Glenn Reynolds accuses me of quote doctoring, linking to this utterly conclusive proof by JF Beck:

Lambert himself engages in selective out-of-context quoting in attempting to refute Berlau’s assertion that Paul Ehrlich advocated the forced sterilization of all Indian men who had fathered three or more children. Lambert reckons this is what Ehrlich wrote:

A few years ago, there was talk in India of compulsory sterilization for all males who were fathers of three or more children.

Hell, for all I know Ehrlich’s next sentence says, “I agree”. Regardless, if Berlau is guilty of quote doctoring, so is Lambert, at least according to the criteria established by Lambert.

You see, in Glenn Reynolds’ world, to prove something is true, no evidence is required — you just have to want it to be true. Possibly explains why, according to Reynolds, things in Iraq have just kept getting better and better since the war started.

Oh, and the next sentence in Ehlich’s book is:

Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program.

Comments

  1. #1 Harald Korneliussen
    April 23, 2007

    Still, I’d have more respect for Erlich if he’d said something like “Ignore for a moment the ethical issues this raises”.

    Really, you can see this rhetorical trick used a lot if you look at the darker sides of the peak oil movement, the deep-ecology movement or for instance eugenics sympathisers. They pretend to discuss the bad things in an objective manner, walk a wide circle around moral and ethical concerns, and say things like “of course this isn’t possible in the present political climate”. But you know what they want, and so do their audience.

  2. #2 Dominion
    April 23, 2007

    Harald, your ability to peer into your fellow human’s soul is without peer. And all this time I thought mind reading was simply not possible! Boy did you prove me wrong!

  3. #3 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    “Ignore for a moment …”

    A *moment*! I mean, is that it? Just a *moment* in which to ponder on the colossal ramifications of mass sterilisation? *Perhaps* Erlich meant that it would only take a moment to dismiss such a monstrous notion, but I doubt it. The sense is that ‘reasonable men’ can sit around a table (rather like the Wannsee conference) and politely discuss the pros and cons of mass sterilisation instead of shooting out of hand the lunatic who first proposed it!

  4. #4 Mee Duay
    April 23, 2007

    Reynolds points approvingly to WSJ bunk about malaria and Rachel Carson.
    http://instapundit.com/archives2/004419.php

    April 22, 2007
    A LOOK AT Rachel Carson’s legacy.
    http://opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110009968
    posted at 11:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds

    http://opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110009968

    The World Health Organization now estimates that there are between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria annually, causing approximately one million deaths. About 80% of those are young children, millions of whom could have been saved over the years with the regular application of DDT to their environments . . .
    . . . Carson cannot be blamed directly for these deaths . . . Exposés like Carson’s made the global campaign’s methods increasingly unpopular and eventually brought to a halt the effort to end malaria on a global scale. The disease has since bounced back . . .

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/04/AR2005060400130.html

    If Malaria’s the Problem, DDT’s Not the Only Answer
    By May Berenbaum
    Sunday, June 5, 2005; Page B03

    . . . What people aren’t remembering about the history of DDT is that, in many places, it failed to eradicate malaria not because of environmentalist restrictions on its use but because it simply stopped working. Insects have a phenomenal capacity to adapt to new poisons; anything that kills a large proportion of a population ends up changing the insects’ genetic composition so as to favor those few individuals that manage to survive due to random mutation. In the continued presence of the insecticide, susceptible populations can be rapidly replaced by resistant ones. Though widespread use of DDT didn’t begin until WWII, there were resistant houseflies in Europe by 1947, and by 1949, DDT-resistant mosquitoes were documented on two continents . . .
    . . . Overselling a chemical’s capacity to solve a problem can do irretrievable harm not only by raising false hopes but by delaying the use of more effective long-term methods. So let’s drop the hyperbole and overblown rhetoric — it’s not what Africa needs. What’s needed is a recognition of the problem’s complexity and a willingness to use every available weapon to fight disease in an informed and rational way.
    – - May Berenbaum is head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  5. #5 Tim Worstall
    April 23, 2007

    Doubt Ehrlich would have supported this on a grander scale. He has four kinds hinself, something I’ve always thought rather amusing from someone so worried about population.

  6. #6 MartinM
    April 23, 2007

    A moment! I mean, is that it? Just a moment in which to ponder on the colossal ramifications of mass sterilisation? Perhaps Erlich meant that it would only take a moment to dismiss such a monstrous notion, but I doubt it

    ‘Ignore for a moment’ is not synonymous with ‘this doesn’t matter.’ If anything, it means exactly the opposite.

