A series of lectures and papers addressing critical topics in public policy and the environmental sciences


"Is Humanity Destined to Self-Destruct?"

by Lynton Keith Caldwell

Based upon a Plenary Lecture Delivered at the Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for Polics and the Life Sciences, September 4, 1998, Boston,
Published August, 1999

Abstract. As the twentieth century ends, we may identify both constructive and destructive trends that will influence the future of humanity. Which set of trends will dominate the future is uncertain.  Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors all interact to direct the flow of change over time. However, the options and constraints of human life are ultimately fixed by those cosmic elements of the environment over which humans have no control.  The modern assumption of a world without end or limits risks collision with that obdurate reality.  Facing threats to its long-term survival, humanity is challenged to learn how to build a sustainable future. A successful effort will require a concerted and cooperative effort among all fields of knowledge. This article identifies some of the trends that threaten humanity's future and suggests four lines of action that should be pursued in order to reduce the likelihood that humanity will destroy itself. 

Lynton Keith Caldwell is Arthur F. Bentley Professor Emeritus and Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-6001, USA.  He was a founding member of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences and is a member of the National Academy of Public Administration.  He is author of sixteen books and monographs, including Biocracy:  Public Policy and the Life Sciences (Westview, 1987), a seminal article on “Biopolitics: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy” (The Yale Review, 1964), and more than 250 other professional articles on public policy, environmental, and science-policy topics.  He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the John M. Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association, the William E. Mosher Award from the American Society for Public Administration, and a United Nations 500 Award for achievements in protecting and enhancing the planet’s environment and natural resources.  Dr. Caldwell is recognized internationally as one of the early leaders in the study of environmental policy, law, and administration.  His 1963 article, “Environment: A New Focus for Public Policy” (Public Administration Review), has been credited with initiating environmental policy studies.  In application of his analyses, he has served on many national and international science and policy commissions, and was the originator of the environmental impact statement in the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act. 

Invited comments were just published in: 

by the 

please visit the APLS site http://www.lssu.edu/apls/pls/ 
and current issue of the journal and the comments as follows:

Protecting Humanity’s Future: Threat, Response, and Debate, Gary Bryner, Show or Schau?, Heiner Benking, Universal Basic and Secondary Education, Joel E. Cohen and David E. Bloom, Is Humanity Destined?, Herman E. Daly, Pluralism and the Complexity of Knowledge, Bruna De Marchi, Social Choices for Sustainability: A Question of Equity and Justice, Lorraine Elliott, Only Politics Can Save Us, Gerard Fairtlough, Humanity’s Survival is a Matter of Environmental Common Sense, Max Falque, Sustainability, the New Challenge of Governance, and Post-Normal Science, Mario Giampietro, Is the Third World Destined To Be the First One?, Renato Guimaraes, Jr., The Persistence of the Species, Garrett Hardin, Back to Basics in Environmental Politics, Sheila Jasanoff, Can Humanity Avoid Self-Destruction?, Mohamed Kassas, Human Race at Crossroads, T. N. Khoshoo, An Issue We Ignore at Our Peril, Kai N. Lee, Toward a Self-Critical Environmentalism, Martin W. Lewis, Democracy and the Integrity of Commons, Lennart J. Lundqvist, Integrative Science as Adaptive Device in Environmental Crisis: A Perspective from Ecology,     Carlos Martin-Cantarino, Is Humanity Destined to Self-Destruct? Our Predicament: We Can’t Know Enough to Know, Donald N. Michael, Paradoxes of Progress: How Can Humanity Improve Environmental Thinking and Environmental Action?, Giridhari Lal Pandit, Will Malnutrition and Diseases Limit Human Numbers?, David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, Is There a Common Humanity?, Yvonne Rydin, Cancer-Risk Models and Statistical Casualties: Caldwell and the Need for Public-Interest Science, Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Outliers and Advocates: Glimmers of Hope for the New Millennium?, S. Holly Stocking, Learning the Lesson of Interdependence, Leslie Paul Thiele, Causes of Troubles in the Struggle for Existence, Tatu Vanhanen, Environmental Politics at Thirty: Caldwell, Churchill, and an Unruly World, Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith, The Hare and the Tortoise: Dead in the Heat? Cross-National Differences and Knowledge Gaps in Environmental Policy, Nicholas Watts, 
Response: Perspectives on the Self-Destructive Tendencies of Humanity: A Symposium Response, Lynton Keith Caldwell 

This copy is prepared with compliments form Heiner Benking to distribute his comment "Show or Schau?"   http://benking.de/show-schau.htm and thank again Lynton Caldwell for his nice and thoughtful words which helped to find orientation, subsume, and resonnate:

"I was pleased to receive the draft (from Heiner Benking" of the Philosophy of Wholeness. Your approach to the integration of knowledge is certainly the one which ought to be followed. There are two obstructive problems. First, is to persuade the academics, especially the scientist that more than reductionist analyses and specialisation is necessary to guide mankind's future.....  resistance to the concept of the integration of knowledge remains strong. Seconds we need to learn how to discover and define this wholeness approach. Your proposals appear to contribute to this objective......I believe your contribution to be important and wish it well."