Can rebirth be reconciled with population growth?

The Guardian today featured on its home page an article about Buddhism. It looks at the question as to whether the growth of population – highlighted by the birth of the ‘7 billionth person’ in the Philippines – can be reconciled with rebirth. Where are all the extra people coming from???

I’ve always though this was such a simple question, but I have heard it asked many times, so it apparently not as obvious as all that. Anyway, the article is quite good and the discussion is robust and entertaining – if somewhat alarming for someone who spends much of his life trying to improve education about Buddhism.

The author, Ed Halliwell, does a good job, apart from the inaccurate invocation of the simile of the arrow, which he says suggests the Buddha said we should care about rebirth. On the contrary, the idea of that simile is that one shouldn’t waste time with the 10 unanswerable metaphysical questions. It has nothing to do with rebirth in general, which the Buddha always accepted and treated as a central part of his teachings.