June 06, 2012
Earth Ecological Collapse Approaching?

A huge ecological shift headed our way in the 21st century?

Using scientific theories, toy ecosystem modeling and paleontological evidence as a crystal ball, 18 scientists, including one from Simon Fraser University, predict we're on a much worse collision course with Mother Nature than currently thought.

In Approaching a state-shift in Earth's biosphere, a paper just published in Nature, the authors, whose expertise span a multitude of disciplines, suggest our planet's ecosystems are careening towards an imminent, irreversible collapse.

Earth's accelerating loss of biodiversity, its climates' increasingly extreme fluctuations, its ecosystems' growing connectedness and its radically changing total energy budget are precursors to reaching a planetary state threshold or tipping point.

Once that happens, which the authors predict could be reached this century, the planet's ecosystems, as we know them, could irreversibly collapse in the proverbial blink of an eye.

As humans replace more of the wilderness with cities and farms the planet loses stabilizing buffer areas. Ecosystems become simpler and more vulnerable to shocks. We humans manage more of the Earth's surface and seas we will have to become far more skilled at managing human-made ecosystems.

Maybe we'll develop the ability to model ecosystems in really complex computer simulations and these simulations might tell us where disaster looms and how to avert it. Then again, once the computers alert us to an approaching problem governments and their populaces may show themselves unwilling to make the needed levels of sacrifice.

The authors promote solutions that seem unlikely to be put into place.

The authors recommend governments undertake five actions immediately if we are to have any hope of delaying or minimizing a planetary-state-shift. Arne Mooers, an SFU biodiversity professor and a co-author of this study, summarizes them as follows.

"Society globally has to collectively decide that we need to drastically lower our population very quickly. More of us need to move to optimal areas at higher density and let parts of the planet recover. Folks like us have to be forced to be materially poorer, at least in the short term. We also need to invest a lot more in creating technologies to produce and distribute food without eating up more land and wild species. It's a very tall order."

I do not expect governments and their populaces to be willing to make very large sacrifices . Population growth and economic growth seem on course to cause the loss of many species and the expansion of human habitats at the expense of dwindling wild habitats. I'd like to proven wrong on this point.

Some regions of the world may already be past a tipping point.

Coauthor Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University said "we may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal, where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood – wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves, and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth."

The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original, in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This situation typically is accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity.

Overpopulation is the root cause. That used to be a major concern of environmentalists back in the 1970s. Are environmentalists going to reawaken to the problem as the situation becomes more dire?

Currently, to support a population of 7 billion people, about 43 percent of Earth's land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth's land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point.

Since the human population is going to rise and since industrialization will increase the land used per person it seems hard to imagine how we'll avoid the tipping point.

Currently, to support a population of 7 billion people, about 43 percent of Earth's land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth's land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point.

Say good bye to lots of species.

"We believe that ongoing loss of biological diversity is diminishing the ability of ecosystems to sustain human societies," says Andrew Gonzalez, Associate Professor with the Department of Biology and the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science at McGill University and author on the paper.

I'm pretty bearish on the 21st century future of Earth from an ecological standpoint.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 June 06 10:17 PM  Trends Ecology


Comments
Clyve said at June 6, 2012 10:30 PM:

Social engineers posing as scientists like these Bonobos are why recipes for do it yourself superflu's should be kept top secret.

Fat Man said at June 7, 2012 4:55 AM:

Do they think that the collapse will happen on December 21 of this year?

mrm27 said at June 7, 2012 5:36 AM:

This feels like scaremongering. Have these scientists ever driven across America and seen the many, vast wilderness and sparsely populated areas?

ASPIRANT said at June 7, 2012 5:42 AM:

@mrm27 Have you ever seen a map of the night time lights in Europe?

I love how anything remotely sounding like environmentalism is attacked by people on the right. Like a reflex.

bmack500 said at June 7, 2012 5:53 AM:

Aspirant,

Well put. They do seem to have the immediate reflex!

Russ said at June 7, 2012 6:36 AM:

I think, rather than propping up our various flavors of righteousness with ad-hominem, that one looks at the issue he raised: context counts. Different global ecosystems are under different strains, and many parts of the US are seeing shifts that look nothing like ecological collapse, for instance the rapid spread of large fauna through the eastern suburban pseudo-forests.

On the other hand, we're well on our way to making vast varieties of fish, and the ecosystems they support, extinct. That's huge, and legitimately very, very scary.

By definition, those painting with big brushes will get tripped up on local exceptions. I personally do not put much faith in the "we all have to get poorer" Marxist-style solutions, myself, when innovations like multi-floor urban farms could do quite a bit to reduce urban dependency and fertilizer runoff wasteage. Diagnosing a problem and prescribing an effective and implementable solution are very different skills.

Fan of Rod Strickland said at June 7, 2012 7:27 AM:

Excellent points by bmack500 and ASPIRANT.

The reflexive conservative rejection of scientific concern for the environment and sustainable development is a mirror image of many liberals' rejection of the scientific basic for human biodiversity and the benefits of vaccination against scourges such as polio and whooping cough.

Eventually, reality will overpower wishful thinking on all such issues!

Fan of Rod Strickland said at June 7, 2012 7:32 AM:

I must make a correction to my last post: In fairness to the left, conservative apathy towards the environment is much more widespread than liberal rejection of vaccination science.

bmack500 said at June 7, 2012 7:38 AM:

I really don't think this rejection of vaccinations is any more widespread among liberals than conservatives; at least I haven't experienced that. I'm living in the South (when I'm not in Afghanistan working) and about all our neighbors are right - wing. Many of them have this uninformed opinion of vaccinations.
I think it was quite moronic of the vaccination industry to use thimeresol [sic] with not insignificant amounts of mercury directly injected into the body. However, I believe that issue has been addressed.

mrm27 said at June 7, 2012 7:39 AM:

I didnt have any political flavor added to my post. Just seems like scaremongering. I do worry about overfishing, resource depletion, acidification of the oceans, and deforestation around the globe, but the hyperbolic words of that article seem like excessive hand waving "scare the sheep" talk.

