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Why Ehrlich lost in Simon-Ehrlich wager

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Chino_copper_mineIn accordance with Paul Ehrlich’s website: “In 1980, Julian Simon repeatedly challenged environmental scientists to bet against him on trends in prices of commodities, asserting that humanity would never run out of anything. Paul and the other scientists knew that the five metals in the proposed wager were not critical indicators and said so at the time. They emphasized that the depletion of so-called renewable resources–environmental resources such as soils, forests, species diversity, and groundwater–is much more indicative of the deteriorating state of society’s life-support systems….Nonetheless, after consulting with many colleagues, Paul and Berkeley physicists John Harte and John Holdren accepted Simon’s challenge in late 1980…”

Julian Simon won because the value of three from the five metals went down in absolute terms and all five of the metals fell in price in inflation adjusted terms with each tin and tungsten falling by more than half (inflation adjusted). So, per the terms in the wager, Ehrlich paid Simon the distinction in price tag among exactly the same quantity of metals in 1980 and 1990 (which was $576.07). The prices of all five metals enhanced in between 1950 and 1975, but Ehrlich believes three of your 5 went down for the duration of the 1980s simply because from the value of oil doubling in 1979, and simply because of a worldwide recession in the early 1980s.

But it is important that “All of the former’s [Ehrlich’s] grim predictions had been decisively overturned by events. Ehrlich was wrong about higher natural resource prices, about “famines of unbelievable proportions” occurring by 1975, about “hundreds of millions of people starving to death” in the 1970s and ’80s, about the world “entering a genuine age of scarcity.”

In 1990, for his having promoted “greater public understanding of environmental problems,” Ehrlich received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award.”

“[Simon] always found it somewhat peculiar that neither the Science piece nor his public wager with Ehrlich nor anything else that he did, said, or wrote seemed to make much of a dent on the world at large. For some reason he could never comprehend, people were inclined to believe the very worst about anything and everything; they were immune to contrary evidence just as if they’d been medically vaccinated against the force of fact. Furthermore, there seemed to be a bizarre reverse-Cassandra effect operating in the universe: whereas the mythical Cassandra spoke the awful truth and was not believed, these days “experts” spoke awful falsehoods, and they were believed. Repeatedly being wrong actually seemed to be an advantage, conferring some sort of puzzling magic glow upon the speaker.”

Simon tried to raise the wager to $20,000 using any resources at any time that Ehrlich preferred, however the two had been unable to reach an agreement on the terms of a second wager.

Image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chino_copper_mine.jpg

Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses materials from the Wikipedia.

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