"Irrational Stand on Birth Control"

Dear Father Bloom:

Thank you, sir, for your kind response (see Previous).

I should know better than to get into a debate with a Catholic priest about the population issue. Also, I'm a man of science (which certainly is not mutually exclusive with a belief in spiritual forces), so my mind is equally unlikely to be changed by your anecdotal evidence of no negative impact of an exponentially growing human population. Nevertheless, I do have a few thoughts to offer.

The flaw in your thinking is that it is human centered, as though people alone mattered. My view integrates people and the natural world.

The simple fact is that people require large quantities of space and resources. As people, beyond a certain number (Ehrlich's "carrying capacity"), use that space and those resources, they tend to displace and despoil the natural world. There was a forest I once played in as a child. It was a magical place, and if God dwelt anywhere, He surely dwelt there. One day the bulldozers came. Acres upon acres of trees and glades and ponds were ground into dust, and hundreds of "garden apartment" buildings were built to help accommodate the exploding population of the Washington, DC, area. The turtles and badgers and frogs and trees and silence are all gone now, gone forever. This event had a big impact on me, although I no longer cry about it. I visit that place from time to time, and what I see does not impress me as any great improvement on what was there before.

This is in microcosm what is happening everywhere these days. No place is free of the destructive boot of Man. The ice at the North Pole is melting, and soot is found on the Antarctic ice. Dolphins frolicking in the center of the vast Pacific become mired in plastic trash, sink, and die. I care about those dolphins. Others don't.

You ask for evidence. I point to the thousands of species of animal and plant life that have become extinct since Ehrlich wrote his reviled book. Lovely animals and lovely plants, gone forever. For every example of cleaned-up waters in a wealthy area like Seattle, I can point to a hundred ruined lakes and streams.

I believe that there is value in the natural world and that unchecked human population growth detracts from that value and diminishes ourselves. I believe in quality of human life, not quantity of human life. God is not just people, He is everything, so we should seek a balance, not dominion over all we see. So why do we seek such dominion? What is the ultimate point and the ultimate goal? Do we best serve God by spreading ourselves and our McDonaldses thickly from coast to coast? Or do we best serve Him by seeking a rational accommodation with the world He created?

I greatly respect the work you have done on behalf of the poor. It's far more than I ever did, beyond my handing out a few alms here and there. However, the Church's stand on birth control etc. severely undermines the good works you do. I think that proper planning of births promotes healthy and happy lives, and that uncontrolled family sizes and indiscriminate births ultimately produce environmental devastation, slums, and great pain. If only the Catholic Church could modify its irrational stand on birth control, I might consider "signing up" myself!

It's just that I don't want to see the Earth turned into one giant McDonald's, Father Bloom!




Dear Steve,

Thank you for the example of your boyhood forest destroyed to make way for apartment buildings. It helps me understand the depth of your emotions, altho I have to admit I have not experienced anything so drastic. My problem is lack of time to appreciate all the natural beauty nearby. (Yes, I know I should spend more time looking at Mount Rainier than this computer screen.)

I wasn't arguing that people make "no negative impact" on environment. Some of the development here is ugly, most fairly bland, a few things even beautiful - like Seattle's skyline. But maybe we have better planners than the other Washington. :-)

Anyway, Steve, I hope rather than debate, we can clarify and learn from each other. There are questions I would like to ask you as a scientist, particularly about extinction of species. I believe you could help me understand better what's going on. At the same time I could clear up some misunderstandings about Catholic teaching on family planning. In the process it may assist others who stumble on this website. What do you say?


Fr. Phil Bloom

P.S. I am not trying to duck your questions about "dominion," "rational accomodation," and "ultimate goal," but feel we can best clarify our different philosophy/theology by first looking at more concrete issues.