Population Control
Posted: 04 February 2010 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Jason,

actually, it turns out that if we put certain things in place, like lower mortality rates, access to birth control, and economic opportunities for women, human nature kicks in an moves things in the right direction.

This is very well established, all we need to do is apply the principle. Granted, that is not always easy. But we have effective models that we can scale up. We are not dealing with a conundrum, we are not dealing with a hopeless situation, and we need no moralizing to solve the problem.

People often look at population and sustainability issues and throw up their hands. Well, this has been my “other passion” besides secularism, and everything I kn

Sylvia

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Posted: 04 February 2010 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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For the sake of continuity, I’ve taken the liberty of posting Jason’s thoughtful contribution, hoping to help in transition to the forum.
Barrett


Barrett, you’ve left no room for the possibility that a lost life is sometimes the best thing; and in reiterating that moral absolutism, I’d say you’ve helped to illustrate my point.  I could bring up the examples of despots and terrorists, or the hypothetical railroad dilemma, but you might as well discount all that as academic.  My problem is that it’s almost impossible to argue against your position without seeming to lose the moral high ground.

But I would ask you for a stronger case regarding that evidence you mention.  We’ve just been over the mortality-rate argument, if that’s what you have in mind.  What I took from that is, what’s really needed is to improve the socioeconomic state of nations, and that’s not such a simple thing as bringing aid to save lives.

Let me put a question to this group:  what if you knew positively that the world would run out, that our race would certainly be sacrificed, unless we reversed global population growth within two generations?
What if you knew it was that urgent?  Would you just trust humanity to wise up?  Would you rely still on the efficacy of a humanitarian solution?

—Jason

> Wow, Jason.
>
> Humanists are trying to assemble a rational and humane basis for
> morality.  The life we don’t save is a life that misses the
> opportunity to contribute.  The opportunity to contribute.
>
> Saving a life is always an imperative.  Saving lives, alone, may be
> insufficient, problematic, or even immoral, without additional steps,
> but it’s always an imperative.  Also don’t confuse saving actual
> lives,
> with guidance or strategies that promote the goal of smaller families,
> or seek to prevent “potential” lives.  Fortunately we have plenty of
> evidence that that’s possible without explicit state coercion.
>
> Barrett

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Posted: 04 February 2010 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Jason,

this is not a matter of faith, but very well substantiated by data. It happens not only in developed countries, but we are seeing the pattern repeated in developing countries going through population transition.

Developed countries have gone through the transition already and are usually reproducing below replacement level. In the US, where population is growing, it is growing mostly due to immigration. Immigrants from developing countries adapt their reproduction rates to developed standards within a generation or two.

So in the developed world, it is not our reproduction that is unsustainable, but our level of consumption, or more precisely, the amount of waste we produce.

Unsustainable population growth per se occurs mostly in developing countries, and as I said, what to do about it is very well documented.

____________________________________

I wish I could share your faith, Sylvia, that “human nature kicks in”
once people have birth control, women’s rights, etcetera.  Some
developed nations have had those things for many years and yet have
(fairly recently) exceeded their sustainable populations.  I’m all for
addressing those issues, but I’m not so sure it will be enough.
—Jason

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Posted: 04 February 2010 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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SylviaB - 04 February 2010 12:03 PM

...actually, it turns out that if we put certain things in place, like lower mortality rates, access to birth control, and economic opportunities for women, human nature kicks in an moves things in the right direction.
Sylvia

I thought that was very insightful- thanks for sharing.

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Posted: 04 February 2010 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The full life raft hypothetical dilemma is a reliable spark for a good human values discussion, but the population control/growth challenge is different, in that deals in vastly complex systems, which is good; that means opportunity.  Fortunately, reality won’t allow us the comfort of a “Don’t feed them so much and they won’t over-breed” bumper sticker.  (Please don’t take that as the personal attack it might appear to be, Jason.)

Jason - 04 February 2010 12:26 PM

........and that’s not such a simple thing as bringing aid to save lives.

I stipulate to precisely that, in my earlier post.

Jason - 04 February 2010 12:26 PM

........Would you rely still on the efficacy of a humanitarian solution?