As a kid they told me that acid rain would destroy our forests, the rainforests would be gone by 2010, ozone holes would be widespread, and AIDS would be a mostly hetero problem in the US. Deforestation of the rainforests continues, which no one discusses anymore, but they are still around. The same teachers who were anti-nuclear energy in 1990 when teaching me are now pro-nuke when they teach my nieces and nephews.

bmack500 said at June 7, 2012 7:42 AM:

I'm with Russ; I don't think we have to get poorer at all. The solutions are technological, but will require some change in thought. Recycling is certainly a small part of the solution (as an example), but you have to convince people to change their habits ever so slightly. Many people resist any change at all, positive or negative.

Lono said at June 7, 2012 8:59 AM:

Hmm... that advice sounds awfully familiar...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21

Phillep Harding said at June 7, 2012 10:40 AM:

The "left" is supposed to be "liberal", or pro-liberty. Funny how so many things that can be perceived as /possible/ problems call for immediate and unquestioned implementation of tyranical government. Without regard for whether or not the prescribed action would help solve the problem, if it actually exists.

So many problems that have the same solution: Enslavement of the masses to the State.

One might almost suspect that the motive for finding so many problems with the same solution involved the solution instead of the problem.

I'm conservative because I remember the stupid things I did and believed when I was young, and something about this sounds /real/ familiar.

R said at June 7, 2012 11:15 AM:

The end is near!

PacRim Jim said at June 7, 2012 11:40 AM:

Apparently humans need reminding:
Nature evolved humans, so whatever eventuates must be according to nature's plan, to state things anthropomorphologically.
Nature does not exist for the benefit or comfort of any species, or life in generally, for that matter.
In fact, the argument could be made that nature exists to toy with life and then, sooner or later, exterminate it remorselessly.
If we humans want to selfishly optimize the biosphere for our own benefit, that's a different matter altogether.

Daralundy said at June 7, 2012 3:11 PM:

I wonder how they plan to reduce population levels. Sounds nasty.

Black Death said at June 7, 2012 4:22 PM:

Where are Paul Ehrlich and Rachel Carson when we need them?

John Cunningham said at June 7, 2012 8:09 PM:

These Greenie genocidaires would, if they could, murder billions of people and turn the survivors back into Stone Age savages. they rely on discredited
hoaxers like Paul Ehrlich, the warming wackos, and other Commies. if they really believe that affluent Westerners are destroying the world, let them
lead the way by killing their friends, families, and themselves.

Fat Man said at June 7, 2012 10:26 PM:

Bmack, Asspirant, and the rest of you "Scientists":

You are correct. We on the right are reflexively opposed to what you "Scientists" do and say. Largely because we have heard all of it before, back when you people claimed to be "Scientific Socialists" who understood the "Science of History" and wanted us to embrace the inevitable communist revolution. Well, that one didn't work out so well, did it?

So, still wanting to be very "Scientific" you proclaimed the an ecological catastrophe awaited the World, unless we accepted the verdict of history and implemented Communism mach schnell. The first wave of predictions of ecological catastrophe was quite lurid. Famine, pestilence, war, and, wild beasts. Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Meadows, and John Holdren, among others wrote Apocalypses every bit as lurid as the one written by St. John of Patmos -- and just as "Scientific".

Sadly, those "Scientists" attached dates to their predictions that would have come true by now. E.g. Paul Ehrlich warned of the mass starvation in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation. Did it happen? There are more people alive now, living longer and more prosperous lives, in more places than ever before in the history of the world. When the first round of "Scientists" wrote their Apocalypses, China and India were synonymous with poverty and over population. Now they are the most dynamic economies in the world. The collapse of Soviet Union freed hundreds of millions people from terrible poverty and want. Even Sub-Saharan Africa is showing welcome signs of economic growth.

I will not set forth a full critique of "Scientists" here. It is far too long. Let me just list a few bullet points to close with:

* Religion. Men who write Apocalypses to justify their beliefs are engaged in a fundamentally religious activity as are those who study, preach, and promulgate Apocalypses.

* Racism. Most of the concern about over population is directed toward the dark skinned peoples of Asia and Africa. It is a fundamentally racist concern. I acknowledge that there are some equal opportunity misanthropes among the "Scientists" who want to kill off the human race. Sadly, they never volunteer to go first. (see religion above -- Gaia is angry, she demands sacrifice)

* Watermelons. Green on the outside and red on the inside. The solution of the "Scientists" to every one of their horror stories, is complete State control of all aspects of human life.

* Fake Science. Just because they run around with clipboards and pocket protectors does not mean they are engaged in anything resembling a real science. Peer review. Don't make me laugh. They put the purple stamp on each others ravings. So what?

LoboSolo said at June 8, 2012 2:39 PM:

Doom and gloom (all based on some study or another) ... I'v heard it for many years and none of it has come true. Night lights of Europe? Pfft ... Look at MOST of the rest of the world and you'll see great gaps of darkness. Besides, I thought that all the wacko-umwelters wanted us to liv in thickly packed burgs and commute on light rail. Europe is their nirvana. Where I liv now, my nearest neighbor is 1/2 mile away. Not only that, but I hav a wood-burning stove that I gleefully fire up when it's cool insted of the gas stove.

Loosen up folks. Fertility rates are dropping and there's enuff oil in in the Bazhenov fields to keep us going for years ( http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/bazhenov-neocomian-oil-formation-covers.html ).

Excuse me while I toss some wood into the firebox ...

Engineer-Poet said at June 8, 2012 6:51 PM:

One can imagine Fat Man and LoboSolo on Easter Island, pooh-poohing every suggestion that the rapidly-decreasing number of trees was a threat to everyone and death and misery would result if the trend was not reversed.

