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Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in Critical Thinking, featured, Featured Inc, skepticism | 12 comments

Window into the dark and twisted souls of the internet: The Reddit Confessional

It isn’t unusual to see disgusting antisocial behavior on the internet.  Chiefly this is on anonymous comments and blogs and takes the form of the usual isms, racism, sexism, ableism or just generalized hate and aggression like threats of violence and killing. The internet inadvertently concentrates and refines this group of people, creating conditions just perfect for them to vent their emotional disfigurement: anonymity, visibility, mob-forming capabilities and even prestige in the among the ranks of their own kind. So a certain self-selected element is attracted, and these instances are not representative of most people.

The dark side of RedditBut all that said, I still really wonder who those people are, what they are like. Why they do what they do. More specifically, why are they so scared, so angry, so hateful? Careful sociological research is the only way this can be answered definitively, but seeing what they say outside the context of status battles and heated fights might give us a glimpse. Occasionally on the internet you find confessionals, where people anonymously reveal the things they believe that society would never tolerate, at least not openly. Recently, a Reddit thread called “What ACTUALLY controversial opinion do you have?” caught fire, producing 50,000 comments in just 18 hours. I have sifted through Reddit’s perverse panoply of silent rages and pains so you don’t have to. I present just a small sample below. (You can read the thread and its discussions here.)

Warning

This is going to get dark. However bad you think it will be, it’s worse.

Note for non-Redditors: The orange numbers indicate a comment’s net upvotes, or the number of times others have “up-voted” it minus “down-voted” it. It is not always clear why things get up-voted. Typically, it’s because others agree with a comment but sometimes it might be because the comment is a well-formed answer to a posed question even if the person up-voting it thinks that it is horrible.  Some are just more recent than others and have not had so much time for voting. So it isn’t clear why exactly these are at the top or bottom, I will leave that to the reader to decide.

Dark triad

↑ 4 Nothing bad about just straight up murdering someone. Serial killers don’t really bother me unless their crimes are sexual in nature (and often they are.)
↑ 19 I kinda like cancer and hope a cure isn’t discovered for a little longer. We have a population increase that is causing a lot of problems in man areas, it strains infrastructure and resources like food in some areas. Things like cancer are required to kill off some people and that’s a good thing in the grand scheme of things.
↑ 2243 Some kids need to be left the fuck behind! If you aren’t able to meet the standards for a certain grade level you shouldn’t get to move to the next because it would hurt your feelings if not. These kids are seriously dumbing down our schools. Instead of teaching to the lowest denominator we need to teach to the highest and actually challenge children to learn.
↑ 197 Most people are too stupid for democracy.
↑ 31 I believe that humanity should stop breeding and go extinct. I classify myself as an antinatalist with philanthropic goals, (ending human suffering.)
↑ 56 I am opposed to universal human rights.
Girls who save themselves for marriage are superior more desirable than those that don’t.
The sexual and moral liberalisation of society has been a massive fuck-up, has given rise to unhealthy individualism and isolationism, and is one of the causes of the degradation of the family unit and community spirit. Moreover, much of it is driven by commercialism as much as anything else.
Women are put on a pedestal by most men. I find it disgusting.
Execution and torture are sometimes appropriate.
Islam is the worst mainstream ideology in the world, and it should be stamped out.
God does not exist.
↑ 104 Hitler was right. Edit: His political ideology excluding the mass murders.

Retarded people should be “put down” once their condition is discovered.


 Slavery was a smart concept executed poorly.
↑ 2215 If you commit suicide and you were a dick before, I mean like lots of bullying and just being a rotten person, you shouldn’t be considered a beautiful person and an angel. You’re rude, and suddenly all your wrong doings are gone. Being dead doesn’t change who you were.
↑ 15 Here’s one. As a Canadian I think we should keep Americans out of Canada, You are no better than the Mexicans that hop your own borders, Keep your red white and blue asses on your side of the border and stop trying bring us down to your level. We are not your 51st state we are a sovereign nation with a proud heritage.
↑ 2248  I don’t view the EXTREMELY handicapped to be people. I went to high school with a kid who couldn’t do anything for himself, including breath. He just laid in his chair staring off into space, he was not capable of moving other than occasionally twitching and making the scariest shrieking noise you have ever heard and he did not respond to people trying to interact with him. He required 24/7 care and never has any chance of living a normal life since he relies 100% on others to do everything for him (including breath). To me that is not a person, that is just something that happens to have a heartbeat.
↑ 2419 I think abortion is ethically wrong, but I still support it because I hate children.
↑ 2 Being gay is a mental disorder which makes no evolutionary sense, I have no problem with gay people just like I have no problem with Autistic or Dyslexic people but still
↑ 778 Illegal immigrants are breaking the law and should be treated as criminals.
I hate being gay. If I could, I would take a pill or something that would make me straight. I’m 21 turning 22, so it’s not like I’m a high schooler just learning how to come to terms. This is my first post on reddit, so I don’t know if this would be considered “controversial,” but amid all the “love yourself” music and other cultural stuff, I feel as if it is.

