Over at Scientific American is an article which describes the very real problems facing Africa today, and the effect of lack of birth control and poverty on the lives of Africans. It presents two graphs showing that Africa has both the highest birth rate (although it is one of the poorest areas in the world) but also the highest infant mortality rates - so not only are lots more infants being born to the poorest mothers in the world, but they are then losing them - as the article says, a double tragedy. Over at the BBC is an article which says that abortions in the UK have reached record levels, because of bad behaviour over the festive holidays:
A total of 5,992 abortions were carried out at Marie Stopes International's nine UK clinics in January - a rise of 13% on the 5,304 in January 2005. This is more in a month than at any time in the charity's 32-year history. But pregnancy advice groups said the figures probably reflected poor access to contraceptive services.
So sex and the products of sex are causing immense problems around the world. Although I constantly bang on about everything being pointless, our species, like every other, exists for one reason. To procreate. All of our ancestors, back millions of years to the first life forms, successfully reproduced. Those that did not, left no descendants.
But what does procreating for a human actually involve? Reproduction is essentially a form of cloning, where 50% of the man's DNA is combined with 50% of the woman's DNA, to produce a half-clone of each parent. Siblings all get the same percentage of DNA from both parents, but they each may get different genes (due to the way sex cells develop). Identical twins are clones of the very same combination and both contain the same 50% DNA from their parents - which certainly explains a great deal.
So you are a combination of your parents genes, and your children are a combination of your genes and you partners genes. Natural selection has driven evolution over millions of years and has resulted in a being that can choose whether it wants to follow its innate predisposition to procreate. If you want to, you can not even bother trying to reproduce and instead can use the time, energy and resources to other ends. But people do not readily do so, because of their innate need to breed. The sex drive exists to encourage mating. Humans are usually monogamous and work together to raise healthy children. Healthy children in turn grow up to be good parents. It is a perpetual cycle of life.
But it is also one which needs adapting. Every child brought into the world is another possible conscious being. Of all human pregnancies, 50% terminate before the woman even knows she is pregnant. So there is a line in nature between the possible number of conscious human beings that could potentially exist (every fertilised egg say) and the number that actually exist in the world (which is much less). Now if every human that reaches adult hood successfully reproduces, the world would quickly be over run with humans (and the finite resources of the world stretched thin and used up quickly). This is a recipe for world-wide disaster.
The sensible thing to do, is to encourage people not to reproduce without first thinking about it. But humans do not often engage their brains before sex. Contraception is a key part of changing things and the female contraceptive pill has had a dramatic effect on the modern world - but an equivalent male contraceptive is surely long overdue. A one-child state seems an overly harsh restriction on civil liberties - requiring punishments and law enforcement intervention for those that do not follow the rule.
So this is a hard problem for our species. It seems prudent to realise that there are finite resources on this planet - and preventing unwanted births is surely the best thing for all concerned. If unwanted pregnancies fall dramatically, so too do abortions, adoptions and child abuse - things which cause social unrest. But human beings are not going to start behaving sensibly for the good of us conscious beings already alive. Life is about survival of the fittest. Good reproducers begetting good reproducers. However human life is much more than just reproducing and if we'd all just accept that everything is pointless, then perhaps we could turn our attention to these problems, which have a huge impact on immigration, crime, the environment etc, and improve things for those of us, who are lucky to find ourselves alive and able to do. I'm not a naive idealist. But we are alone in the universe and if we don't try, then who will?Go Top