Requiem for fear. Let’s learn from failed predictions to have confidence in ourselves & our future

Summary: If journalists find it difficult to fill the spaces between ads, they might run articles debunking past popular predictions of doom. They could easily do so monthly. This week brought an unusually large harvest of evidence disproving the doomsters. We should ask ourselves why were we so credulous, even gullible, to believe these stories? What might be the consequences if we continue like this? I haven’t a clue to the former; at the end below is a guess about the latter.

New Scientist: collapse
5 April 2008 issues. Click to enlarge.

 

The Ebola pandemic: millions will die!

Predictions of a global Ebola pandemic swept America before the election, revealed as conservative fear-mongering for political gain as they mysteriously disappeared on November 5. Like peak oil, there were ludicrously weak reasons given for these strident warnings. The WHO’s December 3 weekly status report shows that it has been eliminated from all but three poor African nations: “Case incidence is slightly increasing in Guinea, decreasing in Liberia, and may be increasing or stable in Sierra Leone.” No mea culpas from the fearmongers.

Hyperinflation! The dollar becomes worthless!

Every decade conservatives confidently forecast imminent doom from one or both of these. Always wrong. This year inflation continues at uncomfortably low levels (not much of a cushion against deflation, lethal in a high-debt economy like ours). The dollar continues to strengthen, so depressing exports and corporate profits (destabilizing many emerging nations).

Peak Oil — The end of civilization!

During the years 2005 – 2008 predictions that the end was nigh rang throughout the nation, a tune joyously played by Leftists certain they this proved the folly of capitalism. On 3 July 2008 WTI oil was $145, a record. This week it closed below $60, brought down by a combination of factors long discussed here: slower global growth, increased supply, and improved efficiency. “The cure for high prices is high prices.” Free markets at work. No mea culpas from the fearmongers.

That doesn’t prove the cornucopians’ dreams of cheap oil returning; $60 oil will force rapid slashing of capital investments and slowly return oil to their $80 – $100 range. Nor does that disprove the research warning that eventually this price reign will end with prices breaking higher into a new range, much as the 20 year range of $10 – $20 ended in 1999.

What matters is that there was never any basis for the predictions of imminent disaster, despite the applause for doomsters articles at websites such as The Oil Drum (not in the dustbin of history).

FRED: WTI oil prices

The Rape Culture: 1 in five coeds sexually assaulted

Feminists have long attempted to portray rape as horrifically widespread plague affecting not just the inner cities but also the middle and upper classes (exaggerating its incidence much as they did with AIDS), to use State power to force restructuring of gender roles in America. Notoriously weak surveys were blasted across the news media like pronouncements of God, with contrary evidence put down the memory hole (details here).

This year they ignited a firestorm of coverage, culminating with the Obama administration repeating the “1 in 5” claim and California’s passage of the poorly thought-out law requiring universities to use the standard of “affirmative consent” for rape charges. This month came the blowback, as the Rolling Stone article about the rape culture at the U of Virginia crashed and burned. Then the Department of Justice piled on with research: “Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-age Females, 1995-2013“, Lynn Langton and Sofi Sinozich, 11 December 2014 — Abstract:

Compares the characteristics of rape and sexual assault victimization against females ages 18 to 24 who are enrolled and not enrolled in college. This report examines the relationship between the victim and offender, the involvement of a weapon, location of the victimization, reporting to police, perceived offender characteristics, and victim demographics. Data are from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which collects information on nonfatal crimes, reported and not reported to the police, against persons from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households. The report also discusses methodological differences between the NCVS and other surveys that measure rape and sexual assault victimization and the impact of these difference on rape and sexual assault estimates.

Highlights:

  1. The rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).
  2. For both college students and nonstudents, the offender was known to the victim in about 80% of rape and sexual assault victimizations.
  3. Most (51%) student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home, compared to nonstudents who were engaged in other activities at home (50%) when the victimization occurred.
  4. The offender had a weapon in about 1 in 10 rape and sexual assault victimizations against both students and nonstudents.
  5. Rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than nonstudent victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police.

Climate Apocalypse

Climate change doom

We’re nearing the deadlines for climate disasters predicted years ago. The End of Snow in England by 2017. A super monster El Nino in 2014. More and stronger hurricanes after Katrina (2005)Rising sea levels covering Pacific islands. All wrong calls. More broadly, all the forecasts for the past decade have proved false (details here, more here). Even the strongest forecast of climate change — rising temperatures — so far has proved a bum bet due to the pause in atmospheric warming since 1998-2000. Alarmists are trumpeting a possible record high in 2014 — by a few hundredths of a degree (far smaller than the error bars), not confirmed by the two satellite records (details here).

To keep their mojo, alarmists (supported by headline-hungry journalists) report normal weather with deep mumbling about climate change (see “Weather Porn? Storms Take Over Evening News“, AP, 12 December 2014).

No Fear

Consequences

Journalists and activists see that we hear from the experts most willing to give alarmist sound bites into any microphone. Experts giving complex and balanced answers, with due mention of uncertainties, are unpersons. We love these exciting fearful stories, for reasons discussed in yesterday’s post. Now slowly we see the inevitable blow-back, as much of the public loses confidence in science, perhaps even more generally in experts. The consequences of that might be ugly in our complex and rapidly changing world — offering so many opportunities to screw-up.

On the other hand, in the plutocracy of New America our views do not matter. Perhaps it’s for the best that we don’t wish to bear the burden of governing ourselves, if we prefer to remain weak and foolish. For details see posts about plutocracy in America, and the ruling one percent.

We have done better in the past. We can do better in the future.

For More Information

The coming doom(s):

  1. Spreading the news: the end is nigh! , 8 May 2008
  2. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off , 8 May 2008
  3. Propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010 — Jared Diamond warns of the End.
  4. Today’s conservative doomster warning (ludicrous but fun), 1 August 2010 — America collapses before 2017.
  5. The IPCC rebukes the climate doomsters. Will we listen?, 15 October 2013
  6. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  7. A warning about the end of the world (doomster scenario #137), 23 March 2014 — “Industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?“, “
  8. About the warnings of a monster super El Nino coming to you this year, 2 May 2014
  9. Will we starve after all the bees die?, 8 June 2014

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