American Renaissance

Sex Is Essential, Kids Aren’t

David P. Barash, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2006

The German public was recently shocked to learn that 30% of “their” women are childless — the highest proportion of any country in the world. And this is not a result of infertility; it’s intentional childlessness.

Demographers are intrigued. German nationalists, aghast. Religious fundamentalists, distressed at the indication that large numbers of women are using birth control.

And evolutionary biologists (including me) are asked, “How can this be?” If reproduction is perhaps the fundamental imperative of natural selection, of our genetic heritage, isn’t it curious — indeed, counterintuitive — that people choose, and in such large numbers, to refrain from participating in life’s most pressing event?

The answer is that intentional childlessness is indeed curious — but in no way surprising. It is also illuminating, because it sheds light on what is perhaps the most notable hallmark of the human species: the ability to say no — not just to a bad idea, an illegal order or a wayward pet but to our own genes.

{snip}

It happens over and over, from Nigeria to Nicaragua. Even the already low birthrates in developed countries become lower still when each child is expected to be outfitted with an iPod and yoga lessons, not to mention a personal trainer. It is notable that child-wariness is not only characteristic of highly developed Germany (and northern Europe as a whole), but that it rises from 30% to more than 40% among German women who are college graduates.

When it comes to our behavior, evolution is clearly influential. Of this there can be no doubt. But only rarely is it determinative, even when something as deeply biological as reproduction is concerned. Indeed, the trend toward childlessness is neither particularly German nor strangely “un-biological” but profoundly human.

Original article

(Posted on May 15, 2006)

     Previous story       Next Story       Post a Comment      Search

Comments


Home      Top      Previous story       Next Story      Search

Post a Comment

Commenting guidelines: We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. Statements of fact and well-considered opinion are welcome, but we will not post comments that include obscenities or insults, whether of groups or individuals. We reserve the right to hold our critics to lower standards.




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)