Monday 14 July 2008

Birth Control- All or Nothing

It is well known that the Catholic church disapproves of birth control.
It is less well known that Orthodox Jews, some Protestant groups and elements of Islam are in broad agreement.

It is also obvious that most of us disagree- even most Catholics, in private.
And yet birth control as it is currently practised, may be the most damaging long term phenomenon of our time.

We are using a social advance irresponsibly.
In fact, we are NOT practising birth control at all.

This post is going to enter uncomfortable ground. Uncomfortable ground, because we must come to terms with a shadow that hangs over much of twentieth century political debate.

I said before that one of the problems with Nazi Germany, is a blanket abhorrence of any idea that came to fruition in that society.
This is often called the 'reductio ad hitlerum'- the rejection of any idea, on the simple grounds that it was the advocated by the Nazis.

Well, the Nazis advocated a lot of things. And whilst many of them were plain wrong, we have tacitly adopted motorways, rockets, and a host of other Nazi ideas which actually turned out to be advances. Whatever else you say about them, they were advanced in terms of science. Often, in misusing it, but use it they did.

And one of the most worrying features is, how Nazism, by its misuse of science, killed stone dead, a very important socio-political point.

Planned birth control.

Shock horror.
Before you turn away in disgust thinking I'm justifying something appalling, let's look at what the Eugenics movement was saying, before the Nazis hi-jacked it, and turned into a plan to breed lots of Aryans and sterilise all Jews and black people.

Please remember Marcus Garvey supported Eugenics too.

Darwin's laws of evolution state that life is a battle to survive. Each human couple may produce eight-ten children. The population booms until resources die out. War, famine and disease take out those elements of the population on the whole less equipped with the necessary skills to survive such hardships.
In other words, simple existence is its own birth control. If you don't mind living in such a brutal world, then one thing you can be sure of, evolution happens.

Nature red in tooth and claw.

Up until last century, human culture had pretty much followed the ancient laws of survival of the fittest. On the whole the strongest, the handsomest, the cleverest, were more likely to pass on their genes than their less talented brethren.

But this happened because in poorer families, the majority of births didn't make it to adulthood.

Would I be here had I been born two hundred years ago? No. I'd have lived for a few minutes.
Nature would have consigned me to its waste basket.

On the whole therefore, it is probably true to say that during recorded history people have, on average got cleverer, stronger, more sensitive, better communicators, etc.

Now, modern science removes that.
We are able to create a world without war, famine and disease.

The disease, because we eradicate it, the other two because we are better able to control the circumstances that cause such situations.

The majority of children born CAN reach adulthood, and can themselves breed.

Now left to itself, the population would spiral out of control, and undoubtedly, though disease would still be less likely, war and famine would return to the equation.

So birth control, is undoubtedly a good thing.
To a degree...

People go on about the virtues of the nuclear family. I maintain it no longer accords with our social needs. It cannot work in a society which has discovered birth control.

Because here is the deal we offer.

Get a degree, get a good job, be two responsible people, with much to offer society, every child you have will eat up a large portion of your efforts for twenty years. Each one will cost you about £100,000.

Be completely useless, the state will deal with it.

Darwin's laws in reverse.

Because the very people who in nature would provide the largest share of the next generation, choose not to breed.
And those who, for the most part, would contribute least to the gene pool in nature- due to their elimination- now provide an ever increasing share of the human genetic stock.
Unpalatable, but undeniably true.

This isn't positive birth control. What we are doing is asking our brightest and best NOT to breed, so that the human population can be restocked by those who's genes wouldn't be being passed on if the competition really was as brutal as nature made it.

Now let's face it, birth control is a good thing. But it HAS changed society. In one sense, it has rendered obsolete old sexual taboos. I know some love to cherish them, but fact is, we just don't need them. Sex really CAN be just for fun. It need have nothing to with love or relationships- or reproduction.

The problem is, we still have STDs on a large scale- notably AIDS- and whilst that remains, it skews our thinking.
But expecting that ultimately ALL STDs will be a thing of the past, is not unreasonable.

And then, where does that leave birth control?

We can't use one bit of the knowledge we have, and not others.
We have taken away the survival of the fittest aspect of life. Now, everyone can survive to live long, happy lives.

