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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Archive for date: 08-2010

Reform the IPCC for the sake of science

A damning official report on the IPCC

Update: Links added to sources

From today's Times, my op-ed piece.

This month, after a three-year investigation, Harvard University suspended a prominent professor of psychology for scandalously overinterpreting videos of monkey behaviour. The incident has sent shock waves through science because it suggests that a body of data is unreliable. The professor, Marc Hauser, is now a pariah in his own field and his papers have been withdrawn. But the implications for society are not great - no policy had been based on his research.

The reactionary left

When progressives became pessimists

Excellent essay in City Journal by Fred Siegel on how liberal progressives became nostalgic reactionaries when they discovered environmental pessimism in the 1970s:

Why, then, did American liberalism, starting in the early 1970s, undergo a historic metanoia, dismissing the idea of progress just as progress was being won? Multiple political and economic forces paved liberalism's path away from its mid-century optimism and toward an aristocratic outlook reminiscent of the Tory Radicalism of nineteenth-century Britain; but one of the most powerful was the rise of the modern environmental movement and its recurrent hysterias.

I especially enjoyed his quotation from my late colleague Norman Macrae:

Irrational pessimism about population

pologists for China's one-child policy make bizarre economic arguments

My son, aged 16, is cleverer than me and knows more about economic theory, which interests him. He has his own views on the world. So I invited him to write a blog post on a topic of his choosing. Here it is:

by Matthew Ridley

Janice Turner provided an amusing dose of irrational pessimism in TheTimes on 21 August (behind a paywall) with an argument for population control. Talking of China's efforts to control population, she says that:

John Gray's confusion

A review that misunderstands cultural evolution

I have sent the following letter to the New Statesman

Dear Sir,

John Gray, in his review of my book The Rational Optimist accuses me of being an apologist for social Darwinism. This vile accusation could not be farther from the truth. I have resolutely criticised both eugenics and social Darwinism in several of my books. I have consistently argued that both policies are morally wrong, politically authoritarian and practically foolish. In my new book I make a wholly different and more interesting argument, namely that if evolution occurs among ideas, then it is ideas, not people, that struggle, compete and die. That is to say, culture changes by the mutation and selective survival of tools and rules without people suffering, indeed while people themselves prosper. This is precisely the opposite of social Darwinism in the sense that it is an evolutionary process that enables the least fit people to thrive as much as the fittest.

Why health panics are so often wrong

Antibiotics, flu and evolution

Let nobody accuse professional healthcare officials of being unproductive. They diligently produce what they are good at producing -- dire warnings of disaster.

There have been Ebola virus, Lassa fever, swine flu, bird flu, swine flu again, SARS, the human form of mad cow disease, and many more such scares. Every single one proved exaggerated -- greatly, vastly so.

To add insult to injury, when each scare fails to materialise, officials close ranks and congratulate themselves on averting it. The latest example is Britain's insulting official review of the swine flu fiasco, as described by Michael Fitzpatrick in Spiked:

Prosperity is the friend of wildlife

Rich Idaho looks after biodiversity better than poor North Korea

I am on holiday in the Idaho Rockies, in a house on the edge of what is in winter a fancy ski resort, the streets of which are clogged with sports cars, massive SUVs and even the odd Hummer. The shops offer all the extravagances a pampered plutocrat needs: from pet grooming to art galleries. Sent to buy bagels, I was faced with a bewildering ten different kinds.

Sounds like I am complaining? Read on.

From the patio of our house can be seen a constant procession of wonderful (and remarkably tame) birds, attracted by the effect of the the suburb's sprinklers in the usually dry landscape. Squirrels come to the trees; garter snakes to the wall; butterflies to the flowers. In the crystal stream at the bottom of the hill, wild rainbow trout rise to caddis flies and dippers, martins and sandpipers snack on huge stoneflies. In the woods along the valley are moose droppings and signs of the occasional black bear.