Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2014
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Science, Pseudoscience, and the Silence of Scientists

Steven Salmony


U.S. and World Population Clock, United States Census Bureau

World Population: Past, Present, and Future, World Meters

World Population Prospects, United Nations

Our deafening silence about what is happening and why it is happening with regard to the unbridled growth of the human population on our watch serves to give consent to preternatural pseudoscience of economists and demographers that is broadcast in the mainstream media without objection. By not speaking truth to the powerful, according to the best available science and ‘lights’ we possess, we become accomplices to their ubiquitous abuses.

Extant scientific research regarding the population dynamics of Homo sapiens has to be openly acknowledged, objectively examined and honestly reported. Population scientists and ecologists have been shown to be as vulnerable to denial of apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome scientific evidence as well as to capitulation to the entreaties of all who choose favorable unscientific research to be spread by the mass media without meaningful objection from many too many members of the scientific community. It is a deliberate breach of responsibility to science and humanity for population scientists and ecologists not to object to the spreading of false knowledge and thereby, to fail in the performance of the fundamental duty of disclosing what could somehow be real and true about Homo sapiens and the workings of the existential world we inhabit, according to the best available scientific research.

Let us recognize the willful denial of the ecological science of human population dynamics. Where are the population scientists and ecologists who are ready, willing and able to attest to or refute empirical evidence that human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species; that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply; that more food for human consumption equals more people, less available food to consume equals less people and no food equals no people? No exceptions! Are these scientists blind, deaf and electively mute in the face of new scientific knowledge. Most reprehensibly, their refusal to accept responsibilities and perform duties as scientists has made it possible for pseudoscientists to fill the mainstream media with false knowledge about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things.

Is it not science, and science alone, that most accurately allows us to confirm our perceptions as objective correlates of reality and truth? Without science, thought leaders and power brokers in cultures everywhere are free to widely transmit attractive ideas at will, regardless of the extent to which the ideas bear a meaningful relationship to what could be real and true. For example, a preternatural factoid like “food must be produced in order to meet the needs of a growing population” is deceitfully given credence as a scientific idea although it reflects the opposite of the actual relationship between food supply and human numbers. Findings from science indicate population numbers are the dependent variable and food the independent variable, just like the population dynamics of other species. By increasing the food supply, we are in fact growing the human population, are we not?

The idea that human exceptionalism applies to the population dynamics of Homo sapiens, that human population dynamics is different from (not essentially similar to) the population dynamics of other species, is a pseudoscientific factoid, bereft of an adequate foundation in science. Overwhelming scientific research regarding the human population indicates that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply. For many this scientific idea is on the one hand irrefutable and on the other hand unbelievable. So completely are many too many professionals enthralled by the notion of human exceptionalism. Exploding human numbers in the past 200 years are the natural result of the dramatically increasing production and distribution capabilities of food for human consumption that occurred with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and later on during the Green Revolution.

Please consider that demographers and economists are not scientists. They are presenting false knowledge that is appealing because it presents what all of us wish to believe about the way the world in which we live works as well as about the exceptional nature of the human species. Human beings are mistakenly believed to be outside (not within) the natural order of living things. The false knowledge regarding human species’ exceptionalism with regard to its population dynamics is determined de facto by whatsoever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially desirable, religiously acceptable and culturally syntonic. Such de facto determinations of what is real about human nature and the existential world are based primarily upon ideology, not science.

Refuse to be duped by clever, absurdly enriched vendors of words and highly educated sycophants. These ‘talking heads’ duplicitously claim they are scientists and then promulgate preternatural ideas and pseudoscientific theories that are passed off as well-established results of scientific research without objection from scientists.

Let us examine the false knowledge from conventional, Neoclassical Cornucopian Economics and the Demographic Transition Theory. These theoretical perspectives are not connected to the foundation of science. The speciousness of what is presented by demographers and economists and then broadcast ubiquitously by the mainstream media is in need of correction by scientists. Ideas of endless resources availability in a finite world and an indestructible ecology that is in fact frangible are fabricated. Automatic population stabilization; a benign end to population growth soon; a glorious world by 2050 when the entire human community will reap the benefits you and I enjoy now because everyone in the human community will have entered the fourth and last stage of the demographic transition, all of these notions are fanciful and ideologically-driven. Such false knowledge as we find in the pseudoscientific disciplines of economics and demography needs to be eschewed. The best available scientific evidence must to be our guide because science stands alone as the best method by far for apprehending what could be real and true. Science needs to be categorically distinguished from all that is not science. Then, perhaps, we will be able to see more clearly how the existential world we inhabit actually works and more accurately perceive the placement of Homo sapiens within the natural order of all living things.

