Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Population and Ideology

This has been my pet topic, and the overall purpose for this blog. With the advent of universally available birth control, child bearing is essentially "optional" which (as a number of demographers are just beginning to point out) means that the main drivers of fertility in the coming decades will be not economics and food supply but faith and ideology. The people who have lots of children will (in general) be those who want lots of children, and the people with few with be those who want few.

Starting from inception and moving forward, here are the posts of the Population & Ideology meta thread:

Kick Off
Abortion: Un-natural Selection
It's the Marginal Cases, Stupid
Population & Ideology
What's the big deal?
Your child's disabled?
Ratzinger on the End of Europe
The Land of the Wolves
The Roe Effect, Redux
Where Three Or More Are Born...
The Killing Fields
If Roe Falls
Reading Greeley
Living Too Long to Believe
Making Babies for France
Passing on the Faith
Chastity and Contraception
Catholic Population Trends
Marriage Demographics & Fertility
The "Childfree" Lifestyle


mary lee said...

I know this is an old thread, but I am newly into researching this on the blogosphere. I am a former Catholic, now Lutheran, mother of three, who is flirting with Catholicism again, but cannot reconcile myself to certain doctrines.

I would be interested in more of your views on population, as I find the Catholic doctrine on all artificial contraception to be unrealistic and rather immoral given the known data on the population of our world and what it can reasonably sustain.
for a site that encapsulates some of the things I sense to be true even though I wish they were not.

I am totally against all forms of abortion, and therefore against the IUD and the pill, but cannot see how the Catholic church will not admit that it is a greater good to use condoms combined with other barrier methods within a marriage.
Thanks, I know you are busy with children and a new baby!

Mary Lee

Christina said...


Mary Lee-
I'm not one of the Darwins, but might be able to offer a little bit of insight on the issue of contraception (or, as you describe, 'interception'). You've hit the nail on the head with any hormonal intervention-- last recourse of all those methods is spontaneous abortion-- but the fact remains that sex is order towards two simultaneous things: procreation and the union of the couple. While a lot of people see these two things in competition with one another, the fact is that they are inseparably linked and this connection is disrupted through the use of traditional barrier methods. Through sexual union, the couple is able to cooperate with God in creating a brand new human being. Through procreation, the couple becomes more united. This isn't a 'life' issue, as you point out with other types of BC, but is an issue tapping into the deepest roots of human nature. This is why natural family planning is approved by the Church: it inherently recognizes the gift of fertility in the divine plan and uses it responsibly, keeping in mind the connection between the unitive and procreative ends. JPII even goes so far as to say that when couples engage in NFP properly, they are acting as "ministers of God's plan and they benefit from their sexuality according to the original dynamism of total self-giving, without manipulation or alteration." (Familiaris Consortio, #32) There's a lot more to say on the topic, but I hope this helps you in your search! Pax Christi

Darwin said...

Mary Lee,

Sorry for my slowness in responding.

My first thought would be that population and birth control are not necessarily connected issues -- they have only become so in a modern context where it is assumed that everyone out to be having " a healthy sex life" yet not having the large numbers of children that tend to result therefrom.

Up until the 20th century, one of the main trends that kept the population in Europe stable was that many people did not marry or did not marry until late. In Catholic countries, large numbers of people going into consecrated religious life further took people out of the gene pool.

For modern Catholics, NFP also provides a moral means of spacing children -- though its effectiveness can vary a bit depending on individual biology and how much of the time one is willing to forgo sex. Which in turn returns to the basic point of divergence between the Church and the wider culture: The Church does not by any means teach that people must have large numbers of children, but it does teach that sex and procreation are naturally related.

On the question of population: Given how rapidly population growth is slowing throughout the world, with it being likely that we'll move into below-replacement rates on a global basis by the middle of this century, I don't think there's necessarily great cause of panic at this time. Obviously, the situation would be different if every person make the same decisions my family has made -- but then since not everyone is making the decisions that we have made, I'm not sure there's much point in thinking about that a great deal. Not every decision has to be a Kantian imperative.

I think also part of the problem in all this is that we are naturally designed to respond to the situation we find ourselves in. And given that the situation we are in in the modern US is one of incredible plenty by any historical measure, we do not feel at an instinctual level like we need to consume less or have sex less -- though many people do find it congenial to have few children. The fact that we are aware and can attempt to understand global or long term trends often causes us to want to respond to them with our own personal choices, but it's not something which comes naturally to us as human creatures.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mary Lee

There is no population bomb, as it happens. The whole overpopulation-scare industry is debunked all on one site:

It turns out, the church was right all along!