Slavery was a smart concept executed poorly.

Religion
↓ -5 People who believe in God or any kind of Deity are not to be trusted or believed. Anything they say should be disregarded and ignored.
↑ 17 Judaism is bullshit. The Jews control the media, the politics and the economy. Israel is the most racist country in the World today and I wish it didn’t exist.
↑ 10 I think Religion should be banned. I know that it keeps a lot of people together and makes them feel good. But it stands in the way of world peace. Also think every language in the world should be dropped except for 1. I dont care which one yust choose 1 language and make it global.

Racism
↑ 22 I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that jews have been kicked out of every nation they’ve been to throughout history
↑ 68 Racism is based on statistics, and is therefor valid in general ..even if there exists specific cases where it doesn’t make sense, because if a race didn’t have the problem that the negative stereotype points out, it never would have become a stereotype in the first place. In short, Racism is good.
↑ 26 I hate black people. Just the area I grew up in and the way I was raised. They are worthless and bring property value down. They have no respect for anything and let everything go to shit. Reading, PA used to be a nice place.
↑ 54 Blacks on average are less intelligent that whites and asians. This was the status quo until a paradigm shift occurred around the 1940’s without any empirical evidence to support it. As a matter of fact, their is no evidence to suggest blacks are as intelligent as other populations.
↑ 125 Black Americans are more racist toward White Americans than the other way around.
↑ 34 I really hate multiculturalism and race-mixing. I don’t see anything wrong with racism if you’re in your mother country, I think people should stick with other like people. Before srs or someshit get their strap-ons in a tangle, i’m not white.
^^^ Thank goodness they aren’t white; almost got my strap-on in a tangle.

↑ 15 I hate how this country is kneeling down and sucking Islam’s cock. Marks and Spencers with their new ludicrous policy that their Muslim staff don’t have to serve alcohol is infuriating. Do the vegetarians still have to serve meat? What about all the non-halal meat being sold by the Muslims? Completely going against the idea of integration entirely.
Burka’s look ridiculous. We’re not in the desert.
↑ 2190 I think black americans need to stop complaining about slavery like it was personal. It happened, it sucked, get over it. Every other race has both owned and been slaves at some point in time.
In the same time period, Asian and Irish semi-slaves toiled in mines and railways and to this day not a cent in reparations has been made. There are no memorials to these people who helped build an empire. History books barely mention them. Because the children of those who suffered didn’t try to use the pain their parents and grandparents went through as a bargaining chip.
↑ 949
 The African American population of America have bring nothing but povety and violence since they got equal rights.
 ↑ 852 Mainland Chinese people are disgusting and should act more like educated white people.
↑ 54
 Blacks on average are less intelligent that whites and asians. This was the status quo until a paradigm shift occurred around the 1940’s without any empirical evidence to support it. As a matter of fact, their is no evidence to suggest blacks are as intelligent as other populations.
↑ 3 
 I think Africans are not the same species as Europeans. Kind of like how neanderthals were a different species, but still could mate with humans. There is ample evidence for this, but people willfully ignore it.

