Surprise: The Smartest People in the World are Actually Painfully Stupid

If you were lucky enough to attend America’s premier academic institution, Harvard University, you would receive most days, as I do, the Harvard Gazette. The Gazette generally cloaks its pieces in the mantle of “news”; but really its principal function is to find ways for us Harvard people to congratulate ourselves on how brilliant we are, while at the same time heaping scorn and derision on the the ignorant deplorables who are always getting in the way of our plans to perfect the world.

You only need to read a few of these things before you start to realize that what might seem like the very “smartest” people — the ones with the fanciest degrees and the fanciest professorships at the fanciest universities — are actually painfully stupid.

Anyway, today’s Harvard Gazette arrives with some joyful news: Science is back! After four dreadful years of the “anti-science” Trump, we are now going to see, with Biden, the restoration of “science” to its rightful place in the formulation of public policy. This news is right there in the lead story, headline and sub-headline: “Is science back? Harvard’s Holdren says ‘yes’/Ex-Obama adviser says, unlike Trump, Biden and Harris will embrace factual analysis.” From the first paragraph:

[T]he incoming Biden-Harris administration has moved quickly to reinstall science as a foundation for government policy after four years of a president who disdained accepted scientific wisdom on subjects from wildfires to hurricane tracks, climate change to COVID-19.

The Gazette has learned that “science is back” by their usual method, which is by interviewing the leading Harvard professor on the subject. In this case that is John Holdren. Do you remember him? Holdren’s current title is “Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and professor of environmental science and policy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.”

But before that he was “[A]ssistant to the [P]resident for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy,” a position in which he served for the entire eight years of the Obama presidency. You may remember that Holdren was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in March 2009, after minimal scrutiny of his background.

So give us an example, John, of how a Biden administration will prove to be more “pro-science” than that deplorable Trump:

GAZETTEWhat is an example of a classic, successful government policy backed by good science? . . . .

HOLDREN: I would point to the Paris Agreement, which was an immense step forward in which 195 countries all across the world committed to take constructive steps toward reducing their climate-altering emissions going forward. . . .

Now, as anyone who has read the Paris Agreement knows, the entire developing world — home to about 90% of the world’s people — made no commitments whatsoever in that document, nor did they even agree to any non-binding goals, toward “reducing their climate-altering emissions going forward.” Emissions from the developing world are rapidly increasing, and will continue to do so, Paris Agreement or no Paris Agreement, thus rendering any U.S. efforts to limit emissions completely futile. Holdren is either completely ignorant on this subject, or he is intentionally trying to mislead the readership. Or it could be some of both. You be the judge.

And by the way, might Holdren have some conflict of interest here that may be relevant? None is disclosed as such in the article. But you might happen to recognize that the funder of Holdren’s Harvard professorship, Teresa Heinz, is the wife of John Kerry. Kerry, of course, is the former Secretary of State who was in charge of negotiating the Paris Agreement, and who more recently co-chaired the panel that drafted the Biden energy program, and who undoubtedly is expecting some big position in an incoming Biden administration. But don’t worry, conflicts only apply to Republicans, so there is no need to mention any of this.

Anyway, if you think that John Holdren might be an appropriate person to weigh in on issues of the role of “science” in public policy, you may want to consider some of the man’s previous writings on the subject.

For example, in 1977 Holdren co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich a textbook titled “Ecoscience.” We know that “Ecoscience” was about “science,” because it’s right there in the title; therefore we can be secure in understanding that this is a good place to look for Holdren’s views as to what using “science as a foundation for public policy” will entail. A principal theme of the book is that overpopulation is about to engulf the world (“science” has shown it!) and therefore governments are justified, and indeed required, to take the most extreme possible measures to prevent the impending disaster. In 2009, shortly after Holdren’s confirmation as Obama’s “science” advisor, a website called Zombietime collected a top-ten list of quotations from “Ecoscience.” Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Involuntary fertility control. . . . A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men. The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control. The capsule could be implanted at puberty and might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.
  • If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility—just as they can be required to exercise responsibility in their resource-consumption patterns—providing they are not denied equal protection.
  • In today’s world, however, the number of children in a family is a matter of profound public concern. The law regulates other highly personal matters. For example, no one may lawfully have more than one spouse at a time. Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?
  • Toward a Planetary Regime. . . . Perhaps those agencies, combined with UNEP and the United Nations population agencies, might eventually be developed into a Planetary Regime—sort of an international superagency for population, resources, and environment. Such a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable, at least insofar as international implications exist. . . . The Regime might also be a logical central agency for regulating all international trade, perhaps including assistance from DCs to LDCs, and including all food on the international market. The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries’ shares within their regional limits.

Now that I think of it, “painfully stupid” barely begins to describe the opinions of this man. Maybe we should go with “moral monster.” Or you could try another book that Holdren co-authored with the Ehrlichs — “Human Ecology,” from 1973. In 2014 the website CFACT compiled a collection of choice quotes from this one. Again, I’ll give you just a few of my favorites:

  • There is good reason to believe that population growth increases the probability of a lethal worldwide plague and of a thermonuclear war. Either could provide a catastrophic “death-rate solution” to the population problem; each is potentially capable of destroying civilization and even of driving Homo sapiens to extinction. . . . Perhaps more likely than extinction is the possibility that man will sur¬vive only to endure an existence barely recognizable as human-malnourished, beset by chronic disease, physically and emotionally impoverished, sur¬rounded by the devastation wrought by an industrial civilization that could not cope with the results of its own biological and social folly.
  • Political pressure must be applied immediately to induce the United States government to assume its responsibility to halt the growth of the Ameri¬can population. Once growth is halted, the government should undertake to influence the birth rate so that the population is reduced to an optimum size and maintained there.
  • A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environ¬ment in North America and to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.

In another post, this one from 2009, CFACT noted that Holdren had also managed to take alarmist positions on climate change both in warning about global warming and also about global cooling — and that he had managed to take both positions simultaneously. CFACT concluded:

Holdren is a “doom peddler” who latches onto the nightmare-scenario-du-jour — overpopulation, nuclear holocaust, global cooling, global warming (all of which he’s trumpeted at various points in his career) — and then wildly exaggerates it in order to scare the public into adopting his politicized “solutions.”

Or, to put it another way, “science is back”! De-develop the United States? Forced population control? A “planetary regime” to control all “resources”? The “science” requires it! All the “smart” people from Harvard know that. You can understand why Holdren is excited about a Biden presidency. Are you?

Francis Menton, Manhattan Contrarian

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