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A science writer admits that the population bomb fizzled?

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We must getting somewhere when it is possible to talk about facts for once. From Ruth Kava at ACSH, talking about Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (1968):

Dr. Ehrlich misjudged the promise of technology to increase food production yields. And here I’m speaking of the early efforts of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a founder of ACSH, which led to the so-called “Green Revolution”, providing new hybrids of corn and wheat that staved off starvation for millions. And now we have genetic engineering, technologies that can further improve yields of food crops and husbandry — but of course these weren’t really on the horizon in 1968.

So concerned was he about the impending doom that Ehrlich even said he supported enforced birth control to slow population growth. But that’s been tried in China with their one-child policy. It resulted in millions of abortions (forced and not), and a disruption in the male: female ratio that leaves young men with little chance of finding a mate. Or, in some cases, “illegal” births in families that chose to flout the law. These children likely will have a difficult row to hoe in society.

Ehrlich admitted that he should have paid more attention to consumption levels by various societies — not all will have the same impact on consumption or on the environment. Also, not all crowding is due to a too high birth rate. The opening of The Population Bomb, for example, depicts the horrors of overcrowding in a street scene in Delhi. But the overcrowding in that case was more likely due to people moving from rural to urban areas in search of better job opportunities (2)[*] .More.

Hey, a story. In the 1970s, a theory took root that the youngest children in large families were genetically disadvantaged on that specific account. Verbiage on the subject appeared in women’s mags. That happened before the age of the Internet so I don’t know how much linkable information there is now.

Some of us were skeptics. I never believed the idea because I happened to know a number of Canadians who were serial birth numbers from, say, eight through ten. And the theory seemed to offer no useful predictions for subsequent life history. This all happened before the age of actual science information from genetics, like genome mapping

Eventually, some scholars poked their heads up from the academic sludge and asked, on a census basis in North America, which families have large numbers of children anyway? It turned out that the families that had the largest numbers of children were overrepresented in the most disadvantaged groups. Control for that fact and the difference disappears!

I can only hope that everything to do with eugenics and the population bomb disappears likewise. – O’Leary for News

[*] The Toronto subway system (Canada) is a horrifying crush during rush hours. That has absolutely nothing to do with the population density of the country but it has a great deal to do with the tendency of human beings to congregate in any place that is above 0 Celsius, including underground. Could we get some science involved with all this?

It's all about crisis opportunism. You can get people to agree to just about anything with a propagandist media on your side fomenting the fear of one crisis after another. William J Murray

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