Science in Christian Perspective
Consulting Editors Respond...
to "Bill of Rights" of Negative Population Growth
Jerry D. Albert,
Robert L. Bohon ,
Dewey K. Carpenter
Frederick H. Giles, Jr.
Walter R. Hearn Russell Heddendorf Gordon R. Lewthwaite Russell Maatman Russell L. Mixter
David 0. Moberg E. Mansell Pattison Claude E. Stipe Edwin M. Yamauchi
A Highly Commendable Program
Jerry D. Albert,
Mercy Hospital Medical Research Facility
San Diego, California
I wholeheartedly agree with the two basic assumptions and the "Bill of Rights" of Negative Population Growth. I do not find any points of contention from either a scientific or a Christian point of view. NPG's public education program to achieve their purpose of persuading governments to put national population control programs into effect is highly commendable. Suggestions from a wide spectrum of means for achieving population control are given so that NPG does not get "hung up" on a specific program in promotion of their goal.
Achieving population control through negative population growth would present solutions to some of the most critical problems of our world. (1) Poverty. Most of us Christians enjoy our affluence and, at the same time, are relatively insensitive to the poverty of most of the rest of the world most of the time. We are either too busy with our activities, or we are helpless and overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem of hunger far removed from us (to consider one aspect of poverty) to he able to do much to alleviate this disparity between us and most of the rest of the world. (2) Pollution. I agree with other Christians that we, especially, should accept the responsibility to manage the world and its resources which God entrusted to man in Creation 1,2. (3) Survival. World tensions caused by population pressures (growing needs of growing populations) are bound to be relieved by population reduction. As a result, the need for war as an instrument of national policy would be reduced.
I believe with other Christians35 that God's Genesis directive to "be fruitful and multiply" has been fulfilled in our lifetime and that means to control human population must be enacted immediately. Still others may react negatively to the NPG proposal on the fear of or avoidance of presumed dangers in (1) "playing God," (2) too much government regulation, (3) appeal to selfish economic interests, or (4) violation of the sanctity of human life. I believe the supreme value in human life is its quality, not quantity. Jesus came to bring us not merely life, but abundant life and eternal life with God. We Christians should strive for the enrichment or betterment of human life, not merely the preservation of human life. And this enrichment is going to have to come, it appears to me, at the expense of unchecked proliferation of human life which our world is experiencing.
It is past time for Christians to be leaving such matters only in "the hands of God." Instead, it is high time for Christians to be taking active and leadership roles in movements such as NPG, which is proposing to do something to alleviate the above world problems.
The theological basis for this position is that "man has come of age," as declared by Dietrieh Bonhoeffer 3 decades ago. Man can and must make many decisions about life which he could not make before because of lack of knowledge and technical skill. Stripped of these excuses for inaction in the past we should live fully responsible for events in the world. We should not push off onto God responsibilities for events which we can now understand and begin to control. We should not believe that "if man can do it, God doesn't," but we should accept that God has given man more wisdom and knowledge to take on more responsibilities to do things with God6.
1 IRSCF Statement, "Man Has a Positive Responsibility to Manage Nature," Journal ASA, 25, 3 (1973).
2Armcrding, Carl E., "Biblical Perspectives on Ecology," Journal ASA, 25, 8 (1973).
3Mixtcr, Russell L., "The Population Explosion," Journal ASA, 25, 10 (1973).
4Shacklett, Robert L,, "Christian Perspectives on Abortion," Journal ASA, 25, 48 (1973).
5Pollard, William G., "Man on a Spaceship," Journal ASA, 21, 34 (1969).
6Buhe, Richard H., "Man Come of Age: Bonhoelfcr's Response to the God-of-the-Gaps," Abstract: Journal ASA, 25, 24 1973); Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 14, 203 (1971).
No Compulsory Control!
Robert L. Bohon
5690 Hobe Lane
White Bear Lake, Minnesota 55110
I support the need for action on the part of Congress to provide tax and financial incentives to limit our U.S. birth rate. Under no circumstances, however, should Congress attempt to force compulsory birth control onto its citizens, especially via compulsory sterilization. The spectre of a bureaucratic agency playing around with this aspect of humanity scares me silly!
The Club of Rome study makes another important point for the United States which must be highlighted perhaps by more than population control, namely, a drastic curtailment of capital investment and energy consumption per capita. Changes in this sector of our national life will be harder for our elected officials to face, perhaps, than the longer-range effects of population curtailment. Changes in the economic rules affect us right now, as evidenced by Phase I, II, III and IV, and will he clearly recalled by voters at the polls.
Finally, population control in the U.S., although obviously essential, is a peanut problem compared with other parts of the world, and I'm frankly discouraged about practical ways to achieve population limitation where it is needed the most.
Dewey K. Carpenter
Department of Chemistry
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803
I have two reactions to the proposal for negative population growth, one of the
head and the other of the heart.
My head reaction is that it is hard to fault the logic, namely that a decrease in population is imperative if the premises of the article are granted that there exists a limited reservoir of resources and that each individual should have the right to a decent standard of living. Americans who live and visit in other places in our country where there are vast, uninhabited regions do not have the dangers of population pressure borne in upon them as urgently as do those people who live in and visit areas where the effects of overcrowding and pollution are all too evident. Nevertheless, it is impossible to avoid the conclusions that (1) deterioration of the quality of life is inevitable as long as the population continues to increase and (2) a population decrease is the only satisfactory solution to this problem.
My heart reaction is that one should go slow in pushing this conclusion. Alarms in the past have often proved to be false, and if the modification of human behavior is called for by an alarm, one should not be doctrinaire in imposing an undesirable course of action on people. Limitation of the number of children which a couple may produce is just such a situation. While I do not feel that the creation ordinance ("Be fruitful, and multiply") is a command to increase the population, I do feel that it is a blessing associated with the marital state which is not to be lightly forfeited. Of course to the extent that family size limitation is voluntary, there is no problem. The difficulty for me is to be able to support wholeheartedly any program of enforced control. Encouragements to limitation of family size are good. Legislation which penalizes those who exceed the recommended limit of one child is good. Legislation which prohibits families from having more than one child is not good.
No Uniquely Christian Response
Frederick H. Giles, Jr.
Department of Physics and Astronomy University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
(Professor Giles completed the work given to him in this world and went to be with his Lord on December 19, 1973.)
Although I concur with the need and urgency of some sort of population control, the idea of negative population growth, with the aim of dropping the world population down to one-half its current value, seems over-stated and "a bit much". Even among the population-control buffs, this appears to be more than is usually prescribed. Must one shock readers by exaggerating a need, hoping that a resulting move to at least some population limit will receive more charitable attention?
The basic assumptions-essentially those of secular humanism-appear very "nice". Yet, rather than "it is desirable for an- industrial society to continue to exist for more than a few decades," many argue that the assumption should read, "It is not desirable for an industrial society to exist at all." "That every child (should) . . . have enough to eat, and enjoy a decent standard of living", elicits a positive reaction, but really provides no motivation. The real basis for appeal stems from such statements as "decent standard of living," "economic advantage," and "economic self interest"crass, but much more realistic. Economic advantage determines the "better life".
The article does not really face the "world wide" problem. Between the first few paragraphs which whet one's appetite, and the final paragraph which comes back to some global remarks, proffered solutions refer almost exclusively to the U.S.A. and an appeal to western mentality. The really dirty problems of population control occur in non-western areas where religion and culture preclude any concern about the well-being of posterity, and where the mushy assumptions of secular humanism have no clout.
In my judgment, no environmental-pollution programs can really succeed without population control. For many environmentalists, pollution, by definition, stems from "people". Garbage, litter, housing, demands upon industry, signs, noise, etc., all stem from people. Further, men measure the results of pollution by the discomforts of people-the more people, the more hay fever, emphysema, trauma, etc. Finally, there exists the horrible situation of "people pollution" itself; i.e., the ghetto effect arising from the squashing of more and more people into limited space. The dehumanizing psychological effects of "people-packing" shock even the well trained, and the sinfulness of man reveals itself even to those who do not like the idea.
I know of no uniquely "Christian" response to the population problem, and I know of no direct biblical injunction toward population control. In fact, the Old Testament appears to enjoin the opposite: consider Genesis 1:28; 9:1, and Psalm 127, for example. Other matters also mitigate against whole hearted acceptance of the population-control mechanisms suggested in the accompanying article. The old Roman Catholic argument regarding the necessity of large families lest the heathen masses should overwhelm the "faithful", takes on a new vitality. If population control is to be clamped only on the U.S.A. and other countries with more substantial Christian populations, one faces this kind of difficulty. The problem, and importance, of indigenous missions takes on a new perspective. The suggested cures of free sterilization and free abortion which too readily become unlimited sterilization and unlimited abortion-have frightening aspects for the Christian.
But there is more: whereas in the Old Testament, a large family and expanding posterity marked the blessing of God upon a man, the New Testament presents a completely different view of blessing after death-a view which pretty much ignores continuity or expansion of posterity. An opposite tendency arises in the refusal to face any responsibility regarding the future especially the immediate future. I have read well worked accounts of the Christian view of history, but very little-with the exception of some material on the yes-yes or the no-no of life insurance-regarding a Christian view of tomorrow. I shall haltingly suggest that to the best of wisdom given me, I am responsible to my family (I Timothy 5:8), and although the direct push of this verse regards immediate needs, I believe a fair extrapolation makes me responsible for family needs I foresee extending beyond my demise. This would include "population-pollution-environment" problems. The world needs global population control, and I can and do in good conscience support a couple of groups dedicated to sane objectives (I am not sure the accompanying article has these) regarding planned parenthood and zero population growth.
A final word seems germane. I am not sanguine regarding results and effects in this field. Yet, look at the Great Commission-I am to obey it even though I know the world will not be converted; I know instead that things will get worse. Some are in the professional missionary business full-time, and I support this 'losing" cause. In a similar way, though with much less priority, I support the population-control cause. Note also that God himself will ultimately satisfy the Great Commission. Even so, though the prospect makes one shudder, population control will inevitably come. No matter how you read it, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse drop the population considerably-by a factor of one-fourth if taken literally-while other catastrophes wipe out one-third of the survivors. God ultimately solves the population problem too.
Smithsonian Observatory Harvard University
I have extremely ambivalent feelings about this tract on NPG, but not because
I disagree with the goal. On the contrary, I believe that the world is already
beginning to feel the agony of overpopulation. The flood disaster in Bangladesh
and the massive starvation in the sub-Sahara regions have exacted
such high cost
of human life because population pressures have forced people to live in these
Nevertheless, the tract strikes me as very selfish and unChristian in its motivation. "It is obvious that immigration (to the USA) must be severely limited."
"It is in the economic self interest of every person now living." An appeal to the maintaining of a comfortable standard of living, without at least a hint of other ways to reduce our extravagant use of the world's resources is so narrow that I can accept it only with considerable uneasiness. I find the protectionist statement on immigration very disturbing.
I agree with the NPG bill of rights, but I think that the accompanying suggestions for achieving negative or zero population growth border on naive. Clearly long-established attitudes on the nature of the family, procreation, old-age and inheritance must change, but compulsive legislation will scarcely be the means to this end.
Stewardship Begins with Us
Walter R. Hearn
762 Arlington Avenue
Berkeley, California 94707
Affluent Americans must take the lead in decreasing our own breeding rate if we expect others in the world to decrease theirs. It will be understandable if at first the less developed countries or powerless minorities in the USA fail to go along with us. They may see NPG (or ZPG) as a trick to maintain the political status quo at their expense. It is often argued that "dissatisfied peoples are likely to listen with sympathy to the promises of Communism." I was pleased that Russell Mixter emphasized other motives for curbing the population explosion (Journal ASA 25, 9 (March 1973) ). Several projections of what might happen to US population if whites alone took ZPG seriously were recently published by sociologist Ernest Attah. lie assumes that voluntary action will not be forthcoming in adequate degree from "those who believe that government does not speak for them and does not respond to their interests" ("Racial Aspects of Zero Population Growth," Science 180, 1143 (15 June 1973)). To snake government more responsive to the needs of minorities may mean redistributing economic wealth, and to decrease the birth rate first among the affluent may mean redistributing political power. But shouldn't Christians do what is right and trust God for the consequences?
Many persons probably regard the two-child family as ideal: To have one boy and one girl is educational for both children and satisfying to both parents. The desire to "keep trying" for a child of each sex may push parents beyond even the two-child family. To stop at one child deprives one parent of the experience of "growing up again" with his son or her daughter. Balancing a family by adopting a second child of the other sex ought to be presented as a desirable (and reliable) option to any who feel that a one-child family is ton small. Our own experience is that even with well-meaning parents, a child may get more attention and spiritual nurture in a one child household. We see great value, however, in having an "open family" where hospitality and warmth toward other people's children are clearly demonstrated to our own. Perhaps the sharing of families within a loving larger community is a way Christians can support NPG. But if the apostle Paul was doubtful about Christians even marrying in a time of crisis, how can we be sure that all Christian couples should be raising children?
We can hardly feel self-righteous if we stop reproducing at one child, or two. The fact is that a higher "standard of living" may make our small family more of a drain on the world's resources (and hence more of a threat to the world's other children) than a larger family. One thing Christian families can do, whatever their size, is to begin consuming less, recycling more, and learning to "make do." Our contribution to conserving the world's limited resources may seem tiny. But if stewardship doesn't begin with us, where will it begin?
Individual Rights Vs Common Good
Geneva College Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
It's easy to reject the claim of "The Promise of A Better Life for All" as irresponsible. There is little, if any, support for the claim that fewer people make a better world. Such flimsy logic makes the propagandistic nature of the statement rather apparent.
This is not to say, however, that the claims should not be heeded, though perhaps for different reasons. Personally, I find the emphasis on "economic advantage", "higher standard of living," and "economic self-interest" to be somewhat repugnant as well as dubious. Nevertheless, the motives should not completely mitigate the arguolent concerning overpopulation. The threat is real and the warnings should he heeded. Persons may hold to similar views but for different reasons and with appropriate caution.
An equal danger, however, may be found in the subtle pleas of such organizations. Must we necessarily assume that the threat must he dealt with by "special committees on population reduction" or that Congress must decide the "form and extent of the controls". Indeed, the real question which arises centers on the struggle of "Individual Rights Versus the Common Good". These are social issues themselves which have no simple answer, Can we decide them by simple reference to a pressing environmental problem? I think not.
What is of significant concern, then, are the implications of linking social and physical issues in rather casual fashion. In fact, can we rightly determine the motives in such questions? Personally, I become skeptical of ready social solutions to complex physical problems, simply because those solutions usually become more complex problems themselves. Even in these days of electric shavers, there is merit in sharpening up Oceam's razor on occasion to cut back easy assumptions to the place where the real problem may be dealt with.
Moral Restraint Rather than Coercion
Gordon R. Lewthwaite
Department of Geography
San Fernando Valley State College
Northridge, California 91324
First reaction-stop the world, I want to get off. Second reaction-urgent manifestos on population control are usually unbalanced and this is no exception. One particular problem is abstracted from the com plex, its solution "absolutized" in typical secular fashion, and amoral and totalitarian measures are thereby justified.
True enough, congested populations and spreading industrialism pose some awesome problems, but no one need discount either the range of resources that may yet be turned to unpolluting account or man's own resourcefulness. Rapid increase is very possibly a passing phase while infant mortality is being reduced, and dramatic projections on the graphs leave one wondering if people are all that silly. Rural subsistence farming has left some crowded legacies, but current trends have hopeful aspects. Concentration in favorable regions and withdrawal from marginal lands give a better chance for community services and conservation, and smaller families are a normal concomitant of urbanization. Agricultural surpluses are as chronic a problem as malnutrition and starvation, which by the way, owe less to absolute shortages than to problems of politics, distribution and dietary habits.
If the diagnosis is ton pessimistic, there is a dangerous optimism in the prescription: it is assumed that compulsion will prove beneficent. In fact the cloven hoof is already evident in the implications of the argument. Of cnuse "the common good" has often abrogated "all individual rights": the torture of innocent relatives has sometimes silenced dispute on that point. The analogy between compulsory sterilization and laws against crime blurs some essential distinctions, and it seems odd that life once conceived should be aborted to sustain "inalienable rights" in the hypothetical future or "economic self interest" now. Is it wholly facetious to suggest that if a population cut-back is of "desperate urgency", Congress is less likely to prove "immediately effective" than a few atomic bombs?
Furthermore, this modest proposal to halve the world's population is based on the doubtful assumption that an affluent but regimented society is better than a freer if poorer one, and (on its own premises) it could do no more than postpone the inevitable. Eschatological teachings apart, Christian faith and common sense alike suggest that we accept some reasonable bounds to our earthly expectations. Remembering that those who seek (especially by totalitarian means) to create heaven on earth usually create the opposite, we may do our responsible best without being stampeded into remedies worse than the postulated disease. On this issue, is not moral restraint (if necessary) better than indulgence, abortion and coercion? Is not the wish to have our cake and eat it too the root of many an evil?
First Things First
Department of Chemistry
Dordt College Sioux Center, Iowa
The present crisis teaches us once again what we always knew: man's environment can be cruel to him. We also know that environmental-population-ecological crises do not occur if men generally obey God.
If men control population and continue to disobey God, the present crisis will not disappear. Obedience
to the Triune God must precede any other step in an attempted solution. The situation is very similar to that described in several places in the Old Testament. Israel disobeyed and as a consequence God gave Israel droughts and pestilence. Could the Israelites have solved the problem of pestilence by using insecticides? Would cloud seeding have ended their droughts? Not at all. They claimed they could have the better life if they worked harder. God said in effect, just as He had said to Adam and Eve, "You want to go alone. I'll let you go alone. I won't protect you from your environment."
Is it too idealistic to expect man to be converted? If we ask for conversion, we are no more idealistic than the Old Testament prophets. There is no alternative to starting at the right place. If a man begins buttoning his vest by starting with the wrong button, there is no way he can complete his task correctly unless he starts over.
What would happen to the environmental-population-ecological problem if there were a great turning to the Lord for answers? Would the problem just vanish? I assume that the Lord would work then as He usually does-through men. There would be work to do. But then those who build the house would not labor in vain.
Would there still be a population explosion? We may only guess how the Lord would work. Yet it seems that if each person were to listen to what God calls him to do in life, that some would have small families, some large, and the sum of it all would be this: the right number of children would he born. Naturally, if a couple felt that God called them to have a small family, they would not conclude that He was calling them to use unbiblical means, such as abortion.
Does all this mean that every person must be converted before any of society's problems can be solved? No, it does not. When Israel was blessed, it was the nation as a whole, not every person, that had turned to God. Today, it is society's institutions-that is, society as a whole-which must turn to God. We as individuals have things to do in attacking the problem. Of these things to do, the first is to see to it that our institutions turn to the Lord. If this is not the order in which we do things, nothing else will be done correctly.
I Am Part of the Problem
Russell L. Mixter
Emeritus, Department of Biology
Wheaton College Wheaton, Illinois
When anyone comments on the presence of too many people in the world he always means other persons and not himself. But I and mine are part of the problem. So it is my job to influence my children to consider restricting family size to two (too late for daughter who has five!) and to keep available to students information which I have been providing ever since I attended the Northwestern University centennial a number of years ago and first was alerted to the population explosion. All this reminds me of an aphorism I saw on a camper's T shirt, "I love humanity; it's people I can't stand."
If the number of world denizens can be stabilized, business can "continue as usual"-I guess greatly reducing the total count of persons would result in a great depression and multitudes out of work.
Abortion destroys something alive which is developing a soul. Three views of the origin of the soul are: (1) it has always existed. (2) it is a brand new creation at the time of conception and (3) what appears to be the best view, the soul develops as the embryo and fetus develop. I hold that abortion is killing and can only be done to save the life of another, i.e. the mother. In the case of the unwanted pregnancy, let it come to term and the infant he adopted. The adopting parents could pay the hospital costs (most would be glad to). Birth control is commendable: it prevents the formation of an embryo; abortion destroys it.
Have you heard this one? "The best form of birth control is sulfa control"?
All Economic and Political Systems Inadequate
David 0. Moberg
Chairman, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233
Resources to support the population are a more basic issue than the growth and size of world population per se. My file of clippings relevant to "Population Growth and Food Supply" has items indicating that a tremendous wealth of protein can he obtained from ocean animals and plants, and sugar from sawdust. Fish meal cakes and cookies are helping to close the "edibility gap" that prevents people from eating fish concentrates. Chemicals can close the pores of plants, reduce their water needs, and enable corn to grow with less rainfall. Oil-eating bacteria can be the basis for protein production. Soybeans are converted into meat-like products; bacteria devour wastepaper and become a protein-rich food; parasexual hybridization produces new hybrids with genetic cells from different species; experiments turn sewage into oyster meat; underground pools of hot water are tapped to produce clean energy, and many other techniques are increasing the food supply and energy resources.
War on Hunger, published by AID, reports numerous developments increasing the food supply, controlling population growth, and improving employment and income distribution. Water is brought to deserts, improved varieties of seed double the production of rice, control of weeds and of rodents increases human food supply, and in numerous other ways the war on poverty and hunger is waged throughout the earth. These reports often leave one optimistic, yet the fact that only relatively small segments of the population are directly reached introduces a pessimistic balance.
Reports of the high cost and dreadful impact of urban-industrial civilization upon human potential for the future are frequently linked with Neo-Malthusianism. Malthus' famous Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798 held that food supply grows arithmetically while population grows at a geometric rate. The population imbalance is corrected through positive checks (war, pestilence. famine, vice, and misery) and preventive checks (reducing the birth rate through "moral restraint" by deferred marriage, celibacy, and control of sexual relationships in marriage).
His Essay was a reaction to a 1793 essay by Wm. Godwin, who believed that human misery was due to corrupt institutions and whose doctrine of natural rights led to the belief that human nature is perfectible through reason, that spontaneous cooperation would be the basis for social action in the utopian future, and that numerous improvements would bring about better health and longevity. There would he " war, crimes, disease, anguish, melancholy, nor resentment, for every man would "seek with ineffable ardour the good of all." The Malthusians and Godwinians have been in conflict pertinent to population and the worlds food supply ever since!
The economic and social arrangements for the distribution of goods constitute the greatest barrier to a balance of population and resources. Obviously, most Americans are relatively privileged. Through both public and private ventures, we let crumbs fall to people who beg at our tables, but we are extremely reluctant even to consider changes in the social systems which perpetuate their problems.
Current economic and political systems in all nations (not just democracies!) are inadequate. The root problem is "in the heart," for man tends to be extremely selfish, protecting his vested interests at all costs. How can the basic motivations, ultimate socioeconomic commitments, and values of people be changed? The Gospel of Jesus Christ certainly says something on the subject! But if we receive it only in a truncated form that demands merely a verbal commitment, assuming that it takes care of all time and eternity, we are making a tragic mistake that belies our alleged faithfulness to the totality of the written Word of God. Faith without works is deadand dead ening.
