Dr. John P. Holdren, Science Adviser and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Is Obama’s Science Czar a Crackpot?

By —— Bio and Archives July 15, 2009

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Does Obama’s science adviser advocate compulsory abortions and putting chemicals into the water supply to sexually sterilize human beings? Some well-known conservative bloggers and columnists have recently been repeating this information, based on revelations on a website strangely called Zombietime. But an analysis by Accuracy in Media has determined that some of the most sensational charges against Dr. John P. Holdren fall short of the mark. Still, he has a lot to answer for, including his belief in a “Planetary Regime” to manage the world.

That Holdren endorsed the concept of a “planetary regime” is shocking, considering that he is now a top White House official. In fairness, however, it doesn’t seem much different from Pope Benedict XVI’s endorsement of a “World Political Authority,” which was included in his recent encyclical. Devotion to some form of world government seems popular in religious and government circles these days, especially in the age of Obama.

The difference, of course, is that Holdren was confirmed by the Senate of the United States and his salary is paid by U.S. taxpayers. However, Senators may not have been aware of many of his views.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Holdren to the position of Science Adviser and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on March 19. He was previously the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Professor of Energy and Resources Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. He also served as director of the Woods Hole Research Center. 

Senator David Vitter of Louisiana took the February 12 confirmation hearing seriously and grilled Holdren about some of his doomsday views on climate change, population growth, and the possibilities of nuclear war. Vitter nailed Holdren on some fantastic claims that he had made in the past but which he had subsequently backed away from.

Vitter noted, for example, that Holdren had written that 280 million people would be “too many” for the U.S. In response, Holdren said, “I no longer think it’s productive, Senator, to focus on the optimum population for the United States. I don’t think any of us know what the right answer is. When I wrote those lines in 1973, I was preoccupied with the fact that many problems the United States faced appeared to be being made more difficult by the rate of population growth that then prevailed.”

Warnings Ignored

William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute had warned the Senate that Holdren had “a 40-year record of outlandish scientific assertions, consistently wrong predictions, and dangerous public policy choices” that made him “unfit to serve as White House Science Adviser.” Yeatman called him a “chronic alarmist, adding that “Holdren’s gloom and doom prophecies are bad enough, but he compounds his folly by advocating radical, morally dubious remedies for his crackpot apocalyptic theories.”

Still, no senator voted against Holdren.

Holdren is now under renewed assault for statements that are being attributed to him in a 1977 book he co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich entitled Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment. Holdren’s bio includes a reference to this book, which was based on dire and outlandish predictions about population growth, natural resources, and other matters.

Holdren was a close associate of Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich, who, as noted by AIM founder Reed Irvine in a 1999 AIM Report, is “the discredited former Stanford butterfly expert who used to show up regularly on television shows warning of impending disasters that have never materialized.” Highlighting one of Ehrlich’s most notable gaffes, Irvine explained that “In 1980 Ehrlich bet economist Julian Simon $1,000 that the price of a group of raw materials that he selected would be higher in 1990; Simon, who predicted prices would be lower, won the bet.” This became known internationally as the “Simon-Ehrlich Wager.”

At the time it was reported that Obama would nominate Holdren as science czar, John Tierney of the New York Times noted that Holdren was “one of the experts” that Ehrlich had enlisted on his side in making that bet and selecting the five metals. Ehrlich, Holdren and the experts “turned out to be wrong on all five metals, and had to pay up when the bet came due in 1990,” Tierney noted. But being “spectacularly wrong” on such a matter wasn’t a disqualifier for the post of science adviser in the White House.

While Holdren can be criticized for associating with a character such as Ehrlich, it is important to understand in what areas, if any, he differs, and what exactly Holdren and Ehrlich wrote about the controversial subjects of abortion and sterilization in the 1977 book.

What is Zombietime?

The website Zombietime (which has been mostly off-line since it published its story on this matter) has attracted attention by seeking to prove the most sensational charges against Holdren with actual excerpts from the book that are reproduced for everyone to see. Its headline screamed, “John Holdren, Obama’s Science Czar, says: Forced abortions and mass sterilization needed to save the planet.” The subheadline was, “Book he authored in 1977 advocates for extreme totalitarian measures to control the population.” The author of the piece about Holdren is anonymous and there seems to be no way to contact or even know the identity of the person or people behind the website.

What’s worse, some of the key excerpts have been taken out of context to attribute views to Holdren that he attributes to or bases on others.

However, the charges have now taken on a life of their own. Basing a report on Zombietime, a writer for the Examiner.com wrote that it was established fact that Holdren favored forced abortion and sterilization. He said, “I assure you, it is no mistake. Holdren wrote the following quotes in a work he co-authored…” The citation he used was from a “picture of text” from Zombietime.

Taking the controversy one ominous step further, the website known as Prison Planet claimed that Holdren had a “plan to sterilize [the]  population” through the water supply and that it is “already happening.” This is the website of some of those convinced that the U.S. Government attacked itself on 9/11 and unfairly blamed Muslims.

The Facts

Zombietime reports that on page 837 Holdren and his co-authors write that “Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society. Few today consider the situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion, however.”

However, this statement is preceded by this paragraph: “The impact of laws and policies on population size and growth has, until very recently, largely been ignored by the legal profession. The first comprehensive treatment of population law was that of the late Johnson C. Montgomery, an attorney who was president of Zero Population Growth, and whose ideas are the basis of much of the following discussion.”

So while Holdren can be criticized for including this reference to compulsory abortion, it cannot be said, strictly speaking, that it is necessarily his view. He can correctly be criticized for publicizing it.

