Forever Young

I’ve been reading How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) in between two other books, because… it’s like this: I have a great desire to re-read Jane Austen, so I’ve done Pride and Prejudice and am now halfway through Persuasion (and let me tell you what a relief it is that these old friends are only 1.99).  I read those at night because I’ve found if I read non-fiction or even sometimes new fiction, I wake in the night in argument with it.  “Yes, but it’s not like that.”  I suspect it’s like eating oysters before going to bed and causes your brain to go into hyperdrive.  Then I’m reading Dr. Helen’s Men On Strike, but it’s slow going for two reasons.  Her writing, is superb and eminently enjoyable, but the subject has a way of ambushing me, either by reviving anger at circumstances I’ve encountered and which I have, since, talked myself down from, or by exposing me to things I didn’t even know where happening.  It has to be read slowly, lest I happen to someone.  The other reason is that I’m an idiot.  (But we’d established that.)  Being a bear of very little brain I did what I do to books of authors I like and know personally and bought it hard cover for the future signature. This is a problem, because I don’t want to hurt it.  Which means (grumble) I might need to buy a kindle copy because I find more and more most of what I read is on the paperwhite because it’s easy to carry around and, in a Ziploc, safe for the kitchen.

So… what this means is that I’m reading three books at different times and in different parts of the house, which, to be honest, is fairly normal.  (Unless it’s a book/series we all follow, and I have to concentrate on finishing as soon as possible, before Dan or the kids loses patience and absconds in this.  On matters such as “do you sometimes buy two kindle copies, a hardcover and a paperback” it is better to be silent, as it might have an awful lot to do with the wretched state of our wallets. But hey, the kids can take their own copies when/if they move, and won’t suffer the horrible trauma I did, leaving all their best friends behind.)

Anyway, back to Mr. Goldman.  Like me he thinks our problem is not overpopulation but is, or soon will be a birth dearth.

I disagree with him only insofar as I think he places too much faith in UN statistics.  I’d be shocked near onto death to find any of those is accurate, and while it’s possible that they’re undercounting people (after all, the laziness of local officials must be accounted for) I think on the balance they’re overcounting, due to the advantages of that error: more international subsidies; more pride-of-race; considerably more machismo.

I could be wrong.  I’m afraid it’s a situation in which “nobody knows not’ing” again, just like our own increasingly cooked statistics.  But in these situations in general, though we cannot have proof without extensive research, we do know the way to bet.  (And on research, put not your faith in princes, etc.  Almost every Western researcher, up to and very much including the CIA were absolutely sure that the population, industrial production, etc. of the USSR were what the government said – even though, again, it was a bet statistics were cooked and everyone knew the way to bet on HOW they were cooked.

Anyway, so far Goldman has advanced three theories for why civilizations stop reproducing themselves, and all of them – I’ll admit – apply to an extent: lack of cultural confidence/belief in a civilization as a ‘race’ that must go on, regardless of the rest of humanity; education of women; loss of religious faith.

All three of them, to be sure, are a concomitant part of the birth dearth in the west.  Weather they do cause it, it’s something else, though.

For one, I think Mr. Goldman is being – like most Americans, and even any number of Britishers – either too generous or too naïve about other cultures.  I meet with this again and again.  People with decent enough educations who have travelled abroad will, without irony, make statements like “Americans are the most racist/intolerant/provincial” people on the planet.  At which point my jaw drops open and I wonder “Are you for real?”

I can only attribute this belief to the fact that few people speak a language fluently enough to eavesdrop on foreigner conversations, and fewer still have the sort of “mongrel looks” and manner 😉 with which I was blessed, where, depending on what I’m wearing and with whom I’m hanging out at the time, I can pass as a native pretty much anywhere.  So, I’m going to assume most Americans never hear people from the rest of the world letting their hair down, and en-famile, being themselves.

Suffice it to say that so far from being the only racist country in the world, the US is the only country in which racism is utterly unacceptable not just in material stuff like hiring (the rest of the anglosphere at least also seems to find this unacceptable) but in the sense of being a thought crime, so that it has almost vanished from jokes, conversations, and even in most cases thoughts.  As is, at that, “racism” unless it’s used as an accusation by someone losing an argument, is a matter of the more obvious race differences.  To the extent Americans are very careful not to discriminate the people they don’t discriminate against are black and secondarily Hispanic (because they’ve been browbeaten into thinking their objection to unchecked immigration is racist) with people who are far darker but not organized racial minorities (Indians) and people who can be darker but do so well in America that Universities consider them a majority, like Asians.

And because of our peculiar condition as a nation of Intent and Belief, we of course don’t consider ourselves a “race.”  In fact we confused my mom greatly by being “all sorts.”  And there hinges the thing most Americans can’t and don’t get.  Portuguese and Spaniards can tell between themselves on sight.  Despite all the interbreeding that two near neighbors much at war couldn’t avoid, they can (I REMEMBER) tell which one people are.  In the same way they can distinguish between French and Germans, English and Irish, and a fine degree of permutations within for the larger countries. (I could never distinguish between Swedes and Norwegians to their chagrin – or not to any degree of certainty, though I could guess with some confidence.)

By this I mean that pride of breed – which they would call race – and a certainty they’re superior to all others is still very strong in those countries.  And yet, both Portugal and Spain are dying of failure to reproduce.

The same goes for religion.  Yeah, I know, on paper it looks like post modern godlessness is leading to the death of populations.  But trust me, the paper is confused.  Portugal in my parents generation reproduced less than in their parents, and I’d guess except among the very educated putting on a pose for strangers (at that) Portugal is as religious as most places in the US.  And yet, my generation has practically ceased to have kids.  Which, because I also believe Goldman about how fast Islamic populations are crashing, also explains how their pride of race (trust me, kids) and their religion that permeates every facet of life, has failed to keep them popping out kids.

Education of women does have a strong influence, as does the participation of women in the work force.

First, because – duh – it delays reproduction.  When I studied history one of the best indicators of whether population was expanding or contracting was the age of marriage for women.  It’s a very vexing thing for us women who are rational beings that the peak of fertility seems to occur between the ages of 16 and 25 or so.  That is, by the time a woman has finished her bachelors and had time to look about her for a moment or two, and – unless she’s very lucky – before she knows if there is a man for her, the chief of her fertility is gone. Then each five years after that, it gets worse.

