Do you see yourself as a worthless cockroach contributing to the collapse of human civilization? Probably not, but Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich thinks precisely that about you.
Fifty years ago, he published arguably the worst book ever written, The Population Bomb, which declared that human overpopulation would cause mass starvation. Instead, the Green Revolution (led in part by ACSH co-founder Norman Borlaug) caused global food production to explode, and the world population more than doubled from 3.5 billion in 1968 to 7.6 billion today.
Now, at the age of 85, Dr. Ehrlich still hasn’t let reality change his mind. In fact, he’s doubled down on his apocalyptic prognostications. In an interview with The Guardian, he likens humans to cancer cells. The article reads like a crackpot manifesto, channeling the unscientific ramblings of the Food Babe along with the conspiracy theorizing of Alex Jones: More.
Indeed. But naturalism plays an underlying role in all this. Ehrlich’s assumption seems to have been that human beings are mere animals who do not perceive our own situation and adjust our practices, left to ourselves. History shows that we always do.
My own (O’Leary for News) grandparents, just for example, had quite large numbers of children (9 and 10, respectively) because, if you were running a family farm in the early twentieth century, growing your own children made much more sense than paying out scarce and precious cash to hired hands — and ending up in debt to a land-grabbing bank. It was roughly the same in India, I later learned.
GMOs changed a lot but so did mechanization of farming. And guess what? Young couples adjusted their expectations of family size. That would have happened without any government intervention, let alone loads of propaganda about a population bomb. Because people have minds and they think.
See also: A science writer admits that the population bomb fizzled?
How naturalism rots science from the head down