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Africa’s problem is too much poverty, not too many people

Madagascar’s problems would not be solved by handing out condoms

By on Monday, 30 April 2012

Madagascar is the sort of place that we Brits know little about. Indeed try anyone on the subject of France’s former colonies in Africa, and you often draw a blank. Places like Burkina Faso attract little interest. Thus, it was good to be able to watch the ever engaging Simon Reeve on his way round the Indian Ocean, stopping off at this huge island.

Simon Reeve, for those of you who do not know him, is simply the best television presenter there is, and though young, he has an impressive portfolio of programmes behind him. He is certainly someone to watch, in every sense.

And what did Simon find in Madagascar? Well, sadly, it was the all too common tale of ecological devastation. To be frank, Madagascar seemed somewhat unattractive to me – treeless, deforested, and flat. Rather like parts of Kenya, I suppose, the less well known parts. And Simon and one of the conservationists he met was right, I think, to identify the destruction of forests as catastrophic.

There are many reasons why deforestation takes place, but one group of conservationists in the programme identified a burgeoning population as being a major problem, and were teaching the villagers about what the programme called family planning. Simon rightly observed that rich westerners telling poor villagers to have fewer children was problematic. Quite so; but I did wonder just how overpopulated Madagascar was.

A quick look at Wikipedia, that invaluable help for lazy writers, confirmed the following:

• Madagascar has an area of 226,597 square miles and a population of just under 22 million, according to the latest estimate. That makes for a density of 91.1 people per square mile.

• The United Kingdom, just for the sake of comparison, has an area of 94,060 square miles and an estimated population of around 62 million, which means a density of 661.9 people per square mile.

I was never any good at maths, but this seems to indicate that the United Kingdom is far more crowded than Madagascar; and indeed the south-east of England considered on its own would be even more densely populated still. Come to think of it, some of the world’s most prosperous countries are also its most crowded – Holland, for example.

Madagascar’s real problem is poverty, and poverty has many causes. Growing population is often a result of poverty, rather than a cause of it. Simon Reeve did spot the fact that the country’s infrastructure is virtually non-existent and its roads among the worst in the world- some looked even more bone-shaking than Kenya’s. I know that television is not a subtle medium, but it might have been better if the programme made clear that the population question in Madagascar has to be seen in the context of its other challenges – and that handing out condoms is not necessarily what those poor villagers need.

The rest of the programme took us to Mauritius, which is far more prosperous than Madagascar, but seemed, to me, at least, to be just as treeless. And then it was onto the Seychelles which are “verdant”, though here we met a fine Yorkshireman who had reforested a small island.

It was good to see Simon tackle some sensitive subjects, such as the whole question of Chinese investment in places like Mauritius. And he also took up the cause of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, who were moved to Mauritius by the British government to make room for the American base on their island. This question, which barely causes a ripple in the consciousness of modern Britain, deserves to be more widely known. I will try and make it the subject of a future article. But kudos to Simon Reeve for bringing up the plight of the Chagossians, who are among the least fortunate of the dispossessed populations of this earth.

  • TreenonPoet

    In all species, overpopulation has serious consequences. Mankind, at least, has the ability (1) to recognise this (unless blinded by religion), and (2) to try to avoid the terrible mass-suffering that famine/disease/war inflicts.

    I agree monopolisation is a problem (not just within countries, but by rich countries with regards to poorer countries). I do not agree with your implication that population levels are therefore not a problem. The world population level is a problem because of its effect on the biosphere and because of its demand on resources. Madagascar cannot isolate itself from these effects. Madagascar is not a microcosm of the world and has its own population-related problems.

    To deal with the global situation (which is what you refer to by “much hyped threat“), the ratio of footprint (human impact) to biocapacity is 1.5:1 (based on 2007 data). This may not seem to be a current problem if most of us have enough to eat and drink (and the 1G undernourished are explained away as anomalous), but it is a current problem if we want to take pre-emptive action to avoid catastophe. Your suggestion elsewhere that science will come to the rescue is faith-based. Until the appropriate sustainable technology becomes a reality, we should assume that it will not happen. It could be that new technologies will not be able to counter the problems of oil depletion and climate change. Also, your population forecast elsewhere (8G peak, then falling) is optimistic (and is surely based on the continued widespread use of contraceptive devices?). Such optimism requires that the world (including the RCC) takes the population problem very seriously now. You are hardly doing your bit!

