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The Peculiar Blindness of Experts

Original Article

Posted By: DVC, 5/19/2019 10:45:37 AM

he bet was on, and it was over the fate of humanity. On one side was the Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In his 1968 best seller, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich insisted that it was too late to prevent a doomsday apocalypse resulting from overpopulation. Resource shortages would cause hundreds of millions of starvation deaths within a decade. It was cold, hard math: The human population was growing exponentially; the food supply was not. Ehrlich was an accomplished butterfly specialist. He knew that nature did not regulate animal populations delicately. Populations exploded, blowing past the available resources, and then crashed. In his book, Ehrlich played out hypothetical scenarios

Comments:

I normally am extremely suspect of The Atlantic, often a launching pad for ridiculous screeds. This is a good commentary, a lot of truth. Of course, any tiem Paul Ehrlich is show for the fool and incompetent that he is, it is a good thing. I have always had a wide bandwidth myself, and frequently been appalled at how ignorant some folks with a lot of knowledge in a narrow field are about the real world, and other things. I call it wide bandwidth, he calls them 'foxes'. But we agree.

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Reply 1 - Posted by: snapper451 5/19/2019 11:03:05 AM (No. 67243)
I was young stupid and Democrat back in the 70's and after listening to and reading Ehrlich's book and predictions my wife and I decided to only have two children and then I had a vasectomy. No regrets, we are blessed with wonderful daughters and their families and our grandchildren. Perfect example of don't believe every crisis. I am now closer to 70 than 60 and watch things like Global Warming, Y2K, Save the Whales, etc. with great suspicion. What concerns me most about the Green movement is that it is all about controlling other peoples lives and power. Not a good thing.
8 people like this.

Reply 2 - Posted by: The Other Guy 5/19/2019 11:05:52 AM (No. 67244)
I read somewhere that an expert is defined as someone who knows more and more a bout less and less, who eventually knows everything about nothing.
9 people like this.

Reply 3 - Posted by: jacksin5 5/19/2019 11:20:46 AM (No. 67251)
What I find amazing is that no matter how much these so-called "Experts" pet theories are debunked, the MSM ignores their past faulty predictions, and seek out their opinions like they were the Oracles of Delphi.
13 people like this.

Reply 4 - Posted by: Nevadadad46 5/19/2019 11:26:24 AM (No. 67254)
I was an electronics expert, and Metallurgist in the early 70's. I looked at the idea of portable phones and declared loudly to anyone who would listen: "This is a stupid idea- it will never work! they would have to build transmission towers in every neighborhood!" I also predicted the home computer would be an absolute impossibility- they would be too large and way too expensive! My computer at work, which had the equivalent computing power of a modern wrist watch, had cost our company a half million bucks and took up two rooms and was operated by six highly paid technicians! I read an article in Popular mechanics about a global satellite navigation system: "What a crock of hooey!" I declared in public. Satellites are moving, the planet is moving! There is no way they could ever be made large enough to hold the computer needed to compensate for all that! Besides, you would need a satellite dish the size of a house to receive the signals! It will never work!" See? I was a scientist once...and what good did it do me? Alarmingly, I absolutely do not believe in Global Warming or CO-2 - "It's not science! It's bologna!"
9 people like this.

Reply 5 - Posted by: Chuzzles 5/19/2019 11:33:24 AM (No. 67257)
Ehrlich reminds me of people who refuse to acknowledge that there is a higher power at work. They can't wrap their heads around the fact that mankind cannot change a single thing in God's creation. But God can, and He will in the near future. He also refuses to acknowledge the role tyranny plays in the shortage of food. Take a look at South Africa, Zimbabwe, China, NK, Russia, Venezuela and all the countries who are ruled by dictators and Leftists. Some of those nations used to be the breadbasket of their continent, feeding millions. Now they can't even feed themselves and have to beg for scraps from the rest of us. If Ehrlich wants to be honest, it is his own political beliefs that are at the root of most of the current world problems. Not Christians and other commonsense thinkers.
7 people like this.

