This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Are You a Demographist?

Although I have read all of Dan Brown's novels, including the heavily-panned (yet still highly successful) "The Lost Symbol," I have been distracted and was not paying close attention to his latest novel, "Inferno", which came out three months ago. For some reason, no one bothered to tell me that the plot line revolves around a population theme:
In a standard Dan Brown 24-hour time limit, Langdon with his beautiful side-kick races to find a weapon of mass destruction created by a mad scientist as a solution to over-population in the world that is threatening the human species with extinction. This weapon is created to cut down a major chunk of the human population. Here, we see dark and twisted reflections of the neo-Malthusian theory at work.
Now, I suspect that this population angst is not really central to the action in the book, and since I just bought the book I haven't found out yet for sure (you can offer a spoiler alert, if you want). What I did discover is that Dan Brown introduces the topic of over-population by referring on page 144  to "a prominent nineteenth century mathematician and demographist name Thomas Robert Malthus." Technically, Malthus did take his degree from Jesus College at Cambridge in mathematics, but his biographers (most notably William Petersen) have made it clear that he aspired to, and became, a parish priest in the Church of England. To call him a mathematician is a bit of stretch. Indeed, eventually (years after the publication of his Essay on Population) he became a Professor of Political Economy, not a Professor of Mathematics. But a demographist??? What is that about? A Google search returned a few on-line dictionaries that define a demographist as, duh, a demographer. But I could not find a single reference to Malthus that called him a demographist. This was new (as in novel) to me, but I guess that I can now add a new title to myself as a demographist. If Dan Brown says so, it must be.

3 comments:

  1. Your blog should have a "like" button!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I think the best that can be done here is to share it to Facebook.

      Delete
  2. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Scientists warn of a rapid collapse of the Earth's ecosystem.
    The ecological balance is under threat: climate change, population growth and environmental degradation could lead even in this century an irreversible collapse of the global ecosystem.

    --> http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/06/06/scientists-uncover-evidence-of-impending-tipping-point-for-earth/

    The cardinal reason is the sudden development of human population that threatens to devour all our resources.

    Since 21 August there is therefore a petition at change.org for the introduction of global birth-controls, also in HINDI!

    If you want to support this or publish it on your website, here is the link:
    http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/weltweite-geburtenregelungen-verbindlich-einf%C3%BChren-introduce-obligatory-worldwide-birth-controls

    Please continue to spread the link or the petition as possible to all interested people, organisations etc.

    Thank you and best regards
    Achim Wolf, Germany

    ReplyDelete