Natural Resources

Science Fiction 'Czar'

The disturbing intellectual record of Obama's science czar

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Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy—better known as the "science czar"—has been a longtime prophet of environmental catastrophes. Never discouraged but never right.

And thanks to resourceful bloggers, you can read excerpts from a hard-to-find book co-authored by Holdren in the late 1970s, called Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, online.

In it, you will find the czar wading into some unpleasant talk about mass sterilizations and abortions.

It's not surprising. Holdren spent the '70s boogying down to the vibes of an imaginary population catastrophe and global cooling. He also participated in the famous wager between scientist Paul Ehrlich, the now-discredited Population Bomb theorist (and co-author of Ecoscience), and economist Julian Simon, who believed human ingenuity would overcome demand.

Holdren was asked by Ehrlich to pick five natural resources that would experience shortages because of human consumption. He lost the bet on all counts, as the composite price index for the commodities he picked, including copper and chromium, fell by more than 40 percent.

Then again, it's one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer but quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how "population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution," as Holdren did in Ecoscience in 1977.

The book, in fact, is sprinkled with comparable statements that passively discuss how coercive population control methods might rescue the world from … well, humans.

When I called Holdren's office, I was told that the czar "does not now and never has been an advocate of compulsory abortions or other repressive measures to limit fertility."

If that is so, I wondered, why is his name on a textbook that brought up such policy? Did he not write that part? Did he change his mind? Was it theoretical? No straightforward answer was forthcoming.

No big deal. Even today, many environmentalists and anti-immigration activists believe in the myth of population disaster. In this world, human spammers are a disease, not a cure.

And Holdren never has ceased peddling calamity as science.

Today, for instance, though Holdren publicly has tempered his aversion to population growth, he still advocates that government nudge us toward fewer children.

Instead of coercion, though, he is a fan of "motivation."

When, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Holdren was asked about his penchant for scientific overstatements, he responded that "the motivation for looking at the downside possibilities, the possibilities that can go wrong if things continue in a bad direction, is to motivate people to change direction. That was my intention at the time."

"Motivation" is when Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020. Or when he claimed that sea levels could rise by 13 feet by the end of this century when your run-of-the-mill alarmist warns of only 13 inches.

"Motivating"—or, in other words, scaring the hell out of people—about "possibilities" is an ideological and political weapon unsheathed in the effort to pass policies that, in the end, coerce us to do the right thing.

Holdren's past flies in the face of Barack Obama's contention, made on the day of the science czar's appointment, that his administration was "ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology."

Holdren embodies the opposite, actually.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 THE DENVER POST
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  1. Mass sterilizations and abortions? I take it these are of the voluntary variety? If not, why not just advocate mass slaughter?

  2. Awesome. David Harsanyi has very quickly become one of my favorite libertarian writers.

  3. Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020.

    it’s a feature in his mind but he’ll pitch it as a bug to get more power. win/win.

  4. What a fucking monster. No wonder our President appointed him.

  5. Surprise, surprise. The culture of death reveals itself once again.

  6. Another run of the mill always-wrong Malthusian loser who could only possibly make a living in an ivory tower or the government.

  7. Ok…. I am to some degree playing devil’s advocate here because I think it’s pretty likely Holdren did in fact do & say all that stuff, but David Harsanyi needs to show his work.

    Links? Page numbers in textbooks? Anything? I want to send this to everyone I know but with no links and no works cited, a lot of people are just going to tell me it’s lies.

  8. Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020.

    Since every bad thing that happens is due to “climate change”, and since a billion people will probably die in the next 11 years in any event, I would say he is on pretty safe ground here, wouldn’t you?

  9. But..but…but…it’s for the children and shit!

  10. hey Pro Libertate don’t give him any ideas…count off by three’s, all those who said 2 step forward…now that’s population control (as long as the crowd is demographically correct)

  11. What a nutbag, this douche is the “science czar.
    btw since when does science need a czar. i kinda thought science was self policing and kinda really self evident as not needing any oversight, it either is or is not, no goverment needed for science thank you.

  12. @Sean
    David Harsanyi is a Denver Post columnist. As this is an ink and paper editorial it most likely will not be including links. Also, as for sources, I agree that he should add them to the online piece but he doesn’t own the online peace, the Denver News agency does. His personal blog has all kinds of links and references. I have had the good fortune of meeting him several times. He does take a hands off approach to his DP column however and doesn’t even read the comments . Easy to understand why if you check them out.

  13. I say we start by aborting retards like this fuckbag Holdren. He is one fetus this world could do without.

  14. “Science” is a LIVING doctrine! Weeeeeeee!

  15. Here is the text of the book Holdren coauthored, from questia. You need to have an account to access the text, but it is worth it. A blogger recently placed a free link to the relevant excerpts, but this link no longer works.

    If you had a Questia account, you would be able to confirm the following quotes, or you could check out the fun details at Life Site News:

    p. 837: ‘Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.’

    As Life Site News summarizes: ‘Holdren defends that assertion on the next page by stating that “neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions a right to reproduce” and that for the survival of society, a government could both coerce women to have children as well as force them to abort.’

    More from Life Site News:

    ‘Large families are a particular target of Holdren and the Ehrlichs, who write that parents of such families “contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children” and “can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility.”

    ‘Holdren advances several ideas for coercive fertility control. He states (pp. 786-7) that “sterilizing women after their second or third child” may be more practicable than sterilizing men, proposes a “long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin” at puberty and then “might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.”

    ‘”Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control,” says Holdren.
    ‘Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.”

    ‘Holdren proposes on pages 942-3, an ultimate enforcement mechanism in the form of “a Planetary Regime – sort of an international superagency for population, resources, and environment” that would control and distribute all natural resources and determine as well the “optimum population for the world.”

    ‘”Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits,” Holdren states. Earlier Holdren had mentioned the creation of “an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force” (p. 917) as one method of achieving international security.’

  16. “Holdren was asked by Ehrlich…”

    Correction that should say “Ehrlich was asked by Simon…”

    The famous wager was between Ehrlich and Simon.

  17. But let us be fair – who among us isn’t embarrassed by the stuff they did back in the 1970s? Who doesn’t cringe at the old photos of themselves in bell-bottomed jeans or Afros, or at the old quotes endorsing compulsory abortion and sterilization?

    Let us give President Obama due credit – he said that he wanted to bring people of diverse ideological views together in common ground. Mission accomplished – religious prolifers and secular libertarians have *united* in opposition to Holdren.

    President Obama is a true uniter.

  18. Zombietime has an extensive article including scans of Holdren’s book.

  19. If the man is so concerned about human overpopulation, I would think he would be happy at the prospect of 1 billion deaths by 2020.

  20. I’m sure the military’s sudden interest in human-flesh-eating robots has nothing at all to do with the genocidal mania of the current head of the OSTP.

  21. we are becoming one “czar-y” ass nation.

  22. Actually I wouldn’t mind if the government stopped encouraging procreation with tax breaks for procreators, but that’s about all the “nudge” I care about.

