21 July – More Incoherence about Economics From a Biologist

PZ Myers reminds us with some regularity that having a PhD in one discipline doesn’t mean you know anything about an entirely unrelated discipline. It’s a shame PZ doesn’t seem to understand that himself. Today he tried to explain the economics of asteroid mining to…well, the billionaires who have studied asteroid mining extensively and are planning to do it. How does that work?

Easy, he lies about it.

PZ Myers Lie [in bold]:

That’s Bezos. He seems to have a superficial understanding of the fact that we’re wrecking our home, but his excuse is that we can go get stuff from space to reduce our drain on the system, which is nonsense. There’s no oil in space. Mining is always going to be more difficult, expensive, and dangerous on asteroids. The kinds of resources that drive the material development of society are going to be more destructive to the environment if we haul in more of them.



PZ is regrettably vague in the mechanism by which these resources will be “more destructive to the environment,” however his choice of the title for the post and the fact that he lets a climate change scientist have the last word strongly suggest he is talking about greenhouse gasses here.

And it’s a lie.

A recent study from the University of Paris-Saclay calculated the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by a platinum mining operation on earth and the amount that might be emitted by an asteroid mining operation. Here are the results:

…economies of scale from large asteroid-mining operations could lower this to about 60 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of platinum. That needs to be compared with the emission from Earth-based mining. Here, platinum mining generates significant greenhouse gases, mostly from the energy it takes to remove this stuff from the ground. Indeed, the numbers are huge. The mining industry estimates that producing one kilogram of platinum on Earth releases around 40,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide. “The global warming effect of Earth-based mining is several orders of magnitude larger,” say Hein and co.



Topics like this are why we like to call PZ Myers an “evangelical progressive.” There is a religious quality to his beliefs. He would likely dismiss this evidence out of hand and still maintain that asteroid mining would be worse for our environment than continuing to mine in our current fashion.

He gives up the game near the end of the post, when he says, “If you’re serious about saving Planet Earth, work to end capitalism and build sustainable, renewable institutions.”

Ending capitalism is the real goal. All the rest is just window dressing. It’s freedom, and free markets, that really bother PZ Myers. Which, for a scientist, doesn’t make much sense.

We wonder sometimes if he would rather be the richest person in the world 100 year ago or if he’d prefer to live near the poverty line today. His answer, we think would be revealing. In almost every way, those living in a first-world country near the poverty line today are far better off than the richest person in the world was in 1919, and almost every bit of that is due to capitalism.

We came across an old quote from PZ, which says:

If you’ve got a religious belief that withers in the face of observations of the natural world, you ought to rethink your beliefs — rethinking the world isn’t an option.

PZ Myers

His quasi-religious belief in socialism (or marxism, or anything other than the free market) withers in the face of the last 100 years of observations, but he’s not rethinking his world.

We find that curious.

Incidentally, we love the part where PZ tries to explain to the three billionaires who have invested millions of dollars in asteroid mining that what they’re doing doesn’t make economic sense. We’re sure none of them ever thought to crunch the numbers on this one, but they’ll certainly do so now, after reading PZ Myers’s insightful analysis.

Final Tally:

Today: 1 science-related post, 2 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 56 science-related posts, 149 non-science posts.

27% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 1 PZ Myers Lie

Since 30 May 19: 62 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

Leave a Reply