Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Population Boom and Global Warming

I was reading an article written for USA Today by Oliver "Buzz" Thomas. He's a Baptist minister who wrote a book titled Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You But Can't Because He Needs the Job. One of the things your minister wants to tell you - in fact, one of the things that this Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, Baptist minister, thinks that your pastor should tell you, and tell you with an exclamation point, is that you should stop having so many children. Having more than two children, in his view, is selfish and sinful. He actually uses the words in this article titled "Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?" Maybe he should be telling my wife Kathy who wanted twelve, and we're now taking care of twelve children. We have nine natural children. We're taking care of twelve children. One of our children died preborn. I guess he would be telling me that I'm sinful and selfish because I'm having so many children. The reason is when I have as many children as I do, in the view of this Baptist minister, I am consuming rather than producing. In other words it's irresponsible to have that many consumers. Of course, there's a reverse argument here and that is it may be that my children will become producers that will help other people consume.

The bottom line is that he is trotting out the tired old canard that there is a population bomb waiting to go off. Is that really true? Even if there are six billion people on the planet as I speak - and we can't always trust the census. They're wrong a lot of the time. I've look at some statistics with respect to Nigeria for example, which shows that the census showed that the numbers they were communicating with respect to Nigeria were flat wrong, and not just small on a small basis but wrong on a macro basis. But let's say there are six billion people today on the planet. Six billion people could comfortably fit in a land mass that's not a whole lot larger than Texas.

So the number of people is not the problem. If there's a problem at all it might be that these people are concentrated in a relatively small geographic area. Case in point - Egypt. I think the latest numbers are that there are about 82,000,000 people in Egypt and they live in a few crowded cities on the bank of the Nile which comprises about 3.5% of Egypt's total land mass. So the problem here is not that there are too many people but that they're crowded in small geographic areas.

I think if there is one thing that we have learned in an age of scientific enlightenment is that our planet's resources are diverse and abundant. It takes creativity and hard work to tap and distribute the earth's resources. Even though Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is saying that I am sinful and selfish by having a lot of children, imagine the fact that my children may actually work towards the solution to what he thinks is the problem through creativity and hard work.

My son was just honored as part of the National Honor Society and I believe that he is going to be someone who is the solution rather than the problem. I think I could say that about all my kids. But I should get a lecture from my pastor, according to this Baptist minister, on the fact that I have too many kids. My pastor should look me in the eye and say I'm selfish and sinful.

Biblically children are a blessing, not a blight. If you look at the statistics, countries that have zero population growth also oftentimes have very little economic growth. I think people like Oliver "Buzz" Thomas - by the way, this is an enlightened man. He's a Baptist minister, a lawyer, an author - he should not be bemoaning the population bomb and global warming, and this article has a lot to say about that as well. He should have his eye on the right ball. Instead of these kinds of people touting the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which would cost the worldwide economy somewhere between 10 and 50 trillion dollars, he should be looking at the fact that for $200 billion every person on the planet could have clean water. By having your eye on the wrong ball, by not understanding what the real problems are, by buying uncritically into politicized science, you are irresponsibly denigrating poor people.

These kinds of pastors - and I've had a lot of experience with them - were the same ones that were chastising me when I said that Y2K wasn't going to be a problem, because these same kinds of pastors don't do their homework. They rely on sophistry and sloppy journalism and sensationalism and they make extrapolations that simply don't pan out.

How many of you can remember back to the late '70s when people were saying - and a lot of pastors joined the chorus of voices - saying that we were about to enter a new ice age, and then making all kinds of extrapolations? People like Ted Turner. If you ever want to meet a closed-minded man, there's one example. He believes that in 30, 40, 50 years we're all going to be eating each other as cannibals. Again, it's because of extrapolations that simply do not bear out in reality.

This, by the way, is a subject I'm addressing right here, albeit extemporaneously, because we, as Christians, need discernment skills. Our leaders, unfortunately, now have a place at the table. They're writing in USA Today. The kinds of things that they are saying are not only bizarre, but unconscionable. It is simply incredible to read his extrapolations. He writes that "hundreds of scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned recently that the environmental crisis is more dire than originally believed. We might have reached a tipping point. Even if we stop producing harmful greenhouse gases immediately, temperatures could continue to rise and ocean levels along with them for the next 1,000 years. How much?" Well, maybe "11 degrees this century." And the oceans are going to rise nearly two feet. And that, he says, is a conservative prediction.

These are the same kinds of people who were telling you to buy freeze-dried food and making a fortune on generators and telling people to leave the cities and move out into the country. We, as Christians, need discernment skills so that we can discern between wheat and chaff, heat and light.