Fat Man said at June 8, 2012 7:25 PM:

Engineer-Poet, you are second to no one on science and engineering. But the truth of the matter is that the story of Easter Island's depopulation is not a case of suicide -- it was a case of murder of an indigenous culture by slavers from the main land. The sad details are here:

Link to PDF

Of course Jared Diamond and the cult of "Scientists" are pissed off by being shown up. But Diamond's theories do not begin to pass the laugh tests in most cases. For instance his claim that the Norse left Greenland because they would not eat fish is just a knee slapper.

Religion
Racism
Watermelons
Fake Science

Ronald Brak said at June 9, 2012 4:49 AM:

I was going to write about how I think this group's recommendations are off, and go into moderate detail about why I think they're off, but I'm afraid I just don't have the time because I am far too busy writing about what terrible monsters my enemies are in order to make myself appear more virtuous.

Engineer-Poet said at June 9, 2012 7:30 AM:
the truth of the matter is that the story of Easter Island's depopulation is not a case of suicide -- it was a case of murder of an indigenous culture by slavers from the main land.
And this alleged one-time event prevented the population from recovering for centuries?  Leaving no written records from the slavers (who were not reticent about such things)?  Ignoring that alleged climactic influences like the LIA are hardly independent of human activity (it's much easier to deforest an area when the forests are growing poorly)?

More to the point, does the exact mechanism and timing change the fact that the lack of trees (whether palm or toromiro) destroys the foundations of stone-age economy on the island?

The argument over Diamond's timeline posits a distinction without a difference.

Phillep Harding said at June 9, 2012 9:43 AM:

If I follow the implications of Engineer-poet's argument, the (according to him) current consensus is that the globe is facing ecological disaster so we should follow the consensus, while the Easter Island's then consensus that removing the trees was obviously false and they should have known better than to follow the consensus.

Consensus is bad science, and miserable engineering. It's okay for poetry, though.

OTOH, "starving poet" is a bit of a cliche, so maybe poets don't want to brag up consensus. (Consensus being poetry is not worth paying attention to, or spending money on.)

Do we have a consensus that E-P can't lose for losing?

Ronald Brak said at June 9, 2012 7:11 PM:

Actually I played a beta of a computer game where pirates could sail to islands and cut down trees. They could use the lumber to make more pirates. At the time I thought the game designers were a little confused about just where pirates actually came from, but maybe that's what happened? Easter Island was visited by slaver/pirate/lumberjacks? I think other computer games should be investigated to explore this possibility.

Phillep Harding said at June 10, 2012 10:41 AM:

Ron, just so long as you remember GIGO.

Easter Island? Pirates might have finished them off, but stupidity set it up.

Popular belief: Humans are the only species that destroys it's habitat. Hogwash. Every single species does that. Humans are among the few adaptible enough to thrive even when the original habitat has been changed/destroyed. Notably New York City was originally a farming community, and Los Angeles was first a cow town then an oil town.

Joseph Hertzlinger said at June 10, 2012 7:50 PM:

Human beings have longer life expectancies in cold climates, dry climates, islands, isolated mountain valleys, and industrialized countries, especially those with high population densities. In other words, human beings flourish in "impoverished" ecosystems.

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2012 9:02 PM:

Phillep Harding,

What's key about the human role in ecosystems that sets them apart: We are omnivores. Lots of species have a short list of food types they eat. So when they exhaust a their preferred foods they go thru a big die-off while most of the ecosystem is still intact. But humans can just switch to different food sources and therefore can cause damage to a larger assortment of ecosystems and can damage and deplete many more parts of each ecosystem.

Humans are the top predator on the planet and are omnivores. The world doesn't have a chance against us.

Fat Man,

Imagining racism as a cause of irrationality can cause you to be just as irrational as the people who you imagine to be irrational. You are doing yourself no credit with that line of reasoning.

Also, imagining that all scientists are motivated by socialism or some other ideology is again not rational. Using such rules of thumb to label and dismiss arguments avoids a lot of mental work but also puts you at risk for making very big mental mistakes.

Regards Paul Ehrlich: I flash on the boy who cried wolf and the fact that the wolf finally came. Also, the outcome of the bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich finally changed starting in 1994.

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2012 9:17 PM:

To underscore the importance of our role as omnivores: Nature isn't going to stop us until we've devoured a pretty large fraction of the world's life forms.

Sione said at June 10, 2012 10:01 PM:

Fat Man

H L Menken wrote, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

I agree with your analysis. A major issue of concern remains who it is that is to do the "leading to safety." Frankly, I'd rather be left alone to lead my life rather than be dictated to by an appalling gang of hand-wringing misfits, fraudsters and twisted sociopaths (those who'd rather cause untold misery and death for other people rather than leaving them in peace).

Regards

Sione

Sione said at June 11, 2012 3:41 AM:

Randall

Did Fat Man indicate that racism was a cause of irrationality? The answer is no, he did not do that. What he does indicate is that most of the concern about over population is directed toward the dark skinned peoples of Asia and Africa. He indicated such is fundamentally racist (which, of course, it is). That's quite a different point from the strawman you are attempting to raise in a failed effort at rebuttal. For goodness sake man, if you are going to disagree with someone have the integrity to address what he writes, not what you imagine you'd have liked him to have written.

You repeat the error of misrepresentation when you pretend that the Fat Man imagines all scientists to be socialists. He did not indicate that was his position. What he does do is address his missive towards two specific parties on the thread and to others of like mind. He addresses those as "Scientists". Your attention is drawn to the use of quote marks about the noun and also to the capitalisation of its first letter. He is consistent in his use of the quotes. He directs his critique quite specifically. Think on it.

Note: fact is that your system of science assumes your epistemology, morality and politics. In other words what you regard as science necessarily presupposes your philosophy.

Re an indefinate continuation of the Julian Simon versus Paul Erlich bet
Silly for you to bring this up yet again. You can't rewrite history and the reality remains that Julian Simon won the bet and Paul Erlich lost and lost it badly.

