WHAT DO WE NEED PEOPLE FOR?
by Masse Bloomfield
When I look for ideas about the need for human beings, I don’t find very much in the literature. We humans using our unconscious mental capabilities, intuitively know the answer to this question. When I asked people what we needed people for, mostly what I got was laughter. Our genes tell us the question is idiotic. Our genes, like every other animal, are programmed to want us to have children.
I did find one author who was willing to answer my question. Ernest Rauly wrote:
“What in hell are people for? To fall in love, to be happy, to enjoy beauty, to discover joy. Yes, there will be human failings, unfaithfulness, inconsistency, but that again is man’s story.”
You can tell from this quotation that we have the genes talking. There is no attempt at answering the subsidiary question of how many or what kind or what are the costs versus the benefits of a person being added to the inventory. What does the additional infant bring to the world?
When contraception was unavailable, a woman could have ten children, but with only a few surviving to adulthood. It seemed that our women were always pregnant without birth control. But with birth control, women are still committed to having children, just not as many as they used to. When I say not as many, this doesn’t mean that the number of human beings is diminishing. It means that our public health and medical advances can keep almost every human infant alive to adulthood. With infant mortality nose diving, and longevity increasing, the human inventory just keeps growing. We haven’t faced the problem of the growing inventory.
We have yet to face the problem of what we need from the increased inventory of people. We haven’t figured out an economic reason or an ethical reason for the enormous increase in human beings.
I think the problem of what we need people for boils down to statistics; just plain numbers and those numbers deal with the number of human beings. These are the statistics:
In 1650 there were half a billion people
In 1850 there were one billion people
In 1950 there were two and a half billion people
In 2000 there were six billion people
What can we do better in 2000 with six billion people that we couldn’t do with two and half billion people in 1950? What kind of answer do our genes give us? My view is that our genes have no idea about human inventories. The genes are programmed for survival and survival means we have to create more human beings, no matter what. The genes tell us that if we don’t procreate then our species will disappear. When in truth, our species is like a cancer on the earth. There is just no stopping the increase. We could get along just fine now with even as little as half a billion people. There isn’t any justification that there is a NEED for six billion people. If there is a need for six billion people or seven billion people or eight billion people, I haven’t heard it yet.
We all have to answer the question: What do we need people for? The answer for human beings and for animals as well is: To have more people or animals. We absolutely cannot have people without people. This includes cloning, test tube babies and artificial insemination.
It takes people to make people. In vitro fertilization calls for PEOPLE to donate sperm and egg, and then a female human to nurture the embryo in her womb. So it comes down to statistics. We know we need people to make people. But how many people do we NEED to have. The answer in 1650 was that half a billion people was
plenty. The answer in 2000 seems to be that six billion is more than enough. Couldn’t we do with one billion, two billion, three billion? Or ten billion? Or any number in between? Is there something sacred about how many of us there are? I wish there was a Catholic cardinal who had a good answer to those questions. The Cardinals seem to think the earth is an open-ended world where we can create an infinite number of people without suffering any consequences.
Humans, like any other animal, are programmed to breed as many people as possible. We breed as if there were never enough human beings on earth. That is just what every other animal and plant does. The genes get the hormones to whisper to us, “have children.” For the last several years we have been adding seventy to eighty million people a year to the current inventory of six billion people. Even with AIDs, the increase has not hardly slowed down. The slowing of the increase has come from women having fewer children, but the decrease in the number of children hasn’t stop the overall increase. What do we need an additional seventy million people a year for?
Despite the fact that there are so many people in the world, we are producing more people and many are unwanted. It is my belief that all children should be wanted by their parents. If all are wanted, then all unintended pregnancies would be terminated one way or another.
In the U.S, about half of all pregnancies are unintended. Perhaps we might become more educated about contraception. Each year about six million American women become pregnant but only about half are planned. Thus three million pregnancies are unplanned and some of these unplanned pregnancies come to term and are wanted, and some are unwanted. About half of the unwanted pregnancies result in abortions. We are not doing enough to provide the information to our women to stop the unwanted pregnancies. No matter what we do with wanted or unwanted pregnancies, there is just no way to limit the human inventory growth.
It is my contention we have more than enough people to do those things that we humans think need to be done. We don’t need to add seventy million more this year.
