"Neither Levitt, an economist, nor Dubner, a journalist, has any training in climate science—or, for that matter, in science of any kind."
This is in reference to the now infamous chapter in their new book about geo-engineering solutions to climate change. I am not about to touch that with a ten-foot pole, go knock yourselves out with a little google search, but this is a low blow.
Okay, so economists like to think of themselves as a type of scientist - we make models, we test them in 'nature,' heck we even do controlled experiments, so we use scientific method - but we are merely social scientists. One presumes that Kolbert considers science to be only of the natural kind (though one could argue that the distinction between human and non-human is not terribly relevant when we look at behaviors influenced by incentives - are dogs and humans much different?). So even though economists have pretty advanced training in math and statistics, apparently in Kolbert's mind, these are 'formal' sciences and are, therefore, inferior.
But Kolbert says "science of any kind," and this is simply untrue. Besides I bet that at least as undergrads Levitt and Dubner had classes in natural science so what do we consider that? Taking this kind of snarky and superior attitude, and resorting to ad-homonym attacks is beneath Kolbert and The New Yorker. But it interests me because this, and the greater outrage over Levitt and Dubner's book chapter, seems to me a symptom of the poisoned debate that human induced climate change has become. Sure, it is true that for years climate scientists had to struggle to be heard and taken seriously, but that has now, finally, changed. The correct thing to do is take the high road and not engage in the same type bad behavior that was directed to them. It is hard to see how progress will be made without it.
For the record, Levitt and Dubner push this 'economists are coldly rational and can therefore see what the rest of you emotional weenies can't' thing way, way too far and in this way are a bit of an embarrassment to economists in general, who are generally pretty nice (really!) but do tend to tell really bad jokes.
And also for the record, I call myself a social scientist - you can make of that whatever you like - but I make no claims to omniscience (except to my kids).