  7. #7 Abe G
    April 23, 2007

    So, DavidDuff, instead of saying “Ignore for a moment…” you would rather Ehrlich say “Ignore for 42 years…”

    Reminds me of the folks at CA torturing the word “plausible” until their views are supported.

  8. #8 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    Abe, it is not for me to tell Erlich what he should or shouldn’t say, or even less, how he should say it; they’re his words and taken in his own context, they say rather more about him than the non-existent problem of over-population.

  9. #9 dhogaza
    April 23, 2007

    Abe, it is not for me to tell Erlich what he should or shouldn’t say, or even less, how he should say it; they’re his words and taken in his own context, they say rather more about him than the non-existent problem of over-population.

    Let’s think for a moment. What does “ignore for a moment” mean in this context …

    It means … “ignore for the amount of time it takes for you to read my point, which will only take you a moment”.

    There, now, this lesson in english language comprehension wasn’t so difficult, was it, David?

  10. #10 dhogaza
    April 23, 2007

    Erlich said:

    Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program.

    Harald said:

    I’d have more respect for Erlich if he’d said something like “Ignore for a moment the ethical issues this raises”.

    The ethical issues this raises are part of the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program.

    Why would you feel better if Erhich narrowed his statement in such a way?

  11. #11 jre
    April 23, 2007

    Some of us are missing John Berlau’s central point, viz.:


    “How can I use this Imus story to score titanic rhetorical points over environmentalists? I’ve got it! They’re all a bunch of hypocrites because they didn’t pull their advertising until John Muir apologized for all those awful things he said about the Mono Indians. Oh, yes, and Paul Ehrlich is worse than Hitler.”

    I’m trying, but this one really is beyond parody.

  12. #12 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    ‘Dhogaza’ very kindly translates for my benefit the following sentence:

    “*Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program*”

    as

    “*ignore [for the amount of time it takes for you to read my point, which will only take you a] moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program*”.

    With a cheery wave he departs having added absolutely nothing to the central question as to why *anyone* would waste more than a nano-second, let alone a “moment” on such a disgusting idea. The words ‘elephant’ and ‘sittingroom’ occur but they’re too much of a cliche.

    Let me ask you, ‘Dhogaza’, how long would *you* be prepared to consider the idea?

  13. #13 XPM
    April 23, 2007

    Tim:

    Could you possibly post the next paragraph or so of that passage so that everyone has a clear idea of just what was said?

  14. #14 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    Let me ask you, ‘Dhogaza’, how long would you be prepared to consider the idea?

    Which version of the English language do you speak, where “ignore for a moment” is equivalent to “here’s an idea we should seriously consider”? In the English I speak, “ignore for a moment” typically means precisely that I’m being asked not to think about some major issue for a moment in order to consider some other point the speaker is making.

  15. #15 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    Davis, consider this sentence:

    *Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by a program of sterilising all blacks, homosexuals and Muslims in Britain*.

    According to you, you are simply being “asked not to think about some major issue for a moment in order to consider some other point the speaker is making”. All I can ask is what “major issue” exactly would take precedence over such a proposition?

  16. #16 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    All I can ask is what “major issue” exactly would take precedence over such a proposition?

    If someone were to make such a statement, I would expect them to be making some point beside the obvious issue, such as “Ignore for a moment… Even then, such a policy would fail to achieve goal A for reasons X, Y, and Z.” Have you seriously never engaged in that sort of hypothetical?

  17. #17 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    “Have you seriously never engaged in that sort of hypothetical?”

    No, Davis, I’d probably engage my fist with the nose of anyone suggesting such a “hypothetical”. However, if that’s your bag and if you are looking for somewhere very suitable and comfortable to conduct similar discussions, such as sterilising fathers of 3 or more children in India, let me tell you about this charming villa in Germany, right by a pretty lake, and it’s used to catering for conferences of that sort!

  18. #18 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    Apparently, David, you’re just fond of interpreting people to say something other than what they’re actually saying. Good to know I’m wasting my time trying to actually engage in anything resembling communication with you.

  19. #19 Abe G
    April 23, 2007

    DavidDuff,

    Has anyone proposed compulsory sterilization for blacks, homosexuals and Muslims? I don’t visit the right wing blogs too often.

    Just kidding.

    Anyway, Ehrlich is responding to an actual proposal to sterilize Indian men with three or more children.

