Reason Writers Around Town: Science Correspondent Ron Bailey Takes Yet Another Whack at the Overpopulation Meme


Over at the American Enterprise Institute's online magazine, The American, Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey rebuts a particularly clueless eruption of overpopulation alarmism. The offending nonsense appeared on the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch site in a piece by regular financial columnist Paul B. Farrell. From the article:

Farrell asserts that overpopulation is "the biggest time-bomb for Obama, America, capitalism, the world." Bigger than global warming, poverty, or peak oil. Overpopulation will end capitalism and maybe even destroy modern civilization. As evidence, Farrell cites what he calls neo-Malthusian biologist Jared Diamond's 12-factor equation of population doom.

It turns out that Farrell is wrong or misleading about the environmental and human effects of all 12 factors he cites.

To see the complete brief refutation of this latest outbreak of Malthusian doom click over to The American here.

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  1. Bailey should take a whack at getting a science degree.

  2. Apropos of almost nothing, and as a way of testing the new comment software, let me waste your time by telling you that last weekend I took a bunch of my old children’s books about dinosaurs, fish, whales, turtles, etc. out of storage. I am 38, these books were mostly printed in the ’70s. One of the whale books, I found, had a whole paragraph on how man had overpopulated the Earth and had to learn to reduce his numbers. I was a little surprised at how dogmatic it was, and paused to consider how different a person I might be if I had taken this paragraph seriously in my youth.

  3. The smoggy 70’s have been defeated and we are living longer now than at any time in human history as a species, so let’s be real rebels, real liberals and real progressives and start to doubt, question, challenge and legitimize authority. Remember, we are telling our kids THE END IS NEAR. Let’s leave the hysterical fear mongering and moralizing to the neocons. Is this our very own WMD scam? I thought the right wingers motivated with fear and fear alone? Are we liberals turning into fascists? Is this the Greenzi 1939 of environ MENAL ism?
    We have one life to live so why waste it with this embarrassing doomsday theory when 23 years of the CO2 theory clearly proves that this power to end “life as we know it-IPCC”, certainly should have started by now, let alone be “delayed” by little old La Nina, a “natural” force. Resulting cooling disproves predicted warming. History will curse us all for this mess.
    If it’s humanity you love as an environmentalist, why not join the coming NEWGREENS movement that celebrates nature instead of condemning the 5 billion year old planet to death every chance you doomers get? This fearing the unknown is dragging us into a new Dark Age and history will prove me right.
    Nature is all powerful and the mystery it always was so don’t fear for Nature as Nature is in charge, not you or I. Just look at David Nutzuki and Al Bore who while leading us to war against a non existent enemy of climate change (formerly known as just weather and climate variation) is saying we need to “stabilize” our climate. Holy Messianic? What? Make our planet like the inside of an indoor shopping mall? Is this modern day witch burning?
    Preserve, protect, love, experience and RESPECT our world, not rescue it with needless fear from a CO2 mistake.
    Reject this 23 year old “popular science” of CO2. You may lose a few friends but at least you will be ahead of the curve for now and called a “denier”.
    Be a proud denier and join the NEWGREENS. Pollution is real. The global warming theory is not real or about pollution or relevant in responsible environmentalism.
    Lets’ show our children how we can face the energy challenges of the future with courage, not this constant fear mongering motivation that distracts us from conscientious environmentalism. This doomsday approach is not sustainable in our culture for another quarter of a century so watch for the next generation to bite back when we try to tell them they are going to die soon on sick planet from Catalytic Converter gas and plant food.
    They will be real liberals, I promise.

  4. Did Morris have trouble finding a parking spot today? Clear evidence of overpopulation.

  5. Naga,

    His sublimated gay crush on Bailey is getting uncomfortable for everyone involved. Do you think Lefiti rapes any kind of guy, or just ones that remind him of Ron? Does he call them “Ron”? Maybe he puts a Ron mask on them, so he doesn’t have to strain his beleaguered imagination any more than necessary.

    Seriously, if you are Ron Bailey or someone who looks like Ron Bailey or if someone who smells like cat shit and baked beans has been following you, please be on the defense.

  6. AV: Hmmm. I just tried it and it worked for me.

  7. Seeing as how Malthus was wrong in 1798 and his heirs have been wrong ever since, why does anyone keep paying attention to neo-Malthusian doomsday prophets? Is this one of those stopped clock things, where sooner or later one of them will be right?

  8. In other science news:…..or-resign/

    …Mr McIntyre’s analysis of the data ? which he had been asking for since 2003 ? suggests that scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the United Kingdom’s Bureau of Meteorology have been using only a small subset of the available data to make their claims that recent years have been the hottest of the last millennium. When the entire data set is used, Mr McIntyre claims that the hockey stick shape disappears completely….

  9. Seeing as how Malthus was wrong in 1798 and his heirs have been wrong ever since, why does anyone keep paying attention to neo-Malthusian doomsday prophets? Is this one of those stopped clock things, where sooner or later one of them will be right?

    It is not even that. There is no guarantee that humanity’s population will increase to the point of overpopulation.

  10. This “overpopulation” crap has not convinced me since I was about 10 years old. I am amazed that the people who fly all over the world act like the whole planet is packed as densly as Manhattan.

  11. All those wetting their pants regarding overpopulation, please kill yourselves now. Otherwise, you lose credibility instantly.

  12. At least we dinosaures were responsible enough to off ourselves when faced with overpopulation. You warm blooded mammals should do likewise.

    1. If you dumb lizards could steer asteroids to kill yourselves off, maybe you could have found a less drastic solution.

  13. How can we be going back to population alarmism? We’re still not through with global warming!

  14. Wondering if Ron’s gonna be at the Singularity Summit this weekend?

  15. Farrell asserts that overpopulation is “the biggest time-bomb for Obama, America, capitalism, the world.”

    The problem with statements like these is that the beg the question just for starters – saying “overpopulation” implies the knowledge of an optimal level or limit, beyond which there would be an excess.

    If the person is just saying “overpopulation” because he thinks there is too much people, I would answer with “the man should have his head examined”, because he clearly shows misanthropic/paranoid tendencies.

  16. Jeff P: You betcha! ;-0

  17. Unless I’m mistaken, Diamond is more of an ecologist than a anthropological biologist.

    Meaning, he looks at ecosystems… ants and birds and shit. His books have often ranged outside of his areas of professional study… but citing this guy as a leading expert on human population change is like asking, well… Harold Myerson to be a derivatives trader?

    I passed by his book, “Collapse” the other day. Maybe I’ll go back and get it. That seems to be his thing closest to a study of causes of civilizational declines.

  18. Gilmore: You might be interested in my comprehensive review of the manifold faults of Collapse.

  19. “…A quarter to a third of the tropical forests that have been cut down are now regenerating…” Yah. Of course they’re regenerating – they were just cut down. They can’t regenerate if they’re left to flourish. When you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up. Don’t even get me started on the ‘argument’ that diversity is A-okay. What a joke.

    Bailey: It’s difficult for me to believe you are being the least bit objective when you simply naysay every single point the opposition makes. Kudos to being a cherrypicking spin doctor. I look forward to the day you actually AGREE with something, because it will be the day you are finally willing to be honest with yourself and admit that, sometimes, the scientific mainstream gets it right.

    It’s no wonder libertarians have a reputation today for being small-minded naysayers. We’re losing cred, here.

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