The imprimatur of science has been not so surreptitiously usurped by pseudoscientific disciplines in which professional research is primarily underwritten by wealthy power brokers and corporations. Economic and demographic research is designed and the findings presented so as to comport with the transparent self interests of the rich and powerful. Where are the scientists who will speak out to correct such widespread misunderstanding and reckless wrongdoing? The conscious silence of scientists serves to give consent to ubiquitous unethical professional behavior that cannot be tolerated any longer because of the confusion it engenders among those in the human community who are rightly seeking an intellectually honest understanding of the global predicament we face and a path to a sustainable future that can only be derived from the best available scientific research. The disciplines of demography and economics are prime examples of what science is not. Perhaps the findings of demographic and economics research will soon be widely recognized and consensually validated as preternatural pseudoscience.

“Speak out as if you were a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.”
— St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380


Steven Earl Salmony is a psychologist with the Disability Determination Service (DDS) of the Social Security Administration (SSA), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. His professional experience includes extensive clinical work in inpatient and outpatient settings, and he is currently focusing on emerging scientific research of the human overpopulation of Earth. For more on his background and current work, visit his Sustainability Science website, which includes links to other population data and resources, including the World Food and Human Population Growth Player.

World Population Trends Signal Dangers Ahead

Barry Mirkin

This article was originally published in YaleGlobal, 3 April 2014

"Demographers are often called upon to predict the future by extrapolating from population statistics and trends. The United Nations has revised population projections upward, and demographer Barry Mirkin suggests the warning signs are clear: The globe can anticipate a billion more people in a decade and another 2 billion by the end of the century for a total of 10.9 billion. People live longer, and fertility rates are in decline in most developed nations, resulting in an older population. But fertility rates remain high in the most impoverished places, and this adds to new pressures on immigration, urbanization, climate change, public health and security. Other challenges include job shortages, environmental degradation, food and water shortages, failing states, and inevitable disasters. The world has been warned. Mirkin urges governments to plan ahead with pro-active policies based on the demographic trends." YaleGlobal

Governments must prepare for diverse rates of fertility, urbanization and aging population – all happening simultaneously

The United Nations has released population data confirming the continuation of long-term global demographic trends and a larger global population than previously projected. Nations cannot afford to ignore trends including reduced fertility among most nations and limited family planning for others, and growing ranks of the elderly and accelerated urbanization pose new challenges.

The world population is larger. Global population achieved a milestone in 2011, hitting the 7 billion mark. Currently at 7.2 billion, the world is projected to increase by almost another billion people, climbing to 8.1 billion by 2025.

The population is older. Countries continue to age substantially, with those aged 60 or older the fastest growing segment. In developed countries, almost one in four is an older person, with more older people than children. Fertility is lower and family size smaller. The decline in population growth at the world level is the consequence of near universal reduction of fertility. Women are marrying later or not at all, postponing childbearing and having fewer or no children, and fertility has fallen to 2.5 children per woman. People are also living longer. Life expectancy is higher in most countries due to systematic progress against mortality. One can expect to live to age 77 in developed countries and to age 67 in developing countries.

By 2050, UN predict a global population of 9.6 billion, some 300 million more than previously projected.
The world is more urbanized. More than half of the world’s population consists of urban dwellers, and this is expected to climb to two-thirds by mid-century. International migration is increasing in both volume and impact. Although the increase in the number of migrants has faltered in the aftermath of the global economic recession, more people than ever reside in a country other than where they were born. There are 232 million international migrants, 3 percent of world population.

Propelled towards a world of 8 billion in little over a decade, the world continues on an unchartered trajectory. Virtually all population increase will take place in the world’s poorer countries, those least able to absorb these increases. Most of the growth is occurring in countries with high fertility, especially in Africa, as well as those countries with large populations, namely India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States. One reason accounting for the large population increases is an unmet need for family planning which remains high in the poorest parts of the world. An estimated 220 million women still lack ready access to safe, effective, readily available and low-cost contraceptives.

