The Vatican’s Biological Extinction Conference

It’s old news now that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has invited the death loving and appalling and serially wrong Paul Ehrlich to its conference on Biological Extinction. LifeSite reports:

The Stanford biologist champions sex-selective abortion as well as mass forced sterilization as legitimate methods to curb population growth…

Ehrlich called for “compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion” in his 1977 book Ecoscience, as a way to fight population growth…

In a 2013 article, Ehrlich denounced Catholicism as “dangerous” for opposing the use of contraception and told reporters in 2015 that Pope Francis’s exclusion of population control in the environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ was “raving nonsense,” and that the pope was “dead wrong.”

Ehrlich is famous for never getting a prediction right; yet he has been, and is, feted and honored for telling a willing world what it wants to hear. He is an anti-prophet. True prophets, history tells us, who were never wrong, were hated and vilified; they suffered for telling the world what it needed to know.

But never mind Ehrlich. He is old and will soon meet his eternal reward. What’s more interesting is the conference itself. The conference description is a sort of mini-history of the world, but a curious one. Whoever wrote it does not appear to love people.

Our [homo sapiens] ancestors soon spread out of Eurasia and by something like 12,000 years ago, had occupied all of the continents. By about 30,000 years ago they had conquered and killed all other forms of humans that had reached the Northern Hemisphere earlier.

Did they, so? There is least no doubt in the mind of the author. But just who did the humans kill? If they killed beings that were not of our species, in the sense of intellectual species or rational animals, then it is not who our ancestors killed but what. Killing, in the sense implied by the author, is not murder unless the killing is of another rational animal, and it does not appear (by the earlier description) these animals were humans. This is the first indication of an odd theology.

It is estimated that at the time of Christ, there may have been 300 million people globally; now there are 7.3 billion. Some 11% of the world world’s ice-free land surface have been converted to crop agriculture, another 20% to grazing, most of it unsustainable, on natural grasslands.

There’s the word: unsustainable. The implication is that it would be better if things were sustainable. Go ahead, then, describe—in exact, indisputable terms, please—what sustainable means. As this sinner once said:

If a resource is limited, in the sense of it being finite and non-renewable, then any use of it whatsoever diminishes its stock and makes that part of it unavailable to others. Thus any use of a truly non-renewable resource is by definition unsustainable. With one proviso, if used at any rate greater than zero, it must eventually be depleted.

Now non-renewable means that which cannot be renewed. All resources on this planet are finite, because the earth is finite, and so everything is unsustainable given sufficient time. “For the sword outwears its sheath…” But some resources are finitely renewable in the sense that the resource can be used repeatedly, like aluminum in cans. And other resources are plainly non-renewable, such as coal and crude oil. Once they are used up, they are gone forevermore.

And there is much more. It should be clear enough, though, that it is not a simple word, and that predictions carrying vast uncertainties are involved.

Global Footprint Network ( carefully measures our consumption of all aspects of the world’s sustainable productivity, and has calculated that in about 1970 we were using about 70% of the Earth’s sustainable capacity, and now that we are using about 156%.

A full 156%, is it? A plain-English reading of this insists that we are already dead. A government can run a fiat-money deficit by the artifice of printing more of it. But we cannot eat food that doesn’t exist. We can run at 100% of the earth’s capacity, one supposes, but 101% is impossible. Since we are not dead, the plain-English reading is out. What we are dealing with is not actual capacity, but “sustainable capacity”, a term so fluid (as shown above) that it can mean anything, and therefore nothing. Anybody can propose a model that has the earth running at whatever level of “sustainable capacity” one wants.

In the same paragraph as the above quotation, comes this fascinating bit:

With a number of nations markedly better off than the others, and the wealthy of the earth best off everywhere, draining productivity from poor nations in the form of energy, wood, and fuel, there is no possibility of improving our situation without the widespread adoption of social justice, both as a matter of morality and as a matter of survival.

