OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2019

Aug 1, 2019

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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20 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION AUGUST 2019

  • The August open discussion thread is now open.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

    The mods Report abuse

  • Seems appropriate to bring the subject of human population density on planet Earth to the fore.  The challenges we humans face with our global warming world are most certainly exacerbated by the elephant in the room issue that rarely makes the headlines, human population expansion.  We add over 150,000 or more humans to the Earth every single day and the pressures on food availability and land degradation are multiplied accordingly.  I will include a link with some data on the issue.  Our impact at present levels are evident but it is hard to comprehend a planet with over 10 billion which is the projection within the next 100 years, if not sooner.

    http://worldpopulationreview.com/

     

     

     

      Report abuse

  • Hi Aroundtown [#2],

    Your comment is bob-on.

    Of course global climate change and overpopulation are on a collision course.

    That means the only way for the vast majority of humans to really switch on to both problems is for the available land for cultivation and the number of mouths it can feed to cross.

    “Ah” I hear you say “but that must be centuries off”.  Bear with me.

    Climate change will, at a rate that is exponential, reduce the amount of land for cultivation.  At first sight this doesn’t seem important, but many people miss three crucial points:

    1. Human beings, even scientists, often fail to understand the so-called hockey stick effect of natural growth curves – and both of our datums are rapidly approaching the hockey stick ‘elbow’.

    2. Many people – even those involved in environment-watching – fail to notice some of the root causes of accelerating climate change – the Russian Taiga deforestation still comes a long way down the list of environmental concerns.  By the way, am I the only regular visitor here to have noticed that Siberia is on fire?  1.6 million hectares destroyed, the last time I looked.  One of the biggest environmental disasters of the last 50 years.

    3. This means that our weather is going to get weirder.  It doesn’t have to get hotter to reduce a food crop to fertilizer – without direct human intervention – it can happen with wind, drought, precipitation out of season, early frosts … ask any farmer.

    I’m not a scientist.  Perhaps I’m overly pessimistic?  It seems to me highly likely that the only way billions of human beings will learn about over-population is dying before they can reproduce – the very essence of a failing species.  I am increasingly of the opinion that it will happen in my Daughter’s lifetime – and she’s 25.

    Peace.

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  • Aroundtown #2 and Stephen of Wimbledon #3:  If you haven’t already read it, I recommend Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.  Chapter 7 deals with overpopulation, and chapter 10 with environmental issues.  As Pinker says, we should not pretend that all the trends are positive or that the problems are minor, but problems are solvable and voices of reason and science are being heard.

    I think Pinker makes a good argument that as the ideas of the Enlightenment become stronger, there is reason to be optimistic, not Pollyannaish, but optimistic.  Barring some cataclysmic event, science and reason will prevail.  The age of Enlightenment began in the 1700s and, despite some obvious downturns, society has been on an upward trajectory since that time.  Whether it be life expectancy, health, wealth, inequality, education, just to name a few issues, conditions are better today than just a few centuries, even decades, ago.  Secularization continues to gain momentum and people, especially young people, are loudly demanding rational environmental and other social policies.  I think we need to keep a grip on ourselves and do everything we can to support science, reason, and progress. Report abuse

  • I appreciate the fact that I am not alone in expressing concern for our collective plight.  I tend to gravitate towards Stephen of Wimbeldon’s pessimistic glass is half empty proclamation as it applies to our probable outcome generally but I continue to see some reason for optimism for action as expressed by Michael 100 that we might see the collective error of our ways and act, but the tide is shifting lower for me as time passes.

     I will include a link to a recent article taken from a more extended essay (that which is findable within the post) that sums up her outlook for our trajectory, it is scary but enlightening as well.  Seems like many years ago now but a poster here, Sara, once schooled me on the adherence and value of hope, I still remember the lesson and try to retain “hope” we might have a collective awakening.  As stated though, I am tending to gravitate toward the pessimistic as regards those who have the levers of power at their disposal, let us “hope” they can awaken before all is lost.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/facing-extinction-humans-animals-plants-species_n_5d2ddc04e4b0a873f6420bd3

  • I appreciate the fact that I am not alone in expressing concern for our collective plight.  I tend to gravitate towards Stephen of Wimbeldon’s pessimistic glass is half empty proclamation as it applies to our probable outcome generally but I continue to see some reason for optimism for action as expressed by Michael 100 that we might see the collective error of our ways and act, but the tide is shifting lower for me as time passes.

