End of Doom

Ronald Bailey has an excellent piece in the October print edition of Reason Magazine entitled, "The End of Doom" and a recently released book with the same title.  It's a nice counterweight to the oft-heard refrain that the world is going to hell.  

Here are a a few quotes I found particularly interesting.  In critiquing Rachel Carson's Silent Spring:

At its heart is this belief: Nature is beneficent, stable, and even a source of moral good; humanity is arrogant, heedless, and often the source of moral evil. Carson, more than any other person, is responsible for the politicization of science that afflicts our contemporary public policy debates.

In discussing our out-sized fears of cancers from synthetic chemicals and of biotechnology:

It should always be borne in mind that environmentalist organizations raise money to support themselves by scaring people. More generally, Bonny observes, “For some people, especially many activists, biotechnology also symbolizes the negative aspects of globalization and economic liberalism.” She adds, “Since the collapse of the communist ideal has made direct opposition to capitalism more difficult today, it seems to have found new forms of expression including, in particular, criticism of globalization, certain aspects of consumption, technical developments, etc.”

He ends with some choice words about the precautionary principle.  

Why does it matter if the population at large believes these dire predictions about humanity’s future? The primary danger is they may fuel a kind of pathological conservatism that could actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


The precautionary principle is the opposite of the scientific process of trial and error that is the modern engine of knowledge and prosperity. The precautionary principle impossibly demands trials without errors, successes without failures.


”An indirect implication of trial without error is that if trying new things is made more costly, there will be fewer departures from past practice; this very lack of change may itself be dangerous in forgoing chances to reduce existing hazards.”