Rape apology
↑ 29  I think rape is bullshit.
It’s sex, unless you were harmed or threatened, get over it. Sorry you feel dirty, I had a gay man “sexually assault” me when I was asleep and passed out at a party and I couldn’t care less (nothing too serious, just unwarranted touching). I’m straight. I feel no guilt for what happened and I don’t feel disgusted. I told my friends about it like it’s a funny story because it is. I think the problem with rape comes with slut shaming and telling girls they are terrible for having sex. I am scared to even approach girls anymore with all of the rape accusations flying around and I am sick of it. I hate being told that my sexual drives towards women are criminal, and perverted.
If a girl gets drunk and has sex with a drunk guy, I don’t believe that’s rape. It is a crime if she was hurt or threatened, but a guy being “forceful” is a bullshit excuse to wipe any blame off of the innocent girl who wants to keep her reputation sacred. Then maybe you shouldn’t have been black out drunk making out with the drunk guy.
Every white knight and rape apologist loves to take women’s side and it is screwing men over. Men are losing custody to children to mothers for no reason, and men are ruled guilty on rape cases when there is only evidence of sex with no restraint only because the girl is distraught and “felt” like she was raped. Get over it.
It’s not fair to men.

I don’t see any difference between an attraction to members of the opposite sex, same sex, or children.


↑ 1
 Rape. I am really tired of how serious people take this. It should not be anything more than an assault charge, because that is all it is.
Also, if you are drunk, you were not raped. It should be your own responsibility to stay in a state where you can make choices, if you get so trashed you do not know you are having sex, then you are the one at fault.
↑ 17
 Gay marriage is not ok. Its not based on religion it is based on the fact that tax breaks are for people adding to the population. Taking some other person’s kid is not the same as having your own. Want the end of life decisions? Fine! Want to cohabitate? I don’t care! Want the same benefits as people who have their own kids and add to the population? Nope! I do not care if you are gay. That is how you were born. But two men or two women is not the same as a man and a woman.
↑ 109 Abortion should be COMPLETELY illegal, even in cases of rape and health risks. Our medical practices have improved so much that it is not necessary to end the child’s life to save the mother’s life. And I know people are gonna jump my throat for the rape one, but I think its wrong for the child to pay for the price of his father’s (in most cases) horrific actions. The child being gone will not help the mother forget about the assault. Adoption would be available, in that case.

Sexism
↑ 4 I don’t think child birth is that bad. I think women just have a lower pain tolerance. I’m not saying its not bad at all I’m just saying… that bad, really?
↑ 2572
 I believe that being a “stay at home mom” to one child is definitely not the “job” most women make it out to be… especially if your husband has to come home and cook and clean and do the grocery shopping.
↑ 3
 All women are prostitutes. You either pay cash up front or you pay throughout the relationship. Either way, you gotta pay to play.
↑ 1731 I (as a woman) am fundamentally opposed to feminism and I believe men are the superior gender.
This comment ^^^ generated over 1700 replies.
↑  I think women are inferior to men in most ways. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone could not believe this.
↑ 28 The majority of feminists are bitches. I could never be friends with a radical feminist.
 136 If you are born a man but identify as a woman, I don’t think you should be allowed into the women’s bathroom. The same goes for women who identify as men.

Liberal brand hatred
↑ 103 I think anyone who is not a veg*n is either stupid, ignorant, or evil.
↑ 4 I believe a big chunk of the human population needs to be wiped out. We are destroying this planet at an alarming rate, and we are literally the only ones to blame, and not enough people care to matter. This is what happens when there is too many of a certain species. I really don’t believe humans will ever work together….ever.
↑ 1779 Controversial for reddit: Christ is my Savior

The homeless should be given a time limit to find a job…after which it’s legal to shoot on sight.

 

Gender & sexuality is a hobby, like stamp collecting but for genitals.
↑ 69 I think homosexuality is not so much a “sexuality” as a “fetish”. for instance, I like vore. Vore is not my sexuality, it’s my fetish.
I think transsexual is a mental illness. If I decided that I am actually blind, I was just born in the wrong body so I burned my eyes out people would say I’m crazy. But if your a man that says they’re actually a woman it’s not crazy at all to medically alter your hormone levels and mutilate your genitals.
↑ 494 I think being gay is totally a choice and is influenced by social factors. Basically, nurture over nature. You aren’t born with it.
 I don’t think there is anyone who truly is born as the wrong gender. I think that people that believe they are the wrong gender suffer from some sort of psychological issue that could possibly be fixed through therapy.
↑ 
33 I truly believe ppl who are transgendered are just suffering from dysmorphia. I mean if you were born as a certain gender how can you possibly say that you don’t feel like that gender? It makes absolutely no sense to me. You’ve never been any other gender, if you’re into things that the opposite gender is into that’s fine. People are allowed to like what they like but to go on this whole journey to convince the world that you’re something other than what you were born as perplexes me.

