I post this here because a) I think it's funny and b) overpopulation is a problem which information warfare can solve, through social engineering, advertisement (i.e. propaganda), and widespread, open access to information. Thoughts on Birth Control and Population: Is there an alternative to mass destruction? (An informal and entirely hypothetical Discussion between various Philosophical Figureheads and Great Thinkers) by Mark Hedges Written originally for an Ethics and Society class at UCSD under the direction of Patricia Smith Churchland in 1994 "What a beautiful day!" I said to myself, wheeling my bike out of the garage. "Perfect day for a ride!" A few little fluffy clouds crossed the deep blue of the sky -- it reminded me of Arizona, for some reason. They had an almost blue tint to them, they looked like great clouds of smoke coming out of some massive Pipe just over the horizon. I rode my bike down to Henry Cowell park and took off through the redwoods on a roughly-hewn trail. Birds were chirping, a few deer were out -- one could hardly tell that cities or people even existed in the world at all. The trail led down to Powder Mill Creek, where I stopped and began to unpack my small lunch. As I was unpeeling my banana, I heard some voices raised in discussion around a bend in the creek. Not used to finding this many people so deep in the woods, I took my banana and investigated. Turning aside a large bunch of fern fronds, I came upon a most peculiar assortment of six people sitting on logs or standing. There were two men in tailored suits, one man in jeans and a flannel shirt, a woman in similar attire, the Pope, and a kind- looking man with a wonderfully disturbing smile and a huge Ward Cleaverish tobacco pipe hooked in his ever-present grin. He nodded at me and motioned me to be silent a moment. I obliged. Pope John Paul II was softly saying to the woman, "I am simply trying to convince you that the conception of life is a beautiful and holy thing in and of itself, and that any attempt to block the creation of a life during intercourse is an attack on life itself in its -- hmm, hello there." At this point the consortium turned to me with puzzled looks. "Who are you?" said the woman. "Uhh..." was all I could manage at the time. "Hello, son!" said the man with the Pipe. "Welcome to this fine discussion! Oh, good, I see you've brought the banana. Give it here, son." I handed the banana to the man. He proceeded to eat it, taking occasional puffs on his pipe. His face was astonishing -- it was perfectly cut in every way. He almost looked as if he was one of those little plastic snap-together models I played with as a child. His snappy suit looked as if it were part of his body, and his hair was a solid, smooth mass atop his head. After a moment he realized that everyone was staring at him for an explanation. "Oh, errrŠeveryone, I'd like you to meet Mark, Mark, this is everyone." He proceeded with introductions. The men in suits were William Aiken and Garrett Hardin, the man in flannel was Aldo Leopold, the woman was Ronnie Zoe Hawkins, and the Pope was, of course, the Pope. "Oh, and I suppose you know, but you can call me "Bob"." The quotation marks around his name were almost audible. He finished the banana and handed me the peel. "Thanks!" He smiled his most effervescent smile. "Well, let's get back to it. Mark, thanks for joining us, we're discussing the issue of contraception and whether it should be widely available to women across the world. Back to you, Karol." It occurred to me just then that "Bob" was standing behind a cut stump of a small redwood which acted as a small podium -- it also occurred to me that "Bob" would perhaps make the best debate director in the world. The Pope straightened his ornate white and gold robes and continued. "I really have only a few points to discuss. First, you must accept that the bond of marriage is handed down through the Church by God Himself. In it are two people, a man and a woman, and they generate offspring. When a husband and wife engage in sexual intercourse it is not a bad or evil thing; indeed sex within marriage serves to bring the husband and wife closer together in joy and pleasure. Second, I want you to realize that sexual intercourse and activity has the final purpose of the Creation of Life." At this remark "Bob" took out a small plastic bag from his jacket and reloaded his Pipe. It somehow lit itself and he proceeded to take an enormous puff. "One of the final purposes in marriage as outlined by God is this as well. If a man and a woman create life when they are married, this is a fine and beautiful thing. If a man and a woman engage in sexual promiscuity when they are not married, however -- this is a sin of the body and is not for the purpose of creating life." One of the men in the suits, Aiken, speaks up at this point. "Well, why can't it be? Why can't a man and a woman have sex when they are not married and have a child?" The Pope, with a confident look on his face, responded. "God tells us that sex within marriage is a sacrament of the Covenant between Christ and the Church, and that sex outside of marriage is a sin and should be condemned. Children conceived outside of wedlock are illegitimate." "Those filthy rotten BASTARDS! Excommunicate the worthless kids!" Dobbs' cheery grin took everyone by surprise after this remark. "How dare you attack children in this way! They're innocent, for Christ's sake! Sweet Jesus, save them from this horrible slander!" The Pope visibly cringed at "Bob's" language. "I did not mean to suggest, "Bob", that