Re: [asa] Dobson

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Mar 06 2007 - 10:21:29 EST

*There are SF scenarios which deal precisely with bad results of uncontolled
population growth, environmental disaster & the limits of technology.
True -- like Stephen Baxter's recent one, "Transcendent" -- one of the worst
SF books I've ever read. From my review (

The soul of Stephen Baxter's latest sci-fi novel,
is the Catholic Priest character, Rosa (of course the Vatican has lightened
up on that male Priest thing), who tells us her hero, Russion Orthodox
mystic Nikolai Federov, drew on "Marxist historical determinism, socialist
utopianism, and deeper wells of Slavic theology and nationalism to come up
with a 'Cosmism,' which preached an ultimate unity between man and the
universe." As you can see, Rosa has the soul of a GRE question writer on a
bender at the Burning Man festival.

*Abortion or infanticide will be an option if affordable & easy forms of
contraception aren't made available.*

I think that's making things too simple. Personally, I agree that it's
important for people to have access to birth control. However, I think
markets generally are best suited to supply that need. Government policies
favoring birth control are scary because they seem inevitably to involve
indoctrination, restrictions on family autonomy and religious freedom, and
the promotion of a set of sexual values that is inconsistent with the
Christian tradition.

In cases of market failure (e.g., where women are too poor or oppressed to
have access to birth control in markets), there is a role for government
provisioning. I think there's a huge chasm, however, between government
providing birth control where there is market failure and government setting
policy about how many children a family should have. We need to be clear
that the term "population control," to many in the environmental movement,
means much more than making birth control available to poor women.

On 3/6/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> a) New agricultural technologies can change the time scale - i.e.,
can decrease the time it takes to increase food production - to a certain
extent but the world & its resources are finite so there's a limit to
that. OTOH of course contraceptive technologies can, in principle, result
in a stable population.
> Not all science fiction pictures technological utopias. There are SF
scenarios which deal precisely with bad results of uncontolled population
growth, environmental disaster & the limits of technology. Christians
especially should be wary of the notion that technology will solve all our
problems. (& yes, I'm in favor of human space exploration, colonization of
the moon & Mars - eventually - &c, but it's going to be a real long time
before any significant # of people can be moved off earth.)
> b) Abortion or infanticide will be an option if affordable & easy forms
of contraception aren't made available. & ask women who have been reduced
to the role of baby producing machines in many cultures if they feel
"devalued" by being given the option of having sexual relations without
having to fear bearing yet another child. (Which one of the Puritan divines
was it who said "Let them have children till they die of it, for that is
what they were made for"?)
> c) The RCC has a dogmatic policy against "artificial" contraception which
is not likely to go away soon. But the Evangelical community, not being
locked into an obsolete Aristotelian natural law ethic, & not having (at
least to the same extent) the distaste for sex that the Roman hierarchy does
(I am not saying that without due reflection) has the opportunity to give a
much better Christian witness in this area.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: David Opderbeck
> To: George Murphy
> Cc:
> Sent: Monday, March 05, 2007 10:41 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Dobson
> (a) What Malthus and the later environmentalists missed was the rapid
growth of technology. Technology has always grown faster than
population. Feeding the world isn't a scarcity problem, it's primarily a
corruption problem. (And as a science fiction aficionado, George, I'd think
you'd understand that humanity will find ways and places to live however
much the population expands).
> (b) But the grim reality is that when population control is made a
political priority, the resulting policies always include the promotion of
abortion as a form of birth control. Moreover, the net result usually is a
further devaluing of women in societies that adopt such policies.
> (c) Personally, I agree with you. However, many of my Christian brothers
and sisters think otherwise, particularly the 1 billion or so Catholics
around the world (at least to the extent they are faithful to the
Magesterium). This brings up another grim reality of population control
policies: they always go hand-in-hand with religious intolerance.
> An environmentalism that is linked to government population control
policies, IMHO, has to be rejected.
> On 3/5/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Apropos the statements below on population control -
> >
> > a) x^n grows faster than nx - Malthus was right, though the time scale
may be difficult to predict.
> >
> > b) The fact that abortion may have been used for birth control in China
doesn't mean that it's the only means, or even the only ethical means - as
even the Vatican
> > recognizes.
> >
> > c) I know of no good theological argument against birth control
(excluding abortion!) which is practiced voluntarily by a married couple.
> >
> > Shalom
> > George
> >
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: David Opderbeck
> > To: Carol or John Burgeson
> > Cc:
> > Sent: Monday, March 05, 2007 8:44 PM
> > Subject: Re: [asa] Dobson
> >
> > Well, it was pretty stupid of Cizik to mention population control.
That feeds the worst fears of folks like Dobson. Frankly, it scares me as
well, and I think Dobson's comment about forced abortion and infanticide in
China is right on point. Christian environmentalists need to acknowledge
that the environmental movement was dead wrong about the "population
explosion" and must distance Christian responses to problems like gobal
warming from the "secular" environmental movement's untoward emphasis on
population control.
> >
> >
> > On 3/5/07, Carol or John Burgeson < > wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > > Dobson seems to have followed Falwell in dissing Global Warming.
> > >
> > > Burgy
> > >
> > > Date: March 5, 2007
> > > From: Focus on the Family
> > >
> > > Dr. Dobson, Evangelical Leaders
> > > Challenge Global-Warming Rhetoric
> > >
> > > Letter urges National Association of Evangelicals to restrain its D.Cspokesman.
> > >
> > > In a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), James
C. Dobson, Ph.D., chairman of Focus on the Family Action, joined other
pro-family leaders in urging the NAE to refrain from taking a position on
the controversial and divisive topic of global warming and other issues.
> > >
> > > NAE official Richard Cizik, who works in the group's Washington, D.C.,
office, has told the media it's indisputable that human activity has
contributed to global warming and has encouraged evangelicals to make it a
top issue. On other occasions, he's said evangelicals "must confront
population control."
> > >
> > > "We ask," Dobson and the others wrote, "how is population control
going to be achieved, if not by promoting abortion, the distribution of
condoms to the young and even by infanticide in China and elsewhere? Is this
where Richard Cizik would lead us?"
> > >
> > > To demonstrate that not all evangelicals are on board with
global-warming alarmism, the letter references a statement by the Interfaith
Stewardship Alliance that challenges common assumptions about global
> >
> >

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Received on Tue Mar 6 10:21:47 2007

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