FACTFULNESS: A Book Review

Book review by Kip Hansen

 

Book_cover_for_essayHans Rosling’s FACTFULNESS : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think is currently Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in the category Probability & Statistics.  Walmart’s bookstore lists it in the Adult Non-Fiction Top 100.

It gets fabulous reviews:

“Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.”

“In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective–from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.”

Hans Rosling, who before his death in February 2017, was a darling of the TED Talk circuit, said:  “This book is my last battle in my life-long mission to fight devastating ignorance.”

FACTFULNESS is getting a lot of attention and a lot of mentions in a lot of important places.  Bill Gates has produced a YouTube promoting the book. [I admit, that the endorsement by Gates originally acted as a counter-incentive for me – at first preventing me from reading the book myself.]

It is a terrific book — my wife and I have been reading it together.  We have been partners in life for 45 years yet have vastly differing viewpoints on the world around us.  We both found the book informative and, heck, just plain fun.

Rosling was a life-long pragmatist — he sees and seeks pragmatic understanding and solutions.  He sees that things are getting better, not worse.  His background is that of a world-scale public health professional – fighting epidemics and disastrous endemic diseases in far-flung places.

He warns about ten cognitive bad habits or “instincts”:

10 Factfulness “Rules of Thumb

  1. Gap Instinct
  2. Negativity Instinct
  3. Straight Line Instinct
  4. Fear Instinct
  5. Size Instinct
  6. Generalization Instinct
  7. Destiny Instinct
  8. Single Instinct
  9. Blame Instinct
  10. Urgency Instinct

I have written about many of the same topics over the years here at WUWT — covering the pitfalls of extending trends past the data, mis-use of averages (and averages of averages), bemoaning the tendency to try to reduce complex issues into a single number, comparing apples and oranges (and averaging them!),  fighting against the instincts of the media to spread “bad news” and ignoring the good news and the fallacy of proposing single simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Rosling tells interesting anecdotes from his years of travelling and investigating health related issues around the world, making interesting reading.

The Al Gore Story

Hans Rosling was on the TED Talk circuit at the same time as our friend Al Gore.  Rosling shares the following interesting story in his book (on Page 229 of the First Edition):

A Convenient Urgency

“We need to create fear!”  That’s what Al Gore said to me at the start of our first conversation about how to teach climate change.  It was 2009 and we were backstage at a TED conference in Los Angeles.  Al Gore asked me to help him and use Gapminder’s bubble graphs  to show a worst-case future impact of a continued increase in CO2 emissions.”  ….

“I agreed with him completely that swift action on climate change was needed, and I was excited at the thought of collaborating with him.”

“But I couldn’t agree to what he had asked.”

“I don’t like fear. ….  Fear plus urgency make for stupid,  drastic decisions with unpredictable side effects. Climate change is too important for that.  It needs systematic analysis, thought-through decisions, incremental actions, and careful evaluation.  And I don’t like exaggeration, exaggeration undermines the credibility of well-founded data:  in this case, data showing that climate change is real, that it is largely caused by greenhouse gases from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, and that taking swift and broad action now would be cheaper than waiting until costly and unacceptable climate change happened.  Exaggeration once discovered makes people tune out altogether.”

So, it turns out, despite all the denial of the AGW activist crowd, Michael Crichton was not mistaken when he wrote State of Fear.  We have direct evidence of Al Gore caught actively seeking help and collaboration in inducing a state of fear in the general public through promulgating exaggerated worst-case scenarios.

Hans Rosling, to his credit and despite  (like myself) not being a climate change denier or in his case, even a climate change skeptic —

“insisted that [he] would never show the worst-case line without showing the probable and the best-case lines as well.  Picking only the worst-case scenarios and–worse–continuing the line beyond the scientifically-based predictions would fall outside Gapminder’s mission to help prople understand the basic facts.  .It would be using our credibility to make a call-to-action.  Al Gore continued to press his case for fearful animated bubbles beyond the expert forecasts, over several more conversations, until finally, I closed the discussion down. “Mr. Vice-President.  No Numbers, No Bubbles.”

