"We're just chemical scum...."

So opines legendary physicist David Deutsch in this fascinating YouTube video, in which he also discusses Global Warming.

The video is reviewed here in a post titled "The World's Most Elite Libertarian Scientist on Global Warming...":

Deutsch is the intellectual father of quantum computation, the viability of such likely validating his Multiverse, Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics--a paradigm to be the most radical since the overthrow of classical physcis with relativity and quantum mechanics at the turn of the 20th century. And he is a libertarian--probably, no doubt, the only one at Oxford.

Deutsche believes in "liberty as an essential human value, the abolition of victimless crimes, favors entrepreneurship and takes the view that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing at a profit."

Deutsche rejects carbon taxes, regulations, centralized control of output, arguing, that, firstly, it is too late for carbon dioxide emissions controls to work, anyways, and secondly, mankind is better off focusing on ways to adapt to a constantly changing environment, rather than spending huge sums on attempting to prevent that change.

Bear in mind that Deutsch believes in anthropogenic global warming theory, but I guess because he doesn't share the fetish for draconian restrictions on carbon, which he says would have been too late even had they been implemented in the 1970s (in those days, to prevent a new "Ice Age"). Which I guess makes him another enemy of the New York Times' "overwhelming scientific consensus."

I'm no physicist, but it does seem to me that the argument involves whether and how to build a better climate.

The Precautionary Principle is often invoked by the people who want to impose draconian restrictions on carbon, a naturally inevitable byproduct of human and animal activity. But considering the costs and consequences, I think it's just as valid to invoke the Precautionary Principle as an argument against this wildly impractical War on Carbon. What if attempts at "prevention" prove worse than the disease? As Deutsch points out, it is folly to focus on preventing what has happened.

It's not as if "excessive" amounts of CO2 are new. The fitful scientists might do better to examine the past than demand legal solutions to technological challenges.

But which scum gets to decide for the rest of us scum?

posted by Eric on 06.06.07 at 10:48 AM



No, actually it doesn't make Deutsch an enemy of the overwhelming scientific consensus.

In fact, in the video, he states the position that, as a scientist in a field outside of climate studies, the most sensible thing for him to do is to accept the conclusions that the climate-science community has come to. Since I haven't made any attempt to memorize his words, this is my choice of wording: But it's quite clearly stated in the video.

The scientific issue has always been: What should we expect to happen?

The question, What should we do is a separate issue,a policy question, and should always be seen as such.

His point of view on the second issue is, Prepare for changes, because it's too expensive to stop producing C-O2. Others would say, We can stop producing C-O2, and it won't cost nearly as much as you think - perhaps as little as 0.1% of economic growth on an annual basis (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-070504climate-report,1,655726.story?ctrack=1&cset=true). It's a matter of opinion at this point - although I don't see any evidence that he's actually done any calculations that would validate his assessment. But neither have I.

But, for the many-th time, it is NOT a question of the "best" climate. It is a question of trying to keep climate change to a rate at which we won't lose lots of biodiversity. I frankly don't care whether it gets warmer or cooler. I just want it to happen more slowly, so that we don't lose our biological inheritance.

On which point, I will remind you that he admitted that "biological field trips" are one enterprise which you cannot reproduce in intergalactic space: mathematics, physics, chemistry, all the rest you can do with a few accelerators and computers (and don't forget blackboards); but to study living creatures, you have to have living creatures; and if you want to study a variety of them, you really ought to have a planet.

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 6:55 PM

Just increase the biodiversity with genetic engineering! ;)

Robert   ·  June 7, 2007 7:45 PM


But think what you're giving up: 4 billion years worth of "investment" in evolutionary experimentation, for a few decades of genetic engineering.

Neal J. King   ·  June 8, 2007 4:37 AM

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