Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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Reviews I x6t span is clearly undesirable. Societies of a traditional type, which birth and death rates at 40 per 1,000 and an expectation of life of 25, are miserable and there is little case for them. If the birth rate is to be 14 per 1,000, however, this means that fertility must be far below the physiological maximum. This means there must be social controls of some kind which ensure that this fertility should not rise above the level which can be sustained at high levels of health and longevity. To my mind there is no way out of this proposition, and any attempt to deny it can only lead into a morass of immoral moralizing. The third section consists of three essays by Philip F. Low, B. Delworth Gardner, and R. W. Behan, and is headed "How Full is the Earth?" These essays point out, with some justification, that it may be emptier than a lot of people think, in the sense that its carrying capacity may continue to be expanded by human knowledge. The limits of the earth are still unknown, both in regard to food, minerals and other natural resources, and potential cultural change. Qualitatively, I agree with these authors, and I think it is highly probably that the process of expansion of human knowledge will go on for quite a while. The thing which falsified Malthus' own prophecies, in so far as he made them, was not the identities, but the empirical phenomenon of the rise of human knowledge, with the concommitant rise in the resource base and carrying capacity. It is the fact that man has been ecologically cooperative with his own artifacts for many thousands of years, which has led to this enormous expansion of the human race and has apparently given the lie to Malthusian gloom. Nevertheless, the identities do catch up with us. Ultimately, we must face finitude, and while it is generally desirable that this day of reckoning be postponed, one has the uneasy feeling that too much postponement will run us into the danger that when it does arrive it will be totally disastrous, and that man may face an exhausted planet to which he cannot adapt. While I am prepared to give two cheers therefore for the moderate cheerfulness of these two chapters, again ecological eschatology creeps in as a skeleton at the feast. The fourth section, "What Everyone Knows: The 'Disadvantages' of Large Families and High Density," consists of three papers by Darwin L. Thomas, Philip R. Kunz and Evan T. Peterson, and Bruce A. Chadwick, attacking the theses that high population density necessarily leads to social disorganization, that large families are bad for the children, and that a reduction in the size of the family would have necessarily desirable social spinoffs. The case here I think is quite well made, up to, shall we say, families of five children; beyond that the evidence I think is clear for deterioration. And, of course, five is too many for population stability. The conclusion which I would draw from this is that perhaps there should be more specialization in child rearing; perhaps half the population should average families of four and the other half of the population should not have children at all. The real trouble with these essays is that they really do not confront the ultimate moral and political issue, which is that even if families of four or five are more intrinsically desirable than families of two, we may have to sacrifice this in the interest of population stability. And it is absurd to suppose that the slight advantages, as they may well exist, of moderately large families can compensate for the ultimate disaster which these will impose on the human race. Still, good positions should not be supported by bad arguments, and there is little doubt, I think, that the anti-natalists are using wrong arguments when they argue that small families are intrinsically desirable in themselves.