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HomeIllinois NewsRidings: The danger in mistaking "respected crackpot" for "scientist"

Ridings: The danger in mistaking “respected crackpot” for “scientist”



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By Jim Ridings - 

In the early 1900s, the leading medical experts came up with a cure for tuberculosis. The experts put patients outdoors in tents, in sub-zero winter conditions and in blazing hot summer weather. The “tent colony” in Ottawa, Illinois, was in the forefront of this scientific breakthrough.

Needless to say, this did nothing to help their lungs or to cure the then-incurable disease. But it was science.

The people who say we “must follow science” in combatting Covid-19 are well-intentioned. But we know where the path of good intentions leads.

The predictions on Covid-19 have been almost all wrong. We do not have 2 to 4 million dead people in America, and the health care workers and grocery store clerks who come in contact with hundreds of people daily are not dropping dead.

The problem, as Ronald Reagan once said, “It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.”

The “experts” who want us to accept their words as absolute truth simply do not know what they are talking about, and they are not honest enough to admit it – even though they want us to follow their every inaccurate dictate.

The Covid-19 statistics make no impression on these experts. The virus has a 99.6 percent survival rate. The infection/fatality ratio for people under the age of 19 is .00003 percent. The ratio goes up slightly for each age group, to the highest group of ages 70 and above at .054 percent. And the vast majority of deaths ascribed to Covid are people in their 80s and 90s who had other life-threatening conditions.

The Ottawa Tent Colony isn’t the only example of bad science put into practice.

George Washington got sick in cold, damp weather on December 12, 1799. It is believed he had what is commonly known as the croup (an inflammation of the glottis) or a streptococcic infection. Doctors were called and they used an accepted medical procedure: bleeding a patient. That was science. They drained 40 percent of the blood from his body. Washington was dead within two days.

President James A. Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881. The bullets didn’t kill him, an infection caused by his doctors did. The bullet lodged in Garfield’s abdomen. Doctors probed the wound with unsterilized fingers and instruments. They couldn’t find the bullet but they kept going in again and again. His weight dropped from 210 pounds to 130 pounds before he died on September 19 of an infection known as sepsis.

The assassin, Charles Guiteau, said, “The doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him.”

President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist on September 6, 1901. One bullet penetrated his abdomen. Doctors decided to operate to remove the bullet. McKinley died on September 14 of gangrene.

Washington, Garfield and McKinley were treated with accepted “science.”

I am not slamming science. I am merely citing what has been accepted scientific facts in previous years. I support facts and truth.  I support science when it is based in fact and truth.

The scientific treatment of tubercular patients came much later in the form of antibiotics. Science is so much better when it is factual and true.

It is always better when the “scientific experts” know the truth before they speak.

In the May 2000 issue of Reason Magazine, award-winning science writer Ronald Bailey wrote an article for the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. Bailey wrote, “The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong.” Here are a few examples from his article.

Harvard biologist George Wald said in 1970 that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine condition. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

Life magazine predicted in January 1970, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution. By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”

Denis Hayes, an organizer of Earth Day, wrote in the spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness, “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.” Known crackpot Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.

Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time magazine, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” Watt added, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate that there won’t be any more crude oil.” Watt also warned about a coming Ice Age: “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, wrote in 1970 in Scientific American that the world would run out of copper shortly after 2000, and lead, zinc, tin, gold and silver would be gone before 1990. Senator Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look magazine in 1970, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

We were supposed to believe these people in 1970. And we are supposed to believe them today.

Oh, and don’t forget Al Gore, who has said the world will die in five years – he has been saying that for 30 years.

Today’s scientific community is filled with modern day experts who talk and talk and say nothing. Professor Paul Ehrlich has been one of these experts for more than 50 years.

I am going to coin a new term today – "Respected Crackpot." "Respected" by the liberal community (the only people whose thoughts and opinions count) and a "crackpot" because most of what they say is wrong (but that is all right with the liberal community because their intentions are good).

Ehrlich said in the April 1970 issue of Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100 to 200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

In 1969, Ehrlich wrote, “By 1975, some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” For Earth Day 1970, Ehrlich wrote in The Progressive that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

Ehrlich predicted in 1970 that “air pollution is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich said 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles. Ehrlich wrote in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” He said Americans born since 1946 now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and life expectancy would sink to 42 years by 1980.

Ehrlich in 1970: “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish." In 1971, he predicted, "By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people. If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." In 1975, Ehrlich said, “Since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”

There is another saying, something to the effect of, “I would rather argue with an ignorant man than an intellectual because an ignorant man can always be shown he is wrong; an intellectual cannot.”