  23. I’m almost left speechless at reading some of the stuff this psychopath believes. We’re in the realm of Dr. Mengele here.

    This guy is truly worthy of the picture of that “Save the Planet – Kill Yourself” sign.

  24. As we learn more about the Obama Administration, I can only paraphrase what the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, once said when he lost an election:

    The people have made their choice. Now they must live with their mistake.

  25. After reading the comments at the Denver Post I am sad to learn I am a thirdrater of the wingnutosphere. My only question is what kind of person does that make the one who apparently throws those terms about on a regular basis?

  26. As a Denver Post reader I can tell you Harsanyi is a great read. Got to meet him after he spoke at the Libertarian convention and at a couple of other events. He can be funny and sarcastic and I think that really pisses off a lot of people. Making fun of enviros in Colorado is dangerous.

  27. Sterilants in drinking water, thats Scary. However, I disagree with the implied idea that human population isn’t a threat to human survival. Every species has a carrying capacity. The world will quickly adjust to not having us, we can’t really destroy life on it unless we rid the planet of an atmosphere. Yet, we can and will make our lives and those of future generations very awful, if we allow the population to reach our carrying capacity. Its not alarmist to look at something objectively and surmise that unless we reduce our consumption, refuse generation and pollution emission there will be negative consequences. However, to imply that it is the responsibility of a government to control and/or enforce population size makes me a little sick.

  28. Since every bad thing that happens is due to “climate change”, and since a billion people will probably die in the next 11 years in any event, I would say he is on pretty safe ground here, wouldn’t you?

    But think of it this way, climate change will result in creating or saving FIVE BILLION people.

  29. “unless we reduce our consumption, refuse generation and pollution emission there will be negative consequences.”

    Did you really not understand the Erlich bet?

    The Malthusian idiots are always wrong because they fail to anticipate, or even account for, innovation. There’s not really an upper limit to that, and you may have noticed that our population has far surpassed anything these guys would have imagined and we’re not nearly operating at full productive capacity in really any sector…

    Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention – and when we actually do start to struggle to support ourselves here – then perhaps it’s time to grow into another planet or a moon. That sounds cool to me.

    But limiting consumption is just silly.

  30. And don’t forget, Comrades – libertarians are the kooks.

  31. Every species has a carrying capacity.

    Every species that doesn’t innovate, that is.

    That humans do is why our population can keep expanding while most every other one has long since stopped doing so.

    That’s being objective.

  32. Holdren should start building an ark. He’s already got his passenger list.

  33. None of this is news to those who had even the slightest curiosity about what this President would really do.

    Holdren, Chu, Browner, and Jackson range from merely unqualified to outright lunatic.

  34. “Motivating”-or, in other words, scaring the hell out of people-about “possibilities” is an ideological and political weapon unsheathed in the effort to pass policies that, in the end, coerce us to do the right thing.

    This is basically the shock doctrine.

  35. Carrying capacity is a constant. Innovation changes the value but it still exists. The question is can we innovate faster than we consume the resources necessary to sustain. I’m not sying we won’t innovate and survive as a species. I’m saying our quality of life could decrease. Survival and thriving are two different things. Its arrogant to associate productivity with quality of life. Just because we can expand doesn’t mean we should. Its necessary to take an objective view on what will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life. Why force ourselves into having it be necessary to innovate?

  36. chuck,

    Carrying capacity is a constant.

    Actually, it isn’t. Indeed, human beings have been increasing the carrying capacity of the environment since the neolithic.

    Its arrogant to associate productivity with quality of life.

    Actually, productivity is the single most important key to a higher quality of life.

  37. Just because we can expand doesn’t mean we should.

    Doesn’t it?

  38. Its necessary to take an objective view on what will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life.

    Just whom do you think should be empowered to construct this “objective view”?

    It sure as hell shouldn’t be you, since we today are nowhere near the “carrying capacity” of the planet.

    Second, you appear to make the common error of caring about average quality of life instead of total quality of life. I don’t believe quality of life will decline with any likely population increase. But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose it does.

    Which, objectively, “will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life”: 7 billion people with an average quality of life of 100 utils? Or 14 billion people with an average quality of life of 90 utils?

    Why force ourselves into having it be necessary to innovate?

    What is the alternative? How do you prevent population growth? Please try to answer without using the word “force”.

  39. chuck, your post is filled with so many errors and inconsistencies it’s hard to know where to start in reply.

    First of all, I have no opinion on whether we “should expand.” Only on whether we should be free to. (And my answer is yes!) Sure, production levels aren’t the only measure of “quality of life.” (Freedom is probably the best measure, since that allows us to pursue quality of life however we wish!) But what does “carrying capacity” limit if not production?

    And you’re wrong that carrying capacity is constant. Innovation does not only “increase value,” it literally enables us to make more with less. Otherwise Malthus would have been right and we would have passed the earth’s capacity to feed 6 billion people long ago. But Malthus was wrong because crop yield was signficantly increased by technological advances known as the “green revolution”.

    As far as forcing ourselves into having to innovate, well, assuming population increase even does that (and there’s ample evidence that it does the opposite by providing more brain power and wealth; well actually, the freedom to increase population is what mainly does it), it’s better than forcing ourselves to not populate (and deal with all of the unintended consequences of that!)!!

    Etc.

  40. But what does “carrying capacity” limit if not production?

    I neglected to explain my point with that. chuck, it seems you are concerned with production as a reflection of quality of life if you’re concerned with “carrying capacity” since that’s what the latter would be limiting, right? Unless you just don’t like so many people around, and sure, people are a bitch, but life without rights is worse. Take your pick!!

  41. Doesn’t carrying capacity pretty much only apply to grazing animals?

  42. What is the alternative? How do you prevent population growth? Please try to answer without using the word “force”.

    Or a euphemism for same! 🙂

  43. Indeed. After chuck’s notion that allowing people to be free was “forcing” them to innovate, that would be doubleplusexpected.

  44. Carrying capacity is a constant. That is a true statment. There is a point at any moment that if we did not have enough resources, our population would decrease.

  45. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything. If I have a problem that will negatively impact me I’d rather find the solution ahead of time than deal with the negative result and have to find a way to overcome it.

  46. “Holdren, Chu, Browner, and Jackson range from merely unqualified to outright lunatic.”

    You left out Sotomayor.

    CB

  47. Second, you appear to make the common error of caring about average quality of life instead of total quality of life. I don’t believe quality of life will decline with any likely population increase. But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose it does.

    ‘Which, objectively, “will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life”: 7 billion people with an average quality of life of 100 utils? Or 14 billion people with an average quality of life of 90 utils?’

    Where did you pull this from?

  48. Unless you just don’t like so many people around, and sure, people are a bitch, but life without rights is worse. Take your pick!!

    If people, don’t like having so many other people around, then we will have less people in the future, and we could have both.

  49. Where did you pull this from?

    What? I wrote it myself.

