Are the “smart” people really very smart? That is, do the people who score at the top on standardized tests and then turn up at the fancy universities actually have a superior level of reasoning and rationality that they can apply to solving the problems of the world? Or are they instead just trapped in the same sorts of groupthink and mass irrationality as everyone else?
Well, let’s consider the latest information coming out of Harvard University. Harvard — you can’t get any “smarter” than that. This is America’s premier institution of higher learning. You don’t get to go there unless you are at the very top of the top of intelligence. And the people who run the place have to be even smarter still. If you want to see what “smart” really is, this is where to look.
About a week ago Harvard President Larry Bacow decided it was time to send out one of those occasional missives addressed to all “Members of the Harvard Community.” Likely, you might think, this would be an occasion for Harvard to announce some incremental enhancements to its efforts to fulfill the core mission of educating the students. Hardly. People, this is Harvard — we don’t think small. So instead, the purpose of the communication is to tell us that Harvard is on the front lines in the battle to save the world. Bacow:
Climate change is the most consequential threat facing humanity. . . . We are going to need a little optimism to preserve life on Earth as we know and cherish it today.
And how exactly do we know that “climate change is the most consequential threat facing humanity”? Easy — in the Harvard way, we just look to the evidence before our very eyes:
The last several months have laid at our feet undeniable evidence of the world to come—massive fires that consume entire towns, unprecedented flooding that inundates major urban areas, record heat waves and drought that devastate food supplies and increase water scarcity. Few, if any, parts of the globe are being spared as livelihoods are dashed, lives are lost, and regions are rendered unlivable.
But wait a minute Larry. Is that just apocalyptic rhetoric? Is there actually real evidence that environmental disasters have recently been occurring at some greater rate than they ever have?
If we think that fires and floods and heat waves might prove that we are now facing some kind of climate armageddon caused by sinful human carbon emissions, then perhaps we should look to see if today’s catastrophes are any different from those before the era of human carbon emissions. For example, how about just 90 years ago. The invaluable Tony Heller dredges up this from the Los Angeles Times of September 18, 1931:
The truth is that Larry can’t be bothered to actually try to compare rates of droughts, floods, heat waves, hurricanes or anything else to see if they have gotten better or worse. He’s way too “smart” for that. If you want to get some real statistics, go to this page. Excerpt:
Heat Waves – have been decreasing since the 1930s in the U.S. and globally.
Hurricanes – this decade just ended was the second quietest for landfalling. hurricanes and landfalling major hurricanes in the U.S since the 1850s.
Tornadoes – the number of strong tornadoes has declined over the last half century. More active months occur when unseasonable cold spring patterns are present.
Droughts and Floods – there has been no statistically significant trend
Wildfires – decreasing since the very active 1800s. The increase in damage in recent years is due to population growth in vulnerable areas and poor forest management.
But forget climate change and move on to Covid-19. A year and a half into the pandemic, with a lot of data having been accumulated, if there’s one thing we know it’s that mask mandates don’t work. On that subject, here’s one of my favorite charts, with data from Minnesota, from Kevin Roche at Healthy Skeptic via John Hinderaker at PowerLine:
See how well the mask mandate worked in Minnesota? Well, the students are returning to Harvard, and here is the latest advice from the university on “Health & Wellbeing.” Excerpts:
Mask up. Mask indoors and wear your mask properly, fitting securely over your nose, mouth, and chin. Ensure a secure fit around all mask edges. Remove your mask only around your household/suite if possible. . . .
There are special tips for eating and drinking:
Dine in small parties of 2-4 people. Avoid table-hopping. Consider dining consistently with the same people rather than a different group at every meal. Consume your meal and immediately mask up when done.
And you thought that the reason you were attending Harvard was to have the chance to meet a lot of the other students. And then there’s my favorite, the tips for how to drink a beverage while masked:
When drinking, lower your mask, take a sip, and then promptly cover your mouth and nose. If you’re taking your time between bites and sips, put your mask back on.
Obviously they don’t cite any studies or evidence showing that any of this will have any effect. They don’t have to. They’re “smart.”