11 billion — and counting

What are the disasters which face the human race? I imagine that many would put climate change first. Others would choose increasing resistance to antibiotics. But I put population growth ahead of both, and, in this matter, the Church has not yet faced up to important issues.

Toward the end of last year the UN published its revised population figures. The revisions were frankly dramatic. The old projection to the year 2100 of 8.5 billion is now 11 billion. Many regions have remained stable, and even Asia’s high projections are lowering somewhat. Africa is the problem: its projection has risen from under 2 billion to over 4 billion. African fertility rates are high and the mortality rates from AIDS have lowered. Combine that with improvement in infant mortality and care for the aged and you have a recipe for huge population increases in countries which are in no condition to cope. Many Africans are ready to risk their lives to get into Europe today; what will they do with swollen populations and the advent of climate change? Get your imagination around that. (Gender selection in favour of males is a growing issue, especially in the East. A surplus of young immigrants soaked in testosterone is not a positive factor.)

The simple long term solution is to have a total fertility rate which reproduces the population plus manageable increase. In developed countries today this would be a little higher than two children per woman on average. (In many African countries the number is currently over five.)

Unfortunately this solution is more complex in the short term. The lowering of the fertility rate leads to a disproportionately high aged population compared to the economically active. To give you a flavour, by 2100 the ratio of workers to retired in the US will drop from 4.6 to 1.9; in China, from 7.8 to 1.8; in Nigeria, from 15.8 to 5.4. We are already seeing the effect of this in the UK. While these dramatic falls will stabilise when the correct fertility rate is established throughout all generations, it won’t be in our time. In our rich country, we already fail the aged poor.

So what is the Church offering? At one level it is heroic. It is the largest non-governmental provider of health care services in the world. Two thirds of its hospitals are in developing countries, and it manages over a quarter of the world’s healthcare facilities. But where population control is concerned she finds herself in a position where her options are limited. Leaving aside doctrinal questions, the idea that natural family planning has a prospect of becoming sufficiently widespread to match population need is simply unrealistic. And the effect of this limitation reduces the possibility of the Church influencing family planning projects both in the protection of human rights and in the sad matter of abortion. She will be ignored as irrelevant.

The Church is the champion of openness to life, and we will be discussing just how this should be expressed in its fullest sense as we approach the Synod in October. There are certainly obstacles to be overcome. The crass use of abortion is favoured even by the great and the good; the preference for small families which ironically we see in countries we once thought to be Catholic such as Poland and Italy; and, more fundamentally, the separation of marriage from its procreative purpose.

Yet openness to life dares not be profligate. The natural fertility rate was set by blind evolution to counter the high infant mortality which preceded the 20th century. It stands at over 6 live births per woman – that is, around three times too high for current conditions. Compound tripling of the population would have staggered even Malthus. Do the maths! What are our responsibilities when a change in environment turns an evolutionary benefit into a threat? So one challenge for the Synod will be to show how this mismatch, brought about through improved living standards, should be corrected. Idealistic answers will not do; nor, I think, will we be happy to leave the solution, as we have done in many developing countries, to methodologies which we condemn – particularly when abortion will inevitably play a large part.

Leaving aside Jonathan Swift’s teasing solution to overpopulation and hunger in Ireland (they should eat their babies), it is essential to lower the fertility rate in poor countries, while encouraging a higher rate in developed countries. And, for the next century or two, we must accept the huge burden of caring for the elderly. These three challenges are interdependent. The Church will instinctively address two of them, but a reluctance to address the adjustment of fertility effectively, where this is needed, will make her appear to be the enemy of life rather than its defender.


About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Catholic Herald columns, evolution, Moral judgment, Synod and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to 11 billion — and counting

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    When an argument leads to an absurd conclusion, there are two possibilities: either there is something wrong with the argument, or our idea of absurdity is too restrictive. (In science, the latter has sometimes proved correct, so we should be cautious about dismissing it.)

    The Church’s official attitude to population control, if I understand it correctly, is that Divine Providence supplemented by human ingenuity and a more equable distribution of resources should cope with any conceivable population level without recourse to direct control of fertility. Up to a point that is true, but “should” is not the same as “will” and we have to deal with human nature as it is rather than as we might like it to be. The Church’s view on this is likely to be considered absurd by any substantial civil authority, if only because adopting it would most probably lead to limitation by famine, disease or warfare.

    Obviously it would be nobler to limit one’s progeny by self-control than by artificial means, but nobility cannot be enforced, especially when God-given intelligence has devised means to avoid the need for it. If the Church is to maintain its stance, it needs to provide far more convincing arguments than have so far appeared.