    It’s a simple enough question. Do you think the most quality of life is with fewer people with slightly higher qualities of life or more people with slightly lower qualities of life?

  50. Why would it only be slightly higher? It would depend on the amount of people.

  51. I offered a specific example where 14 billion people had 90% of the per capita quality of life of 7 billion people.

    Which alternative will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life?

  52. Thanks for providing some links & quotes above, everyone.

    Chuck… relax… free humans can outstrip any fears of “carrying capacity” blindfolded and with 3/4ths of our productive ability tied behind our backs. Point of fact, we have been for hundreds of years.

  53. Carrying capacity is a constant.

    What is the carrying capacity of your brain? Are you using all of it?

  54. It is interesting how many people are ignorant of the fact we already have mandatory sterilization, in the form of mandatory birth control for the mentally institutionalized population of the country. Something tells me few libertarians would want that population breeding without limit, despite the inherent hypocrisy.

    No one knows what the Malthusian limit is of this planet, and in fact there is no absolute limit. If you want to be packed like sardines and fed through a tube, we could probably fit trillions of people on the Earth. I wouldn’t want that future personally, but apparently some of you do.

    Right now the oceans are reverting to their status of 600 million years ago when jellyfish dominated the seas. It’s due to overfishing, which in turn is due to the exploding populations in Asia. Overpopulation is more than just a Petri dish crash like in a Biology experiment. It has to do with quality of life too.

    This discussion reminds me of something I wrote back in the 80’s, not being old enough to have written on the subject back in the 70’s:

    Most of us are viscerally aware of overpopulation. We call it traffic, crime, over-development, deforestation, pollution, violence, high rent, etc. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Here is our present situation: So many species go extinct every hour, so many football fields of rainforest are destroyed every minute, so many hundreds of barrels of oil are consumed every second, so many people are born every millisecond. There are a limited number of species on the planet. There is a limited amount of rainforest on the planet. If you catch too many fish, they don’t come back. If you put too much pollution in the air, you start the greenhouse effect. If you put too much pollution in the water, the phototropic layer of the ocean dies, and since that is the base of the food pyramid in the ocean and the primary source of oxygen for the planet, everything else, except anaerobic bacteria, dies with it. The larger the population of humans on the planet, the more resources get used, the more animals and plants die, the more pollution gets generated, the more likely resources become exhausted permanently, and the more toxic the planet becomes. Put another way, if there were only a few million of us on the planet, we could all piss in the rivers and drive gas hogs and it wouldn’t matter, Nature could absorb it. A few billion of us can kill her.

    The solution to all of this is obvious: reproductive control. That means you don’t have a right to make a baby, just like you do not currently have a right to drive a car. Make it against the law to have children without taking a mandatory class and passing a test. And restrict parentage to a proper age, at least twenty one, before anyone can have a child no matter how smart they are. Then place additional restrictions based on criminal records, violence, and significant genetic defect. Not all of those are inherited traits, but being raised by a criminal will surely increase the odds of becoming a criminal, and being beaten throughout childhood is nothing to encourage. But it’s unconstitutional to enact such restrictions. Every violent child abusing idiot has an unrestricted right to make and ultimately neglect or abuse as many children as they want.

    To control our future evolution, we would first have to break the freedoms of the past, amend the Constitution so that procreation is not a right, but a privilege. Then it could be regulated and licensed, like driving. Reproductive control would allow us to preferentially select advantageous traits, like intelligence, empathy and physical and mental health, while breeding out genetic diseases, violent tendencies and stupidity. It would allow us to control overpopulation, and make certain that all our children have skilled, loving parents who are not abusing drugs or alcohol. Over the long run, this purposeful, intelligent artificial selection would reduce the need for genetic engineering, which will only be available to the rich anyway, and result in a superior species and a better world, since most of our world’s problems can be traced back to human overpopulation (which is encouraged by both Religion and Government). The control of human reproduction is the most important public health issue facing us today. Forget about AIDS, vaccinations and malaria, those things can’t cause global extinction.

    The buzzword for a human reproduction program is ‘eugenics.’ Unfortunately, prior attempts on human populations have been conducted with ruthless savagery, the most recent by the Nazi party, and they have left an evil taint on the concept. However, a eugenics program does not require killing anyone. Nor does it have to be racially motivated. Properly administered, it does not even require sterilization, just regulation of reproduction from a genetic-medical-social standpoint. Even so, the unintelligent majority poorly understands the concept, and like all good Neanderthals, they fear what they do not understand. They would rather close their eyes to the problems of overpopulation and societal decay, figuring that as long as they have nice cars and a nice home, everything must be all right. They just put their faith in god, hum a melody, and walk towards the cliff. Psychologists call this denial. Biologists have a term for this too. It’s called “herd behavior.” The classic version is a herd of large ungulates running towards a cliff. The animals in back will follow the lead animals without thinking. The lead animals charge ahead, being urged from behind by the rest of the herd. We are the herd, and the cliff is the point at which the planet can no longer sustain human life. The only way to prevent the fall is through reproductive control. However, because of religion and culture, and the popular sentiments of politicians and the media, we will not institute reproductive control. We will instead charge blithely towards the cliff, blissfully unaware of what the future holds. That is why our children will continue to be shot in school, that is why domestic violence cases only increase with time, that is why Reagan outlawed medical research on human fetuses, that is why evolution does not get taught in schools and that is why we will never control our reproduction or have a eugenics program: in our society, ignorance rules.

  55. Most of us are viscerally aware of overpopulation. We call it traffic, crime, over-development, deforestation, pollution, violence, high rent, etc.

    Then you drive through Nebraska and realize it’s bullshit.

    There are a limited number of species on the planet.

    No: there aren’t.

    If you catch too many fish, they don’t come back.

    It’s called a hatchery.

  56. btw since when does science need a czar. i kinda thought science was self policing and kinda really self evident as not needing any oversight, it either is or is not, no goverment needed for science thank you.

    As long as the feds are throwing bales of money at us sciency types, they’ll need people to figure out how to spend it. You can argue that this is not a proper thing for the government to do—and I will not argue with you—but it takes managers to spend a lot of money.

    The more insidious thing is that they let the science “Czar” filter the results that go into policy, so that an ideological bias in that office can cause bad policy. This is probably also unavoidable when the feds are making so much overarching policy, but it is scary.

  57. chuck,

    Which alternative will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life?

    This question is prompted by your use of the word “us”.

    If you answered that more people with slightly lower quality of life “will ultimately provide us with the most quality of life,” you are using “us” to mean all of humanity, present and future. As well you should.

    If, however, you answer the opposite, then you are merely another collectivist who separates the world into “us” — which always seems to include you — and “them”. In this case “them” is people who want more progeny than you want them to have and the progeny themselves.

    For a more brazen example of such a collectivist worldview, see ProfRaze.

