Posts Tagged ‘Matt Ridley’

Noted in Passing – 28th July 2013

July 28, 2013

Friends under a banana leaf: Photograph by Kendisan Seruyan (via twistedsifter)

I tend to take alarmist claims about the demise of species with a large grain of salt. As supported by this story about a species of North American bumblebee which virtually disappeared and which has now reappeared.

I don’t believe the scientists who say they know the secret of Usain Bolt and his speed.

Matt Ridley compares HS2 to Hadrian’s Wall.

For a “settled science”, there is a great deal which is still being found about how carbon dioxide affects plants. Wetland plants are found not only to absorb more carbon dioxide with high concentration of the gas but they also then emit less carbon dioxide.

John Hawks considers the Denisovans and the pre-Toba, post-Toba question.

Joschka Fischer who was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005 considers Egypt after Morsi.

Global population of polar bears keeps increasing (about 5,000 since 2001) even though some vested interests keep adjusting the numbers to try and show that there has been no significant change. They seem however to have abandoned efforts to show numbers declining.

That science is self-correcting may be true in the long term (more than a few decades) but it is largely a myth within the lifetime of scientists.

In the New Yorker, Atul Gawande considers the contrasting speeds at which anesthesia and the use of antiseptics spread and generally how ideas disseminate in the practice of medicine.

His involvement with Muammar Gaddafi is no great surprise but I suspect that we have not yet heard the full history of Tony Blair’s venality.

Any even natural number greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two prime numbers. Plus Maths on the Goldbach Conjecture.


Apocalypse Not!

August 18, 2012

I have a theory that within a hundred years we will be bemoaning the lack of world population. The collapse of society will be forecast as an impending catastrophe as the total world population stabilises at less than 10 billion with the proportion of the young working population decreasing relative to the increasing numbers of the “leisured” population.  And that apocalypse too shall not come to pass.

Matt Ridley has a new essay in Wired which needs to be read. Just some excerpts below:

Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times

When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives. And the prophets of apocalypse always draw a following—from the 100,000 Millerites who took to the hills in 1843, awaiting the end of the world, to the thousands who believed in Harold Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who forecast the final rapture in both 1994 and 2011. ………


AGW – “a monopoly that clings to one hypothesis”

August 6, 2012

Michael Crichton (2003): There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

Matt Ridley’s 3rd article on confirmation bias in the Wall Street Journal:

I argued last week that the way to combat confirmation bias—the tendency to behave like a defense attorney rather than a judge when assessing a theory in science—is to avoid monopoly. So long as there are competing scientific centers, some will prick the bubbles of theory reinforcement in which other scientists live.


image : Wall Street Journal – John S. Dykes

Last month saw two media announcements of preliminary new papers on climate. One, by a team led by physicist Richard Muller of the University of California, Berkeley, concluded “the carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried” for the (modest) 0.8 Celsius-degree rise in global average temperatures over land during the past half-century—less, if ocean is included. He may be right, but such curve-fitting reasoning is an example of confirmation bias. The other, by a team led by the meteorologist Anthony Watts, a skeptical gadfly, confirmed its view that the Muller team’s numbers are too high—because “reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled” by bad thermometer siting and unjustified “adjustments.” …

…. The late novelist Michael Crichton, in his prescient 2003 lecture criticizing climate research, said: “To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global-warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models…. No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world—increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality.” ….

….. Bring on the gadflies.

The late Michael Crichton’s lecture in 2003 is well worth reading again.

Crichton’s lecture is here: Crichton 2003 Caltech Michelin Lecture

On “consensus science” he has this to say:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let’s review a few cases. ……

Malthusian doomsday postponed – indefinitely

September 21, 2011

In August I wrote:

Sometime soon the world’s population will exceed 7 billion. No one knows exactly when. According to the UN Population Reference Bureau, this will happen on 31st October in India or in China. The world’s 6 billionth living person was “suppposedly” born just 11 years ago in Bosnia, and world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. …

But I am no Malthusian and have a strong belief that the catastrophe theories are fundamentally misguided. Peak gas will never happen. Peak oil is a long way away and will be mitigated by new ways of creating oil substitutes as oil price increases. All the dismal forecasts of food production not being able to cope with population have not transpired. …..

Today Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, has an excellent piece on his blog which is also published in the Ottawa Citizen:

Room for all

…… Clearly it is possible at least for a while to escape the fate forecast by Robert Malthus, the pessimistic mathematical cleric, in 1798. We’ve been proving Malthus wrong for more than 200 years. And now the population explosion is fading. Fertility rates are falling all over the world: in Bangladesh down from 6.8 children per woman in 1955 to 2.7 today; China – 5.6 to 1.7; Iran – 7 to 1.7; Nigeria – 6.5 to 5.2; Brazil 6.1 to 1.8; Yemen – 8.3 to 5.1. 

The rate of growth of world population has halved since the 1960s; the absolute number added to the population each year has been falling for more than 20 years. According to the United Nations, population will probably cease growing altogether by 2070. This miraculous collapse of fertility has not been caused by Malthusian misery, or coercion (except in China), but by the very opposite: enrichment, urbanization, female emancipation, education and above all the defeat of child mortality – which means that women start to plan families rather than continue breeding. ……

Already huge swaths of the world are being released from farming and reforested. New England is now 80 per cent woodland, where it was once 70 per cent farm land. Italy and England have more woodland than for many centuries. Moose, coyotes, beavers and bears are back in places where they have not been for centuries. France has a wolf problem; Scotland a deer problem. It is the poor countries, not the affluent ones, that are losing forest. Haiti, with its near total dependence on renewable power (wood), is 98-percent deforested and counting.

Read the entire article.

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