Second, women who are working might be too tired to engage in quite so much… ah… marital combustability as can overcome that lapse of fertility.  (Might be!  Ah.  After a kid or two and while working, I’d call it a natural family limiter.)

Third, we’re not absolutely sure of the effect of stress on women’s reproductive systems, nor what constitutes “stress” frankly.  It is possible there is a high correlation, though I don’t know of any studies and must therefore follow two unreliable paths of information – first, almost all high strung women (self included, yes) I know had trouble conceiving or keeping the pregnancy.  Second, it is a folk belief that a woman who is fretted will not get pregnant.  (Now mind I also know women in abusive marriages who kept having kids.  But one must wonder again on the TYPE of stress.)

So saying women’s education (and work) leads to a fall in birth rate is sort of a LaPlace truism: “The horse of Napoleon is white.”

Women’s education might by itself explain most of the fall in birth rates, but again, I think Mr. Goldman is stressing the point when he goes on about how this applies to Islam too.  I suspect the type of education these girls are getting, even in “modernized” countries is 9/10ths religious instruction which – by his reasoning – should make them more willing to have children.  And heaven knows in most Arab countries women are not participating in the labor force.

I think it is more likely that the cause is one that is concomitant but not operative with loss of faith and coincidental with women’s education: industrialization.

This is not because industrialization is, by itself, injurious to reproduction.  If you are a devotee of Gaia and believe that we are poisoning our reproductive ability with the noxious fumes of civilization, go in peace.  I won’t preach to you if you don’t preach to me.

It is rather because the industrial revolution, even at its beginning, cut down greatly on two things: the need/utility of children in the monetary survival of the household (I was going to say “labor” but in the context that might be misunderstood) and child mortality.

I think to get how incredibly rich, how incredibly healthy and well off we are, it takes coming, like me, from a country that – frankly – most of you would have considered a hell hole as to living conditions when I was a child.  Looking at pictures of my very middle class living conditions, I’m struck by the fact that only certain areas of Appalachia back in the sixties could match the poverty on display. Not  that we were – or certainly considered – ourselves poor.  We knew poor, and they were infinitely worse off.  We were, in face, as my grandmother would and did say “Well enough.”

But more than that, even the poor of my time didn’t match the conditions under which my mother – or my upper middle class father – had grown up.  The stories I heard, including of going gleaning after the fields were harvested, not on some lark but to keep body and soul together, and of picking up fallen bits of coal by the side of the railroad, were mind boggling.  Stories, too, of things like my grandmother sewing a satchel for dad’s book bag, because they couldn’t afford to buy him a book bag when he went to high school in the city (in his time, read “with all the rich boys” – which was true even in my brother’s day.  Most even in the middle class stopped school at fourth grace, because the family needed their income.)

In my day even the poorest could afford book bags – often plastic, but all the same.

And mom’s stories, since she was genuinely (through family mismanagement of her ancestors’ mostly ) poor in childhood and grew up in a bad area, are even more horrifying.  For instance, they used to make dolls, play with them for a year, then hold funerals for them, in the same way children in more fortunate circumstances had doll teas and doll weddings.  There are other stories, like of going to the wake of one of her little play friends, and being very upset because the flies would keep landing on the corpse.

This is something that literally breaks my mind.  Now, at fifty I have – that I know – lost two childhood play fellows (I must have lost more, but I live across the sea, and some of them married abroad, so it’s hard to be in touch.) One died of ovarian cancer in her twenties, and the other suffered a stroke while alone at home with her children and died before anyone discovered her, also in either her late twenties or very early thirties.  However, we all reached adulthood.

Of course, here I must beg a break to point out that the playfellows I knew – the ones I grew up with – were already maybe 1/3 of those born to my cohort in the village and surroundings.  The whateveritwas (Probably a particularly virulent chicken pox, though it might have been one of the last huzzahs of small pox escaped from a lab around that time.  The mortality rate was more small pox, and it spared the kids of school age and older who had been vaccinated) that swept through when I was three took the children of several people we later knew, and my own cousin of the same age.  But because I was so young, I remember being sick, and I remember being convinced my cousin had died because I’d refused to share my bread with her (no, I don’t think anyone ever told me this.  I think it’s what my mind attached to when being told of her death) but I have no memory of my cousin’s face, nor of our interaction.  So in my conscious life, children didn’t die.  (Though I have a memory of a funeral procession for an infant, at around that time, going up the village street, with the mourners all in white, and I remember my mom telling me that for a child’s funeral you dress in white, because heaven has gained an angel.)

I suspect for most of us, children don’t die.

But beyond that we are all so prosperous, so happy, so contented, that children seem a terrible disruption of a rationally ordered life.

And before you scream at me that people in Muslim countries whose population is already falling are certainly not happy or contented, do consider what their grandparents and great grandparents lived like. It’s not the absolute prosperity but how fast it increases that makes a difference.

For any human, just knowing that he/she is unlikely to starve to death is such a marked improvement from the past, that we might as well be called blessed.  But then consider that most of us will live longer, healthier lives than our ancestors.  Consider, too, that – rightly or wrongly – even Egyptians believe that they have the right to be kept by their nation from the worst extremities of want. (How that holds is something else again.)

Humans have lived through far worse set backs and much, much worse times.  Almost all the times and all the events, at any rate.  Portuguese didn’t stop having kids because of civil war, Napoleonic invasions, ditactorship or famine.  But they’re now stopping having children because they “have opportunities” and almost no one dies prematurely, and there is so much to do, to see, to learn and to explore.  (And let’s remember that reality TV is practically intellectual by comparison to the best entertainment our ancestors could command.  I mean, our ancestors in small villages across the world.  Don’t tempt me, I’ve been reading Jane Austen.)

We are, in many ways living in the isle of the blessed, where hardly anyone ever dies, there is no want (not of the sort our ancestors knew) and we stay forever young (no?  Go look at pictures of the early twentieth century.  Discount the fact that we are as a rule heavier, a consequence of our prosperity.)

In those circumstances, we are told, elves had almost no children.  So why would we be different?

Regardless of what statistics tell us and the intellectual conviction that we will, yes, one day die, it’s hard to internalize it.  Few of us lose anyone that matters until we’re far too old to have children.

