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Science today: Apologies required for stating the obvious about numbers

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A Japanese official has been forced to apologize for stating the obvious. Japan’s population is shrinking because people aren’t having enough children:

The headline in the New York Times is (perhaps inadvertently) amusing: “Official Apologizes After Blaming Childless People for Japan’s Shrinking Population.” What, exactly, is there to apologize for? This is so glaringly indisputable that even Captain Obvious could have made that observation. It’s like blaming bank robbers for causing bank robberies. So, Mr. Aso committed a classic Kinsley gaffe. He said something that was obviously true, but he wasn’t supposed to say it, possibly because it’s a touchy subject in Japan.Alex Berezow, “Japanese Official Apologizes For Telling Truth About Shrinking Population” at American Council on Science and Health

Essentially, the future belongs to those who show up for it.

The story itself belongs with so much that is happening today. Science is supposed to be about numbers, among other things, but one can’t depend on that for support anymore.

See, for example: Amazing! Science journal op-ed gets real about why so many people don’t “trust science” What’s amazing is for someone to even admit the obvious: “As a scientist and an organizer of this conference, I had walked into the planning of this meeting with my own frustrations and preconceptions about “science denial,” and how to fix it. On the day of the event I cautioned the audience that they should prepare to have their assumptions challenged, because after immersing myself in the field I had thrown all of mine away.”

If just getting real is a big step, we have a ways to go.

Then there’s social sciences’ putting a respectable face on persecuting the hoaxers of their field. They’re not concerned about the health of their discipline, presumably because they can legally (possibly forcibly, through the courts?) extract money while publishing garbage. They’re only concerned about anyone talking about it and showing it to the world for what it is.

Japan may be an advanced case of demanding a refuge from reality if you consider some other news: Some people there actually try to marry AI entities. (“Two-dimensional characters can’t cheat, age or die.”) Then there is the booming trade in sex robots. Sure, that’ll help. And the robot dogs who can’t disobey. Oh, and the mulling of robot priests. (If God is the Tin Man, the robot priest is just who you need to talk to him for you.)

Let’s hope the Singularity Is NOT Near. It sounds pretty awful.

See also: Why, in many cases, you’d be a fool to “trust science”

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4 Replies to “Science today: Apologies required for stating the obvious about numbers

  1. 1
    Ed George says:

    I guess a bigger question is whether a shrinking population is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, economists say that it is, but isn’t that more of an indictment against our economic system than it is about changes in population size?

  2. 2
    daveS says:

    From the NYT article:

    Japan’s finance minister apologized on Tuesday for saying that childless people were to blame for the country’s declining population and rising social security costs.

    The journalist used the term “blame” which makes the question a bit more complex.
    Obviously people having no children is one cause of Japan’s population decline (perhaps along with other factors such as immigration policy). But can you blame young people for having fewer or no children given Japan’s culture around work etc? It certainly doesn’t make raising children easy.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    dgosse says:

    Malthusian economics is demonstrably false. (So called because of Thomas Malthus’ “An Essay on the Principle of Population”) The idea that population is increasing so fast, or in such a sustained fashion, that we will inevitably run out of resources to sustain said population.

    Superficially, this sounds reasonable. Observationally, it has been falsified. World population 1800 – @ 1 billion. Famine and plague common, average standard of living – average of third world today was the norm in ‘developed’ countries. 1900 – @ 2 billion. Famine and plague still common, average standard of living – top of third world today was norm in ‘developed’ counties. 2000 – @ 6 billion. Famine and plague essentially eliminated, average standard of living – ‘developed’ are incredibly wealthy – third world still suffering (primarily due to bad government) but standard of living worldwide has improved for all people groups and those which have embraced ‘developed’ world technology and liberty have ‘developed’ world prosperity.

    There is no sign of prosperity decreasing except in those (all too common) cases where governments have rejected technology and or liberty. Growing population appears to correlate with increased prosperity. That said, I would suggest that increased population is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause for global prosperity. Liberty, technology (the freedom to develop and implement now technology), and limited government are also necessary for prosperity to rise.

    Furthermore, the available ‘natural resources’, despite Malthusian alarmism, do not appear to be shrinking, quite the contrary, we see an increase across the board in available resources despite rising demand. I would submit that decreasing population will, almost certainly, be accompanied by a decrease in prosperity. Fewer people to discover, recover, invent, manufacture, and distribute the products which make our modern health and wealth possible.

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