May 6

Confronting the Overpopulation Myth



In our 17 years of parenting, we’ve tried homeschool, private school, and public school.

We desperately (and futilely) attempted on multiple occasions to get our kids into Catholic school, but circumstances (geographical, financial, or flat-out being denied admission) always prevented this. And for multiple reasons we’ve explained in the past in both our book as well as our podcasts here and here (and therefore I won’t repeat here), our attempts at homeschooling were always far less than ideal.

Therefore, our five kids all attend public school.

This week, our 15-year-old freshman son, Walter, was assigned a project for his World Geography class to create a video explaining, “why overpopulation is the worst man-made disaster.”

Here’s the video:

First off, this is one of Walt’s best-produced videos. As his parents, we’re enormously proud of how his skills have increased over the past couple of years, and how he continuously tries to do new and different things using video. Considering he’s just 15, we’re impressed by that alone.

But we’re also impressed with the fact that Walter immediately took issue with the topic. As one of five kids here on earth and several more in heaven, Walter has been raised understanding the value and sanctity of human life and the fact that every person has an innate dignity that must be respected from the moment of conception until natural death.

So to somehow suggest, as Walter’s classroom assignment has, that the existence of people themselves is somehow “the worst man-made disaster” is just absurd.

But Walter, knowing a grade was at stake, did the project, with a caveat. In the description for his video he wrote, “FYI I don’t agree with what a lot of what I said in this video. I only did this and said the things I said for the sake of getting a good grade.”

When Walt and his brother Sam were younger, there were multiple occasions when we had them pulled from their classroom for presentations that we found counter to our Catholic faith or simply just against our core beliefs. In countless situations, we’ve sent emails to teachers letting them know when topics, discussions, and assignments were in opposition to what was happening in our home. We still do that for our other three kids still in elementary and middle school.

But it’s an interesting thing to have kids (who you’ve tried your best to raise in the Catholic faith) attending public high school where their daily existences include having to continually be on the defensive in support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, to explain to their peers why contraception is contrary to God’s plan, to justify why they struggle (or try to struggle) against pornography and why they attempt to remain chaste. These are things that both our high schoolers, Sam and Walter, have had to encounter time and again.

After watching Walter’s video this morning, both my wife and I encouraged him and congratulated him for being willing to publicly share his personal belief that contraception is wrong. He states this himself near the video’s end.

We then pointed out one of the other detrimental effects of the overpopulation myth can be seen in forced abortions and sterilizations in parts of the world. I encouraged him to visit the website of the Population Research Institute, whose executive director had been a guest on our radio show years ago. While some of the information there has been debated for years, it offers many strong oppositional studies that rally against the myth of overpopulation.

Would I have preferred for him to not have to do this assignment? Yes. But God can bring good out of any bad. And in this case, a 15-year-old posted a YouTube video stating he thinks contraception is wrong. There’s a good chance one or more of his classmates will take notice.

Walter took a stand and became a witness for the faith in which he has been raised.

But the thought came to me: does Walter actually understand what he believes, or does he just believe it because that’s what his mom and dad believe?

After pondering that, I sent Walter this text to encourage him:

“Stand firm in your beliefs. And here’s something else I’ll challenge you with (and this will surprise you): don’t believe stuff just because your mom and dad believe it. But we believe what we believe because of tremendous research and discernment throughout our lives. We trust the Catholic Church’s teachings on things like no contraception because the Church is also the original Church, and the only place where you can receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments. We’re proud of you for sticking to your guns. I wish you didn’t have to make a video espousing something you don’t believe in, though. That’s tough.”

Interestingly, the fact Walter had to make a video in opposition to one of our family’s core beliefs that all life is sacred lead to a follow up text conversation. I encouraged him to take the awesome production quality he brought to this video and start creating videos explaining Catholic stuff for teens from another teenager’s perspective.

The idea seemed to resonate with this 15-year-old trying to figure out the world, trying to understand why we believe what we believe, trying to comprehend the contradictions in this world created by God and inhabited by so many people who don’t want to live for God.

I told him the entire Catholic blogosphere would cheer him on. I hope you’d encourage him to do so, and maybe say a prayer for our teens Walter, Sam, and Ben, as well as all the other teens who are indeed trying to find their place in this world by putting Jesus at the center of their lives.

About the author 


Greg is married to Jennifer. They've got five kids.

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  • Excellent job. Too bad he couldn’t say what he truly believed. He has a great future in video production. And a great head of hair!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Greg (and Jennifer). As someone who doesn’t have children yet, but is concerned about what’s happening in public school these days, hearing about Walt’s response gives me hope.

