An ad hominem attack is one which asserts that your opponent's position was arrived at unreasonably, and therefore his premises need not be considered. Which is exactly what you said was established. Nothing of substance was discussed at all. Let's go over it in pieces so you can understand. Line one of the article:
Bjorn Again! Fundamentalist Greens Launch Smear Campaign
We begin the day with a friendly ad-hominem label.
Suggesting to ideological environmentalists that the natural world
is not about to collapse under the assault of a greedy and heedless humanity is akin to telling a convention of Southern
Baptist preachers that gambling, drinking and dancing are not sins. In both circumstances, the Green ideologues and the
Baptists will denounce you as a venal heretic who must be cast out of the company of decent men and women before you
contaminate them with your dangerous ideas.
A lot of very colorful rhetoric which is intended to paint said ideologues
as hysterical and immune to reason.
Bjorn Lomborg, the author of the superb book
That's not an unbiased opinion
now, is it?
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World , just published by Cambridge
University Press, has raised the ire of the environmental fundamentalists. Consequently, this former Greenpeace member is now
suffering through a savage disinformation campaign orchestrated by some of the world's largest and most prominent
environmentalist lobbying groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute.
As part of that campaign, the WWF and WRI have sent a joint press release to members of the Society of Environmental
Journalists warning them "to exercise caution in reporting on Bjorn Lomborg's new book." Why? Among other reasons, the book
"has been heavily publicized and championed by conservatives."
The WWF/WRI press release, signed by WRI President Jonathan Lash, claims that the book is "riddled with misleading arguments
and factual errors." They then go on to list "Nine Things That Journalists Should Know About The Skeptical Environmentalist,"
including the hoary old ad hominem strategy of questioning a challenger's credentials--attack the man, not the
Wow. It's about to get too thick to walk in
Pimm's Cup of Nonsense
We'll skip a bit. There's some expository stuff here that is entirely subjective. Like the title though. It's cool and
collected reporting all around.
... One of the reviewers selected by Nature is the notorious environmental alarmist,
There, did ya see that Treach? The first time an actual name has come up, and he's a "notorious
environmental alarmist." No source, no qualifications, just splat there is the apellation. Therefore everything we read
after this about Mr. Pimm is to be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
a Columbia University Conservation Biology Professor. Interestingly, Professor Pimm has just published, The World
According to Pimm, and a quick look at the 245 or so endnotes backing up his ideologically orthodox - and therefore gloomy --
assessment of the state of the natural world, finds that at least half of the sources that Pimm himself cites are from
non-peer reviewed sources including numerous reports from environmentalist lobby groups like WRI and the Audubon Society, and
international and government agencies like the FAO, UNEP, and others. He also cites numerous non-peer reviewed books like
Cadillac Desert and Guns, Germs and Steel, along with numerous secondary sources, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, media
reports from the New York Times, Barron's, The Economist, and Vanity Fair.
In fact of the 245 endnotes, Pimm cites Nature articles only 10 times-admittedly that is 4% not 1%. But it is not clear that
an additional 3% more Nature citations adds to his credibility since, after all, Lomborg must have cited Nature at least 20
times to get 1% as calculated by Pimm.
As for Pimm's disparagement of "web downloads," looking at Lomborg's references one finds that most of the web downloads are
in fact of reports by international and government organizations that collect and publish the environmental statistics that
even alarmists like Pimm use in his own book. So Pimm is criticizing Lomborg for doing exactly what he himself does and which
he knows is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Clearly, Nature 's editors should be ashamed of themselves for publishing
this shoddy and intellectually dishonest review.
So far, there's nothing about Lomberg in here. We have however
successfully called the kettle black, and avoided debating the question in question. That's ZERO for ZERO, Treach. No
useful information has been communicated.
The Forest for the Trees
The WWF/WRI attack press release cites as an example of Lomborg's "pseudo-scholarship" an alleged misquotation of a WWF
report that found the "nearly 2/3rds of the world's original forests, dating to the pre-agricultural period (defined as 6000
BC), had at one time been cut." Actually, Lomborg does no such thing. He is merely refuting a misleading WWF press release
from October 8, 1997 that announced, "WWF today revealed shocking new figures which show, for the first time, that nearly
two-thirds of the world's original forests have been destroyed. Of the 8,080 million hectares of forest existing in the world
8,000 years ago, only 3,044 million hectares remain today."
