Posts Tagged ‘David Attenborough’

David Attenborough is my hero but humans are not “a plague on earth”

September 10, 2013

David Attenborough is reported in the Guardian as being rather pessimistic about the future of humans.

Sir David Attenborough warns things will only get worse

People should be persuaded against having large families, says the broadcaster and naturalist

Much of what he is reported to have said is perfectly sound but many of the conclusions then present a pessimistic and apocryphal – a very Guardianesque – view. In fact I suspect that the spin is entirely due to the Guardian’s reporter and the Guardian’s remarkable ability to see a looming catastrophe in every advance.

That with falling fertility rates, world population will continue to rise at a decreasing rate and stabilise by 2100 is just a matter of arithmetic. But a 100 years from now we will face the challenges of a slowly declining population. That natural selection is “defeated” when even weak individuals are cared for and are not allowed to die is not something to regret. We are in the process of artificial selection over-riding natural selection and at a quite different pace, but it is just another challenge for humans – not something to wring our hands over. In fact we are already practicing a sort of eugenics by default.

Sir David Attenborough has said that he is not optimistic about the future and that people should be persuaded against having large families.

The broadcaster and naturalist, who earlier this year described humans as a plague on Earth”, also said he believed humans have stopped evolving physically and genetically because of birth control and abortion, but that cultural evolution is proceeding “with extraordinary swiftness”.

“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 90-95% of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were,” he tells this week’s Radio Times.

“Stopping natural selection is not as important, or depressing, as it might sound – because our evolution is now cultural … We can inherit a knowledge of computers or television, electronics, aeroplanes and so on.”

Attenborough said he was not optimistic about the future and “things are going to get worse”.

“I don’t think we are going to become extinct. We’re very clever and extremely resourceful – and we will find ways of preserving ourselves, of that I’m sure. But whether our lives will be as rich as they are now is another question.

“We may reduce in numbers; that would actually be a help, though the chances of it happening within the next century is very small. I should think it’s impossible, in fact.”

… he also appeared to express qualified support for the one-child policy in China.

He said: “It’s the degree to which it has been enforced which is terrible, and there’s no question it’s produced all kinds of personal tragedies. There’s no question about that. On the other hand, the Chinese themselves recognise that had they not done so there would be several million more mouths in the world today than there are now.”

He added: “If you were able to persuade people that it is irresponsible to have large families in this day and age, and if material wealth and material conditions are such that people value their materialistic life and don’t suffer as a consequence, then that’s all to the good. But I’m not particularly optimistic about the future. I think we’re lucky to be living when we are, because things are going to get worse.”

“Worse” is a matter of judgement.

We will feed and house more people than ever before. We will take care of more of the elderly than ever before. We will each have more and affordable energy available to us than ever before. We will educate and empower more people than ever before. More of us will see more of this world than ever before. We will face more challenges than ever before.  That’s not “worse”.

Noted in Passing 9th February 2013

February 9, 2013

A weekly post on things that were interesting or which I would have liked to have blogged about …….

Science and Behaviour

The Fonseca Bust

Hair-dos and archaeology come together in an intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal which shows that there is a logic to hair styling.

MIT research suggests that India joined with Asia 10 million years later than previously thought while Caltech research indicates that that iron melts at higher temperatures than has been reported in the past and that the earth’s core more be a trifle warmer than has been assumed before.

257,885,1611, which is also the 48th  Mersenne prime, was discovered on the computer of Dr. Curtis Cooper, a professor at the University of Central Missouri.

Global warming hard-liners are having to accept that the world isn’t warming as quickly as their catastrophe theories suggest. But they are not yet giving up on their religious beliefs about the anthropogenic causes of warming. But some more of the alarmism around global warming has to be recanted or at least toned down as new studies show that the Amazon rain forest is far more resilient to climate change than the doomsayers would have us believe.  Back in 1975 when the catastrophe theory of the day was the imminent cooling of the world, there were suggestions that the Arctic should be melted to try to get the world to warm up!!

Apparently certain certain volatile organic gases can promote cloud formation in a way  never considered before by atmospheric scientists. So much for “settled” climate science.

Pain and itching are both sensations which have a protective purpose and are linked to survival. Itching warns of the presence of irritants and it may be that there are a specific set of nerve cells that signal itch but not pain.

Flocking starlings strike an optimal balance between the work of responding to social cues from their neighbors and the need to conserve energy. They do this by coordinating with their seven nearest neighbors and form their characteristic flocks with the least effort.

Sweden is not immune to discrimination against job-seekers who have “foreign” names.

Amherst College seems to be taking sexual violence on campus seriously……

Engineering and Technology

The oil shale boom is having unexpected benefits even for rural banking in addition to changing the face of energy supplies.

The origin of the battery fire that occurred on a Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 at Boston Logan Airport in January has been identified as a single cell in a lithium-ion battery cell. Now the causes of the initiating short-circuit have to be found.

Meanwhile, Boeing has started telling its customers to expect serious delivery delays for the Boeing 787 as far out as this summer.

Bad Science

A mediocre academic, Brett Mills, seeks publicity by claiming that David Attenborough is minimising the prevalence of gay animals!

Earthworms are long revered for their beneficial role in soil fertility, but with the good comes the bad: they also increase greenhouse gas emissions from soils.

The Japanese Education Ministry is eyeing stricter penalties for researchers who misuse public research funds or commit fraud.

Last week, a California woman filed a lawsuit against Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft, alleging that Zoloft works no better than placebo, that Pfizer knew it, and that the company has run a systematic campaign to deceive doctors and the public in order to continue selling the drug.


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