  2. Hock says:

    A serious question to which I do not know the answer ( although I could make an informed guess,) is this. ‘ Does the policy of Life as taught by the Catholic Church actually have any widespread significance on the increase in world population statistics?’
    It is , it seems to me, that to cherish life as taught by the Church is a stick to beat the Church with and that it is somehow the fount of all the problems being forecast here when in fact, according to stats in some traditionally Catholic countries, the birth rate is falling alarmingly!
    Perhaps if we cherished life more in all it stages then the problems would diminish rather than increase.
    The answer that is sought is the same one that has been around for centuries and it is that the real problem to be solved is not population growth but world poverty.
    When you are so poor that the only means of life support in earlier years and care in your old age is by having children to support you as you get older then raising a family is the only recourse open to you.

    • Vincent says:

      “A stick to beat the Church with” ? Yes, it’s that which prevents the church having its full influence. i am told that many contraceptive programmed in developed countries can bring unacceptable pressures on women. This is contrary to human rights. Similarly, Quentin has mentioned abortion. If the Church were seen to be fully engaged in effective family planning some, at least, of these abuses could be reduced.

  3. Gerry says:

    Such a heartening page about the most important problem facing the world today. Recent research from Chatham House tells us in the article “Livestock – Climate Changes Forgotten Sector December 2014” that Greenhouse gas emission from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5% of the global total, more than the direct emissions from the transport sector.
    James Lovelock in his book ‘The Vanishing Face of Gaia’ puts it more forcefully when he asks “Did you know the exhalations of breath and other gaseous emissions by the nearly seven billion people on Earth, their pets and livestock are responsible for 23% of all greenhouse gas emissions? If you add on the fossil fuel burnt in the total activity of growing, gathering, selling and serving food, all this adds up to about half of all carbon dioxide emission….Merely by existing, people and their dependent animals are responsible for more than 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions of all the airline travel in the world.”
    Catholic moral theology, where it is not ignored, ensures that populations double every 25 to 30 years. At present, it looks as though we are going to allow a much criticized theological teaching to so damage our earthly home as to almost destroy it.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      That may well be true, but apart from the fossil fuels, it concerns carbon already in the biosphere and so merely recycled.

    • Nektarios says:

      Your argument in it’s conclusions is a New World Order. This is also the language of the
      UN. In the New World Order, they are planning to kill off by whatever means two thirds of the world’s population. Not because there are too many people which there are not, but because the powers that be cannot control them. It is evil and demonic.

  4. Nektarios says:

    The tone of this topic is twofold, one of fear, and the other of control. I really would like you to firmly grasp that first.
    Looking at Climate Change: There is a consensus that says that Climate Change will seriously damage life on earth, or even see it die out altogether. Most universities will not allow any other view on Climate Change, nor would you be able to hold a professorship or lecturer position within
    if one hold another view.
    The say science holds the answers, and we must trust their findings as totally true. Alright, that is if it is real scientific data on Climate Change which it isn’t.
    Science cannot be conducted by consensus. – smell a rat, when you hear this is the consensus!
    True science is always done by observation, by measurement and by experiment.
    Those on the Climate Change bandwagon only paritially have conducted some measurements
    but as to all the rest that is necessary, they have not been scienntific at all – the rely totally on computer modelling which produced what ever they want essentially.
    The discrepancies arise over actual measurements conducted over many years by climatologiest.
    This paints a very different picture to the picture painted by the Climate Change lobby.

    Is there Climate Change? Yes there is, but nothing to worry about. It is quite natural and will increase and decrease over time.
    How much will it increase? At the time of the dinosaurs carbon dioxide was around 400 parts per million, now it is about 2 parts per million. Lodge it in your brain.
    Is Co2 emmissions increasing? Yes it is. But it may go up in the next 150 years by around 3-4 parts per million. Not a problem at all. Will it warm the planet? yes by 1/2 to1%, nice for us in cooler climes, so go out and enjoy the sunshine.
    The Climate Change people want to reduce emissions by 80%, to reduce the global warming by 1%. Global Warming is not dependent on Climate Change at all, rather it is the earth heating up,
    quite a different matter and field of study.
    With all the Climate Change scaremongering and misinformation and bad science, they want to force the issue through treaties Governments can’t get out of.
    The cost of lowering, in theory earth’s temperature by one degree, is enough to bankrupt the whole of the Western world. It will cost by recent estimates around – wait for it — $834 Trillion dollars.

    It would mean shutting down all manufacturing, most farming, the trees will hardly be able to grow as CO2 is their plant food and our oxygen.
    Who stands to gain?

