Do We Really Need 40,000,000 More People

In the worst women thread, Rachel Carson is nominated for her work Silent Spring, which precipitated the banning of DDT in order to save a few species of birds (bald eagles come to mind, there may be others). It’s asserted that 40,000,000 people died of malaria as a result.

I don’t mean to sniff at anyone’s loss of a beloved child or family member, or wish illness upon them. And I don’t know anything about malaria.

But I can’t help but wonder - we’re pretty good at making human beings. Our population isn’t under the kind of threat it once was. Yes, we could well be in serious trouble down the road, should Ebola or somesuch become easily transmissable.

Why is the loss of human life assumed to be much more tragic? We can make more people, but not a one of us can bring back a lost species of bird, or plant, or animal. Why is it perfectly fine to wipe them out in order to save a few of us?

You’re kidding, right?


In that case, why wouldn’t it make sense to wipe a species of bird to save 40,000,000 people, unless somehow the loss of that species would result in more than 40 million human deaths?

Huh? I’m not saying that 40,000,000 is some kind of magic number.

I just find it profoundly strange that random human lives are assumed to have greater value than any other species. Would the world really be a “better” place had those 40,000,000 people not perished of malaria (assuming they did)?

I suppose if we were bald eagles, we’d worry more about bald eagle deaths than human deaths. But we’re not, and I don’t see your point. Are you saying it doesn’t matter if someone dies, because someone else will be born and “replace” that person? Are we interchangeable?

Oops, forgot to finish before hitting “submit”.

The problem you are having is that you are thinking of generic people. Think of the deaths as being someone’s wife, or husband, daughter or brother. That’s why it matters.

I see what you’re saying & figured the empathy argument is the only one that makes sense - we have to extrapolate from our own experiences to the mass in order to have a basis for peaceful coexistance. So from that argument it makes sense that we’d have to care.

But what’s odd is that we don’t actually apply that logic, truly. We (speaking generically) care about people whom we admire. Empathy isn’t applied universally. When pretty girls disappear, it’s newsworthy.

It seems to me the empathy either ought to go further (which would become inconvenient, as we’re have to care for all living creatures in order to be logical), or disappear entirely. Instead it’s applied spottily.

So, you’re surprised that we have other emotions besides empathy? There’s a complex interplay of emotions in any given situation.

Why should we care about other species? They don’t care about us. In fact, the first law of nature is every species for itself. It’s what Darwin is all about.

I’m surprised that the empathy doesn’t extend to other species.

And yes, I do think we’re mostly “interchangeable”, mostly cogs. Chum. That’s not to say I don’t have fun, or care, or do my best anyway. But I don’t see generic humans as having greater significance than other sentient animals.

The argument that says we do, the “go team, yay us” approach, justifies wiping out other “teams”. Starting with other species that are in our way, and proceeding to other groups of humans who are equally inconvenient. If there’s no empathic basis, then tough luck.

Here’s another way of looking at this. Who here would object to mankind eliminating the species of life that causes malaria?


I don’t think so, although it’s been a few years since I read Darwin.

Then you should read Darwin again. LOTS of species have gone extinct in the history of Earth. And man had little to do with almost all of them.

Let me try a restate:

How would the addition of 40,000,000 people make the world better? Would you really even know it if 40,000,000 people (not your neighbors) died?

And, corollary, what’s your notion of “better” anyway?

Mine includes adequate space and resources for all species. So if there are too many people hogging more than their share, then some of us need to go (I realize wiping out Americans would do a lot to rectify this, and no I’m not volunteering).

It would probably make the world better for those people, at least.

What is this “world” thing, anyway? It’s just a ball of dirt floating through space. It has no meaning or significance beyond what we humans choose to award it.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, who gives a shit?

There’s pretty general agreement that overpopulation is a Bad Thing. There’s also general agreement that malaria sucks. Too bad we have to have one or the other. Or do we?

Darwin’s principles were never meant to be moral principles; they are descriptive principles. The fact that natural selection favors trait x (such as caring exclusively for one’s own species, which natural selection obviously does not favor in humans) does not make x desirable.

Having said all that, there is a more sophisticated way of making **fessie’s ** argument. Her argument is reminiscent of Garrett Hardin’s. He argues on humanitarian grounds that saving a bunch of lives in third-world countries today will not actually prevent any suffering in the long run. He argues that allowing those populations to grow unchecked will ultimately lead to even worse suffering as those countries reach their carrying capacities and people die of starvation, disease, and other sorts of things that kill organisms which exceed the carrying capacity of their environment.

I am not endorsing; I am merely reporting.

I haven’t seen any evidence that overpopulation is all that bad, either. Are more people starving to death today than did a hundred years ago?