On the edge

by Russ Roberts on January 4, 2007

in The Future

I stumbled on The Edge today (HT: Ego Food), a site on science and knowledge. They ask a question every year of a bunch of smart people. This year’s question is: What are you optimistic about? Why? (OK, two questions. Sort of.)

They have 160 responses. A few of them (Dennett and Dawkins for starters and maybe more than a few more) are optimistic that religion will die out in the very near future. This strikes me as remarkably unlikely. (I think it equally unlikely that were religion to die out that its death would result in a world of peace and harmony.)

But some of the others I found very interesting, including Chris DiBona, Max Tegmark and Geoffrey Carr. The latter is the science editor of the Economist and he speaks rather cheerfully about population growth and why Malthus was wrong.

BTW, Morgan Rose in this essay and its sequel, defends Malthus against many unfair attacks.

My quick scan of the list of contributors reveals no economists. Yet I think many economists (this one for example) are very optimistic about many things, including a rising worldwide standard of living and increases in life expectancy.

One thing I am not particularly optimistic or pessimistic about is human nature.

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Keith January 4, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Religion will disappear as soon as socialism disappears.

A reason to be pessimistic?

python January 4, 2007 at 2:13 pm

If by religion one means a belief in how things came to be, or a view on how one should live his/her life, I seriously doubt it will disappear.

People often confuse dogma with religion.

According to the intelligentsia left, my existence is a fortunate twist of fate in cosmology and biology yet I am asked to participate in social contracts and collective concepts. If I am here by chance why would I need to pay hommage to social constructs that had little to do with the odds? You see their line of reasoning: Big Bang, lots of heat and matter, gravity formed systems, planets came together, molecules form, taxes are levied on those molecules in order to support other molecules, etc.

Imagine what our solar system would be like if we hadn't gotten zoning rights to put planets here.

Personally I am optimistic that the concept of life, libery, and the pursuit of happiness will never die.

Mesa EconoGuy January 5, 2007 at 7:42 pm

South Park did a typically brilliant (for those who enjoy some profanity) parody job on people like these Dennett and Dawkins folks: Go God Go.

Cartman can’t wait 3 weeks until the new Nintendo Wii comes out, so he freezes himself. Unfortunately, and in Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) fashion, he is thawed out 530 years in the future, where there is no religion, only science.


Hilarity ensues. Well worth a look, though not for the easily offended.

Part 2 is on Sunday, 1/7, 11:30 pm ET, Comedy Central.

(The Wall-Mart episode is on Mon. 1/8, 9:30 ET, economically relevant).

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