Archive for October 11th, 2010

I saw this on the Powerline blog. Here are some excerpts from Hal Lewis’ resignation letter from the America Physical Society. In a nutshell, he exposes how scientists have been corrupted by government money. Amazing. And powerful.

For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society. It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. …The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. …This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

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One of the fascinating discussions at the Mont Pelerin Society conference has been about the role of evolutionary psychology and its role in shaping public thinking about economic issues. Paul Rubin of Emory University spoke on this issue at the conference and, coincidentally, also had a column about the topic last week in the Wall Street Journal. As seen in the excerpt below, he discusses Hayek’s insight about our “biological constitution” and then proceeds to discuss the unfortunate tendency of many people to think that the economy is a fixed pie. This point resonates with me. If asked to identify one common characteristic of the leftists I know,  my response would be that they incorrectly think one person must become poor for another person to become rich. Even when I show them data proving that this is false, their brains are hard-wired to think that total wealth is limited and that redistribution is the only way to improve the living standards of the less fortunate.

While Hayek is perhaps best known for his 1944 critique of government economic planning, “The Road to Serfdom,” he also was a pioneer in realizing that the evolutionary history of the human species was a factor for understanding current political and economic beliefs. In “The Fatal Conceit” (1988), Hayek wrote that “man’s instincts . . . were not made for the kinds of surroundings, and for the numbers, in which he now lives. They were adapted to life in the small roving bands or troops in which the human race and its immediate ancestors evolved during the few million years while the biological constitution of homo sapiens was being formed.” His insight anticipated the modern field of study called evolutionary psychology, which explains current belief systems as being based in part on our evolutionary history. …humans tend towards zero-sum thinking. That is, we do not intuitively understand the possibilities of economic growth or the benefits of trade in achieving it. Our ancestors lived in a static world with little intertribal trade and virtually no technological advance. That is the world our minds understand. This doesn’t mean that we can’t grasp the crucial concept that trade benefits both parties to a transaction—but it does mean that we must learn it. Positive-sum thinking doesn’t come naturally. By analogy, we learn to speak with no teaching, but we must be taught to read. Understanding the mutual benefits of exchange is like reading, not speech.

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