Pedophilia’s defenders
↑ 19 I think child pornography should be legal and that its prohibition is an infringement of freedom of speech. Possessing an image, whatever it is depicting, should never land you in prison. (Production of child pornography and the abuse it entails should naturally be illegal.)
↑ 2 I think pedophiles get it fairly rough. I don’t see any difference between an attraction to members of the opposite sex, same sex, or children. It’s obviously different when pedophiles want to express themselves sexually because they can’t have consensual sex, but if a pedophile hasn’t engaged or attempted to engage in any sexual activity I don’t see why they should be demonised or imagined to be ticking time-bombs. It’s like worrying that ugly virgins are going to rape everyone because they’re not getting any.

Totalitarianism, please!
↑ 107 People that believe the Earth is ~5000 years old should not be able to vote.
↑  84 There should be a minimum IQ to vote.
↑ 9  I think every person that isn’t capable of contributing to society in a meaningful way should be killed. As human beings we should be required to pass both a physical and intellectual test in order to contiune having the privilege of life.
↑ 14   I think Religion should be banned. I know that it keeps a lot of people together and makes them feel good. But it stands in the way of world peace. Also think every language in the world should be dropped except for 1. I dont care which one yust choose 1 language and make it global.
↑ 9  The homeless should be given a time limit to find a job/do something useful with themselves, after which it’s legal to shoot on sight.
↑ 5
  If you are unemployed in the US you have 6 or so months of benefits until you get conscripted into highway and other infrastructure repair teams.
3  Sometimes there are times where people should be considered guilty until proven innocent.
↑ 
27  I think the death penalty should be expanded to a whole bunch of crimes with the multiple offenders being put to death. They’re clearly not learning their lesson and I don’t want taxpayers to pay for even more wasted efforts at rehabilitation or housing them in jail until they die of natural causes.
↑ 3  It should be possible to force an abortion and/or sterilization on someone who refuses to stop having children that they can’t support.

Pro-eugenics

↑ 157 This will probably never be seen but, I have a sister with mental retardation. To see the struggles that she goes through and will never be able to get rid of because of it, I feel that with certain mental diseases the person should be put down. My sister will need to be cared for all her life. This brings me to my second point. Gene pools with a tendency for mental illness should be made sterile. This one applies to me, my family has a history of mental illness and G.I. Problems so I will be stopping it with me.
3232 The advances of modern medicine are introducing too many bad genes into the human genetic pool and exposing the human race to a weakened genetic makeup.
1843 Someone who makes 20k a year shouldn’t be allowed to have five children.
1094  Humans, are in many ways directly opposing natural selection by giving aid to and keeping alive people who would otherwise be “thinned out”, so to speak. I think it’s weakening us as a species. I believe that, in many ways, eugenics makes sense and could be beneficial, although the implementations thus far have been terrible.
↑ 84
 When space colonization becomes a reality there should be strict academic requirements in place to prevent people with low IQs from leaving earth. There. I said it. I know that I would be stuck here but we really have to put our best foot forward when branching out.
↑ 3293
 I believe that parents should be given a “grace period” after giving birth in which they have the choice to humanely euthanize the child if it unexpectedly comes out with a disability.
↑ 2108
 I think that people with mental illnesses shouldn’t be allowed to procreate.
↑ 3
 I think that if people can’t stay alive without machines (from birth) they should die. And for the love of GOD stop letting people with obvious genetic problems reproduce! Natural selection works marvelously, let’s stop fucking it up and screwing our species in the process.
↑ 39 Retarded people should be “put down”(not sure how else to word it without sounding like a shitbag) once their condition is discovered. They have shitty lives, can never really be a normal person, and usually die young. It’s tragic. They should be spared of that.
↑ 25
 I truly believe that mentally retarded people are completely useless and should be aborted before birth. I live in an area where they are basically worshipped, and if you say one bad thing about them you are instantly looked down on. They bring absolutely nothing to society and only hinder everyone else.

