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This is one of the reasons people react against the idea so strongly.

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One respected and respectable climate scientist reacted to Andy Revkin's recent use of the phrase "In fact, the planet has nothing to worry about from global warming" in the New York Times with near apoplectic fury. If the belief that the planet is in peril were merely wrong, there might be an excuse for ignoring it, though basing one's actions on lies is an unattractive proposition.

In this, bad science is a hostage to fortune. What's worse, the idea distorts environmental reasoning, too. For example, laying stress on the non-issue of the health of the planet, rather than the real issues of effects that harm people, leads to a general preference for averting change rather than adapting to it, even though providing the wherewithal for adaptation will often be the most rational response. The planet-in-peril idea persists in part simply through widespread ignorance of earth history.

But some environmentalists, and perhaps some environmental reporters, will argue that the inflated rhetoric that trades on this error is necessary in order to keep the show on the road. The idea that people can be more easily persuaded to save the planet, which is not in danger, than their fellow human beings, who are, is an unpleasant and cynical one; another dangerous idea, not least because it may indeed hold some truth. But if putting the planet at the centre of the debate is a way of involving everyone, of making us feel that we're all in this together, then one can't help noticing that the ploy isn't working out all that well.

In the rich nations, many people may indeed believe that the planet is in danger — but they don't believe that they are in danger, and perhaps as a result they're not clamouring for change loud enough, or in the right way, to bring it about. There is also a problem of learned helplessness. I suspect people are flattered, in a rather perverse way, by the idea that their lifestyle threatens the whole planet, rather than just the livelihoods of millions of people they have never met. But the same sense of scale that flatters may also enfeeble. They may come to think that the problems are too great for them to do anything about.

The most important thing about environmental change is that it hurts people; the basis of our response should be human solidarity. Serotonin-enhancing antidepressants such as Prozac and many others can jeopardize feelings of romantic love, feelings of attachment to a spouse or partner, one's fertility and one's genetic future. I am working with psychiatrist Andy Thomson on this topic.

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We base our hypothesis on patient reports, fMRI studies, and other data on the brain. Foremost, as SSRIs elevate serotonin they also suppress dopaminergic pathways in the brain. And because romantic love is associated with elevated activity in dopaminergic pathways, it follows that SSRIs can jeopardize feelings of intense romantic love. SSRIs also curb obsessive thinking and blunt the emotions--central characteristics of romantic love. One patient described this reaction well, writing: "After two bouts of depression in 10 years, my therapist recommended I stay on serotonin-enhancing antidepressants indefinitely.

As appreciative as I was to have regained my health, I found that my usual enthusiasm for life was replaced with blandness. My romantic feelings for my wife declined drastically. With the approval of my therapist, I gradually discontinued my medication. My enthusiasm returned and our romance is now as strong as ever.

I am prepared to deal with another bout of depression if need be, but in my case the long-term side effects of antidepressants render them off limits". These sexual responses evolved to enhance courtship, mating and parenting. Orgasm produces a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, chemicals associated with feelings of attachment and pairbonding behaviors.

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Orgasm is also a device by which women assess potential mates. Women do not reach orgasm with every coupling and the "fickle" female orgasm is now regarded as an adaptive mechanism by which women distinguish males who are willing to expend time and energy to satisfy them. The onset of female anorgasmia may jeopardize the stability of a long-term mateship as well. Men who take serotonin-enhancing antidepressants also inhibit evolved mechanisms for mate selection, partnership formation and marital stability.

The penis stimulates to give pleasure and advertise the male's psychological and physical fitness; it also deposits seminal fluid in the vaginal canal, fluid that contains dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, estrogen and other chemicals that most likely influence a female partner's behavior. These medications can also influence one's genetic future. Serotonin increases prolactin by stimulating prolactin releasing factors. Clomipramine, a strong serotonin-enhancing antidepressant, adversely affects sperm volume and motility.

I believe that Homo sapiens has evolved at least three primary, distinct yet overlapping neural systems for reproduction. The sex drive evolved to motivate ancestral men and women to seek sexual union with a range of partners; romantic love evolved to enable them to focus their courtship energy on a preferred mate, thereby conserving mating time and energy; attachment evolved to enable them to rear a child through infancy together.

