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Matt Ridley speaks with authority to Julia Hartley-Brewer

Yes, I’ve been watching and listening to this conversation, between climate anti-alarmist and all-round rational optimist Matt Ridley and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer. If you like hearing things talked about as well as merely written about, I recommend this conversation, which lasts just under an hour.

Today here seems to be the day for denouncing Extinction Rebellion, and Ridley does that very persuasively. But there is a lot more. I’m just hearing Ridley say that climate change policies now kill far more people than climate change. … Now he’s talking about how much greener the earth is becoming. The idea that we need to be planting trees to make the earth greener is absurd.

My one mild disagreement with Ridley came about a third of the way in, when he says that science never involves arguments from authority. I know what he means. But, arguments from authority abound in the wider debate about climate science. Ridley makes sure to strip away the authority of whichever climate catastrophist he talks about. And he also makes sure to speak in a suitably measured manner himself, thereby enhancing his own authority.

For the truth is that people like Ridley have proved very authoritative. Many of the idiot children of the governing classes seem really to believe that climate catastrophe is imminent. Many more of the governing classes like climate catastrophe, because it is a fine excuse for them to do more governing. But people generally seem to remain unconvinced in their millions.

Certainly today’s foolishness from Extinction Rebellion, in the form of people climbing onto electric trains, really does seem to have been an own goal, as Natalie explained. Screwing with public transport really does undermine any authority these people may now have.

And just as we can all see these Extinction Rebels doing their rebelling, and especially when it looks very silly, we can also listen to the likes of Matt Ridley saying what he has to say. For all the biases and bullying of Facebook, Twitter and the rest of them, they can’t silence all of us anti-alarmists, all the time. And the difference between hearing some anti-alarmism, every so often, and never hearing any anti-alarmism at all from one decade to the next, is, when it comes to shaping public opinion, all the difference. The climate alarmist camp has spread a lot of climate alarmism in the last few years. But millions remain stubbornly skeptical, this being an important strand in the rising tide of what is called “populism”. (“Populism” means popular opinions that the people who don’t attach sneer quotes to the word populism don’t like.) Given how much governing class plugging climate extremism gets, it’s amazing how little it is talked about when elections come around.

Like Ridley, I am an optimist, not only about the state of humanity in general, but about the possibility that the foolishness now being spread by Extinction Rebellion may soon find itself in retreat.

LATER: Several people have also recommended to me this interview, which lasts a mere ten minutes.

28 comments to Matt Ridley speaks with authority to Julia Hartley-Brewer

  • Lee Moore

    My one mild disagreement with Ridley came about a third of the way in, when he says that science never involves arguments from authority. I know what he means.

    I think I know what he means too, and I don’t think he deserves a mild disagreement. Ze distinction here, I think, is that :

    (a) no scientific proposition can be defended on the basis of authority, it has to be defended on the basis of theory plus experiment, but

    (b) virtually all of us, all of the time, accept scientific propositions on the basis of authority, because we have no other choice other than learning the theory and redoing the experiments ourselves

    This ( ie (b) is the basis of almost all our knowledge of things that are not immediately within our grasp. I know from personal experience that there is a country called Turkey, cos I’ve been there. But I have never been to Poland so all I have to go on are reports. I’m prepared to believe it exists.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “virtually all of us, all of the time, accept scientific propositions on the basis of authority, because we have no other choice other than learning the theory and redoing the experiments ourselves”

    Yes, but:

    1. It’s not in accordance with the scientific method to do so, and beliefs held on that basis don’t have the full backing of the science’s reliability/confidence. You can hold beliefs for any reason you like, including Argument from Authority – but you can only call them ‘scientific beliefs’ (and sneer at other people’s unscientific beliefs, if thst takes your fancy) if you yourself used the scientific method. Otherwise they’re just beliefs about science.

    2. Most of the confidence we have in science is based on it having survived systematic, motivated, competent sceptical attack. The more attempts to debunk it a theory survives, the more confidence we can have in its truth. Never total, absolute confidence. But even evidence and theory can be misleading. Watch a stage magician at work. Did he saw that lady in half? The evidence of our eyes says ‘yes’, and is clearly not reliable. But if a bunch of stage magicians say they can’t figure out how he did it, and we think they’d tell us if they did, that’s different.

