Danish Professor Denounced for 'Scientific Dishonesty'
Panel of Scientists Assails Scholarship of Book Praised in Press -- 'The
By Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 8, 2003; Page A20
Once hailed as a brilliant iconoclast who challenged environmentalists'
gloom-and-doom prognoses of global warming, overpopulation and worldwide
hunger, Danish author Bjorn Lomborg yesterday was denounced by a panel of
his country's top scientists for engaging in "scientific dishonesty."
Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics at Denmark's University of
Aarhus and a former member of Greenpeace, concluded in his best-selling
1999 book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," that "air and water around us
are becoming less and less polluted. Mankind's lot has actually improved in
terms of practically every measurable indicator."
Members of the Danish Research Agency -- Denmark's equivalent of the
National Academy of Sciences -- said Lomborg had "clearly acted at variance
with good scientific practice" in light of his "one-sidedness in the choice
of data and line of argument." The panel, responsible for investigating
allegations of scientific dishonesty, said Lomborg lacked "any special
scientific expertise" in dealing with "the extraordinarily wide-ranging
scientific topics" in his book.
Lomborg's British publisher, Cambridge University Press, said it would not
comment on the panel's finding. Sloane Federer, the publisher's New York
marketing director, said in an interview that "we went through all the
usual processes [of reviewing the material] in order for it to be printed."
He added, "We have no reason to doubt the process."
Publication of the English-language version of Lomborg's book in September
2001 was greeted with glowing media attention. The New York Times, the Wall
Street Journal, the Economist and other publications praised the Danish
professor, who dismissed many environmental concerns as "phantom problems
created and perpetuated by a self-serving environmental movement." A
Washington Post book reviewer concluded that the book was "a magnificent
Corporate-sponsored groups and libertarian Washington think tanks praised
and promoted the book during Lomborg's visit to the United States. But the
book touched off a wave of criticism from environmental groups and
academics. They said Lomborg had been highly selective in his use of
research data and secondary source material to attack the work of dozens of
respected and prize-winning scientists and broad-based, peer-reviewed
Eleven distinguished scientists, including Thomas Eisner of Cornell
University and Edward O. Wilson of Harvard, said in a letter to the
publisher in July that "we rarely see this type of careless and
manipulative scholarship in the undergraduates we teach."
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