Science

Burn, Baby Bjorn, Burn!

The Report From the Committees on Saying McCarthyism in Danish

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Did you see where the Greens in Denmark have burned Bjorn Lomborg at the stake? A Danish institution with a deeply impressive (even pluralized!) name stenciled on its door, The Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, has reviewed Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, a statistical inquiry into the claims of Wild Environmentalism, and has made its pronouncement. Having examined the complaints against Lomborg, the Committees placed the Wig of Judiciousness on its head and lit the straw at the Danish statistician's feet.

"Objectively speaking," the Committees intoned, "the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty."

It's interesting to observe how impressively Denmark resolves issues of science that arise within its borders: by pronouncement. This saves a lot of time that is otherwise wasted on observation, experiment, analysis, and debate. The "pronouncement" business has a long and distinguished history, of course, having served the Counter-Reformation Church so well in its own battle against heresy, and Stalinist science so effectively in its campaign in support of Lysenkoism. Nor is there any reason to question the disinterestedness of such Committees, since their own witness to their own objectivity is so conveniently placed within their own pronouncement.

Most impressive of all, however, is the manner with which this process has approached the question of evidence. What instances of Lomborg's dishonesty have the Committees cited in support of their pronouncement? This is where they've covered themselves with glory. Evidence is beneath the Committees' contempt; they've cited none. That would have opened the door to a rebuttal on the merits. Why be bothered?

The Economist calls this process Orwellian, incompetent, and shameful, while Tech Central Station says it's a smear. Even so, Lomborg says it makes him uncomfortable, and who can blame him? Lomborg may have the statistical case on his side (the Danish Committees sure didn't put a dent in it), but that can be small comfort when one is up against a well-publicized charge from a body with an impressive name.

What Lomborg needs are other sorts of pronouncements from other self-important bodies located in appropriate nations. That is why I'm so pleased today to report the findings of the Committees on Discovering Moral Fraudulence Masquerading as Something Else. These Committees do business in Freedonia, a nation established decades ago by the Marx Brothers and therefore bringing exactly the desired sensibility to the campaign against Lomborg. Why should these Committees' pronouncements be taken seriously? Because its members are in possession of an impressive set of judicial wigs. Having placed those wigs askew on their heads, the Freedonian Ministers of Pronouncements have denounced the Danish Committees as a collection of "schnorrers," have refused to lend them any more money, and are even refusing to return the Danes' door stencils, deposited in Freedonia as collateral.

Additionally, the Committees on Saying McCarthyism in Danish have weighed in. This group is based in Ruritania, a ludicrous monarchy that figures prominently in the forgotten novels of Arthur Hope. Ruritania is an excellent location to debate Lomborg's critics, because it is a place best known for the extravagance of its military epaulettes. Consistent with their national reputation for impenetrable intrigue, the Ruritanian Committees have dressed up to look exactly like the Danish Committees in question, and have issued a counter-statement in the Danish language that pretends to be the work of the Danish Committees itself. That document demands that Denmark's royal family wear more epaulette braids while riding their bicycles. The smirk on the faces of the Ruritanian imposters at their press conference suggests that there is a good deal more to their conspiracy, but that by the time we turn the last page of the story it will be next to impossible to reconstruct what actually happened.

Finally, the Committees on Pronouncing Pronouncements, based in Pyongyang, North Korea, reports that it intends to buy yet another two-page spread of The New York Times. There, they will print, in 6-point type, the text of a speech begun several days ago by their unique head of state, and still going on. The ad will, as usual, declare socialism's inevitable victory, and cite as evidence the Danish Committees' appropriation of North Korea's scientific methods.

Perhaps none of these developments will reduce Bjorn Lomborg's understandable unhappiness, but it will at least place the Danish Committees' pronouncements in a context befitting their seriousness.