  58. @ProfRaze

    I agree with most of what you said regarding the science of carrying capacity, but your solutions to the problem are simply antithetical to the basic definition of freedom, let alone the freedoms defined by the American Constitution. A more levelheaded solution would be to end tax deductions for children after the second or third child, thus eliminating any financial incentive. Birth control availability is also a huge problem to many people, and the government would be in the right by heavily subsidizing it.

  59. I can come up with better criticisms to my old writing than what has been posted so far, the most obvious one being that overpopulation isn’t really an American problem. It’s Asia and India primarily. They have no such Constitutional constraints, and China tries very hard to suppress its reproduction in ways that would be totally illegal in the US, but the problem continues to increase anyway.

    Birth control is the big issue here, and in fact a bunch of rich people including Bill Gates recently came to the same conclusion, and are going to spend a lot of money on it. We’ll see if they can make any difference.

    I do find it unnerving that some people are so astonishingly ignorant that they think there are an infinite number of species on the planet (DoDoGuRu). I think it’s great to believe in personal liberties, but only insane people believe in unrestricted personal liberties. Laws are necessary to have a functioning economy and a high standard of living. So the issue isn’t whether or not there should be legal restrictions at all, the issue is where exactly do you draw the line, and that is a matter of both personal subjective opinion and the issue at hand.

    I’m sure that if any of you actually worked with impoverished populations and saw first hand what having 20 children really means, you would not be so absolute in your opinions regarding the right to reproduce. There is no easy answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

  60. I think it’s great to believe in personal liberties, but only insane people believe in unrestricted personal liberties. Laws are necessary to have a functioning economy and a high standard of living.

    You are right. Personal liberties should be restricted at the point where they prevent another person’s exercising his or her personal liberties. In fact, those societies whose laws most closely implement that vision have the best functioning economies and the highest standard of living. What a surprise.

    Needless to say, preventing people from having children is indeed a first-order abrogation of personal liberties that are not abrogating anyone else’s personal liberties.

  61. While on one-hand the idea of forced population control is cruel and inhumane, on the other hand don’t we kill animals for the purpose of keeping their population low so they don’t overcrowd their environment, destroy their food supply and end up staring to death? while I don’t advocate the idea of forced-abortions or mass sterilizations, sometimes decisions made for the good of the species(or country or however you want to view it) are unpleasant and/or unpopular. if we somehow lowered the population to 200 mil instead of 350 or 400 mil(haven’t checked exactly what it is in a while), wouldn’t that help things? we’d use less gas, less food, less everything. we wouldn’t need as many homes because there would be less people to put in them. yes, it’s cruel, yes it’s inhumane, yes it’s morally reprehensible…but so is nature, and like or not folks, we’re part of it. maybe it’s ignoring that fact and things that come with it (like natural selection) that has caused a lot of our problems. just food for thought.

  62. if we somehow lowered the population to 200 mil instead of 350 or 400 mil(haven’t checked exactly what it is in a while), wouldn’t that help things?

    It wouldn’t help things for the 150 or 200 million or 104 million who “somehow” don’t exist. Their qualities of life are zero.

    I suppose that you, like chuck and ProfRaze, are part of the “us” that is in the 200 million, aren’t you.

    By the way, I admire your spunky interest in having fewer people around given you don’t even care to know how many people are around.

  63. Just jumping in here to point out that I linked to the zombie page about the book five days ago. Reason is getting better: the lag time used to be three weeks.

  64. I’m sure that if any of you actually worked with impoverished populations and saw first hand what having 20 children really means, you would not be so absolute in your opinions regarding the right to reproduce. There is no easy answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

    Sorry to sound callous, but it is a self-limiting problem.

    In particular, you claim that overpopulation threatens human existence on the planet by noting the resource depletion due to the wealthy. Yet your only examples of overpopulation are the poor.

    The empirical record is very clear: Wealthier societies do not overpopulate themselves. Poor societies would do well with access to birth control and education on how to get by with smaller families. But their overpopulation is not going to threaten the globe. And the best way to help them out of their condition of overpopulation is to free up their economies and societies to help them get wealthy. Imposing anything like forced population control on them is antithetical to that goal.

  65. “Nor does it have to be racially motivated.”

    No, but it will be. If this ever became policy, something has to break to make the other side come to the table, and that something will be things of little importance to progressive environmentalists: the rights of the poor, third world brown people, and religious fundamentalists. Besides, whatever criterion are used to reward “quality” births as opposed to trashy ones will -not- be colorblind.

    Fact of the matter is that humans do have the capacity to control their population in a bottom-up fashion because, unlike most other species, we get additional selective benefit from pouring additional resources into our offspring (education, in particular). Europe’s population is shrinking, and the US population isn’t growing all that rapidly. Kids are no longer a source of free slave labor (in fact, they’re a burden), nor is infant and child mortality so high that we need a number of spares, nor are our minds so simple that we respect the opinion of someone with a funny hat who claims to speak to/for invisible people re: birth control.

    There are any number of things that can slow population growth without actually sterilizing people or violating a woman’s right to choose, such as increasing the burden of having children. Progressives have no problem increasing the burden of having workers, through making them harder to fire, minimum wage laws, healthcare requirements, pro-union legislation, payroll taxes, and so on. And that’s for something they -don’t- want (you don’t actually want lower US employment, right?) Just apply that brilliant policy to having kids — minimum expenditures on them (audited), mandatory college trust fund contributions direct from paycheck/welfare check, etc.

    Sterilization could technically be a legally plausible option for the government right now, but only as a punishment for a legitimate, relevant crime (say, abusing or neglecting children, or sexual assault), and only under the constraint of due process, which is how rights are typically taken away from individuals. But, like the death penalty, sterilization is not usually something you can take back, or at least not reliably. The main obstacle would be that it is “unusual”, but it’s not as though forced sterilization and castration don’t happen.

    End point: Evolution didn’t spend millions of years ensuring that we are mentally committed to propagating our genes to let us fuck with it so easily. If environmentalists implement a program of forced sterilization that affects a reasonably-sized chunk of the population, they will be treated with roughly the politeness and civility that would apply had they just gone for the traditional genocide. I.e., there will be a more direct culling of environmentalists by those who feel they are being unjustly subjected to the genetic death penalty, and their political ideals will be associated with evil and inhumanity. If they go for only the bottom of the underclass (e.g. sterilizing ‘tards and the homeless) they could possibly avoid that fate, but then they don’t actually achieve anything worthwhile from an environmental perspective, so they’re program is basically just a Nazi repeat.

  66. How could Holdren predict that Westerners would sufficient self-sterilize with abortions and birth-control?

    In effect, the population bomb was specifically averted by mass volunteer population control. Population control programs such as sex-education worked. Disaster averted. Yay!!

  67. The Gov. pays welfare people to have kids and immigrants to come here. apparently that’s what Gov. wants. Another contradiction, big surprise

  68. I have always thought it was interesting that widely differing views on a single subject could be considered liberal and both could be a part of the Democratic coalition. For instance, population control and enviornmentalism are allies with open border types. Won’t opening the borders result in as many people as having more children? Won’t these extra people cause more enviornmental harm? Another example, auto workers are allied with anti global warming types who want to put them out of a job. How do they keep these coalitions together?