So in that case, we need to always ensure that we plan that the size of the next generation, will fit expected human capacity to provide for such population.

And there are two responsibilities in my view, we need to bear in mind.

Firstly, we should never use our ability to restrict population growth, as an excuse for attempting equilibrium. Thankfully, I don't think that will happen, but the need to feed an ever increasing number of human mouths is a powerful incentive towards social and technological advance.
I can forsee in the future birth control allowing for substantial jumps in the size of the next generation it allows for, on the basis of advances such as say, the terraforming of Venus.

Secondly, if we are agreed that we are GOING to limit the birth rate by artificial means, we can't allow this to be random.
Natural selection decides who has sex. It doesn't decide which sex results in pregnancy. And right now the people having sex who would probably produce the most talented children, decide that their lives are better off without them, or with only a tiny number.

Again, this is another advantage of communal living. Reverse the deal. Allow the best to breed by society taking over the responsibility for bringing up the children it wants to see born.
It's not much of a step- we're moving there anyway. The point is to make it so that no one feels that having a child is a burden- but that everyone understands that bringing children into the world is a big thing.

Ultimately, the test of nature has been removed as to who survives and breeds, and what we have in its place is a system which basically says; if you're responsible, don't breed, or not too much, if you aren't, breed like rabbits.

Now that isn't sensible. But putting the genie back in the bottle will lead to Argeggedon.
So like it or not, one day we're going to have to sit down as a society and work out criteria for issuing licenses to breed.

That doesn't mean licenses to have sex- but licenses to produce children.
And to make that work effectively, there should be no disparity shown in the responsibilities of the parents of lawfully produced children towards their offspring- or the support offered by society as a whole.

Because by guaranteeing that every child born lives to breed, and by making sex without childbirth possible, we have nullified the laws of nature.
And we have to take responsibility for that.

It makes for a nicer world. A world without war, famine and disease.
And where sex can be something much more beautiful than just a breeding mechanism- it can be a carefree expression of affection, it can be an unfettered pleasure, it can be a powerful expression of love.

But we need to be responsible for what having these abilities means.

If we have cut the apron strings of nature- and we have- on something so fundamental as the reproductive process, then we need, as a species, to do the planning nature randomly did.

We need to take control of planning the species of the future.

Or the future will be Wayne and Waynetta Slob.


Anonymous said...

Well, you make a decent case - but I still think "licenses to breed" are a horrendous idea.

Anonymous said...

I have considered this on many an occasion as I read about generations of people on social assistance who often have large families, even with different fathers. While the educated people have a lower and lower birthrate. Is this going to affect our society in the long run? How can it not?

But there is also no acceptable method to society to change this situation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with both Ian_qt and JMB here. Generations of State dependant families are aplenty but I think a license to breed will not be legislated. Too many women spawning fatherless kids and not enough fathers directly involved.
Isn't a license to breed a form of birth control anyway?

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with what you say with regards people being cleverer etc. For example when you examine peoples writings from about two thousand years ago it seems that the only difference between them and us is time and technology. And a lack of knowledge of the world around them doesn't necessarily equate with a lack of cleverness. And if you look at sketches of people drawn ten thousand years ago you see the faces of people who look like your average Joe today.

However, the problem of a declining population is a big one, and the pill is a cause of that. There is such a fixation with sex just for the hell of it but devoid of any of the responsiblity that goes with it.
A lot of people waiting until later in life to have children, and then only one or two...if at all.

Anonymous said...

You have come over all Malthusian aint yer? The argument makes less sense when you think about the wider world where access to contraception is very limited and the average life expectancy at birth is still remarkably low. I mean Africa, Asia and most of the developing world.

Anonymous said...

'license to breed' is an utterly horrendous idea.

Your overall politic just involves removing one controlling faction for another.

We might be living in an increasingly big brother like society but as it stands no has a right over anyone else's fertility.

How would that be an improvement?

And just as an aside, Wayne and Waynetta might be slobs, but how do you know that their genes aren't superior to your own? Not every child born of Waynetta, is Waynetta.

Breeding shouldn't depend on your rank in society.

Anonymous said...

Ian- But how much of that is cultural conditioning?
I think it's an idea needs debating, because what we have now, isn't really advisable, ling term.

jmb- It's got to. And it shows up most in terms of educated women- a lot decide that being a mother just doesn't suit them.