The authors  [though the book is written in the first person, Hans Rosling notes that it is really the work of his son and daughter-in-law and himself in collaboration]   rely heavily on “expert opinion” and “expert-offered statistics (numbers)”.   This is in spite of his own advice to beware of experts and stating blandly that “sometimes ’experts’ are not experts even in their own fields. Many activists present themselves as experts.  I have presented at all kinds of activist conferences because I believe that educated activists can be absolutely crucial  for improving the world. ….  Almost every activist I have ever met, whether deliberately or, more likely, unknowingly, exaggerates the problem to which they have dedicated themselves.

In my opinion, Rosling’s team, which has worked for many years directly with UN health organizations, has failed to see that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the IPCC  have become themselves “activists” groups and act exactly as he has described above.  Little matter, under Rosling’s FACTFULNESS Rules of Thumb the IPCC recommendations would be rejected outright as “stupid,  drastic decisions with unpredictable side effects.”

 Bottom Line:

 This is a great book, smooth reading and enlightening — you’ll enjoy it while learning (or refreshing)  some new critical thinking skills.  At less than fifteen bucks, it is a bargain for your home and borrowed free from your local public library, at “absolutely free”, an even better bargain.

Highly Recommended

five_stars

# # # # #

Author’s Comment Policy:

I recommend this book, but don’t accuse me of agreeing with everything the Roslings say in it.  I’d be happy to discuss the book with you after you’ve read it.

If you use the links in the Ten Rules of Thumb pull-quote, you get a short version of his viewpoint.

Thanks for reading.

# # # # #

Available on Amazon here

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79 thoughts on “FACTFULNESS: A Book Review

  1. Kip, a great post about a great book.

    Curiously, last night I wrote a post about Rosling’s Factfulness. As I was preparing to upload here at WUWT this morning I noticed this post in the queue. So I won’t cross post my post here at WUWT.

    My post about Rosling’s Factfulness is A Must Read for Those Involved with the IPCC And Other Alarmists: Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
    It includes a rather lengthy quote about the pitfalls of alarmism and ends with So, dear reader, what about the IPCC turns you off the most? Why are they failing, in your eyes?

    Cheers,
    Bob

    • So, dear reader, what about the IPCC turns you off the most? Why are they failing, in your eyes?

      Bob – The IPCC’s Global Warming Potential number is probably the most dishonest item. You know, Methane is 86 times more powerful at trapping heat than a similar mass of CO2. That they used mass instead of concentration is the tip-off that they were trying for the scariest number they could come up with. CO2 is much heavier than Methane so an equal mass is 16/42 of the concentration. They use the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere as the standard knowing that it increases all the time. Do you know of any other metric in any discipline where the standard constantly changes? It isn’t anything that NIST would approve of, that’s for sure. To top it all off, they never do tell us how much methane will run-up global temperature. If you use 1.2K for CO2’s Climate sensitivity and work your way backwards you get an increase of about 0.05 K business as usual by 2100. That would be the reason they don’t tell us.

      Well, you asked (-:

    • Bob,

      the fact that the IPCC uses the tropicopolitical method, and not the scientific method, to metaanalyze systematically review “summarize” research, then passes the results off as What The Latest Science Is Saying, is a maximally fatal turn-off. There’s no further “off” to be turned after that.

      I’ve argued here before that we make a strategic and rhetorical and intellectual blunder by treating IPCC reports as even vaguely sciencey. They’re simply the propaganda of a think-tank. They should be treated with the same disdain with which our opponents would treat a press release by the Heartland Institute.

      Remember that in the IPCC’s ipsissima verba:

      1. the SPMs are edited line-by-line by POLITICAL ATTACHÉS
      2. the “underlying reports” are edited SO AS TO AGREE WITH the SPMs

      To summarize:

      the IPCC is a belief-tank.

      It should not be dignified as a scientific organization.

