In this discussion I would like to talk about abortion. It is always something I have felt very strong about and would argue to the ends of the earth on. I have always been Pro-Life, always. Ever since I became an Atheist, this topic keeps popping up in my head. Since it is something I have not wanted to confront, I have been pushing it to the back burner. Now that I have given it some thought I would like to tell you where I used to stand and where I stand now. When I was a Christian my thought process was "Abortion is Never the right choice unless the mother and child will both die." So even if the child were to survive and the mother dies, abortion is still not the right choice. Some might even consider that murder, I guess. To answer this question I'm sure someone will ask, Yes I would have and still would give up my life for my child. Well, now I'm sort of seeing things a bit different. If a female gets raped and gets pregnant from it, abortion is ok, (sad all the way around - for everyone).  If a woman chooses to abort a baby due to the risk to the mothers life, Ok. If the baby will have a very very very difficult life and in turn make the parents have an equally difficult life, ok. To me abortion is a horrible thing, if someone wants to have an abortion just because oops I got preggo. That is horrible. If you don't want kids do everything in your power to NOT get pregnant. Simple as that. Life is a beautiful an precious thing, and yes I do believe it is special.  Any and All comments are welcome :)

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Arcus, of course, if our species were naturally regulated by resources, that would be true, but we aren't. We are able to MODIFY our carrying capacity through engineering. Therefore carrying capacity is not a useful tool when discussing Homo sapiens. The next available tool is our destruction of everything around us. By the time we die, I'm assuming you're within a 10y age of myself, most large animals we take for granted will have disappeared from the planet. This human cause mass extinction is unprecedented in earth's history.

Carrying capacity is equally valid for humans as any other species. We do indeed have the tools required to adapt the carrying capacity, but we have always had it, and it is exactly what has made us successful as a species. We are a highly adaptable species, but then again, there are other species which share this trait. The point is that we have always struggled with limited resources, but the resources we require have changed. 100 years ago we were running out of wood, today we are running out of oil, and in 100 years we'll be running out of something else.

While I haven't lived too long, I have learned that predictions about the future almost inevitably fails. I recall that prediction from a science mag circa 1990, which predicted extinction within a generation. That would be around 2020, and I believe it was next to the expected flying car and cure for cancer in the same time frame... 

Carrying capacity is equally valid for humans as any other species. We do indeed have the tools required to adapt the carrying capacity, but we have always had it, and it is exactly what has made us successful as a species.

And isn't it true that, in many cases if not all, what makes it successful tends to be its downfall? The predator is so successful it runs out of prey, the herbivore strips the land of foliage, etc.

Also, I think I can fairly safely predict that when we run out of oil, we're screwed, unless we find a way to make synthetic petroleum in almost unimaginable quantities without squandering some other resource.

To say carrying capacity is the only tool to measure human overpopulation is missing the point. We must use a different tool, other wise it becomes a circular argument, if looking strictly at CC, threshold of overpopulation simply follows along. It's not helpful to this debate. We are not overpopulated because we've exceeded our CC, we're overpopulated because of the downfall of the rest of the ecosystem, as well as the downfall of our quality of life.

If you insist on looking only at CC, then we will never be overpopulated, which is the religion economists follow, because they don't understand about the biosphere balance.

To stay with the abortion topic, sure, if there were only 1000 Homo sapiens on the planet, I might disagree with abortion, but that's a very different situation.

@Unseen: A species successful in its niche tends to thrive, not be eliminated. When a species becomes unsuccessful it evolves or dies out. Oil is used because it's cheap and convenient, but that doesn't mean there isn't a substantial number of complimentary sources of energy. In a longer term I would hedge my bets on algae and CCS technology.

@T A A: Which means that you are arguing for humans having a special place in nature and isn't governed by the same laws which apply to other species a point which I disagree on. Carrying capacity can be easily defined but is virtually impossible to measure, and it tends to be an ex-post observation after a population crash. To say that humans are causing the downfall of the entire ecosystem is hyperbolic at best. While we have certainly had a major impact on the ~7.5% of the Earths surface we currently utilize is undeniable, that still leaves 92.5%% which has been left largely alone. Seeing as more humans than ever is enjoying the highest quality of life ever in history, the evidence is against you. I wasn't aware economists were following a religion - I must have missed that part - and I do believe my previous professor had some knowledge on the subject, seeing as he wrote the book on it.

It seems as if you guys are utilizing religious concepts of original sin and armageddon, seeing as everything touched by humans seems to be inherently flawed and that we are causing downfall/doom/destruction on the planet.


@Unseen: A species successful in its niche tends to thrive, not be eliminated. When a species becomes unsuccessful it evolves or dies out. Oil is used because it's cheap and convenient, but that doesn't mean there isn't a substantial number of complimentary sources of energy. In a longer term I would hedge my bets on algae and CCS technology.

