The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

It is Tuesday, January 10th, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Return of Doctor Population Bomb — Why Do the Media Seem to Want Such an Intellectually Discredited Doomsday Prophet to Be Vindicated?

One of the most intellectually discredited figures in American academia is a Stanford University professor by the name of Paul Ehrlich. In 1968, he authored a book along with his wife, who wasn’t credited in 1968. He authored a book entitled The Population Bomb, and in it he predicted that the planet would face mass starvation, human beings would die by the mass millions of inevitable famine and climate collapse beginning in the 1970s. The world’s population at that time was 3.5 billion, and again, he promised that there would be a massive die-off of the human race beginning in the 1970s. Well, let’s just fast forward. Today’s global population is about 8 billion.

Remember, when he wrote the book, 3.5 billion? Now, after he wrote The Population Bomb by a matter of decades, the global population’s 8 billion. And that 8 billion is better fed than the 3.5 billion who were alive when he wrote The Population Bomb. But nonetheless, Paul Ehrlich was a part of the population control movement. And we need to understand that worldview held that human beings were a threat to the planet. Now, we’ll talk about the fact that that’s the absolute contradiction of the biblical worldview. But nonetheless, what Paul Ehrlich was calling for was government action, international action by groups such as the United Nations to bring an end to the expansion of the human population and in effect, to reduce the human population, claiming that that would raise the standard of living and would make the threat of mass global starvation and poverty disappear.

Now, Paul Ehrlich’s ideas didn’t come from nowhere. And they didn’t come from a laboratory at Stanford University, where he taught and with which he’s still affiliated. No, they came from an intellectual movement that is based upon something known as Malthusianism, and that goes back to the 19th century and to a prominent thinker who argued that the global population would expand until it’s unsustainable. Now, that Malthusianism actually leads to all sort of anti-human kinds of ideologies. It led to, for example, not just ideologies, but policies such as the One Child Only policy, that infamous policy put in place by the Communist Party in China, forced sterilization and in many cases even forced abortion. All this in the name of stopping an out-of-control growth of the human population.

Now, this treats human beings as a form of pestilence, as a problem to be eradicated and human reproduction as the enemy of the human good. Again, a contradiction of scripture entirely. But my point, just for a moment, is not just that Paul Ehrlich’s ideas were evil, it’s that they were profoundly wrong. They were disproved by actual experience. And frankly, I can think of no major figure in the modern age who was so intellectually discredited as Paul Ehrlich. But nonetheless, guess what? Paul Ehrlich was back and he was back behind the camera of the CBS program, 60 Minutes on New Year’s Day in order to announce that climate change and global climate catastrophe are now the update to what again, as a prophet of doom, he says, will be the collapse of human civilization and mass death on planet Earth. And once again, human beings are the problem.

Interviewer Scott Pelley of CBS set up Paul Ehrlich to make statements on New Year’s Day like this, “Too many people, too much consumption and growth mania.” Then Pelley said, “At the age of 90, biologist Paul Ehrlich may have lived long enough to see some of his dire prophecies come true.” Now, let’s just stop for a moment. What kind of journalist uses this kind of language? “Hey, here’s good news. Maybe Paul Ehrlich has lived long enough to see his discredited ideas finally come to fruition and millions of human beings die.” How’s that for good news? Intellectual justification of the darkest, most immoral sort. Pelley said to Paul Ehrlich, “You seem to be saying that humanity is not sustainable.” Ehrlich said, “Oh, humanity is not sustainable. To maintain our lifestyle, yours and mine, basically for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths. Not clear where they’re going to come from.”

Scott Pelley then said, “Just in terms of the resources that would be required?” Paul Ehrlich responded, “Resources that would be required, the systems that support our lives, which of course, are the biodiversity that we’re wiping out. Humanity is very busily sitting on a limb that we’re sawing off.” Then CBS said this, “In 1968, Ehrlich, a biology professor at Stanford, became a doomsday celebrity with a bestseller forecasting the collapse of nature.” And then Pelley sets up Ehrlich to claim that decades and decades later, after having been refuted by human experience for a matter of decades, he nonetheless is about to be vindicated by climate change. Pelley said, “When The Population Bomb came out, you were described as an alarmist.” Paul Ehrlich then said, “I was alarmed. I’m still alarmed. All of my colleagues are alarmed.”

