Friday, December 19, 2008

Harebrained theorist John Holdren will become Obama's science adviser

Science magazine has reported that John Holdren, a professional environmental judgment day doomsayer, was going to become Barack Obama's top science adviser. Indeed, on Saturday, Barack Obama announced that Holdren was tapped.
See also NY Times Tierney Lab: Flawed science advice for Obama?
John Holdren is the ultimate example of the pseudointellectual impurities that have recently flooded universities and academies throughout the Western world.

Population growth means death

Do you want to know what is his specialization? The easiest path to the answer is to look at his publication list at No, he hasn't found anything about laser cooling, like Steven Chu, despite his PhD in plasma physics. Instead, he has only written 3 very well-known texts - with at least 100 citations - and all of them were concerned with the "catastrophic" population growth. A few additional, newer articles with 50 citations or so are about the "catastrophic" climate change.

By far the most famous article (400+ citations) is his and Paul Ehrlich's 1971 text in Science magazine,
Impact of Population Growth.
The subtitle says that "complacency concerning this component of man's predicament is unjustified and counterproductive". In other words, it is an unforgivable crime not to be hysterical about the population growth. Wow. They study the "interlocking crises" in population, resources, and environment that have been the "focus of countless papers, dozens of prestigious symposia, and a growing avalanche of books".

Recall that the second author, Paul Ehrlich, had predicted that 4 billions of people (90% of the 1980 total population), including 65 million Americans (28% of the 1980 figure), would perish of hunger in "Great Die-Off" in the 1980s. Well, Holdren and Ehrlich may have narcissistically talked about "prestigious symposia" but it's hard to change the fact that events where people compete who is going to propose a more absurd die-off scenario are just gatherings of pompous loons.

Do I really have to argue that their forecasts have been proven remarkably wrong? Do I have to argue that all similar papers are likely to be wrong because the "arguments" in them are simply not rational? They're clearly no science and all sane readers must see it.

In the particular Ehrlich-Holdren paper, they discussed five "theorems", as they boldly call this retarded stuff. For example, the first "theorem" says that "population growth causes a disproportionate negative impact on the environment". The last one argues that "theoretical solutions to the problem are often not operational and sometimes they are not solutions". 

These are great theorems! They're so accurate, well-defined, rigorously proven, and universally valid! I am pretty sure that in insane asylums, the physicians would use different words than "theorems" to describe these manifestations of their anxiety disorders. The paper then studies variations of the I=PAT formula which is either completely vacuous or completely wrong, depending on your interpretation of the letters.

CO2 emissions mean death

The old predicted catastrophes about the "lethal population growth" have largely evaporated from the public discourse - "population growth" is no longer equated with "great die-off" and the world's population is currently twice as high as the doomsayers found possible while its growth has decelerated naturally - but people like Holdren have simply found a new kind of a catastrophe that apparently hasn't been fully discredited yet, the "climate change".

Nowadays, they equate "CO2 emissions" with a "great die-off". Details have changed but the dishonest, unscientific, extremely ideological, and political essence of their movement hasn't. These people evolve just like the RNA viruses of flu. You may think that you have already gained immunity against this intellectual trap but instead, the viruses have mutated just a little bit and they're back. They will probably always be with us. 

These days, his main weapon is to articulate more radical and more scary forecasts about the climate than (almost) anyone else who uses a proper English grammar. ;-) And he is always careful to be called "Professor" and "big guy" by all the journalists, see for example this BBC piece where he blames President Bush for a 7-meter rise of the sea level (?) and his recent op-ed in the Boston Globe where he attacks the climate skeptics, again without a glimpse of a rational argument. There is absolutely no valuable content in anything that Holdren has ever produced. It's just plain nonsense sold in such a way that gullible people happily swallow it and smack their lips.

I simply can't stand pompous fools like that. Because of his Harvard affiliation, I may have talked to him during a Society of Fellows dinner and I may have forgotten: it's hard to imagine that I could smile with the knowledge I have today. You may also see Richard Lindzen's essay to learn more about the methods how John Holdren and others have elected themselves to the National Academy of Sciences and similar bodies. It's plain disgusting.


It's very bad that people whose approach to the world is the exact opposite of science - because they prefer irrational phobias, "prestige" of symposia, and visible jobs paid by gullible manipulated folks over rational, humble, careful, and ever more refined, accurate, and justified scientific arguments and findings - are being linked to science, and it is bad that President-elect Obama is helping to distort the definition of science and its proper role in the society in this way.

And that's the memo.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir:

    I will agree with your assessment of John Holdrem as a doomsayer. I would also expect you to agree that the man is a visionary. Maybe not in your vision of the future, but his own. History has shown that visionaries can be very forceful entities in the political forum. Sometimes to ill demise and sometimes to glory. I, personally, will accept the nomination of this man to the chair of Science Advisor to the President, because he holds a sense of urgency.
    I have not seen this quality from the Bush administration. When the F**k are we going to look to the next step of the energy ladder to supply our way of life? Where is the funding for 3D Photovoltaics? (my term) This is the ability to build solar cells in the nano scale, that have absorption of radition rates, orders of magnitude over commercially available media. Where is the funding from the DOE for the Robert Bussard Polywell design, instead of the want-to-be but fundamentally not "blackhole" of a project called Tocomak.
    When are we as a species going to truly devote our attention to a form of energy that is not reliant on fossil fuels and the expansion of gases as it's fundamental operating physics? This is a time for dreamers to bring new insights and policies to light.

    "The problems we face will not be solved by the minds that created them."