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.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Downton Abbey fans outraged at Kindle sponsorship adverts
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Foo Fighters: Live 2015 tour dates announced for Sonic Highways
Kendrick Lamar announces new song 'i' following leak
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God