Simon was a careful analyst who did not fall for the trivial rhetorical traps set for him by the likes of Erlich and Holdren. As previously stated to you, Julian Simon was aware of inflation, the structure of the economy, how the factors within it were deployed, how they interacted and the effect this would have upon costs. That famous bet was developed within a specific economic and political context. It had a termination date. That date has expired, along with the bet. The nature of a second bet or even a rerun of the first over a different time period is merely an exercise in arbitrary supposition. Such a bet was not designed, agreed upon or entered into by the parties to the original. If a new bet were (assuming Simon was still alive to partake in its design and execution), it more than likely would be of different form to the original for reasons of altered economic and political circumstance. Present monetary inflation, metasticised political interferences throughout the economy, the state of permanent warfare and towering unrecoverable debt provide a substantially different context to that which was previously experienced. The "outcome" to which you link reflects the results of those factors and does not support the sky-is-falling mythology such as that of Erlich and fellow rort artists.

Sione

Engineer-Poet said at June 11, 2012 5:51 AM:
most of the concern about over population is directed toward the dark skinned peoples of Asia and Africa. He indicated such is fundamentally racist (which, of course, it is).
The unsustainable growth in population is almost exclusively in those places and among those peoples, but directing concern there is "racist".

The taboo and its associated double standard could not be expressed more clearly than that.

Phillep Harding said at June 11, 2012 10:04 AM:

EP, if you go to the _original_ sources of the zero population movement (Sanger, et al), you will see that they were openly racist, and regarded having a high melanine content in the skin as an indicator of inferior genes. You will have to go to publications written back in the 30's. (Never mind that having a darker skin would be a positive survival trait if the ice age we are presently in ever ended.) Today's treatment of Blacks is based on the supposition that Blacks are "children" who need to be favored in order to help them equal Whites. Basic racism.

(Just for giggles, Blacks are closer to pure strain homo sapiens than are Europeans (Neanderthal cross), but some regard Blacks as the "inferior race"? [sarc] "Hybreds are superior to both parent species", no doubt [/sarc])

Randal, humans are not the only omnivores on the planet, nor are we the only omnivores that destroy (or, at least, change) our habitat. Nor are we the only species to alter our habitat in a way that increases food production. We already have the basics for growing food in a tiny fraction of space presently used, we just don't do it that way because it's cheaper to go ahead and use the space.

Phillep Harding said at June 11, 2012 10:16 AM:

But, back to the original objection, we have a number of ambitious political activists who have just one solution to anything wrong, or they can make look like a problem, and it's always "set up a tyranical form of government". "Give me enough power and I'll solve everything."

Look at Al Gore as an example. That place he bought on the beach would have been underwater by the time he bought it if global warming was actually the problem he said it was back when he first got started. He has no belief in the issue he is using to gain power and wealth. This is common among this sort of scare monger. The issue is not related to the goal, the goal is power. (and wealth).

The problem in the article might be real, the "solution" would be disaster.

anthropic said at June 11, 2012 3:12 PM:

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

1) Human population growth continues to slow as women have fewer babies. In fact, women are having so few babies that many areas are experiencing declining populations (Japan, Russia) or soon will (much of Europe). There isn't a major European nation that I know of that has a 2.1 fertility rate, the number of lifetime children a woman must have to simply maintain the current population.

2) Air pollution continues to decline. In the US, most air pollutants are down more than 90 percent in the last 50 years. Much the same picture for water pollution, as anyone who remembers what Lake Erie smelled like in the 1960s (I do) can attest.

3) Forests continue to expand in the US, as rising agricultural productivity necessitates less land needed for production. GMOs mean even less use of pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers in the future, unless the left-wing Luddites manage to ban them.

4) Rising CO2 levels mean faster plant growth and greater resistance to drought. If they bring warmer temps, an unproven proposition, it gets even better for growing seasons. And don't forget that it requires much less energy to air condition on a hot summer day than heat up on a frigid winter day.

5) Scaremongering is great for book sales & certain politicians, those who seek power. However, it has a very poor historic track record, from Thomas Malthus to Paul Ehrlich to the Club of Rome to global ice age (1970s) to global warming (today).

Fat Man said at June 11, 2012 7:54 PM:

Sione: Thank you very much for defending my words more eloquently than I could have done so. I appreciate it. Should we ever meet in meat space, drinks are on me.

EP: You need to read the paper I linked. The slaving and genocide occurred in the 19th century. Elaborate precautions were taken against any resurgence of the Rapi Nui culture. The tale is not pretty, but the Easter Islanders emerge as the most innocent party. Diamond, is as I mentioned above, a fabulist. Continued attention to his fables reduces the credibility of the "Scientists".

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2012 9:51 PM:

Sione asks,

Did Fat Man indicate that racism was a cause of irrationality?

With regard to people who have concerns about overpopulation he most certainly did. Concerns about overpopulation are rational. Dismissing them as racist is to label those concerns irrational. He's being irrational while claiming others are irrational.

I should not have said all scientists. But I repeat that it is wrong to dismiss scientific concerns based on imagined ideological motivations. Water aquifers are depleting, fisheries are depleting, large parts of the surface of the planet are getting stripped of large quantities of biomass. It is not irrational to be concerned about this.

Julian Simon: You are so missing the point. Natural resource prices have stopped dropping. The human mind has not invented enough to keep natural resources cheap. The long term declines in average ore quality is weighing more heavily than technological advantages for running mining operations. Simon predicted something for a particular place and time, yes on that we agree. But his optimistic prediction of the time was only for a time period that has now ended.

Phillep Harding,

But we are intelligent omnivores and we have become the uber predator. We've got nothing but ourselves to restrain us and we aren't going to restrain us.