    I will include a link to a recent article taken from a more extended essay (that which is findable within the post) that sums up her outlook for our trajectory, it is scary but enlightening as well.  Seems like many years ago now but a poster here, Sara, once schooled me on the adherence and value of hope, I still remember the lesson and try to retain “hope” we might have a collective awakening.  As stated though, I am tending to gravitate toward the pessimistic as regards those who have the levers of power at their disposal, let us “hope” they can awaken before all is lost.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/facing-extinction-humans-animals-plants-species_n_5d2ddc04e4b0a873f6420bd3

  • Over-population.

    To fix this you need first and foremost to lift people out of poverty. It also is how mass migration, the primary political threat we will face first, is ameliorated.

    Fertility rates and migration are glued to our prospects. Report abuse

  • Phil #7

    That is such an important point.

    It is also what makes it so ironic that, on the whole, the people who rage most about immigration are also the very ones who rage most about the International Development budget.

    If for some weird reason a country really is determined to reduce immigration, and all the economic and cultural benefits it brings, then the very best way to achieve that is to invest heavily in developing countries and stop dropping bombs on them (or supplying the bombs for other countries to drop). Report abuse

  • It is quite possibly the single most useful investment we can make. People are made happy and change their behaviours when they can see visible progress in their family’s state year on year.

    Nor should we be panicking that this will add to the eco load on the planet. The point, is if we intervene and choose the nature of our help, and become a little more dirigiste about it, it can become the spearhead of sustainable living.

    It is 50% cheaper to install electricity from solar and battery than from off grid in Africa and India, say. Rammed earth is a fantastic and near zero eco impact building method, that needs no significant infrastructure of energy supply and transportation. Local sewage and water treatment using bio-reactors and algae, can reduce water consumption, generate green gas for nighttime power, produce potable water, all from solar and entirely scalable and off-grid.

    Africa is the biggest challenge, with 400% population growth scheduled by 2100. This could possibly be brought down to 200% if enough folk could be lifted out of comparative poverty within the next generation. Total fertility rates can drop very rapidly when folk are optimistic about their prospects. They make smarter decisions. Rather than investing in their old age with extra biddable kids, they invest in their kids and their kids….

     

    Governments can use big companies (Laing, Balfour Beaty, Skanska and lesser like Arup) to do this with the proviso that only eco techniques are employed. This develops their skills and produces exemplar installations and processes. These companies are astonishingly gung-ho for eco (in my personal experience) but get trapped into conservatism by simple commercial pressures and in the absence of elevating standards. They will love it and it will help deal increasingly with market conservatism.

     

    Neo-classical economic thinking gets thrown out of the window in war-time. We come more to our senses, rediscover what the Tiger Economies of the Pacific Rim discovered, capitalism coupled with a little dirigisme can deliver joined up policy to meet the demands of an urgent problem. Our current economic loyalties are to system that will work much better in a fairer world, yet to arrive. Until then it is gamed by the winners to further win. With the consequence that the great mass of losers become the source of all the instability that may terminate the entire game.

    Discouraging the wasteful investment of money into merely tricking wealth out of the other players, in favour of investing long-term in wealth creation with tax incentives, can be the means to better helping ourselves close on sustainable living. Developing nations, invested-in through tax incentives for eco system provision provided by our own builders, developing their eco skills, can reward everyone. Report abuse

  • Marco,

     

    It does seem that right wing thinking is mostly for the here and now with a future sub-contracted as often as not to some external supernatural agency.

    Left wing thinking more often, it seems to me, imagines a tomorrow, and, at its best, a distant other that needs due consideration also.

    Bo Jo and his cohort of Catastrophe Capitalists will not invest if it means others will gain also. They will cut off our noses to spite all our faces. Report abuse

  • Phil #13

    It was entirely foreseeable, even before the referendum. You only needed to see what else just about every single one of the loudest pro-Brexit voices had advocated over the years to see that Brexit was always going to be nothing more than the (from their point of view) necessary clearing away of the rights and responsibilities that stood in the way of the corporate haven, tiny state, billionaire wet-dream they were so determined to achieve.

