Saturday, 24 October 2009

How To Tell People They're Wrong

Crooked Timber weighs in on the Superfreakonomics storm mentioned a little while ago. In essence, Davies' argument runs like this. First, if you're going to tell people the conventional wisdom on an important topic is wrong, you can't complain if you upset anyone. Second, if you deliberately attempt to sound controversial (because controversy sells) you don't get to whine when people reading the piece conclude that said controversial point is what you actually believe. The book has "Global Cooling" in its subheading, and is discussed in the introduction to the relevant chapter, so complaining that people who think the chapter on global warming is attempting to draw a parallel with global cooling are actually "wilful[ly] misreading" doesn't hold much water. As Davies says:
If Superfreakonomics wanted a calm and rational debate, this chapter would have been called something like: “Geoengineering: Issues in Relative Cost Estimation of SO2 Shielding”, and the book would have sold about five copies.
It's well worth reading the whole thing.

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