The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

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Hattip to Alberto Hurtado at Southern Appeal.   The myth of the Population Bomb is a cautionary tale of the dangers of politicized junk science.    Paul Ehrlich’s best seller in 1968 helped propel public policy in an anti-natalist, pro-abortion and pro-contraceptive direction.  As I hope all of our readers know, the book was a heap of rubbish, making wild alarmist predictions about the dangers of population growth, none of which came true.  Good articles on Erhlich’s bomb of a book are here, here, and here.  Rather than a population bomb, we have a population implosion throughout most of the world, including in Muslim states

Now why would a book that was so spectacularly wrong headed have so captured the imagination of policy makers for generations?  Because books like Erhlich’s truly have nothing to do with science.  Science jargon is merely a wrapper for a political agenda;  in Ehrlich’s case one which was both radically pro-environment and anti-human, with a heaping dollop of hatred for people who had more than two kids.  I have a great deal of respect for science, and little but contempt for those who attempt to claim the mantle of science for political agendas through the use of junk science. 

 

As my colleague Joe Hargrave of this blog pointed out in this post here , Obama has picked as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Dr. John Holdren.  In a speech in 2006 Holdren stated: 

This was the key insight in Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (Ballantine, New York, 1968), as well as one of those in Harrison Brown’s prescient earlier book, The Challenge of Man’s Future (Viking, New York, 1954). The elementary but discomfiting truth of it may account for the vast amount of ink, paper, and angry energy that has been expended trying in vain to refute it.

 

 As for Ehrlich, he is still preaching his old time religion. 

 

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Judging from his prior writings, and a hattip to the always eagle-eyed Jay Anderson of Pro Ecclesia, Mr. Holdren attends the same church as Ehrlich:

“The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,”.

12 Responses to The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

  • Jay Anderson says:

    “The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,”.

    Reminds me of an old lawyer joke, which I will adapt accordingly for the occasion:

    Q: What’s the difference between John P. Holdren and a sperm?

    A: The sperm at least has a 1 in a million chance of becoming a human being.

  • Mark DeFrancisis says:

    On lawyer jokes:

    Q: How does a Catholic lawyer practice licit family planning?

    A: His personality.

    Told to me, of course, by a loving wife of a Catholic lawyer, with a good sense of humor.

  • c matt says:

    not long after Ehrlic’s book there was another pretty much refuting it called “The Great American Stork Market Crash” or something similar. Can’t recall the author.

  • Blackadder says:

    Fatal Misconception was a good book, marred slightly by the author’s apparent need to throw out the occasional anti-Catholic statement to prove he wasn’t a religious zealot.

  • j. christian says:

    He needed to establish his “street cred,” eh?

    I thought this passage was particularly redolent of something fishy going on now:

    For population experts this was the beginning of constantly expanding opportunities. The budgets, the staff, the access were all increasing even more quickly than the population growth their programs were meant to stop. There was “something in it for everyone,” Population Association of America President John Kantner later recalled: “the activist, the scholar, the foundation officer, the globe-circling consultant, the wait-listed government official. World Conferences, a Population Year, commissions, select committees, new centers for research and training, a growing supply of experts, pronouncements by world leaders, and, most of all, money—lots of it.”

    Not to labor on anecdotes, but I hear from a reliable source in the foundation world that the population control dogma is apparently still very much in fashion there.

  • Blackadder says:

    On the subject of population growth, I’d also recommend Julian Simon. It was Simon, more than any other figure, who helped discredit Ehrlic’s doommongering.

  • Donna V. says:

    j. christian: It is still evidently widely believed in the UK. I read the UK papers and comments sections online fairly frequently and whenever they print an environmental story, it doesn’t take long at all for a commenter to start grousing about “how the real problem we face is overpopulation.” Then other people will chime in. Some even seem to believe that the government is hiding that little tidbit of information from them.

    Given that the UK, like the rest of Europe, suffers from a lower-than-replacement level birth rate, it just goes to show how people latched on to the “population bomb” theory back in the 1970′s and refuse to let it go. Of course, if you forshook having offspring because Ehrlich and Co. scared the granola out of you back then, it would be very difficult to admit you made a mistake. The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

  • j. christian says:

    The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

    If I were a boomer without children, I might try to rationalize my decision that way. Interesting idea.

  • Flu-Bird says:

    It was way back in 1840s that a guy named MALTHUS was worred acout OVERPOPULATION; we just have wackos like PAUL EHRLICH continuing this poppycock

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