    Thus, we tend to put trust in old textbooks because we know thousands of students and teachers have gone through it in detail, and errors would have been caught and corrected. Social evidence of extensive checking is still evidence. But we put very little trust in peer reviewed journal papers because they’ve undergone virtually no checking. They’re being published precisely so other scientists can start the process of checking them.

    The ‘authority’ people should rely on is evidence that theories are thoroughly checked and any errors corrected. Evidence that they’ve not been checked, or not corrected, discredits the source. Evidence that they resist examination or hide the data discredits the source. Even an absence of positive evidence that checks have been done, and can be done by anyone, discredits the source. And that sort of evidence *is* available to laymen without extensive training in maths or physics.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)


    Your last paragraph explains why their is direct evidence “from doing the experiments ourselves”, and there is evidence that bears on whether someone’s authority is to be relied upon. What your last paragraph tells us “authority” people to do is what we do do.

    I didn’t just decide because I felt like it, that “climate science” is not all that it’s typically claimed to be. I decided this on the basis of evidence, of the sort that Ridley describes in this interview, involving, for example, emails in which “scientists” admitted to fiddling evidence, reports of scientists being scared for their careers if they dissent from the politicised “consensus”, etc.

    It sounds to me like you are saying that Lee Moore and I are wrong about why this actually (partly) is an argument about authority, because there’s evidence concerning various claims of authority, for or against, and that’s cheating. Yes. Evidence does often say whether we should grant or withhold authority. This isn’t cheating.

    See this earlier posting of mine.

    Interesting that Ridley quotes your moniker as being the motto of the Royal Society. So I wasn’t surprised at you joining in this discussion, against the claim that arguments from authority are often crucial in these climate debates.

    But maybe I have totally misunderstood you.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Excellent interview with Matt Ridley. One takeaway: to give up all carbon-based energy by 2025 means de-industrialisation. No flying, driving, imports, etc, mass overuse of farmland and open land.

    The lunacy of what Extinction Rebellion want needs to be relentlessly exposed.

    A colleague of mine (I said this before) reckons that three-quarters of the world’s population needs to die to save the planet. (He wants this to happen, and claims people should be persuaded over a certain age to kill themselves.) Remember the “Unabomber” and all that? Some of these cunts would be happy to start murdering scientists and others. Beware, Green terrorism is going to become a thing.

  • Michael Taylor

    I’m sorry, but I can’t take Matt Ridley seriously, because, after all, he was on the board of Northern Rock as its loan/deposit ratio soared past 200%, and he either saw nothing wrong in that, or worse, didn’t know. Either way, it was his fiduciary duty to know and to act ‘rationally.’ He failed disastrously, as a rationalist and as a person, in that. So we have been warned.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t take Matt Ridley seriously, because, after all, he was on the board of Northern Rock as its loan/deposit ratio soared past 200%, and he either saw nothing wrong in that, or worse, didn’t know. Either way, it was his fiduciary duty to know and to act ‘rationally.’ He failed disastrously, as a rationalist and as a person, in that. So we have been warned.

    Doesn’t tell you anything about whether his arguments are right or wrong about the demands of the ER and their ilk, even if you put the worst possible interpretation on his alleged culpability for what happened at Northern Rock, which was indeed a shit-show. What it proves is that someone who knows a lot about some subjects can be poor in others. So what else is new?

  • Runcie Balspune

    but I can’t take Matt Ridley seriously, because, after all, he was on the board of Northern Rock …

    Excellent example of the opposite of the argument from authority, the Courtier’s Reply.

    As regards the original post, there is a big difference between “argument from authority”, when you present your argument as an authoritative person agrees with you (regardless of the person’s credentials), and “authoritative argument” which is what Ridley is doing. For example, “climate change is real because Neil deGrass Tyson says so” is an argument from authority.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think it is a mistake to think of science as “hypothesis -> experiment -> revised hypothesis…. eventually -> theory”. Why? Because this process is mechanism of science rather than actually science itself. Fundamentally the word “science” means knowledge, and that is what science actually is, more specifically it is knowledge of the future. For example, if I take gasoline and air and add a spark I can predict the future — it will explode. If I fire a space craft engine with this much thrust at this altitude then I can predict the future: it will travel at this speed and attain this orbit.

