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Earth’s survival, as argued by a wizard and a prophet




Charles C. Mann
Charles C. Mann
aspeninstitute-internal, Flickr

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When you think about the world 40 years from now, what do you foresee?

For one, envision a population of 10 billion. Now, if you’re like scientist William Vogt, Earth is overcrowded, grappling with limited resources and doomed. So we must do everything possible to, “Cut back! Cut back!” This is the prophet mentality.

But if you’re like scientist Norman Borlaug, the future is full of innovation and there is only one answer to save humanity and the planet. Innovate! Innovate! is the mantra of the wizard.

Both Vogt and Borlaug are scientists from the 20th century, and little is known about them, but these two are the main characters in Charles C. Mann’s latest book, “The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.” “Vogtian” and “Borlaugian” sounded too much like alien species to Mann, so he chose to divide the two categories of scientific thought into prophets and wizards instead.

The award-winning writer joins Larry Mantle to talk about the heated clash between both groups, and how he chose to tackle one of mankind’s biggest questions: Can nature bend to man? Or will man inevitably bend to nature?

Guest:

Charles C. Mann, longtime journalist and correspondent for The Atlantic, WIRED and Science; author of his latest book, “The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018); he tweets @CharlesCMann