World War II may have slowed the increase, but the war did not stop the increase. What about abortion? There are not enough abortions to begin to stop the increase. Some people believe that those seventy million additional people are a benefit to the rest of us and that the elimination of abortion is critical in getting the necessities to all the six billion people. You have got to be a Catholic cardinal to think we NEED the additional people we would get from the total elimination of abortion. What do the Cardinals say about the increase of seventy million more mouths to feed, clothe, house and educate? Do they think those additional people are a benefit to the rest of us and that the elimination of abortion is critical is getting the necessities to all the six billion people. I think we would have fewer homeless, fewer poverty stricken, fewer hungry people if we kept the human inventory at just five billion people. Perhaps there would be fewer homeless, fewer poverty stricken, fewer hungry people if we only had four billion people on earth. But there is no way to know.
The Catholic Cardinals say the earth can support forty billion people. We cannot adequately feed, house, clothe and educate the six billion people we have now. In 2000, the number of chronically undernourished people in developing countries was estimated to be 790 million. Over ten percent of the world’s population go hungry every day. And the Church is implying that we must have seventy million more people this year and next year and every year following. The Cardinals are implying that we NEED seventy million more mouths to feed this year. The abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and cloning, have almost nothing to do either with the increase or decrease in the inventory of six billion people. There is quite an inertia in the natural increase and the artificial means to either increase or decrease the total population isn’t much.
Another problem with human beings is not just how many people do we need, but what kind of people should they be. I’m in favor of producing healthy, competent, strong normal people. There seems to be an innate need so that we do not seem to care what kind of people are born, just that we get more people.
One of the aphorisms that we humans carry about as baggage, is that every human is precious. Every baby has the potential to become president or even a Nobel Prize winner. I don’t think we can help ourselves from that kind of thinking. We mourn of the premature death of a child. It seems the whole community mourns, especially if we are in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. The whole country mourned the loss of life in the September 11 tragedy. It’s in our bones. But in reality, we move on just as if not too much happened. Take the loss of about 50,000,000 people in World War II. What effect has the loss of those people been on anything. Nothing that I know of. However, that loss has a dramatic and emotional impact on those who died on their close intimate relatives.
We are unable to face up to the fact that almost all of us are truly inconsequential to the progress of man or to the gain or loss in the total human inventory. What do I mean? I am a cipher in the grand scheme of things. For just about 99 percent of us, we are truly inconsequential. There has to be some of us who are of true consequence. But human progress is not made by the masses. Progress is made by a very small number of people who have the intelligence, the diligence and the opportunity to advance human knowledge, science and technology. It didn’t take half a million people to invent the steam engine. I think the number was less that ten. It only took three people to invent the transistor. We had two and a half billion people in 1950 about the time when the transistor was invented. It only took three of us to invent the transistor. What were the other billions of people doing? They were doing what most people do. Most of the adult men had a job which in the main had to do with providing food, shelter, clothing and other goods and services. In other words, most of the rest of us were doing the support work to keep all of us in necessities and luxuries.
Is there a relationship between the value of life and the ability of humans to
produce more people than we can house or clothe or feed or educate. With more people than the resources of the earth can support and that is true right now in my estimation, I think we could benefit from any reduction in the increase, without any diminution of the current inventory of six billion. But I think I am in the minority. We humans are not geared or should I say genes, to even think about a stable inventory of people. Growth is so much a part of innate beliefs, that to think about a stable population, seems to be on the face of it, wrong. Human beings have the ability to control some of the environment. We have the tools to put a stop to the increase in human population. But are we even willing to think about it?
There should be a cost/benefit to the production of additional human beings. What does it cost to bring on an additional person and get him or her educated and ready to be added to the work force? We have to wait until they are in their late teens or early twenties before we can expect them to contribute anything to society. Until then they are a perfect consumer, contributing nothing.
Does God have any part to play in answering my question? After all man is made in the image of God. The Bible says so. And the Bible says, “Go forth and multiply.” But no where in the Bible does it even begin to suggest that the multiplication should stop. Nope. Go ahead folks and keep multiplying because the Bible says so. Did the God of the Old Testament, written 2000 years ago, think six billion people was too few or too many or just right? I doubt if God cares if there are only two people – Adam and Eve – or six billion people. I do think God had some part to play in the way genes are programmed. Is it God whispering to us – have sex and have children? Would God do a thing like that to us – the biological entity made in his image? When I try to think of what God has in the questions, How many and What kind, I know the Bible has no answers. The Bible has “Go forth and multiply.”