Social justice & political correctness backlash

↑ 1947 Sick of Breast Cancer Awareness month. At this point, who is not aware of breast cancer?!
↑ 1649 Being a member of certain professions does not make you a “hero.” your acts make you heroic not your clothing. Military, cops, fireman, doctors, nurses. Those are professions that don’t come with a mask and cape.
↑ 2075 I’m going to keep using the word retarded to describe things that are retarded.
↑ 874 I think foreign aid to starving African nations is a waste of time. Africa has everything it needs to be a self-sufficient, contributing region of the world, but is unable to do so because of the savage and conflicting natures of the parties in power there. I wholeheartedly believe that the Western world should withdraw aid, because until Africa can learn to stand on its own, it will never have a real place on the global stage. This, of course, excludes aid for natural disasters. I’m not a monster.
↑ 
2017  I’m a supporter of gays and equal rights and absolutely hate the gay pride movement. ** It has become overly sexualized and annoying. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, riding a giant dick float down a parade route wearing nothing but chaps with a velvet thong and a butt plug as a unicorn horn is not appropriate. I can honestly see why so many in the anti-gay community consider it a perverted lifestyle. We also put a lot of emphasis on propping up gays and lesbians as if their life is something abnormal. We’re made to think that it’s different in such a way that people need special therapy and support just to deal with it. Fact is that there’s nothing special about it. You’re gay or you’re straight and who the fuck cares.
↑ 
375  I think the Fat-Acceptance/Fat-Pride movement is entirely detrimental to our society and makes people feel like being fat is okay. Being fat is NOT okay because it’s not healthy. By all means, be confident with yourself and who you are, but strive to be heathy, and don’t tell people being fat is okay.
↑ 3284 I think the anti bullying propaganda is ridiculous. Bullies don’t disappear upon reaching adulthood, and it’s imperative to teach children how to deal with assholes.

The good and the silly

Included for balance, but worth noting that as I write this, some are among the very top comments. The dueling one is #1.
↑1310 I believe two consenting adults should have the legal right to challenge each other to a duel, if they are so inclined, with no legal consequences for the winner.
↑ 221 Assisted suicide should be legal in all 50 states. It seems that the people against it are not in the same positions as the ones wanting to die with dignity.
↑ 1516 I believe that Nuclear Power is the answer to the world’s growing energy concerns. This makes me sad because it shouldn’t be controversial at all:/
↑ 1836
 Jennifer Lawrence is not an attractive woman.
↑ 26
 I’m glad Pluto’s not a planet anymore.
↑ 3 Dr. Who is the Nickelback of sci-fi.
↑ 28 I think that people need to develop much thicker skins and that people need to stop getting so offended. I’m a liberal, bisexual transgender woman atheist and unless you’re actively hating on me/trying to take away my rights, I don’t care what you say/do.

In closing
For those of you who will not visit reddit, I would like to say that nearly all of these have spurred protracted argument, usually by other redditors who are disgusted even if the argument sometimes makes things worse as you see just how sincere the commenter was. That leads me to another point: the commenters are largely sincere. I expect some of you will say that some of these are just people “trolling”. This is undoubtable for some non-zero number of the comments, but I don’t think it’s large. Here’s why. Number one, when you add a comment to a posting on reddit that already has 2000 comments, you generally expect almost nobody will actually read what you wrote. Many commenters wrote “I doubt anyone will see this, but…” knowing that is true. This post had 15,000 comments within  3 hours, making all comments after that point the most useless possible way of trying to get attention or rile anyone up. Second, and this is strange indeed, many horrible comments were only made pseudo-anonymously. That is, people used their regular Reddit account, which they’d been using for years. One they probably have friends that know about. Third, this type of posting on Reddit is common and it is understood by redditors that it’s a relaxed-judgement zone. Trolls who wants to make people upset pick the opposite kind of target, one in which they are specifically not invited or desired. In this post, they were specifically invited. Fourth, many people were very polite and self-conscious about their horrible beliefs, saying things like “Even though I know people hate X, Y because…”.

Interesting or amusing topics I found that don’t quite fit the parameters of this post were non-controversial, or minimally controversial ideas like reform for euthanasia laws and drug decriminalization. I find it interesting in that many people hold those views, but they believe everyone around them does not. Also, there is loads of self-hate for the person’s own internet community, Reddit. Redditors called typical redditors stupid, pampered, sexist, ignorant, out of touch, dogmatic and most damning of all, boring.

