Unnatural Selection: Population Control and the Struggle to Remake Humanity was today’s lecture by Professor Matthew Connelly of Columbia University’s History Department (author of Fatal Misconception) here at UC Berkeley’s History Department.The announcement:
In the past century, the population of the world has grown more than four times as much as in the previous two thousand centuries. By controlling migration, manipulating birthrates, and sterilizing the “unfit,” scientists and activists struggled to prevent the meek from inheriting the earth. For the first time in the history of life on earth, the future of a species – not only its numbers, but its very nature – became the object of its own design. But in seeking to remake humanity, the population control movement caused untold suffering, culminating in the sterilization camps of India and the horrors of China’s one-child policy. It also provoked a pro-natalist backlash that continues to this day. The talk will describe how these opposing forms of population control first developed, how they diverged, and how the cause of reproductive rights was finally redeemed.
A lot of historical material relevant to population control was covered in this lecture but the thing which struck me was how all of the high ranking population activists, theorists and historians present seemed oblivious to what appears to me an obvious ongoing population crisis which has already overpopulated the Earth. By my lights there is going to be a natural population collapse in the not too distant future—almost certainly within the lifetimes of some people now living. From the everything is okay point of view, Connelly actually quoted the UN population projections as if they were meaningful. The so called predictions can give any number whatsoever as plausible and so are totally worthless for making any sort of meaningful forecast or reasonable decisions based upon them. The one thing the UN predictions don’t do is to admit the possibility that there may be a population crash. When I brought up the Malthusian problem Connelly’s all too glib answer was that Malthus has been proven wrong for over two hundred years and things were looking very good at the moment on a global scale and the current problem was just a question of food distribution.
This attitude of an author who has spent some ten years collecting data and writing this population book and the other fully informed historians and population activists present makes it seem implausible to me that there is any hope of a global population control policy. Therefore, as population limitation is probably impossible on any meaningful scale there will have to be other ways of bringing population back to a balance with the long term natural supply of food. Natural processes will take care of it! It matters little if these historians believe in natural Malthusian like processes or not Nature will prevail.
One of the most bizarre things ever produced was discussed a while by Connelly—it was the racial map of the world created by a Harvard cum laude graduate Lothrop Stoddard showing the threats to the White Race by the other inferior races.
If Stoddard hadn’t given his talents to academic racism he certainly could have done well as a leading actor in Hollywood films.
I was bothered not only by the short-sighted views of Connelly but also by that of everyone present. They seemed to be chuckling at all the wrong jokes and innuendos. It reminded me of some sort of weird radical-left Austin Powers skit. What was so worrisome about this was that these are high level academics and if they are consistently discussing the problems in terms of nationalism, racism, sexism, ideology and religious biases then they are totally missing the point that world population isn’t some specific localized political problem but because of efficient transportation it is a global problem.
There was never any mention of the natural biological effects of geometric growth or of Malthus like ideas without disparaging them. With explosive animal population growth, and there certainly is an ongoing explosive human population growth, the living group as a unit hits some limit, usually a food limit, and then collapses nearly to zero because all of the food has been sought out by overabundant and desperate individuals, with no thought other than to find food and eat it.
At this scholarly event, all of the lecture and all of the after conversations were quite limited and locked into what the political response of the various politically definable groups ought to be. No mention was made as to what humanity as a unified species should be doing.
The population party is nearly over but even the informed humans are still tooting their happy horns.