Solutions: I am not expecting any.

anthropic,

Natural selection will operate to raise fertility. We already have populations in the US which have very rapid doubling rates.

anonyq said at June 13, 2012 6:12 PM:

Those populations have high growth because of cultural reasons, not biological reasons, and as such i doubt that natural selection has much of an effect with this. What will have an effect is that women get their children at an older age and this will lead to a situation in which people are selected who are still fertile at an old age.

Engineer-Poet said at June 14, 2012 3:04 PM:
if you go to the _original_ sources of the zero population movement (Sanger, et al), you will see that they were openly racist, and regarded having a high melanine content in the skin as an indicator of inferior genes.
Okay.  Tell me something:  were they wrong?

What used to be common knowledge, gleaned from and confirmed by centuries of observation and experience and put down by distinguished authorities in references like Encyclopedia Britannica, is now deemed "racist" and unmentionable.  Whether or not it is true is irrelevant; arguably, if it wasn't true we wouldn't need the taboo.

Just for giggles, Blacks are closer to pure strain homo sapiens than are Europeans (Neanderthal cross), but some regard Blacks as the "inferior race"?
When Blacks score -1 SD in IQ vs. Europeans, which deserves the species label Homo sapiens sapiens?  When the genetic distance from Congoids to Europeans is more than twice the gap between chimpanzees and bonobos, why don't we consider Europeans and Africans to be separate species?  Neanderthals only differ from Europeans by 0.08%, vs. 0.23% for Congoids; Neanderthals are supposed to be a different species, and Congoids aren't?

Chimps and bonobos are inter-fertile, but they're radically different in their behavior and social organization.  There's a lesson there.

Today's treatment of Blacks is based on the supposition that Blacks are "children" who need to be favored in order to help them equal Whites. Basic racism.
Today's policy is based on malleability of nature; every failure has led to escalation because the idea that the differences in traits are both innate and heritable is currently unthinkable.  I dare to think it.

One of the consequences of this thought is that affirmative action and diversity preferences are a waste of time at best.  Even if the power structure built up behind it didn't have ulterior motives, its goal is impossible to achieve.  It is time to shrink government by eliminating all affirmative-action programs, diversity goals and preferences, minority set-asides, and civil-rights laws which criminalize freedom of association.  Most of their personnel can be put to work doing something useful (I have no hope for the likes of Eric Holder).

Ronald Brak said at June 14, 2012 7:10 PM:

Oh dear. No, the difference in IQ between some African and European populations is not due to genetics, or if there is a genetic difference it is small and could go either way. We know this for several reasons. African IQs are comparable those of Europeans in the recent past. Increases in IQs of blacks in Africa and the US are too rapid to be due to genetic change, just as increases in the average IQ of US whites in the 20th century was not the result of genetic change. We know that improving the environment improves IQ. Blacks in Europe have higher average IQs than than poverty stricken populations they come from and black children adopted by white people in the US have higher than average black IQs. This is obviously impossible if the difference is genetic.

Finally, one would have to be blind to the conditions in Africa to think that populations there are on an equal footing with developed world populations when it comes to IQ tests. Tragically, Africa still has high levels of disease, parasites, malnutrition and illiteracy. Eliminating parasites, malnutrition, and illiteracy raised the IQ of Southern US whites and it is currently increasing the average IQ of Africans.

Engineer-Poet said at June 14, 2012 9:28 PM:

Oh, geez, not THIS again....

the difference in IQ between some African and European populations is not due to genetics, or if there is a genetic difference it is small and could go either way.
Ahem.  Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study.  It proved that there was a substantial gap that remained even when the most extreme possible equalization of environment had been done, and it proved it THIRTY-SIX YEARS AGO.
African IQs are comparable those of Europeans in the recent past.
What influence could possibly have raised European IQs so far relative to Africans?  If such a thing exists, it's obvious that Europeans created it.  The fact that Africans continue to lag suggests that they can't do the same.
Increases in IQs of blacks in Africa and the US are too rapid to be due to genetic change, just as increases in the average IQ of US whites in the 20th century was not the result of genetic change.
Disingenuous nonsense.  You can hurt IQ through malnourishment, but once you've fixed that you still have a gap that remains at about 1 SD.  Even having parents with post-graduate degrees doesn't bring Black children's scholastic achievement up to the level of whites whose parents have only HS diplomas.  Not math, not verbal.  Also, US blacks have about 20% European blood on average.
Blacks in Europe have higher average IQs than than poverty stricken populations they come from
And your proof that they are a representative sample rather than the cream is?  Have they matched the host populations?
black children adopted by white people in the US have higher than average black IQs.
They do, at younger ages when learning is largely rote memorization and regurgitation.  As they go through their teens and tasks get more "g"-loaded, they regress toward the level of their parents.  This happens to also be the time when higher-thinking faculties are developing; the brain is not done developing until into the 20's, or so they say now.
This is obviously impossible if the difference is genetic.
On the contrary; an impovershed environment provided by a parent with an imbecile-level intellect is going to leave even a stupid child further from their full potential than a richly varied one.  Still, the stupid child is going to hit a much lower limit than a smart one.  When you eliminate any variation due to environment, you're left with the effects of genes.

The conditions in Africa happen to be those provided by... Africans!  The conditions in the Detroit schools, which have been run FOR and BY BLACKS for decades now, are also provided by Africans... and unlike the situation in Africa, they had everything bootstrapped by Europeans and STILL fell into ruin.  When just under half of Detroiters are functionally illiterate and only about 80% are actually Black (the rest of which have likely come from elsewhere), the functional illiteracy rate of Blacks schooled in the Black system must be over 60%.  This is one more failure of hope to defeat experience.

Fat Man said at June 14, 2012 9:47 PM:

President Eisenhower was a billiant and accomplished man. Here is his warning about "Scientists"

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

-- Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation.

E.P. Do yourself a favor and put the shovel down.

Mthson said at June 15, 2012 1:25 AM:

E.P. Thanks for the links.

It's hard to imagine anyone making serious arguments against natural differences in average IQs after seeing those charts.

