrarian’ — Heyoka! Does anybody here actually think that a contrarian can’t be skeptical, or vice versa? There’s something seriously wrong when people who claim to be pro-science and pro-rationality can’t do better than “name calling.”

  16. #16 ~C4Chaos
    March 4, 2008


    thanks for the heads up on this.

    i remember an article by E.O. Wilson lambasting Lomborg.

    however, depending on what camp people fall on the Global Warming debate, Lomborg’s book fills a void in the spectrum of the “deniers” and “alarmists” debates. for example, here’s a favorable review of Cool It on spiked.

    in short, it’s a battle of ideologies out there and Global Warming is no exception.

    in addition, it’s sad when i hear surveys like this:

    “If only the masses could understand the science of global warming, they’d be alarmed, right? Wrong, according to the surprising results of a survey of Americans published in the journal Risk Analysis by researchers at Texas A&M University.”


    finally, i’m interested to know your opinion on Lovelock’s doomsday view.

    “Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam.”

    so can you blame lay people getting confused on this issue?



  17. #17 Tatarize
    March 8, 2008

    I noticed that too. I was quite taken aback a few days back when I looked at my copy. I thought the previous two part piece they ran on Global Warming was fantastic. I understand they took some flak for it, and some “skeptics” were angry that a such a zine as SI would run something filled with scientific facts and a well rounded presentation of the data. Perhaps they felt obliged to appease those readers who foolishly believe that skepticism is just not believing things rather than an epistemological virtue of wanting an actual foundation for claims before they are made.

    Besides, just think about 50 years from now after we’ve done nothing to mitigate the problem of global warming and it finally magically vanishes leaving us with our nice condos on the Greenland coast, we’re going to seem downright silly!

    I look forward to reading the May/June issue’s letters slamming the March/April’s issue.

  18. #18 Hume's Ghost
    March 9, 2008

    “World Trade Center Illness:Manufactured Mass Hysteria” by Michael Fumento

    Fumento has even less credibility than Lomborg. Lomborg and Fumento are psedo-skeptics …

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