    • Alan says:

      A consensus doesn’t make me smell a rat particularly. Some of the challenges to the consensus view seem a bit fishy to me however.
      A 1/2 to 1% increase in the temperature of the planet in the next 150 years. I guess that would be in degrees Kelvin since a percentage increase in terms of C or F is somewhat arbitrary. That would put the 1/2 to 1% increase in line with some of the projections too. That would be around a 2 to 3 degrees C increase in the time-frame you are talking about. You think that’s nothing to worry about? It might, as you say, sound nice if you are in cooler climes but it doesn’t seem so easily dismissed to me. Even bearing in mind that there are clearly natural changes to our climate (a fact which I’m sure that climatologists are well aware of) that seems like a huge rise in a very short space of time. A few more degrees at the poles too. A couple more in the tropics or our deserts. Significantly warmer where our agriculture is established. Give the likes of dinosaurs a couple of hundred years and they might migrate if it gets too warm. Our infrastructure isn’t nearly so mobile. We cannot just up sticks and move elsewhere … well we could, but I’m not sure we’d see any change out of $834 trillion.
      Also you talk about CO2 as if it is nothing but benign and beneficial. No one is in any doubt about it being required for our continued well being. Trees and animals depend on it. But that in no way suggests that there isn’t a limit to how much we can tolerate in our atmosphere.
      “It would mean shutting down all manufacturing, most farming, the trees will hardly be able to grow as CO2 is their plant food and our oxygen.”
      Our trees would struggle to grow without the CO2 that manufacturing and farming produce? Do you have a reference for that idea?
      “Who stands to gain?”
      I would wonder too if there weren’t some who stood to gain from maintaining the status quo … if that were to be my measure.

      • Nektarios says:

        This may help your understanding on Climate Change?


      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        A minor point of information – as increments, degrees C and Kelvin are identical; the difference is in the zero point.

      • Alan says:

        Indeed Peter. I assumed the percentage Nektarios mentioned was for Kelvin because a percentage increase for the average temperature of the earth above the zero point for Celsius would be a little odd. It wouldn’t fit with either projections or the comment made about “enjoying the sunshine”.

    • milliganp says:

      Facing up to a grave matter facing humanity with some clear thinking has nothing to do with fear or control, it is about taking a responsible position. It may well be that a “perfect world” where we share the earths resources equitably might well be capable of supporting a larger population than present, but the anti-global warming lobby is a political one which has little interest in sharing resources.
      It is obvious you don’t have any personal understanding of science or you wouldn’t make the ludicrous comment about trees not growing!

  5. John Nolan says:

    Speaking today (Friday) in the Philippines, Pope Francis endorsed the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception in unambiguous terms. ‘He [Paul VI] had the strength to defend openness to life when many people were worried about population growth … He looked to the peoples of the Earth and saw the destruction of the family because of the lack of children.’

    It is not the first time he has defended Humanae Vitae. Last October he praised Paul VI for resisting the neo-Malthusians both then and in the future, and referred to his ‘prescience’.

  6. John Candido says:

    With respect to what Pope Francis has said in the Philippines; the Roman Catholic Church teachings on abortion and contraception, in relation to Earth’s population time-bomb, are not going to be given any serious consideration by most members of today’s society. Sorry, but that is the way it is. What may be of assistance to counter this disaster in waiting is an examination of how democratic governments, the mass media and various NGO’s have altered human behaviour in the past to everyone’s benefit.

    If we were to look at the phenomenal decline in smoking rates throughout the western world, there may be a clue as to how we are going to tackle overpopulation on a voluntary basis at first, and if needed, a sliding scale of penalties and sanctions to any recalcitrant who insist on their right to have as many children as they like, regardless of its effect on the planet and on human societies. And that is with a series of persuasive and clever public advertising campaigns that possesses an unassailable integrity founded on scientific research, which has a clear message about the dangers of a nonchalant attitude to overpopulation.

    Watching the contemporary film called, ‘The Imitation Game’, which was about Bletchley Park or ‘Project X’ or ‘Ultra’, was inspirational. Alan Turing assisted the Allies in both shortening and winning the war against the Nazis, through decoding German messages that were sent via their Enigma machines. Benedict Cumberbatch in a fine performance played Turing. Alan Turing was an original thinker, mathematical genius, seminal electronic computer scientist, and cryptologist. Turing was also a seminal mathematical biologist.


    Three Polish mathematicians were the first to crack the enigma code during the 1930s, before the outbreak of World War II. They were led by Polish mathematician Marian Rejewski and two Poznań University mathematics graduates called Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki. This was the free world’s greatest intelligence coup.


    You can certainly say one thing about the world, and that is that it can produce people of the highest intellectual calibre, a capacity for originality of thought, with multiple talents on an astounding level of skill and dexterity.

    My basic mentality and disposition on any social issue is one of hope, which is founded on the creativity and intelligence of all of our people working as a team. People from any walk of life have an equal right to be involved about this debate, because they are the ones who will be taking society’s eventual message about overpopulation on board, and making adjustments to their own behaviour to accommodate these concerns.

