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Freakonomics and the Media


Yesterday’s Washington Post had a negative, even harsh, review of Superfreakonomics, the new book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. The book has been getting a lot of criticism for its take on global warming, which the critics say mangles facts and logic.

The authors’ last book, the 2005 bestseller Freakonomics, got a great deal of attention, too, particularly for its most controversial claim: that Roe v. Wade had reduced crime by causing a lot of criminals not to be born. Their claims about the effects of abortion, as I explain in my own book, were dubious. But the reaction in the press was very different. Reviewers in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times all accepted those claims uncritically. The Economist and Forbes found the those claims convincing. The New York Times ran three articles about the book: All were positive, and none questioned the abortion claims.

The book’s claim that abortion might have unexpected social benefits generated no skepticism or even controversy in the press. If Levitt and Dubner believed they would get a similar reception when they questioned climate-change orthodoxy, they were awfully naive.