  69. @MikeP: “Needless to say, preventing people from having children is indeed a first-order abrogation of personal liberties that are not abrogating anyone else’s personal liberties.”

    Who says it doesn’t abrogate anyone else’s personal liberties? That is a false assumption, given a planet with non-infinite resources. I would bet good money that you want to limit immigration due to those darn immigrants using hospital, police and fire resources. Don’t more babies do the same thing? Not all will pay taxes, especially considering the strong correlation between poverty and over-reproduction. Unless you believe in unlimited immigration, your stances on unlimited reproduction are likely a hypocrisy.

    “In particular, you claim that overpopulation threatens human existence on the planet by noting the resource depletion due to the wealthy. Yet your only examples of overpopulation are the poor.”

    Another false statement. In fact, I also cited resource depletion due to overpopulation, namely overfishing. I could add slash and burn farming and rainforest destruction to the list. The real threat of resource depletion is the predicted response: War over resources. It’s coming.

    “The empirical record is very clear: Wealthier societies do not overpopulate themselves.”

    This is also a false statement. Our population continues to grow, eventually it will reach a point where most agree it to be considered “overpopulation.” Of course, it depends on how you define “overpopulation,” and “wealthy society” for that matter, but the blanket generalization that a wealthy society cannot be overpopulated lacks rational support. Technically China is a wealthy country. They sure own us.

    “Poor societies would do well with access to birth control and education on how to get by with smaller families. But their overpopulation is not going to threaten the globe.”

    Another false assumption. Overpopulation increases the risk of pandemic disease, depletes freshwater supplies, destroys natural habitat which contributes to global warming and causes species to go extinct. Overpopulation creates stress and tension between nations at the local level, largely over resources, and those conflicts can expand into larger regional, even global conflicts.

    This is the problem with ideology, whether it be the fundamentalism of Christianity or of Libertarianism: It requires you to ignore reality and make false statements to prove the correctness of the dogma. Any belief system that requires deciet to sustain itself is unworthy of continuance. You are better off being a free thinker unattached to any particular ideology, I my opinion.

    @iblain: The democratic party is a big tent with lots of conflicting viewpoints. They stay together because the alternative was proven to be a failure by Bush Jr. It’s largely a lesser of two evils approach best I can tell.

  70. @MikeP, Part 2: “Needless to say, preventing people from having children is indeed a first-order abrogation of personal liberties that are not abrogating anyone else’s personal liberties.”

    One more comment on this. My uncle will rant for hours about how he has to pay property taxes to subsidize the schools for all those irresponsible breeders out there. He absolutely believes that other people having children abrogate his rights, due to taxation shifting the burden of supporting those children to people who chose not to have any.

    He’s right, of course, if a bit of a self-centered jerk.

  71. He absolutely believes that other people having children abrogate his rights, due to taxation shifting the burden of supporting those children to people who chose not to have any.

    He’s right, of course, if a bit of a self-centered jerk.

    He needs to think ahead a bit. Who will be paying for his consumption after he retires and stops producing?

    You may suggest that he’s pay for it with his current contributions, but SS is not an investment scheme and somebody has to do the actual work of producing the goods and services he will consume after retirement.

    Guess who will be doing that?

    That’s a problem with redistribution.

  72. I would bet good money that you want to limit immigration due to those darn immigrants using hospital, police and fire resources.

    How much money?

  73. Who says it doesn’t abrogate anyone else’s personal liberties? That is a false assumption, given a planet with non-infinite resources.

    Competing for resources is not an abrogation of personal liberties. Even counting pecuniary externalities, more people have at best a second-order impact on others’ personal liberties and therefore cannot rightfully be countered with a first-order rights abrogating response.

    As for the rest of your comments, you have a curious definition of the word “false”. In every one of your claims of falsehood, you reached very far in order to promote a regional problem due to overpopulation among the poor into a global problem. Those connections simply have never been demonstrated in history, and I doubt you could justify them in theory.

  74. He’s right, of course, if a bit of a self-centered jerk.

    Your uncle is utterly wrong.

    It is not people having children who are abrogating his rights: It is legislators who force him to pay taxes to subsidize those children who are abrogating his rights.

  75. Even if it interferes with the sacred cow of freedom, Holdren’s right in that we need to stop our population growth in the near future.

  76. David, you willing to make bets over commodity prices in 2034? I’ll take oil, natural gas, copper, titanium, and platinum.

    Holdren wasn’t wrong….he was early.

  77. johnny john john | July 16, 2009, 6:42am | #

    In effect, the population bomb was specifically averted by mass volunteer population control. Population control programs such as sex-education worked. Disaster averted. Yay!!

    Which leads to the reverse problem – what do we do when population begins a serious decline? Of course, libertarians would say “so be it”, right?

    Population will peak towards the end of this century at around 10 billion. Our “carrying capacity” depends on technology and available resources, but it is likely that around ten billion is all we can handle on this single planet. We would literally be running out of arable land at that point.

  78. Luckily it’s been shown that educating women, getting them in the workforce, and of course providing them with access to cheap birth control can stop population growth.

    So no need for Plan B !

    Of course the problem is we still have 6 out of the 7 billion people on the planet that aren’t living the type of American middle class lifestyle they want. But I don’t think we have the resources to allow them to.

    Think of this, right now America with 5% of the world’s population uses 25% of the resources. IE, with current resources use, around 20% of the current population could live our lifestyle, but what about the other 80? They want theirs too.

    Yes there will be increases in efficieny, but that only gets you so far.

    For example, having power tools will let you build a house much quicker and cheaper, but no matter how many tools you have you will still need lumber, steel etc.

    I think that’s why it’s important to distiguish between development and growth.

    Societies can develop infinitely, we can get better schools, technology, arts, etc.

    But there are limits to growth. Defined as use of lumber, or fish, or total people on the planet without drastically reducing living standards.

    Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. But if you think there isn’t a problem, you haven’t been paying attention.

  79. Oh, one very good book on this subject

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807047090/reasonfoundation-20/

    It can be a bit deep on the economics theory, but even if you don’t have a degree in economics, there’s still plenty for most people to get out of it.

    Only thing I really disagree with is his last chapter.

  80. I would bet good money that you want to limit immigration due to those darn immigrants using hospital, police and fire resources.

    You would lose.

    Unless you believe in unlimited immigration, your stances on unlimited reproduction are likely a hypocrisy.

    I do believe in unlimited immigration. More precisely, I believe in quota-free immigration, prohibiting entry only to those who are individually proven threats to the public — e.g., terrorists, foreign agents, violent felons, carriers of contagion.

    I am curious why you would bet good money otherwise. This is, after all, a libertarian forum.