Then CBS said, “The alarm Ehrlich sounded in ’68 warned that overpopulation would trigger widespread famine. He was wrong about that. The Green Revolution fed the world. But he also wrote in ’68 that heat from greenhouse gases would melt polar ice and humanity would overwhelm the wild. Today, humans have taken over 70% of the planet’s land and 70% of the fresh water.” In other words, even after having to acknowledge that Paul Ehrlich’s doom prophecies about mass famine didn’t take place, and indeed not only did they not take place, the reverse took place in a Green Revolution, they now come back and say, “Oh, well, here’s something significant, he is being vindicated in terms of climate change.” By the way, his arguments back in ’68 were not exactly what we now see as the challenge of climate change.

But nonetheless, what is interesting here from a worldview perspective is the fact that we really are looking at an anti-human worldview. And we’re looking at the fact that so many in the mainstream media seem to want it to be true. Now, in order to set the stage for making that case, let me remind you of an entertainment program, a late-night comedy program known as The Tonight Show. For a number of years, the host of that program was Johnny Carson, the genial comedian who became a member of the household in a lot of American homes with the development of late-night television and The Today Show as an entertainment venue. And Johnny Carson had an interest in Paul Ehrlich, so much so that on a comedy entertainment program, he had Paul Ehrlich, who predicted the mass starvation of millions of human beings, he had him on The Tonight Show more than 20 times.

At one point, he conducted one hour-long interview with Paul Ehrlich on what was supposed to be a comedy program. Now, something of very big ideological significance is going on if a late-night comedian decides 20 times to have on one of the darkest intellectual figures in all of world history and then to give him even an hour at one point to predict the end of humanity. Where exactly did Johnny Carson think the laugh line was coming in?

But the cultural and worldview reality is that Johnny Carson was basically just borrowing Paul Ehrlich’s intellectual credibility in order to establish a platform as at least at moments, having what was presented as a serious conversation, as if Johnny Carson was in any position to have a serious conversation about the end of humanity.

Part II

An Anti-Human Worldview Runs Rampant Through Our Culture: How Issues of Abortion Intersect with Those of Population Control and Make For a Deadly Combination

But at this point, we need to note, and this is hard to say, but it’s just irrefutably true, there seem to be many on the progressive left, many in academia and many like Paul Ehrlich who want this to be true. They want the human imprint on planet earth either to be significantly curtailed or reversed. They see human beings as a blight upon the planet. And they see the reproduction of human beings as the multiplication of the problem.

Now, as Christians, we understand that exactly the opposite is true. In the opening text to Scripture, in the Book of Genesis, what we find is a mandate. The singular command given to human beings in specific form is to multiply, to go forth and reproduce and fill the earth. And then after that, filling the earth to take dominion over the earth. That’s the exact opposite of what Paul Ehrlich is talking about here.

He’s saying that dominion is the problem and furthermore, human beings are the problem. The only way out is a significant reduction in the net number of human beings. Now, there’s at least a bit of good news in this as we observe that at least some in the media press back on this kind of claim and not necessarily from an explicitly Christian viewpoint. For example, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal responded with a piece that simply stated, “The Paul Ehrlich apocalypse is back.” The editor said this, tongue in cheek, “We’ll say this for Paul Ehrlich, at least he’s consistent.” In 1968, the Stanford biologist famously declared that the battle to feed all humanity is over at a time when the Earth’s population was about 3.5 billion. “Today,” said the editors,” we have a population of 8 billion better fed than ever.”

Yet there was Mr. Ehrlich on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Sunday night, still predicting that humanity is very busily sitting on a limb that we’re sawing off. And then the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the narrator on CBS “acknowledged that the Green Revolution in agriculture disproved Mr. Ehrlich’s prediction of mass famine.” But as they noted, the show went on to suggest that Mr. Ehrlich’s repackaged gloom about melting ice caps and the rate of extinction may finally prove him right in saying, “We’re still headed the way of the dinosaurs.”

