You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe



Are we overpopulating?

Fiction and doomsayers notwithstanding, maybe not

The premise of Dan Brown’s bestseller “The Da Vinci Code’’ was that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, presumably bored of miracles and sermons, married and had kids. His newest novel, “Inferno,’’ is kind of the same except that this time (spoiler alert!) it’s the rest of us having kids — and far, far too many. The shocking solution: Wipe out almost half the human race. Many finished Brown’s earlier book believing descendants of God literally walk among us. So before they treat his latest offering as gospel, so to speak, a word of caution: Brown is flat-out wrong.

Brown draws from the work of political scientist Robert Malthus, who in 1798 warned about the dangers of unchecked human reproduction. The collapse of civilization, he feared, was near at hand. The logic of that view led Malthus to oppose the British poor laws — which gave aid to the destitute — for the reasons most pithily expressed by Ebenezer Scrooge: “If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week