(Some population experts predict apocalyptic scenarios. Others argue that human ingenuity can meet the challenge. Deciding who is right has as much to do with faith as with facts.

The debate over world population growth once again is making headlines. Last month, delegates from around the world flocked to Cairo for the United Nations -sponsored International conference on Population and Development. The U.S. State Department has been actively promoting the event's agenda of "stabilizing" world population.

Christians have a vital stake in this debate since "population concerns" cover so many areas we care deeply about: the meaning of families and persons, the use of abortion, the role of women, and so on. Thanks to the generous funding of the Global Stewardship Initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, CT convened a gathering this past spring of scholars, church leaders, and international development specialists to address the issues. In addition, the Pew Charitable Trusts helped fund this special report by CT senior writer Tim Stafford, which allowed him not only to spend months researching the topic but to travel to some of the most densely populated areas of the world to see the problems close up. His report will allow Christians to develop informed opinions on a key issue of our times.)

In 1980, two prophets—secular, not biblical— made a $1,000 bet about the future of the world. For years they had been fulminating against each other, arguing through charts and statistics (and insults) that the other's views were sheer nonsense. With the bet, they put their ideas to the test. Julian Simon, an iconoclastic economist with the University of Maryland, was the optimist: he bet that the world would get better and better. ...

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