It appears that every species eventually becomes unsuccessful. 

It's hard to imagine algae producing enough energy to power the world.  The idea that algae will replace petroleum as a base for plastic seems even more remote. Try to imagine life without plastics.

@Unseen: Species either evolve successfully or die out. One could say that from the evidence that almost all species eventually die out, but that doesn't mean that no species survive. And this would be on extremely long time scales in which talking about individual species such as humans make little sense. The longer the time frame, the higher up in the taxonomic rank you'll have to move.

It's not really that hard to imagine and Synthetic Genomics is working hard on it. Venter believes that it will be possible for large scale production from algal biofuels by the end of the decade, and I find his opinion to be relevant to the subject. I have high hopes that genetic engineering will solve many of our current problems, and in the process probably create new ones. 

@Arcus, I would never hire you to manage a bioregion, you have too narrow a view and do not understand the fundamentals of population ecology. You cannot use a moving goal-post as a baseline for any measurement, it makes little to no sense. Humans are the ONLY animals to achieve global destruction, we are NOT like other species, but this will be my last reply on this, for you are the same as economists, you will use only words that favour economic and human growth, you ARE of that religion, it is a utopia. Good day sir, I'll go back to the abortion portion of this debate.

TAA, Everyone talks about overpopulation, but the only ones who seem to do anything about it tend to be horrible psychotic dictators. I cannot seem to find the research now, but as I understand it, the biomass of the dinosaurs were far more than we humans occupy now. (Wish I could find it, but sorry) 

What would you say the tipping point was 50 years ago? (Maybe its me--I was born right around then)

The charts reference UN figures regarding birth for 200 countries since 1962. The charts reveal 2 things to me

  1. The developed countries generally have a low birthrate--In places like France, the birthrate is fewer than 2 children per couple, meaning that over time, France is shrinking except for immigration. Which is exactly the lifestyle change you would want, but without undue regulation of sex by government sources.
  2. Smaller families seem to correlate with longer lives and prosperity. The entire world seems recognize this for the first time in human history.  Trends seem to indicate that naturally, perhaps evolutionarily, when the entire world falls below 2 children per couple, population decrease ensues. Worldwide. Mostly without fuss.

But the topic of the discussion is abortion, and abortion is a mechanism by which these changes can happen. What I appreciate, is that other tools are reducing the need for abortions. Prosperity is a pretty good tool in that respect. So is condom use and access.

You seem to be talking about the Malthusian concept of overpopulation. Not enough land to support a given population well. Today's world isn't overpopulated if you figure person per area of land. What are overpopulated are urban areas. Too densely populated for healthy living.

The world isn't overpopulated in the Malthusian sense. Take Brazil for example. Millions and millions of square miles with hardly any population. Even the United States isn't overpopulated or even near being overpopulated.

But today the real concern of overpopulation has more to do with pollution, climate change, overfishing the oceans, and so on.

Any comments on that?

My take on:

Pollution--Technology and recognition by governments that energy reduction is cost reduction is going to dramatically change our world in short order. The U.S. Navy is well on its way to being carbon neutral. 

My concern these days regards populous developing countries drawing resources so fast that "dirty" methods of manufacture become profitable again. This is China's problem with coal right now. Once a worker starts making a living wage, he or she all of the sudden wants electricity in his house. With an economy of a billion people and increasing production, if just 1% of them change from not using electricity to using it, the results are staggering. More on this, but maybe for another thread someday.

Climate Change--The forces against the recognition of climate change seemed to have dissolved from the mainstream this past election cycle in the U.S. So if we can all finally agree that it is happening (regardless of the cause) I think we can finally start doing something about it. Jury is out, but I think we will find a way through it.

Overfishing--thats the most important one, and why I mentioned biomass at all. I fear that technology has hurt us up to now in this instance, by providing super trawlers to the fishing industries of the world. Until we start growing and eating proteins similar to meat and fish grown in petri dishes, we run the risk of out-eating the oceans which is a truly scary thought. After all, Solent Green is people!

I have zero beef with the numbers in the third world. All they're trying to do is reach economic prosperity, AS WE'VE DONE (wrongly or not). Also, most of what we wear, use, consume, is now made by those very countries through outsourcing. Our government policies reduce international aid if they practice planned parenting, because OUR governments/tycoons NEED the cheap labour in the developing world in order to maintain our hegemony.

As for the oceans, we'll never out-eat them. Sharks and tuna get replaced by jellyfish, I don't think the oceans will ever empty.

Conversely, the biggest threat to ocean health is not fishing but CO2. Right now the ocean is absorbing ALL the extra CO2 that the above ground cycle cannot handle, which is massive. The ocean is becoming an acid soup. If when we kill our oceans it will be CO2 and not fishing. Mind you, I'm not letting overfishing off the hook (pardon the pun), I'm just second in line for deadliest human ocean effect.


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