Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Awhile ago I blogged about Russia's population crisis and the bizarre holiday that resulted from this problem. I wrote at the time that I was skeptical the holiday would have any effect because I saw the problem as "a fundamental lack of hope in society and an unchecked march toward cultural suicide."

Apparently, I was seeing the glass as simply half empty while others see this attitude as portending great hope for our planet. Silly me.

Even though I profoundly disagree with these folks' assessment of our situation here on planet earth, I found their ideas interesting to read about. Honestly, though, I have much more respect for the second couple than the first. The first couple strikes me as hypocrites and probably dishonest, while the second couple strikes me as much more sincere and consistent in applying their philosophy.

Reading this article again raised the question for me of why Russia is implementing these featured couple's ideal demographic situation on a nation-wide scale? Personally, I doubt the average Muscovite is truly out to save the planet. Here is my list of possible causes.
1) Saving the planet
2) Improving one's standard of living
3) Not seeing children as worth the hassle
4) Not being confident of one's ability to provide
5) Not seeing hope for the future and not wanting to bring a child into a hopeless world.
6) Your idea.

What am I missing? Are there other reasons that you can think of? Which reason/combination of reasons do you think is driving the drop in fertility in A) Russia and/or B) Western society? Honestly, I have a tough time imagining what would drive such societal trends, since I see children as the greatest joy/hope on earth and wouldn't mind having a whole passel of them. So, please, those of you closer to this pulse (or more able to imagine/envision what would drive it), clue me in. I just don't get it.


HT: Mission Territory who also has a great review up about the book "The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues"


Kevin said...


The two couples seem pretty similar to me, though the second couple does come across as a bit more diligent about their carbon footprint since the first rationalizes flying (and might avoid children in general). Neither appears to have adopted children which might eliminate the possibility of rationalization.

I don't think I understand their logic either. It seems to me that calling those who conscientiously choose to have children "selfish" approaches turnspeak. Having children is a significant personal sacrifice, and the calculus that "the planet" will be better off without their having children is exceedingly complex and nebulous, and presumably, to the extent that the child would have any discernible impact, it would most largely dependent upon who that child becomes and thus how that child is raised.

Along those lines, "Crystal, USA" made an insulting comment that nevertheless brings up an interesting question about the effect of birth rates on the rise and decline of cultures and ideologies: "I really think it's great - less nuts about to breed and spread their lunacy to children."

Regarding the AGW basis for their argument, I've recently been reading about the dispute over whether the IPCC represents scientific consensus and a study indicating that atmospheric warming trends do not exceed those of the surface, which significantly contradicts Greenhouse models. Of course, there's still the possibility of harmful Ocean Acidification due to excessive CO2.

I think there's a large mix of causes for the drop in the birth rate, including or informing those you mentioned. e.g. The role of children, family, and the government has changed. The process of growing up and growing old has changed. Attitudes toward marriage, sex, and abortion have changed.

Based reasonably upon statistics, a "better life" is commonly believed to involve greater education, financial advancement and stability, and waiting to have children (and even marriage) until everything in one's life is properly arranged.


Kevin said...


The "The Design Matrix" post on Mission Territory is also interesting. I'm thinking that it is not really possible to distinguish design from a random occurrence without actually detecting the designer, given that "random" and imperfect evolution is part of the design. e.g. it seems that (necessarily) under "foresight" they are actually considering hindsight.

Nevertheless, it is a minor curiosity that in analyzing "natural" complex systems it is clearly contrary to our goal to place God in the gaps of our knowledge, but that it is also fundamental to begin with the assumption that everything has a purpose (or a role), we just don't know what that is.

These topics have been on my mind recently since I'm just finishing up The Language of God by Francis S. Collins which gives a very brief overview of related matter. Thanks for sharing.