Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More From Obama's Science Czar

More from "Ecoscience":

"Individual rights.

"Individual rights must be balanced against the power of the government to control human reproduction. Some people—respected legislators, judges, and lawyers included—have viewed the right to have children as a fundamental and inalienable right. Yet neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions a right to reproduce. Nor does the UN Charter describe such a right, although a resolution of the United Nations affirms the "right responsibly to choose" the number and spacing of children (emphasis in original). In the United States, individuals have a constitutional right to privacy and it has been held that the right to privacy includes the right to choose whether or not to have children, at least to the extent that a woman has a right to choose not to have children (our emphasis). But the right is not unlimited. Where the society has a "compelling, subordinating interest" in regulating population size, the right of the individual may be curtailed. If society's survival depended on having more children, women could he required to bear children, just as men can constitutionally be required to serve in the armed forces.

Similarly, given a crisis caused by overpopulation, reasonably necessary laws to control excessive reproduction could be enacted. It is often argued that the right to have children is so personal that the government should not regulate it. In an ideal society, no doubt the state should leave family size and composition solely to the desires of the parents. In today's world, however, the number of children in a family is a matter of profound public concern. The law regulates other highly personal matters. For example, no one may lawfully have more than one spouse at a time. Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?" (Ecoscience, page 838)

Yesterday, Holdren's co-authors Paul & Anna Ehrlich said "Ecoscience" was description, not endorsement. That is not true. In the passage above, Holdren and the Ehrlichs are not quoting another person--and their endorsement is proved by the caveats they add further down the page (see here): that the population control policies described must meet "reasonable" needs, that they must not be applied arbitrarily, that they must not be permitted to discriminate against particular groups, etc. They are not against the policies--only their "unfair" application.

Holdren's spokeman, Ken Weiss, says Holdren no longer believes these things. Weiss quoted a section of the Holdren's confirmation transcript in which Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) asked Holdren whether he thinks “determining optimal population is a proper role of government.”

“No, Senator, I do not,” was Holdren’s reply, according to Weiss and a transcript of the proceedings.

But Holdren answered that question in the middle of a job interview. Had he answered "yes," there is no way he would have got the job he wanted. So it is not a statement that can be uncritically accepted. But if Holdren is sincere, a simple "No, Senator, I do not" is not a sufficient response to the gravity of a statement like the one above. And if he has sincerely changed his mind, he knows that it is not a sufficient response.

I ask Professor Holdren: What has changed? Have the conditions that led you to argue for population control eased since 1977?

Or, if it is no longer a question of population pressures, how have you changed? You wrote and/or signed off on the above statement--and the others in Ecoscience. If you have indeed changed your mind, why?

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

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