      • Brad, Caleb Rossiter outlined the how IPCC processes facts into fears:

        >Public figures, news editors, and commentators make claims that are more alarmist than what individual IPCC authors say at the release of the report.
        >Individual IPCC authors make claims at the release of the report that are more alarmist than what the official press release says.
        >The official press release makes claims that are more alarmist than what the report’s summary for policy-makers says.
        >The summary for policy-makers makes claims that are more alarmist than the various chapters of the reports.
        >The chapters of the report make claims that are more alarmist than the studies they reference in the footnotes.

        The studies referenced in the footnotes are often actually peer-reviewed and generally make cautious claims about a possible trend spotted in one or a small number of locations or in a global computer model.

        Synopsis: https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/un-horror-show/

        • Indeed. IPCC is only a fear-mongering organization created by politicians to give themselves a mission; because they’ve nothing more important to do with their worthless lives.

      • Agreed. And I believe their ORIGINAL “mission statement” belied this truth, since it spoke about study of the HUMAN INFLUENCE on climate, in other words, they started with their conclusion and worked their way backwards trying to justify it. That is NOT how ACTUAL “science” is done.

    • Bob T wrote:
      “First, let me warn you that Hans Rosling firmly believes in human-induced global warming/climate change.”

      If Hans Rosling believed that human induced global warming and climate change are catastrophic problems, then I have a big problem with that.

      Having studied this subject since 1985 and having written on it since 2002, it is my considered opinion that anyone who believes in catastrophic global warming and climate change is (at best) incompetent.

      A careful examination of available data according to the scientific method provides no evidence to support the catastrophic human-made global warming hypothesis, and ample evidence to disprove it.

      In fields such as engineering and health sciences where results matter, and where errors can result in the human deaths, it is insufficient to have a pretty methodology when your results are dead wrong. The only thing that really matters in this critical fields is that you get the answer correct the first time.

      The errors and frauds that abound in climate science have caused great harm to humanity and the environment. Tens of trillions of dollars of scarce global resources have been squandered on this alarmist nonsense. Properly allocated, these trillions could have saved tens of millions of lives and greatly reduced human suffering.

      We published in 2002 that the global warming crisis was a false alarm and that green energy would fail to replace fossil fuels. Nothing has changed since then.
      Global warming alarmism is the greatest fraud, in dollar terms, in the history of humanity.

      Post script:
      I am dictating this note so I apologize for any typos.

      • “First, let me warn you that Hans Rosling firmly believes in human-induced global warming/climate change.”

        I bought and read the book some time ago. Hans Rosling’s acceptance of the climate change religion diminished, for me, the credibility of many of the other things he had to say.

      • I agree. Rosling’s statements show that he is just as deluded about climate change as Al Gore. The only difference is that Rosling disagrees with the exaggerations and fantasy doom-mongering of Gore.
        Chris

      • I personally have no problem with his (or anyone elses) belief in CAGW, any more then I have a problem with someone elses belief in a different Religion then my own. There is plenty of room for differences of opinion, especially when discussing something where concrete facts and measurements are few and far between. It is how they act that matters.

        In deed, in such an environment I would rather deal with someone I disagreed with who was as honest and free of exaggeration and hyperbole as Hans, then with someone who agreed with me yet acted like Gore, Mann, or Gleick.

        • I disagree – the problem with the CAGW religion is that its adherents insist that you act according to their rules. It is the ultimate evangelical religion – that insists that you must convert to its mantras and it vilifies and persecutes you if you refuse to except its hysterical nonsense.

          Read Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” – that is their playbook.

      • Couldn’t agree more. Anyone who believes this nonsense is someone who has accepted it uncritically based on the propaganda they’ve been fed – if they bother to examine the claims critically, they quickly become skeptical.

        That, or they’re just plain stupid.

        • ALL OF THE ABOVE ==> Many of you are committing the crime you complain about — you are judging a Man and His Opinions without having either met the Man, never talked to him, never read his books, never listened to his YouTube movies, never tried to understand his point of view, etc etc.

          Some of you are judging him based on a rumored version of his personal opinions on the Climate Change issue — and that only on the BLACK-or-WHITE — FRIEND-or-FOE version of the controversy — which is intellectually imbecilic.

