The Rational Optimist (P.S.)
Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and...more
Bjorn Lomborg is also not ideal. Scientific American has run several articles by several scientific specialists, claiming that in The Skeptical Environmentalist Lombord misrepresented scientific evidence and scientific opinion. The Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty has cited the book for fabrication of data, selective discarding of unwanted results, deliberately misleading use of statistical methods, and distorted interpretation of conclusions. If you're interested, there is a blog run by Kare Fog, a Danish biologist, that has been pointing out errors in The Skeptical Environmentalist page by page since 2004.
It's not an amazing source to use. Many media figures and politicians loved it especially after hearing years of unsettling talk from climate scientists, but scientists in general tended to be lukewarm when they weren't actively saying it was and example of a badly conducted science-shaped piece of work.
Incidentally, during the 60s and 70s there were 7 scientific studies predicting global cooling. There were 42 predicting global warming as a result of rising C02 emissions. James wasn't being dishonest at all.
I'm sure that legitimate skepticism of catastrophic, man made climate change exists, but a lot of the opposition to it seems to take the form of cynicism rather than skepticism, assuming the worst about a scientist's or a scientific group's motivations rather than the most likely conclusion. It's fine to be skeptical of science, especially when there are only a few studies - Big Tobacco funded several dozen studies saying that smoking was amazing for your lungs - but when there are several meta-studies incorporating thousands and thousands of individual studies each of which includes hundreds of pieces of data, experiments, observations, etc. are all pointing in the same general direction...well, it looks a bit cynical to say that all of those meta-studies must be wrong. (less)
But I started out skeptical. I’m fairly optimistic that in the long term humans are pretty good at ratcheting up to a better future, but my gut reaction to the wide array of problems facing today’s civilization is that the cumulative effect might trigger a global “reset button” handing us a new Dark Age, relatively speaking, ...more
Review in Short: An insightful, if often crude and narrow, defense of how trade and greater specialization will continue to fuel humanity's progress toward higher living standards and greater human dignity for all.
This book definitely has its moments. The book is the outcome of one of its own ideas -- "idea sex" -- many ideas come together to mingle in this book. And, I believe that many of the ideas are clearly presented and poignant. There are many fine details that the author ...more
I loved the book.
I should point out where I read the book, because context is important in this case. I was in Berlin. My hotel room was about 50 meters away from Checkpoint Charlie the central point of the cold war. I was within 2 minutes the remains of a train station where thousands of Jews were sent to their death. I was near the remains of the Berlin wall built to ...more
Though he's right about human progress over centuries, the book would have been laughed off the market had it appeared in a period like that after World War II, when tens of millions had ...more
I found it particularly offensive and hypocritical that she took Ridley to task for his tone, calling it “blithe and pompous” in the midst of a review which was itself sarcastic, insulting, smugly self-congratulatory, and just plain vulgar. Certainly, Ridley can be sarcastic, and I consider that a blemish on his otherwise excellent writing. However, if Grant is going to ...more
And to make up for it, I will be generous and rate it 5/5. This is a slightly counter-intuitive book that argues for a bright, prosperous future of humanity despite climate change, despite clueless politicians, despite human nature itself and ofcourse despite the Left-liberals :) And religious radicalism doesnt even get a ...more
The premise is that human culture is very adept at innovating and solving problems; as such, the author believes that, despite the pessimism of most people, one can very rationally feel quite optimistic over the future of humanity. We will find solutions to climate change and the other great problems that our species faces.
I am sympathetic to this argument and I thought that ...more
Like he pointed out that the costs of buying food produced and grown from afar is less costly than getting similar produces that are grown nearby. That's fine. I can accept that. But then a few sentences down the line I found ...more
I will not comment any further. Here's some insightful background about the author :
Free trade, cheap energy, and specialization are the things that help grow civilizations. Science is not the cause ...more
Perhaps these organizations saw a kindred soul in someone who was demonstrably wrong in the past (in this case, part of the “management” of a bank that went bust) and, possessing an endless supply of gaseous self-confidence, just keeps insisting that the disaster was not his fault and the rest of the world could still profit from adopting his entire world-view. ...more
What's more, like Ridley I am convinced that humans are safer and freer today than we ever were. And whenever people yearn for "the good old days," I cringe.Even the "good old days" of the 50's were horrific for African ...more
Ridley takes the reader on a journey from the beginnings of mankind through the present to our future as a species. The prognosis: A) We have much to be thankful for today, and B) the future may not be as bleak as we believe, in spite of climate change and other impending problems.
Here's the gist: over time, humanity has managed to capitalize on specialization, trade and the cross-breeding of ideas ...more
It's not that I don't believe things are getting better, ...more
When human beings were all still hunter-gatherers, each needed about 1000 hectares of land to support him or her. Now thanks to modern farming each needs little more than a tenth of a hectare. Since 1900 the world has increased its ...more
But, on the other hand, this is also a radical, ultra-liberal pamphlet. Ridley glorifies in one-sided ...more
Drawing on history, anthropology, science and statistics, Ridley makes some strong points for specialisation, free trade, innovation, development and improved standard of living. He provides utmost weight to specialisation and presents it as the primary cause of human domination and evolution. He dismisses any kind of top down influence as parasitical and believes in free trade. He ...more