    This is what humans have sought from the earliest of time — the ability to predict the future. In the past they have used everything from astrology to chicken guts to do this. There is nothing particularly magical about the experimental scientific process, it has just been shown in the past to be valuable in helping us predict the future.

    So why do I mention that? There are some types of science that cannot be done experimentally. Astronomy, meteorology, archaeology etc. However, they all have a couple of key principles related to this core idea of predicting the future: repeatability and falisifiability. If your prediction isn’t repeatable you don’t know with any degree of reliability what the future is, and if it is not falsifiable (that is there is no circumstances in which it can be demonstrated incorrect, regardless of how unlikely) then you also have no knowledge of the future.

    So these two ideas are more fundamental to science than even the experimental process, which is just as well because the experimental process cannot be applied to all types of science. But they also have the advantage that they can EASILY be understood by lay people. When a scientist makes a prediction about the future can that prediction be relied upon to be true? When a scientist makes a claim does he allow for the possibility that he might be wrong — that there might be evidence that would cause him to change his theory?

    So if we, who may not know much about a particular science, want to judge the veracity of their claims we have two very powerful tools at your disposal. Do the theories consistently produce predictions of the future that are correct? And does the scientist cleave to he science with a mind ready to change, or more like a religious person holds to their faith? And these criteria, anyone can use to judge. And without that we must merely genuflect to those whose name begins Dr. or Prof.

    I imagine you can guess what my thoughts are in this regard to climate science.

  • Julie near Chicago

    The problem with this particular conception of “falsifiability” (which really means testability) is that a claim or prediction that is in fact true and correct is by definition not falsifiable.

    It is, however, testable — sometimes.

    And if a claim is not testable against some hopefully-valid, hopefully-definitive criterion or criteria, then the claim is not falsifiable according to this definition of the word.

  • Stonyground

    Whenever some climate change alarmist is interviewed on the telly, I would love it if the first question was “what proportion of the Earth’s atmosphere is carbon dioxide?” I would suspect that non of them would have the faintest clue. Around 400 parts per million, up from around 350 parts per million in pre industrial times is the answer. There are hundreds of basic facts about the hypothesis of man made climate change that non scientists can make themselves aware of. By doing so they can expose the profound ignorance of the alarmists who really are using the argument from authority and have nothing else.

  • Fraser Orr

    @JnC FWIW I don’t agree that falsifiability = testability. To give you an example, I can claim there are no lifeforms on Mars. That is not something that can be tested, today anyway, but it certainly is falsifiable with the discovery of one Martian, or by tuning in to Martian TV. Now you might argue that is due to adequate testing equipment but that isn’t always true. For example, I might forlornly tell you that Jennifer Aniston, the unrequited love of my life, will never fall in love with me. Plainly that is falsifiable should she do so (yay me!!), but there is no way, and there cannot be a way, to actually test this claim.

    But your point is well taken. A claim that is not realistically testable is no more valid, or shall I rather say useful, than one which is not falsifiable. And this is where climate science falls foul. To make a claim, even one that is testable, like “the sea level will have risen ten feet by 2070”, is effectively unfalsifiable because it cannot be measured within a timeframe in which we can judge. In 2070 we can cease our objection to this claim, but until then this claim has really zero scientific value because, even though it is falisifiable, it is not practically speaking, testable.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not entirely invalid to make predictions about the future, however, to do so you must establish the short term predictive power of your model, to show that it has, in the past, shown the ability to predict the future. And again, this is where our climate friends fall far short. Even with their best attempts to fiddle with the data, they have simply never been able to make reliable predictions of the future when that claim is measured when that future comes around. So the predictive power of their models has been consistently demonstrated, even in the short term, to be unreliable. So to think that you can use these same short term models to predict the far future when the effect of confounding factors multiplies exponentially, is simply foolishness.

