Guy Irving Burch: Darwin, Eugenics, and War

Guy Irving Burch was a staunch eugenicist and early advocate for population control on both environment grounds and eugenic grounds.  He rests his arguments explicitly on Darwin and Malthus, as this introduction to chapter 4 of his Human Breeding and Survival: Population Roads to Peace or War illustrates (pg 40).


Chapter Four

Freedom from War Requires Population Limitation

There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that, if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair.  Even slow breeding man has doubled in twenty five years, and at this rate, in less than a thousand years, there would literally not be standing room for his progeny.– Charles Darwin, Origin of Species.  London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, W., 1920.

[Burch proceeds to argue that “Population is not only a fundamental cause of war, but it seems to be, as Harold Cox suggests, an inevitable cause of war.” pg 42.  He insists that that World War 2 was chiefly an outgrowth of population pressures, insisting that the “sense of superiority” that Germany, Italy, and Japan exhibited was basically just an overlay of propaganda.  Finally, he compares the then current population of the world, which was just emerging from a horrific world war, with the ‘optimum’ population that would ensure peace:  approximately 2 billion. Page 49-50]

The population of the earth today is approximately 2,500,000,000.  If it continues to double during the coming 90 years as it has done since 1850, there will be more than 4,000,000,000 people in the world.  Earlier in this book we quoted the Chief of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service as saying that there are only four billion acres of more or less arable land on the earth and that it takes two and one-half acres of arable land to support one person, on the average, at a minimum adequate level of living.  We have quoted authoritative nutrition experts to the effect that the food supply of the earth would need to be at least doubled to support its present population in health and efficiency.  These and other studies which have been mentioned suggest that the Good Earth might support two billion people at a minimum adequate diet.  Even this is assuming that science and technology can practically stop erosion, find sufficient substitutes for nature’s mineral resources, and make the equivalent of two stalks of grain and two food animals grow where one grows now.  If these great tasks can be accomplished, it appears that the size of the population which would implement peace goals would be about two billion.

[He then proceeds to argue that except for a “reasoned population program” the threat of war will persist.]

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