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The human population is at the limit. We are killing children by making babies too fast.

The definition of "at the limit" is the situation where the population cannot grow as fast as the birth rate demands. This results in premature death, specifically childhood death.

To understand this, imagine a static environment where a stable quantity of sustenance arrives daily. In that environment if the population is at the limit of how many people that sustenance can keep alive, and the adults average 3 babies, then 1/3 of the children must die. If the adults average 4, then 1/2 of the children must die. Notice that the birth rate dictates the child mortality rate.

This concept does not change if we alter the environment or our techniques for extracting sustenance such that we are expanding the amount of sustenance. In other words we can be in the situation where we are expanding our capacity, but not as fast as the births are demanding, and thus some portion of the child mortality is caused by breeding too fast. This means we cannot use the total child mortality rate as an indicator of whether we are suffering this problem or not.

To prevent this a TwoFourEightPlus system is required. This means no more than 2 children, 4 grandchildren for you parents, 8 great grands for your grandparents, plus some are allowed to have more to make up for others that do not meet TwoFourEight (Note: do not count dead children in this calculation). This system has never existed, thus humans have never controlled their fertility.

Given that humans have existed for a long time, never controlled their fertility, and anything above an average of 2 children attempts to grow our numbers exponentially, we must assume that we are at the limit. Scientists do not assume this. They assume the opposite.

Note, before you supply some comment about how humans limit their fertility, make sure you comprehend the difference between something that lowers fertility and something that will ensure it is low enough such that births are not killing.

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    Nov 21 2013: More thought.
    How are we at the limit of human ??? that births are killing children.
    There are areas where population is so dense and/or distribution is so convoluted that food is lacking that the weakest of society including children are starving and dying. This is an unacceptable situation.


    In spite of what the propaganda is.... the world is not overcrowded, there is enough food to sustain everyone... in fact some.... maybe too many have to much food and are overweight, maybe this is why scientists assume the opposite.
    I have no idea how you came to this conclusion unless you are addressing those unfortunate who are in places with limited food and distribution or are plagued by a hostile environment.
    And then how would you go into..... the Congo and say to the local natives "If you don't have so many children, they won't die... maybe so many wouldn't die"
    I guess it's logical just unclear especially after my research suggest mankind may peak in numbers soon and begin a downward spiral that if left unchecked could lead to extinction in less then 10,000 years.
    • Nov 22 2013: Yes, I agree there is enough food to go around., but we are not distributing it equally. This means that we have a choice of causality. 1) poor food distribution causes these starvation deaths, or 2) excess breeding causes these starvation deaths. If we choose #1 as the cause, then we look for solutions that correct that. If we choose that solution nothing stops the uncontrolled breeding from driving our numbers right up to the limit again. If we do #2, then we are no longer killing because we make babies too fast.

      Your second concept assumes that only the starving, and areas with high birth rates, are causing this problem. This is a bad assumption. Given that we have a global economy, there are no separate areas. In other words a human in the USA is consuming resources and that affects the resources that are available in the Congo. In short, everyone must know that we must limit the number of babies we create. So, yes, if the people of Congo create fewer babies the death rate of their children will drop, but also if the people in the USA create fewer the Congo's child mortality rate will drop. Note, that this discussion is not about what marketing campaigns will be best, so I have no intention of discussing what to say to whatever natives.

      I totally agree that the number of humans on the Earth will peak. We are on a finite planet so there is absolutely no doubt our numbers will peak. It is a question of whether they peak because we are limiting our fertility or whether the environment is limiting, slowing, or decreasing our numbers in spite of our fertility rates. Also notice that this topic does not mention a rising population. Many scientists have taken the fact that the birth rate has been dropping world wide and do a very poor extrapolation of that to the future and draw ridiculous conclusions from it, like extinction. See for why these extrapolations are bad science.
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    Nov 20 2013: This was an interesting conversation. I gave it some thought and did some research. What I learned.
    A reproduction rate of 2.1 children is needed to sustain the current world population. I didn't go deep on the number, is sounds about right. What was enlightening is that there are only a few small countries that are maintaining the rate.
    Best guess from some is that world population will peak in this century and do a sharp drop. Worse, the population will be older, require more goods and services and subsequently less productive, but technology (robotics?) may save the day.

