RE: Parody of Science

Gatherer, D. (
Fri, 30 Jul 1999 16:53:34 +0200

Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 16:53:34 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Parody of Science
To: "''" <>

Why do women want to have children?

Borgerhoff Mulder draws attention to the negative correlation between wealth
and reproduction in post-demographic transition societies. The demographic
transition was a halving, or more, of the reproductive rate which took
place in Western Europe between 1880 and about 1940. Thr first country to
enter it was France, which never had such a high rate of reproduction
anyway, even in the 1860s, and the last to enter it was Ireland, in about
the 1920s. Even though there were 'baby booms' in most countries following
the 2nd World War, the trend is still downwards. Average fertility per
lifetime per person in Europe is about a quarter now compared with what it
was in 1860.

Note that this happened before modern contraceptive methods became
available. Contraception affects sexual behaviour, but not reproductive
behaviour. Early in the demographic transition, it became apparent that it
was being led from the top downwards. In Table 1 Borgerhoff Mulder gives
data showing that as long ago as 1911, professional class fertility in
England and Wales was only 2.94 children per married couple. as compared to
4.57 children per married couple for agricultural labourers. These figure
are for surviving children, infant mortality would have been higher then
than it is now.

This contrasts with anthropological work cited by BM, which seems to
indicate that in pre-dem.trans. societies, there is a positive correlation
between wealth and fertility.

So here's hypothesis 1: (there are a few others but we should take this

When infant success requires:
a) high levels of parental investment, which are
b) costly to the parent

there is a selective pressure pushing parents towards restriction of family

This hypothesis is credited to Irons, and Turke (refs. in BM)

but is it convincing? ie. would there be such a selective pressure?
is the response to the selective pressure genetic or memetic?

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