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Lomborg should be applauded for posing awkward questions

Your editorial of 20 January makes a reasonable effort to be balanced. But having read Lomborg's book — with pleasure and admiration — and having read many of the related reviews and articles, I would be harsher on his critics.

The reviews of The Skeptical Environmentalist in Nature, Science and Scientific American reflected little credit for Lomborg on the part of the scientific community. They come across as small-minded and drafted from a perspective of envy and irritation, rather than balanced judgement.

The fact is that Lomborg — without pretending to be an expert in the wide fields of expertise addressed in his book — asks sharp questions, makes clear his sources, and reaches some disquieting conclusions.

In a word, his approach is Socratic: asking apparently simple questions, which progressively demonstrate the nakedness of many fashionable arguments — arguments which in our media-infested world have acquired unmerited influence on public policy.

Having worked in biotechnology for some 25 years, I would have no difficulty in citing examples. Posing, and effectively publicising, such questions and the weakneses of the conventional answers is an important public duty, one that I'm happy to applaud.

As for the reactions of the 'emperors' whose nakedness is thus exposed — well, you remember what happened to Socrates. But it is he whom we remember and celebrate today. Not his judges.

Mark Cantley, 29 January 2003