The wealthy are better off everywhere? Who knew? But there’s the other magic phrase: social justice. And not just social justice, but widespread adoption of the same. As opposed to, say, technological adaptation? No. “The survival of the natural world, and ultimately our survival, depends on our adoption of principles of social justice and sustainability.” Survival. Strong word, that. It’s opposite is death. These folks believe we can kill the natural world. Giants rocks from space and monster volcanoes haven’t been able to do it. But running the odd backyard BBQ and up-sizing your order of fries will kill the world. Astounding powers we have, no?

What does this all mean for biodiversity, and what does biodiversity mean for us? In short, everything…As eminent Harvard University Professor E.O. Wilson has stated, the extinction of such a major proportion of the life that supports us will probably be the sin for which our descendants will be least likely to forgive us.

Most—nearly all, but of course not all—species that have ever lived are now dead. Sad, ain’t it? And the vast, oh the vast, vast, majority of the dead were killed by those giant rocks, insane volcanoes, and other such misfortunes. Man has even killed off the odd species, or at least had a hand in the killing. Of course, man is also responsible for the outright flourishing of other species. So maybe we’re even, or maybe even ahead.

Every time we hear of a species handing in its collective dinner pail, there are weepy words about irreplaceable loss. Well, and this is so: once gone, gone forever. But then there are no more dinosaur cockroaches roaming about anymore either, and you don’t hear lamentations about that. This hilarious joke relies on an important point. Nobody knows what range of species would be best for human thriving. It is worrying to think of, say, wheat going extinct, but less so imagining modern cockroaches crawling for the last time under the giant Refrigerator of the Sky. Biodiversity for the sake of diversity cannot therefore always be desirable. Would the world be better off if tomorrow there were 142 new species of rat? (Is this conference yet another instance of Diversity mania?)

And did that author say sin? Aye, he did. Suppose this is the correct theological word. Now if it’s carbon dioxide that is doing the killing (as the author later implies), we are all sinners, since we are all breathers. Go to confession. But use sign language.

Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a moral revolution can succeed in maintaining the world in such a way as to resemble the conditions we have enjoyed here.

This much is true.


  1. Michael Dowd

    All of this might be enough for God to change the timing of His own extinction event he has planned for us. Perhaps the world needs an example. The Vatican might just be the place to start.

  2. Ken

    Paul Ehrlich was wrong before he’d finished his [in]famous book about population; e.g.:


    “Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a MORAL REVOLUTION can succeed in maintaining the world in such a way as to resemble the conditions we have enjoyed here.”
    “THIS MUCH IS TRUE.” [emphasis added]

    There’s an implicit assumption, not recognized, in those two sentences — namely that “moral” has a particular meaning … left undefined the statement encompasses & accommodates “morality” of the following sort, which one suspects the author not only didn’t mean but might likely exclude from consideration as even constituting “morality”:

  3. Bill L

    The assumption which always and relentlessly obtains is this, that somehow the current state of the earth is Edenic, that somehow This is the Way it ‘Sposed to Be when in fact the one true constant, as we all know, is change. Contrarily, there was this guy who said nothing lasts forever and you best be ready. People wrote books about him. I believe he became very unpopular with the powers that were.

  4. Sheri

    The meaning of “sustainable”: A marketing term that guarantees more sales to the moralistic and naive people who engage in virtue signaling.

  5. JohnK

    Related to the (wooly) idea of ‘sustainability’ is the (equally-woolly?) idea of ‘natural’ resouces. You remind me of a provocative column that Shannon Love wrote for ChicagoBoyz in 2010 (Mr. Love is a ‘he’, by the way): There is no such thing as “natural” resources.

    … There is no such thing as “natural” resources. When we debate over how to manage our “natural” resources, we’re engaging in a debate as delusional as heated arguments over the management of our unicorn ranches.

    The ambient oxygen in the atmosphere is the only resource we get without taking some kind of focused intentional action. It’s the only resource we can get without using technology to create the resource. Every other resource, starting with water, we create by using technology to manipulate the environment. All material resources are created as needed by human action. There is nothing “natural” about them.

    Here’s the important truth: Since human action creates all resources, we never run out of resources as long as we remain free to create. If we really need something, we just make it.

    Well worth reading the whole thing.