And in the middle of our interests and pleasures, having children seems such an unwonted interruption – particularly for women.

This accords, btw, with the reproduction model for a scavenger species, which stops reproducing when things are TOO good.

Will the piper be paid?  Undoubtedly.  He usually presents his bill.  We don’t know what population crash will do to an industrial society, but I daresay we’ll find out – or our children will.

And then?  I don’t know.  I disagree with Goldman as to the cause (though to be fair, I haven’t finished reading his book, so I will blog on this later) and I disagree that this is “the end” of humanity as such (I tend to believe we’re like weeds and will come back even from greater extremity) but I don’t have a prescription for avoiding a crash before whatever correction comes.  (What price bio-womb.)

My guess is that our way of life will over the next couple of hundred years either suffer massive impoverishment with attendant increase in births, or that we’ll figure out some technological way around this mess.

Which in turn will bring about OTHER issues.

576 thoughts on “Forever Young

  1. Still planning to get that NRA instructor’s certificate, but I may want to detour and take their classes in muzzleloading. You need less of an industrial base to make lead ball and black powder. I’m also planning a field of muscadines for next year. I suspect that by the time I get a crop of grapes, the demand for cheap wine in which to drown our sorrows will be rising.

    1. Who says you can’t do both at the same time?
      Black powder is not difficult. One of the best resources you can find in probably Sam Fadala’s _Complete Blackpowder Handbook_, which takes you from how to work up a charge, to casting ball, modifications to equipment, and talks about reloading for BP cartridge guns. Even better it is written for both people who want to go plinking with storebought stuff, to just short of the person who wants to hand-make evertthing, AND even better he explains why he says things. That is a plus to ome because I always want to understand why I’m doing things.

      1. Off topic, but do you prefer flintlock or caplock? I’d prefer caps, but am leaning toward something as low-tech as I can get away with. Caps are harder to manufacture than gunpowder.

        1. I used caps because that sort of rifle is easier to find, tend to be cheaper since they are made for hunting as well, and there is a larger supply of minies as well as round-ball since minies in stores, in .450, .50 and .58. A lot of the flint guns come in smaller sizes like .36 and .40 and bigger ones like .75 for the brown besses. It is also important to think on if you will want to use a patched ball or a minie, because the rifling twist for balls is slower than for minies, and using a slower twist may affect the minies’ accuracy to some extent. Remember also that the caps come in two sizes, the smaller and the larger, military, top-hat cap the USCW re-enactors use, but nipples can be switched back and forth on most guns.
          Flintlock locks need a higher quality of manufacture since the flint has to hit the frizzen just right, otherwise it is just frustrating, and there is a delay between pulling the trigger and the charge going off. However, speaking without any actual experience, I always thought the flint-guns had more class.


          (Now getting out frying pan in anticipation of the fish that will be heading my way shortly.)

          1. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish, and make bad internet puns, and you feed him for a lifetime.

            1. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; give a man a fish at appreciable velocity, and you feed him AND teach him the difference between cover and concealment.

          2. *rummaging around the garbage bin for the salmon bones* Gunner, sabot, target in the clear!

          3. Having used both, (caplocks: .40, .50, .54, flinlocks: .40, .50), I prefer flintlocks. For one thing, it’s possible to re-knap a flint in the field, caps are pretty much use once. Apparently, the Hudson’s Bay Co. up in Canada was still selling trade guns (smoothbore flintlocks, for either shot or patched ball, depending on intended game for dinner) well into the mid 1900s. And it is possible to keep a flintlock firing reliably in pretty wet weather if you know what you’re doing.

            That said, with a bit of planning, reloading fixed cartridges takes very little more equipment than does shooting a muzzle loader. Paper-patched slug, brass case and primers, and you’re set with, literally, two tools that easily fit into a coat pocket. Or shooting bag.

            People are still using the Lyman 310 with the right die, and a mold for casting bullets. Seriously. And you can choose to load either smokeless or blackpowder, depending on the cartridge you want to use.

            1. I cast bullets for several of my guns, while I have never loaded with black powder, many of the old cartridges like the 45-70 were originally designed for black powder and there is a plethora of black powder loading information available for them. The hold up is primers, and I don’t know how to make them, like caps they would be easy to stockpile, but if you don’t currently already have a stockpile of them, getting your hands on enough to stockpile may be difficult in the near future (to be fair large rifle primers are becoming available, and many of the traditionally black powder loaded cartridges take them, but small rifle and pistol primers are still hard to come by).

      2. The hard part of black powder is sulfur. Charcoal is easy. Saltpetre is also readily available any place you have animals (including people) if you know how and are willing to do the rather dirty work required. Sulfur, however, is harder. If it’s not available natively in your area and you don’t have a trade route to where it’s available, you’re kind of out of luck. Native sulfur depends a lot on where you are. Another source is pyrite, if you know how to extract it.

        As it happens, there are several high explosives that are almost as easy to make as black powder, easier if you don’t have access to sulfur. They don’t make good propellants for firearms (darn it) but, well, one can find uses.

        Better living through chemistry. 😉

      3. I’ll have to pick that up, Fadala is a good author, I am currently reading his The Book of the Twenty-two, the All-American Caliber.

    2. As I recall, the .45 ACP work with lead ball.

      The more difficult part is the powder and the cap, but I suspect we could actually manage that on small scale these days. Remember, tech kept marching forwards in the dark ages, particularly personal weapons and armour.

  2. I remember in our area that several of the girls did get pregnant at 16. Some married, but many more went to a place where they had the babies and the babies were adopted. We didn’t know where… it was whispered about. I think it was in SLC. Nowadays, many girls just have an abortion. (I find that really sad for us–as a species and for them–the emotional scars).

    1. I’m wondering if/when we’ll see a top-down social push to avoid abortion. It certainly won’t happen until the creative buggering of statistics is widely accepted, and the lack of young people can no longer be ignored. I’m wondering if we have a decade.

        1. We may see a top-down push when someone up there notices that there aren’t enough new peasants — er, taxpayers coming off the assembly line to keep the system going. That may be giving the aristos credit for too much credit for being observant, though. Depends on how many of them actually look at the world around them instead of quoting Ehrlich and Malthus.

