Tim Blair


New Criterion



Saturday, January 11, 2003
THAT'S ENOUGH! Now fifty percent of your votes give the thumbs down to our two naughty scholars, Reynolds and Ryan.

The poll is being archived before ABCwatch readers disgrace themselves further. Next time I'll employ an expert in deliberative polling.

Here is a better idea. It's from Denmark.

The Danes last made an impact on the world when they hopped into their rowing boats to rape and disembowel, not necessarily in that order, any civilised European living within 50 kilometres of a waterway with access to the sea.

They're at it again.

A few words have already been written about the amazing shonks of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (UVVU to their friends).

People have been criticising their attack on Bjorn Lomborg, the statistician whose book The Sceptical Environmentalist tested many of the items of the green faith against the facts, most of the from official sources, and left the faith rather threadbare. And Lomborg with heaps of enemies.

The critics of UVVu miss the point. This Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty exists to create scientific dishonesty, and they have succeeded tremendously. If you can interpret their argument any other way, please drop Uncle a line.

The situation is this. Various people disagree with Lomborg and want to discredit him. They are also heavying his publisher, Cambridge University Press (just like Lyndall Ryan leaned on the publisher of a researcher who didn't follow her line).

So what does UVVU do? They treat several of Lomborg's critics as the case for the prosecution. They ignore Lomborg's detailed replies.

Then they do a double back-flip with twist, pretending that the Lomborg analysis is the kind of natural-science, laboratory research to which the idea of scientific fraud can be applied.

Their Working Party couldn't agree on that point. "Some members do not regard the book as science, but rather as a debate-generating book". Sounds almost as bad as economics.

This is a problem. If your work is a work of natural science, you mustn't ignore crap results and you don't go public before peer review, for example.

On the other hand, if it's a work of social science, for want of a better term, you do something like the opposite.

Never mind! Row on, Vikings!

Let's pretend it's some kind of natural science, and invent a kind of dishonesty to fit. Unintentional dishonesty, would you believe?

Don't take Uncle's word; here are UVVU's own words.

"Objectively speaking, the publication of the work... is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjorn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."

I bet it doesn't make any better sense in Danish. I've got blood coming out of my ears.

With minds like that, pulling finger-nails out must be a breeze.

Now, it's taken a while to arrive, but here's the point.

Let's get the boys and girls of UVVU (their Working Party on Lomborg comprised a lawyer, a literary type, a doctor, a political "scientist" and an agronomist) to work on the problems of Reynolds and Ryan.

They will no doubt decide that our two historians were'nt doing research at all. Just controversy-provocation.

Their Working Party won't all agree, but they'll still decide that, in the circumstances:

the monstrous myths of Reynolds and Ryan should not be subject to peer revew, belatedly, and the idea of sources of evidence is just irrelevant.

The Danish solution. Dispute resolution by crucifixion of logic.