Is it time to reevaluate our approach to "human rights?"

Disclaimer: this is not a bizarre Inigo thread. It will be safe to assume I’m not joking at any point in this thread.

Conversation starter.

Now, assuming the science is correct and that humans are in fact responsible for the climate changes, and that said changes are not simply part of some kind of climatic pendulum swing which will create an environment better suited to giant lizards and invertebrates, it looks like we have a problem (see Venus). Specifically, it looks like we are causing a problem. A couple solutions present themselves.

We could develop interstellar travel and seed our kind on habitable planets a few million or so people at a time. That could establish viable communities but it wouldn’t make much of a dent in our population issue here at home. But who goes? Are there that many volunteers? If not, who gets appointed? And heaven help the indigenous life on the planet we invade–if we identify sentient, civilzed beings (even aquatic Gungans) do we still land or do we keep looking for another place to put the colonists?

Should we be unable to master interstellar colonization in the next 100 years, we run the very real risk of creating a climate unsuitable for humanity due exclusively to our drive to multiply ourselves. Yes, we can live greener–either by the enlightened choice of 7-9 million individuals (the cynics among us are not hopeful this will happen), or by legislating away non-green, polluting technologies. Even if we could get the world’s governments on board (the cynics are choking again) with enforcing world-saving measures, we’d still need to significantly modify our approach to what we consider edible foods. GMO plants and animals, or possibly lab-produced foods made from waste products and a little bit-o-sunshine are likely options. And even then…what and why? So the 9 million can become 12 million?

My point: As a species, we are well-established and under no threat of extinction from any source other than being metaphorically crushed under the ecologic weight of ourownselves. As we are our own long-term problem, does it not make sense to start ‘weeding the garden?’ Yes, that means eugenics for one thing. And it also means actively or passively culling those whose contributions to society are negligible to negative. Today, we feed and house convicts who have demonstrated their disdain for their fellows, and for the same cost we could improve the living conditions of millions of others who might contribute if given the means & opportunity–whom we allow instead to waste away in poverty and ignorance. Yes, that’s not fair to everyone, but it’s looking like we are facing a real world manifestation of “please all and please none.” Of course, by allowing/causing the desperate to die we risk losing what is left of our ideas about compassion, but maybe it is time to shed our compassion as we have our tails.


The people you want to kill in order to make the world a better place are different from the people others would want to kill in order to make the world a better place.

Better hope your own ideas about who to kill prevail, and not someone else’s!

Not at all, no. If you want to start doing things like executing people for minor crimes, I think you’d be better off trying to justify it for its own sake rather than pretending it’ll solve some kind of projected population crisis. The bottom line is the same as it is in every other thread where we discuss this issue - which lately seems to be once a week: the world is not overpopulated and won’t be overpopulated if the population peaks at around 9 billion or 10 billion late in the 21st century either. Use of resources is a problem, but it’s a solvable problem and it won’t be fixed by eugenics or the other stuff that is sometimes proposed in these kinds of discussions (like refusing to treat diseases or trying to keep sick and injured people alive).

Assuming you mean “billion” in that last sentence, evidence suggests that when the 9 billion become economically comfortable, safe and well-fed, they won’t tend toward unrestrained reproduction, as has been the case for the billion or so who currently enjoy that standard of living in the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia.

How many people do you propose to kill, and can you clarify the selection process? Also, is this something that is run on the honor system, by country, or do we get the UN involved. Or maybe the US takes the lead and forces other countries to comply? Better yet, we might turn it over to the Germans. They have historically shown themselves to have a certain proficiency in such matters.

I guess this is the ultimate weakness. The drive to survive will probably always override the logic of the solution. I suppose we might just as well leap into a good old fashioned, carpet bombing, mass-destruction type war scenario. That would bring the numbers down AND destroy the infrastructure that perpetuates our uncontrolled breeding. Win/Win.

“Overpopulated” is kind of a relative thing. In the sense of exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet you’re probably right since our main problem is not a shortageof arable land mass, but of getting water and nutrients to it–technology has those answers. But what about the premise of the OP? It’s not that we can’t feed & house everyone, but that in doing so we damage the planet badly enough that it becomes too unpredictable to support us in significant numbers at all. In the sense that, given our current technologies and habits, us just going about our daily beeswax is pushing the planet toward uninhabitability I would suggest the world is overpopulated.

First, we poison the beer at all monster truck rallies, NASCAR events and …

No, I’m not really the one to set the criteria or the methods. As much as people annoy me, I realize I’m usually the one who’s being unreasonable–on the right day I’d be the first to check in at the local gas chamber. I take your point (I think) about the Germans, but they sullied the process with hate and dehumanization. Better, perhaps, to not shame those who perish (say, 50% of us?) so the rest of humanity can survive, but to honor them. Perhaps some cumulative privilege could be granted to the surviving family members of those who check out willingly.

I think that you may be joking, unless you believe that compassion, basic goodness, tolerance, and patience are not positive aspects of human character.

Do you believe that we as human beings would be better off to place more value on selfishness, and not care about or desire to help others just because they are judged as incorrigibles, or non-contributing members of society?