  81. @MikeP: “As for the rest of your comments, you have a curious definition of the word “false”. In every one of your claims of falsehood, you reached very far in order to promote a regional problem due to overpopulation among the poor into a global problem. Those connections simply have never been demonstrated in history, and I doubt you could justify them in theory.”

    The problems cited were overfishing, which is global, and contribution to global warming, which is also global. Deforestation is a huge contribution, and it happens in many places due to overpopulation and slash and burn agriculture. How is global warming not a global problem? Overpopulation hurts us, all of us, as it absolutely causes harm to the environment. Denying that is just being a Flat Earther, it’s denying the obvious. It’s also false.

    “It is not people having children who are abrogating his rights: It is legislators who force him to pay taxes to subsidize those children who are abrogating his rights.”

    Within the context of our society, he is correct. He is also short-sighted, and a bit of a hyporcrite, but nevertheless correct. He is subsidizing the reproductive decisions of others.

    “I am curious why you would bet good money otherwise. This is, after all, a libertarian forum.”

    There are several libertarian positions on the issue, conflicting positions at that. I had a better than 50% chance of being correct. Good gambling odds. 😉

    @Chad: “Holdren wasn’t wrong….he was early.”

    Same can be said of Malthus.

  82. Bad writing. Can Harsanyi really fail to understand how an author or editor can bring up a policy in a textbook without advocating it? After reporting that Holdren’s people denied his avowal of compulsory abortions, Harsanyi writes this: “If that is so, I wondered, why is his name on a textbook that brought up such policy?”

    Wait, Harsanyi. Now YOU’VE brought up the policy! So how can you not be in favor of it, as well?

    …Oh, no. I now realize only seconds too late that I’ve brought it up, too. I guess I’m a forced-abortion advocate, also!

  83. The problems cited were overfishing…

    The overpopulating poor can neither outfish the rich nor outbid the rich on overfished varieties on the open market. They do not impose a global burden.

    Deforestation is a huge contribution, and it happens in many places due to overpopulation and slash and burn agriculture.

    As I am sure you are aware, most deforestation is due to idiotic politically motivated programs being taken advantage of by large players, not due to subsistence agriculture. Brazil is being deforested by crop and cattle agribusiness, not overpopulation. Indonesia is being deforested by industrial plantations to provide, among other things, biofuels for Europe, not overpopulation.

    Overpopulation hurts us, all of us, as it absolutely causes harm to the environment.

    Overpopulation invariably occurs in poor societies and is invariably a local or regional phenomenon harming the local and regional environment at the worst.

  84. @MikeP: It’s not the rich buying so many fish, it’s the average Asian. The market demand is driven by the Asian population explosion. Not all overpopulation is driven by poverty, you know. If it’s the term “overpopulation” that is confusing you, try using the term “high population” instead. It’s really the same thing, but you can have a high population without extreme poverty. If that high population is then driving the gross overfishing of the oceans, it is technically beyond the planet’s carrying capacity already.

    Slash and burn agriculture is not engaged in by agribusiness, or I should say “only” by agribusiness. It’s a local phenomenon, with a global impact. Slash and burn is practiced by anywhere from 240 to 500 million people on nearly one-half of the land area of the tropics.

    Fish populations, deforestation, these are global issues, driven by high populations that are draining resources far faster than they can be replenished. That sure sounds like overpopulation to me. We’re also seeing dust bowl formation throughout Asia and Africa, due largely to poor policies but it reduces arable land and therefore carrying capacity, so it impacts on population issues.

    In any country where population growth is high, any real advances in well-being and the quality of life are negated by further population growth, which leads to emigration, a shifting of the burden of overpopulation to countries with better resource management. That in turn creates stresses on resource management in those countries, and frees up resources in the country of origin to make more people.

    The problem is amazingly complex and impacts the globe in many ways. Hand-waving it away by claiming people have an absolute right to reproduce is an exercise in anti-intellectualism. This is where dogma conflicts with reality.

  85. So, to recap, a high population causes the following:

    *Depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels and fresh water. Fresh water is soon going to become the new oil.
    *Deforestation and loss of ecosystems that sustain global atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide balance; about eight million hectares of forest are lost each year.
    *Changes in atmospheric composition and consequent global warming.
    *Irreversible loss of arable land and increases in desertification.
    *Mass species extinctions from reduced habitat in tropical forests due to slash-and-burn techniques that sometimes are practiced by shifting cultivators, especially in countries with rapidly expanding rural populations; present extinction rates may be as high as 140,000 species lost per year. It’s hard to place a value on the loss of even a single species, but my biochemistry background tells me we’re losing valuable data if nothing else. Data like how to cure cancer.
    *Increased chance of the emergence of new epidemics and pandemics.
    *Conflict over scarce resources and crowding, leading to increased levels of warfare. See Darfur.
    *Emigration into other countries, shifting the burden of support and allowing for more population growth at the origin.

    One of the problems in analyzing the situation is the sterotype of starving poor as being “overpopulation.” That’s one type, but in reality even a high population density that is well supported still depletes resources far faster than they can be replenished. That’s a form of overpopulation too. There is a shifted cost that will come due in the future from having a high population of humans on this planet. The immediate cost is tremendous loss of natural biodiversity and habitat, but that is a loss that most people simply do not see as a cost, because they lack the knowledge to understand the impact. That is partly why we’re failing as a global society.

  86. The problem is amazingly complex and impacts the globe in many ways. Hand-waving it away by claiming people have an absolute right to reproduce is an exercise in anti-intellectualism. This is where dogma conflicts with reality.

    Overpopulation, plain and simple, means a population that cannot pay for itself.

    Claims that resources are being consumed, and that that is the evidence of overpopulation, completely miss the fact that such resources are a trivial component of humanities wealth. In fact, recent accounting by the World Bank finds that fully 77% of the wealth of humanity is found in intangible capital — not natural resources, not factories, but capital in people’s heads and in the ways societies function.

    Even accepting the environmental effects of high population, these pale in comparison to the gains of humanity in societies that can pay for themselves.

    That is partly why we’re failing as a global society.

    Humanity today is better off, by leagues, than humanity at any past time in history. This is failure?

  87. Even accepting the environmental effects of high population, these pale in comparison to the gains of humanity in societies that can pay for themselves.

    I suppose I should clarify what I mean here.

    When I add the qualifier “the society must pay for itself,” I mean that there must be no unnecessary commons. Everything is privately owned, and therefore resource depletion is mitigated simply by the rents on its own scarcity.

    When resources are owned then the value of the capital of those resources can be compared with all the other capital in the society and the proper rents determined. Outside such market-based valuation, yes, indeed, humanity is in danger of exhausting resources. And with resources under active political control, the danger to humanity is even greater.

    Humanity today is better off, by leagues, than humanity at any past time in history. This is failure?

    Of course I say this with an optimism born from living in a liberal market democracy. Had I been one of the 7 million Ukrainian, 26 million Chinese, or 1 million Cambodian populations who died due to depletion of resources, I might think differently.

