Thursday, May 24, 2012

Babies and Religion

Rosling with high-tech visual aids
For a variety of reasons, this blog has veered away from its origins - reflecting on the talks that have excited or inspired me at TED.  Usually it was a TED talk I've heard in person.  I'm getting back to the original purpose with this post, but this time, I'm writing about a talk I just watched online.

Hans Rosling is the most-invited and most-watched TED speaker of all time.  His most recent talk was at the TEDx Congress in Doha.  Sadly, Rosling has run out of original and thought-provoking things to talk about.  NOT!!!  Absolutely not.  Once again, Rosling sparkled with his trademark presentation of data that makes you think.

This time, he tackled a sensitive topic: the correlation between birth rate and religion.  Most people 'know' that birth rates differ between religions.  If it is true that some religions discourage the global trend toward smaller families, then that will send our population soaring past 10B.

Rosling argues differently with his data.  Worldwide, birth rates have been dropping toward the two-children-per-woman mark.  There is a correlation between birth rates and average income: low income tends to correlate with high birth rates, although it is clear the birth rate can drop even when average income has stagnated.  Countries in conflict have high birth rates, as children killed are usually replaced with another child.  But, the countries which  still have high birth rates are split between countries where the dominant religion is Christianity and those where the dominant religion is Islam.  Rosling argues that if we want to look for the factors that affect birth rate, we have to look beyond religion.

Rosling posits the four key factors necessary to bring down the birth rate:
  1. Children survive
  2. Families don't depend on children working 
  3. Women get educated and join the labour force
  4. Family planning is accessible
With his patented use of simple props to make his point vividly, Rosling shows how, even with the decline to 2 children per woman, the world population will rise to 10B before leveling off.  He calls it reaching 'peak child', a phrase that may become as popular as 'peak oil'.

I could listen to Rosling forever!  He presents data through a powerful lens, which turns it into information. Over the years of listening to his talks, he's assailed many assumptions I've had about the world.  I can't imagine how exciting it must be to take a whole course from this spectacular teacher.

1 comment:

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