            1. There is _half_ of a top down push. Unfortunately the other half twists it into a “War on Women.”

              I agree, though, on the possibility of an upward push. Half the celebrity “news” is fixated on who has a “baby bump” and an incipient British prince even managed to out shine the ongoing Zimmerman railroading in the news. The desire for babies is engrained in our genes. Female hormones _insist_ that babies are cute.

              The question is, will we still have a culture to raise them properly?

              1. I hope the top-down-push won’t wind up being, “cast down into the mire, pressed under by wythes” like the bog sacrifices.

                Just my bit of grimmnes

          1. …when someone up there notices that there aren’t enough new peasants

            The official ruling class position on this is “Piffle! We’ll just import a new, more compliant peasantry from points south!!”

            1. Oh, Aye. S

              All this does is arbitrage wages downward and create cultural despair. Its a short term strategy that is bound to fail long term. Typical for the ruling class.

              As I see it ruling class well pretty much everywhere has a huge entitlement complex, they think they are owed future cheap labor and that people will gladly pop out slum babies and raise them to give them in the words of the blogger “Advocatus Diaboli” a new generation of disposable suckers to exploit and abuse. well no.

              Sorry for the length here.

              To that issue ,a big part of the problem there is almost certainly economic. Take say Spain, Unemployment is officially 25% or so, mostly of people in peak reproductive age. This doesn’t count underemployment.

              Obviously if you are 25 and have little to no money you won’t be having many kids if you are responsible The fact the birth rates are as high as they are tells me most folks do want families, they simply can’t afford them.

              Japan has it much worse as well. The US less so but we’ve taken a 50% relative pay cut since the 1970’s its just enough women drank the feminist Kool Aid and households were willing to have 2 workers to get the same chunk of the pie one would have had a few years before, Still overall fertility is on par with Sweden and White fertility with Europe.

              Under the circumstances (and the social ones too, c.f the surveillance state) people are in fact behaving rationally and being good capitalists exactly what was in theory wanted. I want X situation for me and/or my future offspring and can only get Y so therefore I limited family size to what I want.

              Its smart, rational actually its just capitalism (as vs. markets which are different) requires people behave irrationally and gack, sorry for the Marx here a class of exploitable people to work . People realize that they need to look out for themselves, stop playing and to use the state for a buffer and the system starts to implode. Capitalism can’t survive too many capitalists.

              How we get past this well, heck if I know.

        2. The ruling class is blind? Maybe that’s the optimistic scenario. They appear to be benefiting from their policies, irrespective of the consequences to the nation as as a whole or to future generations.

          1. nope… not the optimistic scenario. If they could plan long term they would be able to see the consequences of their actions on the nation… ergo blind as bats. Also as fast as things change in this world, they may lose their money and power as well. Or their heads… if you look at the history of nations who have gone -ist

            1. As argued by Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society, the ruling class, being comprised of intellectuals, proceeds confident that they already know everything worth knowing and that what they don’t know doesn’t matter. Such blindness has consequences foreseeable to those not blind as bats.

            2. 1. In the aftermath of the Internet Bubble it came out that some Wall Street analysts were touting stocks that they knew full well to be trash, yet the probable consequences did not deter them.

              The conflict between short-term and long-term interest is not necessarily a simple one. It can be tempting, in terms of both rewards and punishments, to grab while the grabbing’s good and leave the consequences for someone else to clean up.

              2. Would some politicians and their minions knowingly damage the country if they could demagogue their way to power thereby? Afaic the question answers itself.

              3. As for (many of) the others, I say culpable negligence, not blindness.

                1. 1. That too, for some.

                  2. I don’t disagree with CB & RES, I just think the spectrum of motives in the ruling class is broader than they explicitly indicate.

                  3. If the ruling class destroys the country, I can visualize something like the Nuremberg Trials afterward. If I were still around, I’d want whatever was left of our armed forces used to hunt those people down and bring them back to face a tribunal.

              1. re: point 2

                Go back with me to a time long ago … one of our allies, a provider of a critical resource, has been invaded by its neighbor. The World has denounced this occupation and a mighty coalition, assembled and led by the United States stands poised to send our combined forces in to liberate the beleaguered victim. America’s president stands poised, ready to give the command when …

                WAIT!! calls out the Congress, ruled by the opposition party! We have not agreed to pay for this war, nor will we agree until you recant your pledge to raise no new taxes!

                Our troops stand ready, replies the president, at the ready to free our ally from its cruel occupation. They and our other allies have pledged to fund this exercise even as our brave soldiers tremble in eagerness to undo this vile deed.

                Nay, sayeth the Congressional leaders, we will not read thy lips, we will not countenance this rescue but you agree to raise taxes, even though it causes the economy to recede. This drop of blood will we have from you else our troops stand at our ally’s door until they starve.

                1. How do you think we ended up with DHS? Bush II didn’t want it. however, the Disloyal Opposition said that without a new federal department manned by SEIU members the country shall not be defended.

                2. I don’t remember linkage between funding the First Gulf War and breaking the Read My Lips pledge. According to this piece in the Washington Post, Bush 41 backed away from his pledge in late June. Iraq invaded Kuwait in early August.

                  1. Though I stand by the foregoing, IMO it is entirely possible that 1990 Democrats knew that raising taxes on a wobbly economy could trigger a recession for which Bush 41 would be blamed,

      1. There are people who are still having children.

        And remember, it’s their genes that will appear in the next generation.

      2. Not sure on numbers, but I’d guess it’ll happen when the 60s guys are dead, and the generation or two after them are suddenly having a much harder time finding “acceptable” “playmates.”
        Also, the women who had abortions before it was normal to be able to have your kid’s picture taken in the early second trimester will have to die off, too. Lots of pain there, and it’s a bigger motivation.

        We’re having a pro-life swing right now, I expect one more big push for pro-abortion before the current pro-aborts start taking away that “right.”

        1. It is, in effect, a virgin field epidemic, and it will do what the deadlier of those epidemics do: cull a lot of humanity, so that the future derives from the survivors.

