My friend and esteemed science writer Matt Ridley has a new book coming out: The Rational Optimist. I've seen a review copy and it's as good as I predicted. I'll say more about it when it's published next month. This is from the blurb on Amazon's UK site.

Over 10,000 years ago there were fewer than 10 million people on the planet. Today there are more than 6 billion, 99 per cent of whom are better fed, better sheltered, better entertained and better protected against disease than their Stone Age ancestors. The availability of almost everything a person could want or need has been going erratically upwards for 10,000 years and has rapidly accelerated over the last 200 years: calories; vitamins; clean water; machines; privacy; the means to travel faster than we can run, and the ability to communicate over longer distances than we can shout.

Yet, bizarrely, however much things improve from the way they were before, people still cling to the belief that the future will be nothing but disastrous. In this original, optimistic book, Matt Ridley puts forward his surprisingly simple answer to how humans progress, arguing that we progress when we trade and we only really trade productively when we trust each other. The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we've been doing for 10,000 years -- to keep on changing.

Meanwhile, Matt has begun blogging. See his comment on a recent NYT piece about the global decline in maternal deaths, which noted that this good news was not universally welcomed.

[S]ome advocates for women's health tried to pressure The Lancet into delaying publication of the new findings, fearing that good news would detract from the urgency of their cause, Dr. Horton [Lancet's editor] said in a telephone interview.

"I think this is one of those instances when science and advocacy can conflict," he said...

"People who have spent many years committed to the issue of maternal health were understandably worried that these figures could divert attention from an issue that they care passionately about," Dr. Horton said.

Echoes of Climategate.

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