|Books defending Lomborg:
The honest broker by Roger Pielke jr.
Books defending Lomborg
|Roger A. Pielke, Jr.
(2007): The honest broker. Making sense of science in policy and
politics. Cambridge University Press. 198 pp.
The book has nine chapters. Seven of these contain general considerations on the relations between science, politics, and policies. Here, Pielke says that the relations of a scientist to what policies are decided by the politicians, can take four forms: 1) the pure scientist, 2) the science arbiter, 3) the issue advocate, and 4) the honest broker of policy alternatives. What is of interest to Pielke is not the eventuel truth of what a scientist says; his only interest is what policies result from the scientist´s argumentation. To Pielke, it is OK for a scientist to be an issue advocate, i.e. to argue for a distinct political agenda - actually he does not reject the possibility that there could be two sets of scientists, viz. republican scientists and democratic scientists, because all science has political connotations (p. 93) . The best is, of course, to be `an honest broker´ (as hinted at by the title of the book). The worst, however, is to postualte that you are a neutral scientist, when in fact you are a `stealth issue advocate´. Much of the argumentation in the book is to point out that scientists who present themselves as neutral, especially climate scientists, are in fact stealth issue advocates, which is strongly condemned by Pielke. The culprit is the `linear model of science´, according to which basic science is the prerequisite for applied science, which in turn is the prerequisite for formulation of policies. This line of thinking encourages the mapping of political interests onto science, i.e. it leads to a politicization of science, he says. But Pielke does not explain very well why this would happen, and he does not give us any useful presentation of any better alternative.
The points are then illustrated in two chapters dealing with concrete cases. One chapter is about what information was available on weapons of mass destruction when president Bush jr. decided to initiate the second Iraq war. This chapter is rather short and superficial and tells nothing that we do not all know. And then, one chapter (20 pages) deals with the criticism of Lomborg´s book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. This chapter appears as the cornerstone of the whole argumentation. This is evident from the title of that chapter: "When scientists politicize science", and what he describes in that chapter, is something called `pathological politicization of science´ (p. 129). Those who are guilty of this, are all those who criticize Lomborg. These are the persons who serve to illustrate all what Pielke dislikes.
Pielke has long been a defender of Lomborg. To him, it serves to Lomborg´s merit that he wrote in `The Skeptical Envronmentalist´: "We have become richer and richer primarily because of our fundamental organization in a market economy". So Lomborg is honest, because he clearly states what policies he supports.
In 2003, when the Danish committees (DCSD) issued their verdict that Lomborg was `objectively dishonest´ (see here), Pielke wrote an article about this in International Herald Tribune (20th January 2003). He wrote " . . a Danish panel of scientists concluded that Lomborg displayed "scientific dishonesty" in his book, although it cited no examples and said it had found no evidence that he deliberately tried to mislead readers. . . " . Thus, in Pielke´s understanding, Lomborg was innocent and the verdict was unjustified and politically motivated. What was actually said by DCSD, however, was that Lomborg did mislead his readers, but they did not find sufficient grounds to deem that he had done it deliberately or with gross negligence." This means that he might have done it deliberately, but they had not sufficient evidence to prove this (see their precise text here). It does not mean what Pielke thinks it means: that they found no evidence at all that he might have done it deliberately.
As a reaction to Pielke´s piece in the newspaper, scientist and Lomborg critic John Holdren sent the following reader´s letter to the same newspaper (27th January 2003):
"Regarding "Politics and science mix badly" (Views, Jan. 20) by Roger Pielke, Jr:
Roger Pielke, Jr., a political scientist, presumes to conclude that environmental scientists´ criticisms of Bjørn Lomborg´s book reflect a politicization of science. As a professor of environmental and resource science for 30 years and one of the critics I have a different interpretation.
"The Skeptical Environmentalist" betrays Lomborg´s complete incompetence in the environmental- and resource-science topics it is addressing, as well as pervasive bias deployed in support of an erroneous thesis. To expose this pastiche of errors and misrepresentations was not a political act but a scientific duty."
