Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Too Dumb to Live: Malthusian Hubris

“For humans, instincts are far more powerful than logic, facts and reason. Instincts include greed by those in power and the reproduction instinct of us pawns living under their growth-based pyramid scheme.” Brishen Hoff

This afternoon I committed an act of spontaneous futility. Upon hearing the news that in a nation suffering from the highest population growth rate in the G8 group, and despite the surplus of children needing adoption, a woman in my immediate social cirlce gave birth to a Canadian consumer, I spent the morning in a funk. Then as I passed a used clothing store, an idea flashed. I would find something in black, buy it, and make an armband. I bought the cheapest black tee shirt that I could select, then before a puzzled proprietor, used her scissors to cut off the left sleeve, and slide it up my arm. This action had the desired effect. It prompted her, and several others in the village to ask why I was wearing it. I told them that I was in mourning, and no, it wasn’t because Canada lost a gold medal hockey game to our sibling rivals, the Americans. It was because this woman I speak of did the unspeakable and added a human ecological footprint when nature is already burdened with far too many of them, some 216,000 born each and every day.

Why did this particular example of global self-indulgence affect me so much? Because for me more than any other planned pregnancy, hers underscored the failure of (allegedly) the most intelligent species to defeat or countermand instinct, as well as my phenomenal arrogance that I or anyone else like me could change that. Years of proselytizing had failed to persuade even of one the three people I feel closest to use her formidable intelligence and rationality to resist a primitive calling to reproduce herself. Despite her advanced education she proved to be yet another robotic replicator. She just had to have a child with the same pair of ears or eyes as she did. So how could I expect a different result or response from others? Even the most powerful religions have not mounted a frontal assault on human nature—on the contrary, they have accommodated to it and exploited it by channelling it more than suppressing it. Brishen Hoff was right. After fighting the good fight against growth, exhausted and dispirited, he had this to say:

“The same way that Julian Simon is guilty of hubris by saying that humans are smart enough to solve any problem through technology, many of us in the Neo-Malthusian movement are guilty of hubris by saying that unlike other animals, humans are smart enough to limit their numbers by limiting reproduction instead of waiting for nature to intervene brutally. I have come to the unfortunate realization that our numbers will be culled by nature. Therefore, I will put most of my effort from now on ensuring that I am not one of those who is culled.”

The answer does not lie in the stars, or in institutional arrangements and economic systems, or cultural engineering. It lies in our genetic re-programming. Slash the human population back to the 5-10 million of us who existed as hunter-gatherers for 99% of our existence and in less than a millennium we would be back to square one. Vastly over-populated. As presently designed, we are simply too dumb to live. Soap operas that model smaller families won’t suffice. Our brains must be modified and enhanced, or we will suffer the fate of any other extinct species that could not impose limits on its growth. We need a product re-call or another model needs to come off the assembly line. Quick.

Tim Murray
January 6/10

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