    So I am not saying they are wrong about the sea level in 2070, They might be right. I am just saying there is no good reason to believe that they are right. And you can make that judgement without being a climate scientist. You can simply look at their previous record of a failure to deliver correct predictions about the future. Failure to reliably predict the future is, simply speaking, failure to be a scientist.

  • Fraser Orr

    Whenever some climate change alarmist is interviewed on the telly, I would love it if the first question was “what proportion of the Earth’s atmosphere is carbon dioxide?”

    You might be right about the lack of knowledge. But you are wrong if you think that a low concentration of something somehow makes it invalid as a source of damage. Add a few ppm of Polonium to your body and you’ll be in deep shit.
    Trying to make a scientific argument on this matter will just get your bogged down. What is, in my view, a far more effective approach is to point out the trail of failures of predictions that climate scientists have made. That is something that people can readily understand without trying to grasp the mechanism of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  • Lee Moore

    Fraser : To make a claim, even one that is testable, like “the sea level will have risen ten feet by 2070”, is effectively unfalsifiable because it cannot be measured within a timeframe in which we can judge. In 2070 we can cease our objection to this claim

    Actually even in 2070 we can’t directly test the claim, because although we can measure the 2070 sea level, we can’t, in 2070, directly measure the 2019 sea level.

    One of the features of climate change science that makes it interesting is that the rate of increase of temperature appears to be driven in part by the past getting colder, as more adjustments are made “to account for the inadequacies of past measurements.”

    to point out the trail of failures of predictions that climate scientists have made

    But they’re not predictions ! They’re just models. Actually I’d be quite grateful if someone could explain the (a) difference and (b) significance.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser, it’s true I didn’t go through the whole song and dance about “falsifiability” this time. Really, the only place where I disagree with you is on the issue of the relationship, if any, between testability and the ability to show a claim (prediction) is false — i.e., between testability and falsifiability. (O/T: Good point about minute quantities and Polonium. Must remember that for next time I need to poison someone. *happy grin*)

    So, to be more thorough:

    1. A claim is not falsifiable if it is in fact true, at least at the time when whatever given test or tests are conducted.

    2. A claim is not falsifiable at a given time if, at that time, the conditions on which the claims are based do not exist. You got at this with your Martian. Another example: At the extreme, you could claim that the sun will not rise tomorrow. This claim is not going to be falsifiable until the predicted time of sunrise tomorrow actually comes, at which time it will self-evidently be true or false — you need do nothing but observe.

    This is an example of a case where a claim is indeed testable, just not yet and not experimentally*. Here’s another: When we were married, I claimed that in 10 years I would still love my Honey. Claim cannot be validated until our 10th anniversary, when I tested it: I observed my emotions, and yes indeed, love for the gent was still present. The test of the claim was passed. (Or, as they say, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” — and proof in this sense means test.)

    *I don’t want to get into the weeds about “empirically” or “observationally” vs. “experimentally.” Some claims are proven true — or false — because we see what life shows us as we go along.

    3. A claim is not falsifiable if there is no possibility that there will ever exist a means to test it. The only example I can think of just now would be a claim that there exists a universe (by which I mean the philosophical universe: the whole of Reality) which will always and forever be disjoint from ours; nothing in either universe will ever affect the other in any way. Also, of course, the reverse: The only universe there ever can be is our own.

    By definition, neither of these claims can ever be tested, never be proven true or false (“falsified”).


    In fact, “falsifiability” in this (IMO unfortunate) sense presupposes testability. In other words,

    you can’t falsify if you can’t test.

    Note also: testing which is empirical but not experimental exists. A weather forecaster can predict rain for LaMoille, Ill., 1.2 sq. mi., day after tomorrow, but the claim can’t be validated or invalidated except by empirical testing: if the day after tomorrow passes without rain, the claim tests false, i.e. is invalidated; if it rains the claim is validated. Nobody ran any experiment to test the claim.


    Merriam-Webster online does allow for empirical testing. For sense 2 of the noun “test,” it includes:

    2 a (1) :

    a critical examination, observation, or evaluation
    specifically : the procedure of submitting a statement to such conditions or operations as will lead to its proof or disproof or to its acceptance or rejection

    2 a (2) : a basis for evaluation : criterion

    And obviously, in the last analysis it’s the observation of an experiment’s results that really constitutes the test of a claim’s correctness or incorrectness: we observe whether the experiment yields the results the claim predicts.