  20. #20 Abe G.
    April 23, 2007

    I think I may have changed my mind on this. I just heard that once Paul Ehrlich said “Good-bye” to an Indian child. Now, clearly he was happy to leave the presence of the child which is why he said “good”, otherwise he could have said “Sorry to be parting ways with you.” or something very clear.Coupled with his views on overpopulation, Ehrlich must want the child to die. This proves Paul Ehrlich is a racist monster and, therefore, worse than Hitler.

  21. #21 David Duff
    April 23, 2007

    Sorry, Davis, I thought it was *you* who was doing the interpreting on account of my English comprehension being so limited.

    Abe, thanks but I know precisely what Erlich was responding to – that’s the whole point.

  22. #22 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    I thought it was you who was doing the interpreting…

    Last I checked, it was you who suggested that Ehrlich’s “ignore for the moment” comment was somehow supportive of the idea he was asking us to ignore (and you continue to suggest this). However, as Abe pointed out, people were seriously proposing the idea, which means ignoring the obvious problem in order to further explore issues is worthwhile. Some people clearly don’t consider the obvious problem to be problematic, and so it’s useful to consider multiple lines of argument against even the most idiotic ideas (especially if the proposer of the idea is in a position to advance it).

    Of course, I don’t have Ehrlich’s book on hand, so I don’t know if that’s what he was doing. But regardless, it’s always seemed instructive to me to consider all the reasons a bad idea is bad, not just the obvious ones. I’m not sure why that’s so distasteful to you.

  23. #23 dhogaza
    April 23, 2007

    No, Davis, I’d probably engage my fist with the nose of anyone suggesting such a “hypothetical”.

    Then the proper thing for you to do is to buy a ticket to India and beat the crap out of those who made the proposition REPORTED BY Erlich.

    Abe, thanks but I know precisely what Erlich was responding to – that’s the whole point.

    And there’s nothing in the quoted text that suggests that Erlich found the suggestion any less revolting than you did.

    As you well know.

  24. #24 QrazyQat
    April 23, 2007

    In this chapter Erlich was describing the ideas and actions of various countries around the world regarding population control, including contraception, abortion, and sterilization. His attitude throughout seems to be that these ideas and attempts are not working well at all, and that the particular idea in question is virtually impossible even putting aside (“for a moment”) the ethical problems it would entail, so he does not appear to endorse the talk in India. The paragraph in question reads:

    What about vasectomies? A few years ago, there was talk in India of compulsory sterilization for all males who were fathers of three or more children. Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems that would be raised by such a program. Consider just the logistic problems, as A.S. Parkes did. Eeven if those eligible could be rounded up, it would take 1,000 surgeons or para-surgeons operating eight hours a day, five days a week, a full eight years to sterilize the candidates who exist today. And the stock of candidates is growing very rapidly. Can you picture the probably results of a government attempt to sterlize 40 million American males? What a problem it would be in our country, with its relatively informed populace and efficient transport and communications system! Imagine such an attempt in India, where the difference between castration and sterilization (still not clear to many Westerners) would be almost impossible to explain. As one might expect, the principal Indian official thinking in such tough-minded terms, Dr. S. Chandrasekur, ended up in a less influential position in a government shuffle.

    Let me gently point out that any honest wingnut could easily have wandered on over to Amazon, from any computer in the world, as I did, and searched inside the book. I do realise that my previous sentence containing the oxymoron “honest wingnut”.

  25. #25 Kevin
    April 23, 2007

    The reason for all this speculative hairsplitting over Ehrlich’s “Ignore for a moment the socio-political problems of committing a monstrous evil” is the dribbing and drabbing out of this quotation out for some reason. Still, the quote indicates he wants to ignore the problems to speculate on it in detail.

    Do you think fair use precludes you from just quoting him, Tim? Hell is going to freeze over before I buy his book, and I can’t find the text online, so will you just please quote whatever he has to say? So far, it appears I was correct, that Ehrlich has no principled objection to forced sterilization and is only quibbling about the practical difficulties of institution. This is not surprising given that he endorses compulsory control over reproduction in the intro. to the book.

  26. #26 QrazyQat
    April 23, 2007

    Ignore, for a moment that the various wingnuts, Glenn Reynolds and those commneting here, really don’t want to see what Erlich wrote (or they would search inside the book at Amazon as I did, or possibly read a comment with the info posted 25 minutes before their own comment was posted) and just examine the claim that Erlich agreed with the idea of forced vasectomies. Erlich says that even if you look only at the practicalities, the idea is unworkable. He is quite clear on this, and in fact it seems to be the entire point of that chapter. So claiming that he agreed with an idea he clearly said was unworkable, virtually impossible, can only be done by people who are either dishonest, dimwitted, or delusional… or some combination of the three.