          Almost all of the readers and authors here have differing personal opinions about the Climate Change issue — and very few of the authors here agree with one another as to the details. We are all entitled to our own opinions based on the evidence as we see it.

          So is Rosling (who, by the way, is dead.)

          • Kip,

            as one of “the above”, I agree wholeheartedly that we have no right to dismiss someone on the basis of his/her beliefs about the climate without some insight into how they arrived at those beliefs. On the bright side, some of the above commenters do make the appropriate caveats: “IF they’ve looked/not looked at the evidence…” etc.

            (My comment didn’t pass any such judgement, by the way—I merely said that the IPCC process doesn’t even pretend to be scientific and that we are making a strategic misstep by dignifying its output as though it were science.)

          • Hi Kip,

            I wrote:
            “IF Hans Rosling believed that human induced global warming and climate change are catastrophic problems, then I have a big problem with that.”

            If one does not have the interest or the skills to research an important subject before publicly opining on it, then the responsible opinion is “I do not know”

            It is irresponsible, especially for influential people, to opine on a subject as important as global warming alarmism without doing their homework.

            For the record, “doing your homework” means examining the available evidence according to the scientific method. It is not “Oh well, my friends think this so therefore I think this too”.

            Global warming alarmism has cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives. It is extremely harmful and it is the greatest scam, in dollar terms, in the history of humanity.

          • Repeating from above:
            “In fields such as engineering and health sciences where results matter, and where errors can result in the human deaths, it is insufficient to have a pretty methodology when your results are dead wrong.

            The only thing that really matters in these critical fields is that you get the answer correct the first time.”

            Several times in my life, I’ve had to take rapid action that resulted in the saving of lives – from one to many. Fortunately, I was correct in my situation analysis and I was able to take the proper corrective action.

            In each of the situations, from one to many people had the same analytical opportunity but made an erroneous conclusion as to the outcome.

            I am unimpressed by pretty theories that result in catastrophic outcomes.
            This is the case with CAGW (global warming) alarmist nonsense.

    • IPCC are run by politicians and nearly every politician ‘who cares’ seems to be an environmental loony. The consensus began as a way to force scientists to agree upon a lowest common denominator. Now it’s turned into pseudoscience. Pseudoscience never seems to end well. I believe that scientists led the transformation of conservationists into greens, and then into environmentalists; beginning with Carson in the early 1960s. No enviros have solutions. Every policy they suggest is a disaster. Because modern environmentalism, has become an anti-human, anti-life death cult. To pick just one thing out of this? Their anti-life, anti-human agenda; epitomized today be a snippet of news I read today, scientists say: water kills life:

      Downpours destroy rare ecosystem in the driest desert

      RAIN is wrecking the rare ecosystem of the world’s driest desert, scientists say.

      For the first time in 500 years, Northern Chile’s Atacama desert has had rain for three consecutive seasons. The rain. attributed to climate change, has destroyed 85 percent of microbial life in the areas studied, according to Scientific Reports magazine.

    • David ==> Your is another fine post on Hans Rosling.

      Readers: Check It Out! –includes YouTubes for your entertainment and much good commentary about global warming from David.

      • …Readers: Check It Out! –includes YouTubes for your entertainment and much good commentary about global warming from David….

        First YouTube time mark 5:06 he blabs about “…severe climate change …” Maybe TED Talks twisted his arm to bring it up – but it turned me off. Is he is own man or does he really buy into the Climate Change crap?

        OK I’ll watch the rest of it —

        • Steve ==> Hans Rosling has had a ;long time relationship with the UN and UN agencies — and is a bit blinded by their position as “experts”. But he rejects alarmism, fear and urgency — calls for cold calculated considered action.

          Think he would have would approved of Judith Curry’s “no regrets” appraoch.

          • Apparently he didn’t calculate as to whether action was even needed. He seems to have just assumed it was.

          • He assumes what scientists say. But has not figured out that what scientists really say. Because a lot of people mistake institutions, like Royal Society, for “science”. A big error by Rosling, who should know that science is a method not a set of beliefs, nor bunch of institutions.