    • It’s starting to feel like our countless hours of conversations over the many, many years are starting to pay off. We were quite proud of how Walt did his best to address this all on his own.

  • Way to Walter! My 15 yr old and her friend just received poor grades on an English assignment. When they started talking to each other, they realized that both of them presented on a topic with a Christian perspective and the teacher had pre-warned them (individually) against arguing from that perspective because it lacks “evidence,” isn’t “creative,” and isn’t universal. I found out last night so we’ll see where it goes. Looking forward to Walter’s video content in the future!

  • Great video! As a mother of a middle schooler who attends public school I know about the difficulties of trying to protect our kids from the secular world views. Sounds like, by the grace of God you andJennifer are doing a great job!! I’ll be praying for him.

  • You should be proud… great video and so well done! Please keep us posted on any other videos he does about our Faith. Would love my son (same age) to see them.

    Rest assured… even in Catholic Schools – crazy stuff happens in the classroom. High School classrooms have been better, but since it is a larger student population, there is that diversity. Bart comes home with stories of challenges to his core values regularly. Again.. I hope Walt does makes some videos! Let us know.

    • Walt has often expressed an interest in reviving That Catholic Show now that he has more video production/editing skills. Perhaps a teen series is really what he should be focusing on. All these positive comments will no doubt be good for his motivation. Thanks Kim!

      • This is exactly what I suggested to him this morning. A few years ago we even had the original creator of our opening credits create “That Catholic Show…for kids!” and we never used the new animation. Walt said he’d want it to say “…for teens!” We’ll see if that happens. I think he should just do more videos in the style he used for this one.

  • Great job on the video, I thought of people (albeit a small amount) who make a living creating YouTube videos while watching. A great challenge too, a teenager espousing Catholicism is a nieche looking to be filled!!!

  • Great job! I thought his style was a little like the John Green/Hank Green videos–nicely done!

    I teach in a Catholic high school (and would be happy to share any videos he makes with my students), and it’s a wonderful thing when you can see kids standing up for what they believe and presenting those beliefs clearly and logically. I think he’s got a future in this–great voice, just like his dad’s!

  • I’m impressed. As a deacon working in a rural public school I’d love to see me students produce work of this quality. I was elated to see his clear statement that when it comes to birth control he is ‘anti’.

    Jennifer said she was encouraging him to produce Catholic videos for teens, I second that emotion.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Nice job on the video! As Walter progresses towards choosing a college I’d recommend he visits John Paul II Catholic University.

  • I thought you and your son my enjoy seeing this. It’s John Lennon and Yoko Ono on an interview in the 70s discussing overpopulation as a myth.

  • Numbers don’t lie!



  • Disappointing that you say he “had” to make this video. He chose to. There were many other options he could have chosen (and not necessarily the option of just openly disobeying the assignment and arguing the opposite side and taking whatever grade the teacher chose to give for that, although that is certainly one of the options that was open to him and I’d have admired his guts for choosing it, if not his prudence). But there are several other options that would have fulfilled the letter of the assignment (thus preserving his grade), while also allowing him to avoid making statements he himself disagrees with.

    One very simple one (which I am surprised he didn’t think of, most every student in the world eventually realizes they can/should use this strategy): to frame his statements in the video itself with qualifiers like “Many experts believe…” so that it is clear to viewers that he’s simply reporting the opinions of others, not stating his own opinions; it also subtly implies that there are experts out there who have differing opinions.

    Another option would be to humorously use sarcasm so that while he says one thing and fulfills the letter of the assignment, it’s very clear from context that he imeans the exact opposite (a la Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” written in response to Malthusianism; the teacher is just serving up warmed-over Malthusianism, so follow Swift’s example and respond sarcastically). Perhaps something like, “_Clearly_ with food currently being produced in amounts far greater than the world’s present population can consume [insert relevant numbers to support this], and with the number of people so great that if we gave them each a quarter of an acre to stand on [again insert the unassailable hard data to back this up], the space they occupied would be almost as big as the state of Texas, it is abundantly evident that overpopulation is a problem, and not just a problem, but a problem of disastrous proportions, probably the greatest disaster that has ever befallen mankind. Worse than the greed that leads to the inadequate distribution which prevents that abundant food from getting to the people who need it. Worse than the shortsightedness that wastes the abundant natural resources of the earth creating concrete jungles thousands of times more massive than actually needed for human flourishing. Worse than the wars and terrorism and pogroms and artificially-induced famines that have characterized the past 150 years. Yes, overpopulation is worse than all of these. In fact those disasters, evil as they are, could even be considered good in that they contribute to solving the problem which is the single biggest disaster of all: overpopulation.”