  27. #27 Dano
    April 23, 2007

    “Honest wingnut”

    Kevin, I warn you: I don’t want to laugh out loud, roll on the floor, and spill my drink. Retribution will be paid.

    Best,

    D

  28. #28 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    …Ehrlich has no principled objection to forced sterilization and is only quibbling about the practical difficulties of institution.

    Neither you nor David has answered this for me — how does considering additional arguments against this practice somehow imply Ehrlich is okay with the idea in principle? He explicitly acknowledges the ethical (or the “socio-political”) problems.

    Let’s take this to the level of absurdity — if I say “Even ignoring the fact that it’s unethical to become dictator of the world, it’s impossible to actually achieve that end,” does that mean I think it’s actually okay to take over the world (just impractical)?

    I really don’t understand how you manage to parse these statements as you do, unless it’s by willful misunderstanding.

  29. #29 Dano
    April 23, 2007

    Davis:

    I’ll be back there for the Table Mtn Star Party. I’ll buy you a drink and we’ll discuss the reality-denying reasins for the willful misunderstanding of Wingnuttia.

    Best,

    D

  30. #30 Davis
    April 23, 2007

    I’ll buy you a drink…

    It’s a deal. Nothing gets me worked up like being willfully misinterpreted; I could use the drink.

  31. #31 dhogaza
    April 24, 2007

    So far, it appears I was correct, that Ehrlich has no principled objection to forced sterilization and is only quibbling about the practical difficulties of institution.

    Bullpucky. He says no such thing. He is pointing out that even if a society such as India has no such principled objection, it still won’t work.

    Erhlich’s personal views regarding forced sterilization are irrelevant when discussing proposals made in India, just as western objections to forced birth control in China have proven to be irrelevant to policies put in place there by the government.

    He recognizes his (and your) ethical views are irrelevant, and is pointing out it DOESN’T MATTER. His argument is that mass sterilization on the scale proposed by some in India is impractical, even if they chose to ignore hand-wringing westerners like yourself.

    So is your personal inability to take the man’s words at face value due to your hatred of Ehrlich?

    Or is your hatred of Ehrlich due to your inability to take the man’s words at face value?

  32. #32 SG
    April 24, 2007

    I just did a google search on “Ignore for a moment”. It’s pretty easy to see that the main purpose of the phrase is to discuss concerns secondary to the main point of whatever issue is at hand. So for example a guardian opinion piece on the Iranian prison seizure says “Ignore for a moment the prison seizure…”

    There’s one on hairless apes and evolutionary convergence, for example that says “Ignore for the moment that aquatic animals aren’t hairless and consider whether convergence would apply anyway”.

    So yeah, you could argue that it means you don’t care about the central issue. But you’d be pretty stupid to do so.

  33. #33 Dano
    April 24, 2007

    My grad advisor (Davis might know this person) was a postdoc in Ehrlich’s lab, and Paul visited and spoke at length with our little group. So I know him a tiny bit. Paul absolutely has a principled objection to forced sterilization.

    So, you morons who assert such: STFU.

    Ahem. HTH.

    Best,

    D

  34. #34 Jeff Harvey
    April 24, 2007

    Dano,

    Many thanks for this. I also know Paul from my many battles with the anti-environmental crowd and he invited me to speak at Stanford a few years ago (because of this I gave lectures at Princeton and Stanford Universities during my last U.S. visit). Not only do I echo Dano’s points, I also think that Paul is one of the most principled scientists in the world today, and his efforts to educate the public on issues dealing with the environment are to be throroughly commended. His research has long been an inspiration to me.

  35. #35 Meyrick Kirby
    April 24, 2007

    But he lost a bet with Simons, ergo he must be a mass-murderer. You’re just a bunch of b****y tree-huggers!

  36. #36 Thom
    April 24, 2007

    Reynolds’ heyday in the press has definitely run its course. He continues to embarrass himself.

  37. #37 Dano
    April 24, 2007

    My pleasure, Jeff.

    Ehrlich is, simply, a Titan.

    Best,

    D

  38. #38 jre
    April 24, 2007

    And, ya know, just to put a big, shiny exclamation point after this brouhaha, let’s hark back to the John Berlau post that started the whole thing, and review his characterization of Ehrlich on forced sterilization:

    In his best-selling book, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich called for all men in India who had three or more children to be forcibly sterilized.