the children were at fault for their sins," he responded, "merely that their parents had passed their sin on to them. Marital love is the true authentic love as decreed by God. Husband and wife should take joy procreating together and know that they are following the Will of God. If a couple acts in any way to prevent the creation of life, they are deliberately revolting against God's Will." (Lawler, "Catholic Sexual Ethics" was used as the primary source of the Pope's views. See bibliography.) At this point "Bob" blurted out, "Perhaps that's true, but is that really the issue here? I mean, all this Capital Letter Talk is fine and good, but perhaps you should consider that Yahweh has more goals than just the procreation of the human species in individual cases. I mean, what if he wants the species as a whole to continue and perpetuate itself as long as possible? What if he wants life as a whole to continue and perpetuate itself as long as possible? What if, by refusing to limit the human population on the earth, we drive the rest of earthly life and subsequently ourselves into oblivion?" Hawkins picked up from there. "That's a very valid consideration, "Bob", and one to which I've given a considerable amount of thought." Her commanding gaze controlled the audience, except for "Bob", who wandered off up into the trees to urinate. "It has only been recently in our history, and by that I mean within the last few hundred years, that the human population has swelled to such exceedingly incomprehensible numbers as it is today. Before 1800 there were only a few hundred million people in the world or less, sparsely scattered across the globe. Today, there are upwards of 5 billion people! In our past people have been able to survive solely on what they find on the land around them or in the sea, today the human race depends on extracting the highest yield possible from the environment. It is at best unclear what the limit of natural resources is which we can use. Our overwhelming consumption of the planet has impeded the life cycles of countless other species, probably even species we do not know exist or existed. "There is evidence here and now which suggests that the human population is totally out of control. At the current rate, our numbers are doubling every 41 years. (Hawkins, "Reproductive Choices: The Ecological Dimension") About 20% of humans live in desperate poverty, and about half of those have no means nor opportunities whatsoever to elevate themselves into a higher standard of living. The nations of the world which are experiencing this extreme population growth are looking toward any means to either control their growth or feed their starving people, and they cannot be blamed. Brazil is decimating its own rain forests so it can graze and sell cattle to the industrialized nations to generate money to feed its people. China is attempting mass birth control, child limitations, and now is even considering eugenics to 'weed out' genetic deficiencies." The Pope gasps loudly. "Surely you don't mean to suggest that you support the killing of babies if they exhibit certain traits or characteristics?!" Aiken and Hardin stirred from their resting place on their log. Leopold cocked an eyebrow at Hawkins. Dobbs, back from his excursion into the woods, smiled dumbly and sat down. "I'm not saying I support anything or am against anything for human moral purposes. I'm coming at this issue from a strictly environmental viewpoint, to present an opposing opinion. My point is, if contraceptive means are not used to lower the birthrate, we will become so massive as a species that we will push all of the rest of the world into death. If the rest of life on earth were to die, we would surely die too." "I agree with you that the population on the planet is an extreme and pressing problem," inputs Hardin, "but your approach to the problem is all wrong. The situation as it is now is this: Some humans, those in the industrialized nations, have started to realize the folly in a huge human population. This is shown by your figures, Ms. Hawkins, the more developed regions of the world average a population doubling of about 148 years. ("Reproductive Choices", p. 391 of VanDeVeer and Pierce text) If the rest of the world does not realize that they need to cut down on their populations, they will overbreed and die off due to famines and plagues. This is a harsh philosophy, but it is the way nature works. We should not succumb to the temptation, yes, the temptation to help out those starving in the poor countries. If we do this, we are only perpetuating the problem and cutting our own throats. By giving of ourselves to bail out the overpopulated, overpolluted, overburdened countries we will not be able to survive the future impact of this destruction. (Hardin, "Lifeboat Ethics") From this respect, if overpopulated nations were to have the knowledge and means of using birth control, it would be theoretically possible for the poor nations to pull themselves out of their increasing dilemma and risk of utter destruction." Aiken ran his hand through his hair and said to Hardin, "That is absolutely ludicrous. You're extending the artificial limits of a nation's boundary lines to define a false system which you insist, wrongly, must be self-sufficient. You are a whining, fat and overfed dog who is resentful of the starving street dogs who kill for scraps of meat from a butcher." "Whoa, hold on there friends," said Dobbs. "Let's be civil, at least, or we might find ourselves back in time when people used to kill each other for