Almost a year ago, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty delivered their infamous ruling that Bjørn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist (which we highly recommend) is scientifically dishonest.
We now salute the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, which is reponsible for those Committees, for robustly overturning that ruling:
The Ministry finds that the DCSD judgment was not backed up by documentation, and was “completely void of argumentation” for the claims of dishonesty and lack of good scientific practice. The Ministry characterises the DCSD's treatment of the case as “dissatisfactory”, “deserving criticism” and “emotional”
Is it really emotion that has dragged the highest arbiters of Danish scientific integrity down into the depths of unreason and pseudoscience? Whatever it is, they are not the only ones. Scientific American, for instance, treated Lomborg's work in an appallingly unscholarly way. And as for the press – well, with a few honourable exceptions such as The Economist, which backed Lomborg from the beginning, they have largely abandoned any pretence at critical examination of conventional wisdom and have fallen comfortably into the role of baying for the punishment and destruction of a heretic. The Guardian, for instance, was unlucky enough to award Lomborg a derisive eco-gong award for disservice to the environment on the very day that the Danish ministry exonerated him.
If this is an emotion, it is a widespread, powerful, destructive and dangerous one. Where does it come from?
I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.
No, it's not some genetically imprinted Original Sin that makes people irrational. That's letting them off far too easily. And it's letting himself off too easily as well: despair is always available as a cop-out, but there's no justification for abandoning the obligation to set the world to rights. The existence of human error doesn't need any great scientific explanation, any more than it needs a religious one: what it needs is correction. Which comes from creative thought, argument, and persuasion.
Crichton also seems to make the common atheists’ error that just because all religions are factually untrue, they are all worthless – and in particular, morally worthless. That is not so. They are neither worthless nor mutually equivalent. Many religions have good moral content as well as bad, while the morality of the environmental movement is fundamentally bad. Thomas Carlyle called economics “The Dismal Science”; that was unfair, but envionmentalism is, precisely, the dismal religion.