Overpopulation myths, pseudo-science and anti-humanism

That’s a lot to take on, especially about an establishment movement.

But I did a set of interviews with Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of Merchants of Despair on these topics right around Earth Day recently, and found he did just that, with thorough research and historic and scientific references. Which he pursues with passion not just to debunk myths, but to set the record straight on human flourishing  and ethical ecology. It’s stunning to learn the scope and depth and power of the misinformation.

Then, because of the Chen Guoncheng ordeal last week, I got human rights expert Steven Mosher on for a radio interview on the China one child policy and the back story behind it, because there are few experts in the world as knowledgable and experienced in documenting China’s population control as Mosher is.

Congressman Chris Smith gave me an update with astonishing background to the Chen story and the human rights violations record of the Chinese government, based partially but largely on falsified Western studies warning that population control was an urgent necessity to save the planet and its resources from a doomsday crisis.

There’s a crisis alright. But it’s in the human toll of these persistent myths based on the enduring eugenics movement. How can these atrocities continue, with widespread approval or at least acceptance, explicit or implicit, by governments and international organizations?

Through political power, says Zubrin, and the cult of antihumanism.

There is a single ideological current running through a seemingly disparate collection of noxious modern political and scientific movements, ranging from militarism, imperialism, racism, xenophobia, and radical environmentalism, to socialism, Nazism, and totalitarian communism. This is the ideology of antihumanism: the belief that the human race is a horde of vermin whose unconstrained aspirations and appetites endanger the natural order, and that tyrannical measures are necessary to constrain humanity.

Which brings the China one-child policy and Chen Guongcheng into the picture, but more on that in a bit…

The founding prophet of modern antihumanism is Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who offered a pseudoscientific basis for the idea that human reproduction always outruns available resources. Following this pessimistic and inaccurate assessment of the capacity of human ingenuity to develop new resources, Malthus advocated oppressive policies that led to the starvation of millions in India and Ireland.

Zubrin’s book documents the horrors of how this played out in both lands, and it’s appalling. And totally unnecessary. Which should have been made clear long ago.


While Malthus’s argument that human population growth invariably leads to famine and poverty is plainly at odds with the historical evidence, which shows global living standards rising with population growth, it nonetheless persisted and even gained strength among intellectuals and political leaders in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Its most pernicious manifestation in recent decades has been the doctrine of population control, famously advocated by ecologist Paul Ehrlich, whose bestselling 1968 antihumanist tract The Population Bomb has served as the bible of neo-Malthusianism. In this book, Ehrlich warned of overpopulation and advocated that the American government adopt stringent population control measures, both domestically and for the Third World countries that received American foreign aid. (Ehrlich, it should be noted, is the mentor of and frequent collaborator with John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.)

And so it continues.

In the next post.


On earth day

At its core, stewardship of the environment is an important ideal. At its extremes, it has become an anti-human ideology.

Dr. Robert Zubrin explains in detail with extensive references in his book Merchants of Despair. From the forward:

Antihumanism is not environmentalism, though it sometimes masquerades as such. Environmentalism, properly conceived, is an effort to apply practical solutions to real environmental problems, such as air and water pollution, for the purpose of making the world a better place for all humans to thrive in. Antihumanism, in contrast, rejects the goal of advancing the cause of mankind. Rather, it uses instances of inadvertent human damage to the environment as points of agitation to promote its fundamental thesis that human beings are pathogens whose activities need to be suppressed in order to protect a fixed ecological order with interests that stand above those of humanity.

It’s that inverted order of things that’s causing controversy in the scientific and academic community. And in the culture. And Zubrin challenges it in his ideological throwdown.

Antihumanism has recently enormously expanded its influence by raising hysteria about global warming. This phenomenon, by lengthening the growing season and increasing rainfall and the availability of atmospheric carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, has actually significantly enhanced the abundance of nature, to the benefit of both agriculture and the wild biosphere alike.


Nevertheless, according to antihumanism, punitive measures, especially harmful to the world’s poor, are required to suppress mankind’s activity and economic growth in order to deal with this putative threat.


That antihumanism should propose such global oppression as a response to an improvement in the Earth’s climate should not be surprising, since…similar vicious antihuman solutions to fictitious problems have been repeatedly advocated and implemented by antihumanism’s followers for two centuries–that is, since long before global warming was an issue at all.

And Zubrin says it has a brutal history. Which continues to play out with a lot of social compliance these days under the guise of good and noble causes.

Jarring. Stewardship of the environment is a good and noble cause. However, he warns,

some of today’s most fashionable political and social ideas are essentially replays of earlier ideological fads that have been continually used over the last two centuries to motivate and justify oppression, tyranny, and genocide.

And this nuclear engineer and contributor to The New Atlantis pulls together all these ideas and misdeeds and morphed sensibilities into a book that intends to stop or slow history from repeating itself, and eliminating the humans from the story.

While disputes about overpopulation, racial equality, pesticides, resource limites, nuclear power, biotechnology, and global warming may appear to be about different subjects, they are ultimately but different faces of the same conflict: a fundamental debate over the worth of humankind.

It is a debate we need to win.

And that’s just in the preface.

I interviewed Dr. Zubrin last week before I even knew we were headed into Earth Day weekend (it didn’t get a lot of press this year, with all the political scandals and controversies brewing). A scientist who was listening on radio wrote me a grateful, detailed email commenting on the excesses Zubrin has long written about and the need to dispute false claims. A women who identified herself as ‘a radical environmentalist who happens to be pro-life’ also wrote me, asking for a clear treatment of the issues.

We clearly need to have this discussion. Dr. Zubrin is coming back to continue the conversation. His book has 49 pages of footnotes, and interesting chapters on population control and “pseudo-science.” I’m still wading through it.

Meanwhile, the Population Research Institute has been airing some provocative work  on the myth of overpopulation

And this time last year