    Scientists, mathematicians, infrastructure engineers, demographers, town planners, lawyers, journalists, criminologists, sociologists, parliaments, public servants, and the community, will all have an input on this seemingly intractable and inevitable population paradigm. Their effectiveness will be multiplied when they are a part of cross-national NGO’s that have a focus on this issue, much like the team effort of around 9,000 people beavering away at decoding enemy messages at Bletchley Park, during World War II.


    Here is something that Alan Turing would have loved to be a part of if he were still alive. Research in artificial intelligence has a large community of interested people who have written an open letter advising governments to consider the potential benefits of funding specific areas of research in robotics. The letter is signed by about 1,500 influential thinkers from a variety of backgrounds. One of whom is Professor Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge. When faced with an insurmountable problem, teamwork makes all of the difference.


    • John Nolan says:

      John Candido

      I don’t expect you to agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception and abortion (although as far as the latter is concerned, the moral objections are not confined to the Church, or even to Christianity. Look at the Hippocratic Oath, for example).

      I might have expected you to give some consideration to issues of human rights before allowing governments to interfere with personal choice. The fact that they are democratically elected is neither here nor there; Hitler came to power by democratic means. India is regarded as the largest democracy on Earth, but imposed a forced sterilization policy in the 1970s which impacted mostly on the poor, and poor women in particular. It still continues, although central government has passed the buck to state governments to escape the international odium which Indira Gandhi’s government was subjected to, and rightly so. Do the research.

      You claim to be a liberal, but you seem to favour totalitarianism. You naively believe that democracy throws up leaders who are wise and competent (history shows otherwise) and you are quite prepared to surrender your liberty to them. Worst of all, you follow unquestioningly any trend which appears to you to be ‘modern’. In Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany you would probably have been a fanatical supporter of the regime. It’s only hindsight that makes you argue otherwise.

  7. John Candido says:

    Here are a few NGOs or ‘Think Tanks’ that are interested in solving some of humanity’s intractable and important problems.

    ‘The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’, located at the University of Cambridge.


    ‘Future of Humanity Institute’, located at the University of Oxford.


    ‘Machine Intelligence Research Institute’, located at Berkeley, California in the United States of America.


    The ‘Future of Life Institute’, is also located in the United States.


    The ‘Oxford Martin School’ also examines major problems facing our society and as the name suggests, is also located at The University of Oxford along with the ‘Future of Humanity Institute’.


    The good thing about these Think Tanks is that they need donations from government, businesses and the community at large. This means that they are not to be considered isolated ivory towers but very responsive to community inputs.

    Please subscribe to any Think Tank’s free email newsletters, if you are interested in their topics of discussion or any of their areas of research. They are more than happy to provide a regular newsletter as an email, to anyone with a computer or smartphone.

    It always pays to be optimistic about the human race and our singular capacity for research, thought, logic, creativity, imagination and reason. Our Lord said lots of good things in praise of hope, didn’t he?

  8. Geordie says:

    It is Mankind’s arrogance that makes us think that we can control climate change. The world’s climate is dynamic and always has been; long before human beings appeared on the scene. Man’s annual production of CO2 is less that 1% of the total increase. One volcano erupting produces more than all the factories on earth.
    You cannot trust the scientific consensus. Any scientist who contradicts the consensus is treated abominably by the main stream Some have even had death threats. The global temperature has been falling since every year since 1998 but the scientific community say that this just a glitch. They refuse to accept scientific evidence.
    As for population growth, this is another red herring. The earth is capable of sustaining much larger populations. It is Man’s greed and incompetence which causes the distribution of wealth problems. Look at the waste in western societies. If you damage the cover on the rear light cluster of your car you cannot obtain a new cover because they are sealed units. The whole unit has to be renewed at the cost of between £150 and £200. The undamaged part of the unit is thrown away. Look at the packaging in super-markets. Look at the way you cannot buy one of anything. Look at the problems of obesity which was once blamed on gluttony. I could go on and on.
    The Scandinavian statistician, whose names escapes me at the moment, says that the world population will level out at 16 billion and the earth is well capable of sustaining this level of population.
    Sorry to go on. I don’t like long blogs but pseudo-scientific claims are a pet hate of mine.

    • Quentin says:

      If we are not to treat your Scandinavian statistician as a pseudo-scientific claim, we need chapter and verse.

      • Nektarios says:

        So let us look at the actual facts on global Warming and Climate Change.


      • Nektarios says:

        Here you have it chapter and verse.

      • Quentin says:

        I am afraid that I don’t have long periods of time to listen to addresses however good. However at a quick dip in, the point is made that higher standards of living lower the birthrate. Nothing new about that: birthrate and standards of living are functions of each other. We see this exhibited in Europe — where artificial contraception is near universal.

      • milliganp says:

        “The facts” are provided by Lord Monkton who seems to me to be a lunatic English hereditary peer and is a member of UKIP. Nektarios, if you’re going to quote a source, make it a credible one.