  3. I agree, you sure can’t make a case for life seeming more difficult or perilous than it did for our ancestors. One thing we have, though, that no civilization ever had before, is birth control. Nothing in our DNA prepared us for it. We disconnected fertility from one of our strongest drives, and we haven’t re-connected it to anything that’s even in the same league for compulsion. Suddenly it’s not “should we all be celibate because the crops may fail” but “should we keep having all the sex we like, while we defer adding someone to the household until conditions look a little more ideal.”

    Whatever competitive forces drove competition among populations in the past, they’re all going to be different now. The populations that win will be the ones that find a reason to reproduce when sex is without consequences.

    I’ve never been sure what to make of the link between women’s education and decreased fertility, except that women were stuck in a system that they jettisoned as soon as they had some choice. Turns out it’s not a biological imperative that they should shoulder bearing all the burdens of child-rearing alone. Some women that don’t succeed in negotiating a more favorable arrangement with their partners opt not to reproduce, or at least not at the former rate.

  4. OT: but possibly relevant–Is Will and Ariel Durant’s History of Civilization worth reading? I know they were leftists. but are their books worth reading?

    1. Very, very much so. They are still the foundation for a lot of later work, because they provided such a detailed, readable, synopsis of world history, as it was known at the time they wrote. And they reference sources from the time they are discussing, so you get a good sense of who the thinkers and writers were, if you decide to go back and then read them yourself. Plus they are a great resource if you want to read something more specialized, and need a little refresher or framework to put the monograph into.

      (Yeah, I’m a fan, and no, I was not paid nor did I receive any remuneration for writing this reply. )

    2. I looked at Durant’s _The Renaissance_ in the library and bounced from, in part, too much crude stupid leftism. One passage from Ch. III “The Rise of the Medici” struck me enough that I copied it down (as I fairly often do): “He [Pope Sixtus] kept throughout the Papal States a monopoly on the sale of corn; he sold the best abroad, and the rest to his people, at a goodly profit. He had learned this trick from the other rulers of his time, like Ferrante of Naples; presumably he charged no more than private engrossers would have done, since it is an unwritten law of economics that the price of a product depends on the gullibility of the purchaser; but the poor grumbled forgivably at the thought that their hunger fed the luxuries of the Riarios.”

      That’s unusually stupid and wilfully oblivious to lots of evidence. Note how historically common it is for smart greedy well-connected people to give a great deal in exchange for being granted such monopolies: it makes a huge difference to how much they can charge, and has nothing to do with gullibility. Durant is at least pandering to really dumb hate for free markets and fondness for privilege, and as far as I can tell sincerely feels it himself and enjoys letting it distort his view of the facts. I recommend learning history from other books rather than wasting your time with such drivel. (Yes, the books are well-crafted compared to lots of other drivel, but there are too many well-crafted books to read in one lifetime, so why read the stupidly dishonest ones?)

      Though actually I can’t be 100% negative about historical axe-grinding on principle. It’s too much fun, at least when done well. It’s like enjoying reading blood-curdling nonacademic rhetoric even while feeling no sympathy for the speaker. (“From the King of Kings of the East and West, the Great Khan. To Qutuz the Mamluk, who fled to escape our swords. You should think of what happened to other countries and submit to us. You have heard how we have conquered a vast empire and have purified the earth of the disorders that tainted it. We have conquered vast areas, massacring all the people. You cannot escape from the terror of our armies. Where can you flee? What road will you use to escape us? Our horses are swift, our arrows sharp, our swords like thunderbolts, our hearts as hard as the mountains, our soldiers as numerous as the sand. Fortresses will not detain us, nor arms stop us. Your prayers to God will not avail against us. We are not moved by tears nor touched by lamentations. Only those who beg our protection will be safe. Hasten your reply before the fire of war is kindled. Resist and you will suffer the most terrible catastrophes. We will shatter your mosques and reveal the weakness of your God and then will kill your children and your old men together. At present you are the only enemy against whom we have to march.”) If you share this taste, I recommend Macaulay’s famous _History of England_ (available on Project Gutenberg) instead of Durant. When Macaulay isn’t grinding his axe he can be very interesting and rather insightful: his points often hold up well in a century and a half of hindsight. And reading Macaulay grinding his axe can be a pleasure, unlike the tedious banality of my sampling of Durant’s axe-grinding. (Macaulay: “Charles [Stuart], though incapable of love in the highest sense of the word, was the slave of any woman whose person excited his desires, and whose airs and prattle amused his leisure.” This is fun to read, it’s like a snotty challenge to a duel. Durant’s axe-grinding was not fun to read, it’s just plodding nonsense which should lead to a failing grade in an undergraduate course.)

      (Another commenter remarked on Durant’s “Whig interpretation of history”. Macaulay was an actual Whig: smarter, seemingly more honest based on my unsystematic reading, and definitely much more fun.:-)

      1. I just thought they were being anti-Catholic, not anti-capitalist. I guess you can be both at once, though.

        Back when I was doing my really omnivorous reading in junior high school (including the Durants), I suppose I had either a much higher tolerance for BS or a much more rigorous filter for not noticing annoying stuff. I mean, I did read two Thomas Covenant trilogies somehow. Either that, or Zinn was so much worse that he knocked away any complaints about the Durants.

        1. How dare you utter that name!

          Had to read ‘A People’s History’ for western civ in college. Ugh. Just so much of it based on the preconception of the entirety of the US being bad, and everything looked at from that viewpoint.

          For our essays at the end of class we were supposed to pick three things from the book and analyze them. I forget which three i picked, but I spent twice as many pages as i was supposed to taking the three, deconstructing them, analyzing and debunking them. With copious endnotes.

            1. He was steamed that I( spent the paper(s) picking apart parts of his history class, but judging by my “A” I did ok. That and he knew if i got a bad grade and took it up with the dean of students (his father) he’d never hear the end of it .

      2. Reading Gibbon is a constant delight (be sure to read the footnotes). I can’t imagine what it would be like without his very marked point of view.

        1. Oh, and those sentences! Those turns of phrase! Those barbs! He was phenomenal, even if you don’t agree with a word he says.

  5. I remember Freeman Dyson years ago liked to run gaming simulations on how to solve overpopulation. The one result he always got was to bring reliable electricity to a population.

    1. That is perfectly fascinating, and I’ve been hunting for info on it all morning since reading your comment, with no luck. Do you recall what the model showed about how electricity influenced behavior?

