Which Came First? The chicken or the idiot?

While reading FARK.com I came across this darling little article about a recently published piece by Mary Tedeschi Eberstadt titled, “How the West Really Lost God”. Surmise to say the conclusion she has drawn, specifically, that the decline in fertility is the result of secularization, could very well be true. Her argument and the logic she uses, however, needs a makeover. According to Gerald Owen of the National Post, “she argues that the experience of becoming parents opens up human beings to a richer consciousness of what is beyond themselves, and thus to religious belief.” And thus to religious belief? Let’s see, both my mother and father were secular and I am but one of eight children. Granted, I could be the exception to the rule, but I don’t believe so. Personally, becoming a parent myself certainly didn’t “open myself up to religious belief.” In fact, I’m often angered at the thought that my son will have to grow up in a world currently ruled by religious zealots. To say the least, the article is an interesting five to ten minute read and might be worth SEB’s time. Cheers. smile

12 thoughts on “Which Came First? The chicken or the idiot?

  1. Its actually not a bad read. I feel I might have been too hasty with my post in my rush to finish it before leaving work.

  2. Fewer orthodox catholics = more contraception
    Also other religions encourage chastity

    – but I wonder whether having children is really a good thing, you give them no choice but to be born, and they are a slave to their needs and have to work in some form (even if foraging) to satisfy them, or face consequences like pain (of hunger, etc). In evolution terms it makes sense that the happy feelings should be associated with fulfilled needs, but why prefer the happy feeling over sadness or pain or boredom? Why have prefrence at all? – it’s only a state

  3. Falling birth rates is a by product of the emancipation of women, and an observed phenomenom since the industrial revolution.  Many working women choose their career over children. Religeons have tended to suppress women.  It’s not us nasty Athiests who have preached against family, but it is all us Liberal’s fault- we told women they are equal.

  4. I have committed the cardinal sin of not reading TFA, but if parenthood opens one up to religious feeling, how does she account for those in monastic orders, who, presumably, have quite a bit of religious feeling?

    My grandmother on my father’s side had, IIRC, 14 live births and 2-3 miscarriages.  Since she was rural and Southern I assume she was into God.  Of course, by the time I came around she was a senile old woman.  Family gossip suggests Grandad NeonCat was a playa, to use the kids’ crazy lingo, although I don’t know how religious he was.  I’ve heard he threatened to shoot out a church’s lights during a blackout in WW2, but it was a, you know, Negro church, which probably didn’t count, at least to rural white Southerners.

    I agree with Last Hussar about conception rates.  Whenever the standard of living goes up and most kids you birth actually live until adulthood, the birthrate goes down a great deal.  It helps if women aren’t expected to be barefoot and pregnant, too.  Fewer kids means greater wealth, generally speaking.

  5. Not that I pretend to be a demographer, but wouldn’t the steady urbanization of the West, plus education that’s more or less compulsory have had something to do with declining birth rates?

    On a farm, more hands in the mornings and afternoons should be an asset.  But when you’re clocking in at the factory, the income is by and large fixed, therefore more mouths to feed should be a liability.  Particularly when they will be incapable of earning much due to youth or schooling laws.

    Just my armchair socio-economic contribution.  I think that LH and NC connect the dots more accurately. 

    But I generally roll my eyes at anybody wringing their hands over the West’s birth rates.  If they’re, ahem, incautious enough to do it around me, I like to “comfort” them with the observation that the Third World is doing its share to keep the human race from extinction.  And then I look for any trace of horror that will out them as a bigot.  And smile evilly if I see it.

  6. Populations go through 5 distinct phases- these have been observed through out ther world

    Low Pop, high Birth rate, high mortality, pop steady

    Industrial revolution
    Access to ‘modern’ tech (depends on country- obviously Britain, being the 1st, is different tech to a modern 3rd world country)Mortality decreases, birth rate stays high due to tradition. Population explosion.

    (Can’t remember title)
    Birth rate falls as society changes to accomodate the improvement. Plus the shift as the grrlie mention in labour intensive lifestyles to that of education removes the pressure on breeding workers. Pop growth slows

    low birth and death rates, leading to a stable pop, but still much higher due to the growth under industrialisation.

    Stage 5
    Slowly falling population, as birth rate falls below the 2 per parent-couple needed for replacement. First observed Sweden in the 70s. Identified with female emancipation.

  7. I’d say the falling birth rates are mostly due to two factors:

    1) The availability of safe and reliable contraceptives—particularly those that don’t rely on a male cooperating. The Vatican abhors it, but women enjoy sex without the risk of consequences.

    2) Increasing material wealth and the cost of raising rugrats—combined with 1) above—results in an increasing number of couples who prefer a higher standard of living over procreation.

    The Churches have a self-interest to see “be fruitful and multiply” implemented, because somebody has to pay all those tithes to keep the clergy afloat (read: keep the religious Ponzi scheme going). In Europe at least, the faithful refused to follow orders when it came to their own reproductive choices.

    The trend in Europe will reverse itself eventually; if the retirement funds run dry, people will start to crank out more kids to care for their parents in their dotage.

    The way I see it, safe and reliable contraception was the first crack in the religious armor; it’s perhaps not so much secular world views winning, but the sheep refusing to lead in one particular direction, followed by an erosion of the Church’s authority across the line.

  8. LH: Populations go through 5 distinct phases- these have been observed through out ther world

    So when they’ve all reached stage 5 (assuming that’s the last), humanity’s doomed to slow extinction (I wonder what a 6 would be – would people be more/less likely to have children in a near empty world? I can only speculate)

  9. It never fails to amaze me that there are people who still don’t realize that declining birth rates are, overall, a positive thing.

  10. The trip was amazing. We did eighteen countries in one month. Congrats on your book, by the way. I didn’t get a chance to reply to your email.

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