  2. For years I really disliked Gates, as he seemed to be the ignorant head of an incompetent company bent on controlling all technology through acquisition and market-share rather than competence and merit. However, either he’s changed, or that threat has entirely faded and most of what he says these days I find myself agreeing with. Perhaps that’s just what retirement does to super-competitive men.

    • Jeremy ==> He has turned his attention and money to pragmatic problems of real people….sometimes silly, sometimes spot on.

    • His wife has a good head on her shoulders and has probably managed to get through to him about being sensible—much of the time.

    • I like what Bill Gates is doing with the latter part of his life. He is using his wealth to try to make a difference in important areas, for the sake of all humanity.

      Unfortunately, Bill is a believer in catastrophic man-made global warming nonesense, and is apparently impervious to counter-arguments.

      His work is well-intentioned, but some of it will be sabotaged by false input assumptions.

      Nevertheless, I wish him well.

  3. The next book needs to be on the backroom conversations with insight into the real con game strategies of the rich and famous manipulators. The general public needs more clues on seeing the con much like consumers need information on the latest fraud alerts from Attorney General offices and police departments.

    It’s not good for society to be subjected to large scale consumer frauds in which the news outlets participate in the fraud.

    • I asked that 10 minutes ago but….

      I hate being stuck in “moderation”….

      (no obvious reason you were stuck. mod.)

    • Gary –> Good eye! #3 shuld be Straight Line Instinct == fixed now,

      Spell Checkers can nit correct for stupidity!

  4. I would like to add #11: NULLIUS IN VERBA. People are far too credulous and accepting of “authority”. Not nearly enough skepticism.

    And #12 (should be #1?) “The first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” -R. Feynman

    • Eustace ==> Rosling cocvers exprts in the text several time , but if i were making a new list if my own, I too would add something along the lines you suggest.

  5. #3 in the 10 rules should be:

    3. The Straight Line Instinct
    Number 3 of 10 Rules of Thumb

    Lines might bend

    Factfulness is . . . recognizing the assumption that a line will just continue straight, and remembering that such lines are rare in reality.

    To control the straight line instinct, remember that curves come in different shapes.

    • Don’t assume straight lines. Many trends do not follow straight lines but are S-bends, slides, humps, or doubling lines. No child ever kept up the rate of growth it achieved in its first six months, and no parents would expect it to.

  6. I got it as a birthday present in May. Couldn’t put it down. Very good read. Have read it, slowly, twice since my first fast read and have referred to it, to check my facts, many times since, I recommend it to all.

  7. I’m confused: the first link,

    **FACTFULNESS : Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think**

    ostensibly to the book at Amazon, takes one to another WUWT page.

  8. “Almost every activist I have ever met, whether deliberately or, more likely, unknowingly, exaggerates the problem to which they have dedicated themselves.””

    About 20 years ago I read, somewhere, a brief article claiming that “advocacy research” exaggerated problems like homelessness (and four others, which I forget) by a factor of five. Supporting data was provided.

    • Roger ==> Yes, anytime activism/advocacy is mixed with research sthere is trouble.

      CliSci is a prime example. LOTS of exmples in food, health and nutrition research.

  9. Kip. Thanks for the review. I just finished the book and give it 5 stars also. There is something personal and deeply moving about somebody writing a book that they know will be their last words. Its a beautiful book and very well written. We can only hope for the popularity to forebear a new age of enlightenment.

    Hans skewered Al Gore in the most effective way that could be imagined.

  10. Along these lines, over at No Frakking Consensus, Donna Laframbiose has an essay called “Thank Goodness for the Industrial Revolution.”

    She has extracted the core message of a much longer essay on this topic by Luke Muehlhauser at his blog, here

    It discusses an analysis of the enormous benefits that arose from the industrial revolution, and basically from the cheap energy provided by fossil fuels.

    Like Factfulness, the essay shows how things are hugely better now than they ever were. Donna Laframboise extracted a critically central graphic that plots six indicators:

    life expectancy at birth
    GDP per capita
    percentage of people who’ve escaped extreme poverty
    access to energy (for cooking, lighting, heating, and for producing tools and clothing)
    technological developments
    political freedom (the percentage of people who live in democracies).

