The Earth’s diverse yet mutually supporting systems are forcing a limit on the continued increase in the human population. If the increase continues, in the near future extreme suffering will result. Our species’ extinction is a possibility. The harsh reality is that males impregnate females. Females then produce babies. Our species is producing too many babies.
Unlike other forms of life, we humans have a measure of control over our thoughts and actions. That control is exercised through what the renowned ethicist Herschel Elliott called our conscious behavior. One form of that behavior is seen in the way the male sex views the female sex and both view the continuation of family. That is the subject of this essay.
An examination of this male/female behavior can give us some insight into a solution to our world population multiplier problem. A word of warning though; addressing it demands not just an examination of the attitude of the male and female toward each other with regard to procreation, it demands a redefinition of the roles of the male and female in our society.
This redefinition must extend throughout the globe. The problem is planetary. It must apply equally among all nations; from India to Saudi Arabia to China to Nigeria to the United States. It is a redefinition that will demand no less than a universal metamorphosis of the human mind. Much of it will challenge religious belief as well as age-old customs. This redefinition will be critical for human survival. Either humanity joins together in a concerted effort to reduce human population size on the planet or within the present millennium, as a result of global overpopulation, enormous pain and suffering awaits our species; even, as just stated, the possibility of extinction.
Under the assumption that the planet can support no more than two billion people in a materially advanced state, (a current estimate among many scientists) and the present population of roughly seven billion will soon grow to nine, it would appear that there is a painful future in store for billions of human beings.
The following graph shows this population growth.
A moments’ thought will reveal the profundity of the dilemma now facing our species. Given the need to arrest the growth in global population and bring it down and the human suffering that will ensue if this does not occur, a case can be made for abortions being moral and ethical. Under the same reasoning; any and all means to prevent unplanned births becomes moral and ethical.
Tragically, many in our world are living in a time-frame far apart from this kind of moral/ethical consideration. Beginning with hominid emergence out of the savannas of Africa the female body has been viewed by most males primarily as a means of procreation, as well as pleasure and temptation. It remains so today. At the same time, the emphasis has been on large families. It remains so today. As a result, only in very few countries are we seeing a reduction in population. And now with modern medicine, there is the outcome of longer life.
In many nations, lack of women’s choice has deep religious undertones. Procreation is viewed in terms of an underlying religious mandate for large family size. The respective roles of male and female to achieve this are fixed. Also, there is the cultural tradition of large family size in order to assure the care of aging parents. All of this is now beginning to weigh heavily on the social fabric of society.
In segments of American society the problem has become acute. It is being heightened by social inequality. There is a growing permanent underclass of mothers and their children. Recent figures show that 52% of births taking place are out of marriage with most of the children being raised without a father. There are large racial differences too with 73% of black children born outside marriage; 53% for Latinos and 29% for whites. Many of these children are entering society with disadvantages now being seen in areas such as education dropout and unemployment, and finally in rate of incarceration.
The problem has ramifications far beyond the American “out of marriage” one. Population territorial dynamics for Humans is no different from that of other species. For survival; an interdependent relationship must be maintained between population size and resource availability. If it is not, what follows is starvation and die-off. This is now being graphically shown by media pictures coming from some African countries. In every one of them the birth rates over the last fifty years has been exponential.
We are now also beginning to see another version of this in the Middle East. Young males in some countries there, born into a world with limited or no opportunity and inculcated into a male dominated consumerist industrial society, find themselves emotionally and sexually frustrated; their minds like an unfulfilled powder keg just waiting to explode. These screaming young men are healthy sexually frustrated human beings with no jobs, no chance to have a home of their own, a family of their own; to have a future. They are society’s excess.
There is solid evidence that where women are encouraged to use contraception and other means to prevent their pregnancy – and demand it from their partners, fewer babies are born. This is in fact becoming evident in some of the more advanced European countries, as well as in China. However, the slowdown in these countries and others like them has not been sufficient to halt the overall high rate of world-wide population growth. Clearly, a lower birth rate throughout the world is the answer, but this can only succeed where it is accepted broadly culturally and religiously.