Now, in his book from 2007, Pielke cites this reader´s letter (the last sentence) and uses it as a proof that Holdren misuses his scientific status. Although Holdren presents himself as a pure and neutral scientist, he is actually in Pielke´s view a stealth issue advocate, which - as explained above - means that he is a suspect person. The argumentation here is that Lomborg supports a distinct policy. When Holdren argues against Lomborg, then it shows that Holdren tries to fight against that policy, which means that Holdren has an axe to grind, i.e. is out in a political business. So, although Holdren says that his actions were not politically motivated, but a scientific duty, Pielke refuses to believe him on his word. To Pielke, scientific truth is irrelevant, and when Holdren says that he defends scientific truth, then Holdren is actually doing the opposite, he is carrying out political lobbyism.
Pielke also cites the subtitle of the Scientific Americans theme issue against Lomborg from January 2002, "Science defends itself against The Skeptical Enviromentalist"". His comments to this (p. 129) are that " . . . science dictates political outcomes. From this perspective, because particular scientific results compel certain actions and not others, there is little reason to distinguish science from politics. Consequently, the following subtitle would thus have been synonymous, "Our political perspective defends itself against the political agenda of The Skeptical Environmentalist" but it would have carried with it far less authority than masking politics in the cloth of science."
Pielke is completely oblivous of the possibility that maybe Lomborg´s postulates are not true, and that maybe Lomborg deliberately distorts the evidence in order to seduce and mislead his readers. This, on the other hand, is the understanding that forms the basis of the present web site, Lomborg-errors. I claim that the web site demonstrates more than 500 concrete errors and flaws in Lomborg´s books, and that at least about 100 of these are deliberate attempts to mislead people. From that understanding, it is obvious that there must be somebody who correct the errors, and that it is a scientific duty to point them out, especially when Lomborg himself stubbornly refuses to admit any severe mistakes. So it is natural and necessary that somebody carry out this criticism, and there are good reasons that the criticism becomes very harsh.
Pielke´s interpretation, on the other hand, demands that such a thing as scientific truth does not exist. There may be a `democratic truth´ and a `republican truth´, but no single truth. If this conception becomes more widely accepted, then it will be the death of science as we know it. The whole idea behind science is to seek `the truth´ and to apply a certain code of conduct in this search. If there is no single truth, then there can be no science. So, in his attempts to defend Lomborg, Pielke goes so far that he is willing to kill science and to posutlate that science is just a peculiar form of politics.
Pielke does not give a single hint that maybe some of what Lomborg has written is not true. The reader of his book will understand, although it is not said directly, that Lomborg is close to Pielke´s ideal of an `honest broker´. In this way, the term `honest´ is subtly associated with Lomborg. Even though, in fact, there are few people on the scene that are as pervasively dishonest as Lomborg. On the other hand, those who, simply from a scientific duty, try to dismantle Lomborg´s lies, are presented as suspect persons who hide their true motives, i.a. as dishonest. Altogether, Pielke turns everything upside down. Chronic liars are presented as honest, and those who try to reveal dishonesty, are presented as culprits. The whole argumentation is so strange and so awkward that it reminds of the argumentation of the hatter in Alice in Wonderland. In order to defend Lomborg, Pielke seems willing to sacrifice any sound principle that gets in his way, and to turn everything upside down.
Not only in the Lomborg chapter, but in the whole book, Pielke´s argumentation is unprecise, sloppy, and not very convincing. What Pielke performs, is actually `stealth issue advocacy´ in the cloth of social science. Thus, he is following the same strategy as Lomborg himself: he accuses others of just those sins that he commits himself.
Unfortunately, Pielke has followers who accept his argumentation. Pielke´s book suddenly became politically relevant because of the hearing in the Senate to confirm John Holdren to be the science adviser of president Obama. The influential American journalist John Tierney put the question: "Will Mr. Obama’s scientific counselors give him realistic plans for dealing with global warming and other threats? " He answered indirectly `no´ when he said: "Some scientists . . . engage in what I call `stealth issue advocacy´ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones" and adds: "One example of this stealthy advocate is the nominee for White House science adviser, Dr. Holdren." All this just on the basis that Holdren committed the single sin of criticizing Lomborg. So whenever a person postulates that Lomborg lies, this in itself makes him a suspect person in the absurd view of certain political circles. Truth is irrelevant here. All that matters is that only persons who support Lomborg are OK. Isn´t it ironic that persons subscribing to this argumentation frequently talk about environmentalists having a nearly `religious´ creed?