  9. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    I think Quentin is disingenuous here. He leaves us with a question to answer when he knows perfectly well that a solution which requires artificial contraceptive methods is required.

    There is a little island off Japan which was cleared of animals when it was used for making poison gas. It now has rabbits. Rabbits breed very quickly because 80% of rabbit babies are killed before they are old enough to breed. But as there are no predators rabbits are simply everywhere. Lie on the ground and rabbits will run all over you – hoping that you’ll give them food. That’s the model for the effects of evolution when conditions change.

    Your church has simply got it wrong. When it condemned contraception it knew nothing about evolution. Now it does, but it can’t allow itself to change. And the longer it sticks with it the harder it becomes. And it will try to stick with it even in the face of obvious disaster. (It already has internal disaster as more and more Catholics disregard its teaching.)

    Should we allow you Catholics to cause great damage to the human race merely to save your face? Will your great grandchildren one day simply wonder how the church could have been so stupid?

  10. Julie Rogers says:

    Why do people refer to The Church as a group of old men in Rome, who are responsible for the overpopulation of the planet. Well first, The Church is God’s Church and Jesus Christ, who is God became Man to set the church up as we know it, not to spoil anybody’s fun but so that we would all be happy.
    Who made us? Well God made us and he told us to not worry about what we are to wear or eat etc. God knows what we need and he loves us and looks after us. Hunger in the world is caused by Man not sharing the good things he has with others. Man cannot really control population because only God can create life, and ultimately He has control over everything. Man thinks he can control it by contraception, abortion etc The pill and some other devices to stop pregnancy, can be abortificient. What is wrong with natural family planning anyway as it is far better for the health of women than anything else. I really get cross when we talk about African women as if they have no intelligence at all, behave more like animals and aren’t capable of practising natural family planning. Women in the third world and other poorer countries are just as intelligent as us in the West! We should give women in poorer countries more food and better maternal care, rather than force contraceptives down them or abort their babies. If they do have lots of babies, does it really matter. God made the bbeautiful babies anyway and everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. Population control – leave that in God’s hands

    The planet is years old and it is not overpopulated yet! In fact there is masses of room left. We have to be like littlle children and have complete trust in God None of us knows how long the planet is going to exist. God made it and he knows what he is going to do with it, and as for climate change ,well God has ultimate control over it all. Man can pollute it but God is in control. He can calm storms if he wishes and we know that from reading the bible. God allows natural disasters, wars, sicknesses etc for good to come out of it. We don’t understand God’s ways but we must have faith. Faith is all you need!

    • Vincent says:

      “Faith is all you need!” said the Reformers. “Faith and works” replied the Catholic Church. Take your choice!

    • milliganp says:

      On your point re women in underdeveloped countries, they have the same raw intellect as those in the developed world but the majority lack any education. If educated they would probably ask ‘why am I a baby factory?’ or ‘why can’t I control my own life?’.
      God gave us intellect in part so that we could co-operate in His plan for creation. Mere passivity does not count as playing our part.

  11. Iona says:

    Julie – “… more food and better maternal care” – and education, don’t forget that; it has been found that when women’s education level rises, the birthrate falls, perhaps because a well-educated woman has career options open to her which she may find more attractive than raising a large family.

    Nektarios – and others who consider that man-made climate change is not happening – what do you think is the reason that so many scientific experts say it is? – I mean, do you think they’re just mistaken, or do you think they have a hidden agenda of some sort? and if they have a hidden agenda, what (do you think) do they stand to gain from convincing the rest of us, and the world’s governments, that man-made climate change is happening and is likely to cause environmental disasters on a large scale?

    • Nektarios says:

      I do not say that Climate Change is not happening, but as it has neither within the variables increased or decreased over the last 20 years or so. However there has been a slight increase in temperature because of various factors such as the sun’s activities.
      Even that has not raised temperatures much, about 1/2 degree, that is with present Co2 emissions and pollutants. Let me remind you, Co2 is not a pollutant.
      Another aspect to the Climate Change argument is this: If we increase production so increasing Co2 emissions e can only do so to raise the Climate temperature up to 3-4%.
      The reason for this is, we have no more manufacturing power globally to go beyond that point. So the Climate Change argumets have been lost. Lets move on, but they won’t let you.

      You ask is there an Agenda by the Climate Lobby?
      Yes, there is and it is called Agenda 21. Google it up.
      The EU commissioners that make all the decisions, not the MEP’s we send there who are little more than window dressing, are totally unelectd by the population they supposedly serve, they are Communists essentially, as are the `Green Party’ politically, who came across after the Berlin Wall fell.
      The UN is another unelected body that represents the Nations. Agenda 21 is a UN programme. Get acquainted what this means for us, our children and grandchildren. It is truly diabolical and its already taking place in parts.