The editors aren’t done, by the way. In a later paragraph, they say this, “Mr. Ehrlich is 90 years old and looking spry. When he was born in 1932, life expectancy for the American baby was 61 years. For Americans who will be born in 2023, it is 79+ years. One explanation is that much of what Mr. Ehrlich considers to be a population crisis is simply because people are living longer and much less likely to die as infants.” They conclude this way, “Another way of putting it is that Mr. Ehrlich is living proof that we are living through what his intellectual nemesis, Julian Simon, liked to call an epidemic of life.” The editors concluded, “We’d say that’s a cause for celebration.”

By the way, I will insert that the mention of the economist, Julian Simon, as Mr. Ehrlich’s intellectual nemesis, goes back to the year 1980 when Julian Simon, who believed in the Green Revolution, argued and actually set a wager. He dared Paul Ehrlich to bet him that the price of five major commodities necessary to human existence would become more expensive by 1990. Julian Simon said, “They’d become less expensive.” Well, the fact is every single one of them became less expensive in real currency. Julian Simon didn’t win most of the argument. He won the entirety of the argument.

Paul Ehrlich hasn’t been wrong on a few things. He’s been catastrophically wrong, contradicted by history on just about every major claim. Yesterday on The Briefing, we spent considerable time looking at some recent ominous developments on the issue of abortion. We need to understand that all of this is tied together. The abortion movement is tied to the population control movement. And it is still driven by an ideology on the left that just explicitly sees human beings as the problem and actually sees abortion and the fall off of the human population as answers to the problem, not as the problems in themselves.

When you ask the question, “Why in the world was Paul Ehrlich on CBS’s news program 60 Minutes on New Year’s night?” Well, the answer is because there are so many on the left and in the mainstream media who either believe he’s right, although he’s been discredited at every point, or in some sense, they want him to be right. Or at least, they want him to be a foil in the argument to the end that human beings are the problem and we need fewer human beings on the planet by whatever means necessary. By the way, there were those back in the 1960s and ’70s and even after that who were arguing that the kind of population extinction and famine predictions made by figures such as Paul Ehrlich indicated that famine and this kind of mass human die-off were some means by nature of resolving the problem.

It was almost as if we should look at nature as doing us a favor by eliminating a huge number of human beings by starvation or whatever means necessary to resolve what was claimed to be the problem of human overpopulation. It’s really difficult to describe this accurately in sufficiently dark terms.

But in worldview analysis, it’s just really important that we recognize there are persons who see, there are ideologies that see human beings as the problem. And when you talk about the intersection of abortion and the culture of death and this kind of population warning, what you see is the coming together of a certain worldview that says, “By whatever means necessary, must certainly include abortion.” And that’s where you see the intersection is particularly deadly.

Part III

Sometimes, the Death Penalty is the Right (and Righteous) Response: Biden’s Department of Justice Presses for Death Penalty in Terrorism Case, Even as the President Claims to Have Halted Federal Executions

But speaking of life and death, it’s really interesting to note another news development in recent days, and that is that the Biden Administration’s Justice Department is not, again, the story is that it is not dropping a death penalty prosecution against Sayfullo Saipov, a man who is accused in Halloween of 2007 of plowing a rented pickup truck down a Manhattan crowded west side bicycle path as the New York Times said, smashing into pedestrians and cyclists and killing eight people and injuring more than a dozen.”

Now, to set up the issue here, we need to recognize that shortly after taking office, President Biden announced that he would call a halt to all federal executions. He used language at the time stating that he did not believe that the death penalty could be morally determined and handed down, much less carried out when it comes to our modern system of justice. He basically said for the federal government, the death penalty needed to be left behind. But he said that, and yet his own Department of Justice is contradicting that now. And that’s where you have analysts looking at this and they’re wondering, “What exactly is going on?” Well, there are those who are suggesting that what’s going on is that the Biden Administration has done a carve out for federal charges of terrorism. Now, murder is not enough, according to this theory, mass murder is not enough, but mass murder that would qualify on a federal terrorism charge.

