Life extension and overpopulation

Duane Hewitt (
Thu, 30 Jul 1998 19:59:06 -0600 (MDT)

> Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 10:19:35 -0700
> From: Robin Hanson <>
> Subject: Re: Life Extension and Overpopulation (fwd)
> Duane Hewitt writes:
> >... Numerous children serve as cheap
> >labor/social security in poor countries. As the wealth increases the
> >benefits of the tradeoff of current for future resources shrinks and the
> >number of offspring does likewise. Humanity is able to look to the future
> >and make decisions based on personal benefit. This reasoning ability
> >counters the tendency to breed indiscriminately.
> Reason is a servant of preferences. If all you care about is living
> comfortably, then children can be a burden which wise folks avoid. But
> if children are a source of joy to you, then you might buy more of them
> as you get richer. (In econ lingo, they could be a "normal" good.)

They could be but acknowledging this possibility is a far cry from the supporting the hypothesis that there is a selection pressure towards having large families. Could you provide some historical examples to back up the assertion that rampant breeders tend to swamp out those with less prolific tendencies?

I am familiar with the education-wealth inverse correlation but have not encountered any demographic studies that demonstrated that selective pressures for numerous offspring operate in humans except in agricultural societies or in societies where women are undereducated. It could be argued that if given the opportunity humans will tend to have fewer offspring and invest more in each individual to enable them a greater likelihood to further reproduce. A Quality rather than Quantity approach to evolutionary strategy.

Duane Hewitt
The art and science of life extension.