    Comparison of that statement with the passage quoted by QrazyQat in #24, and determination of what color bullshit belt John Berlau has earned, is left as an exercise for the student.

  39. #39 Kevin
    April 24, 2007

    Davis:

    >Neither you nor David has answered this for me — how does considering additional arguments against this practice somehow imply Ehrlich is okay with the idea in principle? He explicitly acknowledges the ethical (or the “socio-political”) problems.

    By considering his other statements on the topic [which are plain, require little analysis and which I already posted in the original thread where Ehrlich was brought up]:

    Ehrlich supporting compulsion to achieve population control and using political power to push less developed countries into population control along with their agricultural growth:

    “Our position requires that we take immediate action at home and promote effective action worldwide. We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control. And while this is being done we must take action to reverse the deterioration of our environment before population pressure permanently ruins our planet. The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion. We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out. Population control is the only answer.”

    Ehrlich likening human reproductive liberty to a cancer and EXPLICITLY advocating heartless and brutal methods to end it:

    ” A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. Treating only the symptoms of cancer may make the victim more comfortable at first, but eventually he dies — often horribly. A similar fate awaits a world with a population explosion if only the symptoms are treated. We must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance of survival”

    Ehrlich still shilling for legal control over your gonads in later years despite the utter failure of his ridiculously unfounded predictions:

    “[T]he price of personal freedom in making childbearing decisions may be the destruction of the world” (Ehrlich, in Banderage, 1999: 37).

    >Let’s take this to the level of absurdity — if I say “Even ignoring the fact that it’s unethical to become dictator of the world, it’s impossible to actually achieve that end,” does that mean I think it’s actually okay to take over the world (just impractical)?

    It depends on whether or not you actually think dictatorship is okay, but impractical, which is not a belief contained in the short, contextless quote you offered.

  40. #40 Kevin
    April 24, 2007

    Qat:

    >Ignore, for a moment that the various wingnuts, Glenn Reynolds and those commneting here, really don’t want to see what Erlich wrote (or they would search inside the book at Amazon as I did, or possibly read a comment with the info posted 25 minutes before their own comment was posted)

    I got a soda before finishing posting and didn’t know Amazon had the full text of his book online. Oh well. Thanks for your armchair psychoanalysis though, in complete ignorance of my public request for a longer quote with some context. Speculating on qualities of someone’s character rather than their actual statements is swell; not dishonest in the least.

    >and just examine the claim that Erlich agreed with the idea of forced vasectomies. Erlich says that even if you look only at the practicalities, the idea is unworkable. He is quite clear on this, and in fact it seems to be the entire point of that chapter. So claiming that he agreed with an idea he clearly said was unworkable, virtually impossible, can only be done by people who are either dishonest, dimwitted, or delusional… or some combination of the three.

    So you will ignore his statements explicitly endorsing compulsory population control and general legal control over reproduction because he rejects mass vasectomies as impractical? Ehrlich states he has no principled objection to compulsion, he says it explicitly in the introduction. He says outright we may need to compel population control if we can’t force people to do it through taxation or other marginally less coercive measures, which he erroneously terms voluntary. How is it dishonest to read his words and accept them for what they plainly state? How dishonest is it to conflate his practical rejection of mass vasectomies with a principled rejection of compulsory population control? Why is this even an argument? He states his position plainly. He is fine with forcibly compelling you not to reproduce if you won’t do it just based on his say so, threats and financial penalties.

    Now this is the interesting part: say everyone had bought his nonsense and we went whole hog into “encouraging” people not to reproduce and compelling them not to reproduce if they chose to anyway. He still would have been wrong on the facts and we know now in hindsight none of it would have happened anyway. But he could, and likely would, have claimed that the reason none of his dire predictions actually came to pass was because of population controls that were instituted because of his prescription.

  41. #41 QrazyQat
    April 24, 2007

    I got a soda before finishing posting and didn’t know Amazon had the full text of his book online. Oh well.

    So you’re saying you started your comment before mine was posted and finished it after you’d “gotten a soda”, which took you 25 minutes plus… okay. Now look at the statement made by John Berlau and amazing mismatch between what he said Erlich said and what Erlich actually said — you’re putting yourself on record as agreeing with Berlau’s take? Even after reading what Erlich actually said? How much caffeine was in that soda? :)

    Speculating on qualities of someone’s character rather than their actual statements is swell; not dishonest in the least.