If you legitimately made it down this far, kudos. I will leave you on an up-note. There were at least a few horrible comments that the original commenter edited to say that the ensuing discussion made them alter their views. When you remove the social stakes and insults to identity, even the worst opinions can be positively changed (edits are from the commenter, letsconversate; highlighting mine):

[–] letsconversate 2109 points  ago:
I think that people with mental illnesses shouldn’t be allowed to procreate

EDIT: I think that people with mental illnesses can and do lead amazing lives and can make great parents, I just don’t think they should pass on their genes so that their kids have to live through the same horrors they did.

EDIT 2: I honestly thank everyone who has commented and really opened my view on how I see this issue. Look, what I think boils down to this: people with mental disorders/illnesses aren’t necessarily gonna have a bad life and there are many factors that feed into them having the illness in the first place. I think if a parent has a high chance of passing down their illness to their kid, they seriously need to consider the consequences before they do. I’m not advocating for some government mandate or even think people with mental illnesses are wrong in some way, I just think parents need to think through the consequences of their actions before they create life. Through all of your comments, I understand this is a complicated issue. Just like anything else, it isn’t black and white and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer necessarily. Things like this should be taken case by case and not be taken lightly. Again, thank you all for helping me open up my views and continue to keep commenting because this is a tough, tough issue that can’t be boiled down to a sentence or a simple idea.

EDIT 3: Fuck, like with any issue, I believe there are multiple rights here as well as multiple wrongs. Let me start out by saying I was wrong, way wrong in my original comment. It was ignorant, hateful, and just plain stupid.

 

  • http://www.theoddsmustbecrazy.com/ Wendy Hughes

    OMG. How did you plow through all that? I made it to the end, so I see that this process is a form of communication that sometimes modifies the participant’s opinion. Evidently, though, there are some people who are smart enough to write coherent, grammatically correct sentences but who have truly horrible opinions, and don’t mind sharing them.
    My favorite: I believe that being a “stay at home mom” to one child is definitely not the “job” most women make it out to be… especially if your husband has to come home and cook and clean and do the grocery shopping. – over 2,500 up votes. :-(

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I did not read them all. Reddit allows you to sort comments by recency, popularity, and by degree of controversy. That last one means the most upvotes and the most downvotes. Many comments have hundreds of up and down votes resulting in a small net number of votes.
      re: 2,500 upvotes. That’s an interesting one. Probably telling of the demographically male-dominated nature of Reddit.

  • eccles11

    I was reading through a lot of these. Most were despicable, there were some though that seemed to be legitimate philosophical questions said in perhaps a crass enough way to disguise that.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      Yes, I rather agree. There’s a good number of discussions on politicians, the military, prostitution, drugs, and reproductive rights that are productive and valuable.

  • Naffat

    “We have a population increase that is
    causing a lot of problems in man areas, it strains infrastructure and
    resources like food in some areas. Things like cancer are required to
    kill off some people and that’s a good thing in the grand scheme of
    things.”

    Whoever said this is basically right. Fortunately, as abrupt climate change and land degradation / desertification, etc. take their toll, the Earth’s carrying capacity will ultimately be enforced. Look into a document by the CSIS called “The Age of Consequences”.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      No, it actually isn’t. The net effect of adding one more person to the population is very much a factor of the political and economic system they’re being added to. In a progressive and well-functioning system (relatively speaking) more people = more productivity, a net gain in resources and efficiency.

      Think about what would be required to transmit information over time and space in 1800 versus today. You’d have to use paper books, produced, stored, and transported in massively inefficient ways. Today, we cheaply and easily transmit a volume of information which would have been the size of the entirely of human knowledge in 1800 in a matter of seconds across the planet. This is just an example of how things we do increase in efficiency over time, far outpacing population increase.

      Humans of the past fought bitterly over resources- even when there were 1/10th as many. Small scale societies like the Yanomami raid each other, even though the maximum settlement is just a few hundred people. They can still starve to death. They still kill newborns sometimes when they think they can’t feed them. So having fewer people doesn’t solve anything. Economics is the problem and maybe solution, but we never know if the population size is the problem by itself. It tells us nothing.

