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Intelligent design and popular culture: Population crank is now U.S. science and technology policy director


Hope Yen reports that president-elect Obama has named Harvard physicist John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Yahoo, December 20, 2008) Yen, sees this as an end to politicizing science, but – for what it is worth – Holdren is a highly political scientist. John Hinderaker commented at Powerline on the appointment (December 24, 2008):

Holdren has long been a leading advocate of the theory that there are too many people, economic growth is unsustainable and the world is running out of resources. In fact, he collaborated on these theories with Paul Ehrlich, one of the most spectacularly and notoriously wrong-headed scientists since Ptolemy.
This is the kind of stuff Ehrlich wrote in 1968:

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic programs to ‘stretch’ the carrying capacity of the earth by increasing food production and providing for more equitable distribution of whatever food is available. But these programs will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control.”

In 1974 he predicted:

“…[a] nutritional disaster that seems likely to overtake humanity in the 1970s (or, at the latest, the 1980s). Due to a combination of ignorance, greed, and callousness, a situation has been created that could lead to a billion or more people starving to death…. Before 1985 mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity [in which] the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be nearing depletion.”

Ehrlich is best remembered today for the bet that he made with Julian Simon that the prices of certain commodities selected by Ehrlich would rise–a certainty, Ehrlich believed, given his theory of imminent and catastrophic scarcity of raw materials. The prices all fell.

While nowhere near as famous as Ehrlich, Holdren collaborated with him on two books and several articles, and fully shared Ehrlich’s pessimistic theories on the future of the human race. In fact, as John Tierney notes, Ehrlich went to Holdren for advice on which commodities to choose for his losing bet with Simon.

Consistent with these preoccupations, Holdren postures himself today as an expert on “sustainability.” In 1995, he co-authored this article, titled “The Meaning of Sustainability: Biogeophysical Aspects,” with Ehrlich. Since Holdren is listed as the principal author, it sheds significant light on his alleged commitment to the “de-politicization of science.”

The thing for Uncommon Descenters to grasp about the Holdren appointment is this: It made no difference to the incoming U.S. administration that Holdren was completely wrong. Just as it made no difference to the cowardly science establishment Edward Taub was completely right about the neuroplasticity of the brain – and that his findings offered unprecedented benefits for people seeking recovery from strokes. In the ongoing shame of the materialist science establishment, supportive falsehoods trump truths any day of the week.

I am glad someone raised this whole topic because for me, it is an old one. As I told friend John Gilmore, who sent me the link,

I used to have a demography beat in the 1970s, and I knew then that “overpopulation” is a pile of cow-poo.

There is ALWAYS overpopulation in lush tropical climates – and underpopulation in frozen hells.

In a meeting room on a cold winter night, people crowd around the lit fireplace, not around the bust window, blowing snow into the room …

The same goes for the planet.

As I explained recently – and patiently – to an American “skeptic” – if 100 million additional humans were added in a short period of time to the world, it would not under any foreseeable circumstances occur in the circumpolar zone – and unlikely in the temperate zone too.

Obviously, the human population cannot grow in an unlimited way – but it doesn’t.

It grows to a certain point, and then it slows, or reverses, like anything else. Everything rises, and then falls.

The increase in the human population in recent centuries is primarily due to the fact that – in many areas – most humans who are born alive complete a normal lifespan, and so do their children. But that tends to make people more cautious about becoming parents, of course.

Most current issues will revolve around caution in becoming parents, not around joyful abandon.

Speaking of which, Pamela Winnick has also exposed the population bomb racket in A Jealous God. Population growth rates were already falling while the US-led hysteria was rising. The real issue in many parts of the world, as demography bore Mark Steyn likes to point out, is demographic winter. It is not an apocalypse, but it will force many hard choices on us, choices that could have been foreseen – but foresight was not convenient or well-rewarded. And – speaking of foresight – I foresee no change now.

Note 1: Holdren wrote the “case” against economist Bjorn Lomborg, later dismissed.

Vignette: I heard Lomborg at the 4th World Science Journalists’ Conference (2005), where he was not told that his opponent would put up and criticize his papers on a screen in front of a non-specialist audience. Perhaps he might have guessed, but in any event, he did not have an opportunity to prepare.

I had arrived early and got myself a front row seat near the speakers. And suddenly, there he was, on his knees in front of me, asking if he could please have some paper. I said, take as much as you like, and pens too, and let me know if you need anything else. He just needed paper to take notes in order to respond to an unexpected approach, and then went back to defending himself.

I thought Lomborg defended himself ably, especially under the circumstances. His point was that all environment decisions involve tradeoffs, and many radical ideas are simply not worth the costs.

Note: My Salvo 6 column on the ongoing stem cell scam is now online. If you got money for Christmas, take the opportunity to subscribe to Salvo. There you will find out about still more amazing establishment science scams – and many other fascinating details of the collapse of popular materialist culture)

Ms O'leary could you clarify what you mean by this please? I am unable to parse it. "The brain is reparable because the focus of attention of the mind repairs it." GSV
DarelRex, First, clarification re Taub: I was defending Taub, not exposing him. I was exposing Holdren and Ehrlich. While you are right in saying that overpopulation and irreparable brain theories could be just as bogus even if materialism were true, they are vastly less likely if intelligent design is true. The brain is reparable because the focus of attention of the mind repairs it. That will not be a materialist theory of the mind until a plausible materialist theory of the mind arises. Don't look to Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, or Richard Dawkins for that. Both the high science culture and the popular science culture fastened on the overpopulation and irreparable-brain theories because they supported worldviews dear to them. How about People = insects. Brains = machines. Therefore, massive intervention = good? Patrick, Big Science is totally, head over heels, into materialism. Big Science and materialism are quite obviously synonyms at present. So, with respect, I am not clear on the point of your critique. O'Leary
I noticed that as well. A phrase like "Big Science" would make more sense in this context. Patrick
I thoroughly enjoy your exposés of Holdren, Ehrlich, and Taub. But where does the swipe against "materialist science" come from? Seems to me that strict materialism could be completely true throughout any given day, year, century, or millennium, and the overpopulation and irreparable-brain theories would be just as bogus. DarelRex

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