    My comments did address your (and other wingnuts’) statements on this affair — you guys went along with Berlau’s idiotic claim about what Erlich said in that passage even even though it’s directly by that passage (not to mention — for a moment — the rest of the chapter). I did offer 3 possibilities for how someone can believe Berlau’s claim even though it’s clearly contradicted by Erlich’s actual passage, and I was careful not to state which category each of you might belong in, because I don’t know which it would be. I must admit, however, that I didn’t think of the 4th possibility, which of course is that you agreed with Berlau in spite of the facts because you’d just gotten a soda. (How that works I don’t know, but I take your word that it does.)

  42. #42 marion_delgado
    April 24, 2007

    I hereby pronounce the Erlich attackers time-wasting question-begging people of the most malevolent intent. Further attempts to get them to respond with honesty and decency will fail, so … onward to genuine issues? the example of “being dictator of the world” is as clear as you’re ever going to get and they didn’t want it.

  43. #43 dhogaza
    April 25, 2007

    We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control.

    So, Kevin, proactive efforts to bring agricultural development and population growth into balance is Evil.

    While blindly stumbling along in a libertarian paradise towards a world where famine and widespread death is inevitable is Good.

  44. #44 Dano
    April 25, 2007

    Shorter blindly stumbling along to a Libertarian Paradise: no man is not an island.

    A-men marion_delgado. Much better put than my STFU.

    Best,

    D

  45. #45 Barry
    April 25, 2007

    “Still, I’d have more respect for Erlich if he’d said something like “Ignore for a moment the ethical issues this raises”. ”

    Posted by: Harald Korneliussen

    Which is not very relevant to the fact that the sentence was deleted. The quote-surgeon didn’t trust in the reader’s ethical sense, or analytic skill; in fact he didn’t want the reader to have that item of information at all.

  46. #46 QrazyQat
    April 25, 2007

    BTW, by an odd coincidence (unless SG knows me) I can give an example of just exactly why someone who used the “ignore for a moment” phrase used it. SG offered as an example from the web something I wrote (my part in quotes):

    There’s one on hairless apes and evolutionary convergence, for example that says “Ignore for the moment that aquatic animals aren’t hairless and consider whether convergence would apply anyway”.

    In my case — and I would expect this is a common way to use the phrase — I was being arch (or annoyingly sarcastic, depending on one’s point of view). The first part, that is the part I ask people to “ignore for a moment”, is something that’s so obviously a problem that one needn’t even address it except in passing, so — archly or sarcastically — I move to a less obvious but nevertheless crippling problem with the claim. This would seem to me to be a very common way to write.

    But of course the wingnut response to things like this is not really to the issue at hand, but instead is a diversionary tactic, unless the wingnut is indeed incredibly dimwitted or delusional — I chose to not believe that, but since the alternative is that they are dishonest they are unlikely to be pleased anyway. And of course I forgot once again that the “I was getting a soda defense from my frig which is ten minutes away” is apparently another possibility. :)

    And you’ll notice that once the passage in question was plopped down here for everyone to read, the wingnut response was “Look over there!”. This is common in wingnut circles, because you’ll notice that wingnut tactics are exactly those of pseudoscience — anyone who reads and/or counters pseudoscience or fringe science of any stripe will recognise virtually every wingnut method used. This is one excellent reason why science needs to be taught more and better in our schools in order for a healthy democracy to continue; people need what Carl Sagan termed a “BS detector kit” as used in science; many, perhaps most, don’t have it now which makes it easier for them to be fooled by these pseudoscience-style tactics and our democracies suffer because of it.

  47. #47 Kevin
    April 25, 2007

    Qat:

    >So you’re saying you started your comment before mine was posted and finished it after you’d “gotten a soda”, which took you 25 minutes plus… okay.

    Jesus Christ. No, you’re right. I always call for longer quotes right after reading them.

    >Now look at the statement made by John Berlau and amazing mismatch between what he said Erlich said and what Erlich actually said — you’re putting yourself on record as agreeing with Berlau’s take? Even after reading what Erlich actually said? How much caffeine was in that soda? :)

    Where did I ever say anything like that? You ignored everything I wrote substantively above to you, just to invent a strawman to attack?

    What I wrote first thing in my original response to Tim’s blogging was “Why am I seeing Paul Ehrlich defended?” I don’t care if he’s a racist, given that he’s a tyrannical, statist creep. As I wrote before, his misanthropy is no more salutary for being generalized to all humanity than if it were specific to Indians. Berlau appears wrong on this particular issue unless he has some further insight into Ehrlich’s thought than he presented. However, Berlau’s larger point, that the left is willfully blind to the rhetorical excesses of their icons, is pretty well supported by Ehrlich’s statements not having earned him complete ostracism.