In fact its not so much that the best FATHERS don't reproduce- its the best MOTHERS who decide not to.

The point is, as you say, about acceptability.
Its a demon we haven't yet faced.

Nunyaa- It is. That's the point. I am proposing systenatic birth control, not birth control skewed to fit a social system where the there is no incentive for the brightest to have children, but every incentive for the least willing to invest in children, to have many.

Ginro- I still believe we've evolved. Even if if a lot of that is cultural, it still must have some effects on the minds using that culture.
Look at language. If you look at Middle english, it is obvious that you are using a language that was SLOWER to speak. Language HAS speeded up and become more flexible, reflecting greater flexibility on the part of the user.

Because on the whole, the literate have lived and bred, the illiterate died in poverty.

Thing is, you can't reverse the introduction of the pill. it's here. People ARE going to have sex for the hell of it, and why not? It's a social advance.

But we have to deal with the consequences of that and actually incentivise the RIGHT people to have children.

Mutley- Which is why need to tackle the ptoblem.

As with everything, we DO need World Government first.

Then we can implement global solutions to global problems.

Bunny- No, because there would be no controlling factions in my world, remember? :)

The licenses to breed, like e3verything, would be issed by executives elected by the people- composed of scientists the people could sack.

So ultimately, the people would decide who the people wanted to breed.

Again, we are talking about in a rank-free society.
But tests could be applied. It could simply be said 'we don't want people reproducing who have these genes'.

Quite soon, we'll be able to do that.

Anonymous said...

You're the one that calls your blog "Crushed By Ingsoc"!

What are licenses to breed (presumably issued by the state) but one of the ultimate manifestations of state control over the individual? This is real Big Brother stuff, more so than CCTV cameras and DNA Databases.

Anonymous said...

I've got to agree with ian_qt here.

You cannot have it all ways, it is either a free society run by the people or it's not.

And you cannot have a free society run by the people, if such sanctions are placed upon breeding. You impose societal rank when you impose licenses upon those who are 'good' enough to breed.

If you are to let nature truly resume its' course, you can't do that.

Anonymous said...

Yes English has evolved, and that's one of the beauty's of our language - it's constantly evolving to make it easier to use and always has done. But I don't necessarily think that applies to all languages. And when you read ancient texts, you find the same or similar, hopes, fears, aspirations, worries, loneliness, horror...very much as people are today no matter how far back we go.

When I think about populations, in the western world only not the poorer nations, there seems to be a trend. People on council estates etc., seem to stay in the same place and marry within their communities. This restricts the gene pool. The same can probably be saqid for those in the upper classes, in that they mix and marry amongst those of their own class. Again the gene pool gets restricted. Those jokes about inbreeding do have a basis, lol. But the middle classes are the ones that move around a lot, mix a great deal (genetically as well as socially), tend to be well educated and as a result are more socially aware. And that can be the problem. They wait until they are older to have children, and then only have a few. They're more aware of the burdens large families place on the country, again this might well affect their decision with regard family size. Do you see where I'm coming from? So I agree in some part with your observations.

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of a license to breed, there should be a lottery, like people picked out at random, just to make it fair.

Did you mean that the state would be responsible to provide funds for the raising of children, or did you mean they would be responsible for the actual raising. To get even close to the kind of world you propose, we'd need a World Government. But how would that work? You talk about the even distribution of power, but people, particularly the people in power, would not relinquish power. Therefore, once a World Government is established, you'd end up with A Brave New World scenario, particularly if you are leaving your children in the hands of the state.

Anonymous said...

Crushed I guess you make some good observations/points, but then you come over (dare I say it) all big brother with. Eeeew! licences to breed!

It does worry me that you often say you don’t trust the state/politicians yet many of your suggested solutions involve increasing their already overblown power over us to totalitarian proportions. Now you want them to give us permission to breed!

Doesn’t it occur to you that the welfare state, that you effectively highlight as the ‘problem’ in the UK is not universal? Yes, maybe the UK should get a ‘Darwin Award’ for coming up with it in it’s present form, but It makes little impact in say Brazil.

