Eden Project Books, £9.99 Order (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897
Ecologic, By Brian Clegg
In defence of dissenting scientists
Tuesday 17 February 2009
How did the universe begin? Today, most scientists believe it was with the "Big Bang". Until the 1960s, however, another theory competed for prominence. "Steady state" theory posited that the universe had no beginning or end, and that matter was constantly being created. One of its originators was the British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. It was Hoyle who coined the term Big Bang: intended as a sarcastic put-down, the name stuck and the theory gained credence over its rival.
In Ecologic, Brian Clegg contrasts Hoyle's treatment with that of another dissenting scientist, Dr David Bellamy, who does not believe that climate change is being caused by humans. Yet while Hoyle's views were criticised respectfully, Bellamy has been attacked as a "climate change denier", which seems to put him on a par in some minds with those who deny the Holocaust. Clegg's point is not whether Bellamy is right, but that his vicious treatment by environmentalists "is based on fear and publicity rather than on... scientific analysis".
It's one of the more interesting points in a book which sets out to undermine green myths. Greens, claims Clegg, are too emotive, irrational and dreamy. What they need is "the dissecting scalpel of ecologic" – the application of science, economics and psychology to environmental problems. Clegg demonstrates cases in which sloppy thinking, a poor understanding of science or economics, or a desire for publicity have led to environmentalists making the wrong decisions.
These are arguments made with conviction, but they are not especially new, and Clegg is also prone to overegg things. His scientific bias against "basing our decisions on warm, rosy feelings" can seem at times as dangerous as a bias in the opposite direction: cold logic is only one basis for human decision-making, and rightly so. And Clegg is also not above a bit of emotive language himself. I lost count of the number of references to "hair shirts" he manages to crowbar into what remains, nevertheless, a sporadically challenging book.
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Tidal CEO leaves Jay Z's music streaming service only a month after it launched
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens: Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill admits he was suspicious of 'Star Trek guy' JJ Abrams
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate