“I’m not trying to cheer anyone up, least of all the doomers themselves. What I really want is for people to refocus on the problems that matter most, and to stay motivated to fight those problems. I cannot give you any set of facts or statistics or charts that tells you whether you should be optimistic or pessimistic about the world; that is a matter of opinion. But what data can do is to make you better able to calculate the relative importance of the various threats, risks, and trends in the world.” SOURCE: Noahpinion on Substack

Long-time readers and observers of this page will have seen that a recurring theme of mine is to resist the prevailing notion that the world is continually sliding into apocalyptic doom and we need to really freak out about it.  A corollary of the doomer mentality is at that acknowledging human progress might be harmful because it might foster political apathy, reduce activism, and is therefore not a “helpful” framework for education, journalism, or research. Dan Gardner notes that the conversation around population/resources fails to note the changes of the last 30 years.   This article by Noah Smith, an economist, is a healthy reminder that pessimistic headlines garner greater attention, the story of the last 200 years, as well as the last 50 years, is one of overwhelming progress. Also, Hannah Ritchie from Our World in Data shows how creating a more sustainable future needs framework where a better future is achievable.

As a member of Heterodox Academy, I think that fostering viewpoint diversity in the academy matters, and that higher education should have truth seeking as its highest purpose.  I’m of the perspective that an honest portrayal of objective truths is what society needs.  Obviously, this is difficult if not impossible to achieve, but an essential norm to strive for if we are going to have a healthy worldview.      

Past posts on the topic:

The world is far from perfect, but it is getting better for more people