    It seems that progressive nations where people are "living better", women are having children later and in fewer numbers. Theoretically, in a few thousand years, the last human on earth will die of old age.

    Population control (disregarding war, pestilence or plague.... a stray meteor) has not gone well. China ruled a number of years ago that only one child was allowed. People opted for sons.... who knew? As a result there are... a million? or some large number of young men and no girls to marry.... This will not end well.
    On the upside.... less people... less impact on the environment.
    • Nov 21 2013: I would rather keep this conversation on the topic of whether births are indeed killing.

      My argument is that we have always averaged more than 2 and that means that humans have always been attempting to drive their numbers to infinity at an exponential rate. Something has to stop that and the obvious thing is premature death of children so that they do not grow to breeding age. I argue that there is no mechanism in nature like TwoFourEight that could have prevented our numbers from hitting the limit shortly after arriving in each environment around this planet.

      An interesting example is North America 500-150 years ago. Europeans arrived and introduced diseases that decimated the native population. One can conclude that shortly after that the natives were not at the limit. The Europeans then arrived and brought more efficient crops and methods of government that would have the effect of raising the limit. Notice that when Malthus published his famous essays, he used NA as an example of unrestrained population growth. It was doubling every 25 years.

      The use of fossil fuels as also dramatically increased the limits. But do we have any reason to believe that we increased them faster than our numbers were attempting to grow? We see clusters of malnutrition and starvation, with high child mortality rates, throughout the world. Generally the world now has one large economy. So it seems to me that the evidence of being at the limit world wide is clear. The proof is stated above, the evidence is the starvation. The burden of proof is the other way around. One must prove there is a mechanism that limits fertility such that our numbers did not hit the limit.

      In your research did you find anything that mentions this concept? Did you find any definitions for this? Did you find any hint that anyone has thought about this?
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    Nov 19 2013: Fascism is not the problem.
    It's about the mistakes. Let's be honest, where you have people, you have mistakes.
    So, some prolific country bumpkin has 8 kids.
    Now what? Do we cut this bumpkin's prolific throat? Drown these kids in potato bags at the river?

    How do we make the 2-4-8 thing work in the real world? I can't list all the great solutions I am aware that seem to go south when people get included and this looks like another one.
    • Nov 21 2013: I am concluding there is no point in responding to the "fascist" type of comments. They serve no purpose.

      In addition, I would rather steer this topic towards what we must know, instead of worrying about what we must do. I would rather not spend time discussing how to make the TwoFourEight thing work because right now almost nobody knows it. The reason I described it is to show a mechanism that is required for us to conclude that our fertility is not being limited to ensure we are not attempting to grow our numbers faster than they can be accommodated. In other words because that mechanism has never existed, we have to conclude that our numbers have generally always been at the limit.
  • Nov 13 2013: China already had far too many men and too few women. They have an insufficient number of young people to support the old, as well. Likewise, I am saying that Amnesty International does not consider births to be a form of killing. Their rankings are not skewed incorrectly, you are merely a lunatic.
    • Nov 13 2013: I am not seeing the benefit of this TED idea thing. If anyone can respond to these things without actually thinking about the concept and instead regurgitate the conventional wisdom, how exactly would a new idea get noticed?

      I can imagine how Joseph Lister felt when he said that bacteria from dirty tools and hands are inserted into the patient's open wounds and that leads to infections that kill. The doctors of his day responded much like you have. "No, my dirty hands did not kill President Garfield. I tried to save him. Infections are caused by miasma from stale air. You are a lunatic."
      • Nov 13 2013: I do think about the concept and have for decades. You are not automatically correct. You can be wrong. You can be so very wrong that most people don't even consider you worthy of a reply. A new idea gets noticed by people being competent and DEMONSTRATING its validity, not by them merely repeating themselves. Lister was able to PROVE his hypothesis in a practical manner. Where is your evidence? All you do is repeat yourself and get offended when the world won't roll over and worship you.
        • Nov 13 2013: What do you suggest I do to prove that births are killing children? If it was happening, how would you know it? How would someone prove it?
      • Nov 14 2013: You have the hypothesis. It is your responsibility to provide the evidence, not mine.
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      Nov 12 2013: twofoureight concept is almost flawless, except it is fascist.
      • Nov 19 2013: This is not about whether you like this or not.