You would think that Ehrlich would have learned after more than 50 years of failure. But, unlike the ignorant man who can be shown he was wrong, an intellectual can never be corrected. Ehrlich has doubled down on his most radical predictions.

And, of course, as with all leftists, whether the subject is population, climate, economics or whatever – it all comes down to blaming capitalism and advocating communism.

In a 2018 interview with Climate One, Ehrlich got around to wealth redistribution as a solution.

“I know, as every scientist knows, perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell, it can't occur. And that equity is going to require redistribution. You cannot get eight billion people, which is where we’re going to be very soon, all living like the Koch brothers.  It just can't be done. So we obviously need redistribution.”

No, Mr. Ehrlich, the problem is not too much capitalism, it is too little capitalism. It is capitalism that has built the highest standard of living wherever it has been tried. It is communism that has degraded and impoverished people everywhere it has been tried.

Thomas A. Firey, a Maryland Public Policy Institute senior fellow, wrote in a 2018 article in the Herald-Mail about Professor Julian Simon’s challenge to Ehrlich in 1980. Simon told Ehrlich to select one or more specific raw materials that he believed would grow scarcer in the coming years, as his book predicted. Ehrlich was to set a time period in which that scarcity would happen. Simon and Ehrlich would compare the inflation-adjusted prices of the materials at the end of the period to the prices at the beginning. If the prices increased over time, it would show greater scarcity and Simon would pay Ehrlich the difference. But if the price decreased, that would show less scarcity and Ehrlich would pay Simon the difference. “They used inflation-adjusted prices because general inflation is the product of central banks manipulating the value of money, and is unrelated to scarcity,” Firey wrote.

“Ehrlich accepted the wager. He chose five metals—chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten—and a 10-year time period, ending September 29, 1990. At the end of the period, the inflation-adjusted price of all five materials had fallen, even as the world’s population grew by almost 20 percent to 5.3 billion. Ehrlich sent Simon a check for $576.07.”

“What went wrong with the Ehrlichs’ predictions? Their greatest mistake is that they didn’t appreciate the power of human innovation under economic incentives. As a resource grows scarce and its price rises, there is strong incentive to find new supplies, to economize on the resource’s use, and to find substitutes for it. That’s why the prices of natural resources like oil tend to move in cycles, with a period of high prices sparking exploration and innovation, which then leads to lower prices,” said Firey. “Ehrlich’s lost wager underscores the power of human ingenuity, including its ability to meet environmental and resource challenges. For policymakers and political activists, this tale should highlight the benefits of harnessing that power with economic incentives rather than crushing it under government dictates. And it should dampen the temptation to make further predictions of humanity’s doom on a barren, depleted earth.”

Writer Mark J. Perry quoted Ronald Bailey’s 2000 prediction that when Earth Day 60 comes in 2030, we will have “a much cleaner and much richer world, with less hunger and malnutrition, less poverty, and longer life expectancy, and with lower mineral and metal prices” – even though, he added, “There will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future, and the present, never looked so bleak. In other words, the hype, hysteria and spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions will continue, promoted by the environmental grievance hustlers.”

Not all “scientists” agree on the assessments about Covid. Dr. Scott Atlas, a White House coronavirus task force member and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said the claim that 90 percent of the population is susceptible to the virus is untrue because many people have T-cell immunity as well as antibodies. "It explains a lot about perhaps why children have very, very low risk from this, and explains perhaps why people in Asia didn’t have as much of a problem because they had prior coronavirus exposure," Atlas said. "We are not all susceptible to the infection, it looks very likely that at least three times that number of people [who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies] have immunity and perhaps even more.  It depends when you do the antibody tests, because it’s transient."

"This is a failure of the public health officials who have not come forward with all the knowledge that we have learned. The data is out there, and we don’t all have to be paralyzed with fear. We have to do very, very diligent protection of the people who are vulnerable, and those are usually older people with other comorbidities, and we need to open because we know the harms of not opening,” Dr. Atlas said.

If the doctors and scientists disagree, then how do we know what is true and what is false? With so many false positives, and the deaths of so many elderly wrongly attributed to Covid, how can there be such a thing as a positivity rate? How can anything be called “science” if it is not true?

The declarations of the “scientists” should not be taken as gospel. The modern day Ehrlichs – who are politicians, not just doctors – want us to give up our freedoms and ruin countless businesses and put tens of millions of Americans out of work because of “facts” about a virus with a 99.6 percent survival rate.

Does this make any more sense than anything Paul Ehrlich has said?


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  1. The problem is when Republicans are in power they never actually defund these people. Their employers are primarily universities and publicly funded research or “health” regulatory institutions. A months or even years long government shutdown is worth defunding these institutions in the budget.