Is breeding a recipe for disaster?

Recently, David Attenborough was talking about human population growth and how we need to control it in order to survive as a species:

He’s right, of course, but the question is can we do it? And the question behind that is: will any biologically successful organism voluntarily give up its propagation rights.

There is a question posed by Enrico Fermi, called Fermi’s Paradox:

The universe has been around for billions of year and humans have evolved relatively late. If life, including intelligent life, is so prevalent – why isn’t it everywhere? Why aren’t aliens contacting us as we speak?

The paradox has the following conclusions:

  1. We’re the only, or the first, intelligent life in the universe;
  2. Intelligent life destroys itself before it can reach other stars;
  3. We’re being isolated from the rest of the universe for some reason.

In thinking about this, I wonder if biological selection might be the answer to conclusion number 2. If intelligent life dominates a planet, it has to be through some kind of propagation. If that propagation becomes unchecked, such as when one form of life has no remaining threats, then perhaps it grows until the planet cannot support that life.

We have methods of controlling our own growth, but we are choosing not to use them. Very few people would volunteer to be sterilised. At the very least, they’re outweighed by the people who choose to have more than two children. I’m a hypocrite myself, as I have three children.

So the question is whether we’re going to breed ourselves out of existence, which we’re well on the way to doing. The current political and social signs are not encouraging. We’re facing disastrous global problems which we aren’t moving quickly enough to solve. With some people even denying the physical changes in climate around them.

We’re a selfish, propagating species, but if we weren’t, we wouldn’t even have gotten to this point. We would have been bred or evolved out of existence long ago. We do, however, have intelligence. It remains to be seen whether this can help us.


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