Holdren’s Sources

Zombietime reports that on page 786 Ecoscience reports that “One way to carry out this disapproval might be to insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption-especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone. If a single mother really wished to keep her baby, she might be obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it. Adoption proceedings probably should remain more difficult for single people than for married couples, in recognition of the relative difficulty of raising children alone. It would even be possible to require pregnant single women to marry or have abortions, perhaps as an alternative to placement for adoption, depending on the society.”

However, this statement is preceded on page 784 by the statement that “Population control through the use of socioeconomic pressures to encourage or discourage reproduction is the approach advocated by, among others, demographer Kingsley Davis, who originated many of the following suggestions.” Once again, a statement attributed to Holdren seems to have come from the work of someone else-someone that Holdren nevertheless admired.

That Holdren makes use of such quotations or views is something that can be strongly criticized. Taking such views seriously is itself alarming. But they should be attributed by his critics to the proper sources, even if Holdren does summarize or paraphrase them and seems at first glance to have adopted them as his own.

Similarly, Zombietime highlights that on pages 787-788 the book states that “Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.”

Once again, these strange proposals follow the reference to Kingsley Davis, a demographer and sociologist who was a visiting research associate at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. It is not precisely clear if Davis was the originator of these proposals or whether they came from somewhere else. As such, Holdren’s vagueness in terms of the specific authorship of these proposals lends credence to those who want to hold him responsible for them.

Zombietime highlights that on page 838 the book says that “If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility-just as they can be required to exercise responsibility in their resource consumption patterns-providing they are not denied equal protection.” But this was preceded on page 837 by the statement that “The first comprehensive treatment of population law was that of the late Johnson C. Montgomery, an attorney who was president of Zero Population Growth, and whose ideas are the basis of much of the following discussion.”

Again, Holdren can be criticized for relying on this individual for information, but it is not necessarily true from the text that he shares those views.

Zombietime says that on pages 942-943 the book calls for a “Planetary Regime” that “should control the global economy and dictate by force the number of children allowed to be born.”

Page 942 does include a heading, “Toward a Planetary Regime,” and page 943 declares, “The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries’ shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime should have some power to enforce the agreed limits. As with the Law of the Sea and other international agreements, all agreements for regulating population sizes, resource development, and pollution should be subject to revision and modification in accordance with changing conditions.”

World Government?

Holdren cannot wiggle out of responsibility for these statements because he does not specifically attribute them to anyone else in particular. Hence, the endorsement of a “planetary regime” can be correctly attributed to the authors of the book, including Holdren. What’s more, Holdren’s endorsement of the Law of the Sea Treaty is currently relevant because this is a treaty that Obama is now pushing for ratification by the U.S. Senate.

Holdren and the Ehrlichs go on to say, “The Planetary Regime might have the advantage over earlier proposed world government schemes in not being primarily political in its emphasis-even though politics would inevitably be a part of all discussions, implicitly or explicitly. Since most of the areas the Regime would control are not now being regulated or controlled by nations or anyone else, establishment of the Regime would involve far less surrendering of national power.”

So the “planetary regime” concept can apparently be considered a form of “limited” world government.

The book declares on page 943: “Should a Law of the Sea be successfully established, it could serve as a model for a future Law of the Atmosphere to regulate the use of airspace, to monitor climate change, and to control atmospheric pollution. Perhaps those agencies, combined with UNEP [United Nations Environmental Program] and the United Nations population agencies, might eventually be developed into a Planetary Regime-sort of an international superagency for population, resources, and environment. Such a comprehensive Planetary Regime could control the development, administration, conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or nonrenewable, at least insofar as international implications exist.”

This is not only dangerous but an accurate prediction of what is currently happening under Obama, who is pushing Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty and hoping to produce another and much tougher global warming treaty at a United Nations conference in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

But who will enforce the demands of the “Planetary Regime?”

Global Enforcer

Zombietime highlights that the Holdren book declares on page 917 that “If this could be accomplished, security might be provided by an armed international organization, a global analogue of a police force. Many people have recognized this as a goal, but the way to reach it remains obscure in a world where factionalism seems, if anything, to be increasing. The first step necessarily involves partial surrender of sovereignty to an international organization.”

This statement is followed by the important caveat: “But it seems probable that, as long as most people fail to comprehend the magnitude of the danger, that step will be impossible.”

In this case, the caveat is not convincing, in part because Holdren seems to have dedicated his career to exaggerating “the danger” and can be counted on to continue to do so in his White House position.  

This is obviously one of several areas that Holdren should have been grilled about in his Senate confirmation hearing. It goes without saying that the major media should belatedly begin to probe Holdren’s views with a careful reading of the book Ecoscience.

However, AIM was told Monday by Holdren’s office that only two telephone calls had been received from the press about the sensational charges being reported against Holden in the conservative blogosphere. Clearly, the major media haven’t taken the charges seriously, explaining why there has been a “deafening silence” from the mainstream media, as noted by Michelle Malkin. It doesn’t help when the 9/11 “truth movement” picks up the story.

In order for Holdren’s strange views to get the attention they deserve, his writings must be analyzed carefully. Ecoscience seems not to be readily available in hard copy, but it is available through the Questia Online Library, where I got access to it for a fee.

It is late, considering that he has already been nominated by Obama and confirmed. But members of the Senate can still demand that he return for a serious examination of his views and agenda. Then there might be more pressure on the major media to finally pay attention.

Cliff Kincaid -- Bio and Archives | Click to view Comments

Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of the AIMReport.

Cliff can be reached at: [email protected]

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