Harsanyi on Holdren

by Ivan Osorio on July 15, 2009

Today, Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi shines a light on Obama “science czar” John Holdren’s disturbing past pronouncements — which Marc Scribner wrote about here just yesterday. Holdren, as Harsanyi notes, participated in the famous bet between eco-doomsayer Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, over whether the price for five selected metals would rise or fall. (The bet is the foundation for the design of CEI’s Julian Simon Award.)

Holdren was asked by Ehrlich to pick five natural resources that would experience shortages due to human consumption. He lost the bet on all counts, as the composite price index for the commodities he picked, like copper and chromium, fell by more than 40 percent.

Then again, it’s one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer and it’s quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how “population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution . . .,” as Holdren did in “Ecoscience” in 1977.

The book, in fact, is sprinkled with comparable statements that passively discuss how coercive population control methods might rescue the world from … well, humans.

When I called Holdren’s office, I was told that the czar “does not now and never has been an advocate of compulsory abortions or other repressive measures to limit fertility.”

If that is so, I wondered, why is his name on a textbook that brought up such policy? Did he not write that part? Did he change his mind? Was it theoretical?

Harsannyi presents one possible explanation, which is hardly satisfactory in any morally sensible way.

When, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Holdren was asked about his penchant for scientific overstatements, he responded, “The motivation for looking at the downside possibilities, the possibilities that can go wrong if things continue in a bad direction, is to motivate people to change direction. That was my intention at the time.”

“Motivation” is when Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020. Or when he claimed that sea levels could rise by 13 feet by the end of this century when your run-of-the-mill alarmist warns of only 13 inches.

“Motivating” — or, in other words, scaring the hell out of people — about “possibilities” is an ideological and political weapon unsheathed in the effort to pass policies that, in the end, coerce us to do the right thing, anyway.

For more on Holdren, see here.

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