    Every single line rises steeply starting at 1800. The bottom line summary is that, “Everything was awful for a very long time, and then the industrial revolution happened.

    Luke Muehlhauser has a large number of other indicators and analyses in his essay — well worth reading.

    Amusing that all the rising beneficial effects would show a strong positive correlation with: a) global averaged air temperature, and; b) atmospheric CO2.

    In proper consensus climatological analytics, increasing human life expectancy has clearly caused the terrestrial climate to warm up and convinced the oceans to release more CO2 into the atmosphere. 🙂

    Somewhere, Julian Simon is smiling.

    • Pat. You reminded me of what my dad told me a long time ago. “Some people in this world just can’t stand success “. I thought at the time that there couldn’t be many like that. I was wrong.

    • I once came upon a piece that described John D Rockefeller as the man who most affected society for the better.
      The reason: oil allowed man to exist in the darkness of night and expand the time that they could be productive.

      • …..John D Rockefeller as the man who most affected society for the better…

        And don’t forget that it was John D. that saved the Whales…. his ‘Standard Oil’ (ESSO) aka kerosine was a cheaper and superior lamp oil that killed the Whaling industry in a decade. Kind of like how george e. smith at al. killed the film industry (Kodak, Fuji, Agfa etc.) with the digital camera..
        Mike Macray

  11. As Steven Pinker has noted, people don’t like facts:

    Even pointing out obvious facts— lifespans are increasing, the developing world is climbing out of poverty, war deaths have gone down—is met with incomprehension almost. Some people are opposed to even conceding the use of empirical demonstrations. Those studies could have gone the other way, it could be that global poverty is increasing, though it happens not to be. It could be that death in war has been soaring, but in fact it has been plummeting. But many intellectuals commentators, educated people, are simply unprepared not just for the possibility that things might have gotten better but that we should even look to see whether that’s true. People mistake that work for optimism, rose-tinted glasses, looking on the bright side. It’s none of those, it’s just looking at facts. link

    We are coming close to creating Paradise on Earth. We are on the threshold of a new Golden Age. That really doesn’t suit some people who want to think they’re smarter than everyone else.

    • We are on the threshold of a new Golden Age.

      No we’re not. We are on the threshold of throwing it all away, into the sewer of Marxism.

      • Folks are getting fed up with the postmodern Marxist bull crap. Jordan Peterson provides an antidote. Just look at the response to his latest book. 12 Rules for Life is currently at the top of Amazon’s most read list. There is a huge appetite for what he’s saying.

        Maybe his most important message is about personal responsibility. That’s in stark contrast with the idea that everything about you is determined by your identity group.

        Peterson gives us the vocabulary and facts necessary to fight back against the powers of oppression. People are listening and I hope the tide is turning.

        Pseudo intellectuals, SJWs, and the chattering classes hate Peterson with a passion. That’s a pretty good indicator that he’s on the right path. 🙂

        • Absolutely agree about Jordan Peterson. I also love the way he skewers political correctness with evidence and argument.

          Another great book that celebrates the positives about the world and the prosperity triggered by the Industrial Revolution is The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley.

        • Peterson also has a calm, considered delivery, free of jargon and intellectual puffery. His resonableness in interviews with “progressive” journalists trying to aggressively twist his words and thoughts into identity politics’ pigeonholes, drives them silly. In short order he disarms them and leaves them stuttering – revealing the shallowness of designer-brain thinking.

      • My previous post seems to be lost.

        I think Eustice is correct.

        There are probably over 100 countries out of the 220 or so in the world that are Marxist dictatorships. Prime examples include North Korea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba, but there are many many more.

        Among the Western democracies, only the United States is resisting the trend towards Marxist lunacy. The rest have completely fallen for the falsehoods of global warming alarmism and green energy nonsense, which are intended to destroy the economy and permit a Marxist takeover.

    • I’ve come to wonder whether a large fraction of civilized humanity is addicted to righteous pessimism.

