The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bad Science, Bad People

Paul Ehrlich, author of the famous book "The Population Bomb" has made many, many predictions over the course of his life, and as far as I know, they have all been wrong. Ehrlich and his wife Anne are firm believers in the idea that the world is overpopulated and that ideally there would be about 2 billion people. Paul's two most famous predictions, that the earth would undergo a major famine killing hundreds of millions of people:

[t]he battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

and that the prices of most natural resources would rise over time (as chronicled in his famous wager with Julian Simon), would prove to be losers.

But he and his wife are sticking to their guns. I knew that they were bad "scientists," to use the term loosely. What I never knew, however, is that they're also lousy human beings. I get the NewScientist podcast every Monday. It is generally excellent. However, this Monday, I heard Anne Ehrlich say the following while recommending that the Earth's population be reduced:

As witness the Chinese solution. Although there are a great many people who disapprove of China because it resorted to rather draconian means to get the birthrate down, but they did succeed and they had very good reasons for becoming draconian. (Emphasis mine.)

-Anne Ehrlich

That's right, Anne Ehrlich just simultaneously endorsed communism while supporting government sponsored abortion and infant exposure.

What a despicable person. You can listen for yourself here.


  • i've got this for anne ehrlich

    By Blogger ahren, at 5:09 PM  

  • That doesn't seem to be an endorsement of Communism any more than any other form of government that is authoritarian enough to implement such a program.

    The Ehrlichs dabble too much outside of their field. I've always suspected he's extrapolated butterfly ecology a bit too far out. Or maybe they were so horrified by the loss of butterfly habitat that they decided the solution was less people.

    As for being a bad scientist, the problem isn't when scientists propose something that is wrong - that is just part of the process. tThe problem is when alarmism or the media blows up only one side of it. On the other hand, good scientists would have explored or suggested several possible solutions instead of concluding certain widespread death. Unless it was/is calculated alarmism.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 11:02 AM  

  • It is an endorsement of communism because of the failure to realize that communism, and not a shortage of natural resources, caused all of the problems. Without communism China would have had no need for population control (and even with it there was no reason to take such draconian measures). Ehrlich's complete failure to pick up on this fact is a tacit endorsement of communism.

    I suspect that Ehrlich would not have failed to criticize a fascist regime that took similar measures.

    I've no problem with proposing an incorrect theory, I'd just like to see them discard this theory as it's been proven wrong repeatedly for the last 40 years.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:29 AM  

  • Personally, I think that the problem of communism has more to do with the massive overhead required to maintain it than any intrinsic "wrongness." I also think that technological advances in the next 25 - 50 years will mimimize said overhead.

    Granted, it'll probably still suck, and I'll want no part of it personally, but I think that there is benefit to experimenting in "unnatural" markets.

    Anyway, speaking of population control... have you ever heard of the Georgia Guidestones?

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 9:21 PM  

  • Unless technological innovations drastically change human nature, communism still isn't going to work.

    There are other non-overhead problems that Paul could better educate you on.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 10:12 PM  

  • I'm of the thinking that "human nature" isn't some static idea that stays the same forever. What we know as "human" is just a combination of traits on a long chain of evolutionary development that (hopefully) will continue to change and prosper and eventually be unrecognizable to us.

    There are tons of institutions that humans have devised that are against human nature. Many tenets of religion and monogamous marriage fly in the face of natural selection but I don't see them going anywhere anytime soon because, despite their problems, they work for a lot of people.

    For all of its problems, I'm not convinced that communism is completely unworkable because it has failed in the past. There were clearly major implementation problems, but I see it as the kind of artificial mechanism that could work one day. Of course that day is probably the day before humanity as we know it becomes extinct, but a day nonetheless ;).

    But hey, it's just one of my crackpot theories, feel free to vaporize it at will.

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 6:51 AM  

  • Maybe I'll do something more in-depth later, but in one sentence:

    If human nature changes enough that communism becomes a viable system, communism (or any governmental system, for that matter) will also, at that point, become unecessary.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 7:47 AM  

  • Yeah religion and marriage work for lots of people. Not well enough for most and not for as many as it seems at first glance.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 8:59 PM  

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