When a friend told me about the Science Olympiad, my first reaction was that this is a wonderful way to get young people into the habit of thinking for themselves, enjoying the pursuit of scientific inquiry and generally exploring areas that might otherwise be unattractive to them. As a former teenager myself, I can remember being less than excited about studying molecules and the like.
After I visited the web site, my interest turned to concern. In the section entitled "Disease Detectives", there are two items dealing with population. Could this ominous-sounding title, "Disease Detectives," suggest that people are a disease infecting our pristine planet?
Well, the heading for the population section is "Population Growth Concerns." If that doesn't tip you off, all you have to do is read the entries available to the student, and alarm bells will sound.
The first article is entitled "Population Growth Threatens Public Health." The fact that the headline is a scare tactic with no basis in fact is clearly not a concern for this web site's architects. The article relies on sources totally dedicated to population control, presents the student with the one-sided view that "sustainable development" is only achievable with the use of "family planning services" and employs other tactics designed to discourage people from having children.
A link is provided for many related articles, and implicit in a number of these is the assumption that the presence of more people is never better. Apparently, we human beings are responsible for all sorts of tragic events in the world, including the near extinction of the tiny beach mouse.
Please don't get me wrong. I am not a huge fan of air pollution, bizarre forms of waste disposal or other threats to the environment. I do believe that man was placed on this earth as a respectful caretaker of God's creation, upon which he depends for sustenance. But I also believe that the study of science requires objectivity and an ability to learn all facets of a subject, in order to make the best decisions and provide the best research data. However, not everyone holds that view.
Try as I might, I could not find one source on this web site that would lead students to opinions other than those apparently held by this site's architects. One such divergent view has been expressed by author James Weber, who has written on the positive aspects of population growth and, in one essay, told his readers,
Population growth creates a need to change, to improve, to find better ways of doing things. No other force on earth provides greater motivation to discard old, outmoded customs and adopt new, innovative methods than the demographic pressure of increasing numbers of people for whom room must be made at the table. Population growth is the engine of economic progress, providing the growing numbers of people necessary to develop new knowledge and technology, create expanding markets, solve environmental problems, produce greater savings, and increase labor-force flexibility. Most important, population growth both stimulates and reflects faith in the future, an intangible yet absolutely necessary precondition of economic advancement.
Weber's 2005 article is not on the recommended article list.
Some years ago, then Vatican official Archbishop Renato Martino expressed the Catholic position on world population growth this way:
Serious as the problem of interrelation among environment, development and population is, it cannot be solved in an over-simplistic manner and many of the most alarming predictions have proven false and have been discredited by a number of recent studies. "People are born not only with mouths that need to be fed, but also with hands that can produce, and minds that can create and innovate." As for the environment, just to mention one instance, countries with as few as 5% of the world population are responsible for more than one quarter of the principal greenhouse gas, while countries with up to a quarter of the world population contribute as little as 5% of the same greenhouse gas.
Not a single Vatican statement on population growth and the dignity of the human person will be found in the suggested reading material on the Science Olympiad web site.
Realizing that the pro-population control forces have the ear of our current public policy makers, it occurs to me that the only way to remedy this one-sided presentation is to begin challenging the Science Olympiad status quo. We should feel an obligation to let those in charge know that we cannot understand their bias.
We will never know if we do not ask. If we do not ask, we have failed in our obligation to make sure that all of the facts are provided to those who truly want to study the problem from every angle possible. And remember, it does no good to complain about something unless you are prepared to do what you can fix it.
Here is the web site's contact information: http://www.soinc.org/contact