Betting on Human Survival—John Tierney Makes a Long Bet

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Newly minted New York Times science columnist, John Tierney, makes a long bet that the doomsters such as Martin Rees are wrong and the humanity will still be around by 2100. Tierney writes about his bet in his Times column which optimistically begins by noting that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' absurd doomsday clock is a bunch of hooey:

Sixty ago years, a group of physicists concerned about nuclear weapons created the Doomsday Clock and set its hands at seven minutes to midnight. Now, the clock's keepers, alarmed by new dangers like climate change, have moved the hands up to 11:55 p.m.

My first reaction was a sigh of relief. After all, the 1947 doomsday prediction marked the start of a golden age. Never have so many humans lived so long — and maybe never so peacefully — as during the past 60 years. The per-capita rate of violence, particularly in the West, seems remarkably low by historical standards. If the clock's keepers are worried once again, their track record suggests we're in for even happier days.

Whole Tierney column here.

I'm going to see if I can horn in on Tierney's action as well. And like him I hope to be around to be vindicated, but I'm not going to bet on my personal survival to 2100 just yet. On the other hand, I could make a lot more money if I would just write a book that predicts that the END IS NIGH. Hmmm.

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  1. You could call it, “Ron Bailey Finally Comes Around!

  2. as contrary as people are, and as reluctant to act on rational arguments as they are, perhaps the only way to avoid disaster is to keep predicting gloom and doom, so that people will be motivated to prevent their doom. people are much more motivated by emotional arguments (as every demogogue knows), especially fear, than a logic-based call to action.

  3. Humanity would seem to have underpromised and overdelivered survival these last three generations…

  4. Making a bet you won’t be around to pay if you lose isn’t the height of courage.

    And could somebody point me to the part where the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists predicts the end of the world by 2100?

  5. joe: Would it be too much trouble for you to actually read the details of such bets? For example, the money is real money put in escrow and will be given to a charity of the winners choice? Sigh.

  6. Making a bet you won’t be around to pay if you lose isn’t the height of courage.

    the money is real money put in escrow and will be given to a charity of the winners choice

    Bailey: 1
    Joe: 0

    I would add that accepting a bet under Joe’s bogus scenario would be pretty stupid.

  7. So what? Tierney isn’t doing this to make a buck; he’s doing it to show how confident he is that his prediction is correct.

    If he’s wrong, his reputation and book sales suffer not a whit; and yet he goes on as if he’s putting his reputation on the line.

    Would it be too much to ask for you to focus on something other than errata?

  8. “On the other hand, I could make a lot more money if I would just write a book that predicts that the END IS NIGH.”

    What is it you do for a living again, Mr. Bailey?

    And how does it pay?

  9. joe: Would it be too much trouble for you to actually read

    Stop right there. We all know that it is too much trouble.

  10. so that people will be motivated to prevent their doom. people are much more motivated by emotional arguments

    I’m not so sure that it’s predictions that cause people to prevent their doom. Don’t predictions of the end tend to make people embrace the end, at least in “spiritual” societies?

  11. Still, the doomsday clock is a goofy idea. The timeframes are all wonky and there is no analytic component to setting the hands in one place or another. These things serve no purpose.

    Does anyone have any kind of track record predicting anything involving human beings over the span of a century? If you are a scientist, you can’t sign on for this kind of thing and then complain that people assume your other work similarly lacks rigor.

  12. “On the other hand, I could make a lot more money if I would just write a book that predicts that the END IS NIGH.”

    What is it you do for a living again, Mr. Bailey?

    And how does it pay?

    Mr. Bailey’s new book “THE END IS NIGH AND IT’S ALL THE GOVERNMENT’S FAULT” should be available in store soon.

  13. Humans are tough. I doubt anything that didn’t wipe out 99.9% of life on earth could take us down.

    Civilization, on the other hand, might not survive, not to mention most of the 10 to 30 million other species on the planet.

  14. TP’s G:

    Christian eschatologists embrace “the end” (or at least give lip service to it), not because it’s the end of everything, but because it’s the end of life as we know it, followed by the judgement and burning in Hell of all non-Christians and the ascention to Heaven of the saved to live forever in glory with God.

    it all depends on what you think follows the prediction of doom.

  15. EDIT: “ascension”

  16. joe: You ask:

    What is it you do for a living again, Mr. Bailey?

    And how does it pay?

    I earn part of my living by writing articles and books based on best historical and scientific evidence I can find debunking doomsters a lot of the time. You might consider reading some of them.

    I also admit it when I’m wrong. joe, when were you last wrong? Ever?

    In any case, it doesn’t pay as well as doomsterism,–just ask the likes of Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown, Jared Diamond, and Ken Deffeyes.

    haywood’s proxy: Hmmm. Considering that most of the organized mayhem in the world is caused by governments and other kinds of tribal leaderships mired in zero sum thinking, that has possibilities. Oh wait, no one would buy it because we all know that the “government’s here to help.”

  17. joe: One last comment before I definitely drop out of our latest little online “discussion.”

    I also hope that my articles inform at least some readers about some things they don’t already know.

    Of course, that wouldn’t apply to you, since you evidently already know everything.

  18. Still, the doomsday clock is a goofy idea.

    It really is. As a metaphor, a thermometer or many other things would make more sense. As it is, the Doomsday Clock ? suggests the end of the world, at the 30 years/”minute” rate, around 2157.

  19. Don’t get all bitter at me. You have no one to blame for your shredded credibility buy yourself, Mr. Bailey.

    You made your decisions.

  20. really, joe

    you are the most pompous ass that has ever posted at h&r

  21. No, he’s not, but he’s trying as hard as he can.

    Ron never had any credibility with Joe anyhow, so there’s no loss.

  22. Count me as someone who thoroughly enjoys Joe vs. Ron Bailey.

  23. “joe: Would it be too much trouble for you to actually read the details of such bets? For example, the money is real money put in escrow and will be given to a charity of the winners choice? Sigh.”

    No offense, but this has got to be one of the stupidest bets on Long Bets. If John Tierney loses, the charity of his opponent doesn’t get a cent. No civilization, no cents.

    Now, here’s a good Long Bet:

    http://www.longbets.org/194

    (No brag, just fact. ;-))

    P.S. I’m still waiting to hear from Herman Daly…as long as he makes his own prediction first.

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