And who among us is so high in station that they would be able to determine which groups should be culled? Do you believe in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Could you apply this same lack of compassion against yourself if it came to be that your own station in life was lowered, making it difficult or impossible for you to offer positive contributions to society?

And what if your child was determined to be a negative social contributor and one of those to be culled, would you not want someone to show mercy or compassion to your child? Would you look upon that compassion and desire to help your child as coming from a place of weakness? I doubt it, and that is why I think that you are joking.

The premise of the OP is that even though every other time humans have wiped each other out in great numbers it’s been a horrifying tragedy, just this once maybe it’ll be necessary. Keep in mind here that whether it’s slow or fast, this would have to be a slaughter much greater than all the other ones put together, because in recorded history we’ve never had a war or an extermination big enough to even temporarily halt our population growth. And while this might be kind of complicated, we definitely don’t need to worry about the possibility we’re going to wipe out the people who could find another way to solve these problems. Better to just kill off a few billion people and make a nice clean break without thinking about what we’re losing. I’m sure in hindsight it’ll look fine even though the thought of what might have happened if people in 1800 or 1940 decided “the planet’s too crowded, we need to kill off a big chunk of people - who should it be?” is terrifying and would have damaged human progress incalculably.

Stop me when I get to the point where this starts to sound like a great idea. I will say that maybe there won’t have to be a whole lot of forced killings. A few years after these policies are instituted, you might just see an exponential increase in suicides because nobody would want to live on a plant run by Saddam anyway.

I think war is the most likely result of a widely perceived need to reduce the population. The selection process will be based on what side you are on and where you are standing when the bombs go off. The best survival strategy is to find a way to be neutral. Not totally disassociated, but having valuable resources, dealing with all other sides, and having enough defenses to be an undesirable early target. At some point enough people will be dead, and the war will stop soon after that. Soon in geological time anyway. Probably no more 3 or 4 hundred years though.

Ideas like this pop up every so often. I don’t understand why you think you’d be among the people deciding who should live, when it’s just as likely you’d be “sentenced” to death.

This is only a problem if you are not ready to face death at the hands of your own policies. Arguing with someone who states that they are indeed ready to face such a reality is just a form of the “no true scotsman” logical fallacy. There are plenty of people willing to die for their cause, and many more who would be willing to roll the dice for a true shot at a better future.

Are you talking about the sullying the “process” of killing millions of… undesirable people? How does one kill millions without a sullied process? How do you kill millions without dehumanizing them?

I find your ideas intriguing and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

In reality I think these are among the highest, most honorable aspirations of humanity and are in discouragingly short supply. In the spirit of the OP, however, they are also a vestigial nuissance of our intellectual development as a species.

If it is established that our very presence on this planet, which we cannot feasibly escape in meaningful numbers, dooms us all to an unpredictable, increasingly hostile climate, then mercy and tolerance become the millstone around our collective neck and we all perish. As has been suggested previously, this would not be a pleasant business no matter which side of the fence you’re on to survive it you’d need some drive and some luck, and you’d also need to either abandon or broaden your concept of compassion to fend off survivor’s guilt.

The war-as-population-control scenario seems more likely, and infinitely less humane and impractical as a solution.

And for what it’s worth, I realize that under any conceivable logical screen, I and most of my family would be among the first into the vaporizers. The thought doesn’t really make me happy, and it’s not a reality I especially want, but if the alternative is equally as grim and includes everyone, then how does resisting not make me responsible?

The facts do not support this statement.

How proximate does doom have to be? We are all individually doomed in relatively short order. As a species we are doomed by the ultimate entropy of the universe. And of course, we could all be dead in a few weeks if some nearby sun goes unexpectedly supernova and bombards us all with deadly… uh, supernova stuff.

Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if you pushed through laws to exterminate half the population, and then found out the planet’s gonna melt anyway?

Give the Mayans a chance!

I’m pretty sure everyone (that is to say: voters, government etc) would choose birth control and one-child policies over killing people, if it ever did come to that.


I recently saw a brilliant play, Solve, written and directed by a friend. The whole play took place in the waiting room of the government “solving facilities”. Basically, it had been decided that the way to “solve” the problem of over-population was to have the people shoot each other. People would, at random, receive a blue envelope with a bullet and a number. They would show up on the appointed day, where two numbers would be pitted against each other. They would put their single bullet in their guns and shoot until one of them was dead. If you’d survived 5 “solvings” you didn’t have to do it again. In the play, most people in the waiting room thought of it as doing their patriotic duty.

Of course it’s a silly premise, but it made for a very interesting play. [/hijack]

You could do that with bows and arrows, film the event for entertainment, and call it The Hunger Games.

With only one bullet each, I suspect you would end up with far too many woundings and not nearly the desired number of killings. In fact, if all you have to do is survive 5 of them, everybody would probably agree to shoot off each others’ minor fingers and toes.

I think that all boils down to economics, which will force us to “cull” the population (by eliminating support for fringe groups) before there’s any need for mass killings. “Human rights” is a luxury that only affluent states can afford.