  6. Ken

    Long-term outlook: Sun depletes its fuel, expands, rendering Earth an inhospitable sterile scorched wasteland, eventually being consumed in its entirety by the ensuing supernova. Biodiversity – zero.

    Some, however, might assert that post-2nd-coming things will be an eternal blissful paradise. Maybe so, but then if that is to be the deity responsible ought to have no problems re-repopulating the proper species. Or, introducing entirely new ones, the intended appropriate ones, in the space created by ‘extincting’ the prior interlopers.

    After all, there’s been a number of mass extinctions well before humans came on the scene; either the deity let it happen, made it happen, doesn’t really care one way or other, etc. …. We can’t assume that such extinctions weren’t part of the Master Plan, or, that subsequent extinctions aren’t either.

    Even if we assume that “biodiversity” is important, we really have absolutely no basis for concluding which ‘bio’s’ should be in that diversity & which ought to be extinct. This presents a philosophical question & conundrum that, apparently, the Vatican has postulated out of its consideration: What are the potential pitfalls of actively preserving life forms that are not part of the Grand Master Plan?

    That is not a trivial concern. Imagine what things might be like if, for example, some clever human in near-pre-history figured out how to offset massive rains, or just delay them! No “Flood”, no Noah’s Ark (or a late Flood and instead of Noah it was his descendant Igor) … what if instead of the Flood a whole set of inappropriate social values were preserved instead of being wiped out, tainting society’s intended mores (how do we know this didn’t happen and the current track humanity & Earth are on is a Grand Corrective Action?).

    As is well-known, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions — which just shows that seemingly well-intentioned efforts to save biodiversity just might be a direct frontal attack on the Deity’s Grand Master Plan (or Grand Master Plan Corrective Actions).

    But there was a Flood, and that was good…which just goes to show that instead of messing with nature, we should just go with the flow…

  7. Sander van der Wal


    Main sequence stars such as the Sun get hotter before they turn into Red Giants. One billion years, probably, and the Sun is already too hot for life on Earth to exist.

    Unfortunately, the Sun won’t go supernova. If it could do so, we would have been dead 4.5 billion years ago. Stars that can go supernova do not get old at all.

  8. Ray

    The ancient Israelites had the right idea. False prophets were killed.

  9. MikeW

    It is a common fallacy that fossil fuels are “unsustainable”. Actually the burning of fossil fuels is part of the carbon cycle, which is sustainable for a very long time since it is powered by the sun. As we burn fossil fuels, we release CO2 into the atmosphere, which feeds plants and greens the planet. Some of these plants can be used as biofuels, the remainder eventually die and fossilize and become available again as fossil fuels. The question is how many modern humans can be sustainably supported by the carbon cycle. I estimate about 1 billion worldwide with current technology. That number will no doubt increase as technologies and efficiencies improve.

  10. David L. Hagen

    Looking on the “bright side”, the saints are to rule with Christ for 1000 years. Therefore He has plans to supply the necessary provisions that millenium and beyond. He further promised that of the greatness (or increase) of his kingdom there shall be no end. Therefore:
    Lord how would you have us provide abundant transport energy, food, and water for your world?

  11. oldavid

    There’s one quick easy way to be labelled a “scientist” by the diabolically narcisstic popular media… just pretend to tell God a thing or two about how to run this show.

    Such experts are always right. A couple of hundred years ago they solemnly predicted that London couldn’t get any bigger because it will be impossible to clear all the horse poop off the streets.

    Never mind the fact that the methodology and technology has been around for about 100 years to convert just about any carboniferous material (biological or inorganic) waste and residue into liquid hydrocarbons and mineral salts (ash). Such ash is perfect mineral nutrients to be put back into the land and water it came from so that it can be recycled into more biological material as long as there is enough CO2, sunlight and water to grow more stuff.

    But, of course, such technology is hidden and poo-hooed by the megalomaniacs who find “fossil fuels” a useful tool for extortion, blackmail and control.

    However, the diabolical haters of God and Man are not constrained or restrained by any objective notions of truth or virtue… so they say and do whatever is convenient to their ideology.

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