So Wrong So Long

On January 1, “60 Minutes” featured a segment with Paul Ehrlich, who predicted that earth is headed straight for extinction. For Ehrlich, 90, this is not a new theme.

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” was the first line of his 1968 The Population Bomb. During the 1970s, the author contended, “hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” By 1979, Ehrlich prophesied, the oceans would be without life and by 1999 pesticides would reduce the population of the United States to 23 million. None of that happened, and it wasn’t even close. On Frontpage Magazine, David Harsanyi was all over it.

“Couldn’t ‘60 Minutes’ find a fresh-faced, yet-to-be-discredited neo-Malthusian to hyperventilate about the end of the world?” Harsanyi wondered. “Why didn’t producers invite a single guest to push back against theories that have been reliably debunked by reality?” Back in the day, Ehrlich got pushback from economist Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource

Humans innovate their way out of scarcity, Simon argued, by increasing the supply of natural resources or developing substitutes for resources. In 1980, Ehrlich bet Simon that the same quantities of copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten could be purchased for $1,000 ten years later at inflation-adjusted 1980 prices. In 1990, it turned out, the price of those metals had fallen by more than 50 percent. 

Ehrlich also thought it was even money that England would no longer exist in the year 2000, but at the dawn of 2023, England is still there. “Perhaps Ehrlich’s biggest mistake,” according to Harsanyi, “was living long enough to be proven wrong dozens of times.” That is good to know, but there’s more going on here than Ehrlich’s failures and media malpractice.

Though billed as a specialist in “population studies,” Ehrlich is in fact an entomologist, author of the thesis The Morphology, Phylogeny and Higher Classification of the Butterflies (Lepidoptera Papilionoidea). As Ehrlich confirms, there is no automatic transference of expertise from entomology to any other field. Prophecy is not science and holding a doctorate in anything is no guarantee of either accuracy or sensibility. 

William F. Buckley was on to this with the 1981 “Firing Line” program “Why Are Our Intellectuals so Dumb?” Intellectuals and academics, not always the same people, can be incredibly stupid. As Paul Ehrlich confirms, they can also be dangerous. 

If the problem is too many people, Ehrlich’s solution involves getting rid of existing people and preventing new people. As Harsanyi notes, in his 1977 Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, co-authored with future Obama science adviser John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich “toyed with the idea of adding sterilant to drinking water or staple foods and compelling abortions to save the world from human beings.”  

 Compelling abortions is the specialty of the People’s Republic of China, a Stalinist dictatorship. As The Black Book of Communism established, China also murdered more than 60 million people. Here’s how one of China’s American apologists explained it. 

While liberation turned the whole society towards socialism, the Cultural Revolution deepened and continued that process. Mutant social growths were identified and unceremoniously uprooted. And, the Chinese conclude, there will be more cultural revolutions in the future as their society moves along a socialist direction.

That was Stuart Dowty in China: People-Questions, published by the National Council of Churches (NCC) in 1975. Dowty is now listed as an attorney in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and chairman of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. If millions of human beings are only mutant social growths, that justifies their “unceremonious” elimination by the millions, and killing people before they are born. 

Abortion, once promoted as “safe, legal and rare,” is now openly celebrated in America, where the right to life is denied. Millions who survive pre-natal infanticide are now branded domestic terrorists, violent extremists, racists, and so forth. For all but the willfully blind, this is advance justification for deadly violence. 

As Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, some woke types are calling for the murder of people based solely on skin shade and group membership. William Kilpatrick flags an epidemic of sterility, and wonders if it might be linked to compulsory vaccination campaigns. In these dangerous conditions, “60 Minutes” showcases Paul Ehrlich, braying that the end is near. 

As Thomas Babington Macaulay wondered, “on what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?” That principle was best outlined by Hippolyte Taine, historian of the French Revolution:

Nothing is more dangerous than a general idea in narrow and empty minds: as they are empty, it finds no knowledge there to interfere with it; as they are narrow it is not long before it occupies the place entirely. Henceforth they no longer belong to themselves but are mastered by it; it works in them and through them, the man, in the true sense of the word, being possessed.

Paul Ehlich is possessed by the general idea that there are too many people in the world, and that renders his mind fact-proof. Truth is, there are too many people like Paul Ehrlich in the world, and too many fools willing to take him seriously. 

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

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