Yep.  The “humanitarian solution” may mean working to continue improvements in water policy/technology, energy production, climate policy, public health and education, space habitat exploration, etc.; it won’t include withholding efforts to reduce malaria infection in children in the developing world, for example.

Barrett

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Posted: 04 February 2010 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Some think of fit in advance, in other cases it is just a general cultural value because, apparently, it is economically useful.

But judging people’s motivations isn’t going to get us any closer to solving the problem. Better provide them with real solutions.

And by the way, altruism is fine and dandy, but it is unreasonable to expect someone to sacrifice their own wellbeing (not comfort, mind you, but actual wellbeing) for the “good of the species.” It flies in the face of what’s evolutionarily adaptive and is about as smart as expecting priests to remain celibate. I though we were the reality-based community, here.

Sylvia

I don’t know about that.  Apparently, people do judge motivations, in fact, teens are often counseled to make lists of their motivations for having children and then judge them. I’ve done this myself, and was surprised to find how many reasons were ego based (try it sometime).  Sorry, you can’t get me on board for thinking that bringing a person into the world in order to have a Mini-me be my caretaker is ethically justified and is better than the other options out there (especially adoption). I think it’s really more often just an afterthought.  It doesn’t make much sense that people would have children to help care for them when they are elderly for evolutionary reasons when they usually need care long after they are able to breed… unless you put the kids to work. 


Your later point doesn’t deny that it is selfish, just natural- which is what I said. Consider ends and means in the kind of world you want to live in. We are not social Darwinists. I’m actually kind of surprised you would be so defensive about it.  We eat meat too, but that doesn’t mean that it’s “good.”  We need to be able to admit when we have less than ethical- less than desirable, motivations to some of the actions we deem necessary, and especially when admitting that sometimes they are not even necessary at all.  We’re talking about making someone exist here.

Which leads me to the implications of truly adopting Paul Kurtz’s planetary ethics.  When you truly realize that we are all connected and one family, then I believe you can authentically perceive the adoption of another person’s child as already taking in one of your own.  There’s a truly impressive and noble act IMO. (Okay… simmer down now or I’m going to have to go down to Hot Topic and buy some red underwear to keep up.)

[ Edited: 04 February 2010 03:45 PM by Gatogreensleeves ]
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Posted: 04 February 2010 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Let me put a question to this group:  what if you knew positively that the world would run out, that our race would certainly be sacrificed, unless we reversed global population growth within two generations?
What if you knew it was that urgent?  Would you just trust humanity to wise up?  Would you rely still on the efficacy of a humanitarian solution?

—Jason


Good hard questions. I can say one thing I would do socially: I would encourage both evolution and (Paul Kurtz’s) planetary ethics in tandem to help encourage a wider perspective of what we presently, even physiologically consider to be more closely related kin… in order to increase the choice of adoption over birthing. From what I understand, we have at least some capacity to change our neural hardwiring by our perspective alone, so advancing the fact of evolution with planetary ethics in tandem may actually help people to re-program at a fundamental synoptic level that we are all one family.  Worth a shot.  It’s not all nature you know, nurture is increasingly significant, within reason. I think this may be one of those things within reason (emphasis on that).

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Posted: 04 February 2010 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The reality, to me, is that the entire pattern of our evolution—in fact what is most natural to our species—has now become a serious liability.
We have to come to terms with that.  The impulse to procreate worked for us when our numbers were few, but things have changed.  Technology is superseding nature.  Genetic engineering will soon begin changing our DNA faster than evolution ever could.  “We are as gods”, as Stewart Brand put it, and we’d better get good at it.

This means making some very hard decisions about where we’re heading, and we can’t rely on history or human nature to guide us.  This is terra incognita.

—Jason

America’s hypersensitivity over any loss of perceived “freedom” is not going to make that easy in this country (to the point now where the courts will perpetuate the principle, even when it benefits only or mostly predators e.g. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission).  As the South Park guys said, freedom isn’t free. There will be a price (and I’m not talking about defending it), as you intimate.  It’s all crystal ball stuff as to which choice is more beneficial.  If we knew we would have a major natural disaster (for example), we would not limit population growth. If we knew that it would be a Soylent Green type future, perhaps we would.

[ Edited: 04 February 2010 04:28 PM by Gatogreensleeves ]
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