Each species faces the same forces of evolution, and through the vagaries of chance operating on the individuals of that species, survives or dies. Through those same vagaries of chance, individuals acquire abilities to meet change in their environment, and thereby increase or decrease their chance to survive. A case can be made that the normal evolutionary rule that guides a species to “breed to survive” has been executed by the human species to perfection in all corners of the planet. No habitable space on the globe goes without human representation in ever increasing numbers, to the loss of most other creatures attempting to share the same space.
Humans always face challenges to one degree or another, but today the problem is orders of magnitude greater than in the past several millennia. Humans, as a species, have to recognize that a paradigm change has occurred in our environment. We no longer face the old evolutionary imperative: “breed collectively as individuals to survive as a species.”
We now face the opposite imperative: “carefully plan our families collectively as individuals or die as a species,” for our very successful evolutionary strategy in the old paradigm has become our own worst enemy in the new paradigm. The pressure of over-population either exacerbates or is the primary cause of the most egregious sociological problems of today—those that promise to become insurmountable tomorrow unless we face up to the fact that most of the other so-called “problems” we have are merely symptomatic of human over-population. This one problem may itself be a symptom of traditional mores1 running amok. Nevertheless, human over-population is the cause and its symptoms cannot be cured unless THE PROBLEM is successfully addressed, though perhaps in parallel with symptoms that can’t or won’t be ignored in the interim.
The purpose of this essay is to establish that a judicious practice of pregnancy prevention/termination 2 for purposes of family planning poses no threat to the human race, but in fact represents a practice that, by reducing or making less severe future competition for earth’s dwindling supply of natural resources, is of long-term benefit to the human race. The phrase “judicious practice of abortion” deserves attention, but first a philosophical bed for the term “human life” will be established to show that it is far more prevalent than perhaps many thought.
Dolly*, the sheep, as we recall, was the first publicized instance where a diploid cell3 of a mammal was used to propagate a new individual of that species, as opposed to the only previously known method — sexual reproduction. Dolly was “cloned” by impregnating her mother’s egg with a diploid cell from her mother, but in theory, a diploid cell could have been donated by another individual sheep of either sex and an egg could have been donated by another sheep. In any case, the experiment with Dolly opened a new paradigm in animal and human propagation history and evolution. The new paradigm states that life consists not only of the entities that are collections of symbiotic cells that form and act as breathing bodies, but rather exists as a continuum of all living DNA with propagation capabilities that can involve either sexual or asexual propagation.
It is not that this new method of propagation is necessarily desirable or even legal everywhere. In fact, most humans will prefer the old fashioned method to do their propagating, but this new method adds another dimension to the discussion on human life and propagation of the species.
Cloning4, or asexual reproduction, has now been accomplished in mammals. An assumption of this article is that human cloning is a probability, and it may have already been done, irrespective of some fraudulent claims in that regard and of its legality. (For the remainder of this article, propagation only as it may pertain to humans will be considered.)
Adding asexual reproduction opens the possibility that any human cell, that is, any cell containing human DNA in its nucleus could, given an appropriate nurturing environment (current technology makes use of the nucleus of a same species egg), become a breathing, sentient entity. In theory the possible cell donor sites could be a swab from inside the cheek, a hair follicle, a scraping of skin, the interior pulp of a molar, the tissue removed in a facelift operation, a drop of blood or any other living DNA from any individual’s body.
The surprise here is that in addition to the myriad possible “half” donations that a woman can make with her ovum and the virtually countless “half” donations that a man can make with his sperm, almost every cell in our entire bodies are potential “full” cell donation sites for DNA to reproduce ourselves or make a baby for others. This knowledge brings home the realization that our bodies are only a single outward manifestation of sentience in the human branch of a vast, vast DNA network.
Another surprise is that although we are suffering from an extreme of over-population, the number of humans alive on the planet is small relative to the number of potential people (cells available for actualization). Not only are there all the sexual possibilities for procreation, there are the possible donors of all the cells of everyone on the planet!!! The number boggles the mind. Emotional arguments could take on a different perspective if the incredible difference in these two numbers were known and understood by prospective parents. How important is it for a person’s life to be wrecked by premature or inopportune parenthood when there are likely to be so incredibly many other perfect selections and opportunities? (By the same token, horror at a look into the abyss of the possibilities of an ultra-extreme population explosion from the sexual side alone cannot be denied.) Perspectives change in light of real possibilities illuminated.
The examples of possible bodily cell donation sites listed above are benign and innocuous. But if we add some examples of human DNA clusters that are of a more unsavory nature it may help clarify the status of all types of DNA with respect to their host bodies. Special case DNA clusters may have identical, similar, or totally different DNA from that in the majority of cells of the host body. A non-exhaustive list of these types of DNA collections includes, tumors, warts, moles, polyps, cancers, virally infected cells and parasites. Perhaps it will be instructive to discuss some of these types of DNA clusters to show their relationship to the host.
Parasites5 are cell clusters that, depending on the needs and wants of their host person, may be legally removed from the body. In none of these cases does the DNA cluster obtain rights given in our society to a person. A tumor, a wart, a mole, or a polyp or a collection of virus-infected cells has no legal or moral status. In the case of pregnancy there is a period of development between blastula and baby that allows morally justifiable termination, just as one is morally justified in removing a tumor or a mole, or an accumulation of virus infected cells. The blastula/fetus is a parasite of the mother’s body. If it is a wanted parasite it will be harbored and nourished. If it is an unwanted parasite, there should be no moral stigma attached to its termination.
Let’s examine some cases of cell removal from the human body. At birth, a sixth finger or toe or the rare vestigial tail is routinely removed from a newborn, legally and with no recriminations. Yet these appendages all contain human DNA as the blastula/fetus does. Recursively, any of the cells of the blastula/fetus/finger/toe/tail could be used to propagate/clone a new human being, ad infinitum. All each needs is a nurturing environment to become a sentient human being. So I ask, where does the humanity of one bit of DNA begin and the other end?
