On Famous Polymaths

See No Evil

There are two and only two topics required to understand the basis of every success and problem in our civilization: thermodynamics and genetic behavior.

By thermodynamics I mean:

  • the laws of thermodynamics that govern our universe
  • the relationships between energy, economy, wealth, population, and pollution
  • the relationship between debt and surplus energy
  • the maximum power principle of biology
  • the history of energy use
  • the types, sources, qualities, density, scalability, and applications of energy
  • the discovery rate, consumption rate, and reserves of non-renewable energy
  • what is and is not feasible with, and the dependencies of, non-fossil energy

By genetic behavior I mean:

  • human behaviors that are mostly hard-wired
  • genetic behaviors that contributed to our unique success and predicament
  • why those genetic behaviors evolved

Why is it that every famous intellectual understands many topics except the only two topics that really matter: thermodynamics and genetic behavior?

  • Steven Pinker
  • Sam Harris
  • Jordan Peterson
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Sean Carroll
  • Sam Harris
  • Yuval Noah Harari
  • David Suzuki
  • David Attenborough
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Lawrence Krauss
  • Elon Musk
  • Dan Carlin
  • Stewart Brand
  • James Hansen
  • Matt Ridley
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Jeff Hawkins
  • Frans de Waal
  • James Lovelock
  • Jared Diamond
  • Joe Rogan
  • Lex Fridman
  • Rob Reid
  • Michael Pollan
  • Ken Burns
  • Chris Hedges
  • Vaclav Smil
  • Niall Ferguson
  • Alan Greenspan
  • Thomas Sowell
  • John Kenneth Galbraith
  • David Stockman
  • Joseph Stiglitz
  • Paul Krugman
  • Russ Roberts
  • Penn Jillette
  • Eric Weinstein
  • Michael Shellenberger
  • Michael Shermer
  • Alex de Waal
  • Sabine Hossenfelder
  • Brian Cox
  • and many others

Why is it that there is no famous intellectual (nor political or business leader) who understands thermodynamics and genetic behavior?

  • ???

Why is it that the few intellectuals who do understand thermodynamics and genetic behavior are distinctly not famous?

  • Dennis Meadows
  • Tom Murphy
  • William Catton
  • William Rees
  • Charles Hall
  • Nate Hagens
  • Tim Garrett
  • Jay Hanson
  • David Korowicz
  • Tim Watkins
  • Paul Chefurka
  • Reg Morrison
  • Jack Alpert
  • Richard Heinberg
  • Joseph Tainter
  • Chris Clugston
  • George Mobus
  • Dave Cohen
  • Gail Zawacki
  • Jason Bradford
  • Nicole Foss
  • Steve Ludlum
  • xraymike79
  • and very few others

This can’t be an accidental coincidence because famous polymaths are fluent in many topics.

I suspect the answer is that famous polymaths deny everything they don’t want to know, and they wouldn’t be famous if they didn’t, because their audience doesn’t want to understand those topics either.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon to observe once you see it.

P. S.

Why is there only one person in the world, a cranky old retired electrical engineer, who writes about genetic reality denial?

I suspect because denial is the reality that must be most aggressively denied to avoid collapsing the house of cards that keeps us functioning.

16 thoughts on “On Famous Polymaths”

  1. I wouldn’t say your the only one. I’ve certainly become fascinated by the concept since I stumbled across your website last year. I’m sure others have too. Keep it up. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks kindly. Perhaps the only person who writes about it. If you find anyone else active, please let me know. Lots of people discuss our lack of free will, but few associate denial with the absence of free will or the emergence of behaviorally modern humans.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since it is a small circle, you might have come across Pray For Calamity. The author, some twenty years younger than you, does not reveal much about him. Not only he has a very clear understanding of our predicament, he also writes well. There is argument whether the collapse is going to be gradual or sudden. If it latter, in my opinion, only very few people will make it through and I pray he, his understanding wife and their daughter are among them.


  2. I’m glad you included Dawkins on the first list…he’s been my evolutionary biology hero for ages..but was flabbergasted to see (in a youtube video) that he really hasn’t a clue about civilisational collapse.
    You forgot to put yourself on the second list 🙂
    I’m glad the other commenter pointed out tdOs…I missed his name on the list although I knew you read him. James at Megacancer is someone I only found about through you. GailZ doesn’t seem to write much nowadays, unless I’ve got an old link for her. Paul Chefurka I love.
    Sean Carroll on list 1? maybe I should get to and finish his book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Relevant quotes by James:

    Thermodynamics, expressed through genetics, creates beings incapable of not maximizing energy consumption.

    While it digs its own grave, all the mind can do is entertain fantasies and create excuses.

    “I think the popular ones are mostly salesmen, telling the crowd what they want to hear and earning a good living at it. Many scientists I’m sure won’t open their mouths to protect their careers and incomes. Let no man stand between a population of dorks and their gradients.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elon Musk says he’d rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right.

    Because he denies that optimism is increasing future suffering far beyond what it needed to be.

    Like all the other “intellectuals” that we respect.


  5. I’d put Timothy Garrett (cTHERM theory) on list two. Ruppert Sheldrake, Michael Ruppert, the Dark Mountain Project guy, Rachel Carson too.


  6. I belatedly saw this via another post and wondered why David Attenborough made the list, since he’s big on stopping population growth. But it didn’t take long to find his naive support for “clean energy” schemes. He doesn’t seem to grasp scale and the perils to wildlife he claims to cherish. Here’s a global warming denier taking him to task on bat deaths. They’re both right and wrong: https://reaction.life/david-attenborough-dead-bats-radical-green-propaganda-relies-tragedy-porn/

    I can see Sam Harris being so “granular” that he misses obvious things, but I like his political commentary. Another example is Elon Musk, who claims to be saving the planet but uses huge amounts of energy and wants to clutter space with satellites. It would be interesting to have a line about each person’s worst denial traits.


  7. James Galbraith is well known and I think is not in denial. I think Chomsky isn’t either. Robert Reich deserves a mention among the deniers. I once asked him about James Galbraith, who is very sympathetic to Charles Hall’s work and almost was co-editor of Hall’s Biophysical Economics Journal, for whom Reich expressed great respect, but had no idea about “The End of Normal”, perhaps James Galbraith’s best-known work.


    1. John Kenneth Galbraith is an economist that deserves to be on the list of famous people in denial.

      I’m not familiar with James K. Galbraith but I read his book’s synopsis and it does appear that he understands what’s going on. However, given that there are only 29 reviews of his book on Goodreads I would place him in on the list of not famous people that are not in denial,


    2. I find Chomsky far too leftist to be a realist, and his tone is too smug. He won’t hold criminals accountable for their modern actions, preferring to blame modern personal failings on historical treatment. You can’t empower a group by telling them over and over that they have no personal agency.

      The findings of the 1965 Moynihan Report keep getting ignored by the Left, though truer than ever. More fatherless families = more criminals, and some people are just born bad. Blaming it on “social inequality” is far too vague. Crime-causation denial is the Left’s climate-change denial.

      On the latter topic, Chomsky fails to do the math of energy scale and shows little concern for environmental desecration from new infrastructure. https://lithub.com/noam-chomsky-a-green-new-deal-can-create-jobs-and-livelihoods/

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s