  88. The resources are only a trivial portion of wealth when there is an excess suppply of them. As demand increases due to increasing population, and higher living standards we start to run into problems. Unfortuantetly by then it’s often hard to correct things.

    After most of the good farms are paved over to build housing subdivisions, and THEN food prices rise, what do you do, tear down the houses?

    And when fisheries collapse it can be very hard to bring them back, especially because of violators.

    Had anyone on hear ever played the “Fish Banks” game?

    Basically everyone starts out with ships, you go fishing, make money, and get to buy more ships etc. You are told the goal is to maximize profits (like in the real world). But if everyone does that, the fisheries ALWAYS collapse. The only way they don’t, is if people stop trying to maximize profit, and start managing the fisheries to allow for a sustainable yield.

    Same thing applies to any other natural resource.

  89. After most of the good farms are paved over to build housing subdivisions, and THEN food prices rise, what do you do, tear down the houses?

    On what planet to they pave over the good farms?

    But the answer to your silly question is, yes, you tear down the houses. This isn’t rocket science. The most productive use of the land is what the use of the land should be.

    As for the “Fish Banks” game, how do I invest my fish money to buy out the others’ claims to the fishery?

    If the rules do not allow for that, surely they allow for confederation among the fishermen to escape the obvious repeated prisoner’s dilemma by placing a quota on the fishery, auctioning it off in parts, and enforcing it.

    No? Then it’s a game played on an unnecessary commons.

    Same thing applies to any other natural resource.

    …unless that natural resource is owned.

  90. @MikeP: “In fact, recent accounting by the World Bank finds that fully 77% of the wealth of humanity is found in intangible capital — not natural resources, not factories, but capital in people’s heads and in the ways societies function.”

    The World Bank, like most people, are grossly ignorant of the long range effect of resource depletion and loss of biodiversity. Economists haven’t figured out how to calculate that yet, but I can tell you this: Money in a bank on a planet unable to sustain human life is worthless. This is the problem with reducing our society and issues to economic problems, not everything is about money.

    @MikeP: “Everything is privately owned”

    The Libertarian ideal, which will never happen, so it’s a pointless argument. May as well say, “when the aliens land and save us” for all the more good it will actually do. It would also require those owners to act rationally, and not engage in crimes against each other, which would also never happen. All economic theory, Libertarian and otherwise, is based on the premise that humans will act rationally for their own long term good. History and Psychology both prove otherwise. It was this free market fundamentalism and subsequent lack of regulation that allowed the recent financial crisis to occur. Hoping for some utopian ideal that looks good on paper to save the world some day is yet another form of anti-intellectualism. Real problems need real solutions, not hand-waving exercises and theories based largely on wish-fulfillment.

    @MikeP: “On what planet to they pave over the good farms?”

    This one. Some of the most fertile land in the US has been converted into suburbs, while the agribusiness went to arid regions that require huge retasking of the water supply, a water supply that is now in peril. Sure, they made money doing it, which is why it happened, but it was yet another example of short-term thinking. Profit-seeking is always a short-term near horizon endeavor, neurocognitive studies show that humans are wired to do so. It takes a certain level of enlightenment to break out of that short term heuristic that otherwise plagues humanity.

    On the fish banks game, living on the West Coast of the US I see the depleted fisheries that resulted from an unregulated industry. Monterey’s Cannery Row is now retail outlets, and although they generate money, they stand as silent testimony to the regional extinction of many species of fish. Lose enough fish and you lose the natural productivity of the oceans, a cost that no amount of short-term profit will ever displace.

  91. @MikeP: “Humanity today is better off, by leagues, than humanity at any past time in history. This is failure?

    Of course I say this with an optimism born from living in a liberal market democracy. Had I been one of the 7 million Ukrainian, 26 million Chinese, or 1 million Cambodian populations who died due to depletion of resources, I might think differently.”

    It gets even worse when you realize that much of the suffering in the Third World can be traced to resource exploitation by the First World. Talk about shifting costs. One of the more interesting and recent shifted costs is sending them our electronic waste and other garbage for salvage. They make some money at it, but in the process toxify their environment to their long-term detriment. The money they make today is a pittance compared to the ecological disaster they are creating for the future.

  92. Of course, that’s a small example of my overall point: Modern day profiteering is resulting in a shifted cost that will come due in the future, in the form of a far less inhabitable planet. That’s a really big cost. Far bigger than whatever economic development we’re gaining in the short-term. A high human population is a part of that equation, a big part.

  93. The Libertarian ideal, which will never happen, so it’s a pointless argument.

    I should have been clearer: Everything that can be privately owned is privately owned. It’s not an ideal: it’s simply a recipe for how to factor the costs of resource depletion into decisions about their use.

    Libertarianism is not utopian. It does, in fact, recognize that maximizing human well being is a hard problem that cannot be solved by authoritarian planning.

    It was this free market fundamentalism and subsequent lack of regulation that allowed the recent financial crisis to occur.

    Egad. A regulatory regime that said that institutions could chop up plain vanilla securities into more complex securities and hold less of the latter for the same capitalization is neither free market fundamentalism nor a lack of regulation. It is regulation-induced arbitrage that massively overleveraged the entire financial industry.

    Hoping for some utopian ideal that looks good on paper to save the world some day is yet another form of anti-intellectualism.

    You didn’t get the point behind my example of Ukraine, China, and Cambodia, did you.

    All of those “resource depletions” were intentional and man made — made in fact by people who actually were utopian and who prized their intellectualism.

  94. @MikeP: “A regulatory regime that said that institutions could chop up plain vanilla securities into more complex securities and hold less of the latter for the same capitalization is neither free market fundamentalism nor a lack of regulation.”

    The regulatory regime said nothing of the sort. It was silent on the matter, hence why opportunists did what they did. It is ridiculous to say that on the one hand the regulations “said” they could do something and on the other hand claim removing regulations would improve the situation. Obviously once you remove regulations, that’s the same thing as “saying” you can do whatever you want, including engage in over-leveraging.

    “You didn’t get the point behind my example of Ukraine, China, and Cambodia, did you.”

    Oh, I got the point in the examples, but do realize the same resource depletion is happening everywhere, even in the liberal Western democracies, we just haven’t paid as big of a price for it yet since we tend to raid the resources of others first. You look at a microcosm, I look at the global picture. I could point to Iceland as an example of a failed Western democracy, but that’s a microcosm, it says nothing about Western democracy in general.

  95. Missed this one earlier.

    MikeP: “Overpopulation, plain and simple, means a population that cannot pay for itself.”

    No large population can currently pay for itself. They are all drawing out resources faster than those resources can be replenished, and destroying the planet’s ability to provide for the human population in the future through pollution, desertification, deforestation, loss of topsoil, loss of freshwater, loss of arable land, loss of ocean productivity, and global warming. This is a form of massive debt, borrowing against the resources of the future, that cannot be repaid and will result in strife on a global scale.

