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Spoof news magazine editor Fraser Nelson gets fooled again

with 3 comments

Fraser Nelson, editor of Andrew Neil’s ironic spoof news mag The Spectator, has a track record of being taken in by cranks and pseudoscientists. A little while back he took it upon himself to promote an AIDS denialist film, House of Numbers, apparently in the belief that its makers had intelligent and useful things to say, and ran an op-ed piece dismissing HIV science as “the AIDS religion”. (see here for the original text)

Now The Guardian reports that Nelson has gone one step further, putting the notorious Swedish water-divining enthusiast and “magnetometry” mystic Nils Axel Mörner on The Spectator’s front cover, and leading his readers to believe that the guy is an authority on the effects of climate change on sea levels.

From The Guardian

Nelson’s “find” is a man some of us found years ago and have seen as a source of wild entertainment ever since. He’s called 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 Sweden.

The celebrated debunker of cobblers James Randi challenged Mörner to demonstrate his expertise with a dowsing rod, but he “consistently refused to be tested”. He did however, allow his paranormal abilities to be examined on Swedish television, using a test that Mörner himself devised: dowsing for a packet of sugar concealed under one of 10 cups. Needless to say, he failed, blaming, as such people so often do, “interference” and “influences”.

In 2007, Mörner and his collaborator, a homeopath and amateur archaeologist called Bob Lind, were reprimanded by the Scania County archaeologist in Sweden for damaging an Iron Age cemetery during their quest to demonstrate the “Bronze Age calendar alignments”, which would somehow help to show that this local graveyard was in fact an ancient Hellenic trading centre.

Reviewing such claims, the archaeologist and chair of the Swedish Skeptics Society, Martin Rundkvist, comments that if Nils-Axel Mörner is associated with a project, it’s “a solid guarantee for high-grade woo.”

Now Mörner turns up on the front cover of the Spectator, under the headline “The Sea Level Scam: the rise and rise of a global scare story”. His wild assertions are published in the magazine without qualification or challenge. Far from it: they are proclaimed in the headline as “The truth about sea levels”. Yet they are as far from the truth as his claims about dowsing and archaeology.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 3, 2011 at 12:58 am

3 Responses

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  1. please note that the Guardian did not look at the empirical evidence compiled by Morner: they just did an ad hom attack on him. The Guardian – a fact-free environment

    diogenes

    December 3, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    • Do you have a link to that evidence? Was it published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal?

      Richard Wilson

      December 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      • Whatever his views on dowsing, homeopathy or whatever, Morner was (according to Wikipedia) ” the former head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University. He retired in 2005.” So he does have some right to be taken seriously in his specialist area, surely? I have known research scientists who have carried lucky charms and even bought lottery tickets, yet produced very fine scientific work.

        Rick

        December 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm


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