the time of day!" "Sorry," said Aiken, "but that approach to the population problem is selfish and wrong." "I would have to agree with the young man Aiken on that point," said the Pope. I put in my two bits. "Me too." I suppose in the wake of such a collection of massive intellect, my brain was just plain overwhelmed, and I couldn't add much input of my own into the conversation. "At any rate," continued Aiken, "he is assuming that the only controlling factor in where humans can and cannot live is the immediate availability of food. (Aiken, "The 'Carrying Capacity' Equivocation") As is easily demonstrated by nations such as the members of O.P.E.C., food is most definitely not the controlling factor which decides if a nation can feed its people. With money and power in the international system comes the ability to survive. The members of O.P.E.C., for example, are able to import food to eat because they export a highly valuable commodity, oil. Without oil they could never survive in such high numbers in the desert, but with oil and the power it gives them they flourish." Aldo Leopold stood up from his rest atop a high stump. He clambered slowly down, and began to talk. "I tend to view this from both a more humanitarian, and a more ecological point of view. Humans today have exceeded their boundaries in population because they have isolated themselves from the world around them and convinced themselves they are not a part of it. The land is only property to many people, and even the air and water around the land are claimed by the countries of the world. Throughout our lives today in western society we are taught that humans are special in some way because we have conquered Nature. We have to work to change that. (Leopold, "The Land Ethic") I am not saying, William, that the member nations of O.P.E.C. give up drilling for oil, I am saying that they should remember that they do have a duty to the world in which they live. "We owe it to the world to lower our rate of growth and eventually to lower our total population. Humans are most definitely an integral part of the world environment; I do not believe that any of you make arguments against this fact. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to save our fellow members of the world ecosystem from the disaster we have created. If contraceptive devices were widely available and used, the population would be reduced. This is not an issue. We agree that the population must be reduced or eventually one of two things will happen: either we will live miserable lives with 40 billion people on our planet by the end of the twenty-first century, or massive numbers of people will perish horribly from starvation and disease. The question is, should we use contraception widely in the world or choose from the consequences?" "Only through God can the world be saved," said the Pope. "Through Christ's teachings and the doctrines of the Church, the people of the world can find the inspiration and the love for life to control their own procreation. You are all speaking as if all humans do is engage in sexual intercourse and nothing can be done about that. This is not true. Something can be done. Through God, we can attain the self-discipline and self-respect necessary to turn down the temptation of sex. Husbands and wives can find the knowledge, through the Church, to abstain from having sex and thus reduce the population. It is not necessary to abandon the Scriptures and use the evil of contraception to limit growth and preserve our planet. We can do this with God, Christ, and the Church." "But we can also do it cheaply and easily with birth control and easy-to-get abortions! Why should we not do it this way?" questioned Hawkins. The Pope countered, "The easiest path itself often leads to death and destruction." "So does the hardest! It doesn't matter! We are in a desperate situation which requires desperate measures to recover!" Hawkins was visibly agitated. The talking paused spontaneously for a moment. "Seven minute conversation lull!" I cried. I received some rather odd stares. "Dobbs, what do you think of all this?" said Hardin. Should we attempt at all to lower the population growth of the poorer nations of the world?" "Bob" smiled greatly and took a puff from his pipe. "Well, you know, Garrett, things generally work out for the best anyway... perhaps in this case we should just sit back and relax and enjoy the ride, whether we're going to Heaven, or Hell, or just Cleveland." "And abandon all thought of the innocent people on the planet who are being corrupted by the evil of birth control?" asked the Pope. "And those who are dying of starvation and poisoning from the pollution in their environment because birth control is not available?" asked Hawkins. "And totally disregard our responsibility and our duty to the earth on which we live and the other creatures we live with?" gasped Leopold. "By doing so, even if we in the industrialized nations survive, countless billions of people may die!" exclaimed Hardin. I could hear Aiken mutter "Shut up, fool." under his breath. "Yeah, "Bob"," I said, "that would really suck." "Well," he said, "you know, things always seem to work themselves out in the end...at least for me anyway. Relax, all of you! You make such a big deal over -- what were we talking about? The fate of the world and all the life in it? Well, you win some and you lose some, that's what I always say. If we get to the end of the world and all is destroyed, well, we've had one hell of a party doing it! On the other hand, if the world manages to survive