Human Beings: a plague on the Earth?

This article was originally published in my column at the Colson Center. It is republished here with permission. For a complete directory of all my Colson Center articles, click here.

“And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28)

Human beings are “a plague on the Earth”, Sir David Attenborough recently told Britain’s Radio Times.

Known for his nature documentaries and environmental activism, the 86 year old naturalist believes that human beings need to voluntarily die off in order to protect the environment. If they do not, he predicted then nature herself will assume the role of executioner.

It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde” he said. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us”.

This isn’t the first time Attenborough has assumed the role of doomsday prophet. In 2002 he commented that “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it’s time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.”

In 2009, Attenborough put his money where his mouth is and became patron of the UK-based ‘Population Matters’ (formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust). That was the same year this radical group advocated reducing Britain’s population by half through a two-child policy similar to China. (See the Lifesite News report from the time, ‘Reduce UK Population by Half.’) The same year the group also published a document “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” which suggested that the best way to combat global warming was to use contraception and abortion to reduce the surplus population. The utilitarian logic of their proposals was simple: fewer people = fewer polluters.

Breeding Freedom: “a bad idea”

Attenborough and the Population Matters/Optimum Population Trust are not alone in these radical solutions to global warming. On January 22, CNSNews.com ran a story about Paul Ehrlich, a doomsday biologist and author of The Population Bomb. CNSNews quoted Ehrlich as saying “Nobody, in my view, has the right to have 12 children or even three unless the second pregnancy is twins”.

Ehrlich, who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford, added that it was “a bad idea” to give people the right to have as many children as they want. (These pronouncements were recorded in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.)

Neo-Malthusianism

These dire predictions about the survival of the human race are nothing new. The clergyman Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) suggested that the poor were draining the world’s recourses. Consequently, he advocated policies specifically aimed at killing them off. His calculations were logical based on food resources at the time. However, what Malthus failed to predict was the agricultural revolution and the development of new tools that revolutionized food production.

Malthus also advocated Eugenics, which has been enjoying a renaissance thanks to Bill and Malinda Gates, who powerful Foundation recently aligned itself with the population control lobby and the Eugenics movement. (See my article ‘Gates Foundation Commemorates Eugenics Conference.’)

Human Engineering and Climate Change

The Classical Eugenics movement aimed at improving human beings through selective breeding, while the movement’s contemporary successors (at least the more radical of them) are suggesting we should find ways to improve human beings through genetic engineering. Science can modify Homo sapiens to be the sort of people who cooperate with climate change plans.

I’m not making this up. An article published by the Sidney Morning Herald, titled “Final frontier of climate policy – remake humans” opened with the words “If it is so hard to change the climate to suit humans, why not alter humans to suit the changing climate, philosophers from Oxford and New York universities are asking.” The report went on to summarize a paper about to be published by the academic journal ‘Ethics, Policy & Environment’, which suggests that human engineering will be the last frontier for climate change:

“…humans could be modified to be smaller, dislike eating meat, have fewer children and be more willing to co-operate with social goals…. Better educated women have fewer children, so human engineering to improve cognition could reduce fertility as ‘a positive side effect from the point of view of tackling climate change’, the paper argues. Pharmacological treatments such as the ‘love drug’ oxytocin could encourage people to act as a group and boost their appreciation of other life forms and nature, the authors say.” (Emphasis mine)

I’ll leave you to imagine what the implications of these proposals could be, if the science were ever to become practical.

The Human Problem

Let’s be clear: there is a problem with the Homo sapiens population. However, the problem isn’t quantitative but qualitative. Human beings are sinners and, as such, fail to use the resources God has given us in an efficient and responsible manner. A case in point is Africa: those who have studied the starvation problems facing Africans have understood that the factors behind the famines are largely economic and political. There is more than enough food resources right now to feed the entire population of the world. Moreover, if practices like urban gardening were more widely adopted, the planet could sustain an almost indefinite number of people.

The same applies to climate change. Regardless of whatever or not we believe in man-made global warming, few will deny that pollution is a problem, especially in Asia. But the answer is not to reduce the number of people, but to turn to God and become obedient in the job He gave Adam and Eve of being good stewards of the earth.

This is a point made by E. Calvin Beisner in his book Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future. Beisner argued that, from a Biblical perspective, population growth is a blessing and not a curse. The book’s statistics are now two decades old, but the basic principles are still applicable.