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Sunday Telegraph promotes water-divining enthusiast as an authority on global warming

with 11 comments

In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I highlight the antics of the man well-known as the Sunday Telegraph’s “anti-science correspondent”, Christopher Booker. Booker has now written at least 41 different articles in which he denies or downplays the health risks of white asbestos – articles which the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive has described as “misinformed”, “substantially misleading” and “absurd”.

One of Booker’s other main themes (alongside denying the risks of passive smoking and objecting to Darwin’s theory of evolution) has been his opinion that, contrary to the views of the overwhelming majority of scientific experts on the subject, global warming is not happening, and/or that it is not caused by human activity.

Booker has so excelled himself in this area that the Guardian columnist George Monbiot recently launched the “Christopher Booker prize for climate change claptrap”, to be awarded to whoever “manages, in the course of 2009, to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change.”

The Sunday Telegraph’s latest piece from Booker must surely be a strong contender. Announcing that scientists have perpetrated “the greatest lie ever told” in telling us that sea levels are rising, Booker presents the views of a retired Swedish professor, Nils Axel Mörner, who he suggests “knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world”. According to Booker, Mörner has “for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe”, and has reached the “uncompromising verdict” that “all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story”. Booker also gives contact details for Dr. Mörner, so that readers who’d like to buy a copy of his acclaimed booklet, also called “The Greatest Lie Ever Told”, can drop him a line.

What Booker doesn’t tell his readers is that alongside his “uncompromising” views on detectable sea-level changes, Dr. Mörner has claimed to have paranormal abilities to find land-bound water using only a dowsing rod and the power of his imagination. Here’s what James Randi had to say about it back in 1998:

I’ve described here previously how a… “dowsing expert” named Nils-Axel Morner, associate professor of geology from Stockholm University, has consistently refused to be tested for the Pigasus Prize. A helpful correspondent in Sweden referred me to http://www.tdb.uu.se/~karl/dowsing/ [link no longer active] where I found that Morner was tested — amateurishly — on a prominent Swedish TV show, “The Plain & Simple Truth,” on TV2 on February 27th. Morner was first provided the opportunity to brag about anecdotal successes, then he was tested. A local celebrity — a singer — was involved, as is usual with these drearily predictable affairs. The singer chose one of ten cups under which to conceal a packet of sugar. He chose number seven; are we surprised? Morner had designed this test, saying that it was especially difficult for him to do. (???) He said that water or metal could be located “right away,” but not sugar. Morner blathered on about “interference” and mumbled about “influences” and “might be here” and the usual alibis, then chose number eight. Wrong. But, said Morner, it was “in the right sector!” But no cigar.

There were 3 serious errors in what could have been a good test: One, the target was not selected by a random means. (3 and 7 are the most-often-chosen positions in a line-up of 10.) Two, an audience member could have secretly signaled Morner. Three, Morner was allowed to do a test of his own choice, one that he said in advance was difficult and strange for him, instead of doing one which he’d done before, for which he has claimed 100% success. Why were water and/or metal not used? This is ridiculous!

Did Morner mention that I’ve offered him the million-dollar prize if he can do his usual, familiar dowsing trick? No.

Martin Rundkvist has more on Mörner’s bizarre activities here, here and here.

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11 Responses

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  1. I wiki’d christopher booker and he is one of the co-founders of Private Eye, I’m now certain that his science writing has always been a hoax. I don’t see how a person who must be pretty smart can write that talcum powder is chemically identical to asbestos with a straight pencil.

    Rob P

    March 31, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    • I think you could be onto something there… Actually I wonder if some of the Telegraph’s other writers might also be in on the japery – I’ve always had my doubts about Con Coughlin. I kind of like the idea that they might all be part of some dadaist collective engaged in a decades-long hoax…

      Richard Wilson

      March 31, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  2. A little matter of fact: You mention that Nils Axel Mörner is “a retired Swedish professor”. Actually Mörner was not a professor; he was a ‘docent’, as it is called in Sweden, the equivalent of ‘Reader’ in the UK, or Associate Professor in the US.

    Anonymous

    August 18, 2010 at 7:16 am

  3. […] gubbe vid namn Nils-Axel Mörner är även han klimatförnekare med superkrafter. Han kan nämligen lokalisera vatten och metaller med sina paranormala krafter samt tror att Vitemölle i Skåne var grekernas Hong Kong. Ja, där ser […]

  4. […] of wi&#108d &#99&#108aims about other matters. He maintains that he &#112ossesses&nbspparanormal ab&#105l&#105&#116&#105es &#116o f&#105nd wa&#116er and me&#116al us&#105ng a dows&#105ng…. He also i&#110sists that he has &#100iscovere&#100 “the Ho&#110g Ko&#110g of the […]

  5. […] Nils-Axel Mörner, and among his claims to fame are that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod, and that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in […]

  6. […] Nils-Axel Mörner, and among his claims to fame are that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod, and that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in […]

  7. […] Nils-Axel Mörner, and among his claims to fame are that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod, and that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in […]

  8. […] Nils-Axel Mörner, and among his claims to fame are that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod, and that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in […]

  9. […] editors-in-chief were Nils-Axel Mörner, who denies that sea level is rising and believes in dowsing, and Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, a geophysicist at the Algerian Petroleum Institute. In one of its first […]

  10. […] journal’s editors-in-chief were Nils-Axel Mörner, who denies that sea level is rising and believes in dowsing, and Sid-Ali Ouadfeul, a geophysicist at the Algerian Petroleum Institute. In one of its first […]


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