When smart people say stupid things: Stephen Hawking claims overpopulation will turn Earth into a literal “ball of fire”

It’s certainly strange how sometimes even the most brilliant minds among us can come up with the most ridiculous ideas imaginable. Sir Isaac Newton, for example, believed that it was possible to see into the future by finding hidden clues and secrets within the Bible. William Herschel, who is credited with discovering the planet Uranus, thought that the surface of the sun was solid and inhabited by alien life.

Now, physicist Stephen Hawking has officially joined the list of brilliant minds that say foolish things by arguing that overpopulation will cause planet Earth to turn into a “ball of fire” by the year 2600 due to the excessive consumption of energy.

Hawking’s statement, which was made in a video address delivered recently at the Tencent WE Summit in Beijing, was an attempt to get scientists and researchers on board with a plan to create a nano-spacecraft that is capable of reaching our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, within 20 years. Such a project, Hawking hopes, will allow the people of earth to find a new habitable planet to live on should some kind of catastrophic event destroy our own.

While space exploration is something that we should definitely be investing in, the idea that earth is going to turn into a massive ball of fire because of a growing global population and excessive energy consumption is simply preposterous. As a matter of fact, the world population is expected to slow throughout the remainder of the 21st century, and the annual population growth rate has dropped significantly since the 1960s with no signs of reversing.

With the exception of the part about earth turning into a giant fireball, Hawking’s argument that a growing population and unregulated energy consumption is leading to the destruction of planet earth really isn’t that unique among progressives and environmentalists both within the United States and elsewhere.

Prince William, for example, recently warned attendants at a gala dinner in London that the future of wildlife is being threatened by rapid population growth.

“In my lifetime, we have seen global wildlife populations decline by half,” the 35-year-old Duke of Cambridge said. “We are going to have to work much harder and think much deeper, if we are to ensure that human beings and other species of animal with which we share this planet can continue to co-exist.”

Prince William went on to explain that Africa’s population will more than double by the year 2050, and argued that this explosion in population “puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure.”

“Urbanization, infrastructure development, cultivation—all good things in themselves, but they will have a terrible impact unless we begin to plan and to take measures now,” he said. (Related: For more on the depopulation movement, visit depopulation.news.)

The comments that Prince William made recently in London are reminiscent of comments his father made back in 2010 during a speech at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, where he warned that the world faces “monumental” problems as the global population continues to grow. He also cautioned that the earth doesn’t have enough resources to “sustain us all,” and that a “vast proportion” is using them all up at “Western levels.”

And therein lies the truth about the anti-population growth movement — for many of them (though perhaps more so for Prince Williams rather than Stephen Hawking), it has to do with regulating the energy industry and generally expanding the size and scope of the government. They tell us that earth will face some kind of global catastrophe, and the only way we can possibly prevent it is if we take radical and immediate action, which in the end often hurts us more than it helps us.

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