Well, the Trump Administration made the initial moves at the time to bring a death penalty prosecution against this man, indeed, President Trump had tweeted at the time, “should get the death penalty.” So what you have here is the Biden Administration and the President himself saying there should be no federal death penalty, but his own Department of Justice moving forward by its own decision, by the way. It has affirmatively indicated that it is moving forward seeking the death penalty in a death penalty prosecution against this man for carrying out what are defined by the prosecutors as terrorist acts that took place in the context of a terror attack on the United States of America in New York City on Halloween of 2017. Now, what’s the moral sense in all this? Let’s just remind ourselves that according to a biblical worldview, the death penalty is not only allowable, it’s called for in cases of premeditated homicide.

This is found especially in the biblical context of Genesis 9:6, in the Noahic Covenant, where in the aftermath of the flood, Noah, and thus humanity is told, here I quote Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed for God made man in his own image.” By the way, the next verse is a recapitulation of Genesis 1, “And you be fruitful and multiply. Team on the earth and multiply in it.” So there you have after the flood God telling Noah, and thus all humanity, that the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth is not only not rescinded, it is extended enthusiastically so. “Team upon the earth,” he says. But when it comes to murder, well, here you have in Genesis 9:6 the classical biblical explanation. And by the way, it is continued in affirmation in the New Testament in a passage such as Romans 13.

But we are talking about extenuating circumstances. We’re talking about premeditated murder. But here’s where you have the federal government, at least according to legal analysis, and the most important of the news articles on this did appear on the front page of the New York Times in recent days. The headline in that article by Benjamin Weiser was this, “Bike path killings is rare case of US seeking death penalty.” The acknowledgement in this article is that what has to be explained is the Biden Administration effectively contradicting itself on this issue. Now, you might say, “Well, this is just crass politics.” And there’d be some who would make that claim. The Biden Administration just understands that the political volatility of this kind of crime defined as terrorism is such that the American people will demand the death penalty.

But here’s where we need to recognize that that logic goes only so far. Even in political expediency, this doesn’t get you to a sufficient explanation, because there are other crimes that the American people would see as equally heinous and horrifying, and for which they would also call for the death penalty. Now, what you have here, I think, and I’m going to make this case, I think what you have here is the realization that there are certain crimes that are simply so horrible, the premeditation and the murder is simply so calculated that only the death penalty can morally be right. But here’s where we need to make this point, a very important moral point. If the death penalty is justified in some cases, then the death penalty is justified in some cases. Effectively, the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice has contradicted President Biden himself by saying, “There are times when the death penalty is not only justified, it’s basically necessary.”

To put it another way, if you accept that the death penalty is justified in a case like this, if you say it’s because of terrorism or whatever, you are acknowledging that in some sense, at least in some cases, the death penalty is exactly the right penalty. But if you do believe that, again, I just underlined the case, you believe that. And now, you basically made that clear by not withdrawing a death penalty prosecution under your own watch. I simply have to underline again that according to Genesis 9:6, the issue in the death penalty is primarily the effort on the part of the criminal here to attack the very image of God, because as God told Noah in the covenant, “It is his own image that is the crucial issue here,” an issue that applies to human beings. Every single human being, at every point of development from fertilization until natural death.

And the intentional destruction of a human life by murder is thus not just a crime, it is an assault upon the Creator as well as his human creature.

Part IV

One Who Worked to Save Lives and One Who Worked in a Death Camp: Juxtaposing Two Lives and Huge Moral Lessons

But finally, I want to look at a juxtaposition of two human beings. It’s an affirmation of the fact that all human beings are moral agents. And in this case, one of them was an agent for saving life. The other was convicted of being an agent for the destruction of life. In the one case, it’s an obituary. The obituary was for Albert Reichmann. Albert Reichmann was born in 1929. He died in 2022. He and his brother were developers, although his brother ran lead, including in the development of some of what became the World Trade Center in New York City. But we’re also talking about a man who is primarily known, this is the lesser-known brother, for leveraging his fortune to try to save Jews.

The family tried to save Jews, first of all during the Holocaust. And then sought to rescue Jews and to aid Jews trapped within the Soviet Union, also seeking to allow for many of those Jewish people to escape from the repression and antisemitism of the Soviet Union itself. Albert Reichmann’s mother had also sought to send food parcels and to offer other aid to Jews in refugee and concentration camps. According to the New York Times and the obituary for Albert Reichmann, “She also contributed to rescue missions that likely saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.”

