September 8, 2004

IF IT'S KILLING YOU MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP?:

Faith, fertility and American dominance: a review of The Empty Cradle by Phillip Longman (Spengler, 9/07/04, Asia Times)

Rapid aging followed by depopulation on a scale not seen since the collapse of the Roman Empire threatens the modern world, writes Phillip Longman, an American journalist. Buried inside his book is the startling forecast that America's evangelical Christians will breed themselves into a position of global dominance. That idea horrifies Longman, who spends most of his pages hatching schemes to prevent this from happening.

In Longman's view, modernity itself is to blame for the population debacle. "Those who reject modernity," he argues, "seem to have an evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons, or Muslims who remain committed to large families." [...]

Longman is right about the correlation between faith and fertility, but wrong about the cause. Mortal existence is intolerable without the promise of immortality. Animals breed and foster their young out of instinct; humankind does so in the hope that something of our mortal existence will survive us in the continuation of our culture and the remembrance of our children. Longman believes that the religious continue to reproduce because the Bible or Koran so instructs them. Religion in the broad sense means hope of immortality. By reducing culture to a hedonist's shopping basket of amusements, modernity destroys the individual's hope for immortality, and with it his incentive to create a new generation of humans. [...]

The implications of this trend appall Longman, who warns, "Such a trend, if sustained, would drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, and gradually create an anti-market culture dominated by fundamentalist values." This conclusion appears driven by prejudice. One may deplore or admire US evangelicals, but it is hard to argue that they will create an "anti-market culture". No one admires free enterprise more than American Christians, and one might conjecture that the growing proliferation of their denominations in Asia, Africa and Latin America will lend impetus to capitalist development.


How can you correctly diagnose modernity as an anti-human disaster and then fret because the U.S. is anti-modern?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2004 3:03 PM
Comments

But it was supposed to work. The experts all said so.

Posted by: Jeff at September 8, 2004 3:41 PM

Longman believes that Darwin was right and that his theories are not only right but there is no other credible 'spin' one can put on evolution.

He simply doesn't realize that a species (or subset thereof) that does not breed, is not only not the fittist but not even fit.

The classic example is the Shakers who not only did not breed at a survival rate, they refused to breed at all, depending entirely on 'immigration' and assimilation.

So where are the Shakers?

Posted by: at September 8, 2004 3:44 PM

I don't know if religion is required to breed in an era of effective birth control, but optimism certainly is.

Perhaps being a sourpuss is an anti-survival trait, and they're being bred out of humanity.

It was nice of Mr. Longman to refer to Mormons as "clean-living", instead of some less-positive stereotype, but as a Mormon, I'm hard pressed to think of any modernity that Mormons, as a group, reject.
Abortion, of course, and erotic imagery, but Mormons can use birth control, and sex is actively promoted, within marriage.

One of science fiction's most popular modern writers, Orson Scott Card, is an active Mormon who weaves tales from the Book of Mormon into his stories.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 8, 2004 3:52 PM

Michael (oj too)

Did you see this.

It astonished and pleased me. I used to be an SF fan but not since the early seventies and had never heard of Card before.

The piece has nothing to do with SF (I think) but to read a Democrat who has his head screwed on both right and tight is a wonder these days.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at September 8, 2004 3:59 PM

Michael -- Just as the Founding Fathers navigated an alcoholic sea, modern America runs on caffeine.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 8, 2004 4:07 PM

> as a Mormon, I'm hard pressed to think of any modernity that Mormons, as a group, reject.

Hot drinks? :)

Posted by: Guy T. at September 8, 2004 4:09 PM

And, of course, polygamy is cutting edge modernism right now.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 8, 2004 4:09 PM

Michael:

I think better evidence that (orthodox) Mormons do not reject modernity is the presence in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of a heart surgeon (Nelson), research chemist (Eyring), and a rocket scientist (Scott).

My brother in law - a patent attorney and president of his state chapter of the mars society would be rather offended at being described as rejecting modernity.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at September 8, 2004 4:25 PM

Jason:

What does science have to do with modernity?

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2004 4:31 PM

Mormons can only reject modernity if their church doesn't own stock in it.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 8, 2004 5:06 PM

"By reducing culture to a hedonist's shopping basket of amusements, modernity destroys the individual's hope for immortality, and with it his incentive to create a new generation of humans."

Isn't individual immortality the ultimate hedonistic amusement? What says "it's all about me" more than the expectation of personal immortality?


Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 8, 2004 6:43 PM

Not a mormon, but I think that the Mormon bashing should stop. If you want to pick on a splinter group pick on the scientologists.

Posted by: AML at September 8, 2004 7:31 PM

Scientology has enough money to put a dent in the national debt, vicious lawyers, their Dead Agent doctrine, and "Directive R2-45 LRH".

Posted by: Ken at September 9, 2004 1:02 PM

"Mortal existence is intolerable without the promise of immortality. Animals breed and foster their young out of instinct; humankind does so in the hope that something of our mortal existence will survive us in the continuation of our culture and the remembrance of our children."

"Spengler" keeps returning to this contention; it is the centerpiece of his Weltanschauung.

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 10, 2004 7:45 AM

Eugene:

Doesn't the divergence of religious America from secular Europe prove it?

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2004 8:23 AM

oj,

Remember my mention of German historian Michael Stürmer a few days ago?

He was the sole conservative in a three-person radio talkshow, yesterday on German radio. The topic was Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations and whether it had been vindicated by recent events.

Stürmer held his ground against his two counterparts, who predictably trotted out the usual mantras (Iraq the Quagmire, Do Not Anger the Arabs, Abandon Israel). To them it was all about national aspirations, poverty: the usual "root causes".

To which Stürmer pointedly replied, You are forgetting the importance of religion; Religion is a Flamethrower!

He then went on to say that Europe had ended religious strife by shipping out its fundamentalists... to America.

Heh.

Later, on the BBC, I heard an interview with a Frenchwoman who demanded yet more taxpayer-funded benefits for parents with children in the EU. She then remarked that the U.S. had a much higher birth rate even though its childraising benefits were almost non-existent. Apparently this was a cosmic oddity of no practical import, at least nothing to make her think twice about the effectiveness of EU policies.

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 10, 2004 8:44 AM

Eugene:

Huntington is, of course, right. He just underestimates the power of his own civilzation to end history.

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2004 8:49 AM

Off-topic ---->

----> Dept. of Sneering, Sandals-Wearing Anorak-Ism, Part. CCLXVII:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1301525,00.html

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 10, 2004 9:14 AM
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