        The TwoFourEight concept is stating a mechanism that must be present in order for us to conclude that our fertility is controlled such that our numbers have not hit the limit.
  • Nov 12 2013: Okay, let's impose a "one child" policy, like that civil rights paradise, communist China. After all, aren't they on Amnesty International's "best countries" list?
    • Nov 13 2013: Could you clarify your point?

      Are you saying that everything that communist countries do is wrong, therefore restricting births is wrong, and therefore we can ignore the fact the births are killing children?

      Are you saying that Amnesty International does not recognize that births kill and thus their rankings are skewed incorrectly against China and towards all other countries that do not restrict births to prevent deaths?

      Are you saying that restricting births is bad for civil rights, therefore we are not killing children by making babies too fast?

      Are you saying that restricting births is a violation of civil rights, and getting pushed off the Earth by too many people is a lesser violation of civil rights?
  • Nov 12 2013: I think I do understand, but if the premise is as stated "The definition of "at the limit" is the situation where the population cannot grow as fast as the birth rate demands. This results in premature death, specifically childhood death." Then we have always been at the limit and even more so in the past. If I understand your point correctly, and please do correct me if I don't, then if on average, in the past women had 10 children and only two survived the population was not growing as fast as the birth rate demanded. However in the year 2013 that average is now 8 born and three survive then we are still at the limit. Those are not real statistics but the infant/childhood death rate on average has fallen globally.

    To answer your other two questions:
    Do you understand how to prevent this? A: no no one does that is why it is still a problem, but I bet it has to do with what I mentioned above like education, a womans right to choose when she gets pregnant, education and family planning, growth of the middle class globally, infrastructure etc.

    Do you know of a different mechanism that will prevent hitting this limit? A: yes kill all humans. That is the only mechanism that will solve this outright. However that is not a logical solution nor an ethical one, so how about finding ways to distribute food and clean water like by building out infrastructure and sharing farming techniques and creating legislation that doesn't comoditize food and health since they are necessities to life.

    Sorry if that sounded like I was annoyed cause I was a bit.
    • Nov 12 2013: Yes, we have always been at the limit and more so in the past. Yes, your 10/2 and 8/3 example, which is grossly out of whack with reality, does correctly state the "more so in the past" concept. It also nicely shows that in the past there was nil population growth, and today, exponential growth.

      Regarding how to prevent this, what is wrong with the TwoFourEight concept I described above? I am not saying that I know how to get everyone to agree to this, but this very knowledge is a requirement.

      I want this to be a technical discussion, so I will nitpick on your last paragraph. Killing all humans cannot solve the problem of humans killing other humans. It is not a matter of ethics, it is a matter of logic. But note that if you agree that births are killing children, then that throws a huge monkey wrench in everyone's belief that fertility restrictions are unethical, right?

      Even if we can snap our fingers and distribute food and clean water as efficiently as possible, it will not stop the attempted exponential growth. Rosling's talk, referenced above, extrapolates the low fertility we have seen recently into the future, and paints a rosy future. However, there is no scientific basis for doing that extrapolation. It is no better than extrapolating the flight of a baseball with a straight line. To properly predict future fertility rates scientists must find the groups that average the most babies and are the most successful at passing along the beliefs that cause this high fertility. In other words, Rosling must find the groups that average too many children in spite of having family planning, education, and women's rights in sufficient amounts. Demographers don't do this. (see
  • Nov 11 2013: I have to disagree with your premise, I hope that I can make my argument clear and unoffensive because it is not my intent to try to "shut you down" for the sake of it. Yes we (the world) have a huge problem with infant and child mortality, there is no argument from me on that issue, however, we must first examine the root of the problem. It is not the birth rate but rather, access to the necessities of human life. Those being, security (both physical and food/water security), opportunity, education, infrastructure, and geo/political stability.

    The truth is that the world produces enough food to feed the world with huge excesses each year, however the cost to distribute that food is too high. Sad but true.

    The latest estimates on population cap is +/- 10 billion according to Hans Rosling (watch all 5 of his talks he's super intelligent and hugely hilarious). In order to reach that limit we must build out infrastructure in the developing world, increase family planning education, and create freedoms of choice for women. This is a tall order because part of the reason families have large families is because it is the only way for a family lineage to continue. In the US just a few generations ago women regularly had 10+ kids of which less than half survived.

    Education of women, and a woman's rights over reproduction is a religious issue and religion is hard to fight, although there are champions like Richard Dawkins, Cristopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

    Infrastructure is expensive, fuel prices are increasing, and government stability is incumbent on getting people to agree to a common good which we cannot even do in the US.

    Until we can solve these issues the only way for a family lineage to continue is to have large numbers of children and hope (and hope, and hope) that they survive hunger, war, illness, and natural disaster. A sad reality of the world we live in.

    Will we do it, no doubt, if we don't we will fail as a species.
    • Nov 12 2013: Your comments do not really address the topic. This topic is not asking what you think in general terms about the human population situation. It defines a specific term, states how to avoid that situation, and makes a case that we must assume that we are in this situation. It should be clear that we should not assume we are not at the limit. At best I think you are trying to say that we are not in this situation, but it seems to me that you are assuming we are not and your argument depends upon that assumption.

      Do you understand the definition stated for "at the limit" as defined in this? Do you understand how to prevent this? Do you know of a different mechanism that will prevent hitting this limit?
  • Nov 11 2013: We need to look at issues like living standards and what people expect. Otimists about the human condition like Malthus's idea of Moral Restraint looked at this about two hundred years ago. He was read by Darwin and Wallace who he influrnced. We have lowered our living standards in the Unbited States by importing lower income people as is the industrial custom in this country fits the Malthus model and classical economics well. So Marx and conventional economics is falsified. Of course, to look at the bad stuff that can happen one might look at livestock, rabbits, deer, and foxes. The human issue is somewhat different as we are talking about things like health care, University education, and jobs OKsomething like a drought can happen to people See the Irish potato famine Where taxes were too low to avoid the starvation and migration of large numbers of people. Bertrand Russel wote about how hard life was in the Dark Ages for the average person in Marriage and Morals
    It's a bit wore complicated See the collected Malthus and Marriage and Morals.


    P.S. Raising livestock helps ones undrstanding. Didn't a Norwegian win a Nobel or something from his close observation of his chickens? Seealso Gregory Mendel and peas. Any person can learn just by observing. But isn't it nice to quote acknowledged experts?
    • Nov 12 2013: Raising livestock is a fine example where the population's fertility is controlled to ensure that the population does not grow larger than can be provided for.

      However, I don't think you really understood the topic statements. This defines what must happen, states what must exist to prevent it, and states that we must not assume that we are not at the limit.
      • Nov 12 2013: Okay I see your point better

        But I think the population is asymmetric

        If conditions change e.g. a drought you can be so overstocked that some will die under the stress.
        • Nov 12 2013: I don't see why you need to have some sort of drought in order to conclude that some die under the stress. There's plenty of starvation deaths in the world that do not have an associated drought or famine. In other words, you are creating some artificial line where if the badness (drought, tsunami, volcanic eruption, etc) is large enough, then we are overstocked. Why invent that line?

          On this finite planet starvation is the swing producer. If tsunamis, and drought, and war do not limit our attempted growth, then starvation will get the job done if we are unable to expand our sustenance production as fast as necessary. That starvation does not have to be greater than some blatant X value.
      • Nov 14 2013: I a;m not even sure there is stantial disagreement here. We have jdourneyed into numbers never seen bvefore. I think Asimov's essay in The Roving Mind is as good as I've seen. I did have concern with not understanding exactly what you were saying.
        • Nov 14 2013: Maybe this will help. There are two separate conditions regarding a population's size.