    An fourth option – and one I would by far rather have seen him take rather than all the others I have mentioned – would be for him to stand up for himself by politely requesting of the teacher that since the topic is a controversial one, he be permitted to make a video that acknowledges both sides of the controversy. Put nicely and not in a rude or combative tone, it’s a request that even the most liberal teacher would have a hard time saying no to. After all, he’s not coming up to the teacher saying he refuses to do the assignment or that he wants to just argue completely the opposite side. He’s simply saying, “hm, there are other voices out there and I’d like to engage in fair and balanced reporting in my video by acknowledging everyone and not leaving any side out.” Fair and balanced reporting is pretty universally acknowledged to be valuable, so I think he’d have a very strong chance of the teacher agreeing to this kind of proposal. Even very liberal news articles try to give some semblance of being fair and balanced by having at least a few brief quotes from a token conservative voice buried somewhere in their articles.

  • As a former public school teacher, I say that requiring students to fulfill an assignment which presumes one side of a controversial issue regardless of facts or opposing opinions amounts to educational malpractice.

  • Catholicism does not require dismissing concerns about overpopulation. If tomorrow women went back to having the average number of children they had before modern contraception became widespread, overpopulation would be here quickly. The Catholic doctrine on reproduction does not require having many children. It only restricts the method of controlling the birth rate.

    • Zerk, Catholicism doesn’t require it, logic does. If you examine the facts, you realize that overpopulation is not currently a problem and is unlikely to be a problem any time in the next couple hundred years. The more likely scenario is a “demographic winter” where birthrates fall below replacement level and population declines at an accelerating rate, causing its own set of problems with fewer people available to care for the elderly or even to maintain the overall production infrastructure that supports our current standard of living. For a succinct summary of the relevant facts, watch the video Greg linked to above (I’m repeating the link here)
      For more detailed information, including the scholarly research to back up those claims, visit the website and click The Science. There you can go topic by topic and find links to the hard data.

      • “Catholicism doesn’t require it, logic does. If you examine the facts, you realize that overpopulation is not currently a problem and is unlikely to be a problem any time in the next couple hundred years.”

        The worry about a demographic winter is only an issue because Catholicism has not prevailed in affecting people’s reproductive decisions. If people switched back and started having kids at the natural rate, then the world’s population would blow up in short order. It’s just math. That was my point, and it is correct. If you are basing your argument about safety from overpopulation on the continued defeat of the Catholic position, please just say so.

        • Zerk – Because comment boxes rarely (if ever) change minds, I won’t go into a much detailed response other than to say that Catholic teachings regarding contraception are not just about making babies. It’s also about making better marriages. Don’t make this just a pelvic issue. It’s an issue of greater respect, higher marriage success rates (i.e., less divorce), and higher inclusion of God in all aspects of family life. It’s not just about math. Read this before commenting again –

        • Zerk, I just realized you made two separate statements about things Catholicism does not require. I was only responding to the first one (dismissing concerns that overpopulation is actually a problem in our world today) when I said logic requires it. Neither logic nor Catholicism requires people (even married people) to have as many children as physically possible for them. I think you and I both agree on that.

          I do think dismissing concerns about the world being overpopulated is very important to do because chasing that bogeyman is a dangerous distraction from solving the real issues that are causing significant human suffering in our world. The world is not presently overpopulated, has never yet been overpopulated, and is not going become overpopulated anytime in the next 200 years (perhaps farther out than that but I can confidently say 200). If the energy that’s currently devoted to the nonexistent “overpopulation problem” were instead devoted to solving things like food distribution issues, maybe progress would be made towards easing the human suffering that currently is falsely blamed on overpopulation.

  • How I understand the struggle. Aly, my 14 year old, came home with her science project which she didn’t let me see till she was done. It was about the Big Bang theory. She struggled with it for weeks but didn’t want to lose her A in the class so she did it. Step by step progression pages but at the end she stated her position and our beliefs. I grew up hearing of these types of problems but never saw it till now. I just received a phone call from her teacher advising he would need to mark her down for deviating from the outline.

    • Not knowing how your daughter handled the project I’d like to add that the Big Bang theory first appeared in scientific form in 1931, in a paper by Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest.
      God created science so He may have started things out with a bang. And it is just a theory.

      • True, it’s a theory, but the teacher didn’t want to hear anything about how she felt true life began. She was NOT to mention anything about God or creation by God. That killed her. So, in order to add what she felt was truly needed, she added it at the end and was marked down for it. I can’t be mad at that.

  • Would God create human beings and not enough basic resources for each person to survive? Where are those resources then? Obviously stolen and hoarded by a few super rich entities whose motto is “survival of the fittest” rather than the common good.

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