    Do you have any idea how much economic harm a 6 foot increase in sea levels would cause? Even a 3 foot increase would be in the trillions. That’s only one factor. The economic disaster looming in the event we continue our present course and pretend that a free market/god/aliens whatever are going to save us is hard to even calculate. The Great Depression doesn’t even come close as a comparison. It won’t happen all at once, or right away, but it will all happen, and it will require adaptations that currently people are not willing to make.

    That means the real disturbing intellectual record here is that of the Libertarians and other groups who like to deny reality, since those are the ones most strongly contributing to the apathy with which we currently face our growing problems. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  96. What is the alternative? How do you prevent population growth? Please try to answer without using the word “force”.

    I can answer that: Wealth

    The wealthier a people, the lower their rates of reproduction.

    When people become wealthy enough, they find that large families are no longer the boon they used to be.

    The development of medical technology has reduced the need to have as many children because the survival rate is much higher.

    The higher productivity of a technologically developed society means that fewer people are required to feed the retired.

    Agricultural technology has reduced the need for so many farm hands.

    Wealth, a product of people free to produce wealth in a reasonably unmolested economy, is all that is required to address the issue of “overpopulation”.

    If there’s any doom that awaits us, it is in allowing fear mongers and doomsayers prescribe policy.

  97. Of course, that’s a small example of my overall point: Modern day profiteering is resulting in a shifted cost that will come due in the future, in the form of a far less inhabitable planet.

    I’m supposing you haven’t examined the consequences of government debt, which defers costs of present consumption into the future.

  98. As a scientist and U.S. government official living in USA and Germany for more than 40 years, born in Indonesia and seriously interested in philosophy since my teenage years, I can claim for having a comprehensive overview of the western culture and civilization that is free from the usual mistake made by many indigenous westerners, i.e., “seeing the trees but not the forest”. More precisely, I am able to simultaneously “see the forest and the trees”, and even beyond, in a general perspective of other cultures and civilizations of the world.

    It is striking to see that most of Obama’s rhetoric is exclusively based on argument (i.e., reason) alone. This must be due to his background and education as lawyer, who is notorious for their denial of truth by claiming that everything depends only on how a lawyer presents his case. Lawyers are habitual liars, capable of making the jury convinced in the innocence of their own clients, as evidenced by the famous case of O.J. Simpson. However, we forget that to every reason there is ALWAYS a counter-reason that justifies just the opposite argument. Under such circumstance a dispute will never end or be resolved. This has been proven by the great philosopher Immanuel Kant in his “Critique of Pure Reason” with his famous argument, if a world that is seen as partly good and partly evil must have been created by a super-benevolent God, then an equivalently valid fact of a world that is partly evil and partly good must have been created by a super-evil Satan. As we all know, such a dilemma is easily resolved by relying on factual evidence as a criteria for judgment. Every thesis must be proven by factual evidence before we can accept, believe and/or rely on it. An argument without factual evidence is as good as nothing, and so is also a “fact” that defies logical reasoning, such as belief in superstitions. Such a world view is known as enlightenment, which is also known to have perpetuated the development of science and democracy we know today. As a U.S. citizen coming from outside who is capable of “seeing the forest and the trees simultaneously” I sometimes become greatly surprised or even puzzled as to how our politicians keep ignoring this fundamental principle of enlightenment that has formed the foundation of our United States of America, and thus letting Obama and his supporters get away with half-truths and unproven arguments underlying his entire politics.

    A good example is Obama’s policy of “putting science in its rightful place”, which is fundamentally wrong. Modern science, as it is developed and understood by the western philosophy of enlightenment, has NO intrinsic value. It is the users of science, and more importantly, the ruling party or institution beginning with the US government, who must give science a value, i.e., ultimately either for the destruction or the benefit of mankind. In this case, any value of science cannot be made independent of ideology, because it is ideology which determines a value. President Obama is deceiving the American people when he promised to free science from ideology. While it is true that science by itself is independent of ideology, the value of science is always determined by an ideology. To free science from any ideological bound is nothing but an attempt to tacitly subjugate science under a particular ideology, i.e., the ideology of the ruling party who is in a position of tacitly imposing an ideology of its own, obviously to serve its own purpose.

    Obama’s and Holdren’s concept of global warming, air pollution, renewable and non-renewable energy sources, population growth, abortion, mass sterilization, etc., are all nothing else but direct products of the ideology governing their own minds. I must stress, their OWN mind, because other people may well have different mind owing to their different ideology. The differing ideologies are evidenced by the presence of opposing arguments. Take, e.g., global warming. A prediction of global warming can only be made by running a computer program. As every scientist knows, the outcome of such a computer code depends sensitively on the starting conditions and initial assumptions, as well as the variety and hierarchy of physical mechanisms used for computing the process under consideration. If one or more of these factor are changed, the final outcome may just be the reverse, i.e., a global freezing instead of global warming, especially by virtue of what is called runaway effect(s). Thus, Obama’s and Holdren’s concepts of global effects are nothing else but their own beliefs that has not been proven or verified by facts. This beliefs inevitable depend on their own ideology. In a democracy, other people must be allowed to have their own ideology and their own beliefs.

    The above argument applies to EVERY aspect of the President’s policy, including Obama’s Stimulus Package, Obama-Care, etc., especially because none of those policies are based on facts, or have been proven or verified by facts. In the contrary, they mostly are based on pure arguments. In many cases the factual evidences are even AGAINST Obama’s policies. Take for example their blaming everything bad to Bush’s administration. These can be easily contradicted by countervailing arguments in style of pure reason. However, being fully aware of the impotency of pure reason, we’d better rely on factual evidence. The factual evidence is here just the contrary. It is Obama and his administration who have factually driven America into bankruptcy by factually building-in a multi-trillion U$ deficit four times as high as Bush’s 8 years of presidency, factually causing a 9.5% jobless rate that is factually the highest in the last 26 years, and etc. and etc. The absurdity of Obama’s failing policy is most conspicuously demonstrated in Joe Biden’s bizarre statement that his government must “spend more and more money to keep from bankruptcy.” Such self-contradictory statement is obviously against any logic or reason, and should not be issued by somebody who claimed heritage to Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the latter well known as strong proponents of reason and the enlightenment ideology.

  99. Which just goes to show a PhD is no predictor of reasoning faculties.

    The reality of global warming is based on several things. First, the ice core records show a warming trend, and that fact is indisputable. Second, atmospheric science shows that CO2 and methane and other gases have heat retention physical attributes, and that fact is also indisputable. Third, glaciers are melting away all over the world, most notable in Glacier National Park which will soon need to be renamed at the rate things are changing, and that fact is also indisputable. Add to that melting Artic sea ice, melting antarctic sea ice, the melting Greenland Ice Sheet, coral bleaching and the spread of tropical diseases, and the reality should be obvious to anyone. The correlation between those observations and human population growth, and industrialization and deforestation for that matter, are also all obvious.

    What is not obvious is whether or not reason will prevail over denial and ideology to solve the problem.

  100. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke

  101. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane.

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