    On a slightly different note, though, quite a few of us are now pushing back against the cosy nicknames for Boris Johnson. Terms like Boris, BoJo, #BunglingBoris etc all help mask the real menace of the man. He is not our friend, he is not some bumbling clown, he is not a good bloke at heart, he is not a joke: he is someone who, wholly unsuited for the post of PM, has nonetheless acquired it through decades of sheer hard-nosed, hard-headed, self-serving determination and will continue to be utterly ruthless in his pursuit of what will serve him and his cronies best. Jokey nicknames are misplaced. Report abuse

  • It was indeed entirely foreseeable. A year ago some Brexit spokesman on food made it perfectly clear that he expected the demise of several British food producers as cheap American produce is imported in the interests of “choice”.

    Reassurances remain empty and the naked business interests of the various players are shamelessly on show per the Stephen Fry video I posted a while back.

    I completely agree Johnson must not be portrayed as cuddly in any sense. In my mind, BoJo was the Heath Ledger Joker (we need some photoshop now). Pending that simply Johnson has a chill to it (thanks Lyndon) whilst being a dick. Report abuse

  • Hi,

    I found that the most effective way to find errors in my beliefs is to double check everything I can, in the most stupid and automatic way. By stupid I mean, check without debating if I should check or not even if I’m 100% sure, and even if I have already a lot of good evidence evidence that I’m true.

    For some context, this behavior come from my programming computer experience, and assume nothing is the only correct way to correct bugs in programs, because most of bugs lies on an implied assumption being false.

    And I have a lot of evidence, that it works very well. A lot of case where I used it I found mistake.

    I assumed this attitude was uncommon even in the skeptic community. and estimate that 1% of the population did it.

    And I double check this assumption. I made a search on “systematic doubt” and similar term. And found literally nothing. So it is very likely that my estimation of 1% is a huge underestimate that this method is unknown. As such this is a kind of meta discover and one additional proof that my method has some success. (But I don’t pretend that other method are more successful).

    Fun point, “systematic doubt” on google give “Cartesian doubt” which is a philosophical position which says that doubting is a way to reach knowledge, but it seems, that very few speaking use it in the same literal meaning than me.

    PS: I read the comment policy, and the “Do not be rude.” is relevant to by usual behavior. Despite all effort I do, when I have a debate with any one, I’m systematically perceived as rude. One part of the reason is that I typically say: I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation. But I have no idea how to change my way to debate and I tried a lot.
    So I’m in a high risk of breaking the “do not be rude” rules here. My decision is that I will do my best just not enter in a debate here. But if at any point, if someone say that my attitude is rude on this site, I will simply stop to post, to not break the rules more than once. Report abuse

  • Xavier Combelle  #17

    Welcome to RDFRS!

    Examining one’s assumptions is a very good habit to get into. And it is something we all need to be reminded to do, because our evolution has apparently predisposed us to favor what we think we already know. The scientific method, with its insistence on testing ideas against evidence and logic, has helped to make us wiser by calling into question the foundations of our beliefs about the world. Philosophers, especially the more skeptical kind, have played a similar role in the past, and I can readily appreciate the same rigor of thought being necessary in computer programming.

    You mention the problem of being perceived as rude. If you are inclined, as you seem to be, to express your views in a straightforwardly fact-based and well-reasoned manner, you are not likely to have any such trouble here. The kind of rudeness that is particularly not favored here is that which expresses personal disrespect or malice towards one or more other participants on the site. Merely disagreeing with someone, however, is never rude or offensive. Report abuse

  • Xavier Combelle says:

    Despite all effort I do, when I have a debate with any one, I’m systematically perceived as rude.

    One part of the reason is that I typically say: I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation. But I have no idea how to change my way to debate and I tried a lot.

    I think there is a need to distinguish between being politely critical and perhaps brutally honest, and simply being abusive.

    There will always be those  holding ridiculously ignorant and irrational views, who will play the “offended card”, when their nonsensical or bigoted claims, are debunked.

    This is particularly prevalent among science deniers who have acquired (pseudo) “expertise” at pseudoscience sites, and although they could not pass a relevant school science exam in that particular science, feel fully qualified to pose with airs of superiority, as they offer laughable  contradictions to whole teams of university experts, or top scientific bodies!

    I think that you are wrong on this point, and very often with evidence of my affirmation.

    Such people are often unimpressed with scientific evidence, because their concept of “evidence” and “reason”, is engaging in mental contortions, confirming their preconceptions, while they frequently expect to impress opponents with the false authority of self-awarded badges of “logic”, “evidence” and “reason”, which they have simply asserted will support their fanciful arguments.

    They do this with sincerity, because they have been coached in fundamentalist irrationality, so their standards of education are so abysmal, that they literally don’t understand what the processes of scientific methodology and reasoning are!

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