  • Oconnord

    Isn’t amazing that the religious are so ready to say that god, through science, will provide! Either through enough resources being provided or us settling a new planet. (That one was new to me too).

    But yet they accuse atheists of giving science too much credence. So much for science being the “religion” of the secular and atheistic.

    It seems that even strict catholics can dip into sci-fi, while ignoring the fact that lower birth rates within families of lower means, leads to increased prosperity for future offspring. 

  • TreenonPoet

     The influential religious (including religious scientists) are, to some extent, undermining the very science that we all rely on. There is a widespread lack of understanding of why science works. That understanding ought to come naturally in schools, but is impeded by irrationality inside and outside schools. In the UK, schools are required to facilitate collective worship, and in the curricula of (compulsory) Religious Education classes, certain important facts seem to be taboo. A false credibility is thus given to religion which demotes science.

    As an example, how can a Catholic School properly convey the importance of evolution if it insists that the conflicting story of Adam and Eve is true? Schools should be for education, not obfuscation, yet if a school that claims the Catholic ethos blows the gaffe on Original Sin, then it is not a Catholic school. One lie leads to another. This intellectual abuse of pupils harms society, but what do religious institutions care? What does the UK Establishment care with its drive to vastly increase the number of ‘faith’ schools?

  • RadicalChristian

    Many thanks indeed for this tip, Bern. Phenomenal – thought + feeling + change-spurring material. GREAT CALL TO TRANSFORMATIONAL ACTION!
    And by comparison, look at this ‘spiritually’ imperial horror for Madagascar:

  • LocutusOP

    I’m yet to see a poverty problem in the modern world which does not have  a moral problem as it’s foundation. As Father ALS likes bringing Kenya up I’ll submit that no country illustrates my assertion more, given that Kenya has enough in it to provide decentl for its population. What’s lacking is the general morality and social cohesion required. I would argue that what little material poverty we have in Western countries can only be solved by fixing its moral poverty first.

    Having not seen the documentary I can’t comment on it, yet I’d have been surprised had the solution not involved condoms somehow – which seems to be seen by the media class as the general solution to all of the world’s ills.

    In any case….To have overpopulation we would need to have “population” – i.e., an objectively identifiable measure by which there are no more or fewer people than there should be. Does anyone know what that figure would be?
    Somehow the figure would seem to be much lower for Africans and Asians than for others, since as the article points out, the population density in Africa generally is lower than that in Europe.

  • Lefty048

    wow  you have read one book and you know all the answers. you must be fun to live with.  good thing you didn’t read mein kampf.

  • JByrne24

    Recusant wrote (of Malthus) : “He thought that population would increase geometrically”

    Not geometrically, surely. The sum to infinity of a geometric progression is finite, and can easily be calculated.

    He did not anticipate the sequence of agricultural revolutions of the later 19th century and 20th century.
    It seems improbable that the changes in food yields that these brought about will continue for much longer, or even be maintained.

    The stark fact remains that, in the relatively near future, the widespread problem of population growth will have to be addressed.

  • JByrne24

    I would hesitate to call these the “best estimates”. 
    Projections are always based on sets of assumptions.

    But, of course, these UN projections are based on the most important assumption that contraception will become progressively more widespread – eventually becoming universally accepted as a necessity. 

    In the most unlikely eventuality of orthodox Catholic opinion (concerning contraception)   becoming accepted around the world, these reassuring UN estimates would become redundant.

  • TreenonPoet

     Of course, any improvement in morality around the world is welcome (especially in the Vatican), but why put other efforts to alleviate poverty on hold while this improvement in morality (by some method and timescale you don’t mention) is implemented? Sadly, religious institutions are hampering some efforts to improve morality by insisting on the intrusion of notions of the supernatural, thus attracting ridicule.

    The population density in Antartica is even lower than that of Kenya. Clearly there are factors other than population density to consider when judging optimum population level. The sustainable population level in Kenya is about 20.2M (PDF). (The current population is more than twice that.)

  • JByrne24

    Well it is generally accepted (Is it not? I’m really asking) that the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has a very bad effect on African food production.

  • JByrne24

    TreenonPoet wrote: “As an example, how can a Catholic School properly convey the importance of evolution if it insists that the conflicting story of Adam and Eve is true?”