  48. #48 Kevin
    April 25, 2007

    Dhogaza:

    >So, Kevin, proactive efforts to bring agricultural development and population growth into balance is Evil.

    What are you dismissing under the bland rubric of “proactivity”? What kind of incentives and disincentives would be offered to LDCs and what kind of measures would they have to introduce to meet population growth quotas?

    Plus, Ehrlich, Malthus and all the neo-Malthusian thinkers are flat out wrong. That’s all that is relevant here. Humans don’t reproduce geometrically; the US is approaching, and in terms of native births I seem to recall reading was close to or had already achieved negative population growth. He was *wrong*, period.

    >While blindly stumbling along in a libertarian paradise towards a world where famine and widespread death is inevitable is Good.

    The second part of your claim is where he was wrong. All of his nightmare scenarios failed to materialize despite the failure of implementing his measures.

    The first part is just ludicrous. If you are willing to delegate your own right to reproductive freedom to the state or anyone else at all, just stay the hell away from me. Talk about your useful fools. I guess you’d fight tooth and nail against illegalizing abortions but someone legally preventing or otherwise using the apparatus of the state to make it difficult for you to reproduce? No sweat. Unbelievable.

    The very notion that people are so irrational as to reproduce themselves into extinction is not only incredibly counter-intuitive, you also know as a matter of fact, it is not the case. You can see, right now, it doesn’t happen. I’m just going to go cry in a corner now. Someone who can form coherent sentences just should not be able to hold positions like yours.

  49. #49 Jeff Harvey
    April 26, 2007

    Kevin,

    You don’t kow what the hell you are talking about. Flat out. Period. Paul Ehrlich’s main point is and has always been that human consumption (correlated with both population and per capita resource consumption, hence his co-formulation of the I = PAT equation) can exceed the local carrying cvapacity of an environment only to a certain point, beyond which the system is unable to support itself.

    Mathis Wackernagel and Bill Rees have shown how ecologically debt-ridden ‘rich’ nations in the devloped world are able to maintain a disporportionate control of the world’s wealth by promoting trade policies (e.g. the ‘Washington Consensus’) that represent nothing more than the looting of capital from the underdeveloped world to the overconsumptive north. Every nation in the developed world fosters an ecological debt, a footprint that is larger than the area within its own borders, and thus all of the rich countries in the ‘quad’ (Australia, Japan, Europe, North America) force trade regimes on the rest of the world which enable them to reach beyond their borders and obtain, as cheaply as possible, the raw materials and resources necessary to keep things as they are. It doesn’t take a lot of brain to realize that planners in the rich nations are scared stiff of ‘liberation theology’ because our nations covet the bountiful resources in poor countries, which are needed to maintain the status quo. As Paul has said, along with many other senior scientists, the planet’s life-support systems are being nickeled and dimed to death to support the privileged groups that dominate societies (and the bubble economies) of the rich nations. The consequences of this plundering are the continued degradation of our life-support systems and misery for those at the receiving end of policies (meaning the poor)foisted on the underdeveloped countries to ensure the wealth remains in the ‘proper hands’.

    I don’t know what your problem is, but it seriously annoys me that, along with your lack of understanding of the way things work, that you write baseless slurs about Paul like “He’s a tyrannical, statist creep” without knowing the man. Pauls’ intellectual contribution to ecology, as well as to understanding human impacts on the biosphere and the consequences on a range of ecosystem services that permit humans to exist and persist are outstanding and fully explain why he won the Crafoord Prize several years ago, given in lieu of the Nobel Prize to scientists in fields such as population ecology. .

  50. #50 QrazyQat
    April 26, 2007

    I always call for longer quotes right after reading them.

    Well that explains a lot; I thought it was just this once. :) Okay, that’s a joke (wingnuts were ever humor-challenged); I know now that you had to take a 10-minute hike each way to get a soda, and I accept that explanation.

    Where did I ever say anything like that?

    That was the point of the post and the comments here; you’re saying that you just popped in and spouted non sequitors? That’s odd. Almost as odd as having to walk for 25 minutes to “get a soda”. :) But okay; I now accept your explanation that you just popped in and spouted non sequitors and that your refrigerator is a 10-minute hike from your computer… and I envy you your enormous house.

