Wrong Wrong Wrong


Wrong Wrong Wrong

I have written often of so called experts who have been proven wrong, time after time, but still are called upon to espouse their theories as if they are correct. The most famous, and recently on TV (60 Minutes) is Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich who famously predicted in 1968 that within 10 years millions would be starving to death and the world would descend into chaos.

We are now 50 years later, and the wizards on 60 minutes are interviewing Ehrlich and he is saying the same thing. Are we to believe him now, even after being proven wrong decades ago?

In his book, the Skeptics’ Guide to the Future, Dr Steven Novella and his brothers, Bob and Jay, discusses in detail how futurists can be wrong, and why. I strongly recommend it to you. They point out that most predictions that are possible, simply don’t happen due to time and cultural constraints. Predictions that are based on specifics, and based on exact time frames, and typically always wrong. General predictions, like those of Scifi writer Isaac Asimov can be correct in the macro, but still have a ways to go in the micro, or vice versa.

In the transportation business, we have seen time after time, that predictions are wrong. Where are those self driving cars we were told would be on the road by 2020, or was it 2015. Will solar and wind power replace natural gas and nuclear? Experience in Germany, Switzerland, and the UK seem to be flying in the face of that prediction. Polar ice disappearing, The Glaciers on Kilimanjaro,  the increase in Hurricanes, what about those pesky polar bears, all based on predicted climate change and all wrong.

My rule is look out the window. Granted we have a drought here in California. And a few rainstorms don’t end it. However its raining like hell outside now and has been for a few weeks. It may not be time to build the ark, but please, let’s have a tad of reality here.

I’m asking that those of you who believe I’m wrong, and I know there are a few out there, please send me the proof. I’m happy to print it and eat whatever crow is served. Ehrlich has admitted that even if the facts in his book were wrong, the general theme was correct and by instilling panic in civilization, he was getting people to think about the problem, even if it doesn’t’ exist yet, if at all. (The world’s population is leveling off, and predicted to decrease in the next 100 years.)

Star Trek buffs read on. Novella points out that of all the gadgets Kirk and Co used on the Enterprise, the only one  that has come to fruition is the cell phone, that is a hand held computer/tricorder. The vast majority of others, including the transporter, food synthesizer, shields, phasers, and intersteller travel itself all have technical issues most dealing with the vast amounts of energy needed that make them bordering on impossible. I know, I know – there are tons of laws of physics lurking just around the discovery corner and when they are, we will  “Go where no one has gone before.”


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. In 1977 my high school science class attended a lecture at the Seattle Science Center. An erudite and famous mathematician presented his thesis on how he used calculus to measure how much oil remains under the earth’s surface. His predictions were dire…the world will run out of fossil fuel within 10 years. Naturally we were alarmed as we had no reason to doubt him. He sounded academic and authoritative. And math doesn’t lie right?

    Fast forward decades and of course his cataclysmic predictions did not come to fruition. True science is always a battle of dueling opinions.

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