What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

The Pseudoscience of Bjørn Lomborg, Global Warming Denier

April 10, 2013, 8:04 PM
Lomborg_1

One very prominent global warming denier is a Dane named Bjorn Lomborg.  He wrote a book about ten years ago that got a great deal of attention and he called it The Skeptical Environmentalist.  He is an economist and he’s not a scientist.  And some people would say economics is not a science, for instance, but leave that to one side for another program.

Lomborg wrote this book, and in this book he had 3,000 references, 3,000 citations to different books and scientific papers.  Now if I ask you to go away and read 3,000 papers and books and assimilate them and make sense out of them and come back when you’re finished, I think it would be a while before we saw you again, several years probably. 

Even a scientist with a scientific background would have a lot of trouble assimilating 3,000 papers.  But in this book, Lomborg denied that global warming was a problem.  We have many more pressing problems, he said, like poverty, AIDS, racism, and so forth.  Some of them are minimal, perhaps in decline, and some not.  About two years ago a man named Howard Friel wrote a book called The Lomborg Deception.  And he started with a chapter in The Skeptical Environmentalist and he tracked—and this was a chapter which was really about polar bears which Lomborg said were fine.

Lomborg said the polar bears do not need to worry at all. The ice is not going to go away. They’re always going to have a safe stable home. Lomborg said they’re not threatened, they’re not endangered, which is the opposite of what scientists are saying.  And if the polar bears could foresee the future I think they’d be a bit worried themselves, but of course they can’t sadly.

This man, Howard Friel, tracked down every single reference in Lomborg’s chapter and I think there were something like 25 references, and each one of these references he found something wrong with.  Either Lomborg had cherry-picked a reference that happened to support his position or he’d picked a particular point of data from within a paper that happened to support his position.  

Friel planned to do this for the whole book, but it took him so long just to do one chapter. So he wrote a whole book about two chapters, and he said if I did this for the whole book I would wind up with a book of something like 900,000 pages, some big number like that.  And so I’d rather not put myself and my readers into that position.  Lomborg is also an example of a sort of slippery global warming denier who starts off denying global warming pretty much flat out, and then gradually shifts his position.  As the evidence mounts for global warming, it becomes harder and harder to simply flat out deny it.  So he’s shifting his position and lately he’s been saying that alright, maybe it’s happening and maybe humans are the cause.

No doubt, a year or two from now Lomborg will have some other scheme that he will exploit and get speaking engagements, and so forth, out of.  And I don’t know whether he would ever accept global warming or not. I’m not sure it could ever get that hot. 

Here is Lomborg's rebuttal to Howard Friel

More from the Big Idea for Monday, April 29 2013

Learning from the Past

Particularly in economics, there are plenty of old ideas that need to be put to bed. And yet, these ideas keep showing up, in the punditocracy, or in the blogosphere. They're everywhere you look. ... Read More…

 

The Pseudoscience of Bjørn ...

Newsletter: Share: