Letter to the Editor
Raymond Brand Replies:
Raymond H. Brand
Professor of Biology
Wheaton, IL 60187
From: PSCF 39 (September 1987): 186-187.
The opportunity to respond to the letter of Herbert Schlossberg [ PSCF 39 (September 1987): 187] is welcomed since other readers may have similar misimpressions.
Although the neo-malthusian movement is admittedly not Christian in its assessment of the total needs of mankind, and in some of the solutions proposed by its proponents, nonetheless it contains elements of truth that need to be understood by Christians. Two critical points are the finite nature of earth's resources and the essential ecological concept of the carrying capacity of an ecosystem or the earth as one biosphere.
The approach of Julian Simon, Herman Kahn, and other cornucopians in the disciplines indicated by Schlossberg has not escaped my
attention. Students in one of my biology courses this semester have
just completed an assigned reading by Julian Simon which appeared
in the Futurist in 1983. Simon is obviously a visionary, but his focus
seems to overlook the real world and settle for the Biblical millenium
on non-theological grounds. Fortunately, both the applications of
science and development work in the 3rd World provide realistic
insights into what can be accomplished in Jesus' name. Such a course
of action avoids the non-action of the infinite resources view as well
as the extreme pessimism of the end-of-the-world-tomorrow belief.
As to the point of my critic's second paragraph, "writings with naturalistic assumptions," I would refer again to a substantial dependence on my part to many of the decidedly Christian reference sources given at the end of the paper. Of these, the Earthkeeping book edited by Loren Wilkenson has as its central theme the understanding and exercise of Christian stewardship of the earth's resources. I agree that no inherent contradiction exists between resources and responsibilities when both are properly understood. Thus, my value judgment on the significance of the human person ahead of the earth's resources is rooted in the importance that God places on personal relationships. Relief aid often exceeds carrying capacity and leads to further difficulties down the road if not followed up with development that is culturally and institutionally sensitive, as pointed out later by Schlossberg.
Far be it from me to suggest or imply that God has not provided bountifully or that sin does not have a role in the problems which beset us. Not only do military budgets, city politicians insensitive to rural needs, coercion, etc., add to the plight of the poverty-stricken, but an extreme irony is the exploitation of fertile soil for cash crops for export. However, space did not permit an elaboration of the political and social implications essential for viable solutions. Appropriate technology may not be essential, but wherever employed wisely it has been most useful. Expansion of human populations and increased density have, however, been involved in the rapid depletion of tropical rain forest within recent years.
The stimulating work of the largely ignored economist P.T. Bauer on development economics first came to my attention when I became involved with students on internships in the 3rd World. If economics had been treated in depth, I would have emphasized the work of Herman Daly which concentrates on economic theory related to no-growth economies (e.g., Ecology, Economics, and Ethics edited by Herman J. Daly, 1980). It is worthwhile to note that many implications and principles implicit in Christian stewardship are evident in Daly's work. These views were expressed as he partici pated recently in the workshop/seminar on stewardship of resources at the Au Sable setting in Michigan.
Hopefully, each of us will continue to sharpen our Christian world views with assistance from the pages of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, which includes provocative letters to the editor from widely divergent viewpoints.