What do Mary Robinson (Ex president of Ireland who slapped the Irish people in the face by resigning before the end of her first term in office to take up a better job at the UN), Nostradamus (medieval charlatan soothsayer) and Thomas Malthus (18th Century Philosopher and mathematician) have in common – they have all pretended at some time or other, that they could see into the future?
To this list you might also add the likes of Al Gore (the US President that never was). In 2006 Gore predicted that within 10 years we will hit a Climate tipping point. With two years to go we wait with bated breath. Ex Irish President Mary Robinson leaped into the fray (again) last month with the dire prediction that global leaders had “at most two decades to save the world” – ‘Quick Virgil prepare Thunderbird One – anything can happen in the next half hour’. Pause for hysterical laughter. Al and Mary would not have looked out of place among the pages of the late Sir Patrick Moore’s book ‘Countdown!… or how nigh is the end?‘ a chronicle of all the wacky doomsday predictions that have been made over the years.
Politicians such as Gore and Robinson cannot resist this ‘pretence of knowledge’. They claim with such certainty to know the future when in reality they are some of the most ill-informed and biased purveyors of misinformation on the planet.
This fascinating documentary was broadcast by the BBC on the 7th November last year. It is worthy of note for many reasons but one in particular is that it sneaked past the BBC sensors. Nowhere does it predict the doom of the planet from human activity and although it mentions climate change it fails to point the finger at humanity or be in any way alarmist. What is going on? What does the British tax payer pay its licence fee for if not to have the BBC sensor filter out this dangerously subversive material.
Professor Hans Rosling (who presents this documentary) is a statistician and a very very clever man. Not only can he make statistics sing and dance he can talk about climate change, carbon emission and population growth without being alarmist. But here is where his real brilliance kicks in. He can get the Guardian and the BBC to give him publicity without doing the usual imitation of “Chicken Little” that seems to be compulsory for anyone to get either of these two august news agencies to give them airtime.
Even the title of the program gives us hope “Don’t Panic…” when was the last time you heard (I don’t count “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy”) anyone in the mainstream media telling us to do anything other than panic whether it be about the world population, global warming or peak oil.
Click the link below to hear the full transmission. The program speaks for itself – Dan Brown eat your heart out.
“Don’t Panic – The Truth About Population”
The title of the this post, without the ?, was the title of a book written in 1974 by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. I have mentioned Isaac and this book in previous posts but it seems worth a reprise in view of the publication of Dan Brown’s latest novel ‘Inferno’. Dan is clearly a Malthusian thinker and like Malthus the passage of time, I believe, will prove his thoughts to be equally in error.
Page 56 of Asimov’s tome shows a fearsome graph predicting world population at 7.5 billion by the millennium. Not a bad estimate for 25 years into the future as it turned out. But he then loses the run of himself and starts speculating about 20 billion souls by 2060, while the UN and most other organisations involved in this field are predicting the world population to peak at around 9 billion in 2050, just 2 billion more than the current figure. Where Asimov’s book was supposed to be fact, he lapsed into old habits of writing science fiction, quote “Know natural gas reserves will last only 13 years…Experts see rationing by 1976”. These were his predictions for key mineral depletions – Zinc gone by 1990, Lead gone by 1995, Tin and Oil gone by 2000, Copper and Uranium by 2005 and Iron ore by 2320 – well the jury is still out on that one.
The only difference between these two books is that Asimov wrote a factual book, which as it turned out was based on fiction while Brown has written a fictional book based on, well, fiction. So that’s OK then. I am sure that ‘Inferno’ will, like Brown’s other novels, be a jolly good read, but my problem with this sort of writing is that it pretends to be fact based and the vast majority of those reading it will be taken in by its alarmist nonsense. The film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ had people similarly believing that Global Warming would cause global freezing – another load of alarmist rubbish.
I’m all in favour of a good exciting novel, but please, let’s leave Inferno and its ilk firmly in the fiction section where it belongs.