Chapter 5: Sound Science and Political Science
Rudyard Kipling I despise exaggeration – ’taint American or scientiﬁc. There was considerable irony in the exaggerated response to Lomborg’s book, because it rather proved his claim that there was an exaggerated Litany, not supported by science, that the world was on course for unmitigated ecological catastrophe. It is uncertain whether the attack by Lomborg’s critics was ‘un-American’, but it certainly wasn’t very scientiﬁc, and was distinguished by the distinct absence of errors of substance it identiﬁed in Lomborg’s book. All areas of science are acknowledged to be subject to error, deliberate or inadvertent. There is perhaps most attention focused on the causes and prevention of error in medical science, where errors can be a matter of life or death, and there are numerous studies which have sought to identify sources of error. For example, one study has suggested that medical research ﬁndings are less likely to be true under certain conditions, such as when the size of the eﬀect being measured is smaller, where there is greater ﬂexibility in research design, deﬁnitions, outcomes and analytical modes, and when more teams are involved in a competitive chase of statistical signiﬁcance (Ioannidis, 2005). There is also a greater chance of false ﬁndings when there is greater ﬁnancial interest involved; in other words, despite what is known as the genetic fallacy (that there is no logical reason why the origin of research should produce ‘contaminated’ ﬁndings), the presence of ﬁnancial interests should alert us to the possibility...
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