Stephen Kahn

Protecting the young

In Hard to tell on February 28, 2011 at 4:51 am

In my last post, I spoke about Australia from a position of great ignorance. This makes me unlike most of the people who post on the Internet who comment on all sorts of things. Why change now?

I also spoke about aborigines and perhaps the need for “wild human” sanctuaries for members of tribes such as the aborigines of Australia and Botswana.

For one thing, as Dr. Ilardi cautions in The Depression Cure, “modern” life leads to widespread depression. Aborigines, living a life closer to our prehistoric ancestors’ lifestyle, run many dangers, but moping with depression is perhaps less likely for them than for us.

However, I will also warn against over romanticizing them as “noble savages.” Human beings are fairly vicious and selfish creatures (though you, of course, may be different). Combined with our large brain, ability to talk, ability to run down prey, ability to grasp weapons, ability to hunt in packs, our innate viciousness and “killer instinct” help us out-compete the other creatures trying to survive, from viruses to tigers.

One of our widely held values (one I share) is that we should protect our young from sexual exploitation by older members of the species. Here is a big problem in this regard: we are “gened” to reproduce. We reproduce too enthusiastically. When we were very sparse in number, this trait helped us survive. We no longer need it. By my subjective evaluation, we overpopulate the world by a least a factor of 100, perhaps more.

When many humans were likely to die young, it made sense for us be sexually active and attractive from an early age. Much later than prehistoric times, in recorded European history, twelve (more or less the age of puberty) was often the age where a young woman could be married.

As Tropic of Cancer mentions, adult aborigines are often accused of sexually exploiting youngsters. The implication may be that this is one of the effects of civilization on people poorly suited for it. Another implication would be that they treat their youngsters better in a primitive life. I wonder.

Even if aboriginal tribes are allowed to survive as “primitive” peoples, this does not mean they will not engage in practices such as tribal warfare or sexual exploitation of children we “civilized” people will not find repugnant.

It’s always a difficult question: Do we want humanity to survive, whether “primitive” or “advanced?”

  1. Hi,
    i’m not one of your 3 or 4 key readers but merely a passer-by who arrived here through some form of virtual mix-up.

    Now that i am here though, i thought a little bit of discussion on the idea of primitive societies could hold off the dementia in both of us for just a little longer.

    The last Australian Aborigines recorded as living a completely isolated, nomad existence eventually ended up moving into the local settlement areas. This was a flow-on from the usual desert drought conditions and food scarcity but it was also a result of less obvious issues, such as the comparative comfort of a fenced enclosure versus a hostile environment, and the differing views of the world between the young and the old.

    i saw this myself one time, when living in a more remote area of Western Australia. There would be an influx of young people into the town around the times of the initiations – not everyone thinks traditions are grand and not all young are keen to remain in their own society when the view over the fence appears more attractive or less strict and demanding.

    Not sure how relevant my thoughts are to the theme of this particular post but i do hope that societies both ‘advanced’ and primitive can make it past the end of the century – even if only to provide aged care services to me and my kin.

  2. By my subjective evaluation, we overpopulate the world by a least a factor of 100, perhaps more.

    But by factual evaluation, the global population could fit in Texas, with each man, woman, and child having roughly 2.5 acres each. Granted, is not ideal, but the fact remains that population density is sometimes a problem, but overpopulation isn’t. Totalitarian regimes who squander their nations’ resources are a problem; overpopulation is not.

  3. Cameron,

    Thank you for visiting my new blog.

    This is an old argument I used to have with evangelical Christians when I was still permitted to visit [Perhaps you would like to lobby with the management there to permit my return; though in all honesty the chance of my being converted to Christianity is very small…]

    Also, now that you are here, you left an ambiguous comment about deleting old messages from my old blog. Do you still have a concern; you can email me at if so. Otherwise, I am forgetting about it.

    Anyway, I said “subjective” in my comment. Also, is there any way of evaluating what is the appropriate population the earth should support? Probably, I would not personally care to live in Kibera, for example, a notorious slum in Nairobi, Kenya:

    “Conditions in Kibera are extremely poor, and most of its residents lack access to basic services, including electricity and running water.”

    Water is probably the next oil as far as supplies peaking. We can walk to get along without oil, I suppose, and I suppose we can haul icebergs in for water, as they are conveniently breaking off from the ice caps because of the mythical global warming…

    I am 67 years old, disobedient to a certain preacher [hence I no longer post at his blog], and although I am in good health, I know the time will come when I cease to exist. Oh, dear…I am channeling my old blog, so I will stop here.

