February 12 2009 / by juldrich / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture Year: 2009 Rating: 7 Hot
By Jack Uldrich
Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net
In one of those wonderful historical anomalies, February 12, 2009 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
Lincoln is recognized as one of the greatest American presidents for helping end slavery. Darwin, of course, is the father of evolutionary biology.
It might appear these two historical giants have little else in common except the same birthday, but Darwin’s theory of evolution will soon call forth a new political debate which could, if not peacefully resolved, rip this country apart as surely as slavery did.
In today’s Wall Street Journal there is an article describing how advances in genetic technology are ushering in a new era of “designer babies” and some parents are pre-selecting embryos based on cosmetic characteristics such as eye and hair color.
By JC Chan
In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world.
Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In
ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in
the world. With world population exploding and shifting so
dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more
humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the
Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children
of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans
have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In
one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen,
and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an
abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is
the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her
hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam
recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over
time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased
“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very
odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly
The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a
survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming
immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little
remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched
Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by
widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there
are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons,
terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria
strain, asteroids, global warming.
Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled
into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited
allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about
recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and
should do something about issues like global warming and runaway
population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in
Children of Men remind us that there may well be other
formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our
Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article
by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very
real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy
Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with
magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval
fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has
fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.
This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created
a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the
village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has
resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily
losing population. (cont.)