Definition of morality: That behavior which inures to the long-term benefit of the human race.6
In my opinion it would be a moral error of commission to coerce parenthood on any woman reluctant to become a parent (deny her the right of “judicious practice of abortion”) in the early 21st century. This would violate a moral imperative against doing what is in the long-term interest of the human race. Each such coercive action would add marginally to a population that cannot be sustained by current practice, when most intractable sociological problems of the day are symptoms of human overpopulation.
In my opinion it would be a moral error of omission to fail to teach those of lesser knowledge that flooding the world with excess human beings violates a moral imperative against doing what is in humanity’s long-term interest. It will tend to hasten humanity’s ultimate extinction.
Consider the following:
- Population equivalent of New York City added to the world every six weeks.
- A new billion is added each twelve years
- Another 58 million (current pop of California and Texas) added to US in
the next 20 years
- Globally, 840 million to a billion people suffer from malnutrition
- Seven million children under age 5 die of malnutrition each year
- Some 30,000 children die each and every day in developing countries **
Other human induced troublesome topics for research:
- Global warming and melting of Polar ice caps
- Loss of rain forest and concomitant oxygen depletion
- Ozone layer depletion and harmful solar rays
- Ocean toxicity
- Depletion of ocean fish stocks
- Spread of toxicity to remaining fish stocks
- Loss of large predator and herbivore habitat
- Depletion of aquifers
- Depletion of farming topsoil
- Loss of arable land to urban sprawl
- Loss of air and water quality
- Fossil fuel supply disruptions and depletion vulnerabilities
- Economic pressures are on the increase across the globe and act as runaway feedback loops for more population growth and economic activity, etc.
- Population pressures exacerbate pressures for groups to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and use them against each other. The larger the masses of people the larger the mass destruction weapons deemed necessary to counter them.
- Note – Particular problems are not always uniformly spread about the planet.
The old paradigm of morality has “progressed” to a point where humanity is producing all it can carelessly breed into a world of teeming masses of warring nations and tribes fighting hammer and tong for every square foot of habitable land and scrap of sustenance on the planet. Unfortunately, the law of compounding works just as powerfully for human propagation as it does for money interest. Populations can continue to rise exponentially even in the face of falling birth rates.
In light of the current and future human over-population crisis, it must be considered of a higher morality for women (and men) everywhere to regulate, by whatever means available, the numbers and spacing of their offspring and to bring that lowered number into a world of reduced competition for space and resources, to further reduce tensions and give the peoples of the world a chance to settle into calmer lifestyles.
The previous statement begs the question of whether the new paradigm can be reached on a voluntary basis, or would it require government coercion. One can hope that the old will naturally fall into the new with the aid of medical technology and abortion will soon not be necessary to reach population equilibrium. Failing that, one has to ask if one is coerced, is morality in the driver’s seat?
I think not. In my opinion the current abortion debate should never have been taken to the halls of government for coercive treatment. Governments can play a positive role by not encouraging programs that favor population increases and by favoring educational programs that warn of the consequences of excess population on environmental and sociological issues, etc. But the higher morality will stand on voluntary shoulders or it will not stand — with all due ramifications.
The new paradigm of morality deserves worldwide proponents, disciples, adherents and congregations in all walks of life. Nothing less than a substantial shift to the a higher order of morality will save the earth — or perhaps, I should say — in my opinion, nothing less will save a human race that would like to remain evolutionarily viable and preserve its existence on this planet.
1 See “The Religion Spin” Blog on Authorsden.com.by Elizabeth Lucas-Taylor A series of articles detailing the foibles of organized religion’s immoral and totally unwarranted seizure of the reins of morality, especially those concerning sex and reproduction.
2pregnancy prevention/abortion – These two activities are often separated, if not functionally, then ostensibly for reasons of political correctness.
3Diploid cell- any cell in the body with two sets of chromosomes as opposed to the haploid cells as represented by sperm or egg
4Cell division replicates both strands of DNA as part of normal replacement and maintenance of cells of various organs and tissues throughout the body. Other types of replications of DNA include several involved with reproduction. Meiosis is cell division where the chromosomes are halved to create a gamete (sperm or egg). Another is conception, where DNA of either one or two chromosome strands is successfully added to the nucleus of an egg that contains either zero or one chromosome strand to result in a total of two chromosome strands. Mitosis is normal cell division where both strands of chromosomes are duplicated to form a blastula (a hollow ball of cells with walls one cell thick). Gastrulation is the process whereby a dent, or blastopore, is formed in the blastula that eventually is developed into the anus. These and many other steps are needed to form an embryo, all of which are usually carried out within a female’s uterus, but which have also successfully been processed in vitro, i.e., in laboratory utensils.
5From MSN Encarta comes these descriptive sentences:
Parasite, any organism living on or in another living organism, and deriving part or all of its nutrients from the host without contributing anything to the host. In most cases, parasites damage or cause disease in the host. … Parasites that live within the body of the host … are known as endoparasites. Permanent parasites pass most of their life cycle in or on a host; temporary parasites spend a brief period of time in or on a host and are free-living organisms for the remainder of the life cycle.
6 I would have added “and the biosphere” to the definition to make it obvious that damage to the biosphere is detrimental to the human race, but the definition is already inclusive.
*The biological information for this article comes from research and news stories on the subject. The biological facts are true to the best of my ability to relate them from the literature, but I am not a biological scientist.
**These statistics and more available from “The Population Connection,” Zero
Population Growth, and Negative Population Growth.
© 2006 R. Leland Waldrip