Almost three decades ago, two men made a bet. Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich gambled over the availability of resources during the decade leading up to 1990. Prior to the now famous wager, Ehrlich had published The Population Bomb, a book that claimed the human population was growing too fast for food and resources to keep up. Catastrophic? Yes. Substantiated? Simon was willing to bet “no.” With little proof to back up the over-the-top claims, it’s not surprising that 10 years later — with no disastrous shortage of resources — Simon claimed victory and cashed a check from Ehrlich. Fast forward to May 21, 2008. Laying $10,000 on the line, a Colorado law professor is challenging an obesity "expert" to stand by another catastrophic, unsubstantiated claim.
As we reported yesterday, obesity scaremongers David Ludwig and S. Jay Olshansky are at it again, forecasting “a two- to five-year drop in life expectancy unless aggressive action manages to reverse obesity rates.” The data, however, actually points to the contrary. Recent research has found that a little extra weight is in fact good for your health. A 2007 study in JAMA confirmed that fitness trumps fatness as a predictor of health. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that “we should continue to see improvements in life expectancy.”
Even these researchers’ own research doesn’t support their allegations. In a 2005 study, they admitted that the “life expectancy forecasts might be inaccurate” and that their dire prediction about longevity relied on “collective judgment” rather than empirical, scientific evidence.
So as he explained in today’s Rocky Mountain News, law professor Paul Campos doesn’t think Americans should have to take “collective judgment” of a few radical activists as an acceptable substitute for actual facts:
Here’s one small step that could be taken to address that. The first story in the Post’s series cites a 2005 study predicting a two to five year drop in life expectancy “unless aggressive action manages to reverse obesity rates.” Jay Olshansky, the study’s lead author, is quoted in the story as saying that “five years may be an underestimate.”
I challenge Olshansky to the following wager: If, at any decennial census going forward, obesity rates have risen or remained the same, and life expectancy in America has declined, I’ll pay him $10,000. If we don’t get any thinner but life expectancy has risen, he’ll pay me the same sum.
These are, given Olshansky’s predictions, quite generous terms in his favor. (If he has scruples against gambling, we can make a charitable contribution in the other’s name).
Your move, Olshansky.