First note how the WWF rhetoric was subtly shifted from the original inflammatory "forests have been destroyed" to the more
judicious "had at one time been cut." Furthermore, the WWF "report" was apparently never issued much less peer-reviewed.
As for 8 billion hectares cited for "original" forest cover, one of the world's leading forest researchers Roger Sedjo, who
is a senior fellow at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC says that that number is much too high. In fact, a study
issued by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1997 found that forests might have covered an estimated 6.8 billion hectares
8,000 years ago. Even more interestingly, if one goes back 18,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age, the Oak Ridge study
found that forests covered only 2 billion hectares of the earth. Note also that 18,000 years ago, tropical rainforests
covered about half a billion hectares while tropical forests of all types covered just over 0.9 billion hectares. Today,
18,000 years after continental glaciers retreated and even after humanity's impact, tropical forests cover about 1.7 billion
hectares. Although not directly comparable to the Oak Ridge forest data, the latest U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
report on the state of the world's forests finds that global forest cover is 3.9 billion hectares.
"Look, the relevant issue is what is happening to forests today," says Sedjo. "The fact is that northern temperate forests
have been expanding for decades and the rate of tropical deforestation is slowing." Sedjo also agrees with the experts that
Lomborg cites that about 20% of the forests have been converted to other uses, primarily agricultural, in the past two
OK, numbers and, like, stuff. Unfortunately, it's all about something that virtually no one can check up on.
Estimates aren't facts. And again the pot points out that the kettle is black. No surprises here.
Reversing Cause and Effect
Next, the WWF/WRI press release claims that Lomborg has mistaken "association for causation," specifically that Lomborg
"attributes environmental improvements to increases in standard of living rather than to improved scientific understanding
research or to firm environmental policy." This is completely misleading to the point of being dishonest. Lomborg favors
strengthening some environmental regulations and clearly states "it is probably fair to say that regulation is one of the
reasons for the reduction of pollution."
However, unlike his ideologically motivated
Ad hominem attack again
antagonists, Lomborg further points out that
"technological factors also play a major role" in reducing pollution. For example, consumers have done a lot to clean up the
air simply by choosing to switch from relatively dirty fuels like wood and coal to cleaner electricity and natural gas. The
World Bank has identified "environmental thresholds" that occur when average incomes in a country reach certain levels, e.g.,
$1200 for clean drinking water, and $3200 and $3800 for the beginning of cuts in air particulates and sulfur dioxide. The
green ideologues have in fact largely reversed cause and effect themselves--good science and strong environmental regulations
are adopted when people achieve a certain level of income. In other words, as people's incomes rise, then they become
concerned with environmental amenities.
A subjective assessment, no primary sources, nothing to check. I love
When Is an Endorsement Not an Endorsement?
Next, the Nature reviewers make recourse to the nasty tactic of calling up their ideological confreres to "refute" Lomborg.
Specifically, Lomborg cites doomsters Paul Ehrlich and E.O. Wilson
Well if they're "doomsters" I'm not even going to
bother to read what they have to say. Structure, Treach. Structure. A well-structured argument, even if completely
illogical, can have you agreeing with things you have no concept of.
as supporting the Wildlands Project which would
reserve 50% of the North American continent as uninhabited wildlands. So, Pimm and Harvey say that they simply called up
Ehrlich to ask him if he supported such a plan. "I know of no such plan," replied Ehrlich. "If there were one, I wouldn't
support it." So Lomborg must be wrong, right? Wrong.
Lomborg and all other readers of Science magazine may well be forgiven for thinking that Ehrlich and others support the
project since. After all, an article entitled "The High Cost of Biodiversity" in the June 25, 1993 issue of Science plainly
said that they did.
"[T]he principles behind the Wildlands Project have garnered endorsements from such scientific luminaries as E. O. Wilson of
Harvard, Paul Ehrlich of Stanford (who describes himself as an "enthusiastic supporter"), and Michael Soule of the University
of California, Santa Cruz, who is one of the project's founders," reported Science. Could this be a case where an ideological
environmentalist forgets what he said earlier when it was convenient to do so?
