Fear of human extinction

“And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” – (Genesis 9:7)

“Modern Malthusians tend to discount the significance of falling fertility. They believe there are too many people in the world, so for them, it is the absolute number that matters.” – Go forth and multiply a lot less (The Economist, October 2009)

I wonder how countries will support their inverted population pyramids. More taxes and higher social safety net contributions from workers?

I wonder because a report on Jamaica mentioned a “decline in births has triggered a marginal increase” in their population. Good news for those who think the world is overpopulated. But although the absolute number may be high, the birth rate of the entire developed world is well below replacement levels and the developing world is following closely.

No pension or health care scheme can support such skewed age cohorts. There simply will not be enough economically active people who can be taxed in order to pay for these benefits. The situation is worse for Arab nations.

The late Yasser Arafat once said: “The womb of the Arab woman is my greatest weapon.” He was wrong. Fertility in Muslim countries has fallen up to three times faster than the world average.

Head of the United Nations’ population research branch Hania Zlotnik, notes that: “In most of the Islamic world it’s amazing, the decline in fertility that has happened.”

Sociologist Majid Abhari warns of the “tidal wave of elderly” due to “decreased fertility” that many Muslim countries will face in the next few decades. The Arab Spring of 2010 was just the beginning.

Muslim leaders are more willing than their Western counterparts to speak publicly about this trend. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan pleaded with his people to “have at least three children”. Iran’s Ahmadinejad echoed similar sentiments: “Two children is a formula for the extinction of a nation, not the survival of a nation… This is what is wrong with the West. Negative population growth will cause the extinction of our identity and culture… To want to consume more rather than having children is an act of genocide.”

Ahmadinejad’s fear of cultural extinction is universal. We all seek transcendence, or at the very least, to be remembered.

“The weakest link in the secular account of human nature,” writes sociologist Eric Kaufmann, “is that it fails to account for people’s powerful desire to seek immortality for themselves and their loved ones.”

Demographers have noticed that when faith goes, fertility follows. As St. Paul put it: “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’.”

And dying we are. The Romans fell to a small force of barbarians for the same reason the Greeks fell to the Romans. The conquered party was infertile, outnumbered and eventually overrun. Assuming present fertility rates, the Germans will fall by 98 per cent over the next two centuries and other European nations will see their total populations drop by 40 per cent to 60 per cent.

Kaufmann laments the fact that “liberalism’s demographic contradiction — individualism leading to the choice not to reproduce — may well be the agent that destroys it.” Man cannot live by bread alone.

— Adrian Sobers

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