    His Eminence Cardinal George Pell (Aussie) in his recent Aussie TV discussion with Prof. Richard Dawkins, stated that he believed in evolution, and that the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve was a myth (“like Man and Earth”, the Cardinal said) and not literally true.  
    Professor Dawkins then asked him, that if this were so, where did Original Sin come from. The Cardinal was taken aback and gave no reply.

  • JByrne24

    ms Catholic state wrote: “…ESPECIALLY in the light of the thousands of new Earth-like planets that are being discovered”

    This is not true. Only 3 Earth-like ones (and not  all that much “like” either) have been identified.
    These are situated at vast distances from the Earth (and may already be well-populated themselves).
    If Man does spread to other star systems it will happen in the remote future.  The population problem will certainly have to be addressed much earlier.

  • JByrne24

    Other suitable planets might already be well populated – please see my other reply.

  • JByrne24

    Communism is a Religion. 

    China is a Communist country, despite the tensions between the ruling Communists and  its bureaucrats.

  • JByrne24

    Ahh…… “all the answers are in a book” (and the TRUE answers, at that).

    If ONLY…If ONLY……( this were true).

  • JByrne24

    The whole idea of God being interested in our sex lives (or fascinated by sex as so many Catholic writers seem so obviously to be) is absurd.

    Sex may form a vehicle for good or evil (like everything in our world: knives, soap, cheese, physical strength etc…..), but in itself it is just a thing (like soap or cheese) or collection of a few things.

  • TreenonPoet

     Thanks. I read the transcript which you kindly provided a link to on another thread.

    It does not surprise me that those who claim to follow particular religions reject different parts of those religions even though they place so much faith in other parts. I wish they would ask themselves how they ‘know’ the parts they believe are true. Does the portrayal of religious faith as a virtue make them proud to be unquestioning? When others question their beliefs, the response is often not proud defence, but the taking of offence. The consequent pussyfooting around these beliefs makes the teaching of certain facts and ways of thinking almost taboo. We are poorer for it.

  • Oconnord

    We Irish use the term “wilful ignorance”.

  • Recusant

    Geometric series only converge with a given radius (which for some is indeed infinite), however most geometric progressions tend towards infinity, and it was in this sense that Malthus used them.

  • Forbesk

    Africa’s problem is too much religion keeping the people ignorant of family planning and prevention of std’s!

  • JByrne24

    ALL geometrical series have calculable sums to infinity and also to any point in the series.

    Malthus or/and you are using the term wrongly. You have posted nonsense in your above reply.

  • Acleron

    Of course, population density is not a measure of overpopulation without considering resources available. (Hint: There is a reason there are not many people living in the Sahara Desert)

    Wealth could solve the problem in Madagascar but not easily. 

    To bring the Malagasy up to UK standards in GDP, that being the comparison that the author made, would require an expenditure of $750 Billions per annum. This would be a minor expenditure while the infrastructure is installed. 

    The time for the installation of the infrastructure would be measured in decades.

    While all this is happening, the population will increase. An increase in population will exacerbate these problems, without free access to birth control the Malagasy future appears grim indeed.

    And this is for one small country, solving these problems for a continent will be magnitudes greater.

  • Recusant

    Really? Perhaps you could tell me the sum to infinity of 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + …

  • Acleron

    I like your aims but the actualite is a lot more mundane. The costs of getting to Mars precludes it for a destination to alleviate population pressure. For the costs to get to any of these exoplanets, just increase the costs by a few magnitudes. Add a few thousand years to get there as well, because ye cannae change the laws of physics.

    But over-population is never solved by emigration for two reasons.

    1) The populations suffering overpopulation are poor, they cannot afford to get any great distance.
    2) The reason for overpopulation, the birthrate, remains behind and simultaneously is exported.

  • Acleron

    becomes Christian watch out for fireworks of the kind that set Europe alight once.’

    Always did think you wanted the inquisition back.

  • theroadmaster

    But again, this projection of an overpopulated planet, is being undermined by current trends of populations in countries right across the globe, experiencing demographic declines.  As I have said, the global population will peak mid-century and then go downwards.  

