No Skepticism, Please—We're Danish

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The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, a division of the Danish Research Agency, have found Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, guilty of "scientific dishonesty." That sounds damning, until you try to get a handle on exactly what they mean by that.

"Objectively speaking," the committees' report says, "the publication of the work under question"–a book that upset environmentalists by challenging their litany of doom–"is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty." But according to The New York Times, the committees "found no evidence that Professor Lomborg deliberately tried to mislead his readers," or even that he was "grossly negligent." His is a subtle, unintentional "dishonesty," apparently–the sort of lapse that is usually described as "error."

Yet Lomborg complains that the committees didn't even cite examples of things he got wrong. "You can't say I'm scientifically dishonest or in breach of good scientific conduct unless you point the finger and say this is the smoking gun," he told the Times. "It's like saying you committed murder but we won't tell you who you killed. It's impossible for me to defend myself."

The committees relied heavily on allegations that Ron Bailey has dissected in Reason. But their real beef seems to be that they didn't like the thrust of Lomborg's argument. "The report did not cite specific examples," the Times says, "but asserted that the book–although presented in the style of a scientific treatise, with copious footnotes and diagrams–was actually 'a provocative debate-generating paper.'"

So here is an official inquisitorial body, headed by a judge from the Danish High Court, that explicitly criticizes a scientist for provoking debate. What sort of science are they practicing in Denmark?

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  1. Certainly no one expected the Danish Inquisition!

  2. Sadly, these tales are consistent with my experiences living there (1994-1999). As the group “Bad Religion” sings in the ironic song, “Come Join Us” (The Gray Race, 1995): “I can tell you’re lookin for a way to live/ where truth is determined by concensus/ full of codified, arbitrary directives…”

    My favorite example of danish directive happened in the early 1970s where iodized salt was not permitted in denmark, as it somehow butted against the canon of belief. And yes, the lack of iodine did have public health consequences.

    (nice reference, Casey!!!!!)

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