Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Do secular societies breed enough to survive?

Posted by Sam D on January 16, 2006

I read this on the New Criterion a while back. It is interesting, if somewhat caustic and overexcited in places, but does raise a valid question: Will the demographics and more specifically the reproductive habits, of western secular culture be its downfall?


3 Responses to “Do secular societies breed enough to survive?”

  1. MH said

    I told you that I’d gotten the latest Houellebecq novel? Track down a copy – McLean’s may still have one – and read it. Houellebecq ‘predicts’ a declining birthrate in secular societies, and that it will facilitate the rise of Islam …

  2. One thing I have noticed is that this, (and I suspect Houllebecq’s), view is predicated on the assumption that the environment is not anywhere near failure, especially in third world countries. There are conflicting predictions on this score and I do not buy NC’s shoddy inductive argument that since some people have been wrong about enviromnetal disaster in the past, that they are wrong now, and will continue to be so in the future. The point is that a severe environmetal disaster in any nation will hamper its (or its inhabitants) ability to rise up and crush other nations.

    But it could go either way, and despite what Fukuyama might say, the failure of western economics, politics and dare I say it philosophies to win the ideological war with certain other worldviews does not bode well for the future.

    I wonder if our unwillingness to reproduce, combined with our obsession with copulation are not connected? I think the phenomena that Foucault describes whereby western culture can’t tolerate any points of contact between children and sex are related to this somehow.

    We like sex, so we give up children. This seems true at both the most shallow and most profound levels.

    Thias is not to say that other cultures don’t ‘like’ sex, they do, I’m sure, but it is not so exposed, not so subject to public discipline as it is in our culture.

  3. MH said

    Houellebecq’s narrative envisages a timeline where the de-populations in secular societies are the result of social forces (the Raelian [sic?] inspired cult, central to the novel, advocates one of the declines) and environmental events (one of which may or may not have been triggered by nuclear war). The timeline implied is within our predicted lifetimes, if that sorts out your issues. And not that I am advocating Houellebecq’s view on this point, but it strikes as strangely prescient [sic?].

    My response to your latter points is that the problem may not actually simply be sexual. I would remind you of Dr Hooker’s comments (in 2003) about the need for smaller social units, and point to the research that shows the higher an individuals level of formal education the less likely they are to reproduce. It is quiet possible that the economic pressures on individuals are as significant to an analysis as the sexual discourse (though you should run all this by Rowan). Thought it is also possible that the sexual discourse is simple a product of the economic discourse (is that post-Marxist or what?).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: