“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction.” – Woody Allen Let me begin with a simple question: which of the following statements is correct? (1) There is a tremendous amount of misery in the world. (2) Never before has there been so little… Lees verder »Why the World Isn’t Going to the Dogs (A prologue to a book yet to be written)
If influenza viruses could think, right now they would undoubtedly be wondering: What the hell is going on with our hosts? They used to be so gregarious and touchy-feely, but now they hardly get together at all. It’s a disaster! Indeed, although face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing were not intended to combat the flu, our old tormentor has also taken… Lees verder »Coronavirus Should Not Distract Us From Fighting Other, Deadlier Diseases
Scientism schmientism! Why there are no other ways of knowing apart from science (broadly construed).
What is “scientism”? Most people who have heard of the term believe it’s something bad, an epistemic sin or affliction we should avoid at all costs. And that is indeed the most common usage of the term. The general gist is that of science overreaching, pushing beyond its proper limits, illegitimately colonizing other fields of inquiry. On the other hand,… Lees verder »Scientism schmientism! Why there are no other ways of knowing apart from science (broadly construed).
Forget about “overpopulation”, dear catastrophists. Better change your tune and start preaching about “underpopulation” and “depopulation”. Demographers have known for a while that global population growth has been slowing down for decades (having peaked in 1968), but according to this amazing new study in The Lancet, global fertility is falling even faster than we think. The authors argue that global… Lees verder »Forget about “overpopulation” (new paper in The Lancet)
“The world is flat,” proclaimed economist Thomas Friedman in his 2005 book of the same title. And since then, the world has flattened further still. Not only has a contagious fragment of RNA ravaged every corner of the world, but so have the economic shockwaves. In a flat world, everything is connected to everything. And if someone somewhere happens to capture and… Lees verder »How to Save the Planet Through Globalization and Intensive Farming (Yes, Really)
Should humanity have seen this pandemic coming? A 2007 scientific study called coronaviruses in bats a “time bomb.” In a 2015 TED lecture, Bill Gates warned that “we are not ready” for the next pandemic. Last year, an interdisciplinary team developed a scenario for a global pandemic, caused by a previously unknown coronavirus. Their predictions came uncannily close to today’s reality. More and more people… Lees verder »The Covid Wake-Up Call: Protecting Humanity Against Global Disasters
BREAKING: Falsehoods always beat out the truth on social media (and if you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you).
Does falsehood “almost always” outperform truth on social media, as this article in The Atlantic suggests? I’m afraid this headline is itself an instance of what it purports to show, a bit like the hackneyed journalistic cliché that “we live in a post-truth era” (No, we don’t, and stop staying it). I’m not disputing any of the empirical findings reported… Lees verder »BREAKING: Falsehoods always beat out the truth on social media (and if you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you).
It may seem strange, during the worst global crisis since the Second World War, to spend time thinking about even more destructive catastrophes. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, reading Toby Ord’s new book The Precipice. Ord writes about so-called “existential risks” for humanity, which include outright extinction, but also the permanent collapse of civilization, or an irrevocable dystopia… Lees verder »Why you should read Toby Ord’s new book on existential catastrophes
So Michael Moore has released a new documentary taking down renewable energy, which I watched yesterday. I can’t recommend it. I too have grave doubts about the capacity of renewables to power modern civilization, and yes, this documentary mercilessly drives home the valid points about intermittency and low energy density. But this is still a piece of propaganda, as per… Lees verder »Planet of the Humans
Remember Milton Friedman’s argument about the humble pencil, which he used to illustrate the principle of free markets? Not a single person in the world is capable of making a lead pencil, according to Friedman. Why? Because if you list all its components and trace back their origins and manufacturing process, you’ll see that making a pencil involves cooperation between… Lees verder »Why face masks are like lead pencils