Population control is an elitist, coercive ideology which has its roots in eugenics and Malthusian economics. It is now linked with radical environmentalism and has made big inroads into both medicine and Christian thinking. Eugenics theory has had great influence in social science, politics and medicine - particularly bioethics. Population control is now promoted as a panacea for the world's ills, particularly those related to the environment. Numerous articles, editorials and letters have appeared in medical journals on this topic in recent years. This article summarises the history of the eugenics/population control movement and its present activities, particularly with respect to environmental concerns.
The early history of population control
The history of population control starts with the clergyman Thomas Malthus who published his Essay on Population in 1798. He argued that as population increases, it eventually outstrips the supply of food. He pressed for legislation restricting help for children born to poor families. This had an impact on Britain's policy towards the poor in Ireland leading to deliberate starvation and the great famine in the 1840s.
The early history of eugenics
In 1883 Charles Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, took up the ideas of Darwin and Malthus and coined the term eugenics. This movement teaches that people with good genes (eugenic) must be encouraged to reproduce and those with bad genes (dysgenic) should be discouraged from doing so. The eugenics and birth control movements in the early part of this century were virtually indistinguishable. A key figure was the American Margaret Sanger who opened the first birth control clinic in the US in 1916 and wrote: 'Birth Control is thus the entering wedge for the Eugenic educator...the unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit' is admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization...The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.' Eugenics societies were founded in Germany in 1905, England in 1907 and America in 1922. The goals of the eugenicists were promoting birth control among the 'unfit', sterilisation of the handicapped and euthanasia. By 1935 sterilisation laws had been passed in America, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Germany. Hitler's eugenic sterilisation programme began in 1933 and was extended to include compulsory abortion for women considered genetically 'unfit.' One of Sanger's colleagues described the eugenic practices of the Third Reich as 'scientific and humanitarian'. Throughout the 1920s and 30s an intellectual battle was waged between these ideas and Christian values. The English writer GK Chesterton, a devout Christian with a sharp wit, wrote numerous essays in defence of biblical values, attacking the ideas of the eugenicists. These remain gems in Christian literature to this day. Chesterton took at face value the biblical teaching about the sanctity of human life and God's creation ordinances (Gn 1:26-28); the value of children (Ps 127 and 128); the equality among sex, race and class (Gal 3:28) and the freedom of the individual (Gal 5:1).
Eugenics after 1945
After the defeat of Nazism, the eugenics movement reformed on both sides of the Atlantic. Former Nazi eugenicists such as Von Verschuer - who had financed and co-operated with Mengele's horrific experiments at Auschwitz - became head of the Institute of Human Genetics in Munster and a foreign member of the American Eugenics Society.
Eugenicists became extremely active in the fields of abortion and bioethics. Britain's Abortion Law Reform Association was a project of the (British) Eugenics Society. Bioethics as taught in many British medical schools relies heavily on situation ethics, developed by American eugenicists Joseph Fletcher and Daniel Callahan.
Population control after 1945
It is in the field of population control that eugenicists have had their greatest influence. In 1952 the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) began its work in London with the goal of promoting and providing abortion and other forms of birth control world-wide. It was at one time a member of the Eugenics Society. In 1968 the Eugenics Society decided to accept a proposal from Dr CP Blacker that 'The Society's activities in crypto-eugenics should be pursued vigorously, and specifically the Society should increase its monetary support of the Family Planning Association (FPA) and the IPPF'. The IPPF has now expanded to embrace 140 member associations covering 95% of the world's population and its budget is made up from money collected from the taxpayers of developed countries diverted into 'foreign aid' programmes. IPPF publications have encouraged the implementation of a world-wide population plan. The most graphic example of this has been in China where the one child per family policy has been in place since 1979. Since 1994 there has been a more eugenic direction to this programme. IPPF has given millions of dollars each year to the Chinese Family Planning Association and welcomed them into full membership in 1983. The Chinese policy of forced intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUCD) insertion, compulsory sterilisation, forced abortion, sex selection abortion and female infanticide has shocked the world. Women have been dragged from their homes and tied to operating tables. Yet Madame Peng Yu, vice minister of the State Family Planning Commission of China said, 'IPPF is one of the major international agencies that have been extending co-operation with China'. After nearly two decades of involvement in China it is reasonable to assume that IPPF is both familiar with and supports the Chinese coercive programme. In pursuit of its goals, IPPF is prepared to encourage law-breaking and has suggested penalties for couples who fail to follow national population control policies. By disguising their aims in terms of 'reproductive freedom', and 'women's rights', the eugenics/population control movement likes to give the impression that it is providing for people's 'unmet needs'.
Who defines 'unmet needs'?
Whelan asks, 'What happens when the means of fertility control are made available and people still choose to have large families?' In such cases the population controllers have to point out the needs to the people. In the words of the project manager for the Indian FPA, 'They don't always perceive their needs. The welfare worker has to point them out.' The World Bank operates on a similar basis. 'To some extent family planning programmes do more than simply satisfy unmet need: they actually generate and then fill such need.' Bribery is used as well as coercion. In Bangladesh both women and men are paid to be sterilised. US ambassador to Bangladesh, David Merrill, gave a speech stressing the need to 'create demand' for family planning. Local news sources report imports of contraceptives filling warehouses and adding to the foreign debt. In Bangladesh it is easy to have a Norplant system inserted but often next to impossible to get it removed.