  12. Geordie says:

    The information you asked for is as follows:
    Dr Hans Rosling (born 27 July 1948) is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician and public speaker. He is Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institute.
    He has presented a few programmes on Statistics for the BBC. The last one which I saw, was on the world population. He is very entertaining and very interesting.

    • Quentin says:

      Geordie, thank you for this. Yes I know Rosling, and keep links to his data on my computer. I cannot however recall his mentioning that the population is expected to stabilise in the next century. However there is no issue here. For the population to stabilise it is necessary that the average number of live births should not exceed the rate required to reproduce the population. If this is achieved it will be done through contraception or abortion. Probably a mixture of both. As countries develop, the rate of early mortality falls, so women choose to give birth to fewer children. All the evidence so far shows that they will use artificial means to choose that. Of course Natural Family Planning should be promoted, but – as we have seen in this country – it is only adopted by a minority.

      If I am right that the evolved natural fertility rate is three time too high, it follows that if the population used no control it would have trebled at the end of one hundred years, ninefold after two hundred years and twentysevenfold after 300 years. And so on. Of course it won’t remotely come to that because women will limit their families as they have come to do in developed countries today. As your friend Rosling’s moving-data graphs show, historically lowering fertility is associated with extended life expectancy. Not necessarily cause and effect because growing prosperity, as well as lower maternal mortality, leads to better health.

  13. Geordie says:

    Nektarios is right. There is an agenda. Scientists receive grants and income for their studies. If they are proved wrong then the funds dry up. They are also control freaks. They believe that science can control everything. We know it can’t. If climate change is happening, it has nothing to do with Man’s activities; it’s is the normal, dynamic global system that has always existed.

  14. Geordie says:

    Here is another piece of information you may have heard about; if not you may like to look into it.
    On 3rd April 2006, Dr Eric Pianka gave a lecture at the University of Texas on population control. He received a standing ovation for his advocacy of a mass culling of 90% of the human race by disease. He said “disease will control the scourge of humanity”. He also said the Ebola virus is the most capable of wide spread decimation.
    That was in 2006. What does one conclude from that in 2015 with the present outbreak of Ebola?
    We should not trust scientists just because a lot of them say the same thing. We should question their findings continually, even those who receive standing ovations.

  15. Hock says:

    I go back to the root cause of many of the issues raised here is one of poverty. It is not the poor of the poor countries of the world who are the world’s polluters nor are they guilty of waste.
    They have to have large families as their sole means of survival. To talk of women’s career choices is a meaningless statement for the vast majority of women from a global perspective.
    The picture of world population is a mixed one. We are already seeing how in the West population growth is lagging behind what is necessary for supporting an ageing population.
    Abortion in Russia was (is?) on such a massive scale that the natural order of re-production is being adversely affected and so the same Government that promoted widespread abortion are now encouraging couples to have more children and giving financial incentives for doing so!
    History, and science too, teaches us that what appears to be obvious solutions to problems often have the opposite effect to what was intended when practiced over a longer time span.
    Cause and effect.

    • Quentin says:

      “The picture of world population is a mixed one.” This is a key sentence. The need in each area may be different. And a number of factors, some of them more important than contraceptive means, may apply. But there will always be a need for people to control and space family size. It is here, some might argue, that we need reliable and practicable methods which enable people to make their choices, and so avoid the inevitable alternative of abortion.

      You also nudge at another difficulty. It may be many decades before the consequences of current parental decisions have their effect. Demographers are able to point out what these may be, but human beings are often primarily motivated by short rather than long term consequences.

      If I had a slogan it would be “try for three”. Allowing for the unmarried and the infertile, trying for three would probably achieve replacement plus a manageable level of population growth. I note that my five children have fourteen offspring. That family average of 2.8 is not, I think, a bad shot.

  16. John Nolan says:

    Those who are sceptical about anthropogenic climate change are (officially, it would seem) called ‘climate change deniers’ (ring any bells?) despite the fact that they accept that there has been climate change as long as the Earth has existed. What makes me sceptical is the argument that we must take positive action, whether or not it does any good, or even if it causes harm, just in case the hypothesis should be correct. This ‘worst case scenario’ thinking also applies to epidemics such as swine ‘flu which have an annoying habit of not materializing.

    As for predictions about what will obtain in 150 years’ time (see Alan’s comment above), I find this quite frankly laughable – meteorologists seem incapable of predicting what will happen next week. In the 1970s we were being told that we were heading for a new Ice Age, and although there was an inter-glacial trough from the 13th to the 18th centuries after which temperatures rose, the global warming graphs in GCSE geography textbooks seem to start around 1975 (the levelling-off after 2000 being conveniently ignored).

