RE: draft abstract Sex, Drugs and Cults

From: Francesca S. Alcorn (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 18:00:18 GMT

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    Grant said:

    >In farming societies (most of what's left of the third world) more
    >children mean more hands to till the fields and help with the
    >endless work that farming requires if the farmer is to survive. The
    >children are also the social security of the farmer. They will take
    >care of the farmer and his wife in their old age.
    >In industrial societies, the children are more of a burden than a
    >help. They use resources rather than produce them. The state
    >provides what social security is available, if only in the form of
    >an environment where one can survive with few or no resources of
    >one's own. Children, when grown, go off and establish their own
    >households wherever work can be found, rather than staying home to
    >develop the family farm.
    >Thus, all the reasons a farmer had for producing a crop of children
    >is lost when a small portion of the population produces most of the
    >food and family farms no longer dominate the structure of society.
    >Japan is the prime example of a society struggling with this problem
    >today. Farmers still dominate the government because they have
    >unfair political rights compared to the rest of the population. But
    >they are a smaller and less significant portion of that population
    >with each passing generation.
    >As the poorer countries become more industrialized, the tide will
    >turn on their child bearing, too. In the end, even farming will
    >become industrialized, as it has pretty much done in the U.S.
    >already. But who will take care of the people after the robots take
    >over? It will have to be the robots and the motivation for having
    >even two or more children will be lost.

    According to my ethology book (Ethology: the Mechanisms and Evolution
    of Behavior by James L. Gould) the less-offspring/more-investment
    strategy (called K-strategy) occurs in "habitats with relatively
    constant or at least predictable climates. Competition among
    individuals members of a species, particularly for that resource
    which sets the value of K is keen. Individuals of K-selected
    species, because of the predictability of their worlds, can afford to
    develop slowly and wait until they are at their competitive peak to
    reproduce. Because the environment is so nearly saturated, parents
    usually raise few offspring, but they invest heavily in their young
    to increase their chances for survival." (p341-342)

    So perhaps our culture has created a stable environment, and buffers
    us from the worst of the unpredictable. We are living close to the
    upper limit of our resources. And among other things, the "K" for
    which we compete is not only material resources but social standing.

    Species which produce lots of offspring but follow a more
    sink-or-swim approach to their young are "r-selected".


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