    But if you do have a way of telling me what is the “appropriate population” of the earth, I would be interested in hearing it. Anyway, congratulations on the birth, survival, and healthy development of your little girl!

    • I visit wmb only about once a year. You missed your window; I was just there to discuss Dr. Mike Adams from UNC(W).
      I don’t remember making any comment about deleted posts; I apologize that whatever I said was vague. If it pertains to something I’ve posted to your blog(s), you are, of course, free to do as you wish–mere commenters have only the rights extended to them by the blogger.
      I recognize that you said “subjective”. It was why I focused on the objective. I would have thought you would have preferred data over guesses. 🙂
      I don’t believe I used the term “appropriate population of the earth,” but I would imagine it would begin with God’s sovereignty and end with the fair and compassionate use of resources. However, while the former is sure, the latter is not. We are called to have dominion over the earth, not domination, but it rarely works out that way.
      Thank you for your kind words about Grace–we are thankful every day for her.

  4. But by factual evaluation, the global population could fit in Texas, with each man, woman, and child having roughly 2.5 acres each.

    From Wikipedia:

    The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and Choctaw nations among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory (eastern sections of the present-day state of Oklahoma). The phrase originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831.[2] Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while on route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee

    The Cherokee Nation today announced, in honor of the “Trail of Tears, that the entire non-native American population of the world will be moved to the state of Texas. Each person be placed on 2.5 acres of space, providing them with plenty of room. They will be provided with drills to allow them to dig for oil and water.

    Texas leads the nation in number of beef, which usually exceed 16 million head. Cotton is the leading crop and the state’s second-most-valuable farm product. Texas also leads in national production of grain sorghum, watermelons, cabbages, and spinach. Wheat, corn, and other grains are also important.


    Each person will be given a some sorghum seeds, some watermelon seeds, some cabbage seeds, some wheat, corn, and other grain seeds, so they can start growing their own food. Each person will be given a weapon and some ammunition to defend their Constitutional Rights (if they are American citizens); everyone else will have to apply for citizenship.

  5. I suspect that, in Aboriginal communities just as in all other human communities, problems like incest and abuse of minors are as much a product of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and despair as they are any form of culture, whether ‘advanced’ or ‘primitive’.

    And we are no more immune to such evils than are they, despite the fact that – on the face of it – we’re the conquerors, who have taken their land and destroyed their traditions, leaving them displaced and anchorless in a world which can be distressing and difficult enough even for those of us born into the privileged position of being white and middle class.

  6. Woo, my thought run along the same line. Our societies are full of criminals, insane people, alcoholics, child abusers, and so on, as you say a fairly substantial portion of those bred and raised to thrive in modern society.

    Probably in any original aboriginal society, there are a fair number who do not do well, but probably the failure rate among civilized people is much higher than the failure rate among “primitive” people in an untouched environment.

  7. Ah, you prefaced this article by claiming to speak about Australia from a position of ignorance in reference to your last article, Wild Human Sanctuaries…but I don’t think you were. You were speaking, not about the politcal aspects of the country, but about something more fundamental than that…human decency. You were right and it’s true that we have our priorities upside down – we treat wild animals with more dignity than our fellowmen. Having said that, it’s unfortunate that the idea of equity is just that, an ideal. There will always be someone who wants to rule the masses and someone who wants to control or crush the weaker.

    On the subject of overpopulation, who has the lofty office of telling the rest of us when too much is too much in regard to child births? I’m speaking of course, under the assumption that a democratic government takes its cue from the people. But democracy, that’s an ideal too.

    G.K.Chesterton has some great thoughts on the science of Eugenics..and while I know that Eugenics was not part of this discussion, it seems to correlate in that the authority for one human to impose restriction on another human’s basic rights is a hard sell, if anyone cares to reason about it.

    You may already know that Chesterton was a Christian, but if I can appreciate Christopher Hitchens’ love of truth and honesty, then perhaps you might appreciate Chesterton love of truth and reason.

    I hope you don’t mind this long comment. I enjoy reading some of your articles.

  8. Renee, I found the Chesterton article and I have read things by him a long time ago and found him an intelligent and interesting writer. It will take me a while to read through your blog and through the book you mention.

