Tag Archives: The Bet

An unhappy anniversary

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the xxxx’s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

Pretty serious stuff.  Written 50 years ago, “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich had enormous impact.  However the xxxx elision concerned the 1970s.

4 years later The Club of Rome released the following broadside, “The Limits to Growth”Here is a direct quote from the jacket flap.

“Will this be the world that your grandchildren with thank you for? A world where industrial production has sunk to zero. Where population has suffered a catastrophic decline. Where the air, sea and land are polluted beyond redemption. Where civilization is a distant memory. This is the world that the computer forecasts. What is even more alarming, the collapse will not come gradually, but with awsome suddenness, with no way of stopping it”

This sort of stuff is why the elderly (such as myself who will turn 80 this month) gradually become more and more cynical.   Unfortunately, over half the people alive today have no memories of these two debacles.  If you want to read more on this buy a book by a Yale Professor, Paul Sabin called “The Bet” concerning the intellectual conflict between Paul Ehrlich — he of the population bomb and Julian Simon. Ehrlich said we’d run out of just about everything shortly (presumably because of too many people), so economist Simon bet him that we wouldn’t. The intellectual war began in earnest in the 80’s and dragged on for a decade or so. I recommend the book and I think it really does capture the flavor of the times and the debate.  In it you will find John Holdren, Obama’s science advisor, also a devout malthusian, although with a degree in physics.

The current barrage over global warming seems to be diminishing.  Particularly damning is the failure of the models to predict the absence of any change in global temperature for 17 years.  I tried not to be turned off by the similarly apocalyptic and Old Testament Prophetic tone of the proponents.  But any scientific theory to  be any good (aside from Evolution, and String theory) must make testable predictions, and those about climate have consistently failed for 20 years.

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