Tuesday, December 02, 2014

African population exploding

SciAm reports:
United Nations leaders have worried for decades about the pace of population growth. A few years ago leading calculations had global population peaking at nine billion by 2070 and then easing to 8.4 billion by 2100. Currently it stands at 7.2 billion. Recently the U.N. revised these numbers steeply upward: the population is now expected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050 and continue to 10.9 billion by 2100 (black line, below). What caused this drastic revision? Almost all the increase comes from Africa (pink line). Earlier models “had anticipated that fertility rates in Africa would drop quickly, but they haven’t,” says Adrian Raftery, a statistician at the University of Washington, who assessed the revised estimates. How the world will feed a few billion more people is the question of the day.
I mentioned this before, but the chart makes it clearer.

For years, all the environmental experts have said that most of the world's problems are attributable to too many people, but the population experts have assured us that Third World populations will drop if raise their standard of living. Educated women do not want kids, they say, and with birth control options they will not.

This thinking is wrong, if the UN projections are accurate. It appears that aid to Africa may be catastrophic for the world.

You have to be careful what you say about Africa. The London Telegraph reports:
James Watson, the world-famous biologist who was shunned by the scientific community after linking intelligence to race, said he is selling his Nobel Prize because he is short of money after being made a pariah.

Mr Watson said he is auctioning the Nobel Prize medal he won in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA, because "no-one really wants to admit I exist".

Auctioneer Christie’s said the gold medal, the first Nobel Prize to be sold by a living recipient, could fetch as much as $3.5m (£2.23m) when it is auctioned in New York on Thursday. The reserve price is $2.5m.

Mr Watson told the Financial Times he had become an “unperson” after he “was outed as believing in IQ” in 2007 ...

Mr Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for uncovering the double helix structure of DNA, sparked an outcry in 2007 when he suggested that people of African descent were inherently less intelligent than white people. ...

Mr Watson said his income had plummeted following his controversial remarks in 2007, which forced him to retire from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. He still holds the position of chancellor emeritus there.

Because I was an ‘unperson’ I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income,” he said. ...

Mr Watson – who insisted he was “not a racist in a conventional way” – said it had been “stupid” of him to not realise that his comments on the intelligence of African people would end up in an article.

“I apologise . . . [the journalist] somehow wrote that I worried about the people in Africa because of their low IQ – and you’re not supposed to say that.”

In 2007, the Sunday Times ran an interview with Dr Watson in which he said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”.

He told the newspaper people wanted to believe that everyone was born with equal intelligence but that those “who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

Mr Watson said he hoped the publicity surrounding the sale of the medal would provide an opportunity for him to “re-enter public life”. Since the furore in 2007 he has not delivered any public lectures.
He is unlikely to be forgiven. Nor will people try to prove him wrong. It is a strange situation for one of the most famous scientists in the world.

I have criticized Watson before, but he should not have to sell his medal to get attention. If he can be shunned like this, then most other scientists will be intimidated into not expressing themselves on certain subjects, and truth will be hard to find.

Adam Rutherford, a Nature magazine editor and BBC science host, writes:
He may have unravelled DNA, but James Watson deserves to be shunned ...

This sounds awful: an 86-year-old hero ostracised for his views, shooed from public life by the people who walk in his scientific shadow.

But it’s not awful. Watson has said that he is “not a racist in a conventional way”. But he told the Sunday Times in 2007 that while people may like to think that all races are born with equal intelligence, those “who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. Call me old-fashioned, but that sounds like bog-standard, run-of-the-mill racism to me.
Rutherford's statement is much more offensive than Watson's. Watson was giving an opinion, based on his knowledge and experience. Rutherford offers no rebuttal, and treats it as an unmentionable scientific fact.

George R.R. Martin wrote (in A Clash of Kings or Game of Thrones):
“When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

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