Science in Christian Perspective




From: JASA 18 (December 1966): 121-122.

The world population today is about 3.3 billion and projections to year 2000 predict a population of about 6 billion. This fact raises a variety of considerations. The oldest one is whether or not technology can continue to feed such a population. There are questions about the desirability of such a population not there are adequate world resources of power and natural resources and the simple problem of space a7s populations soar beyond that mark.

The crux of the problem comes not simply in looking at world wide figures, but rather as a result of the uneven distribution of population and world resources. For example according to Sen. George McGovern, one American fanner feeds 30 fellow Americans while most of the world's farmers cannot even feed themselves. We are not able to adequately

Henry Weaver, Jr. is Professor of Chemistry at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana. A summary of remarks introducing the discussion of the issue at the twenty-first Annual Convention of American Scientific Affiliation, August 1966 at North Park College, Chicago.

feed the present population of the world, when we understand by the word "unable" an inclusion of the problems of transportation, politics and social problems Daily protein needs are set at from 32 to 85 grams per person, depending on age. In many parts of India, China, Africa, Indonesia and Central and Latin America the daily intake for large segments of the population is a low as 15 grams per person.

The minimum daily requirement is considered to be 2,300 calories, and most American get well above this amount. However of 14 Latin American countries surveyed by FAO, only 8 got over the daily minimum. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that two-thirds of the world's population have less than the minimum requirements, according to a report in Changing Times (Aug. 1966).

There is a sense in which those of us associated with groups that have engaged in Christian Missions bear a special responsibility. Three factors determine the result: The birth rate, the death rate and the ability to secure food. Christian Missions have rightly been concerned with medical needs, and as a result lowered the death rate. We have a moral responsibility to also help lower the birth rate and to increase food productivity and distribution. It is not an impossible task. Gen. William H. Draper, Jr., national chairman of the Population Crisis Committee reportedly says that if populous countries would reduce their birthrates by one-tenth of 1% a year and boost food production by one-tenth of 1% per year, food and people would be in balance in five years and most of the world's nutritional problems would be solved in 25 years.

There are other facets to the moral issue. What is our responsibility to the person whose moral code calls for a large family? To get people to use birth control in many cases involves sociological problems. Suppose we can discover motivational factors and then help people overcome the problem, is it ethical to thus manipulate people?

In any case it is clear today that the expanding population poses many ethical and moral 'problems that we as Christians need to face.