Obama's Population Fundamentalist

Steven Mosher
by Colin Mason
PRI Weekly Briefing
2009 Aug 14, Vol. 12 / No. 24
Reproduced with Permission

John P. Holdren thinks babies will be the death of us all. Normally, one man's opinion would not matter terribly, but Mr. Holdren happens to be President Obama's Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Or, in short, as the president's "Science Czar," Holdren is an official member of the Executive Branch, and holds very real sway over federal operations related to science.

In other words, this is the man who will be driving American policy on scientific matters for the next 4, possibly 8 years. We find this thought alarming, since even a perfunctory glance at his record shows that he holds radically alarmist views about human overpopulation, views that lean far beyond simple leftism into uncomfortably totalitarian territory.

For instance, in the late 1960's, Holdren was one of the original "population bombers". . . one of the scientists who spent a large part of their careers proclaiming that human population was a bomb - a bomb that was about to go off. In fact, Holdren co-authored a book with the master bombers themselves: Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ehrlich, entitled Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions. In this book, Holdren (along with the Ehrlichs,) decreed that:

To date, there has been no serious attempt in Western countries to use laws to control excessive population growth, although there exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. For example, under the United States Constitution, effective population-control programs could be enacted under the clauses that empower Congress to appropriate funds to provide for the general welfare and to regulate commerce, or under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Such laws constitutionally could be very broad. Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society. Few today consider the situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion, however.

This is more than enough to give one pause, especially considering that Holdren is now in a position to influence these exact sorts of decisions. However, further on in the book, Holdren & Co. propose measures to curtail United States population growth, including mandating that single mothers give their children up for adoption, and possibly even introducing sterilizing agents into the national water supply:

Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.

Holdren even proposed that we begin giving civil rights to inanimate objects, referring to a proposition put forward by law professor Christopher D. Stone. "In that tightly reasoned essay," wrote Holdren, "Stone points out the obvious advantages of giving natural objects standing, just as such inanimate objects as corporations, trusts, and ships are now held to have legal rights and duties."

Due to public discomfort with Holdren's slowly emerging record on these matters, the administration has bent over backward to downplay their impact on public policy. According to The Washington Times, Holdren's staff released a statement that scoffed at his critics, implying that material from a "three-decade-old, three-author college textbook" was irrelevant and that Holdren "addressed this issue during his confirmation when he said he does not believe that determining optimal population is a proper role of government."

We at PRI believe that some statement buried during a confirmation hearing, if it was ever made at all, is not enough. To the best of our knowledge, Holdren has never publicly disavowed his belief in overpopulation and radical population control measures. It doesn't matter that his book was published in the 1970's. Last time we checked, textbooks don't have expiration dates.

This is especially troubling, since Holdren's appointment follows upon Obama's promise to "restore science to its rightful place" in American society; a process that is, presumably, being held up by those who oppose the administration's pet policies. Since Obama's pattern, so far, has been to allow ideology to inform politics, we have no reason to believe that an ideologically driven Science Czar will not be allowed to do the same.

We invite Obama to realize what we see so clearly: that America's greatest resource is the American people. He should safeguard them with even more love and care than he would spend on the environment of our beautiful country. And that means protecting us from so-called scientists that see humankind as a cancerous sore on the earth, rather than as its crowning glory.