31 October 2009

Mission Accomplished?

The current online version of Economist.com presents a triumphalist version of world population control, here and here.
SOMETIME in the next few years (if it hasn’t happened already) the world will reach a milestone: half of humanity will be having only enough children to replace itself. That is, the fertility rate of half the world will be 2.1 or below. This is the “replacement level of fertility”, the magic number that causes a country’s population to slow down and eventually to stabilise. According to the United Nations population division, 2.9 billion people out of a total of 6.5 billion were living in countries at or below this point in 2000-05. The number will rise to 3.4 billion out of 7 billion in the early 2010s and to over 50% in the middle of the next decade. The countries include not only Russia and Japan but Brazil, Indonesia, China and even south India. _Economist

At a time when Malthusian worries are resurgent and people fear the consequences for an overcrowded planet, the decline in fertility is surprising and somewhat reassuring. It means that worries about a population explosion are themselves being exploded—and it carries a lesson about how to solve the problems of climate change. _Economist
This victorious story line rests upon a fictitious statistic, known as the total fertility rate (TFR). What is the TFR and why is it fictitious?
...this rate [TFR] is the number of children a woman would have if she was subject to prevailing fertility rates at all ages from a single given year, and survives throughout all her childbearing years. _Wikipedia
In other words, TFR is a hypothetical rate, based upon a number of dubious assumptions. It is an artificial projection of the present into the future. The probability of the TFR corresponding to actual future fertility is close to 0.

It is assumed that as a wave of prosperity and modernisation sweeps over the hyper-procreating third world, that fertility rates in the nations that lie above the replacement line in the image above, will fall dramatically to replacement levels.

It is true that in most societies, as more women are educated and enter the skilled marketplace, fertility rates tend to fall. And it also seems obvious that as satellite and cable television extend their influence, that more women are exposed to the affluence and mindset of low-fertility societies. But is it realistic to expect that trend to penetrate the remaining countries that have proven to be so resistant to modernisation and prosperity?

In other words, what if there exists a hidden factor unexamined by population experts, which renders a culture, nation, society, or tribe immune to most of the forces of population reduction that have impacted half the population of the world? If so, what might that hidden factor be?

Some societies are resistant to the idea of educating girls and women. Further, in some societies women lack the protection of efficacious laws and law enforcement to assert their rights. Even further, in some societies women essentially have no rights.

Worse than all that, some societies are remarkably resistant to efforts to reduce corruption, to provide law and order, to build a prosperous middle class, and to build a sound educational and civic infrastructure. They seem to be immune from a broad based prosperity.
It is extremely unlikely that low IQ is the full story behind entire regions stuck in high corruption, low prosperity, high fertility circumstances. But it appears to be a crucially important factor.

If the continuing population growth of the planet is based upon a natural increase within such prosperity-resistant societies, it should be obvious that projecting past population trends upon the future may not be valid.

Perhaps it should also be said that if the USA, Australia, and Europe continue along their current path of wealth destruction via energy starvation, current levels of prosperity in those regions -- and everywhere except perhaps China, Brazil, and India -- may well not continue. In other words, if government policies are sufficiently suicidal, no amount of population control can save the nation.

The problem should be looked at differently for the developed world vs the third world. In the developed world the problem is one of underpopulation and the inability to sustain basic services -- including self defense. Even more ominous, within advanced countries, it is the most intelligent and best educated who are most likely to choose childlessness. The least intelligent and less educated more often choose above-replacement procreation. Such a trend is inherently dysgenic.

So we see this dysgenic trend acting at all levels -- regional, national, and international. Interestingly, this trend is not mentioned in either of the triumphal Economist articles. And yet the ongoing reduction of average world population IQ from 90 points to the mid 80s by the middle of the century is one of the most serious problems the world faces.

Ignoring the vitally important in order to highlight the hypothetical and outright fictitious. That is the intellectual life in a politically correct age.

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Blogger read it said...

"It is extremely unlikely that low IQ is the full story behind entire regions stuck in high corruption, low prosperity, high fertility circumstances. But it appears to be a crucially important factor."

I think you have made the point before that IQ is not the only cognitive characteristic that is heritable.

Different distributions of empathy, conscientiousness, creativity, etc. along with different IQ distributions can show interesting (wretched) manifestations within societies.

Our goals are not their goals.

Saturday, 31 October, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Heritability is a tricky characteristic. It is what is left to account for variability when you correct for environmental effects. Heritability of IQ increases with age.

We don't know about the life cycle of the heritability of executive function and various traits of personality and character.

Presumably the same trend toward increasing heritability over time would play out.

Sunday, 01 November, 2009  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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