Thursday, October 21, 2010

Malthusianism and Scientism

The overproduction of people may lead to an overwhelming burden upon the earth. Science will answer for this concern.

The 19th century Protestant theologian, Thomas Malthus proposed that at some point in the foreseeable future, the world would likely be overpopulated and resources would not be readily available for its inhabitants. Therefore  man's fecundity, his most creative output should be tamed and births controlled. These ideas in part led to the modern drive to limit man in the sexual, procreative arena; it limits women especially. While Malthus was a theologian, today he is primarily remembered for his ideas regarding global and personal economics. He was influential in the incubation of  Darwinian ideas, "natural selection," especially.

Malthus wrote a seminal treatise he entitled, The Essay on the Principle of Population. In this he asserted that: the population forces of earth are so great that in some shape or form, death must be visited upon;  war, sickness and forms of extermination must be permitted. If however, this proves to be insufficient, then the population must be otherwise controlled. Whom is he speaking of, what is the means of control? Who will decide? Is the human of Creation an animal, and should we struggle, to kill for the resources of the world? Is our 'carbon print' poisonous to everyone? While many other 19th century soothsayers died along with that century, Malthus persists in other forms and other names, covertly influencing and directing our actions.

Scientism may be thought of as an exaggerated trust in the absolute empiricism of reasoning. It is partner to the Enlightenment theories arising at about the same century. Scientists engage in empirical reasoning throughout all aspect of life, personal, social, faith, medical, mathematical, humanities, etc. It leads in progression to a "church of Science" or Scientism. The American writer, Robert P. Lockwood notes that Scientism is the product of "two fallacies." First, there is no truth other than that which may be scientifically verifiable, and secondly science is the only acceptable means of running a society. Lockwood notes, "we live in a world where the ethos of the times is reflected in the media."

While both of these thoughts may be in opposite extremes, and both may or may not resonate with everyday spirituality, they are 'out there.' Their influence is lasting and far reaching: into politics, economics, science, and spirituality. Maybe into your head and mine. Where did that come from-- who was Malthus? What do I or do I not support with my everyday faith and beliefs? Some answers are surprising, if you take a look.

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