Will Means Destroy Ends?
E. Mansell Pattison
Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior
University of California, Irvine CA
We are all aware of the critical nature of population expansion. Few thoughtful people today would not agree on the nature of the problem. There are many disagreements on the solutions. Unfortunately, solutions require popular support-often based on simplistic analyses of the problem, and offering simplistic solutions. Thus the EMKO proposal for negative population growth, to be accomplished through the simple mechanism of one-child families is both an admirable expression of public concern and a naive, simplistic analysis.
The EMKO analysis is based on an appeal to personal aggradizement-namely to ensure to one's children the same food, shelter, clothing, privacy, land, uncrowdedness, money, etc. that one now possesses. Ultimately the appeal is to economic self interest. Yet as Garrett Hardin4 has so aptly pointed out, the destruction of the common interest comes from a preeminent emphasis on individual self interest. The failure to link self interest to common interest has been the downfall of human communal enterprises. Hardin suggests that the Judaco-Christian tradition of individualism has contributed to the failure to launch national programs of cultural concern. Thus my first objection is that negative population growth is not grounded in communal moral concern, but is presented in terms of individual aggrandizement.
My second objection is that the population problem is presented in terms of general population per sc. But the population growth problem varies significantly with the culture. Issues of population control in the United States, Sweden, China, and India are vastly different. Even within the United States the issues of population control amongst Indians, Blacks, Mexican-Americans, poor whites, and the landed aristocracy are significantly different. Can we blandly assume that we can discuss general population control as if it only involved more people per se? If nothing more than a handle for solutions, we must specify the competing values and human needs in different cultures and sub-cultures before we can turn to solutions to population growth.5
Let us briefly look at the simplistic solution which is offered-namely one-child families. The long history of child-rearing has not been one-child families.1 There is very little data available on such a radical cultural innovation. On the face of it, most of our clinical experience suggests that the one-child family is not a desirable psychodynamic setting for child-rearing. The single child tends to get too much or too little parental involvement-made into the perpetual baby or a premature adult. Further, intimate peer interaction between siblings has thus far been a critical factor in maturational development. For example, Harlow's experiments with peer monkey rearing has demonstrated the critical developmental importance of siblings. The evidence to this point suggests that the one-child family would have to be supplemented by other peer socialization experiences.5 Can and will the society provide these peer nurturance experiences at the same time it limits children to one?
Further, the one-child family solution fails to ensure that one child will he provided effective parental care. What about the shot-gun teen age marriage, the pregnancy designed to hold the marriage together, the child desired to prove one's femininity or masculinity, etc.6 In short, the proclamation of the one-child family does not ensure better child rearing, it merely reduces the number of children.
Population growth is a complex problem, that deserves complex solutions.2,3,7 Negative population growth may be a desired goal, but not at any cost.
1Aries, P. Centuries of Childhood; A Social history of Family Life. New York, A. Knopf, 1962.
2Bumpass, L. & Westoff, C. F. "The 'Perfect Contraceptive' Population." Science 169: 1177, 1970.
3Crowe, B, L. "The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited." Science 166: 1103, 1969.
4Hardin, C. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science 162: 1243, 1968.
5Kangas, L. W. "Integrated Incentives for Fertility Control." Science 169: 1278, 1970.
6Lidz, B. W. "Emotional Factors in the Success of Contracep tion." Fertility & Sterility 20: 761, 1969.
7Spcngler, J. J. "Population Problem: In Search of a Solution." Science 166: 1234 1969.