    The problem with empirical science is that too often it starts with a hypothesis and then tries to find evidence to validate it, and discards what doesn’t fit; it is the antithesis of historical enquiry and I suspect most historians are anthropogenic climate change sceptics

    • Vincent says:

      I would deduce from what you say, John, that we should focus on ends which are beneficial in themselves, yet helpful should climate change be established. One of these would be international harmony and the other would be assisting poorer countries to develop good standards of living. We couldn’t manage climate change without working at it together, and a higher standard of living tends to control birthrate while enabling a society to cope better whatever the conditions. I need hardly point out that peace and just living standards are Gospel imperatives, reflected in Catholic social teaching..

    • Alan says:




      The fact that the pause in surface temperature increase over the last 15 years or so hasn’t been ignored by climatologists could easily have been missed. I’ve bumped into it in passing a couple of times because I’ve a casual interest in science in general, but it’s clearly quite easy to miss otherwise.

      That meteorologists or health experts don’t always make accurate predictions doesn’t suggest to me that anyone else knows better – not even a UKIP candidate.

      • Quentin says:

        Alan, the reason why your contribution went for moderation was because the program is set to take a maximum of two internet links in a contribution. The aim is to discourage too much ‘debate by referral’ to other material. It didn’t apply in this case but the program is too dumb to know the difference.

      • Alan says:

        Thank you Quentin. I guessed that might be the reason.

  17. Geordie says:

    Well said John Nolan. I agree completely with what you’ve written; especially the part about meteorologists who are incapable of predicting next week’s weather and yet they try to tell us what will happen in the year 2200.

  18. Martha says:

    Man Proposes, God Disposes

  19. Reading this Post and its Comments I find myself in a quandary;
    The main subject seems to be “Population Growth’ – a worry first raised by Malthus in the 18th Century.

    Quentin states quite clearly “the Church has not yet faced up to important issues. .. the idea that natural family planning has a prospect of becoming sufficiently widespread to match population need is simply unrealistic.”
    This seems to be generally accepted . .”it looks as though we are going to allow a much criticized theological teaching to so damage our earthly home as to almost destroy it.”.
    Advocatus Diaboli puts it even stronger . . “..a solution which requires artificial contraceptive methods is required. ..When [the Church] condemned contraception it knew nothing about evolution. Now it does, . . .”
    The only real contradiction comes from Julie Rogers “Population control – leave that in God’s hands.”

    But we all know the extraordinary differences in behaviour produced by the secular adoption of contraception (and perhaps also abortion) – not for reasons of population control but simply for general pleasure seeking. Cohabitation, fornication, ‘same sex’ marriage are the norm. These are examples of ‘sinful’ behaviour which the Catholic Church cannot accept, let alone promote.

    So I cannot help feeling that the Church must maintain its stance on contraception.

    • Martha says:

      I do think this is right, and I hope the Church will stand firm.

      There has not been much mention of fertility awareness this time, which is a surprise. Mother Teresa was able to teach this to very poor women in India, and methods have improved since then. For Catholics, this should be the way, and it is rather patronising to think otherwise. Our Lord told us that we have to follow a straight and narrow path.

      In the secular world, attitudes to smoking have changed unbelievably in the last few years. Surely we can do as much with our sexuality.

      • Vincent says:

        I think that most would accept that NFP can be taught to everyone. But we have to be realistic. If NFP hasn’t caught on here, why would it be more popular in other countries? And how practical would it be in the very broad range of circumstances in less developed countries? Do you know? I certainly don’t. The fact is that there are everywhere frequent circumstances in which NFP is not the solution, but the Church’s command specifically forbids any exceptions. You either have to accept the teaching completely or reject it — Paul VI deliberately (in italics!). cut out any third way.

  20. John Nolan says:

    I read Alan’s links and got the distinct impression that those scientists committed (for one reason or another) to the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change have been put on the defensive by their critics and are thrashing around for explanations. Interestingly, none of these explanations relate to human activity.

    Depletion of sea-ice levels was touted by Al Gore and others as proof positive of global warming, accompanied by apocalyptic and wildly inaccurate predictions. The latest data (helped by the Cryosphere project of the University of Illinois which allows satellite measurement of ice thickness) show record volumes of Antarctic sea-ice and a modest rise in Arctic levels. This has led some scientists to believe that there is no direct connection between ice levels and global warming, which if you think about it lets the proponents of anthropogenic climate change off the hook (at least for now). However, it encourages one to treat their predictions magno cum grano salis.

  21. Martha says:

    Vincent, I think NFP has not caught on here, yet, with Catholics nearly as much as it should, because it has not been promoted, taught and encouraged nearly enough. There is enormous pressure from the secular world, which does not want to tolerate any self control in this area between consenting adults, and there are also financial profits to be made from the sale of pills, injections, and mechanical devices.

