Friday, April 17, 2009
A door was opened today for a vast expansion of research, but stopped just
short of allowing scientists to create human embryos for research purposes
or pursue cloning techniques. There is broad public support for the use
of cells from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility
Last week, a demographer in Moscow warned that the population decline in
Russia will have serious economic consequences. This week, Investors
Business Daily criticized famous British broadcaster Sir David
Attenborough for supporting the Optimum Population Trust, a group that
wants to reduce the number of people in the world. Reduce? No, no, the
IBD editor says "we must produce more young workers to pay for our elderly
retirees." He credits this uh insight to the "late, great economist
Julian Simon," a University of Maryland libertarian who said, "People
aren't a cost they're an asset." Personally, I grow more aware of the
needs of the elderly with each passing year: Finding a parking place, for
example. Fewer people I could live with. To ensure species survival,
Darwin said, species reproduce far more often than needed for
replacement. Evolution made it the dominant force in human relations.
It's overkill, and behavior modification, as the church has discovered, is
futile. Equilibrium is reached only when the death rate rises to meet the
birth rate. For most species, therefore, the "balance of nature" is not a
happy condition. The only exception is Homo sapiens, which has a
technology (the pill) to restrain population growth reliably and
humanely. Now, however, there's an added urgency; we're rendering our
planet less habitable.
EPA issued a finding today that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious
problem, now and for future generations. The finding identifies six gases,
including carbon dioxide and methane that contribute to global warming.
The move marks a major shift in the federal government's approach to
global warming. Business groups such as the chamber of commerce claim it
will impose an enormous regulatory burden on small operations such as
individual stores and office buildings. It seems inconceivable, however,
that the government would extend its control that far.
The faithful, who regard themselves as martyrs, have endured the scorn of
skeptics for 20 years. An appearance on an evening entertainment program
won't make it science, and it's unlikely to change the minds of many
scientists, but it's the most they've had to cheer about. At least three
well-known scientists who were interviewed by CBS will not appear on the
show. I don't know who will.
Archimedes famously designed machines 2300 years ago capable of setting
ships on fire using an array of mirrors. At the end of WWII plans were
found in Germany for space mirrors to incinerate cities. Now Solaren
Corp. has signed a contract with Pacific Gas and Electric to reflect solar
energy to Earth to generate electricity.