July 15, 2009
Obama's Science Fiction 'Czar'
By David Harsanyi
Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy -- better known as the "science czar" -- has been a longtime prophet of environmental catastrophes. Never discouraged but never right.
And thanks to resourceful bloggers, you can read excerpts from a hard-to-find book co-authored by Holdren in the late 1970s, called "Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment," online.
In it, you will find the czar wading into some unpleasant talk about mass sterilizations and abortions.
It's not surprising. Holdren spent the '70s boogying down to the vibes of an imaginary population catastrophe and global cooling. He also participated in the famous wager between scientist Paul Ehrlich, the now-discredited "Population Bomb" theorist (and co-author of "Ecoscience"), and economist Julian Simon, who believed human ingenuity would overcome demand.
Holdren was asked by Ehrlich to pick five natural resources that would experience shortages because of human consumption. He lost the bet on all counts, as the composite price index for the commodities he picked, including copper and chromium, fell by more than 40 percent.
Then again, it's one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer but quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how "population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution," as Holdren did in "Ecoscience" in 1977.
The book, in fact, is sprinkled with comparable statements that passively discuss how coercive population control methods might rescue the world from ... well, humans.
When I called Holdren's office, I was told that the czar "does not now and never has been an advocate of compulsory abortions or other repressive measures to limit fertility."
If that is so, I wondered, why is his name on a textbook that brought up such policy? Did he not write that part? Did he change his mind? Was it theoretical? No straightforward answer was forthcoming.
No big deal. Even today, many environmentalists and anti-immigration activists believe in the myth of population disaster. In this world, human spammers are a disease, not a cure.
And Holdren never has ceased peddling calamity as science.
Today, for instance, though Holdren publicly has tempered his aversion to population growth, he still advocates that government nudge us toward fewer children.
Instead of coercion, though, he is a fan of "motivation."
When, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Holdren was asked about his penchant for scientific overstatements, he responded that "the motivation for looking at the downside possibilities, the possibilities that can go wrong if things continue in a bad direction, is to motivate people to change direction. That was my intention at the time."
"Motivation" is when Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020. Or when he claimed that sea levels could rise by 13 feet by the end of this century when your run-of-the-mill alarmist warns of only 13 inches.
"Motivating" -- or, in other words, scaring the hell out of people -- about "possibilities" is an ideological and political weapon unsheathed in the effort to pass policies that, in the end, coerce us to do the right thing.
Holdren's past flies in the face of Barack Obama's contention, made on the day of the science czar's appointment, that his administration was "ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology."
Holdren embodies the opposite, actually.