I was listening to a Chuck Swindoll sermon on the way to work this morning, when he made reference to the following experiment conducted by Dr. John B. Calhoun:
In the early 1960s, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) acquired property in a rural area outside Poolesville, Maryland. The facility that was built on this property housed several research projects, including those headed by Calhoun. It was here that his most famous experiment, the mouse universe, was created. In July 1968 four pairs of mice were introduced into the Utopian universe. The universe was a 9-foot (2.7 m) square metal pen with 54-inch-high (1.4 m) sides. Each side had four groups of four vertical, wire mesh “tunnels”. The “tunnels” gave access to nesting boxes, food hoppers, and water dispensers. There was no shortage of food or water or nesting material. There were no predators. The only adversity was the limit on space.
John Calhoun meeting Pope Paul VI in a rare reverse of the traditional hand clasp. Initially the population grew rapidly, doubling every 55 days. The population reached 620 by day 315, after which the population growth dropped markedly. The last surviving birth was on day 600. This period between day 315 and day 600 saw a breakdown in social structure and in normal social behavior. Among the aberrations in behavior were the following: expulsion of young before weaning was complete, wounding of young, inability of dominant males to maintain the defense of their territory and females, aggressive behavior of females, passivity of non-dominant males with increased attacks on each other which were not defended against. After day 600 the social breakdown continued and the population declined toward extinction. During this period females ceased to reproduce. Their male counterparts withdrew completely, never engaging in courtship or fighting. They ate, drank, slept, and groomed themselves – all solitary pursuits. Sleek, healthy coats and an absence of scars characterized these males. They were dubbed “the beautiful ones”.
The conclusions drawn from this experiment were that when all available space is taken and all social roles filled, competition and the stresses experienced by the individuals will result in a total breakdown in complex social behaviors, ultimately resulting in the demise of the population.
Calhoun saw the fate of the population of mice as a metaphor for the potential fate of man. He characterized the social breakdown as a “second death”, with reference to the “second death” mentioned in the Biblical book of Revelation 2:11
After the research psychologist reported on his experiment, a couple of significant questions arose.
Q: “What were the first activities to cease?”
A: “The most complex activities for mice: courtship and mating.”
Q: What results would such overcrowding have on humanity?”
A: We would first of all cease to reproduce our ideas, and along with ideas, our goals and ideals. In other words, our values would be lost.”
It is interesting to see what happened to these animals in a perfect world where all they had to do was just live with each other. Everything was provided for and no work was required. Normal family structure disappeared and traditional gender roles were abandoned. I wonder if this can happen with people as well.