All right, if we are no where on these questions, then let’s try to figure out “What is the purpose of God in putting man on the earth?” Was it to have dominion over the land and the other animals. I think we got that domination. Then I tried to make an argument about what if God is not involved. I don’t think it matters to God if God is involved or if God is not involved; we get to the same question: What is the purpose of man? I can think of two answers to that question, neither of which deals directly with the too many or what kind question. The first answer I have has to do with biology. Along with the whisper – have children – comes another more subliminal suggestion – develop a new species. That’s an evolutionary step without a need for God’s help. Plants and animals have been doing evolution for a few billion years and I cannot see the hand of God messing with evolution. But then again where does the subliminal voice come from. God is as good an answer as I can find.
The second answer to the purpose of man is the cultural one. I believe that culture evolved in the same manner as biological evolution. The evolutionary change comes with what is called punctuated equilibrium. That is for biology, long periods of stability, with a short transition to a new species that has a period of long stability followed by a short transition to a more complex form and so on. I believe our cultural history follows the pattern of punctuated equilibrium. We had a long stable animal past for a couple of million years. This was followed by a short transition to a tribal or primitive culture which is identified by tools, language and fire — the three cultural elements of a tribal society. After a few hundred thousand years, after a transition of perhaps five thousand years, we developed an agricultural or peasant society. The peasant society is defined by a man, a plow and domesticated animals on a dedicated piece of land called a farm. We developed all kinds of artifacts to go along with our agriculture. In addition to the farm, we had permanent houses, wagons, various tools made of wood and iron, furniture, clothing and a host of other artifacts. Toward the end of the period of the peasant society, we developed printing. We began a transition from the peasant society about three hundred years ago. We are in the middle of a short transition of about three or four hundred years, leaving the peasant society and entering into a transitional industrial society. The transitional industrial society will end when we no longer can improve productivity. I have called the next stable society, the automated society. We have been increasing productivity continuously from 1700 which has led to computer controlled machinery. When all production is automated we will have achieved the stable automated society. When humans have all the goods and services they want and need, what kind of a change would bring on the next transition? I think the automated society will be stable for hundreds of thousands of years.
What has this to do with the purpose of man? I think the automated society will have answered man’s purpose as far as cultural evolution is concerned. When I think the progress of man can be defined by productivity and when we have reached the limit of productivity, I think we have answered the purpose of man as far as cultural evolution is involved. I think we will have reached the limit of cultural evolution.
Now back to the biological answer – a new species. Again let me repeat, a species change has nothing to do with “How many human beings do we need?” or “What kind of human beings do we want?” Before we have a species change, we have to answer the problems of mankind. However, we also have to think about the species change. In order to have a species change, it will take some kind of change in the environment which also has to include the isolation of the species. This isolation is necessary to provide the opportunity to divert a small portion of the general population the time to change its genetic characteristics that will prevent it from breeding with the original population. I do not think man on earth or even within the solar system will have enough isolation to develop a new species. There is so much interbreeding in the races right now that it precludes any species change. I even think that when we have finally achieved colonies of people on solar system planets and moons, there will so much travel between earth and these colonies, that the isolation needed just will not happen.
The place where the needed isolation might happen, could be in colonies of men established around other stars. Even with these colonies, there may be too many travelers from earth for the needed isolation to take place – but I do see these colonies as the best possibility for the isolation needed for a species change.
OK, back to the question “What do we need people for?” Perhaps I have answered the question with the work needed to create the automated society and establish colonies around other stars. But these two answers do not address the “How many?” or “What kind?” questions. There is a pressure in each individual to survive. That pressure for growth of individuals and groups does not provide us with a human reproduction system that produces a normal, never mind perfect infant, with every pregnancy. We have all kinds of birth defects as well as miscarriages. If God is the actor behind the pressure to have children, then God didn’t give us a perfect system of human reproduction. God didn’t do any better with the another animals. However in the animal world, the predators and scavengers take care of the less than normal individuals. Humans no longer have predators to remove our imperfect infants. There are practically no places in the world where a tiger or lion will snag a lagging crippled human child.