Given current population growth trends, the planet will continue to face the prospect of substantially larger numbers of angry young men – and women too. At some stage in the near future it will have to provide food, shelter and other resources to as many as ten billion people. Its ecosystem will not be able to provide these resources. The dynamic equilibrium that existed from the beginning of human consciousness will no longer exist.
Even in the United States today some women are unable to choose. As a result, by way of indigenous growth and immigration the population is expected to reach 500 million over the next 50 years. Measured in terms of future energy needs and food consumption, even for this country, it presents an untenable situation.
Any discussion of the subject must first recognize that the population multiplier effect is at the root of all “ecological” earth problems and these problems will not go away until; as a first step, women are given total and complete control over their bodies.
In America such a discussion is absent from much of the religious conversation. Because of extreme sensitivity; with the recent Roman Catholic contraception and abortion issue a case in point, and the same among Christian evangelicals with respect to abortion, any form of deep discussion brings with it high political cost. The abortion issue alone can swing 25/30% of the American voting public. The Planned Parenthood issue the same.
One way to approach the problem is to confront those American religionists unable to face the dangers resulting from exponential population growth with the reality of their views. They need to be told that their religious zealotry has become a force for suffering and death in our world. In effect they have become the destroyer of future generations, the Satan. They need to be told that the Hebraic biblical mandate to multiply is bad theology.
Also they need to be told that theirs is an incomplete theology. Beyond the discussion of when biological life begins and when it ceases, there needs to be a discussion of when “personhood” begins.
Modern science has determined that consciousness begins very soon after fertilization, as soon as two or three months. External events while in the womb and then afterward during the birth passage – even during the first moments of exposure to a non-liquid oxygenated world, are all of long lasting importance in the formation of human consciousness.
It can therefore be logically concluded that after a relatively short period of time beyond fertilization of the egg, an abortion of a fetus is the same as the killing of what is generally accepted by modern science as a biological human life.
Yet, this opens up a number of questions: Is a biological human life the same as the life of what can be defined as a “person”? Leaving the biological arguments aside; what is human personhood? When does human life at some stage along the way leave the biological and become a person?
Does personhood even exist before the fertilization of the egg? Psalm 139 speaks to a “beyond biological life” for the biological human. The implication here for the writer of this psalm is that his life always existed.
In Your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
There are other Abrahamic questions about when “personhood’ begins. Much of the teaching in the Jewish and Christian traditions (The Koran also speaks tangentially in the same way.) indicates that reaching one’s oneness with God comes from knowing God through communion with God. This bestows personhood on the person after birth at the moment of knowing. At death those without this personhood become as if they never were, or worse suffer eternal damnation. We can therefore logically – at least from an Abrahamic point of view – define personhood not as beginning with the moment of fertilization, but conditional on a process of coming into “oneness” with God after conception by way of “personhood.”
Throughout history all kinds of Abrahamic religious definitions as to this God/personhood connection have been put forth; ranging from realization of oneness with the “other dimension” through gnostic (inner) search to limiting it to the belief that “Jesus is my personal savior and only then am I saved.”
As a parenthetical note; it seems strange that those evangelical fundamentalist Christians today most vocally condemning abortion are the ones who would at the same time agree to a denial of eternal life and descending into Hell of those persons who have not subscribed to their own view of the meaning of the life and death of Jesus.
Was Hitler a person in a relationship with God? Was Al Capone? Was Bernie Madoff? Or were they simply undeveloped and neurologically distorted forms of human life? Here we get into dangerous waters. We must not limit this discussion only to famous deviant individuals. What about the many others like them? Perhaps even your deviant neighbor or business colleague, or the executive who promoted cigarette smoking ads. Are not they too no more than undeveloped and cranially distorted forms of human life, some trying their best to be good human beings, but under the control of primitive urges to which they had given the power to rule their thoughts and actions? They most certainly cannot be preexistent persons destined to fulfill God’s purpose as defined by the Psalmist quoted above.
