Thursday, November 5, 2009

SuperFreakonomics Sparks Ire, E-Mails over Last Chapter

SuperFreakonomics, the long-awaited sequel to 2005’s Freakonomics, has ignited a bit of controversy since its release on Oct. 20. The last chapter, which delves into climate change, has prominent environmentalists, critics and fans locking horns in a furor that has resulted in at least one public relations black eye and more than a few private emails posted on very widely read blogs.

Both SuperFreakonomics and Freakonomics embark, largely, upon an explanation of what its authors say are the invisible incentives that give shape to the world we see around us. From the economics of drug dealers to why suicide bombers should buy life insurance, readers can expect intriguing insights from both books.

Readers can also expect, in SuperFreakonomics’ controversial last chapter, a radical, rationalized take on why all of our climate problems can be solved by equipping pigeons and field mice with laser-guided— Hey, we’re not here to give away the ending!

The argument really kicked into gear when editor Joseph Romm decried the book as pushing “global cooling myths, sheer illogic, and ‘patent nonsense.’”  He and many others have been upset by certain ideas explored in the offending chapter, titled “What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common?” (To add color to the debate: Romm glows over Al Gore’s new book in a recent ClimateProgress post.)

If you have a spare lunch break, SuperFreakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner’s rebuttal makes for interesting reading, as does co-author Steve Levitt’s lively conversation with economist Yoram Bauman – who, like Romm, takes issue with Levitt and Dubner’s final chapter.

If you missed this event, which was moderated by The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray (on the right, in the bottom photo), keep watching The Commonwealth Club's YouTube page -- we'll post the video soon so you have something to talk about at that next cocktail party.

--By Andrew Harrison
(Photos by Camille Koue)


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