      So many people do not think beyond sentiment and slogans, and actively resent being pulled away from that state.

      Maybe they get their life’s meaning from being worried and opposing those who are not worried.

      Absent worry, absent worry-oriented organizations, absent meetings and marchings, absent a manufactured opposition, they’d have to do something constructive. Maybe they’d be lost without group comforts, and allies and opposition. Constructive is hard and, even worse, introspective.

  12. Julian Simon had been writing on precisely this topic, complete with data charts, since the early 1970s.

    Some things never change. No one listened to him either….

  13. Hans Rosling died last year and it was great loss to the world. My wife got a copy of Factfulness as soon as it hit the shelves (about three or four months ago in Canada) and we both read it within a day or two. It is written like his talks – very accessible and straightforward, without dumbing anything down and his anecdotes are often self-deprecating and show a level of humility not commonly seen in popular scientists.

    Each chapter sort of covers one of the questions about human development achievements (such as access to electricity or education for girls) he would pose to audiences during his talks – most of whom get it wrong. He makes the point that, commonly, the results are worse than a random choice and that – regardless of the audience – the most common answer is the most pessimistic one. No-one escapes the gentle ridicule of being less intelligent than a group of chimps picking answers at random – including the participants at global economic conferences where you would expect most people would know what is going on.

    Interestingly, in later years (and included in the book) he added a question about climate change and noted that it was the only question which many people got right. However, the question isn’t actually about the facts of climate change, but about scientists opinions: “Global climate experts believe that, over the next 100 years, the average temperature will get warmer/colder/stay the same.” What a sad indictment of the way the media have handled these issues – the general public are more aware of the the worst case scenarios of future events than they are of the real and massively relevant improvements in the lives of the vast majority of the world’s population.

    My wife and I work Rosling’s work into as many conversations as we can and have recommended the book to a number of our friends. I just hope some of them read it!

    • Rob==> Yes, Rosling’s Climate Change question just demonstrates that Climate Change communications has been successful, but only to the point that people know that the “majority of climate scientists” believe. The General Public does not have the same degree of acceptance.

  14. Kip

    just to pick up on your point about averages. They irritate the tits off me.

    At any given moment in time, the ‘average global temperature’ may not be seen at any given point on the planet.

    Averages are a rule of thumb, the type of thing to be used as a reality check, but climate science seems to cling to them as absolutes, and I’m talking both sides here.

    On average, it used to take me 90 minutes to drive from NW London to SE London at the end of every working day. Had my wife relied on that average to prepare an evening meal for my return, dinner would either be torched, or raw, when I got home. Every single night!

    In terms of climate, averages are useless. It’s the quality of life enjoyed at any given point on the planet under climatic conditions prevalent at any given moment.

    Nor can we predict averages, in fact we can’t predict anything if truth be told. Despite the protestations of scientists when I have discussed this in the past, science is no better at predicting the future than a shaman.

    We have, perhaps, 30 or 40 years of reliable climate data. Going back further than that includes illiterate deck hands chucking buckets over the sides of ships, to no defined depth, along well worn trade routes, when they could be bothered. Or, tea boys sent out into the snow/rain/heat to check a Stevenson screen when the on site scientist was too busy/drunk/lazy to do the job, which was a local endeavour anyway.

    So now we take average temperatures from this mess of data, then plot it against CO2 measurements taken on the top of an active volcano, and produce averages.

    The term exhibits just what its title infers, average science.

    My understanding from secondary school (in the early 70’s mind you) was that science was an exacting process. It provided answers to the world around us. It defined things in detail, averages were even then considered a rule of thumb and I was warned of that many times by my Chemistry, Physics and Biology teachers. Our technology teacher (woodwork, metalwork and applied mechanics) a former engineer in Govan shipyards, used to tell us average would kill us, precision is the route to safety in any endeavour.

    He illustrated that point the day after the Ibrox disaster when 66 football (soccer) fans died when they were crushed against barriers which would take a bulldozer to move. He told us that on that day, the average number of fans exceeded expectations and people died because average capacity of the entrance/exits were exceeded dramatically. But the conditions were determined by marketing, not engineers, based on averages.