Reply 6 - Posted by: Axeman 5/19/2019 11:48:00 AM (No. 67260)
I'm surprised this appeared in The Atlantic. Intuitives know that they don't always know what they don't know and are much more flexible and curious. People with hard beliefs who are sure they are right will make the information fit their beliefs. I think this is basic to personality types and not training. I just have to wonder why people who are always wrong are still trusted.
1 person likes this.

Reply 7 - Posted by: LadyChurchillUSA 5/19/2019 11:52:03 AM (No. 67262)
I found this article very interesting and passed it on. I really do think that the key is to be a fox. Sometimes you just have to share and learn and even change your mind when it is called for.
1 person likes this.

Reply 8 - Posted by: bad-hair 5/19/2019 12:07:17 PM (No. 67269)
The Chinese apparently believed him as is the one child per fsmily polcy. Didn't work out becasuse all the families wanted sons. Now we have Occasionally-Cognizant tell ud that having children is harmful to the environment. Ollie you idiot, whose environment?
2 people like this.

Reply 9 - Posted by: DVC 5/19/2019 12:10:39 PM (No. 67274)
I really enjoyed, and excelled at managing widely varying technology projects in the former soviet states because I have had friends and interests in a wide range of fields. I really enjoyed managing top scientists, being able to learn about their specialties, ask good questions, be taught to understand their answers, learning more, and guiding them to be more effective in their fields. And occasionally cross pollinating with concepts from another field. I learned a lot, and had an intellectually challenging time. But, Putin put an end to our collabotation, as did The Zero. The money for cooperative scientific research dried up, and that was that. Narrow field experts can be hopelessly blindered, I love folks with broad spectrum knowledge and try hard to be one, to learn from fields new to me.
3 people like this.

Reply 10 - Posted by: snakeoil 5/19/2019 12:29:35 PM (No. 67282)
Interesting read. Thanks OP. Two of my favorites are the Great Horse Manure Crisis of the late 19th Century. No internal combustion engines, population increasing, and everyone needed a horse. Where would they put all that stuff that horses produce. Second, the 1916 appearance of Halley's Comet. The Earth passes through the tail of the comet. Predictions that all life would cease as the comet tail would cause the atmosphere to catch on fire. Today's The Sky is Falling is of course Climate Change aka Global Warming. I'll worry about robots. They don't sleep or blink their eyes.
1 person likes this.

Reply 11 - Posted by: BGray2 5/19/2019 12:44:47 PM (No. 67284)
I trust the opinion of someone who is good at many things over someone who is great at just one thing. The first can see the big picture, the other has tunnel vision.
2 people like this.

Reply 12 - Posted by: tom7 5/19/2019 2:03:24 PM (No. 67304)
In any discussion of Erlich's "Population Bomb", it would be useful to point out that his population projections assumed that no one ever died - they just kept propagating forever.
1 person likes this.

Reply 13 - Posted by: jeffkinnh 5/19/2019 3:00:08 PM (No. 67319)
There is something of broad interest illustrated here. The idea of Utopia, something liberals are continually in pursuit of, is founded on "experts" running everything. The smartest people, tightly focused in areas of their expertise, will solve all the world's problems. Yet, according to THIS research, putting experts in charge of planning would be catastrophic, resulting in the worst outcomes possible. The "smart" people that the dems are always pushing on us are the least likely to be successful. When they face failure, their claim is that the idea isn't wrong but that the right person, supposedly the smarter one, hasn't come along yet. This dogged hunt for their brilliant savior is likely doomed to failure. They may find a genius but he is most likely to make a bigger mess of things rather than fixing things up. Perhaps this is the power to succeed behind the structure of the American union. All the foxes are scrambling around and looking for possibilities. They aren't smart enough to "know" that some things won't work so they try them anyway. And ... success. Millions of foxes, running around trying to figure things out beat the geniuses in power, hands down, every time. The successful leader might want to learn how to raise foxes rather than how to solve problems.
1 person likes this.

Reply 14 - Posted by: chance_232 5/19/2019 3:09:10 PM (No. 67322)
What the experts always fail to take into account is the unquantifiable resourcefulness, ingenuity and tenacity of humans confronting a problem.
5 people like this.

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Posted by DVC 5/19/2019 10:45:37 AM
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