Doug Phillips on the Threat of Population Decline

Libby Anne has an interesting article this morning at Love, Joy, Feminism addressing overpopulation (an issue which is only controversial among those fundamentalist Christians who hold that the Genesis command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies today):

I recently ran across an article on Vision Forum president Doug Phillips’ blog, in which he repeats a line I heard so often growing up: Our world isn’t facing an overpopulation crisis, but is rather headed toward a demographic decline that will result in economic catastrophe. In other words, having 12+ children doesn’t contribute to overpopulation but rather serves as a way to fight and avert the potential problems of demographic decline.

This idea is frequently put forward by the conservative Christian news magazine World, and has been the subject of several documentaries, including Demographic Winter and Demographic Bomb. It shouldn’t be surprising that this idea was put forward in the 1970s by the man who single-handedly created dominionism, Rousas Rushdoony himself. Based on these ideas, Vision Forum, which sells Rushdoony’s books and supports his views, recently held a pro-mass-reproduction event called the Baby Conference.

Libby Anne cites the typical arguments used to discount and dismiss concerns about the global overpopulation crisis with which Quiverfull believers are intimately familiar and offers several common sense rebuttals:

The trouble is of course that choosing to have only one or two children, or even none, does not mean one is automatically “selfish.” There are all sorts of ways to give back to the world and to those around us, to work to make the world a better place, outside of having children. Furthermore, wanting to give each child the best we can, or to raise children with economic security, is not selfish.

Not unexpectedly, Phillips rejects the idea that a continually expanding population could lead to environmental catastrophe or resource wars or food shortages. Why? Because (a) God told us to be fruitful and multiply, not to be fruitful and multiply until there are enough people; (b) God has said that only he can destroy the earth; and (c) the earth was created to meet our needs and will therefore always be adequate. This is (a) dependent on the existence of God and divine nature of the Bible, (b) stems from a fairly fundamentalist and literal interpretation of the Bible, and (c) runs contrary to what we know – resourcesare limited, and mankind can destroy, or at least very much damage, the earth (imagine what a nuclear war would do, for instance).

Finally, do you notice how very nativist this entire idea is? Phillips ignores the fact that the populations in most parts of the world are booming. The trouble is that ourpopulations, the populations of white Western Christendom, face decline. Kathryn Joyce addresses this nativism, especially as connected to Europe, in an excellent article here.

Libby’s conclusion is spot on:

Rather than looking no further than my own home, I want to embrace the world and seek global well-being. But more than anything, I am simply glad that I no longer have blinders on telling me that the best thing I can do for the planet and the future is be a baby-making machine.

Libby Anne has recently switched “Love, Joy, Feminism” to FreeThoughBlogs – be sure to bookmark her new web address.


NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

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  • Steve

    Traditionally, people had many children for two reasons. First and obviously, there was a lack of effective reliable birth control that was controlled by women. Second was the basic economic consideration that relatively few of the children would survive to adulthood and there was no reliable extra-family social safety net. No social security, medicare, etc. If you expected to have some support in your old age, you had lots of kids so that at least some would survive to care for you later.

    Both of these conditions no longer exist in the modern (i.e. industrialized) world. The “breeders” (as I call them) are truly anomalous since the vast majority of children will survive until adulthood, there is reasonably effective social safety net (much better elsewhere in the industrialized world than the US without universal guaranteed health care), and, of course, there is effective women controlled contraception widely and cheaply available.

    Since the breeders philosophy and world view is so starkly contrary to actual reality, I expect that it will remain on the fringe. However, because every women has the capacity to produce many children over her lifetime, and since most of them will survive (assuming modern medicine is used), the breeders do impact the rest of us.