Posted by: keepfishing | February 1, 2008

Too Many People

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to a live debate on Radio 5 live concerning overpopulation. In essence, they had a couple of people on, one of whom was a doctor (the sciency kind), who was involved in researching the effects of overpopulation and proposing solutions. You see, in the UK, the population is growing faster than ever before, and the world population is expected to grow from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050:worldpop2007.gif (more graphs and facts and doomsdaying can be found here).

This level of population isn’t sustainable for our already decimated, fragile earth and the doctor lady spent a few minutes throwing stats around and projecting images of us living on top of each other in little boxes, whilst the earth tried to stay alive and remain productive, like an emphysemic asthmatic gasping for breath. Part of the global battle against carbon, in her opinion, lies in reducing population growth, and we could do that in this country by limiting the number of children allowed, or reducing benefits, or having a child-tax, or some other way a freedom loving population is bound to hate. Not that I’ve seen the film, but the plot of Logan’s Run springs to mind. Then they had a chat for a bit and people called and texted in with their opinions.

To me the interesting thing is not particularly the subject matter. Actually, I find it very interesting – sustainability and the problems of a growing population are real, pertinent and fascinating, but maybe I’ll write about my opinions another time. What I found interesting was the weight of the backlash against this woman. Barely anyone who contacted the show agreed with her, with most people calling her ‘barmy’, ‘classist’, ‘insane’, an advocate of infanticide and all sorts. They had a woman who’d had 10 kids call in and whine about her stance. Another person called and commented on the joy and life children brought in anotherwise bleak world. Others took offence at the idea that the state had a right to interfere with a basic human right – to bear children. 

What struck me is that, in this supposed age of ‘enlightenment’ where we are the latest product of an infinitly refining evolutionary chain, our genes hell-bent on reproduction and survival, how few people followed the natural neo-darwinistic argument. The facts are clear, there’s too many people, our supporting ecosystems are close to collapse (don’t get me started on fish stocks), and there’s a high probability that unless things drastically change, the human population might die out.

Ok, that’s a bit of an exagerration, no doubt humans will adapt and develop the ability to convert battery power from our iphones and turn it into glucose and call it the next evolutionary stage or something, but the point is pretty valid. Neo-darwinism suggests that the most important thing is survival of our species and on an individual level, our genes. Survival of the fittest and all that. We’ve developed some sort of social construct which apparently helps that process, but whoops, it appears we’ve had too much fun doing it and raped the one thing we all depend on, Earth.What must we do to ensure our survival? Curtail the weak, reducing the population to a sustainable level and allow the ‘fit’ genes to survive. Alternatively, curtail the population growth by having less babies. Or, like one caller suggested, just kill everyone when they get to 60 and stop them from being such a drain (the bit that sounds like Logans Run).

On the face of it, these solutions appear logical. Full on neo-Darwinism wouldn’t find anything morally wrong with it (although I’m not sure to what extent adherents believe in absolute morality)- I’ve even read stuff by a doctor who argues that children should be permitted to be aborted until the age of 12, by which time we will be able to see if they’re going to benefit the population – if not they should be terminated to end the drain on our resources. These solutions allow the best Homo sapiens specimens to survive, and ensure longevity of the population.Yet, no-one was happy with it. Somehow, it was wrong. No-one really gave a coherant reason as to why, it just was

So maybe there’s less in this Darwinist malarky than we’re led to believe. Something in us won’t allow us to be the merciless population cullers we apparently need to be. No-one, save possibly a few fundamentalists, could argue that killing disabled kids because they will ultimately be useless is in any way right. So why do we feel this way? Why do we throw loads of money, through medicine and care homes, at prolonging the lives of our loved ones, who’ve ceased to be of any useful purpose to the species as a whole?

Maybe there really is something more to ‘life’ than just propagating our genes. Surely it’s worth finding out?

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Responses

  1. This could partially be averted if the Pope allowed the use of artificial contraception amongst Catholics.

    Another issue is how would the UK cope with a China-esque one-child policy?

  2. One of your best bosts in a while Al…

  3. winding, winding, winding….

    Did MC Zero mean posts or boasts?

    It’s not like him to commit errors like that. Having said that “bosts” is probably just a word I don’t know.

  4. AND ulsterscot84 needs to have a long chat with a certain polish mathematician to find out why the Caths don’t like contraception.

  5. I’d like to hear his answer too.


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