Also it is not a new law of nature, by simply removing, or modifying it, you could reduce or remove the problems that you highlighted. …and while you are at it how many are more social than due to breeding?

There should really be no problem in the long run. Once people can tweak their children’s genes they will surely naturally want bright good looking kids, free of the potential for inherited disease, resistance to skin cancer... The problem will be convincing them not to go too far, or only having boys, or something, or getting fashionable about it.

And maybe deciding what “too far” is and who gets to decide that too?

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with this has always been the assumption of fitness. After all, in the past, eugenics decisions were made on the part of economic status, class, and race, three things that really don't determine such things as strength, intelligence, resistance to disease, etc..

I think that's the fundamental difference between eugenics and Planned Parenthood, or any other movement that has taken a look at the exponential growth in human population. As a matter of practicality, one can look at this the easy way, or the hard way. The hard way is to do nothing, and continually compete for resources until we kill a good number of ourselves off--which of course will create many cultural and psycho-sociological problems down the road. The easier way is to slowly take steps to reduce the world's population and keep it at a manageable level.

But here's the rub: reproduction is the purpose of all organisms, whether they commit to behavior that produces offspring or not. It would be naive of us to think that a global effort toward birth control might not be used to keep certain segments of society at a disadvantage, and others at an advantage.

This was the true workings of eugenics: a means for extending hegemony.

Anonymous said...

Ian- Yes, but this is where a lot of people MISUNDERSTAND much of what I'm saying.

The central point of Marxist theory is that it envisions a state of technological development is advanced enough interms of communication to dispense with a power structure (a state) and have a true democracy- due to technological ability to make instant decisions democratically.

We now have that, hence the Marxist dream 'the withering of the state' is possible.

So dystopia becomes utopia.

It is not STATE control over the individual, but COLLECTIVE control over the individual. and that's a big difference.

Bunny- rank is only imposed in a negative way, if imposed from above, like an aristocracy. If the people themselves- all of them- make the decision, then the people themselves consent to deciding WHICH genes they want passed on.

Ginro- I would agree to some extent, but there is certain amount of evidence to suggest that certain of our senses are somewhat better than once they were.

I doubt our basic emotions have changed too much in two thousand years, but other skills, possibly.

As regards the general birth trends, your points are correct, I just thought I'd add a phenomenon I have observed, which is the high proportion of my uni friends who left a little something behind in the towon we went to uni in.

I can't help feeling that local girls deliberately getting pregnant off students, has a certain Darwininan logic. It suits them not to have a father around, but at least there's a good chance they'll have a bright child.

Inbreeding is a problem generally, even now. People are a little shocked when I say things like mixed race childfren should get bigger benefits, but in essence, yes, I think this was the failing of eugenics in the past, it sought to breedd into 'pure' strains, when in fact, we should be aiming for the opposite.

Vanessa- Yes, I do agree with world Government. But I also want to see the end to an apparatus of state.

There would be no people IN power, well there would, ALL of us.

We'd ALL be the legislature. Direct democracy.

Moggs- Part of your points, I have addressed above, but you make interesting points about what we choose to 'breed out'. Some things, I think we can and morever should.

We know what the gene is to pass on haemophilia, we know its pretty much always passed on, so we shouldn't allow it to be.

But be the same token, we really need to establish objective criteria- inclusive, not exclusive.

After al, we don't want people deciding that the gay gene must go, We need to have weighed up each gene and come to objective decisions on whether OVERALL it is piositive or negative. As yet, I'm not sure we can do that.

X-dell- The problem is how it WAS used. In the past, it was used to justify wrong assumptions.
But we forget, the science used then, actually stated that white people were superior and that being gay was a deviancy.

We know better now. But I think we'll always agree that schizphrenics are undesirable, in reproductive terms.

Myself, I would think the sensible option is to commit the species to perpetual territorial expansion- as in finding new homes for mankind, and allowing for controlled growth of the species to fit in with that.

The potential for abuse of eugenics IS huge, I don't deny it.
But I don't see how we can avoid it.

So to me, the question isn't IF, but HOW.

Anonymous said...

Well I am not accepting collective control of me! Will I be put up against a wall?

Anonymous said...

@mutleythedog: Well, we all accept collective control of us (in that we live in a state, with an elected Government). But, on this issue, I agree with you.