    You mention Madagascar as an example of a country experiencing an unsustainable demographic growth.  But the reality is not as simple as citing the population stats for one country and using it to generalize.  In fact, the world picture is uneven, as shown by the following statistics for two countries at polar opposites, in terms of development.  
    Let us look at the case of the Congo,  which is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, possessing a very low per capita GDP of only $300. The Congo’s population density is only 75 people per square mile,which is relatively spacious. Compare this with the Netherlands, one of the wealthiest countries in the world with per capita GDP of $39,200. The Netherlands has a population density of 1,039 people per square mile. (these numbers come from the CIA World Factbook).My point that Science does have the technical knowhow to feed the world, is no Faith-based fairy-tale, as you would have it.  A well respected academic, Jon Foley from the university of Minnesota proposed 5 basic steps or changes in the global approach to food production, which could viably lead to a sustainable food supply for the world’s people by 2050.  The five recommended steps are:1) :improve crop yields, 2)consume less meat, 3)reduce food waste, 4)stop expanding into rainforests, and 5)use fertilizer and water more efficiently.   The recommendations here make good, sound ecological sense and do not advocate the usual predictable and sterile reversion to condoms or contraceptive pills, as the “population” lobby would advocate

  • theroadmaster

    Catholic schools do not undermine evolution or  teach that the story of Adam and Eve are literally true, as you would have it.  The late, great Blessed pope, John Paul 11 stated quite categorically that there is no necessary conflict between believing in a Divine Creator and holding evolution to be more than a theoretical possibility.  You are disingenuously trying to conflate the Catholic nuanced approach to scriptural interpretation with fundamentalist creationism.   .  
    Original sin is a doctrine that describes the sinful potential that resides in each human, but which can be overcome by Divine Grace, as believed in the Catholic Faith.  We are imperfect creatures, who innately have the capacity for doing either great good or horrific evil, as evidenced in the story of humankind over thousands of years of development.
    Your “slip” is clearly showing, when it comes to your obvious animus here towards Faith schools, and Faith in general.  You keep making your ungrounded assertions, against the reality of the well documented benefits, that communities derive from Religious schooling, in a social, moral and intellectual sense, right across the globe.

  • Acleron

    You wouldn’t even need those 5.

    Improve transport and storage would suffice.

    It is not in doubt that enough food is produced world wide to feed everyone. It was the same 50 years ago, but people still died of starvation as they do now.

    There was not the will to solve the problem in terms of food supply then and there isn’t now.

    Population will increase until it hits the barriers and then will collapse.

    The population will then decrease to affordable levels at least for a time. The question is do those who can do something about it allow it to happen catastrophically or can we attempt to slow population growth before those barriers are reached.

    The catholic church’s aim is to allow the catastrophe, others want to slow population growth to at least try to avoid it.

  • theroadmaster

    Falling birth rates lead also to demographic winters with poor expectation of a demographic spring, as clearly evidenced across Western nations.  European countries have to call on huge pools of immigrant labour to fill in the huge employment gaps, that are opening up due to average family sizes coming down below fertility replacement levels.  Also there are time-bombs that will explode in the near future, with reference to national health and social services that will be crippled by the demands on their services by the burgeoning greying populations in generations to come, with lesser numbers of younger people taking over from them in unemployment etc.  Also widespread use of contraception has increased abortion levels sharply and come with other negative consequences, such as rising divorce rates, STDs,  teenage pregnancies.  The Pill is a two-edged sword, if there ever was one, and that assessment is putting it kindly..   

  • theroadmaster

    One million people died in Ireland during the 19th C because of a potato blight and the terrible consequences of thousands of tonnes of foodstuffs being shipped out of Irish ports by landlords and British government administrators.  Overpopulation was not the direct cause of that catastrophe but rather the consequences of a diseased potato harvest, laissez-faire economics and poor distribution of natural resources.  So it is quite erroneous to make doomsday predictions based on certain mathematical population growth models.  

    In relation to your distortion that the Church is callously waiting on some global catastrophe, the reality is rather different, if you care to read official Church pronouncements on global ecological sustainability and diversity.   The emphasis is on socio-economic development that respects the environmental integrity of the earth as against the deficient and shortsighted policies advocated  by certain population control groups, in terms of contraceptive pills etc.

  • TreenonPoet

     In your version of Catholicism, what is the significance of ‘original’ in ‘original sin’? If Catholics venerate the Old Testament as true word of a perfect God, how perfectly clear does He make the meaning of the story of Adam and Eve?

