For the last half of my life, I have read about forecasts of robots eliminating millions of jobs. With the recent advent of AI or Artificial Intelligence those predictions have attained a distinct reality. They seem to be threatening several different professions. With the recent strikes by Hollywood screen writers and actors, the American public has gotten a keen look of what the future may bode for all of us.
On a broader level, it becomes apparent that the situation is far more serious. All people are in AI’s crosshairs. This inevitably will cause another periodic appearance of the thinking of Thomas Malthus. He was an early 19th century Anglican clergyman, who professed a new philosophy, called Malthusianism. Malthus opined that the power of population was indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.
His philosophy rested on the thesis that population increase was exponential while agriculture increase was linear. This situation resulted in a decline in living standards, which invariably led to a reduction in population. This has often been called the Malthusian trap. He proposed a number of natural means for easing the burdens of the mass population increase he witnessed in England’s major cities. He advised couples to delay marriage and knew that plagues, famines and pestilence would naturally reduce birth rates.
Wars can be added to the list of population reduction. They have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. There seems to be a killer instinct buried very deeply in the human heart. With the overt decline of traditional morality, such as the 10 Commandments, for some that primitive urge of violence festers just below their surface. Population pressures increase the need for Lebensraum, which cause national tensions that often lead to war. Wars have claimed well over 200 million lives in the last century and a half alone.
Technology has been a serious contributor to the magnitude of these fatalities. The dawning of the nuclear age in 1945 saw the bright and sudden extinction of over 150,000 people almost in the blink of an eye. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in the hands of ruthless dictators in North Korea, China and Russia, the nuclear threat is a constant given in this century.
Later visionaries include Neo-Malthusian Paul Ehrlich whose 1967 book, The Population Bomb, helped put cultural changes about human life in motion. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who was a French oceanographer and nascent environmentalist, chimed in on the population bomb in 1992, at a conference where it was predicted the world’s population would triple in the next 80 years. The elderly Cousteau, who died in 1997, once said the planet could only support roughly 850,000,000 people when there were nearly six billion then. He warned that people will live like rats. Cousteau called for radical solutions to solve the world’s huge population problems.
When Climate Change is thrown into the equation, it becomes clear why the Left is so insistent on making cultural changes in traditional views toward human life. Climate Change rests on two fallible principles. Carbon footprints are responsible. This is a metaphor for all humans who inhabit the earth. And there are far too many people on this planet. World governments must muster all the resources they have to limit world populations.
The Catholic Church has taken a more philosophical and theological position on human life. Many Church leaders evoke the idea that all human life is sacred. If this is absolutely true, the vast majority of the world’s people have not read the memo. Sometimes, I think the Church idealizes too often. I believe all things created by God have a certain divine aura but thanks to man’s free will, compounded by his flawed human nature, the issue becomes more complex. A good reading of history is proof enough that evil has lurked in the hearts of millions, who did not act as if their lives or those of others were sacred. Darwinism, which reduced mankind to a class of upright animals, holds some responsibility for this.
Jesus promised that we must lose our lives before we can have life. This can be understood on two levels. On a moral level we must all die to sin, that is our inordinate passions, tendencies to do evil and the like. The other death is the one that makes the obituary section of the local newspaper. Jesus died for our sins. For us to see the Face of God in Heaven, we must physically cease to exist in our bodies…for the time being at least.
This is the sober reality of human life. Most people do not want to think or even talk about death or dying. Others are obsessed or even scared to death of it. It was comedian, Woody Allen, who once quipped that he did not mind dying, he just did not want to be there when it happened.
Disease is the most common form of death. Every year thousands perish in all kinds of accidents. Driving or riding in an automobile are the most common kind of mishap. Often alcohol plays a deadly role. Thousands take their own lives each year while several hundred thousand unborn babies perish at the hands of abortionists.
Assisted suicide is a form of encouraged euthanasia, directed at the elderly, the infirmed, the mentally ill and the handicapped, especially those children suffering from Downs Syndrome. There are so many people out there that are encouraging others to take their own lives that our society has been called a Culture of Death. Population control or its code word, sustainability, tends to eliminate by whatever means necessary, all those who are considered less valuable for society. This was the idea behind Adolph Hitler’s elimination of life unworthy of life.
Catholic leaders have been somewhat irresolute since the late Cardinal Bernardin’s Seamless Garment was adopted by many of its leaders. By lumping abortion and euthanasia with social justice issues, such as higher wages, better working conditions, equality, equity and planet preservation, many Catholic politicians have said that while they were not very good on abortion, they had great social justice and death penalty repeal credentials.
The official pro-life movement, which I have supported faithfully for over 35 years, seems to have accommodated Church liberals with their near-universal adoption of the slogan, life is sacred from conception to natural death. I have argued for years that one very important word is missing from this definition and that is innocent. This should then read innocent life is sacred from conception to natural death.
My ethics book in college, said the Fifth Commandment* Thou shalt not kill had three exceptions, namely a just war, self-defense and the death penalty. It was St. John Paul II who condemned the death penalty in the same breath as he did abortion in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. In his Gospel of Life, the pope wrote that he did not think the death penalty was needed for self-defense of society anymore because other means were in place to make it needless. He made no effort to explain the reasons behind his conclusion.
