Once every generation voters get a real life example of the ideological tension between sociobiology and humanist ideals.
For the first time in Australia, two political parties are running on a platform of cutting Australia’s population. They say humans are destroying the planet and immigrants are destroying Australia.
The Stop Population Growth Now (SPGN) party in South Australia and the federally registered Stable Population Party (SPP), are disciples of the scientist EO Wilson, who defined sociobiology as “the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organisation.”
“Growing a bigger population funded by the rapid depletion of Australia's finite mineral and energy resources is a recipe for economic, environmental and social disaster,” the SPP states on their website. In 2010, they met with SPGN convenor Bob Couch "to discuss our common goal of rapid population stabilisation”.
The SPP are against building houses for first home buyers and for reducing child support payments so women will have fewer kids. They are for kicking out the Kiwis and slashing immigration numbers because they consume too much — even though Australia exports $30 billion of foodstuffs per year.
The premise of sociobiology is that genes dictate the way we think and behave. Sociobiologists believe that behaviour evolves over a long time period, which gives human thinking and behavior a predictative quality. If you’ve ever sat a psychometric test, you’re in the world of the sociobiologists.
Sociobiology claims that our desire for knowledge, the experience of love, and the need for redemption, are simply complex animal experiences. It says that non-biological factors, such as social customs, expectations and education, have little or no effect on behaviour.
Accordingly anti-population parties say we are hard wired as consumers and that we not only lack free will, but are hell bent on destroying nature and therefore the world. For them, the only solution is to reduce the planet’s human population.
The anti-populationists have also taken on board the outdated theories of Thomas Malthus, an 18th century British cleric who said the poor would breed and breed until the earth was destroyed. The SPP and the SPNG married the theories of sociobiology (we’re ravenous consuming animals lacking free will) with the Malthusian notion that people — especially poor people — are the problem.
The anti-populationists do not come from the liberal democratic tradition. They are first and foremost scientists with a functionalist scientific view.
The anti-populationists are behaviourists in the sense that they are only interested in how people behave as units of consumption not in the relations between people, corporations, governments and nations. One of the leaders of the SPGN, Dr Michael Lardelli, wrote a telling comment on a 2012 Nature magazine article about a potential collaboration between geneticists and economists:
“Watch out geneticists! Mainstream economics is basically a pseudo-science/ideology where demonstrably false theories of behaviour are retained in defiance of evidence and are used to justify the self-serving behaviour of a controlling elite whomever that might be.”
The other point concerns the notion of a finite earth. The anti-populationists borrowed this concept from the systems theorists, who, like the SSP and the SPGN were also scientists.
In the most general sense, a system means a configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships. But some say everything is connected to everything else, especially when talking about chaotic systems like the climate.
Some take this further, and believe that organic and inorganic life on earth forms a self-regulating complex system, a single living planetary being called Gaia. Of course Gaia is a metaphor for natural processes, which have been in flux since the beginning of time. The anti-populationists believe this closed but self-sustaining system is in peril, but instead of fighting corporate greed and industrial polluters, the anti-populationists want to get rid of the people.
The Australian parties take their cues from The Optimum Population Trust (OPT) in the UK. Its website, “Pop Offsets”, allows you to work out how many births you must help to prevent in order to offset your own carbon emissions. The idea is that humans are a problem in need of a reduction. Aren’t you glad you were born now?
So where does this leave us with these two political parties? These are not environmental parties although they wave the green flag. They are not racist parties, although they sound like John Tanton in the US with his zero population and anti-immigration push. Nor are they socialists — they have no interest in the relationship between labour and capital. They are populist parties seeking electoral advantage by setting neighbour against neighbour.
Our political leaders have taken a holiday and allowed these morally reprehensible organisations to spring up without a comment but I feel no such compunction. Never before has human agency been held in such low esteem by throwbacks such as the Stable Population Party and the Stop Population Growth Now party. Exercise some free will at the next election and emphatically reject them.
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