    My impression at the present moment is that there are two main religious movements in the world at the moment (with many “flavors”). One is toward tolerance, mercy, kindness, diversity. The other is toward fundamentalism, intolerance, selfishness, and anger. If you are familiar with the British writer and former nun, Karen Armstrong (author of HISTORY OF GOD) and many other works, she writes something along these lines.

    One of the great problems for tolerant people is how to react to intolerant people. “Be tolerant, or I will kill you or banish you,” somehow lacks a good feel to it, but I am not a pacifist and not a person who objects to self-defense. Anyway, I have reading to do, and again thanks for dropping in.

  9. My workplace has its own online chat forums. They actually encourage employee participation in these forums – the socializing aspect, they say, is conducive to a healthy work environment. I participated in several philosophy discussions with co-workers, many of whom I’ve never met personally. I noticed that most of the participants were part of the religion you call “tolerance”. It was obvious by the way they discussed – there was no concrete belief system, no firm theory on anything,and I realized that relativism was at the core of their religion.

    Tolerance can only bloom where truth is relative. But truth, as I hope you will agree, doesn’t have a single flexible bone in its body. Truth is something that stands the test of history, reason and science. While in this philosophy forum, I had to relearn a way of discoursing. These were people who maintained that they were tolerant, ‘cept when a name like Jesus Christ was mentioned. I understand. There’s a lot of baggage in history that comes with His name. So then, so long as I never mentioned my beliefs specifically and in concrete terms, I had smooth sailing in these discusssions.

    Karen Armstrong is British, and what she teaches, about “tolerance” and a common aspect of all religions is undoubtedly the product of what’s going on in the UK now with the incredible influx of immigrants and the social problems that this creates. I believe the UK has or will put in place a law that basically will disassociate you from them (financially or otherwise) if you hold any “intolerant” views on anything. They will not “tolerate” the “intolerant”.

    On the surface, there is wisdom in it. People want peace and people want to feel safe. I’m not a pessimist, but it is my belief that peace is an elusive thing where humans are concerned and always will be. If I were the sole living person on this planet, I’d be at odds with myself.

    The other religion you speak of may be intolerance, selfishness and anger. But that makes it hard for me to fit myself in there somewhere. I don’t fit in the “tolerance” version because I believe truth is inflexible, but neither to I belong in the angry and selfish version, because the truth I embrace tells me that anger and selfishness are antitheses to the One I believe in.

  10. I’ve read your comment with interest. For now, I will let my last comment on your website serve as an oblique response to your comment. Is this weird, or what?

  11. Fascinating line of discussion.

    It would seem that there are deeper currents flowing than my aged senses can read in the material posted here. I’m not sure where the link between religion and population comes in (unless it is from the “every sperm is sacred” song of Monty Python fame)but it does seem a difficult objective to state what the “correct” population should be.

    To bore you a little further – if that population were predominantly based on low energy/environmental footprints then it would likely be subtantially higher than if it were based on pure materialist cultures. Maybe we measure it on a sample of each? It is hard to see how belief in a Guiding Hand can have much relativity in the equation.

    Personally (and arrogantly assuming my thoughts are worth sharing), i see it as an extrapolation of straight-line thinking. That is, what is there today will be there tomorrow. We’ve all seen the charts from yesteryear that projected hunger and sorrow for a global population pretty much at our current level, and yet it has not come true. Optimists (and Republicans, and retail company share holders) assume that technology will keep pace or even exceed any such growth. I don’t have an opinion on that one. As an avid reader of anything historical, the assumption of continued growth/progress/social development is a fatally flawed one, and it is just as likely that moving to a smaller population would do nothing to stop an end to civilisation anyway.

    This may make me a candidate for 2011’s version of Voltaire’s Pangloss but i’m not really saying everything is for the best. It’s more a case of saying that “ideal” sizes for population/ carbon footprints/ basal energy requirements and the like tend to underestimate the entropy of our little globe. Things change and change again, as noticed by the captain of the aircraft that crashed when the fuel requirement calculations underestimated the average weight of the average passenger and their carry-on luggage.

    Although reasonably open to arguments that populations should be controlled, i have yet to see one that doesn’t involve a slanted bias from the outset.

  12. […] reading Protecting the Young by Stephen Kahn, I took a special interest in a comment that was made on the earth’s […]

  13. […] reading Protecting the Young by Stephen Kahn, I took a special interest in a comment that was made on the earth’s […]

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