I am for a cost/benefit analysis for human beings. If its costs large sums of time and effort to keep a deficient person alive, I am for letting that human be eliminated.
This not Hitler speaking. It is a straight economic analysis of the costs and the benefits each individual brings to the community.
When it comes to “What kind?,” I want healthy, competent, bright, contributing human beings in the world. The Catholic cardinals don’t give a damn. They just as soon let a family suffer emotionally and financially while the family has to take care of a Down syndrome child. The Down syndrome humans rarely live more than thirty years and are usually mentally retarded. But the cardinals don’t care. They are callused. They feel the families of the Down syndrome children should have to shoulder the responsibility for that abnormal child with food, clothing, shelter, education and medical services. Bluntly speaking, the cardinals don’t care. Every child must be cared for as if they were all going to contribute to society. Where did the cardinals learn about the world?
What about “How many?” There are plenty of doomsday people who are Cassandras. They worry us daily with the horrors of overpopulation, pollution, global warming and famines. We are living in a world where there are industrial countries which have industrial agriculture than can feed more people than live within the country. One of the problems is that the world is not equal in the state of its industrialization. There are many countries which have peasant economies as well as few areas where there are tribal peoples. We are living in a transitional world where we are changing from a peasant society to an automated society. But does it matter that we are in a transition. We are still faced with what do we need people for?
The “How Many” and “What kind” questions have not been answered. They be answered by the space ship analogy. If we have a space ship going on a fifty years journey, we know exactly how many people can be accommodated on the ship. The next problem is how to maintain the number of people allowed by space and supply constraints. Reproduction has to be carefully controlled. There can be no such thing as an exploding population. An exploding population could destroy the mission of the space ship. If the space ship is designed for growth, then some growth can occur. But if the space ship has been designed for a constant number for the crew, then it has to be a “one out – one in” kind of inventory control. If this control can be imagined on a space ship, then it could be possible here on earth. We should be trying to get our population maintained at a constant level until our technology can provide for an increasing population with a food factory. The food factory as I have thought of it and described in my book “The Automated Society,” will process all the organic wastes which would eliminate most of the pollution and at the same time provide food for those people supported by that food factory. Each food factory would be designed to produce food for ten thousand people. The food factory would provide food from a dedicated amount of space. It would eliminate most of the pollution of water, the air and the soil. With no pollution, and an unlimited food supply, supplied by the necessary food factories for all the world’s population, there would be no reason to limit population on earth. One of the requirements of the food factory is cheap energy to run the factory. We also have to supply the capital to build the factories. I know of few research projects that could be used to design the food factory.
However, there are no food factories available. At the present time, we have limited farm land and even what farm land we do have is suffering from such problems as soil erosion, droughts, floods and salt accumulations. Also there may be a problem with global warming and air pollution in the production of crops. The current increase in population comes at the expense of farm land being converted to housing, factories and stores not counting the pavement of roads. There has been a little effort made toward reducing pollution, but not as much as we should be making in reducing it. Global warming is one of the results of increasing the polluting gases that can increase the world atmospheric temperature. If we are in for another ice age, then those gases may be beneficial rather than detrimental. But as far as our scientists can see, those polluting gases are detrimental.
We have yet to make a logical argument for open-ended growth in population. We cannot even begin to rationalize whether six billion people is three times better and more productive than two billion people. We have no measurements that help to determine how much an additional billion people would add to either our cultural storehouse or our biological improvement. We do know that the addition of a billion people will add to the pollution which could in time limit the growth of population. We know the additional billion people will consume additional resources.
In the book, “Beyond the Limits” by the Meadows, sustainability of the human population is one of its major subjects. What is the number for the human inventory that is sustainable. A quote from the book states that “the human world is beyond it limits. The present way of doing things is unsustainable.” And one person has said “if we cannot check our rate of reproduction on our own, the environment could come close to collapse, and nature would enact its own more drastic methods of population control.” The book “Limits to Growth” also by the Meadows, has charts which predict that in fifty years we have catastrophic reductions in human populations due to increased pollution and diminished natural resources. Do we want to keep up our exploding populations?