Choice, not coercion
At the end of the eighteenth century a new population trend was emerging in Europe: sustained fertility decline. This seems to have started in France and then spread to other European countries. It shows the ability of couples to regulate their family size irrespective of access to contraception. These people were choosing to have fewer children. Conversely, the fact that contraceptives are available does not in itself ensure their widespread use. Pakistan for example has a low rate of contraceptive uptake despite decades of government sponsored family planning campaigns. One World Bank study estimated that at least 90% of the variations in fertility levels in developing countries in the postwar era can be explained by differences in the desired levels of fertility reported by local women. This means that the prospect for reducing fertility levels through voluntary family planning programmes is minimal. If it was simply a question of incorporating access to family planning through basic primary care programmes it would be both easy and cheap. The most effective and empowering way would probably be education about natural fertility methods. Instead we have a multi-million dollar population control industry which imposes itself on poor people in the developing world because 'they don't always perceive their needs'. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines unmet needs!
Evidence has arisen of the involvement of the WHO in covertly testing an anti-pregnancy vaccine in Mexico and the Philippines. Pro-life groups in these countries became suspicious after tetanus vaccination campaigns were organised targeting women of reproductive age. Men and children were excluded despite their probably greater risk of contracting tetanus. Women began complaining of vaginal bleeding and early miscarriages. An investigation by the Philippine Department of Health and the Philippine Medical Association found that the tetanus vaccines supplied by WHO contained HCG. The aim was to stimulate antibodies to HCG so that future pregnancies would abort early. WHO denied everything but it is well known that they have been pursuing an anti-pregnancy vaccine since the 1970s.
Population control at the UN
The United Nations maintains a central position co-ordinating the global population control movement. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities outspends IPPF in support of the Chinese programme. Since 1974 the world's population control bureaucrats have held a series of expensive conferences and since the Rio environmental conference in 1992 there has been a joining of forces of radical environmentalists and population controllers. The 1996 'Rome Declaration on Food Security' includes a commitment to 'early stabilisation of the world population'. In Beijing, UN World Food Programme director Catherine Bertini announced that 'food is a power we are going to use to change behaviour'. The UN is in the process of building what it calls the 'Civil Society' for the world. This is their term for those people who agree with its goals and methods. If you do not agree you are by definition uncivil and therefore your opinions will not be considered in the UN decision making process. The World Bank is now allied to the UN in this global social engineering and is prepared to withhold loans in order to force nations to accept what they would otherwise want to resist. James Wolfensohn, World Bank President, said during a press conference at the 1996 Rome Food Summit, 'From now on, the business of the World Bank will primarily be social reform'. When asked by reporters what this meant, he admitted that population control activities are a sine qua non for any social policy to be considered sensible.
Debunking the myths
Since the late 1960s, population control zealots have tried to resurrect the ideas of Malthus with respect to food and resources. The idea has been presented that the world is running short of food, agricultural land, energy and raw materials. The fact is that resources are becoming more plentiful as the population grows. If anything, we are overproducing food and crazily paying farmers not to produce more. Raw materials are becoming cheaper (ie less scarce). Energy is becoming more available. This may seem counterintuitive but the explanation is that each generation inherits a stock of knowledge and is able to build upon that. Improvements in technology make commodities (including food) more plentiful, not less so. Having been defeated intellectually over food and resources, the next battleground chosen by population controllers was the environment. Like evolution, global warming is a theory which remains controversial. It is derived from computer predictions which some have criticised for their crudity. The most accurate way of measuring the earth's temperature is via satellites measuring microwave emissions from atmospheric oxygen. This is accurate to 0.01° C. Since 1979 the earth's atmosphere has actually cooled by 0.13° C.
Coercion and medicine
Manipulation and coercion has long been a theme of eugenics and population control. Dr Maurice King writing in the Lancet in 1990 suggested that some basic components of primary care such as oral rehydration for babies with diarrhoea be withheld from developing countries. His goal was to slow population growth by increasing the infant mortality rate. Now he is suggesting a global one child per family policy but is by no means alone. Garrett Hardin, a former director of the American Eugenics Society and someone who King evidently admires wrote this: 'coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now but it need not forever be so. As with the four letter words, its dirtiness can be cleansed away by exposure to the light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment'.
What should be the Christian response?
Jesus' teaching about salt (Lk 14:34-35) gives us insight into our responsibilities. According to David Pawson, the meaning of this parable relates to the properties of potash which is translated in most Bibles as 'salt'. Its uses on the soil and the dung heap were as a fertiliser and a disinfectant respectively. The Christian in the world is to help good things grow and to stop bad things from spreading. How do we do this?
- Get educated. Find out what is really happening. Study the history of the key ideologies and movements. Bad trees don't bear good fruit (Mt 7:15-20).
- Develop a biblical world view (Pr 2). Become aware of how much secular values have infiltrated Christian thinking. Read the great 20th century Christian writers such as GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Malcolm Muggeridge and George Grant.[27,28]
- Study Church history. Books such as Third Time Around, for example, show us what the church's strategy against child killing has been during the past 2,000 years.
- 'Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow' (Is 1:17).
- Expose the fruitless deeds of darkness (Eph 5:1 l).
- Find out what God wants you to do and then do it with all your strength.
A final word
'Have we as evangelicals been on the front lines contending for the faith and confronting the moral breakdown over the last forty to sixty years? Have we even been aware that there is a battle going on - not just a heavenlv battle, but a life and death struggle over what will happen to men and women and children in both this life and the next? If the truth of the Christian faith is in fact truth, then it stands in antithesis to the ideas and immorality of our age, and it must be practised in both teaching and practical action. Truth demands confrontation. It must be loving confrontation, but it must be confrontation nonetheless.'