Engineer-Poet said at June 15, 2012 5:06 AM:

Mthson, there's a lot more at La Griffe du Lion, including some wonderful dialogues written in styles certain to delight.  But beware, because you can lose days catching up.

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 8:19 AM:

Engineer-Poet, do you currently believe and sub-Saharan Africa and the United States are equal as far as opportunities to development IQ is concerned?

Engineer-Poet said at June 15, 2012 10:29 AM:

Sorry, come again?

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 3:46 PM:

Do you think that the average person in sub-Sharan Africa has as much opportunity to develop their IQ as the average white person in the United States? Or to put it another way, do you think if white Americans lived in the same conditions that sub-Saharan currently do their average IQ be the same as it is now?

Engineer-Poet said at June 15, 2012 7:34 PM:
do you think if white Americans lived in the same conditions that sub-Saharan currently do their average IQ be the same as it is now?
"Objection, your honor!  Calls for speculation from the witness."

Without running such an experiment, there's no way to be sure.  On the other hand, the racial stock of White Americans did once live under conditions not too unlike S.S. Africa in material respects, yet the former built Europe and America while the latter have remained as they are despite being MUCH closer to the high cultures of Egypt and Carthage.  This is suggestive, not conclusive.  But neither is it relevant to the issue in America.

What's relevant to the issue in America is whether S.S. Africans can develop the IQ and other traits of White Americans given the same advantages.  Multiple independent lines of evidence, from the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study to studies of SAT scores vs. parental education across races to the staggering illiteracy rate of Detroit high-school graduates under Black administration (including the former president of the Detroit School Board, Otis Mathis), all say the same thing:  no, they cannot.  Those bell curves are going to be offset from each other so long as the genes are what they are.

Mthson said at June 15, 2012 7:40 PM:

Ronald Brak,

Unless a person is willing to admit up front the following basic points, they're probably motivated too much by yuck factors and dogmatism to appreciate intellectual complexities enough to warrant discussion. Their minds are a hammer where more precise tools are required.

1. The Jewish average IQ is likely significantly higher than the White average IQ.
2. Charts like this and this mean there are likely significant average IQ differences between those groups.

Do you agree with those 2 points?

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 8:05 PM:

Engineer poet, so you are saying that the reason that sub-Saharan Africans score lower on IQ tests than white Americans is due to genetics?

Engineer-Poet said at June 15, 2012 8:06 PM:
E.P. Do yourself a favor and put the shovel down.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96ZUZ9CPZII#t=43.9

You can substitute "racist" for "illegal" and "America" for "Netherlands" in your mind.

Engineer-Poet said at June 15, 2012 8:13 PM:

Unless you have another mechanism which provides the observed heritability, RB, I don't see what else it could be.  But maybe you know one that fits, and is a fit target for efforts at transformation.

One thing we know it's NOT is Whitey's perfidiousness, so can we get rid of all the "diversity consultants" blaming everything on institutional and cultural racism already?  Can we ditch affirmative action and "disparate impact analysis"?  They're worse than useless, except to America's competitors and enemies.

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 9:30 PM:

Mthson, do you think that because people of Ashkenazim decent have average higher IQ than the average US white US IQ and this may be because of genetic reasons, this means that average sub-Saharan IQ is lower than the average US white IQ because of genetic reasons? Because if so, that does not follow.

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 9:35 PM:

Engineer poet: Okay, you think that sub-Saharan Africans have lower average IQs than American whites because of genetic reasons. So do you think the large increase in the average IQs of American whites in the 20th century was the result of genetic change?

Mthson said at June 15, 2012 10:40 PM:

Ronald Brak,

Higher average Jewish IQ means that this has to be treated like any other normal intellectual area, making the best predictions of the future that are possible, rather than relying on what our instincts desire.

It would be an unusual prediction that just because groups that liked to read raised their IQ when they were exposed to better environments, that other groups that don't like to read and greatly under-perform even when they're given the most privileged and highly educated environments will do the same.

In other words, the above charts show that that hypothesis has already been tested, and the results contradicted the desired result.

Ronald Brak said at June 15, 2012 11:08 PM:

Mythson, are saying that because Jewish people average higher IQs than American whites it means that sub-Saharan Africans average lower IQs than American whites for genetic reasons?

Engineer-Poet said at June 16, 2012 6:28 AM:

Ronald, you've got the data.  It proves that the "environmentalist" (including "discrimination") theories are false.  Given what you know now, what would YOU be forced to conclude?

As for the slurs thrown at anyone who dares to reason from data to conclusion, the left classes both individualism and future-time orientation as cultural racism.  The left also defines “racism” as power relationships, not personal actions or attitudes; one is racist if one is of the “privileged” group, even if one is personally discriminated against in education, employment, and in a host of other ways.  “Racist” is the new “class enemy”, white is the new kulak.

After their pass through the crypto-Marxist deconstructionist process, “racist” and “racism” no longer mean anything.  They are semantically dead!  They’ve passed on!  These terms are no more!  They have ceased to be!  They’ve expired and gone to meet their maker!  They’re stiffs!  Bereft of life, they rest in peace!  They’ve kicked the bucket, they’ve shuffled off their mortal coils, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!  THESE ARE EX-CONCEPTS!

Ronald Brak said at June 16, 2012 3:52 PM:

Engineer-Poet, do you think that the large increase in the average IQ of American whites during the 20th century was due to genetic change?

Engineer-Poet said at June 16, 2012 6:14 PM:

No.  Note that the inter-racial gaps remained roughly constant over the same period, showing that some things weren't changing.

Ronald Brak said at June 16, 2012 7:33 PM:

Engineer-Poet, so then we agree that changes in the environment can result in large changes in IQ. Do you agree with me that there are large differences between the environment of American whites and the environment of Sub-Saharan Africans?

Engineer-Poet said at June 16, 2012 9:26 PM:

I don't agree that IQ ("g", as opposed to social skills with certain test styles) was changing.