    Can you give an example of one ungrounded assertion I make about benefits that communities derive from religious schooling?

  • Benedict Carter

    A good friend of mine in my Moscow days was the President of the Parish Committee, the Burundian Ambassador. 

    I once asked him after Mass what were the causes of Africa’s problems. While I was talking to him, we were approached by a diplomat from the Nigerian Embassy and by one from the Kenyan Embassy, who joined in the conversation.

    The reasons given by all of them:

    a)  Rampant immorality, the battle against which the Church is winning only very slowly;
    b)  The prevalence of witchcraft, black magic and Satanism (= paganism);
    c)  The fact that independence came 50 years too early;
    d)  Tribalism and its effects, notably the appalling mismanagement and greed of the ruling class (usually based on one tribe to the detriment of the others).

    I work and live now in Kenya. I have seen the destructive effects of tribalism with my own eyes and the corruption and venality of the ruling class, which is mirrored in every African country. 

    “Population” didn’t figure in the conversation at all. Period. It is just a figment of the western secular-liberal “elite” who want to force abortion down everyone’s throats. 

    Abortion is the end game: what a victory for the devil, to see human beings actively murdering their young in the womb! 

  • LocutusOP

     How exactly do  you define “sustainable”?

    How exactly does insistence that truth is objective “hamper efforts to improve morality”?

    How would “the intrusions of notions of the supernatural” hamper such efforts?

  • TreenonPoet

     “How exactly do  you define ‘sustainable’?

    The figure for sustainable population that I quoted represents a current upper limit – the maximum that can be sustained with an acceptable standard of living for as long as the relevant conditions apply. The link I attached to the figure points to data presented by the charity Population Matters. They give a good explanation of sustainability here.

    How exactly does insistence that truth is objective “hamper efforts to improve morality”?

    It doesn’t.

    How would “the intrusions of notions of the supernatural” hamper such efforts?

    The supernatural, by definition, does not exist. Moral decisions should be based on as many relevant factors as possible. The supposed thoughts of an imaginary deity are never relevant. One would not abandon a man to the quicksand because it was the Sabbath. (This is not the same thing as asking oneself “What would Jesus do?”.)

  • Benedict Carter

    “The supernatural, by definition, does not exist.”

    hahaha!!! Whose definition? Yours?

  • JByrne24

    Oh dear, I’m so sorry. I must have been only thinking of series with a common ratio <1.

    Once again sorry, and sincere apologies.

  • theroadmaster

    “Original sin” , if properly understood, is the fallible nature of the human condition that we all inherit in regards to following our own selfish desires at times rather than the good.  God sent His only Son into our world to redeem it by his life, death and Resurrection and to overcome the darkness of sin and death..

    Adam and Eve is largely understood in the Catholic tradition as an allegory explaining God placing man and woman at the heart of His Creation and their consequent rebellion.  It is not taken as a literal event, unlike the approach of  certain bible-based fundamentalist groups You stated that they were “divisive” and yet I pointed out to you the impressive cosmopolitan mixture of pupils they attract from people from different ethnic/religious and non-religious backgrounds.  In some areas in northern England, Catholic schools have up to 30% of their intake from pupils from a Muslim background.

  • jamie

    You are quick to dismiss the religious viewpoint for the
    origin of the universe but do not provide your own explanation. You probably
    accept that the universe started at the Big Bang – but if so, what caused the
    Big Bang to happen? If matter was created at the Big Bang, surely this defies
    the principle of the conservation of energy? If you believe the universe did
    not have an origin and thus has existed forever, then according to the second
    law of thermodynamics the total entropy of the universe should be 0 and nothing
    should be able to occur? Please provide your own explanations when poorly
    dismissing the beliefs of others.

  • TreenonPoet

     From Wiktionary…


    Above nature; that which is beyond or added to nature


    The summary of everything that has to do with biological, chemical and physical states and events in the physical universe.


    empirical reality; the substance of the physical universe

    How could something of which we know nothing have any weight whatsoever in the process of determining morality?