    • Nektarios says:

      Google in Agenda 21. Go to videos. This is already being done in different ways. It is important to grasp exactly what the UN and the EU are proposing. It is Communism and Totaltitarianism and evil. NFP has its benefits for those who freely engage in it, one cannot impose it. Agenda 21 plans to deal with their idea of overpopulation by murder, starvation, disease and war. And let us be clear, this is not in the middle east or the east, but the west.
      It would be wise for you and the whole of the RCC and the rest of us not to sleep-walk into the Agenda 21 scenario. Time to act!
      If Agenda 21 if not stopped in its tracks, NFP would be obsolete.

  22. John Candido says:

    Some Catholics, particularly conservative ones, love to dodge any discussion about human population control, because it is perceived as a threat to the RCC’s orthodox teaching on artificial birth control and abortion. It is probably at the root of why the SecondSight topic that we are in called ‘11 billion – and counting’, opened with population control and quickly got side-tracked to global warming.

    ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ht5vi7Uey8 (insert https at the beginning of this link.)

    Here are the latest series of public events between the 29th January & 28th May 2015, from the Oxford Martin School. Almost all of the topics of each public address are about anthropogenic (caused by human activity) climate change. Depending on your point of view about anthropogenic climate change, you will or will not find these talks particularly helpful. An open mind to the best science of climate change as it evolves is de rigueur.


  23. John Candido says:

    This is my final attempt. Sorry about this!

    Some Catholics, particularly conservative ones, love to dodge any discussion about human population control, because it is perceived as a threat to the RCC’s orthodox teaching on artificial birth control and abortion. It is probably at the root of why the SecondSight topic that we are in called ‘11 billion – and counting’, opened with population control and quickly got side-tracked to global warming.

    Here are the latest series of public events between the 29th January & 28th May 2015, from the Oxford Martin School. Almost all of the topics of each public address are about anthropogenic (caused by human activity) climate change. Depending on your point of view about anthropogenic climate change, you will or will not find these talks particularly helpful. An open mind to the best science of climate change as it evolves is de rigueur.


  24. John Candido says:

    Some Catholics, particularly conservative ones, love to dodge any discussion about human population control, because it is perceived as a threat to the RCC’s orthodox teaching on artificial birth control and abortion. It is probably at the root of why the SecondSight topic that we are in called ‘11 billion – and counting’, opened with population control and quickly got side-tracked to global warming.

    Here are the latest series of public events between the 29th January 2015 & 28th May 2015, from the Oxford Martin School. Almost all of the topics are about anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. Depending on your point of view about anthropogenic climate change, you will or will not find these talks particularly helpful. An open mind to the best science of climate change as it evolves is de rigueur.


  25. milliganp says:

    One of the points not commented on so far (unless I missed it in one of John Candido’s essays) is the change in ‘dependency’ in the developed world – taxes now support the elderly more than children.
    As a ‘good Catholic’ and happy parent I worked to fund the rearing of 5 children. At the same time I paid taxes at an aggregate rate of ~35%, so I indirectly supported 2 others making a total of 8 dependants on one wage earner. Our modern 1.5 child dual income family unit is thus not overburdened if it has to maintain a couple of pensioners as well through indirect taxation.

  26. James Mulhall says:

    I watched the Hans Rosling programme twice on Channel 4.
    His conclusions were
    1 The world population is now 7 billion rising to 11 billion by the end of the century.
    2 The population of the major continents is as follows
    North and South America 1 billion
    Europe including Russia 1 billion
    Africa 2 billion
    Asia 3 billion
    3 By the end of the century it will be:
    North and South America 1 billion
    Europe including Russia 1 billion
    Africa 2 billion
    Asia 3 billion
    4 He’s convinced that the population will stabilise at 11 billion because of the likely population mix
    by the end of the century.
    5 China’s one child policy plus forced abortions and sterilizations has resulted in a 500 million
    shortfall in that county’s population. In addition, there are only 87 females to every 100 males
    leading to pressure on population growth.
    6 He asked the question ‘What is the average number of children born to women in Bangladesh?
    You might be as surprised as I was to hear the answer: two!

    We mustn’t be afraid of children. What’s happened to supernatural outlook? Whose in charge of this show? Does He know what he’s doing?

    To end on a lighter note. It’s been said that the difference between humans and computers is that the former can be mass-produced by unskilled labour.

  27. James Mulhall says:

    Oops. The second chart should read

    North an South America 1 billion
    Europe including Russia 1 billion
    Africa 4 billion
    Asia 5 billion
    All businesses will be heading south and east. The Chinese say they will come to visit the museum, that is, Europe.

  28. John Candido says:

    Gresham College will hold a public lecture on the subject of the population problem, which is to be held on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015, at 6:00pm at the Museum of London. It is entitled, ‘The Shape of Things to Come: How our changing demographic structure will shape future society and health’.

    It will be presented by Chris Whitty, Visiting Professor of Public Health at Gresham College. He is also Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of Research and Evidence at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and Professor of Public and International Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). He is currently involved in the UK response to Ebola both in Africa and the NHS.


    More about Professor Chris Whitty:-


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