And with the out-of-context quote we
complete our assasination. Ehrlich and Wilson are argumentatively dead. The reader can't take seriously anything that's
associated with their names. Their doomster ways and their contrarian quotes have destroyed them. And yet we've no idea
what they really think, or what their specific objections to Lomberg's book are.
The Dismal Science
Do I have to point this one out?
On climate change, the WWF/WRI press release dismisses Lomborg for allegedly relying on "one controversial economic model" in
his analysis of the costs of trying to cut fossil fuel emissions as a way to control global warming through the Kyoto
Protocol. A negative review of Lomborg's book by British analyst Michael Grubb in the November 9, 2001 issue Science agrees
with WWF/WRI and asserts that Lomborg's book "reaches its nadir when Lomborg turns to climate economics and the Kyoto
Amusingly, the very same issue of Science in which the Grubb review is published appears an article by Yale University
economist William Nordhaus called "Global Warming Economics". Nordhaus oversees the very same "controversial economic model"
that is dismissed by WWF/WRI and Grubb. Nordhaus calculates that had President Bush not withdrawn from the Kyoto-Bonn
Protocol, implementing it would have cost the United States $125 billion a year, reaching a total of $2.5 trillion over next
ten years. Even without U.S. participation, implementing the treaty will cost Kyoto signatories more than $600 billion to
implement over the next ten years. "The Kyoto-Bonn Accord will make little progress in slowing global warming while incurring
a substantial cost," concludes Nordhaus. So much for oft-heard green assertion that cutting fossil fuel use will save more
money than it costs.
What exactly was this intended to prove? That economists are still dictating environmental
policy? I knew that.
Again, without a hint of embarrassment about the fact that they had just excoriated Lomborg for allegedly using web-based
information and non-peer-reviewed sources, the Nature reviewers finish their critique by pointing readers to a website,
www.anti-lomborg.com , which contains no peer-reviewed analyses whatsoever, only unoriginal, standard issue, doomsaying by
environmentalist ideologues. The site does contain a picture of a green ideologue throwing a pie at Lomborg's face at a book
event - now how's that for reasonable debate?
A picture of a straw man attacking successfully, you mean. Of course a
pie-throwing loony looks good when he's the only one you're arguing against. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good refutations of Lomberg coming from figure-throwing fact-gathering loonies as well. It's not their fault that pie-throwing straw men have joined them.
And the green hate campaign against Lomborg rolls on. According to Pimm and Harvey, Scientific American has commissioned 5
reviewers to debunk Lomborg--nothing like prejudging the conclusion.
Ah, this passage is so light on factual
information, and so heavy on bias.
Finally, in book dealing with so vast a topic as "Measuring the Real State of the World" there are bound to be minor errors
and missteps in interpretation and analysis. Finding and correcting those is an important and honorable exercise, but that is
not what the environmentalist ideologues are doing.
No, but the ones at grist magazine are, and they're doing a thorough job of it.
Instead they try to find minor flaws and then exaggerate their
significance while hinting at larger errors. By thus vilifying Lomborg, they hope to prevent concerned citizens,
policymakers, and journalists from reading and evaluating The Skeptical Environmentalist for themselves.
There's enough actual substance to the grist magazine articles that I'm actually going to
go find myself a copy of Lombard and deconstruct it for myself as much as I can. But I would get absolutely nothing out of
this cheerleading, rah-rah-rah article except that the other side is a bunch of bad guys who are wrong about things that
aren't important to the central argument.
"If you're a little skeptical of both sides, I think you'll see that I continually cite scientific evidence and arguments,"
says Lomborg. "My critics continually try to prejudice readers against me, to sort of attack my character rather than my
arguments. That would tend to make me a little suspicious of their arguments." Amen.
This gem of a phrase at the bottom
of an article full of words like "doomster" and "dismal science." And empty of any argumentative substance. This is a
piss-poor editorial, not an exposition of the counter-arguments against Lomberg. My reading skills are fine, Treach. But you might have your bullshit detector serviced.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
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