Spermageddon: are humans going extinct?
Freddie Sayers spoke to Prof Shanna Swan about her new book 'Count Down'
Is the human race in danger of extinction? That’s the jaw-dropping claim made in Professor Shanna Swan’s new book ‘Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race’. According to the book, sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973 and suggests that they could reach zero by 2045, which would mean no more reproduction and no more babies.
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Our Science Editor Tom Chivers wasn’t overly convinced by the thesis, but we wanted to hear Dr Swan out. She argues that chemicals such as “Pthalates”, to be found in everything from ATM receipts to Tupperware plastic, are altering —and endangering — human sexual development, which is getting worse by the year.
Having devoted over 20 years of her career to the study of sperm, the epidemiologist is about as well-credentialed as they come and she is certainly worth listening to. We thank prof Swan for her time and hope you enjoy the discussion. Key quotes below:
On plummeting sperm count:
On declining population figures:
On phthalates (a group of chemicals):
On where these chemicals are found:
On increases in gender fluidity:
On how to limit chemical exposure:
I find this interview encouraging. Most of the major problems facing humanity trace back to overpopulation, not least the inability of so many young people to find meaningful careers in world that’s increasingly mechanized and dominated by AI.
A shrinking population may yet save us from ourselves.
What seems obvious is prosperity and chemicals might end the future of the cultures that created both the prosperity and chemicals. The rest of the world with less prosperity and chemicals may continue growing. Perhaps they will have little understanding of the culture that has then failed just as the Mayan descendants know little of the great society that now is in ruins.
I could have listened to twice thst length of interview on this subject. Feels like something Unherd needs to check back on regularly with all sorts of scientists working in these fields. If true then we need urgent changes in farming , food production , packaging and storing snd in beauty products.
Wow! For me that was a powerful revelation indeed. I have been alarmed at &concerned with the population explosion that will see us soar to 9b by 2050. But this interview is bringing home other problems that human race is likely to face in the future causing itself to decline largely brought on by itself due to its own hubris and dependence on “science”. We are masters of quick fix solutions and slaves to decadence and comforts. The vaccines are case & point of this sort of overwhelming confidence. Will we learn ? I don’t think it’s in our nature! No doubt there will be another quick fix arriving soon enough to solve this too!
Watch “Dark Waters” Hollywood movie about Teflon – truly remarkable
‘Scientists at UC San Francisco have detected 109 chemicals in a study of pregnant women, including 55 chemicals never before reported in people and 42 “mystery chemicals,” whose sources and uses are unknown.’
‘“It’s very concerning that we are unable to identify the uses or sources of so many of these chemicals,” Woodruff said. “EPA must do a better job of requiring the chemical industry to standardize its reporting of chemical compounds and uses. And they need to use their authority to ensure that we have adequate information to evaluate potential health harms and remove chemicals from the market that pose a risk.”‘
Study finds evidence of 55 new chemicals in people, phys.org, March 17
Human genes are just engineering. If sperm counts are falling because they don’t like modernity too well, well we can hack the genes to fix that. How’s that for ‘utilitarian’.
Those are my genes. And if they’re not working anymore… well, I have others.
Sounds like you are some sort of a bigoted ‘Human Supremacist’. What’s the matter? AI not good enough for you? Within 50 years you will be able fit a ‘Human Algorithm’ into a chip the size of a grain of rice, and never even notice humans have gone extinct.
I am human (at least I was last I looked) but definitely not supremacist, nor bigoted.
I think we (humans for the avoidance of doubt) are on the verge of hacking ourselves, both genetically and algorithmically over the next couple of decades. Where that heads, who knows. I don’t view change like that as good or bad per se, so I don’t have the attitude of resisting such change as a first instinct. I know tech fairly intimately – it’s my profession. I just have a bit of fun with tech and biotech trends by making the odd comment or joke on fora like this to generate a little debate because tech change is a bee in my bonnet. Fairly harmless and most people don’t get what I’m waffling on about most of the time anyway, so it just goes woosh like a neutrino through the earth.
What a fascinating interview and what absolutely stupendous news! We’ve had it! And serve us dam well right.
We are after all, like it or not just a species of African Ape that has attempted to ‘rise above its station’, as we used to say.
I am a naturalist and into philosophy on a ‘Life, The Universe, and Everything’ level and disagree completely.
I have spent many years in the remotest places in nature and find its completely disinterested cruelty is mind numbing. Billions of creatures born to die miserably for two reach breeding adulthood to keep the populations going, and then they die miserably. Billions of rabbit kits, mouselings, cat cubs, puppies in the wild, all born to a miserable death. I have seen too much suffering to ever be quite the same.
Then I have also seen much of the best in the world, both the most amazing Nature displays, and especially Man’s unequaled works, art, industry, compassion, philosophy, love, decency, thought, loyalty, self sacrifice, science, religion, literature; man’s incomparable works.
It is only through Man’s appreciating of aesthetics I can in any way understand the utter cruelty of nature. Man, by having both an appreciation of aesthetics, and capacity to love, is the only thing which justifies this all, otherwise Nature is merely some monstrous machine fed by infinite suffering, for nothing.
Also – religion, Free Will. A place must be present with great hardship and suffering and pleasure and vice and self sacrifice that there can be good and evil. If were under a benevolent god who gave us all needs and pleasures we could not be good or bad, we could just pets. It is adversity which give us the chance of nobility and goodness.
Without man’s consciousness, aesthetic appreciation, love, creativity, and goodness I cannot think of anything positive of the existence of what is, but because of man I do find hope and good in the physical universe. It is the tree falling and no one to hear it without humans.
I used to think as you do, perhaps from very similar experiences but now as probably the oldest and most decrepit contributor on UnHerd have retired gently into nihilism.
This mass panic over the perfectly named Corona Virus being the final straw.
Heraclitus said “War is the father of all things” Thus it is comforting to realise that if the next war doesn’t do for us, the sperm count will.
How very reassuring.
After you Sir.
Is there any evidence for these “massively rising levels of homosexuality and bisexuality”? Or any reason to be concerned if there is?
Evolution will ensure that sperm resistant to these chemicals will appear and prosper.
That said, we really do need to reduce chemical pollution from all sorts of sources.
Evolution is a slow process in species like ours, unlike inventing new chemicals and releasing them into our environment.
If smoking is (was?) responsible for a 40% sperm count reduction, but, when the number of people smoking declined, there was no effect on sperm count, surely it is strange to argue that “other factors” took up the slack. Isn’t the obvious hypothesis that smoking was insignificant as far a sperm count decline goes?
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