Ronald Brak said at June 16, 2012 10:05 PM:

Do you agree that the large change in the average IQ of American whites during the 20th century was not due to genetic change?

Ronald Brak said at June 16, 2012 10:25 PM:

Sorry, I think I can take it from what you've written that you do believe that environmental change can result in large changes in average IQ. (If I'm wrong, let me know.) So I have just one other question for now, do you believe that white Americans and Sub-Saharan Africans have similar environments?

Mthson said at June 16, 2012 10:41 PM:

Ronald,

It's not necessary to speculate. We already know what happens when average Africans grow up in middle-class and even upper-class first-world environments.

anonyq said at June 16, 2012 11:20 PM:

The IQ test score did change. That is a simple unrefusable fact. One could claim that it wasn't the intelligence that changed but that people got better in doing the test, i may add the EXACT SAME TEST, but i don't think this would improve you claim, Engineer-Poet.

Ronald Brak said at June 17, 2012 12:08 AM:

Mthson, do you think the large change in the average IQ of American whites in the 20th century was the result of genetic change?

anonyq said at June 17, 2012 3:39 AM:

Het percentage zuidelijke nam wel af door de immigratie van veel Europeanen. Is direct een verklaring voor de slimheid van de zwarten

Ronald Brak said at June 17, 2012 4:29 AM:

Heh heh heh. Ja het is.

Engineer-Poet said at June 18, 2012 1:29 PM:
The IQ test score did change.
But all races' IQ scores changed by about the same amount, leaving the differences the same.

This is the "Flynn effect", and there are hints that it has stopped... in Western societies overrun by third-world immigrants.  You know, the ones who score lower on IQ tests?

Kelly Parks said at June 18, 2012 2:09 PM:

But what does that mean? Dire consequences, ecological collapse, etc. sounds bad but it's also pretty vague. So would someone please tell me that if all these terrible things happen, what would I see out my window that morning? Describe this transformed world and why it would be a bad place. Please be specific.

Engineer-Poet said at June 18, 2012 3:07 PM:

Think of large parts of the continental USA converted to sand desert, for one thing.  There are immobilized dunes (the sand hills) in Nebraska.  Imagine them going into Ohio.

Imagine the Rockies and Cascades looking like southern Arizona, with nothing resembling a tree.

Imagine the oceans populated by algae mats and jellyfish, with few bony fish and nothing we'd currently consider edible.

It wouldn't be much of a world for people, would it?

Ronald Brak said at June 19, 2012 1:36 AM:

Engineer-Poet, we agree that environmental changes can result in large changes in average IQ. So once again I will ask you a very simple question. Do you believe that white Americans and Sub-Saharan Africans share similar environments?

Engineer-Poet said at June 19, 2012 5:36 AM:
we agree that environmental changes can result in large changes in average IQ.
Do not put words in my mouth.  I specifically denied that; scores on certain tasks are not the same as IQ.

Since you will not argue in good faith, my participation in this discussion is over.

Ronald Brak said at June 19, 2012 6:58 PM:

I am putting words in your mouth? If you scroll up a little:

RONALD BRAK: Engineer-Poet, do you think that the large increase in the average IQ of American whites in the 20th century was due to genetic change?

ENGINEER-POET: No. Note that the inter-racial gaps remained roughly constant over the same period, showing some things weren't changing.

RONALD BRAK: Engineer-Poet, so then we agree that changes in the environment can result in large changes in IQ. Do you agree with me that there are large differences between the environment of American whites and the environment of Sub-Saharan Africans?

ENGINEER-POET: I don'T agree that IQ ("g", as opposed to social skills with certain test styles) was changing.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, so I ask,

RONALD BRAK: Do you agree that the large change in the average IQ of American whites during the 20th century was not due to genetic change?

But then I interpret the "No" you gave above to mean that you don't think the change in US whites was due to genetic change and write,

RONALD BRAK: Sorry, I think I can take it from what you've written that you do believe that environmental change can result in large changes in average IQ. (If I'm wrong, let me know.) So I have just one other question for now, do you believe that white Americans and Sub-Saharan Africans have similar environments?

Note how I have specifically asked you to correct me if I'm wrong about what you are saying. Then a little later, as you still haven't answered my question, I wrote,

RONALD BRAK: Engineer-Poet, we agree that environmental changes can result in large changes in average IQ. So once again I will ask you a very simple question. Do you believe that white Americans and Sub-Saharan Africans share similar environments?

And you replied with,

ENGINEER-POET: we agree that environmental changes can result in large changes in average IQ.
Do not put words in my mouth. I specifically denied that; scores on certain tasks are not the same as IQ.
Since you will not argue in good faith, my participation in this discussion is over.

As no reasonable person will say that I was putting words in your mouth, particularly when I specifically asked you to correct me if I was wrong about what you were saying, either you are mistaken when you say that I was putting words in your mouth or you are lying and using this as an excuse to avoid answering the two simple questions I have asked and avoid the logical conclusion that follows. So which is it?

I don't expect you to answer, but you might surprise me.

Kelly Parks said at June 20, 2012 2:23 PM:

Engineer-Poet: All that would happen that day? Wow.

But cows and pigs wouldn't be extinct, right? And even if the all the fertile land turns to desert, you can still grow crops in greenhouses. So food would be more expensive, but no worldwide starvation.

My point being that the direst of the "dire consequences" results in a world aesthetically less pleasing, but hardly the end of civilization.

Phillep Harding said at June 22, 2012 9:23 AM:

We might not even have a problem with extinction, depending on political and social developments.

Prior to 1900 (apx) in the US, there were effectively no hunting or fishing limitations. Much of the hunting and fishing was subsistance and, from my own experience at a subsistance life style, when your food source is wild fish and game, you have to bring back something to eat, without consideration for if it's the last of the species or not. There is, in my thinking, zero, repeat ZERO, difference between sharing a subsistance harvest fish or game animal and market hunting.

