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Don Aitkin

Three cheers for Pollyanna

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 74 Comments

One commenter to my last essay thought that I had ‘a Pollyanna view of the world’. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but it gave me the focus for another essay, which follows naturally from the last two. What has been most interesting in the Comments to these two essays about progress has been the determination on the part of some readers to continue to see the world as bad, dangerous, awful, unequal, unfair, what you will, in the face of good global data that don’t say the opposite, exactly, but make the point that for the great majority out…

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Well, is the world improving or not?

By | Other | 64 Comments

This is my second essay on the argument and contents of Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness… You can read the first essay here. There have been some misguided comments on the book, for which I may be partly responsible. So let me clear a couple of matters up. First, when you make judgments of any kind you are engaging in comparison. There are three main forms of comparison: comparing something with the same thing elsewhere at the same time (eg domestic violence rates in Australia and in Argentina), or that something with the same thing in the same place but over time…

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Why aren’t more people ‘factful’?

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 68 Comments

I have written about the Swedish medico and educator Hans Rosling before, and have greatly enjoyed his TED talks, especially this one. He and his son and daughter have produced a book, Factfulness. Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. I had learned from the inside back cover that he has died, and that his book is a kind of summary of his world-view, and his earnest hope that people will become more optimistic about the future. They should, because his story, based mostly on data produced by agencies of the UN…

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The May Off-Topic Thread

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 14 Comments

This thread is for ideas and comments that are not directly relevant to the weekly essay. I’ll start this one with a link to another essay written by Michael Schellenberger, a well-known American environmentalist, who is running for Governor of California. It is not really about the US at all, but about the way in which alternative energy sources are affecting (upwards) the price of electricity, and is therefore directly relevant to we who live Down Under, because the same elements apply. Somewhere I have seen a Part Two, and when I find it I’ll link it too. How Solar…

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Why isn’t more research reproducible?

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

Some six years ago I wrote an essay about John Ioannidis, now at Stanford, who stirred up the medical research community with a paper arguing that more than half of all medical research papers could not be trusted because the work described in them could not be replicated. Ioannidis’s original work dates from 2005, but he and others have moved into other areas as well as medicine. The amount of money wasted because of poor research, both by private enterprise and by governments, is enormous. From time to time since I have heard murmurings that positive things are happening in…

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A Cool Look at Global Warming, ten years later PART II

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 102 Comments

If you missed the first part of this long essay, it is here. I am looking at what has happened in the last ten years with respect to the central assumptions of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) scare, about which I wrote a decade ago. You can read the original essay here. Assumptions #1 and #2 have already been dealt with. 3. Is the warming caused by our burning fossil fuels, clearing the forests and other activities? There is no doubt that CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere are increasing, and since we are burning a lot of fossil fuels, which…

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A Cool Look at Global Warming, ten years later PART I

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

In April 2008 I delivered a paper to the ACT Division of the Planning Institute of Australia about the threat of global warming. Some months later we were to have the Copenhagen Climate Conference that was to solve all humanity’s problems. Many leaders said we had only a few weeks/months/years to save the planet. Al Gore, walking on stage to get his Nobel Peace Prize, barked to an interviewer that ‘the science is settled!’ Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had been rocketing up, and so had seemed to be global temperature. So 2008 was a year where global warming was…

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Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life

By | Other | 32 Comments

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who has taught at Harvard and the University of Toronto. He is something of a celebrity, mostly through his YouTube and TV appearances, where he comes across as cool, urbane, polite and determined. I have watched, three times now, his interview on the UK’s Ch4 where he politely bested the interviewer, Cathy Newman, for twenty minutes, to the point where she simply couldn’t proceed. That interview has been seen more than 1.6 million times on YouTube. He has recently been in Australia to launch this new book, which I thought I ought to…

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The April Off-Topic Thread

By | Other | 92 Comments

Cricket Like many others I was angry and sad in about equal proportion to discover the ‘ball-tampering’ event in South Africa. I  played cricket from an early age, and thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was always second to tennis and later to squash racquets. To me the action of Warner, Smith and Bancroft was simply inexplicable. It took me a day to calm down. Ball-tampering is now new, and du Plessis in South Africa was fined for doing it only a couple of years ago. At the core of it is the problem of money. Cricket is enmeshed in a…

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On the virtue of diversity in politics

By | Economy, Environment, Health, History, Language, Politics, Society | 12 Comments

This essay is in part an extension of the one I wrote on ‘diversity’, and in part an exploration of the party system that I’ve been mulling about for some time. One of the important elements of ‘electoral democracy’ (the sort of system we have), is that it allows pretty–well anyone to run as a candidate, and any group of citizens to call themselves a party if they can scrub up five hundred members from the electoral roll and $500. Why do they do it? Partly, because they can, and because to do so is an accepted and honourable way of saying…

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