Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 P - Population problem


Population problem: The problem that there are more and more human beings on a finite earth with finite resources.

The original population problem was stated by Malthus, in the beginning of the 19th Century: He claimed that human populations grow in a geometrical series whereas resources grow in an arithmetical series, and as the former grow faster than the latter, there is always bound to be a large and poor lower class.

It seems that there is no evidence backing up his particular claim and that such evidence as there is goes against it. Two reasons are that food - plants, animals -multiplies in the same way as humans do, and often faster, and that there also is human inventiveness: At the very time Malthus was writing, there were important innovations in agriculture and the industrial revolution was starting.

It is otherwise with the fact that the human population is rapidly increasing, largely through the improvements in medicine and hygiene, and the truth that the earth is finite and has finite resources, though all of the latter may take a long time to find, and there still is human ingenuity.

Indeed, the basic population problems that I see are, first, that of the many who are born so few are truly intelligent and of good will and, second, that so many of those who live are so easily deceived and misled by TV, propaganda, politicians, and religious leaders.

The only way out of human problems is by human intelligence, but as the human population grows it seems as if the proportion of truly intelligent people who are willing and able to work in or for real science grows less. And that seems to me the real population problem, which does not inhere in some limits to growth as in the limited human capacity to think rationally and behave reasonably.

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 Original: Mar 29, 2005                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top