Zombie has an update for that post about “science czar” John Holdren and the book he co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich in 1977.
When I originally wrote and published this essay on July 10, I said:
“Unfortunately, as far as I’ve been able to discover, Holdren has never disavowed the views he held in the 1970s and spelled out in Ecoscience and other books.”
However, that is no longer entirely true. On July 15, both the White House and John Holdren’s office issued statements on this controversy after prodding from reporters at both the Washington Times and the Catholic News Agency. According to this article by Amanda Carpenter in the Washington Times, Holdren and his co-authors have now distanced themselves from the words published in Ecoscience 32 years ago. From the article:When asked whether Mr. Holdren’s thoughts on population control have changed over the years, his staff gave The Washington Times a statement that said, “This material is from a three-decade-old, three-author college textbook. Dr. Holdren addressed this issue during his confirmation when he said he does not believe that determining optimal population is a proper role of government. Dr. Holdren is not and never has been an advocate for policies of forced sterilization.”
The White House also passed along a statement from the Ehrlichs that said, in part, “anybody who actually wants to know what we and/or Professor Holdren believe and recommend about these matters would presumably read some of the dozens of publications that we and he separately have produced in more recent times, rather than going back a third of a century to find some formulations in an encyclopedic textbook where description can be misrepresented as endorsement.”
Do you think these two articles count as the renunciation and disavowal I requested?
I think they do — and the statements released by the White House staff track with a comment I made at the end of the previous thread, speaking about Holdren’s testimony at his confirmation hearing:
When he says, “I no longer think it’s productive, Senator, to focus on the optimum population of the United States,” that does bear on the issue, since the idea of “optimum population” was behind Ecoscience’s draconian recommendations. When he says he thinks it’s “no longer productive,” that would very likely be his answer if asked directly about the book, too. It’s an admission that he has changed his opinions on those issues — probably as much admission as you’ll ever get from a bureaucratic scientist.
As disturbing as the ideas in Ecoscience may seem, thinking through extreme situations and visualizing consequences and possible solutions is part of what science is about. Now that Holdren has addressed the book specifically, and made it clear that, 32 years later, he doesn’t endorse or recommend the ideas in it, there’s not much more to say.