          1) being at the limit, which this conversation is covering.

          2) being overpopulated, which this conversation does not cover. (note, that the definition on Wikipedia correctly defines "overpopulation" for my needs. However the resulting Wikipedia article is not consistent with that definition and therefore you have to interpret the definition of overpopulation in strict accordance to the words used, and not like everyone else interprets those words.)

          If we make a simple model, we can see the two separate concepts. Imagine a life boat with some people in it. If the people are capable of catching fish at a rate that will keep 4 people alive, then the carrying capacity is 4. If someone gets pregnant on that boat, then someone is going to die. Maybe the fetus, maybe the baby, maybe the new one lives, but someone must die. 5 cannot exist on that boat. That pregnancy will kill. This is the concept that this topic is addressing.

          Now put some cans of food on that life boat, and a can opener that will open the cans at say 1 per day. The cans allow the population to be over 4, let's say the boat can keep 8 alive now. If the boat has less than 8, then the boat is not "at the limit" as defined in this article, but it is overpopulated. The strict definition of carrying capacity says that the boat can handle 4, so anything above 4 is overpopulated if there are more than 4. The relevant concept is that once the cans run out, the population on the boat will be no more than 4.

          If there are 8 on the boat, and one gets pregnant, then that pregnancy will kill. Again, this is "at the limit" as defined in this topic, and overpopulated.

          Notice the 2 separate concepts.

          We all know not to get someone pregnant in that situation, but when this is scaled up to Earth, somehow we lose sight of this fundamental principle. Notice the others on this thread refuse to even think about it.
  • Nov 10 2013: Are you a time traveler from 1970? According to 1970, we all starve to death by 1980-2000, at the latest.
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      Nov 11 2013: he can be. and he needs to catch up on events since. for one, it would be wise to watch the rosling talk he himself linked.
      • Nov 11 2013: We have controlled our fertility. We have done so in a large number of countries. The other countries have not implemented the most effective possible controls known: Extending real prosperity "down" and educating girls and women to parity with boys and men. Countries that have done that, even rather incompetently, have seen a major drop in "native" fertility.

        But we can't have that, since that method doesn't require totalitarian government control...
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          Nov 11 2013: listen. government does good, doesn't it? therefore the more control it has, the better. any non totalitarian government is an incomplete solution.
        • Nov 12 2013: Regarding the statement that we have controlled our fertility, please reread the topic and find

          "Note, before you supply some comment about how humans limit their fertility, make sure you comprehend the difference between something that lowers fertility and something that will ensure it is low enough such that births are not killing."

          In particular, I agree that there are many different things that lower fertility, including educating girls and women. However, this topic is raising the point that "lower fertility" is not sufficient.
      • Nov 11 2013: funny i didn't see that he linked to Rosling I even told him to watch those talks in my relply
      • Nov 12 2013: The Rosling talk is an example of a scientist making the bad assumption described in this conversation. Rosling's research and conclusions are all based on that bad assumption. This topic cannot be debated or challenged by referencing any of the thousands of demographers that have all failed to recognize they do not have a definition for "at the limit" and therefore no clue that they are making an assumption that wrecks their conclusions.
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          Nov 12 2013: i see. so the argument is that no matter in how many countries we observe that couples simply don't want more than 2 children, it is irrelevant, because you know better.
        • Nov 12 2013: It is obvious that you just want to impose fascist control over private life and do not care about science or other silly little things like "reality".
    • Nov 12 2013: This topic makes no predictions about the future, and is not about bad predictions that were made in the past.
      • Nov 12 2013: If it is not about the future, then there is no point to the topic. If there is no future problem, then there is no present need.
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    Nov 8 2013: .
    More than 2 children makes invalid (harmful) happiness.
    • Nov 10 2013: Government propaganda, nothing more.