The complex and dynamic interactions between these three brain systems suggest that any medication that changes their chemical checks and balances is likely to alter an individual's courting, mating and parenting tactics, ultimately affecting their fertility and genetic future. The reason this is a dangerous idea is that the huge drug industry is heavily invested in selling these drugs; millions of people currently take these medications worldwide; and as these drugs become generic, many more will soon imbibe — inhibiting their ability to fall in love and stay in love.

And if patterns of human love subtlely change, all sorts of social and political atrocities can escalate. In all times and in all places there has been too much government. We now know what prosperity is: it is the gradual extension of the division of labour through the free exchange of goods and ideas, and the consequent introduction of efficiencies by the invention of new technologies.

This is the process that has given us health, wealth and wisdom on a scale unimagined by our ancestors. It not only raises material standards of living, it also fuels social integration, fairness and charity. It has never failed yet. No society has grown poorer or more unequal through trade, exchange and invention. In every case, weak or decentralised government, but strong free trade led to surges in prosperity for all, whereas strong, central government led to parasitic, tax-fed officialdom, a stifling of innovation, relative economic decline and usually war.

Take Rome. It prospered because it was a free trade zone. But it repeatedly invested the proceeds of that prosperity in too much government and so wasted it in luxury, war, gladiators and public monuments.

The Roman empire's list of innovations is derisory, even compared with that of the 'dark ages' that followed. In every age and at every time there have been people who say we need more regulation, more government. Sometimes, they say we need it to protect exchange from corruption, to set the standards and police the rules, in which case they have a point, though often they exaggerate it. Self-policing standards and rules were developed by free-trading merchants in medieval Europe long before they were taken over and codified as laws and often corrupted by monarchs and governments.

Sometimes, they say we need it to protect the weak, the victims of technological change or trade flows.

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But throughout history such intervention, though well meant, has usually proved misguided — because its progenitors refuse to believe in or find out about David Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage: even if China is better at making everything than France, there will still be a million things it pays China to buy from France rather than make itself. Because rather than invent, say, luxury goods or insurance services itself, China will find it pays to make more T shirts and use the proceeds to import luxury goods and insurance.

Government is a very dangerous toy. It is used to fight wars, impose ideologies and enrich rulers. True, nowadays, our leaders do not enrich themselves at least not on the scale of the Sun King , but they enrich their clients: they preside over vast and insatiable parasitic bureaucracies that grow by Parkinson's Law and live off true wealth creators such as traders and inventors. Sure, it is possible to have too little government. Only, that has not been the world's problem for millennia. After the century of Mao, Hitler and Stalin, can anybody really say that the risk of too little government is greater than the risk of too much?

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The dangerous idea we all need to learn is that the more we limit the growth of government, the better off we will all be. My dangerous idea is that we have in hand most of the information we need to facilitate a new golden age of medicine. And what we don't have in hand we can get fairly readily by wise investment in targeted research and intervention. In this golden age we should be able to prevent most debilitating diseases in developed and undeveloped countries within a relatively short period of time with much less money than is generally presumed.

This is good news. Why is it dangerous?

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One array of dangers arises because ideas that challenge the status quo threaten the livelihood of many. When the many are embedded in powerful places the threat can be stifling, especially when a lot of money and status are at stake. So it is within the arena of medical research and practice. Imagine what would happen if the big diseases — cancers, arteriosclerosis, stroke, diabetes — were largely prevented. Big pharmas would become small because the demand for prescription drugs would drop. The prestige of physicians would drop because they would no longer be relied upon to prolong life.

The burgeoning industry of biomedical research would shrink because governmental and private funding for this research would diminish.

Also threatened would be scientists whose sense of self-worth is built upon the grant dollars they bring in for discovering miniscule parts of big puzzles. Scientists have been beneficiaries of the lack of progress in recent decades, which has caused leaders such as the past head of NIH, Harold Varmus, to declare that what is needed is more basic research.