After 1900, /sport/ fishermen and hunters forced through the present season/bag limit system (that demonstrated that commercial fishing should be subject to the same sort of limitations). As a result, parts of the East Coast of the US are over-run with white tail deer, to the extent that various game biologists have expressed the opinion that there are more white tails in the US today than there were when Columbus sailed. (White tails are also native to South America and are thriving in Europe.) They are not likely to go extinct without a big change in the social and political make up of the US and other parts of the world where they exist. (IMO, the US nearly lost the white tail because so many of the poor were able to own firearms. The other parts of the world with white tail have gun control, very good for white tail populations.)

Geese are also a problem in areas where, for one reason or another, they are not hunted.

Speaking of the East Coast of the US, my understanding is that, due to various social, legal, and taxation developments, many previously farmed areas are being abandoned and are reverting to the wild.

Camels and feral cats have taken over parts of Australia, burros are a problem in the US desserts, llamas have gone feral in the same areas. These animals are difficult to hunt, and live in areas where transportation is difficult and expensive. They will survive, come what may. I've seen parts of the Hawaiian Islands that would also support various animals, and are far to rugged to be logged off or hunted at all.

Braxton said at June 27, 2012 3:34 PM:

These predictions have been recycled over and over multiple times since the beginnings of the leftist environmental movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
The technique was referred to once as "the big lie." Repeat unproven claims over and over so many times that the doltish sort begin to reflexively think the lie.

Ask these "academics" making these predictions to put something real on the line; risk something of value to themselves to show that they are serious instead of only posturing.

It is a joke to repeat their claims verbatim without questioning their motives, and the motives of the unbroken line of doom predictors whose predictions have repeatedly failed again and again.

Anonymous said at July 16, 2012 11:41 PM:

Randall

I’ve been on holiday and missed your response to my earlier comment. Here, my response to you.
Fat Man wrote, "Most of the concern about over population is directed toward the dark skinned peoples of Asia and Africa. It is a fundamentally racist concern. I acknowledge that there are some equal opportunity misanthropes among the "Scientists" who want to kill off the human race. Sadly, they never volunteer to go first. (see religion above -- Gaia is angry, she demands sacrifice)".
His position was not that racism causes irrationality. He did not state or indicate such. You are the one who promoted that particular notion, not him. His position is that there are those experts or intellectuals (he refers to them as "Scientists") who busily promote the ideas of impending catastrophe, doom, death and disaster, mayhem, disorder and the like unless........ some form of coercive control is imposed upon all other people forthwith. His concern is that their projections of impending doom and crisis are inevitably intended to fraudulently justify execution of a coercive transaction wherein people are forcibly collectivised. Among the examples he presents are those racist vermin who bleat on about the so-called over-population of dark skinned foreigners while never looking to their own hypocrisy. These over-fed, plump, hyper-consumers and wasters fail to consider that each one of them consumes multiple times as much energy, food, materials, resources and services as those upon whom they focus their “concern”. Fat Man is correct, they never volunteer to go first. It is always someone else who must be sacrificed in order to please the aesthetics of the “Scientists”.
Note that those self-proclaimed “Scientists”, railing away against dark-skinned people, are racists simply because they are irrational. It is their irrationality that produces their racism (see, you were nearly there, you’d just put the cart before the horse). So, just as their racism is the product of irrationality so too their “science” is an artefact of their irrationality- it is shot through with irrationality. In other words it is nonsense.
By the way, it is irrational to be concerned about “overpopulation”. One may as well worry about the sky falling.
---
You write, "But I repeat that it is wrong to dismiss scientific concerns based on imagined ideological motivations."
You are not correct. It isn't wrong to dismiss "scientific" concerns where the ideological motivations that generated those concerns are correctly identified as erroneous, dishonest, disingenuous and false. Always remember the fact that science assumes an epistemology, morality and politics. In other words what you regard as science necessarily presupposes the philosophic system you employ. You bring your philosophy to your science. Consequently if your philosophy is in error, then your "scientific" conclusions will be suspect, compromised, likely well wrong.
---
Re the bet.
You are evading the heart of the matter. Julian Simon won his bet by understanding that the human mind is capable of providing sustainable on-going improvement in the living condition of human beings into the indefinite future. That fact has not altered. It was the point of the bet and exactly what Julian Simon wanted to illustrate. He succeeded and in so doing he also demonstrated that Erlich's belief structure was entirely wrong. That has not altered either. In today's context Julian Simon remains correct. There has been and continues to be wholesale improvement in life for many millions of people. Resources are available and can be extracted and exploited affordably where unfettered human ingenuity is allowed and able to be exercised. Where that expression is limited, restricted or worse, prevented, then to the extent that it is hindered living conditions will fail to improve and are likely to eventually decline.
Unfortunately there are those in the West who are fated to see their living conditions becoming more difficult (you number among them I’d wager). The reason lies not with depletion or peak whatchamakcallits, rather they lie within the ruling ideology and its expression in politics.
You write, "We've got nothing but ourselves to restrain us and we aren't going to restrain us. Solutions: I am not expecting any."
What sky-is-falling nonsense! You are well wrong in this charmless sentiment of Erlichian blind belief. Your denial of restraint does not mean that it does not exist. You have merely failed to recognise and identify it. Some humans already engage in restraint (or more correctly, they engage in imposing restraints and hindrances upon others). The trouble lies with what is being coercively restrained and hindered. It is a matter of gravest concern that the entrepreneurial productive human mind has not been allowed to develop improved means of providing goods, services, increases in well-being and increases in wealth as swiftly as those minds which seek to obstruct and hinder it have been allowed to coerce, impoverish, initiate force and destroy. That type of “restraint” extracts an enormous opportunity cost which I for one would rather not see paid. Still, I remain optimistic and encouraged by present occurrences. I fully expect to see exciting solutions to various challenges emerge to dominance within my lifetime. And that is all to the good.
Sione

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