Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

I haven't been posting much, and will probably continue that way for a while, toning it down to a few posts a few days a week. Frankly, I spend so much time reading other people's great writing, I don't have time to put much out myself. I will try to keep up with a few new things a week, though, especially when something tickles my fancy or gets my goat (I will leave it to the reader to decide which is more likely). I am going to focus this week on the dreaded Lomborg, and his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. While I have not read the book, I have read a chapter that was published, in its entirety with figures and footnotes, in Skeptic Magazine. My presumption is that Dr. Lomborg was allowed to choose the chapter to be included, which was followed by a rebuttal by a scientist (Dr. Dave Pimentel of Cornell) who was criticized in that chapter. My next post will describe my impressions of both pieces, as well as an additional excerpt from E.O. Wilson's new book, The Future of Life.

First, some caveats; I am not an environmentalist, but I am a concerned observer. It seems to me, from my coursework and outside reading on the subject, that we are just beginning to get a firm scientific grip on how human activity affects the world around us, and the various complex feedback loops that are involved. Because the mathematics of feedback loops containing several interacting parts (in the case of an ecosystem, several can mean thousands!) are very difficult, and because biology in general has been dominated by an exploratory rather than an analytical approach(a fancy way to say that biologists don't do enough math), predictions of the environmental future are notoriously bad. Nevertheless, I think that our future depends on understanding these phenomena, and how they will affect our lives, and those of our children (won't somebody please think of the children??). Let's be clear; the Earth will survive our actions just fine. What will happen to us, however, is much less clear. This is what we should focus on, and how the debate must be framed.