Some time back, I realized that no matter how much I read and talked, I would never be quite certain whether Ehrlich or Simon is right-whether population is an appalling dilemma or nothing to worry about.

I came to this conclusion when reading a statement form a group of eminent scientists alerting the world to the dire nature of population growth. One Nobel world to the dire nature of population growth. One Nobel prize-winning physicist spoke fiercely on the subject. I asked myself, how does he know? Does his study of subatomic particles give him competence to judge the hundreds of ecological studies that are published every year, the computer analyses of economic growth? Even a scientist who is expert in one of the many fields touching population growth probably only knows firsthand the very narrow area of his expertise- say, soil erosion in a district of Kenya.

When I've probed why such people believe population is a fundamental problem, they usually come back to the same basic belief or world-view that started Malthus in the first place. If one million people have a problem, two million people will have twice as much of the problem, and ten million people may have ten or even a hundred times as much of the problem. That is common sense. By some markers, though—food production and resource scarcity-common sense has been incorrect.

I concluded that philosophical assumptions or "intuitions" have shaped the debate about population at least as much as scientific data have. For this reason, and because decisions about children are so sensitive, it is important for Christian theology to join the fray. Theology does not enable us to settle the argument between Ehrlich and Simon. Nowhere in the Bible does it say how many people ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.