Julian Huxley: Birth Control, Family Planning or Population Control All the Same Thing; Taking Control of Human Evolution (1963)

Julian Huxley is a direct descendant of “Darwin’s Bulldog”, Thomas Huxley.  In this lecture from 1963, he makes it clear that birth control is family planning is population control.  He argues that the goal should be improving the ‘quality of human beings.’  The word for that, of course, is eugenics.  In other words, population control (ie, birth control) is, fundamentally, a eugenic program.  He doesn’t use that word, but that is precisely what he means.  Note the emphasis on using the educational system to promote his eugenic vision for controlling human evolution.  Importantly–since eugenicists themselves constantly made the connection–earlier in the lecture, Huxley details the connection between his arguments and Darwinism and Malthus.  See here.

Source:  The Human Crisis (Part II, “The World Population Problem”) by Julian Huxley, 1963.

Pg 79-87

Finally there is the question of social and political efficiency.  As population increases beyond a certain point, the need for drastic measures of organization will increase too; more elaborate administrative machinery will be required, more regimentation will be necessary.  Thus the increasing pressure of population will inevitably cause overpopulated countries to become increasingly authoritarian in practice or even overtly and deliberately  Overpopulation tends to breed dictatorship.

To sum up, the world’s demographic situation is becoming impossible.  Man, in the person of the present generation of human beings, is laying a burden on his own future.  He is condemning his children’s children to increased misery; he is making it harder to improve the general lot of mankind; he is making it more difficult to build a united world free of frustration and greed.  More and more human beings will be competing for less and less, or at any rate each will have to be content with a lesser cut of the world’s cake.  If nothing is done about this problem by us who are now alive, the whole of mankind’s future will suffer, including the future of our own children and grandchildren.  The next twenty-five years will be decisive.

pg 80

What ought we to do?  The first thing, obviously, is to realize that what is happening is truly a population explosion, that it constitutes the world’s most serious problem, and that it has implications in all fields of human life and endeavor.  The second is to change the set of our minds, to get away from the idea that the increase in the number of human beings is somehow automatically a good thing, something inherently natural and right.  It was both natural and right in the early centuries of man’s existence and up to fairly recent times, but it is so no longer.  Today it is wrong.  It is now so wrong that it has become fundamentally immoral for any individual or group or organization to put obstacles in the way of birth control or to oppose any policies aimed at reducing the rate of human increase.  In passing, it is an interesting but regrettable that the Western world is in this respect less advanced than the Orient.  In India or Japan or Pakistan, no important organization is trying to put obstacles in the way of population control; both governments and public have seen that it is necessary and desirable.  But here in the West a number of organizations, especially religious organizations, are doing so, often all too successfully.

pg 81

We must take a new look at the problem.  We must stop thinking in terms of a race between production and reproduction, a race that never can be won.  We must realize that our aim is not mere quantity, whether of people or goods or anything else, but quality–quality of human beings and of the lives they lead.  Once we have grasped this, things begin to fall into place.

[Editor’s note:  ‘quality of human beings’ is expressly eugenic, but the idea of ‘quality of the lives they lead’ is reminiscent of another disturbing phrase with a dark history, ‘life unworthy of life.’]

Such a view has important implications for science and education.  It implies that the most important sciences today for the modern world are not physics and chemistry and their applications in technology, but evolutionary biology and ecology and their applications in scientific conservation.


pg 82

We must certainly get away from the idea that birth control (or population control, or family planning, or whatever one chooses to call it) is in any way unnatural.  It is no more unnatural than wearing clothes or cooking food or traveling in an airplane.  Nor is it sinful. It is worth remembering that just over a century ago the use of chloroform for women in childbirth was regarded as wicked and immoral by many churchmen because it was removing the primal curse on woman and not allowing her to pay as she ought to for her original sin in eating the apple and persuading Adam to do the same in the Garden of Eden.  These misapplications of theology to the use of anesthetics, to abortion, and now to birth control have caused grievous suffering to an immense number of unfortunate women.  It is time they came to an end.

As regards population policy, the time is not ripe for any estimate of ideal or optimum population size for the world or for individual countries.  The one overriding aim must be to get the rate of human increase down.  Whatever we do, we shall not be achieving an optimum; but we may be able to prevent world disaster if we halve the rate of population increase in the next two or three years–preferably two–generations.  If we do not manage to reduce the rate of increase, all possibility of future improvement is jeopardized.

pg 83

This applies, though in different degrees and ways, to all countries and nations.  It applies just as much to your nation and my nation as it does to the West Indies or India or China.  It will have to be approached in a different way in each nation, since the quantitative factors and the social problems differ from country to country.  In the most general terms, we have to aim at establishing a world population policy as part of the broad policy of the United Nations.  To implement this, each separate nation should establish its own population policy, with a department of population to implement it.

[… in the meantime, try to grow as much food as possible but conserve resources while doing so…]

pg 84

That is the aim.  How are we to achieve it?  One obvious way is to spend much more money and devote more scientific manpower to research on human reproduction, on methods of birth control and family planning, and on their social implementation in practice.  It is fair to say that, if one tenth of one percent of the money and skilled brain power expended on atomic weapons and space research had gone into research on human reproduction and its control, the world would be in much better shape, and its future would not look so black.

[… the advanced nations like the US, Britain, and western Europe shoudl take the lead, and support countries like India, Pakistan, and Japan, and any others in their own population control…]  As I earlier suggested, we should make demographic creditworthiness an element in the granting of aid by the United Nations and all its agencies.

pg 85

Another thing that the advanced and privileged nations should do is to set their economists and social scientists to thinking out ways and methods of providing economic and social incentives for promoting a lower rate of population increase.  Whether by means of family allowances, differential taxation, or other measures, it would undoubtedly be possible to devise economic and social methods that would exert pressure in favor of population decrease.  As complement to this, we should set our psychologists and sociologists to studying ways of providing psychological motivation for small families and a sane population policy.  In India the authorities are already beginning to persuade people that the whole future of the country depends on reducing the birth rate, and consequently that it is unpatriotic to have too many children.  This has already been achieved in Japan, with the result that the Japanese have been able to cut their birth rate in half within a generation.

pg 86

We should support all legislation–state, national, and international–that makes birth control easier and more socially approved.

[… He now spends some time complaining that the WHO and UN isn’t doing enough and that the Roman Catholics are standing in the way of progress… and, nearing his conclusion…]

pg 87

Meanwhile it is fair to say that the facts of the population explosion have begun to make people ask the most fundamental of all questions, so fundamental that we usually do not bother to ask it:  “What are people for?” This brings me back to my earlier conclusion that our overriding objective must be richer fulfillment for more individual human beings and fuller achievement by more human communities.  If you prefer it, man’s ultimate destiny is to direct the process of evolution and lead it to new heights by realizing new possibilities to enhance the quality of human living.

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  1. […] to taking control of human evolution, which in fact he brings up at the end of the same lecture; click here. […]

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