      And all that aside, the global population is expected to stabilize and then contract this century. For example, in this projection, max pop will be reached in 2025, and then the number of humans will decline indefinitely. http://www.siue.edu/~rblain/worldpop.htm . Some nations are facing economic depressions right now because of collapsing populations. Japan now loses a quarter million people a year in population and is projected to contract to less than half of its current size by 2100, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_of_Japan_since_1872.svg

      • HaraldHardrada

        When that sigmoid curve levels off, it will still be too many people. Notice that per capita resource use has skyrocketed over the past decades, making population figures as such grossly misleading.

        And if you think that our greatly increased ability to shuffle around electrons means our planetary civilization is in any sense—not sure how you drew that inference—you are in for one hell of a rude awakening around 2030. How, for instance, does the existence of inexpensive tablets mean that Africa won’t lose two-thirds of its arable land in this timeframe? (cf. http://www.un.org/africarenewal/web-features/desertification-threat-africa%E2%80%99s-development )

        I only ever hear this “everything is great!” narrative from secular humanists and other liberal ideologues. In the environmental science and intelligence communities, where Hallmark greeting card rhetoric has much less currency, quite a different story is being told. I refer you again to the following:

        https://csis.org/publication/age-consequences

        “Across the globe, the spreading desertification in the Darfur region
        has been compounding the tensions between nomadic herders and agrarian
        farmers, providing the environmental backdrop for genocide. In
        Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the risk of coastal flooding is growing and could leave some 30 million
        people searching for higher ground in a nation already plagued by
        political violence and a growing trend toward Islamist extremism. Neighboring India is already building a wall along its border with
        Bangladesh. More hopefully, the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to
        Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
        is a clear recognition that global warming poses not only environmental hazards but profound risks to planetary peace and stability as well.”

        ^ Well I suppose it’s a “recognition” but one would do well to remember how little the most recent climate talks at Doha did.

        I would say that you are seriously mistaken.

        • WhateverName

          *And if you think that our greatly increased ability to shuffle around electrons means our planetary civilization is in any sense SUSTAINABLE

          fixed that

        • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

          I think that you did not understand me if you think my point was “everything is great”. Rather, it was that head counts alone don’t tell us anything about human flourishing.

          re: Arable farm land in Africa
          This makes my point more than yours. Your own linked article blames unsound agricultural practices. But those would be harmful no matter the population sizes, the only difference would be rate, not outcome. The difference is not in the number of people around, the difference is in smarter methods and an economic and political system that is capable of longer-term thinking.
          The development of large states and international communities and information technology is the only reason we’re even talking about it. Your article is about the UN’s FAO bringing light to the problem. The world can find out about problems like these and help, partially thanks to info tech that has made our world subjectively smaller, and macroeconomics that have made us all more connected. 500 years ago nobody on other continents cares about your problems, and most probably would never even hear about it. It’s nice that the world isn’t like that anymore.

          “I would say that you are seriously mistaken.”

          I am not unsure what it is you think I am mistaken about. Nothing you have said or linked to contradicts my point that population size by itself predicts nothing about ecological sustainability.

          • Whatever

            “I am not unsure what it is you think I am mistaken about.”

            You are mistaken about thinking things will get better because of widespread communications technology. That is a non sequitur, unless you’re assuming that availability of news will somehow automatically result in action, which is patently false. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, feedback mechanisms are taking hold rapidly and becoming inexorable, and in many places the land is simply turning to barren dust for these and other reasons. There have never been so many data and so many people doing nothing about it. They’re watching Maury Povich and listening to newstalk radio. There is a minority of human beings who actually notice what is going and, again, the people who are looking at the numbers in the scientific and intelligence communities generally show a grim outlook on the planet’s future, with ample reason.

            So, on the one hand, the world is getting measurably, drastically worse, and in a few short decades, the optimists will wonder what the hell they were ever thinking, but on the other hand, thanks to the Internet, you can see a minister from the Philippines making a tearful plea for change at the ineffectual Doha climate talks:

            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2012/dec/06/philippines-negotiator-emotional-plea-doha-climate-talks-video

          • http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

            You are mistaken about thinking things will get better because of widespread communications technology

            This is not a claim that I have made.

          • Whatever

            “This is not a claim that I have made.”

            In that case, you’re already on the right track, and remember that the real bottleneck to understanding this world is not so much the scarcity of data per se but the willingness to purge oneself of sentiment and look at said data dispassionately.