  51. #51 Dano
    April 26, 2007

    Jeff:

    the tiny ideological minority that won’t hear your cogent rebuttal is shunned by policy-makers. This minority doesn’t influence policy. They make noise, not policy. They yammer on with energy, not sense.

    Best,

    D

  52. #52 Jeff Harvey
    April 27, 2007

    Thanks Dano. I must remember this salient point that you have made re: policy makers.

    I am aware the Paul should never have made the bet with Julian Simon in 1980 on predicting the price of 5 commodities over ten years, because what does that have to tell us about human impacts on the biosphere? One cannot measure ecosystemic health on the price of raw materials. Paul realized this when he made a subsequent bet with Simon in 1994 on predicting indicators of the health of the planet’s ecological life-support systems over the coming decade. Simon, wisely enough, refused to wager on any of them, fully aware that the ten years would have broadly shown further degredation of the planet’s ecological infrastructure.

    The most relevant point is that Paul and his wife Anne have made major contributions to our understanding of the human assault on the biosphere. Their work has been a inspiration to me and to an entire generation of population ecologists, environmental scientists, wildlife biologists and ecologically minded economists. Their latest book, ‘One with Nineveh’ is excellent, and exudes sympathy and concern for the mass of humanity in poverty-ridde countries that are at the receiving end of the free market absolutism and nakedly predatory capitalism that underlie the neoliberal agenda.

  53. #53 Kevin
    April 30, 2007

    Jeff,

    I don’t care about your estimate of Ehrlich’s main point; I’ve quoted some positions he’s taken with which I take issue. None of them are about the possibility of human’s wrecking their own ecology.

    True, some of his claims are unfortunate, like his even money wager that England would not exist in 2000, and the failure of his theory that population growth would increase scarcity and therefore price as demonstrated by his wager with Simon. Simon wisely refused to take the second bet because Ehrlich didn’t want to wager on economics, he wanted to wager on CO2 levels or average temperature.

    As Simon stated:

    “Let me characterize their [Ehrlich and Schneider's] offer as follows. I predict, and this is for real, that the average performances in the next Olympics will be better than those in the last Olympics. On average, the performances have gotten better, Olympics to Olympics, for a variety of reasons. What Ehrlich and others says is that they don’t want to bet on athletic performances, they want to bet on the conditions of the track, or the weather, or the officials, or any other such indirect measure.”

    The fact you are avoiding is that excepting the PRC, few states undertook any explicit measures to curb population growth and none of Ehrlich’s scary predictions happened. England is still there and there was nothing remotely like a 50% chance that it wouldn’t be.

    He justified some nightmarish political prescriptions on a false speculation that the status quo would result in mass starvation and spiraling prices. He was wrong. He likened human population growth to an uncontrolled cancer that could only be curbed by apparently heartless and inhumane decisions that were nevertheless necessary, an explicit case for the ends justifying distasteful means, and his reasoning turns out to be wrong there too. You can write placidly about his “main” point until your fingers fall off; he prefaced his book with this crap. His call to action was to end reproductive freedom before the world blew up.

    I enjoy your unreformed Marxism, especially the particularly ripe phrasing in “looting of capital” from the LDCs. It appears you’re willing to ignore 300 years of economics as well as words Ehrlich has plainly written. Marx’s failed predictions have no more impact on your regard than Ehrlich’s?

    “I don’t know what your problem is, but it seriously annoys me that, along with your lack of understanding of the way things work, that you write baseless slurs about Paul like “He’s a tyrannical, statist creep” without knowing the man.”

    Well, Jeff, when a man sees fit to write that the state should take coercive steps to abrogate one of my most fundamental liberties for no more reason than an unfounded thought experiment, I tend to take umbrage. That’s my problem; I don’t like people who try to take my fundamental right to personal freedom. That tells me plenty about him. He might make a mean omelette, be a fantastic bridge partner and be great with his grandkids; all I am judging him on is the tripe he’s written.

    You can feel free to ignore him explicitly justifying state control of human reproduction. I won’t and I’ll also note that he’s advocating the worst possible form of despotism I can imagine short of literal slavery. Actually, I think slaves got to reproduce freely.

    I base my indictments on what he wrote; he advocates statism and tyranny. Your defense of his call for state control of my genitals is what is baseless. All you are defending him with is your unfounded personal regard for him; you continue to ignore the substantive issue of his explicit, public support for tyrannical control of human reproduction based on utterly unfounded presumptions of human population growth.

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