But back to the issue of exponential population growth and giving women control over their bodies; we have the question of who must take ethical and moral responsibility for the offspring if that offspring will be reduced to a life of pain and suffering. That is the question everyone should be asking. This is calling for an open and vigorous dialogue. It is not happening.
In the final analysis only women can make the choice of carrying or not carrying a pregnancy. And not just women in the broadest sense, but the individual “woman.” Her choice must be based on her own interests and her own moral/ethical consideration. That difficult decision must be hers and hers alone. It is her body carrying the new life. She will be the “mother” of that child. And, ultimately that choice must be grounded on the following words of the ethicist Herschel Elliott as referenced below:
“All ethical behavior must be relative to the protection and sustenance of the Earth’s diverse yet mutually supporting systems of all living things.”
What effect will an additional life have on supporting systems? Will its consumption of resources lead to the pain and suffering of others? Are resources available; human care and mentoring and material resources for that life to be brought into the fullness of “personhood?” These are the sobering questions each and every woman carrying a fetus or preventing one from forming must face. It is not a decision that can be left to men.
Clearly the solution is not the elimination of sexual intercourse between male and female. That leads to both failure and psychosomatic disorder. It is contrary to the normal biological urges of human beings. On any scale it does not work. In fact as the Roman Catholic Church experience has proved, the results can be very damaging.
Although the elimination of pregnancy either by consciously preventing it or by disrupting it very shortly after fertilization takes on enormous importance, abortion cannot escape being a part of the solution. In those countries where abortion has been made a crime, it has led to underground abortion and to the suffering and death of impregnated females and fetuses. Abortion critics must face the fact that their argument in its “take it or leave it form” does more harm than good by way of unintended consequences.
Throughout the world, the prevention of unplanned pregnancy must take on the highest priority. Contraception in all of its forms must be encouraged – before and after – including invasive medical procedures for men and women. Abortifacients and other preventive measures such as IUDs must be made freely available for the elimination of impregnation.
At the same time, abortion must be a women’s moral/ethical choice. The choice is hers to stop the world population from exceeding a sustainable planetary level.
We are now hearing from ecologists that Homo sapiens’ future sustainability is being severely threatened by exponential population growth. Planetary resources in their natural and regenerative form are being compromised. Chemical waste leaching into our air, water and ground is increasingly causing deadly biochemical contamination. Our oceans are dying. Damaging patterns among many forms of life, including human, are already evident in the form of cellular aberrations.
Exponential human population growth is a major part of this problem. Those failing to recognize it must take full moral/ethical responsibility for the deaths of millions in the future. The time has come for the women of this world to take their stand. The future of our species hangs in the balance.
Humanae Vitae – Papal encyclical issued in 1968 prohibited artificial contraception because every act of intercourse should be open to procreation.”
Sean M.Kelly, Coming Home The Birth & Transformation of The Planetary Era: Great Barrington, Mass., Lindisfarne Books an imprint of Anthroposphic Press Inc., 2010 page 178 “…. a sixty-five-million-year geological era (the Cenozoic) is coming quickly to and end through the human-created Sixth Mass Extinction. The resource base of the modern era is being rapidly depleted. The very biosphere as we have known it is threatened with collapse.”
Herschel Elliott, author, A General Statement of the Tragedy of the Commons; A restatement of “The Tragedy of the Commons,” by Garrett Hardin, which appeared in Science, Vol. 162, December 1968, pp. 123-124 – “All ethical behavior must be relative to the protection and sustenance of the Earth’s diverse yet mutually supporting systems of all living things.”
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics.
He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. (see Inquiry Abraham ) It is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival.
David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over his career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. During that period he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction and conflict.