    The average temperature of a planet. What a lot of dangerous bollox.

  15. One of the “cute” insights of Rosling’s book, is that the “experts” appeared to be more ignorant in understanding the state of humanity and the world than “ordinary” citizens. Ironically, chimpanzees outperformed all human social classes and demographics, but the experts were the dumbest!

    • Harry ==> Yes, because many experts tend to have a very narrow view of the world — with the blinders of their specialty preventing peripheral vision.

  16. I’ve been watching Rosling on Youtube for several years and was excited to learn about his book, then sad at his passing. I’m halfway through the book and I find it absolutely fantastic. If you know anyone who thinks the world is going to hades in a handbasket, make them read this book. If they read this book and still come away with the feeling the world is falling apart, then they are willfully blind. I posted about Rosling’s book not long ago on my Facebook account. In my post, I also posted a picture of my great great grandparents who were standing proudly in front of their horse-drawn covered wagon. These people lived and died before anything we would consider modern medicine or technology. Imagine, no antibiotics, where a simple scratch could kill you if you weren’t careful. Being alive today is like winning the ultimate lottery compared to what our ancestors lived through, yet people fail to have even the most basic historical understanding or perspective.

    • Jon ==> Yes sirree, I have ancestors who arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1600s — life was short and rather brutal. We’ve come a long way since then.

  17. This discussion evokes the image of Voltaire’s Professor Pangloss congratulating himself on living in “the best of all possible worlds”. Or as FDR put it, “you have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Utter nonsense can be surprisingly compelling. And facts have nothing to do with it…

  18. Never confuse the political movement called “Climate Change” with anything scientific, just as you should never confuse the “Progressive” political movement with actual progress.

  19. A terrific post with terrific comments. Thanks all.

    I was glad to see one of my favourite authors mentioned: Julian L. Simon.
    I thoroughly recommend his book, The Ultimate Resource 2. A great read.
    Simon took money off Ehrlich & Holdren, arch doomster dopes & Nazis, after a bet on commodity prices 1980 – 1990. the Ehrlich/Holdren “geniuses” bet on rising prices through scarcity. Simon bet on falling prices through better extraction techniques. Simon won.
    Ehrlich had been having his usual doomster nightmares. Simon was relying on historical data showing a long term trend of falling commodity prices.
    Ehrlich/Holdren claimed a fluke, Simon offered to repeat the bet, dumb & dumber declined.

    If anyone had told me, a few years back before I got into this insane, chock full of lies, etc warming/climate/environmental catfight, that I would be cheerfully recommending a book by an economist, I would probably have fallen off my bar stool & dropped my pint.

    John Doran.

      • I agree. Most economists are oxygen thieves: a complete waste of space. 🙂
        There are rare exceptions & they are not given the space they deserve in our presstitute MSM media.

        Human history has been one of constant progress, yet the MSM, slave to the Banksters & their corporations, paint a totally false picture of doom & gloom.

        I right enjoyed Simon’s realistic, cheerful & optimistic book, & Rosling’s Factfulness is on my buy list.

        Commies? Anyone Commie in this 21st century needs a new brain after conclusive proof through the 20th century that the system :
        1) does not work, economically or environmentally.
        2) Amounts to a savage dictatorship by a tiny minority more than willing to slaughter millions of their people for their inhuman system.

        Hippies? Everyone’s entitled to choose their own lifestyle. I remember some very nice hippies from my youth. 🙂

        One lesson I’ve carried away from reading Simon is the graph(s) where he demonstrates that population growth leads to prosperity growth. 🙂

        Another cracking good read is Dr. Tim Ball’s latest little gem:
        Human Caused Global Warming, The Biggest Deception In History.
        In only 121 pages of plain English, written for the general public, he names the Bankster Rockefellers, the multi-billionaires, Soros, Ted Turner & the thief Maurice Strong who set up the UN IPCC fraud factory, the false science & faux “scientists”, the profiteering politicians.
        A must read.

        Cheers,
        John Doran.

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