  • Lee Moore

    1. I think “observation” is the key word here. It doesn’t matter whether you set up a lot of apparatus and heat a few test tubes to put yourself in a position to make the observation, or whether you just pointed your telescope at the stars and noticed something about their behavior; it’s the observation that counts.

    2. But it also matters where in the logical sequence you made the observation. So :

    (A) you notice a strange spectral line in a star

    (B) you come up with a hypothesis that explains it

    3. Your observation (A) is not an observation in the “confirming’” observation sense, since you had it before you had the hypothesis. But if I come up with an identical hypothesis before I’ve seen your star, then that star’s spectral line is a confirming observation for my hypothesis, when you point it out to me. Weird.

    4. And weirder still is that it might even be a confirming observation for your hypothesis too, if you didn’t realize, pre-hypothesis, that your star was relevant to your hypothesis and only figured that out later.

    5. I say “confirming” a hypothesis though we know that strictly we’re only “not refuting” the hypothesis. So what’s the difference between the “not refuting” that is done by : (a) the lack of an observation (b) an observation you made before you came up with your hypothesis and (c) an observation you made, or which came to your attention, after you came up with your hypothesis ?

    6. I think it gets to the point I think Fraser was making which is that we are trying to predict the future, and the question becomes – how reasonable is it to doubt that this hypothesis predicts the future well, given each of these types of observation. And the answer under some sort of Bayesian logic that is too tricky for me to formulate – if your hypothesis has successfully predicted things that were not already known (to you), and has not been contradicted yet, then the more “tests” it has been through without failing, the more reasonable it is to assume it’s going to carry on predicting the future well.

    7. This, I think, explains the slightly weird feature than an observation might be confirmatory for me but not for thee. I get a helping of credibility for predicting what I did not already know. You don’t get squat for predicting what you already knew.

    8. Hence the problem with climate change models. They are excellent at modeling their own inputs, but less good in comparison with new incoming observations.

  • Lee Moore

    Julie : A claim is not falsifiable if it is in fact true

    I’m going to beg to differ here. I think “falsifiable” in the Popperian sense means that there is, at least in principle, some way of refuting the claim, if it were false. I don’t think he intended to restrict the concept of falsifiability to hypotheses that are in fact false. He intended to apply it when we don’t know, but wish to distinguish between a “scientific” hypothesis (in principle “falsifiable”) and mere puff.

    Thus my claim is :

    1178179387553080 is divisible by 251

    There is a way of refuting this claim, if it were false. By dividing by 251 and seeing what happens.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Lee, I don’t find a dictionary at onelook.com that defines “falsifiability.” But Popper or no Popper, it is surely senseless to say, ‘the statement “the Sun exists” is “falsifiable”‘!

    Regardless of what Popper meant, people keep saying that a claim “is not scientific unless it is falsifiable.”

    If they really meant that, they would have to realize that that means that no true claim can be scientific, because a true claim cannot — by definition of the word “true” — be shown to be false! (Well, perhaps unless one is some sort of post-Modernist.)

    Frankly, it seems to me one of those statements that somebody makes, and somebody else thinks it sounds pretty good and starts making it himself, and before you know it people are throwing it around right and left without ever stopping to think about whether in logic it can possibly be correct.

    For me, this territory is now well explored, so I think I’ll hang it up here and say Good Night (Fraser) and Good Morning (Lee, if you’re in the UK). :>)

  • Lee Moore (October 18, 2019 at 10:36 pm), that’s an interesting example of “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” The earth can ‘warm’ without getting hotter if the past keeps ‘getting’ colder.

    Julie, it is clear that Popper did not mean falsifiable to mean false. I’d agree the word can be used in ordinary English to mean ‘can be shown to be false’ as well as ‘could be shown to be false’, but in Popper’s sense, “The sun rises in the east” is falsifiable by anyone prepared to rise at dawn, though not false. Literally, “able to be shown to be false” does not require “will be shown to be false” or even “would be shown to be false” though I think it does mean “could be shown to be false”.