By the way, with respect to global warming, I had Jay Richards on this broadcast and the CDs are available (Click Here). If you want to find out more about global warming and what the real issues are and how to use discernment skills as a Christian to address the real issues, you need to get those CDs. Some of the best things we've ever produced on this broadcast.

Am I going against the grain? Yes, I am, and Baptist ministers like this were telling the world "Hank Hanegraaff is going to have the blood of millions of people on his hands because he's causing complacency within the body of Christ with respect to Y2K." They were cashing in, and then right after the year 2000 they were silent. There were no refunds from these ministers or ministries and they didn't offer to buy back the freeze-dried food.

Discernment. Stick that word in your vocabulary. You will need it because we in the Christian church have become so biblically illiterate and have such little comprehension of what it means to have a biblical worldview, that if you don't have discernment skills you're going to be slapped around by every wind and wave in the culture and even within Christianity.


Pete Murphy said...

Thank God for enlightened Christian leaders like Oliver "Buzz" Thomas who acknowledge reality, have the guts to go against the grain and speak the truth.

Pete Murphy
Author, Five Short Blasts

Dwight said...

you serious Pete?

Colin McGraw said...

"Discernment", dear sir? Try "denial".

While I respect and agree with your points that the world would benefit from financing for clean water projects, and that we need not consider ourselves selfish for having children, that's no justfication for ignoring what mainstream science thinks may be a calamitous problem in the future.

I don't think scientists fully understand the intricacies of earth's climate and the exact ramifications of global warming, but we currently have a situation where we have indisputable evidence of climbing temperatures, and every major organizational authority on the matter (EPA, NCAR, NOAA, NASA, CDC, IPCC) agrees that humans very likely have something to do with it.

Do you practice "discernment" by discounting the world's most respected scientists in favor of the fringe?

It's reasonable to say thre's a small likelihood things may not turn out as predicted, but completely unreasonable to say there's no reason to be concerned given the wealth of current evidence.

I wish you and your 12 children the best, and have 12 more, by all means! I'd implore you, however, to be mindful of current scientific thinking and advise that may ease the problems we create for our great-great-grandchildren.

God entrusted us with Earth, but called us to be good stewards and not make a deadly mess of His creation.

Mike said...


I've listened to the show for years and find it to be a valuable resource.
As I understand it, birth rates are already declining in the "developed" countries. Even if population levels were proven to be a global threat, how could we address it by lowering our birth rate in the West?
If taken to its logical conclusion we should be attempting to lower the birth rate in the "undeveloped" nations. In fact those who are really leading the charge for this are doing so already - advocating birth control as a pre-curser to economic prosperity to citizens of poor countries. This goes against traditional wisdom of many cultures which see a large family as a hedge against poverty. From what I understand as well, low birth rate is not a pre-curser to prosperity, but a consequence of it.

On another note. Pastor Thomas's identification of people as "consumers" betrays a very reductionistic view of humanity. While you indicate that these children will also be producers, your counter claim allows the frame that he sets for the debate to remain intact. However this is a very limited view of humanity. If we only discuss human beings in the limited terms of producer and consumer we have already lost the debate, because the frame itself disguises the full value of human life. Part of establishing the true value of human life is to see beyond the paradigm of western capitalism which after all is merely an "economic" system and was never meant to address the question of human worth.

Josh Brisby said...


Enjoy your show. My wife and I have five children and would like more, but we are scared of getting pregnant right now in our situation and with the difficulties in my wife's pregnancies. We're scared of neglecting the five souls that have already been given to us. Do you believe that birth control is a Christian liberty? What are your views on this? Appreciate your show.

Anonymous said...

Colin, did you forget what we learned in grade school that made climate?
1. Distance of earth from the sun
2. Tilt of the earth on its axis which affects the angle and intensity of the suns rays - this creates our seasons (Latitude determines what climatic zone one lives in)
3. Orbit of the earth around the sun
4. Rotation of the earth which makes for warming by day and cooling by night - this is what creates our winds and jet streams.

Anonymous said...

I just picked up "Ten Things..." at my local library and five minutes into thumbing through I realized my error as well as Thomas'. Mine was to judge a book by it's cover, his is to think he knows more than the father. It was a greater disappointment when I could find no rebuttal from a Baptist source. I'm not saying there wasn't one but I found yours quite quickly...
I knew things were getting crazy when the hard sciences decided theory by a vote instead of hard data. Now pastors are interpreting scripture in the connotation of today's society!? Thank for your defense of the orthodox faith.