Part of the Reichmann family regrouped in the city of Toronto and built a vast real estate empire. Part of it fell, by the way, by economic collapse, but nonetheless, there was still a fortune there. And Albert Reichmann used that fortune by his power to try to save the Jews in the Soviet Union in particular, even as his mother and his family had sought to save Jews during the Holocaust.

But we contrast that man with a woman who was recently convicted very late in life, a 97-year-old woman by the name of Irmgard Furchner, who was convicted of being a teenage shorthand typist at a concentration camp, and thus to be complicit in the deaths of thousands of the Jewish people at that camp. And by the way, the numbers are staggering. Some estimate that 65,000 Jewish people were exterminated, that’s to use the German word. They were killed in mass murder in that one camp. Irmgard Furchner’s trial began back in September of 2021. It concluded just before the end of last year. And by the way, when her trial began, she went on the run from a retirement home. That’s right. At age 95 or 96, she went on the lamb, actually physically running from her retirement home in order to evade prosecution. She was eventually found by police as the BBC reports in the German city of Hamburg.

One of the central moral questions of the 20th century centers in the Holocaust in Germany, by which millions of Jewish people were exterminated, men, women, boys, and girls. And the question is, how could this have happened? And the fact is that the German armed forces and the apparatus of the German government weren’t enough to pull it off. It took the complicity of thousands upon thousands of German civilians who evidently every day went to work in order to kill people in a mass murder and genocide that is one of the most horrifying moral scars of all human history, in particularly of the 20th century. How could persons do that? One of the key questions was asked by an historian back at the end of the 20th century. How could seemingly nice people, just normal middle class people be involved in this industry of death and know exactly what was going on?

Irmgard Furchner, by the way, claimed that she really didn’t know what was going on, although that reality was inescapable. And she was also someone who, as a clerk, helped to keep track of all the names and the operation of the death camp. She claimed, however, she didn’t know what was going on with all these people. The International Press, particularly in Europe, noted that the historical significance of Irmgard Furchner’s trial is that it might be the very last of a German figure who is accused of war crimes and genocide in connection with the Holocaust during the years of World War II under the Nazi regime. And the reason for that is simply the calendar. Time is running out. Irmgard Furchner is herself 97 years old. There were those at the time that she was convicted at the end of last year who said that justice had been cheated by the fact that she was convicted at such an old age.

And even as she will receive what amounts to a prison sentence, no one actually believes that that is a very meaningful sentence at her age. One survivor of the death camp said, “It’s a foregone conclusion that a 97-year-old would not be made to serve a sentence in prison, so it could only be a symbolic sentence.” But he went on to say, “The link should be made to reflect the extraordinary barbarity of being found to be complicit in the murder of more than 10,000 people.” That statement is morally correct, but it isn’t enough. We have to recognize as Christians that no one will escape the ultimate bar of justice. No one will escape on foot from a nursing home or in any other situation from the bar of God’s justice. God’s justice will be sure, it will be swift, it will be certain, and it will be righteous.

As the BBC reported, “Furchner’s trial could be the last to take place in Germany into Nazi era crimes, although a few cases are still being investigated. “Another quirk here, Irmgard Furchner was convicted in a juvenile court, because according to the law in Germany, at the time the crimes were committed, she was considered to be a juvenile. And all that was taken into consideration. Another very strange twist in this moral tale. Here we have a 97-year-old woman now convicted lawfully in a court of having been as a teenager complicit in tens of thousands of deaths.

By the way, in one of the saddest commentaries about the trial, Irmgard Furchner never came clean or took responsibility. All she said was, and I quote, “I regret that I was in Stutthof at the time. That’s all I can say.” You put these two stories together and you recognize that when it comes to the Jewish people, or it comes to any people, when it comes to individuals it makes all the difference in the world whether we are on the side of life or on the side of death. And one day or another, it will be made clear which side we were on. I have to believe that will be true on the issue of abortion, just as it is certainly true in the moral reckoning of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jews in the 20th century.

Finally, there may be many who escape or appear to escape human justice in this life. But we live in the confidence and in the sure knowledge that no one will escape the justice and the judgment of God. And on that day, there will be only one plea that will be answered with the mercy of God, and that is the plea that the only claim we have is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the atonement that the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. That realization is both humbling and our everlasting hope.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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