Paul Ehrlich at the Vatican

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D. | January 13, 2017

I was shocked like many others by the news the Vatican academies for science invited no other than population control advocate Paul Ehrlich to speak at a conference about biological extinction first reported yesterday in LifeSite by Pete Balinski. Below are some of the things C-Fam reported about Ehrlich in recent years.

Paul Ehrlich was the public face of overpopulation for three decades, appearing day and night on talk shows fear mongering about impending famines and mass starvation and advocating that development assistance be conditioned on population control. The apocalypse he envisioned never took place but his opinions were reported as biblical truth by U.S. media until recently. Many American families chose to have no more than two children at a time when large families were still common out of sense of social responsibility.

He advocated gender selective abortion as a tool of population control and his disproven theories and false alarmism led to forced abortion and sterilization programs all over the world. Renown historian Michael Connelly of Columbia University testified as much before Congress in 2013.

Ehrlich is not apologetic about his role in spreading his population control screed. He even admits he intentionally deceived millions of people by feigning certainty beyond what the science could show. He recently appeared in a NY Times reportage defending his alarmism in his famous book The Population Bomb.

“If you ask me the question are there things that I have written in the past that I wouldn’t write today, the answer is certainly yes. I expressed more certainty because I was trying to bring people to get something done.”

He also could not hide the brutish bent of his anti-natalist ideology as he tries to do in his writings.

“I do not think my language was too apocalyptic in The Population Bomb, my language would be even more apocalyptic today. The idea that every woman should have as many babies as she wants is to me exactly the same kind of idea as everybody ought to be permitted to throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”

Fortunately, Ehrlich’s catastrophic predictions about overpopulation have all proven bogus and based on a blind quasi-religious faith in an impending environmental apocalypse, and not reliance on sound empirical science. When the famines failed to materialize in the 1970s thanks to the green revolution he switched to fear mongering about commodity prices and lost a famous bet to economic demographer Julian Simon in the 1980s, recently captured in a book. Ehrlich said the prices of all commodities would rise over ten years during the 1980s. Simon bet that thanks to human ingenuity and technological developments prices would decline. Julian Simon was right. Ehrlich was wrong again.

Ehrlich’s latest ruse for population control involves fear mongering about climate change and the loss of biological diversity. He has voiced criticism of Pope Francis for not changing Catholic teaching on contraception to curb population growth.

He co-authored an article with his wife denouncing religions, including the Catholic Church, that oppose the use of contraception as “dangerous.”

He told the Guardian UK newspaper that Pope Francis’s exclusion of population control in the environmental encyclical Laudato Si was “raving nonsense,” and that he was “dead wrong,” even though UN data and analysis contradicts his alarmism and supports the Pope’s position that contraception will not solve climate change.

Fortunately, he is likely to be wrong again.

Also invited at the conference is John Bongaarts, head of the Population Council. This is the group that for decades has been spearheaded efforts to manufacture all manner of “science” to justify pushing contraceptives on poor women around the world even when they want to have children. In fact, it founded the modern population control movement, and has never offered an apology or reparations for the harm it has perpetrated on millions of women around the world. His theories have been criticized by Harvard economists and renown demographers.

Rebecca Oas of C-Fam has been analyzing many of the problems with their so-called “science.” She sums up the trouble with their theories in a recent paper published in the New Atlantis.

The attempt of the population establishment to capture the Church for its cause is not new. The Population Council’s founder John D. Rockefeller was knocking at the doors of the Vatican already in 1965. Paul VI subsequently wrote the famous encyclical Humanae Vitae and shut the door on him.

While the Pontifical Academy for Science (PAS) can invite whomsoever it wants to speak at its conferences, especially if the financial sponsors of the conference ask for certain speakers, it might want to consider the confusion it can create in the minds of believers and unbelievers alike when it offers a platform to speakers who undermine the Church’s storied opposition to population control.

I would hope that as the conference draws near and attracts publicity—that will benefit Ehrlich and Bongaarts and their organizations with the moral imprimatur of the Vatican—PAS will offer a public disclaimer to distance the Holy See from the theories of these individuals and the controversial organizations they espouse, in so far as they undermine the consistent teaching Church against population control.

Still, even in the unlikely event that what Ehrlich and Bongaarts say at the conference proves harmless, I find it hard to believe PAS could not have sought other more suitable demographers and biologists to present on the same subject matter.