I remember vividly when the pontiff came to visit St. Louis in 1998. It was quite an experience viewing him from afar as he said Mass in front of several thousands in the Edward D. Jones domed football stadium. Just before, he had visited Mexico. During one of his homilies, he repeated his condemnation of capital punishment. I was concerned because it seemed to equate the death penalty with abortion. I expressed my frustrations to our pastor after the 11 o’clock Mass one Sunday saying something to the effect, I wish the pope had not said that. Our short-tempered pastor raised his voice and said Then why don’t you become pope!
The night before the pontiff’s Mass, I had attended a lecture by one of his aides, Helen Alvaré. She provided the gathering with a key insight to the pope’s understanding when she said that the pope just didn’t like to see anyone die. While this is a very Christian thought, it fails to consider the reality. Statistics prove the death penalty saves innocent lives. The years when the death penalty had been nationally outlawed, the murder rate went up. Roughly over 1500 per year additional innocent lives had been taken during the few years it had been outlawed. The execution of murderers can be a real deterrent if justly applied. I often wonder how many inmates are murdered by convicted killers.
On a similar note, the diocesan priest who organized the entire papal visit was well-known to our parish. He eventually became our pastor, replacing the aforementioned one who had died. I remember after a Mass he said at our church, during one of his visits that we should pray to end the intrinsically evil acts of abortion and the death penalty. I still wonder how the Catholic Church could have supported such an intrinsically evil policy for several centuries. I see the fingerprints of the Seamless Garment all over these stories.
This issue is also riven with a strange two-sided kind of irony. There is a slender thread that links both sides to their beliefs. Many on the Left, who support abortion, will rush to demonstrate for the lives of convicted murderers. Conversely, many who march for the life of the unborn, feel no great sympathy for those on death row. Many will pray for their souls but believe justice must be served for their innocent victims. The Left seems to focus on murderers of babies in the womb as well as those who murder victims on the street or in their private homes.
If all life is truly sacred from conception through natural death is the immutable standard, it raises some serious questions about just wars, self-defense and the actions of our police officers in the line of duty. If taken at face value, it would make it mandatory for all Catholics to be pacifists. It would mean that millions of soldiers, especially those on the front lines, would be sinning by killing enemy soldiers in battle. It would also mean that police officers or ordinary citizens could not use lethal force to defend themselves when attacked.
One does not have to have much of an imagination to realize what a dystopian society, these absolutes would cause. If all Catholics followed this, the country would be easily overrun and the churches would be closed. All Christians would be at the mercy of dictatorships around the world. We need only look back to the violent summer of 2020, perpetrated by Black Lives Matters that resulted in over 30 fatalities and the near destruction of downtown Seattle and Portland. These can be hard truths to accept but reality always prevails. It has to be at the core of one’s faith in God, not pious sentiments that chafe the soul with an unreality.
On the other side of the coin, Catholics must understand that there is something else going on in our rapidly changing culture. It can be described as an assault on the Catholic presence in the mainstream of American mores. I remember candidate Obama promising the American people that he came, not just to change America but transform it.
With the Sexual Revolution that started in the 60’s, acting as a vanguard, America has undergone a radical transformation away from the major principles of Western Civilization that were used as a primary guide to the way people should live. I am not ascribing all this to President Obama. But he did much to accelerate our acceptance of gay marriage, which paved the road down the slippery slope that has resulted in, not only the acceptance of rainbow culture, but also the federal promotion of it from everything from obscene parades to gender affirming surgeries on our young. Slogans such as We’re queer and we’re here, and We are coming for your children ring true when parents see Drag Queens cavorting in front of crowds of young children.
What we are witnessing is the collusion of the Woke nations to limit population growth. For generations, the Chinese forced couples with one child to abort all subsequent pregnancies. Most Western nations with secular governments have legalized abortion. The Transgendered are literally sterilized when they agree to gender-altering surgeries, often without parental knowledge or consent. Many women and men are deliberately choosing to be sterilized for the good of the planet. Population control is the slender thread that controls these movements.
More than a third of the 50 Nobel laureates, surveyed in a 2017 study, concluded that population rise/environmental degradation as the biggest threat to humankind, more than nuclear war. The culprit in much of this has been modern technology, better nutrition, personal hygiene and a medical science that has increased longevity by at least 25% since 1950.
As a result, young people, such as long-time activist Greta Thunberg, now 20, have been traumatized by their fear that the world may be ending in a matter of years. I have seen few studies that explain just how much mental illness and violence may have been caused by this lingering and haunting fear. The idea of Zero Population Growth dates back to 1693. ZPG has worked so well that many European countries have population rates well below the replacement metric of 2.0 children and are in effect dying out as countries.
Scientists who predicted a global cooling in the 70s were dead wrong. Other than admit their mistakes, they dismissed it as a conspiracy theory and did the Fauci Two-step, to dance away from it. They have been just as wrong with global warming and changed it to the nebulous climate change. The fallacies, inherent in their attempts to play God and decide who lives and dies, is prime example of mankind’s eating the poisoned fruit of Eden.
*I have read that in the original Greek, it read ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’.