      1. I don’t know, as I had not heard that, but I would expect it had something to do with staying up later at night, before going to bed.

      2. I’ll have to see if I can find it. It was circa 1995 that I came across it, so before widespread web usage.

        1. Oh, hey, thanks! And searching for Freeman Dyson led me to an extremely interesting interview with him, including his ideas about the origin of life, pre-RNA world stuff. Great guy.

          Now, on to Buckminster Fuller!

    2. I know Pournelle talked about wealth being the best form of birth control way back in “A Step Farther Out” from the 70s…

  6. These ideas are in the backstory of C. J. Cherryh’s _20,000 in Gehenna_ and _Cyteen_, both written in the 1980’s — since most of the women in the teams that explored and settled the worlds of Union were highly trained scientists and engineers, they were less inclined to produce the large numbers of babies necessary to a new world. So they used a combination of medical and psychological techniques to lab-rear a population — and as we see in _Cyteen_, azi are most definitely *not* slaves in the classical sense, but valued as potential future citizens. The legal restrictions on them are a recognition that the peculiarities of their lab upbringing makes them more vulnerable, less able to cope with random variables, more dependent upon outside authority and reassurance. But the long-term goal of azi psychset construction is to create a population of physically and mentally health, productive, stable citizens as much as thirty generations down the road.

    And with all that TLC, they still have problems with the psychological stability of some azi genesets (although generally tending to excessive passivity rather than poor impulse control). And not all citizens in Union are comfortable with the existence of the birthlabs and the production of large populations of lab-raised people (as opposed to using the technology as medical support for those who can’t or don’t want to have a body birth), and some of them have even turned terrorist as a result, deciding that if the authorities are dragging their heels about abolishing the birthlabs, it’s time to compel them by force to do so.

    It’s interesting that Cherryh wrote those novels at a time when imminent overpopulation rather than a birth dearth was the Looming Crisis of the day. While most people were worrying about the Population Bomb overrunning our ability to feed so many mouths, she was looking at what an increasingly educated female population meant to birth rates and seeing the possibility of the opposite problem.

    In the here and now, I’m more concerned about how so many people are so eager to apply coercive measures to the problem. When it was the Population Bomb threatening our future, there were calls for birth licensing, forcible sterilizations, etc. And as the specter of the Birth Dearth rears its head, there’s calls for restrictions on female education and employment opportunities, etc. It all has a strong stink of Those People Over There need to be *Controlled*.

    1. I don’t believe I called for any compulsion, but make no mistake, it is coming. Governments love compulsion. And scarcity. In the USSR it became very difficult to acquire birth control.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t intend to apply that you were calling for compulsion (the ritual disclaimer habit just isn’t very well ingrained in me, and quite honestly, I often don’t *see* how a neutral statement could be taken personally and need such a disclaimer until after it’s been pointed out to me that it could be read to imply such a thing). But I’ve seen some real jaw-droppers by people I thought were pro-liberty, and would pursue incentive systems first, who instead wanted to go straight for the stick without bothering with the carrot.

        And yes, governments love compulsion. Coercion is their stock in trade. And of course when one has a hammer in hand, everything looks like a nail.

        But it seems to run even deeper than just the hammer-nail issue. There are a lot of people in positions of power who tend to see non-compliance in a very personal way, as a rejection of their authority and therefore an affront that must be crushed with whatever force is necessary. (This is also why people in authority, such as cops, tend to have great difficulty de-escalating confrontations, and often end up exacerbating a situation that could’ve been defused if they hadn’t insisted on perceiving the other person’s responses as a deliberate personal affront against them).

        So in this situation they can’t really see how counterproductive it is to try to force unwilling women to bear children, or how it would be far more productive to offer incentives. Not just the issue of the stress of being coerced into pregnancy interfering with the ability to start and sustain pregnancy, but just how good of a nurturing environment is a child going to get from an unwilling, resentful mother. (I recognize that someone who’s in it for the purely mercenary motive of gaining the reward probably isn’t going to make a great mother, but if the rewards are structured right to reward not just births, but successful launching into adulthood, worrying about mercenary motives becomes letting the perfect become the enemy of the good).

        1. “If the rewards are structured right…”
          Overly simple, perhaps, but maybe – a retirement-age income (or access to advanced medicine, since both may be in short supply in decades ahead) that is determined partly & directly by the number of tax-paying grandchildren you have?

            1. There is a Youtube clip featuring a speech by Ralph Raico, where he speaks in surprising depth about the efforts of Bismark to subvert industry to the interest of the state to keep the liberals from upsetting everthing by demanding freedom and liberty.
              Ralph Raico: The History of the Industrial Revolution and the Social Policies of Otto von Bismarck

              I won’t put in the link because it is an hour and 16 minutes long, but just put the title into Youtube.

        2. Mind you, I often want to go straight to the stick — up and down on someone’s noggin. BUT thanks to luck, I don’t have the Power.

          But, Leigh, “Wanted” for children means absolutely nothing. My mom PASSIONATELY didn’t want me and tried to abort me once, and had made a second appointment. However, three years later, she forfeited sleep and food in order to save me. Look at craigslist ads– all those puppies were “wanted”. It means nothing.
          I also have known people who wanted babies… to torture.
          I’m EXTREMELY dubious of abortion laws, not so much over the argument of “is it human life” — has a woman ever given birth to kittens? — but also on the very horrible fact that it gives one person (AND ALWAYS A FEMALE, btw, which is ick) the right to define the humanity and decide on the life of someone else. “You’re only human if mommy says so.” Alternately, it lets the State define humanity. I’m an SF writer. I can see where both of those lead.
          Now, can we stop abortions — hell, no. I was almost aborted in a country where it was illegal. But should we make more of an effort after the baby is viable?
          I don’t know. I’m equally open to simply making the law rational and ALSO removing the penalties on murder. Let people bring civil action for monetary compensation. (And before you scream, could be a hell of a lot more effective than what we have now. Considering we solve less than 70% of DISCOVERED murders.)

          1. One: on the issue of abortion (pun acknowledged) this is probably a topic to eschew in an open forum as it tends to generate heat more than light and is a prime troll attractant. So, to the extent it must be argued, tread lightly and keep the troll stick front & center.

