the limits of cleverness


Dubner and Levitt are at it again, marshalling the forces of data to trouble the conventional wisdom and dethrone the experts. In their new book, “SuperFreakonomics,” they argue that walking drunk is more dangerous than driving drunk, that a doctor’s skill doesn’t matter very much, and that prostitution makes poor women better off. But the book’s biggest provocation comes in its last chapter, on climate change. And it has ensured that, unlike the last time around, the new book is being greeted with as much outrage as curiosity. The “SuperFreakonomics” treatment of climate change, critics charge, is a hodgepodge of unfounded and occasionally contradictory claims. Time and again, the critics say, Dubner and Levitt raise provocative, if unoriginal, arguments only to move on to the next provocation without bothering to mention substantial, even overwhelming, evidence to the contrary. Among other things, readers are told that solar power contributes to global warming, that the climate models that predict warming have all been doctored to achieve matching results, and that carbon dioxide does not “necessarily” warm the earth and may have had little to do with recent warming trends – all arguments that the majority of climate scientists reject as wrong.

more from Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe here.