We need to learn how to construct a society that is peaceful, cooperative and sustainable. We need to learn how to allocate our resources so that we provide homes for the homeless, food for the starving, medical attention for the sick, clothing for those in need, education for the ignorant. We need to provide for these people in such a way that they feel they belong to a real viable human community. (This is the way to undermine the terrorists).
We have widespread poverty. I can think of nothing about poverty this is positive, except escaping it. What do we need to do as a society?
As a society we need to come up with rules. Morality, the rules of a society, should be the product of our communities. That is, what is good and proper for a community, should determine what behavior is acceptable. It should be an axiom that the community comes first and individuals are only accepted into the community if they fit the survival of that community. This fits the “survival of the fittest.” It should be a community’s decision as to how many and what kind of individuals to allow. We have become so big and so impersonal and so rich, we have lost our way in making sure our communities and societies optimize the human inventory. The human animal is in an uncontrolled, unrestricted, unregulated, unmanaged and unlimited breeding program.
I think we need to become a lot more concerned about a human inventory that has a cancerous, unlimited growth with no real understanding of human goals other than an increased human population. The human animal has plenty of problems to solve and I think most of the solutions are within our grasp. We know how to reduce starvation, homelessness and AIDS. We know how to get to the moon. We know how to use artificial fertilization. We can identify many fetuses that should be aborted.
What we don’t have is a consensus on how to solve these problems in the midst of increasing the number of wanted as well as unwanted human beings. I wish I had a magic wand to correct all our problems, but I cannot produce a utopia. We need to address our problems rationally. We need to use statistics, economics and biology to bear on the problems related to the human inventory. Using statistics will give us some idea about the quality and quantity of the human inventory with the ability to use that statistical data for a more definitive insight into the production and productivity of human beings. Economics would be useful in determining costs and benefits in many instances for the maintenance of human beings.
We need to decide about “what kind of people we want” and “how many” before the “Limits to Growth” charts catch up with us and reduce the human population to fit the resources. ”Limits to Growth” estimates were that when the human population reaches twelve billion people, famine, disease and war will reduce the population by half to six billion people, where we are now. It is my belief that we are going to have famines, loss of natural resources, global warming and another HIV epidemic. We could lose control of our populations if we don’t bring population growth under control. We can almost be sure of huge losses of people if we allow ourselves a continuing population bomb. We are on a space ship with many limitations and we should be trying to control ourselves as if the earth were a finite space ship, but will we?
We need people to:
1. Reproduce our own species by having children.
2. Increase productivity.
3, Spread our species throughout the Universe.
4. Make sure that each human being gets a fair shake in the necessities
and luxuries of life as well as all the education each of us wants.
These four tasks do not need six billion people to complete. In fact, more people may just decrease our ability to pursue our human destiny.
As a final word, I think you can argue with me on an intellectual level, but I think your gut feeling says I am all wrong. But we will have to wait and see how we approach the future.
Following terms in his index: peasants; steam engine; textile industry; tractor; productivity; cultural evolution; evolution; punctuated equilibrium. To me, the failure to include these terms in the index, meant these authors did not consider the terms to be relevant to the thrust of history. I consider them to be central to the human trajectory.
Historians as a group shun any attempt at extrapolating a future. J. M. Roberts wrote that “Historians should never prophesy.” Of all the people who have studied the past, the historians more than anthropologists or paleontologists, have a better grasp of the underlying currents in our past. They are best equipped to see the patterns of human cultural development and then extrapolate a future from those patterns. History is a study of the past human activity and the patterns of development should be discernible. Why have the historians abdicated their birthright?
One of things I believe is: If you don’t get the past right, there is no way you can identify a reasonable future. In my opinion, the way I have analyzed history, the future is already determined. That future includes a technology, a sociology and an expansion into the Universe. The few people who have expressed this analysis are Deevey and Kahn. It may be that many of our observers have experienced nothing but change and therefore expect the changes to continue on indefinitely. This is not the case. I first drew my chart of history showing the stable, unstable, stable, unstable continuum in 1966. From that time to the present, I have seen no data that would lead to redraw my chart. We are in an enormous transition and the change of that transition is not slowing.