By mid-century, according to United Nations demographers, the world will contain 9.6 billion people, some 300 million more than previously projected. The great majority of these unanticipated births resulting from higher than expected fertility will be in countries classified as least developed by the United Nations and thus the poorest in the world. Moreover, many are failed or failing states, namely those in the throes of chronic political instability and armed conflict, factors that mitigate against the provision of basic services, such as health care and family planning.  This upward revision in fertility has a snowballing effect, so world population is now expected to peak in 2100 at 10.9 billion people, instead of the previously projected 10.1 billion. 

By 2100, Nigeria could rival China as the second most populous country in the world. India will be first.
The revised population projections include notable findings at the country level. The population of India is expected to surpass that of China around 2028, sooner than previously thought, when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion. Thereafter, India’s population will continue to grow for several decades and peak at around 1.6 billion before declining slowly to 1.5 billion in 2100. The population of China, on the other hand, is projected to shrink after 2030, possibly falling to 1.1 billion by 2100. Nigeria’s population is likely to surpass that of the United States before the middle of the century. By the end of the century, Nigeria could begin to rival China as the second most populous country in the world.

Most of the planet’s people will live in cities. Virtually all expected population growth will be concentrated in the urban areas of poor countries increasing the threat of pollution and epidemic. By 2050, the number of people living in cities will almost be equal to today's world population. In 1950, only two cities in the world had at least 10 million inhabitants. Today, 23 megacities have more than 10 million inhabitants; by 2025, the number of megacities is projected to reach 37.

Faced with the opportunities and challenges associated with urbanization, many governments have traditionally sought to stem migration to large cities with a host of policies that have proven largely ineffective. Needed, instead are policies and adaptation strategies to accommodate future urban growth. These must include developing appropriate infrastructure and providing access to basic education and training, health, gainful employment, especially among young people, so that countries can reap the benefits of economies of scale and greater efficiency as well as minimize environmental and other adverse impacts of urban growth.

Furthermore, policies that facilitate the reduction of fertility by ensuring that couples have access to modern contraception, combined with concerted efforts to improve education and employment prospects for young girls and women, can contribute to moderate increases in the number of urban dwellers, thereby making it easier for developing countries to adjust to the transformations associated with growing urbanization. Cities have often served as the engines of economic growth, thus vital to a nation’s socioeconomic development.

Population trends present challenges for all societies: unemployment, food and water shortages, and failing states.
In a major development, the Chinese government last year showcased its renewed war on poverty by announcing an ambitious strategy to transfer much of China’s population from rural to urban areas. The hope is the approach will lead to higher standards of living for China’s rural poor and heightened domestic consumer demand. Earlier restrictions on internal migration had created a de-facto illegal migrant population in many Chinese cities, without access to government services. This had been cited as a source of social instability and served to highlight the uneven distribution of benefits from China's economic growth. Chinese leaders must ensure adequate food supplies for a surging urban population while simultaneously promoting rural depopulation – a difficult juggling act in view of an oft expressed goal of ensuring national self- sufficiency in food production.

In another major population policy shift, China also announced in 2013, that after 30 years, it was revising its one-child policy. The new policy permits couples to have two children if either spouse is an only child. The policy adjustment, however, is expected to have only a marginal impact on China’s population.

In the years ahead, governments and the international community must address development consequences of population dynamics before they unfold by adopting forward-looking and pro-active policies based on past, current and foreseeable demographic trends. These population trends present challenges for all societies in the 21st century including low labor force participation, especially among youth; limited female empowerment; environmental degradation; food and water shortages; rapid urbanization; insufficient provision of housing, education and medical care; restrictive immigration policies; forced displacement and failing states.  Good planning could reduce the cost of unforeseen investments in security and disaster relief for the inevitable crises ahead.


Barry Mirkin works as a consultant on population issues, having retired from the United Nations Population Division in 2009. He served the UN in the field of population and development in New York and overseas for 35 years. Among other duties, he was chief of the population policy section. Besides completing numerous studies for the UN, he has written studies in such areas as population and development policy, population aging, retirement and international migration. He received his graduate training in population and economics at New York University, the University of Geneva and Princeton University. He lives in Manhattan.

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