    Popper chose that word for an idea known long before (e.g. “It was as free from rational objection as a plan for threading the stars together”, Middlemarch, George Eliot, and it goes far further back) but I’m not instantly thinking of a better single word for the concept.

    Julie, apologies, I wrote this and posted and only then registered that you’ve decided to hang up the well explored territory. With the last minute of my 5 I return your Good Morning with my Good Night. 🙂

  • Fraser Orr

    Falsifiable absolutely is not the same as false. Falisifable really means “based on evidence that can be challenged”. So the statement “the sun exists” is absolutely falsifiable, even though it is also true. Why? We base this claim on evidence such as “we can see it”. But clearly that evidence can be challenged. “No, that light isn’t from the sun, it is actually from an alien space ship” or “it is Zeus’s chariot”. So the evidence of our eyes can be disputed, and if further investigation proves the Zeus’s chariot theory is correct then we have determined the original claim is false. The fact that it isn’t Zeus’s chariot but the equally implausible “huge ball of boiling gas” means that the claim is both true and falsifiable.

    BTW, if you think about it for a second, we are all used to the “huge boiling ball of gas” theory, but imagine how nuts that would sound if you hadn’t ever heard it before.

    Now consider a different claim that isn’t falsifiable. “God spoke to me and told we to become a priest”. This claim isn’t based on actual measurable evidence and so there is no contrary evidence that would convince someone that the conversation did not take place. The evidence cannot be challenged, and no contrary evidence can be accepted. This is called religion, and it is, in a sense the opposite of science. (BTW which does not imply that a person cannot be both religious and scientific, because, self evident many people are.) But it is also why science advances society. Previous claims, such as the theory or humors or the demon cause of diseases, or even more recently the demonstration that stomach ulcers are caused by an infectious agent — completely contrary to the common thinking at the time. Because their evidentiary basis can be challenged then the theory can be changed.

    FWIW, religion does change too, but in a rather different way, and much more slowly. Consider, for example, the changing approach religions have to homosexuality or the role of women in society. These sorts of changes are made not based on evidentiary challenge but by moral social pressure from the outside. By a reinterpretation of their holy writ to make it more acceptable to their modern audience.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Heh…Encore. (Nobody, having said he would do so, ever bows out for good in our discussions.)

    Niall, thanks for explaining to me (I think) that Popper dreamed up, or at least popularized, this down-the-rabbit-hole distortion of English.

    I speak English (or try to), not Popperian. I have never read Popper, nor have I any interest in doing so from what little I’ve seen said about him. And going by this maladaptation, to quote Bertie: “Man must be an ass.”

    I call it yet another example of a made-up usage which has little to do with its root, “to falsify,” which only adds to the befogging of epistomological enquiry.

    –Webster’s 1828, before Popper had inserted this nonsense into the minds of the public:

    FALS’IFY, verb transitive

    1. To counterfeit; to forge; to make something false, or in imitation of that which is true; as, to falsify coin.

    [Example:] The Irish bards use to falsify every thing.

    2. To disprove; to prove to be false; as, to falsify a record.[Snip]

    Oh, if there were world enough and time, I would out of intellectual honesty read enough of Popper to validate or invalidate my impression. Maybe he comes up with some reasoning for it that’s actually sound. But though there is, I suppose, “world enough,” both the time and the interest are in short supply.

    Thanks to all for the discussion, including the attempts to enlighten me. I will admit it’s sometimes dark in here….

  • Lee Moore

    1. Julie – I note you give the 1828 dictionary definitions of “falsify” not of “falsifiable” – indicating that the latter was not in sufficiently common usage to merit an entry. We are all familiar with similar sounding words with the same root acquiring, over time, subtly different meanings. That’s how English works.

    2. From wiki : “To say that a given statement (e.g., the statement of a law of some scientific theory)—call it “T”—is “falsifiable” does not mean that “T” is false. Rather, it means that, if “T” is false, then (in principle), “T” could be shown to be false, by observation or by experiment.”