Suffers from Inadequate Preparation
Claude E. Stipe
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin 58233
I will restrict my comments to some presuppositions which seem to underly the recommendations made by the authors of this statement. First, I strongly question the use of concepts such as "basic human right" (V) and "inalienable rights" (Bill of Rights), for the term "rights" is meaningless outside the context of a specific culture. Certainly the "right to privacy" and to "political liberty" are not cross-cultural concepts. After stating their belief in basic human rights, the authors ask whether the "right to decide family size, irrespective of the vital needs of a society as a whole" is a basic human right and freedom. Their conclusion seems to reflect a naively idealistic view of the social and political system of the United States, for they state that in a conflict between the vital interests of society and the desires of individuals, the conflict is resolved "without a single exception" in favor of the common good. Military service, taxes, and laws against crime are given as examples. To show how specious this statement is, I need only cite the disproportionate percentage of Blacks drafted into military service, tax loopholes for the wealthy, and the difference between penalties for "white collar crime" and crime usually committed by people in lower socioeconomic statuses.
A second presupposition seems to he that economic well-being is the most crucial consideration. This can be illustrated by reference to a "decent standard of living" (I & VII), the statement that a reduction in the population is to the "economic advantage of everyone now living" (II & VI), and the suggestion that it would be to the "financial advantage" of couples to not have more than one child (V). It is interesting to note that the authors vacillate between considering the "rights" 0f all peoples to resources, and consideration of the United States alone. They emphasize the fact that the vast majority of mankind has no hope of attaining a decent standard of living (VII), but insist that immigration to the United States must be severely limited (III), which would keep other people from sharing in the good life which we have.
My overall opinion is that the statement suffers from lack of adequate preparation-clichés and "sloppy thinking" abound. Evidently no distinction is seen between the process of technological manipulation of the environment (e.g., the development of atomic energy or reaching the moon) and the manipulation of cognition and value systems. There is no recognition that strong cultural reasons may exist for having more than one child, e.g., to help with agricultural work, to continue the family line, or to inherit a business.
Exaggerated, Radical and Unrealistic
Edwin M. Yamauchi
Department of History
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
My immediate response to the pamphlet on "Negative Population Growth" is a negative one. Though I would agree that some population control is a desirable feature in planning for the future, I would disagree with both the arguments and the proposals of the pamphlet which seem exaggerated, radical, and unrealistic.
I. To propose that the population must be reduced to not more than one-half present levels seems to be both unnecessary and impossible to realize. Though I would agree with qualifications to two assumptions: (1) that an industrial society should continue and (2) that every child should have enough to eat, etc., I would not agree that NPG is the best or only means to achieve these goals.
The U.S. and other industrial nations consume a disproportionate amount of resources for luxuries which Americans think of as necessities, e.g. air conditioning. A massive campaign in the media to save our resources, e.g. gasoline, would hopefully curb our consumption. At a modest as opposed to an increasingly extravagant standard of living it would seem that the U.S. can support an increased population stabilized at the present declining rate of population growth.
II. Per capita demand can and should increase in the underdeveloped nations, but need not develop as rapidly for those in the developed nations to enjoy "a better life." Why is NPG the "only possible way" to achieve this end? Stabilizing population growth is a necessary means to this end but is only one of several ways to achieve this.
III. The goal of reducing the population "to a level not more than one-half present levels" is unnecessary and unattainable; therefore the goal of a one-child family is unrealistic. One should distinguish between the growth rates in developed and un Jeveloped countries. For many poor families children are their chief consolation. When countries such as Japan develop higher standards, the growth rates also decline. The proposal to severely limit immigration to the U.S., where considerable space is available, seems ethnocentric if not racist.
IV. An obsession to reduce the population can result in such policies as the forced sterilization of Negroes in the south, as is indeed argued in section V. The ethical arguments of the pamphlet are dogmatic, simplistic, and alarming in their full implications. It is not clear at all that there is "a sharp conflict" between the desires of individuals to determine family size and the interests of "society." What is clear is the conflict between "compulsory" birth control and sterilization and individual rights. The ancient Spartan state exposed unwanted babies. Do we want such a totalitarian state? Surely then the cure would be more accursed than the illness.
V. Population control is not the same as "population reduction." Such reduction is not "in the economic self interest of every person now living."
VI. Better means to alleviate hunger and famine would be the promotion of more "green revolutions," the more generous sharing of our resources, etc. Surely this is a more "Christian" way.