  • TreenonPoet

     I don’t claim to know how the universe started, but I do know that, in the absence of any supporting evidence, any one of the infinite number of possible made-up explanations has an infinitesimal chance of being the right one. Therefore one should not behave as if one of those explanations was true, and certainly one should not teach children that it is true. As I understand it, the ‘Big Bang’ model does have some supporting evidence. To ask what caused the Big Bang is to assume a cause, but given that we observe most events to have causes, it is not a bad reason to be suspicious, and one would not need to have an alternative explanation ready before one could legitimately raise that objection.

    As it happens, you don’t have an alternative explanation. To say “God did it” does not really explain anything – it provides no useful information (and is open to the ‘what caused God’ objection).

    So, taking your example, if someone says that God created the universe, I would like to know how they know. What action can they take (at least in theory) to check that what they have been told, or read in a book, is true? The Big Bang model makes predictions that can be tested (and if the model is proven faulty, then that is an advance in our knowledge, not a reason to persecute the person responsible).

  • TreenonPoet

     You don’t answer my question about the word ‘original’. Selfishness and altruism is observed in non-human animals and there is every reason to suppose that they have always existed in man. Defining ‘original sin’ to be nothing to do with anything original does not explain why it is called ‘original sin’. Actually, we both know why it’s called ‘original sin’, don’t we?

    The existence of such differing, but firmly held, views on what the story of Adam and Eve means indicates that it is either literally true or its meaning is rather obscure and hardly the word of a perfect God. Reinforcing this, the version that you say is largely understood in the Catholic tradition is quite some distance from the literal interpretation. If such liberties are taken with scripture, who is to say that Cardinal Pell is wrong? If Genesis is talking about mankind and womankind, why create confusion by naming them Adam and Eve (rather than give at least a strong hint that man evolved, likewise that the Earth is not flat, etc.)?

    Yes, I have claimed in another thread that religious schools are divisive. In that thread, I gave examples, so my assertions were not ungrounded as you claim. I ignored your objection that the Troubles preceded schools in Northern Ireland because it was surrounded by straw men, but I would ask you in what way does separating Protestants from Catholics in schools promote integration? Perhaps the Catholic schools you mention with a large intake of children from Moslem families are less divisive. Were the pupils of those schools also encouraged to sign the petition in that divisive action against homosexuals?

  • Marcus Stewart

    No, it’s both.

  • Jamie

    Your answer is confused and does not address the points I
    raised. My argument is that the universe either had a beginning or did not have
    a beginning (i.e. has existed forever). If it had a beginning then
    matter/energy was created from nothing which would contravene the principle of
    the conservation of energy, if it has existed forever then total entropy should
    be 0 and so no change should be able to occur. Thus, the only 2 possible
    histories of the universe contravene the laws of science. It thus seems logical
    that the universe was created by something capable of breaking the laws of
    science. You raised the “‘what caused God’ objection” i.e. what caused the
    thing that created the universe to come into being. The only way this paradox
    can be solved is for the thing that created the universe to also possess the
    property of not having been created i.e. to have existed forever. This line of
    logic (which only requires the principle of the conservation of energy and the
    second law of thermodynamics to be correct in order for it to be true)
    therefore requires the universe to have been created by something capable of
    breaking the laws of science and which has existed forever – which sounds a lot
    like a God to me. Of course all the evidence suggests that the event known as
    the Big Bang occurred – the question is what caused it to happen, and it would
    be in keeping with the preceding line of thought that the Big Bang was the
    event in which God created the Universe. Thus, when you say “As it happens, you
    don’t have an alternative explanation”, I clearly do. Furthermore, this
    statement suggests that you have an explanation – which, considering your
    inability to explain why the Big Bang occurred, you clearly do not. You then
    proceed to obfuscate the issue by saying that for the above line of logic to be
    true, one must be able to perform an action to verify it – but, as you can read
    from the above, my argument is a clear logical argument that only requires the
    principle of the conservation of energy and the second law of thermodynamics to
    be true in order for it to be correct. Thus, to disprove my argument, you must
    either disprove these 2 scientific principles of state which of the above
    chains in my argument is incorrect. If you are able to do so, I am all ears.

  • LocutusOP

     We shouldn’t romanticise colonisation. It’e easy to forget what a beastly arrangement this was, much worse than communism, and much more de-humanising.