            Two: on the issue of wanted babies (for torture) I have recently seen articles about pedophiles investigating the options available in modern society to “acquire” babies to raise and love. I regret I can’t provide cites, but I am damned if I am gonna Google that topic.

              1. I believe it’s been an issue in the foster system, too.

                Probably more common with ephebophiles and hebephiles, but pedophiles are less likely to be defended. (Older teens, younger teens, not-yet-teens. Roughly. It’s depressing how many people think that a 45 year old man “dating” his 16 year old foster daughter is OK, and the classic “if there’s grass on the field” line is enough to make me ballistic.)

            1. kind of — most people still have connections and friends but yes it leaves a hole of vulnerability. As does the current system. The only question is which is larger.

              1. there could be a form of insurance: “if murdered, this agency undertakes to avenge, visit retribution or extract blood price from any perpetrator who’s intentional acts results in property damage, physical harm or death.
                It could be a rider on Term Life, or something. The agency could be rated by an industry group. “Ooh, this one is only rated a B+ on auto damage and commercial graffiti, but an A on Weregild, and they keep a good stable of duellers, too. Do you have a beneficiary?”

                1. It probably won’t work on account of rich people simply being able to have enough “security services” to check any services you might have

                  Also odds are the various services won’t fight one another. So yeah my “insurance company” is “Black River” but they won’t engage with “Scholarium” and any of the smaller firms “Uncle Bob’s Home Defense” a wage slave could afford who might go to bad for you will be hopelessly outclassed.

                  To make it work you’d have to have a much bigger emphasis on personal honor and such societies are not compatible with modernity.

                  Such a scenario would simply end up with anyone trying to fix anything (lets say a massive oil spill on his lands) just being murdered by the richest party. It would be much cheaper than damages and odds are modern societies which are highly fractured anyway. it won’t really matter to the bottom line.

                  Dark Ages Iceland ran into the very problem, powerful and violent people were often above the law.

                  That’s why the State for all its flaws was to a high degree welcome.It was better than they alternative.

                  In the end a society fractured into “Kindreds” would end up low to no trust and much poorer., If they are self sufficient and strong enough to repel attacks, the become a “closed state” otherwise they end up prey and a new state is formed from conquest.

                  However an intermediary group that guaranteed trade accuracy could do very well and make a bundle as middlemen

      2. > In the USSR it became very difficult to acquire birth control.

        Well, it was ALSO very difficult to acquire toilet paper. Or meat. Or…


          1. There is a joke about two kids yelling at each other over the Berlin wall. The punchline is, “Yeah? One day WE will have socialism too!”
            “Yeah, then YOU won’t have candy bars either!”

      3. It probably won’t work very well though. Japan had no birth control other than condoms well into the 1990’s and the pill is still little used. It also has one of the planets lowest birth rates.

        Also the last time birth rates were forced up, in Ceausescu’s Romania by a combination of severe birth control restrictions and actual rape gangs when that failed , well about twenty years later all those kids with no future took revenge. The current birth rate is 1.25 or so.

        Also a great many of the upper class really don’t want or need the middle or lower classes and some such as Ted Turner genuinely hope for a world with a population of roughly “them” 250 million or so or maybe for the generous 1/3 of what it is now . Its unlikely that they’ll back natalism. Any technological solutions they propose will be “machines to replace labor” which won’t help

        As I see it the presumption that sex will just start happening and babies will be a popping if the pill is limited or there is scarcity is old thinking. Those same scarcities will exasperate the problem, the US lowest birth rate was after all in the 1930’s and there was no pill and even condoms were rare.

        Probably birth rates will stay low till people have hope for the future and a level of income and affluence they feel comfortable with. The fact that they aren’t poor compared to other times or places or groups is not actually relevant, it is what they want or think they want not the absolute measure.

        1. Or until those who do not despair take over from those who do. By dint of having and raising all the babies.

          1. Agreed with a caveat that the highly fertile groups stay highly fertile.

            They might take on the traits of the dominant population well before any maybe collapse pushes the population back to replacement. Also no guarantee the increased birth rates means population growth. In a bad enough “fall apart” scenario a person might have less than 2.1 survive. Historically population growth was very slow and these days there are plenty of nasty things to bottleneck humanity, We might end up with a small stable population which alas will not be able to preserve our cultural identity.

            On a right now note Mexican Immigrants for example have a very high fertility rate compared to other groups but its tanking faster than the other groups did. Its even thought that Mexico proper may be at replacement right now and might go even lower.

            1. On a right now note Mexican Immigrants for example have a very high fertility rate compared to other groups but its tanking faster than the other groups did. Its even thought that Mexico proper may be at replacement right now and might go even lower.

              Something to keep in mind: illegals who are pregnant are sometimes here BECAUSE they’re pregnant, and an illegal who isn’t pregnant has a good chance of not being counted at all.

            2. Oh, and if the stats are based on things like “individuals who brought in kids under age one” then a single kid might be counted as a dozen births…..

            3. To explicate further: early Christians had a demographic advantage over the pagans. When you raise all your children, and collect the girls that pagans left for the trash, you end up with more people than those who do not do these things. That was one factor in the failure of paganism.

              Populations can be ideological as well as ethnic.

    2. And as the specter of the Birth Dearth rears its head, there’s calls for restrictions on female education and employment opportunities, etc.

      Outside of the crazies– where?

      I’ve been accused of this for saying that I think we should stop giving women preferential treatment or benefits, and for pointing out basic biology… but I don’t think folks are making it up, and the “you MUST do this” format is a standard leftwing thing. (The right wing solution is usually along the lines of tax stuff or other passive things-you-don’t-have-to-do. Subnote, I’m an American, this is an American site, when I talk politics I’m using the American system.)

      1. I don’t find many conservatives make the argument outright, but they often sidle up to it. I’m strongly conservative myself, but I go bats when I hear that stuff. Sometimes it takes the form of dismissive comments about women who imagine they are doing real intellectual work, when they’re really (1) avoiding their obligation to be mothers or (2) taking advantage of affirmative action to persecute men. There’s an unhealthy fascination with the idea that women are naturally hypergamous, which creates problems if they acquire too much education, money, and status on their own. James Taranto is often very close to this line, I think, much as I enjoy him in every other way.

