Prince Charles' Population Control Speech Backfires with References to Chesterton, C.S. Lewis

Prince Charles’ Population Control Speech Backfires with References to Chesterton, C.S. Lewis

By John Jalsevac

June 14, 2010 ( – The Prince of Wales has come under fire after using a speech on Islam and environmentalism as an opportunity to call for a reduction in the world’s birth rate, especially among Muslims.

But what has drawn the ire of some commentators is that moments after making his controversial remarks, the prince went on to quote famed Christian writers C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton in support of the thesis of his address.

Dr. Dave Beresford, an entomologist at the University of Trent in Ontario and an expert on G.K. Chesterton who writes for the Chesterton Society’s Gilbert Magazine, told that, “To quote Chesterton in support of any population control program is entirely misleading.” In fact, said Beresford, Chesterton’s writings are chock-full of compelling arguments against population control, a fact of which Prince Charles seems to have been wholly unaware.

The prince conspicuously placed his treatment of population issues at the end of his hour-long speech, which marked the 25th anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, of which he is the patron.

The general thrust of the address was a call for a return to “tradition.” Such a move was presented as a means of combating the West’s “rapacious desire for continuous economic growth” and the “mechanistic and reductionist approach to our scientific understanding of the world around us.”

But before wrapping up the speech the prince said there was “one final issue I have to mention.”

“Wherever you look, the world’s population is increasing fast,” he said. “It goes up by the equivalent of the entire population of the United Kingdom every year. Which means that this poor planet of ours, which already struggles to sustain 6.8 billion people, will somehow have to support over 9 billion people within fifty years.”

The prince told his audience that it must "face up to the fact more honestly than we do that one of the biggest causes of high birth rates remains cultural” - an apparent reference to the high birth rate amongst Muslims.

Then, while concluding his address, the Prince of Wales quoted Chesterton as saying that “real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them as a root.” He also mentioned C.S. Lewis’ famous statement in Mere Christianity, that “sometimes you do have to turn the clock back if it is telling the wrong time” and “going back can sometimes be the quickest way forward.”

But not everyone is impressed by the prince’s message or by the illustrious intellectual company he is keeping. When asked for comment specifically about the prince’s remarks on birth rate, Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and an expert on demographic issues, simply quipped, “Prince Charles should stick to matters that he’s good at, like handing out awards at cricket and polo matches.”

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