    3. The heart of Popperian philosophy is that scientific truth is not provable. Only falsity can be proved – by a contradiction. Consequently any scientific hypothesis can only be known to be “false” or “not yet shown to be false by a contradiction.”

    4. But both kinds are “falsifiable” – ie they are stated with sufficient precision that an observation could provide a contradiction. “Falsifiable” is being contrasted not with “Truthifiable’ or “Confirmable”, but with “Immune to disproof by observation” – ie too vague or woolly to offer a target.

    5. Don’t forget that Popper was an Austrian, and contrary to the beliefs of the 44th President, Austrians don’t speak Austrian they speak German

    6. And here is a famous precedent for Popper’s idea of “falsifiability” from another Austrian :

    7. “a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli’s views. Pauli remarked sadly, ‘It is not even wrong’. This is also often quoted as “That is not only not right; it is not even wrong”, or in Pauli’s native German :

    8. “Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig; es ist nicht einmal falsch!”.

    9. Not even falschifiable – the ultimate put down !

  • Julie near Chicago

    Noted, Lee. :>)

  • Further to Lee Moore (October 20, 2019 at 6:02 am), Hayek makes a similar remark in “Law, Legislation and Liberty Vol II” where he explains that the concept of social justice “does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense”.

  • Lee Moore

    It looks to me as if those Austrians may have been copying each other’s homework.

    Who’s next – von Mises ?

  • Michael Taylor

    Jonathan Pearce, Runcie Balspune,
    To be absolutely clear, the headline of the article was/is ‘Matt Ridley speaks with authority . . . ‘ which could not be more plainly an argument deferring to his alleged authority.

    I reserve the right to consider the arguments, but as a source of ‘authority’, I, and you, have good reason to dismiss Matt Ridley as an authority figure. Sorry, but if you can’t recognize that a loan/deposit ratio of 200%+ in a deposit taking institution isn’t irresponsibly dangerous, there are consequences. One of the most minor and trivial is that the people responsible lose their reputation as people to be listened to with respect.

  • Paul Marks

    One must be careful not to reject everything just because it comes from an evil source.

    For example if an evil person tells me “1+1=2” that remains true – even if it is an evil person telling me it is true.

    There is nothing wrong with planting trees – even if the people urging one to do so are lunatics. Although, yes, one must be careful to manage woodland (unlike the insanity of California and elsewhere – where vast numbers of trees were planted and then the forests just left to grow without real management), clearing brush and making sure there are breaks inside and between woodlands – to prevent fires getting out of control.

    As for the C02-emissions-are-evil theory – well if this theory is true then the supporters of it must (I say yet again) support the radical deregulation of nuclear power, so that C02 emissions can be radically reduced without destroying civilisation – and so without destroying vast numbers of human beings who depend upon civilisation.

    Some Greens DO support the massive expansion of nuclear power – for example James Lovelock. But most do NOT – and that tells us all we need to know about most Greens.

  • Lee Moore

    if this theory is true then the supporters of it must (I say yet again) support the radical deregulation of nuclear power, so that C02 emissions can be radically reduced without destroying civilisation – and so without destroying vast numbers of human beings who depend upon civilisation.

    To be fair, I think there’s a pretty strong strand of Greenie thought that is entirely comfortable with destroying industrial civilisation (in a low CO2 fashion, obviously) and reducing the human population down to 10 million or so.

  • neonsnake

    One must be careful not to reject everything just because it comes from an evil source.

    Good reminder, that, Mr Marks.

    There is nothing wrong with planting trees

    When I was a very young lad, say 7 or 8, my Dad worked at a company that made paper. I once asked about recycling of paper etc, and he noted that Old trees cut down to make the paper are replaced by young trees, which are better for the environment (this was in the “ozone hole” period).

    His company had financed that research, of course, but I was young enough to just take my Dad’s word on everything at the time. It made me much more thoughtful and nuanced about recycling, anyway. I lean “green”, as it were, but it’s more a desire to be less wasteful, and I tend to check “accepted wisdom” as best I can before applying it.

    And oh yes, I’m fully supportive of nuclear.

    It should be a given, and end the fucking nonsense of wind farms (I like birds and don’t think we should be killing them for a poor approximation of energy XD )