and people get their acts together and all that, well, we've had one hell of a party doing that too!" The smoke from the Pipe drifted around the crowd. It seemed to have a soothing effect; they weren't quite as worried. I wasn't very worried, either, for that matter. I was quite giddy, in fact. The people all turned to "Bob". "Bob" smiled and charisma seemed to ooze from his mold-pressed skin. "Well, I guess that wraps it up then! Thanks for coming, everyone, I hope you all had a nice time. Errr, sorry I forgot the donuts." "Well, that's okay, "Bob", sins can be forgiven...." There seemed to be a particularly large cloud of the mystical smoke around the Pope as he uttered those words. The smoke around the people got so thick I could barely see them, and eventually I lost track altogether of where everyone was. When the smoke cleared, there was no one there except "Bob". "Well, son, what did you think?" asked Dobbs. "I'm not sure, it's sort of hard to decide. I thought Leopold was a likable fellow, he had some really valuable things to say. Aiken was pretty much just reacting to Hardin most of the time, and Hardin himself was pretty biased and self-centered about the whole thing. Hawkins' fervent desire to reduce the population is probably due to her proclaimed abandonment of the human-centered side of the argument." Now that the smoke had cleared it seemed I had some things to say. "I felt the Pope had some very valuable advice. Why should we jump immediately to using artificial means of preventing excessive births? We aren't incapable of overcoming our lust for sex." "Well...I guess..." started "Bob". "But sex is so much damn fun! I'd really be missing a lot if I didn't get laid." "Okay, point taken. Though it might be the ideal, I don't think one can realistically expect everyone in the world to join the Catholic Church and abstain from sex unless married and financially and ethically capable of raising children. All the same, extremes such as China's eugenics proposals should be countered by something. I was about to say 'countered by some force of morality', but who would that be? The United Nations? That organization is essentially controlled by the United States; I don't want one rich country's views being pressed on everyone else. "I don't see abortion as being as morally correct as pre- intercourse contraception like the pill or methods such as condoms or diaphragms. I personally recognize an embryo/fetus as, if not a full-fledged human life, at least the possibility of a life. But I don't really like to think my species is in all ways the best on the planet. We are certainly the most intelligent, the most adaptive, and the most handy with tools; but are we the most physically strong? Are we the most beautiful? Are we the wisest? We certainly don't have the biggest brains, or the most self- sufficient bodies or even the most dexterous appendages. Our self- importance rises from the fact that we are currently and coincidentally the most dominant species on earth. A hundred million years ago, the dinosaurs were. A hundred million years from now, most likely, another species will be. For this time, we are dominant -- while we are here we have an obligation, just like every other species does, to be responsible in our individual actions to the greater good of the ecosystem. If we ignore this duty we will perish." "Well, that's nice, I guess," said "Bob". He reached inside his jacket for another load from the plastic baggy. He took another few puffs and inhaled deeply. "Ahhhhh. That's better. Oh my, I almost forgot! I have to go kill Hitler! I'll see you around, Mark, thanks for coming! It was a real pleasure, honestly." He reached out his hand toward me. I grabbed his hand and shook it. I was overwhelmed with the aura immediately surrounding "Bob's" skin. I fainted and fell to the ground in a swoon. When I woke up, it was the late afternoon, and I was ravenously hungry. I finished my lunch sitting among the redwoods and carried my bike up the hill back to my house. I'd had an eventful day. BOBLIOGRAPHY Aiken, William; "The 'Carrying Capacity' Equivocation"; The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, VanDeVeer and Pierce, ITP/Wadsworth 1994; pp. 384-389. (Original essay from Social Theory and Practice, Spring 1980) Hardin, Garrett; "Lifeboat Ethics"; The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, VanDeVeer and Pierce, ITP/Wadsworth 1994; pp. 378-383. (Original essay from Psychology Today, 1974) Hawkins, Ronnie Zoe; "Reproductive Choices: The Ecological Dimension"; The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, VanDeVeer and Pierce, ITP/Wadsworth 1994; pp. 390-400. (Original essay from APA Newsletters, Spring 1992) Lawler, Ronald David; Boyle, Joseph M., Jr.; and May, William E.; Catholic Sexual Ethics: a Summary, Explanation, and Defense; Huntington, Ind., Our Sunday Visitor 1985 Leopold, Aldo; "The Land Ethic"; The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, VanDeVeer and Pierce, ITP/Wadsworth 1994; pp. 138-147. (Original essay from A Sand County Almanac... by Aldo Leopold, Oxford University Press) Stang, Reverend Ivan, Ed.; Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob": Short Stories in the SubGenius Mythos with commentary by the editor; Fireside/Simon & Schuster Inc. 1990. pp. 11-23. Stang, Reverend Ivan, "The Third Fist"; Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob"; Simon & Schuster 1990 pp. 38-90. Stang, Reverend Ivan; The Book of the SubGenius; Simon & Schuster 1984.
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