    It would obviously have been better if Africa had never been colonised, and many of the problems now are a result of the artificial states that were created at independence – tribalism and land issues being the most prominent. How to solve these issues will be the great challenge of Africans for a long time to come, but one thing is clear, and that is that foreign anti-population solutions are not the answer.

  • LocutusOP

    Kenya currently has a population about twice that, and people seem to be surviving reasonably well.

    But maybe that does not meet your “acceptable standard of living” – in which case I’d ask you to define what you would mean by that. 

    How would we solve the ‘problem’ of people who don’t have said “acceptable standard of living”?

  • TreenonPoet

     In your ‘explanation’ you invoke God. You could equally have invoked the devil. Perhaps you wish to generalise to invoke an intelligent being, but since, in your explanation, the laws of science do not apply, why not some unintelligent process that inevitably resulted in the creation of the universe? The reason is that you have been told, or read, that God created the universe, but how do you know or how could you possibly find out? What merit does your explanation have above all the other possble explanations such as those I have just mentioned? How is it any better than saying “We don’t know what, if anything, created the universe”? We are no further forward, which is why I said that you don’t really explain anything.

  • LocutusOP

    With good help from their European counterparts – you forgot to add. You know, the same people who are making Europe insolvent.

    Your conclusion is far too simple-minded. Granted, most governments haven’t been of the highest quality – but that could also be said of Europe.  would argue that the lack of social cohesion and a common vision is the biggest problem in most African countries – most of which are artificial states and not nations, as a result of borders which were drawn without regard to socio–cultural-historical factors.

  • Jamie

    glad you agree with my argument then that the ‘thing’, ‘process’, ‘force’ etc
    that created the universe is capable both of breaking the laws of science and
    has existed forever (I did not say that the laws of science do not apply,
    merely that they have not always applied or the universe could not have come
    into existence). My argument does not inexorably prove that that ‘thing’ is
    intelligent or even benevolent. However, common sense would suggest that if
    that ‘thing’, ‘process’ etc is powerful enough to create the entire universe,
    it is also capable of intelligent thought – indeed, it would seem incredibly
    improbable that a ‘thing’ capable of breaking the laws of science and that has
    existed forever is not capable of even logical reasoning whilst human beings
    derived from the evolutionary assemblage of a finite number of particles over a
    relatively short geological timespan are. Neither does my argument prove that
    the ‘thing’ is benevolent – but common sense would suggest that to create a
    universe (and thus, by implication, the conditions in which life arose) is
    itself a benevolent act. It would also seem probable that the ‘thing’ which
    created the universe would contact mankind throughout its history to steer its
    creation – which common sense would suggest would be in the form of the various
    religions that exist in the world. It is then a matter of which religion you
    believe to be more likely and whether you believe what that ‘thing’ has told
    mankind in the form of religion – which is a matter of personal faith. As you
    say, it is probably impossible to ‘prove’ this using the scientific method of
    observation and analysis – but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    And it is highly hypocritical for you to dismiss my argument by saying that I
    invoke God when you yourself offer absolutely no alternative explanation (the
    Big Bang was an event that could be consistent with both theism and atheism and
    so clearly does not constitute an alternative explanation) and thus, by
    implication, are blindly invoking some unknown scientific process that you have
    absolutely no idea about and no evidence for.

  • TreenonPoet

    The question is for how long can people in Kenya continue to survive reasonably well.

    Of course, people will disagree about what is an acceptable standard of living. There are obvious minima, such as those necessary to ensure that a population does not die out. I would argue that one should aim above a standard that makes life worth living, but it seems to me that some Catholics think it is better to suffer. The criteria that Population Matters use to determine the 20.2M figure are stated in the page I linked to explaining sustainability.

    Science helps improve the standard of living, but over-population does, or will at some time, make it worse. Given that there is a limit to population level, why not try to set that limit at a level at which people live comfortable lives, rather than one at which people are on the threshold of starvation?

  • TreenonPoet

     Do not put words into my mouth. I do NOT agree with you regarding the laws of science etc. I was merely trying to illustrate the consequences of your arguments.

    The theory of evolution by natural selection describes a non-intelligent mechanism that explains something that so-called ‘common sense’ might attribute to intelligence. ‘Common’ sense can be rather an impediment when considering things outside our everyday observations.

    I have already explained why I do not have to come up with my own ‘explanation’ for the beginning of the universe, so don’t call me a hypocrite.