Friday, November 4, 2011

My Take on the News: Condoms; Incredible Shrinking Countries

I might be surprised at how tenaciously folks can cling to assumptions that keep being proven wrong. But I grew up seeing one 'End Times prophecy' after another run past its deadline; and 'true believers' lining up behind the next wannabe prophet. Being the sort of person I am, I dug into Christianity's records, learned about religion in general - and became a Catholic. Which is another topic.

Other folks, who'd never get taken in by a prediction of a coming Biblical Apocalypse, show remarkable faith in equally odd notions. Which brings me to my pick from this week's news:
  1. Condoms, AIDS, and Getting a Grip
  2. Population Crisis, Maybe: Big Changes Coming

1. Condoms, AIDS, and Getting a Grip

"Leading AIDS researcher defends Pope Benedict, criticizes condoms" Catholic World News, via (November 2, 2011)

"Edward Green, the former director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Health, has again defended Pope Benedict’s 2009 remarks on AIDS and condoms. While traveling to Africa, the Pontiff told journalists that AIDS 'cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. On the contrary, they increase it.'

"In a recent interview, Green said that his new book, Broken Promises: How the AIDS Establishment Has Betrayed the Developing World, is 'an extended vindication of Pope Benedict, at least as far as the so-called generalized HIV epidemics of Africa are concerned.'..."
The positive correlation between using condoms and getting AIDS is old news. What caught my attention was that someone involved with AIDS research came out and said that conventional wisdom was wrong. Condoms have been pushed as a cure-all for society's problems: from AIDS to angst over teen sex.

On the other hand, Edward Green is the former director of Harvard's AIDS program. If he's retired, he may figure he has less to lose by telling the truth. I realize that sounds cynical: but the last time I did time in American academia, political correctness was in bloom. I'm still washing the taste out of my mind.

2. Population Crisis, Maybe: Big Changes Coming

"Population worldviews clash as 7 billionth baby arrives" Marianne Medlin, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (November 2, 2011)

"As the world welcomes the seven billionth baby this week, experts are divided over whether the planet faces overpopulation or the opposite problem of countries not sustaining their birth rates.

"Despite warnings from groups such as the United Nations who spoke of the 'challenge' posed by billions of people using global resources, Texas A&M University's Dudley Poston warned that many countries are actually failing to sustain their populations.

" 'Almost half of the world today lives in countries where the fertility rates are at 2.1 or less children per woman,' Poston told CNA on Oct. 31, explaining that 2.1 is the minimum replacement rate for a society.

"Poston, a professor in sociology who specializes in demographics, said the numbers show how these countries have no choice but to 'allow more immigrants in or raise the birth rate to keep their population size stable.'..."
This is speculation on my part, but I think part of the reason that some melanin-deficient folks are so concerned about African birthrates is that some 'civilized' countries are shrinking. Population growth:
  • Poland
    -0.062% (2011 est.)
  • Germany
    -0.208% (2011 est.)
  • Russia
    -0.47% (2011 est.)
    (Source: CIA World Factbook)
That's negative growth. It's not just a European problem: which makes the United Nations' position so - odd.

7,000,000,000 Neighbors

I discussed why I'm "not alarmed" about having about 7,000,000,000 neighbors earlier this week. Bottom line: we're nowhere near the limits of agricultural production, even assuming that agronomic research stopped dead in its tracks in 1975. (It didn't: North Dakota State University is one of many places around the world where folks improve food production techniques.)

So, why do some folks still take Paul Ehrlich's doomsday predictions1 seriously?

I doubt that there's just one reason why so many folks are so eager to believe the latest forecast of impending doom. On the other hand, maybe there is a reason why wackadoo doomsayers come with both religious and secular trappings. And that's another topic, probably for another blog.

Overpopulation has been a remarkably popular apocalyptic prediction for the secular set. And is hard to explain, now that that the 'baby boom' is history.

Besides a sort of sublimated xenophobia, I think many 'sophisticated' folks are scared silly of overpopulation because they believe human beings are a whole lot simpler than we really are.

Human Beings: We're Not Stupid

It's possible to view us as alimentary canals on legs: biological machines which have no function other than to consume food and reproduce. Or, a bit more realistically, to view us as a sort of advanced animal: with the same functions.

As I pointed out on Wednesday, in our 'natural state,' each human being needs about 7 square miles of territory: under ideal conditions. By that standard, we're about 1,000 times over Earth's 'carrying capacity' for our species.

The reason we aren't all dying of starvation today is that, quite a few thousand years ago, folks learned to plant and harvest crops. I see no reason to assume that we'll stop doing so. I'm also fairly confident that we have not become too stupid and unimaginative to develop new technologies.

Silly Ideas, Then and Now

The 19th century notion that science and technology would solve all our problems was silly. I think it's equally silly to assume that folks are too stupid to improve on techniques for growing food.

I also think that right now the problem isn't growing food: it's getting it past corrupt officials and ineffective distribution systems. And that's yet another topic.

Big Demographic Changes Ahead

I'm on the same page as what the fellow said, about two dozen centuries back
"Nothing endures but change." (Heraclitus, 540 BC - 480 BC)
That's one reason that I'm not in a panic over the fact that the world today isn't the same as it was a half-century ago. Which is okay: It'd be disturbing if things stopped changing.

"Demographic" is a fancy word meaning "a statistic characterizing human populations (or segments of human populations broken down by age or sex or income etc.)." (Princeton's WordNet) America's demographics have changed noticeably since I was a child.

Between immigration, and some folks having more children than others, neighbors don't look quite the same as they did a half-century back. For example, the small central Minnesota town where I live isn't as solidly Irish and German as it was when I moved here with my family in 1986.

I don't mind that at all: particularly since the changes are probably what encouraged a local grocery to start carrying prayer candles and corn-flour baking products.

I strongly suspect that we'll see even bigger changes, as folks who didn't have children grow old and die: and folks who did have children keep track of their grand- and great-grand-children. Even in the world's shrinking countries, I doubt that everybody isn't having enough kids to fill the gap after they die. If acceptance of children is linked with ethnicity, some of these countries won't 'look the same' in a hundred years.

I think that's part of what bothered the fellow who shot up a Norwegian youth camp earlier this year. And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:
  • Genocide is bad
    • Even if you're just
      • Following orders
      • Obeying the law
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2313)
  • The government may "intervene to orient the demography of the population"
    • "By means of objective and respectful information"
    • "But certainly not by ... measures" which are
      • Authoritarian
      • Coercive
      (Catechism, 2372)
  • Parents
  • Sex is

1 Paul (and Anne) Ehrlich's book, The Population Bomb, was a best-seller in the late '60s. The butterfly expert and his wife weren't the only folks at the time who were appalled at the post-WWII baby boom, but I think they helped convince 'serious-minded' people that we'd have mass starvation in the '70s and '80s. We got disco instead, and that's - again - another topic. I've discussed emotion trumping reason before, in another blog:

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.