          1. BIG time, and because of their strident opposition to women’s lib, they often self-identify as conservatives, to my chagrin. There’s really disgusting subtext that “when women have alternatives, they have the audacity to turn me down.”

            1. Liberal-tarians.

              It’s amazing how many will go with the “libertarian” flavor that is soldly “if it doesn’t harm anybody else, it’s OK”… but then they get to decide that killing those humans or abandoning their children isn’t “harm,” and massive redistribute taxation is OK, too.

            2. Playboy was a major funder of pro-abortion organizations from the day they were founded.

        1. Women are naturally hypergamous. Men are, too. The problem is how society defines “marrying up” so that it reinforces socially constructive or socially destructive traits.

          In contemporary Western women the hypergamous tendency tends to manifest as a preference for men who are economically successful, although there is a marked liking for physically “superior” males as well (often the two go hand-in-glove, making distinguishing between the preferences difficult.)

          In men the hypergamous tendency tends to manifest as a preference for women whose physical presentation not only reflects the traditional attributes representing fecundity but also the social skills advantageous to advantaging offspring as they navigate the social bureaucracy.

          In neither case does contemporary Western culture encourage a preference for faithful and devoted spouses as parents. But the issue is not that people are hypergamous, it is how we measure those elements which define status.

  7. On the “Americans are most racist” aspects – I have traveled extensively. Racist Americans? Try China, Japan, Korea – those are nearly monocultures and anyone who doesn’t conform gets hammered down. London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world? Sure – and notice what jobs those colonials hold – service industry and menial labor. Central Europe? Again, nearly a monoculture, except for the colonials who serve, then there’s the Muslim influx which is just racist in a different direction. Mexico? South America? They love the White Man’s money, and that is all. Try being an illegal immigrant to Mexico (without money) and see how far that gets you.

    The U.S. merely airs all its dirty laundry in public, the rest of the world looks at it and says “Yeah, you’re bad people.” and never bothers to look at themselves.

  8. Re: loss of faith in the US — I don’t recommend Honest Tea, because I think it’s too expensive and tastes crappy. But I have to say that I’m a fan of their social experiment (, and it’s nice to know that on the honor system, more than 90% of people will pay for their tea rather than steal. As a people, even in hard economic times, we don’t stink.

    Re: Muslim women don’t work in Arab countries — Actually, one of the shameful things in Saudi, and some other Arab countries, is using your highly educated daughter as a cash cow. Get her to be an engineer or a banker or a doctor, have her live at home, take most of her wages, and never let her marry anybody. Result: Profit!

  9. First, because – duh – it delays reproduction. When I studied history one of the best indicators of whether population was expanding or contracting was the age of marriage for women.

    I had a big argument with someone that thought only stupid women breed… they were going off of a surveys of how much education women had when they had their first kid and the number of kids compared to highest education received….

    Not even getting married until at least five years later, lots of societal pressure to not have kids until you’re “secure” (so, get a degree, get a job, get a house, then have kids….), conflating years in college with intelligence…. (Education, I’ll agree there’s a higher rate of connection. Higher, not absolute.)

        1. Mathas? I also never heard of him, her, or it.

          But thewriterinblack was talking about a story by C.M. Kornbluth, which is possibly the kernel from which Idiocracy was conceived. The resolution of that story was a little more cold blooded.

          1. If I could spell, that would be maLthus…..
            Guy who inspired the “humans are just animals” type math stuff. Roughly.

              1. …I’m stealing that, and adding: I have three kids under four. ALL TIMES are “late night” as far as sleep is involved.

  10. Love my basic Kindle. Turned the wifi on once to register the beast and never since. Load all my books directly from the computer. Bless Baen for offering everything in DRM free multiformats.
    Only thing I would change is to add a backlit screen to be able to read at night without a light on, so am seriously considering a paperwhite. How does yours do for battery life?
    As to the main topic, I’m wondering how Dr. Helen’s Men On Strike plays into the whole dynamic? With divorce rates at the level they are now, is there an increased reluctance on the part of a responsible man to knowingly create an extremely significant obligation with a duration possibly much longer than the underlying relationship it sprang from? Speaking from experience, I know you always believe it’s forever. Speaking from experience and observation, it seldom is. With the dominance that our society and culture give women over men it would be unwise not to view children as one more mechanism of control. Clinically speaking of course, disregarding the emotional aspects.
    On a related note, can’t help but think of the US baby boom post WWII, commonly blamed on returning veterans and a survivor compulsion to reproduce. While true I’m sure, two very pertinent aspects would also be a vastly improved economy and a much improved public health climate. Wars have always been excellent proving grounds for medical advances, not to mention the military’s mandatory health education. The soldiers that came home were universally educated in basic hygiene and passed those habits along to their spouses and children.

    1. “With the dominance that our society and culture give women over men it would be unwise not to view children as one more mechanism of control. Clinically speaking of course, disregarding the emotional aspects.”

      I sometimes wonder if the public education system in the US isn’t mass-producing sociopaths. Between all the self-esteem boosting and the amount of time spent wrapped up in a virtual world with virtual friends, I think I see and increasing tendency to regard ‘other people’ as disposable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of Americans willing to use anyone and everything as a mechanism of control is increasing.

      1. My grandpa on my mother’s side worked as an army cook in WWII, and came home with an overwhelming compulsion to investigate restaurant kitchens under the guise of bonhomie with the cook. You can imagine how entertaining this was whenever he discovered a kitchen he didn’t approve of. OTOH, waitresses really liked him.

        1. My father – who as a Captain in a municipal fire department had done a lot of inspections of restaurants – would never eat anywhere he couldn’t see the grill.

      2. Those of us who have home-schooled for any period of time have noticed how inefficient public schools are, typically covering far less material in far more time — and not covering it half so well, either.

        The Marshall McLuhan voice inside my head whispers nasty explanations for why so much time is spent to such little educational effect. Apparently, teaching kids to be cogs rather than people requires a great deal of time.

          1. I should post that on the wall of one of my High School friends, who has sadly drunk the Lefty Kool-Aid. He’d probably defriend and block me after my response yesterday and this morning to his BS post on gun background checks, which used a supposed quote from John Hinckley after his father asked him what would have kept him from shooting Reagan.

            Of course, I wonder why I am concerned about that.

        1. Maybe children naturally are curious and want to learn, so first you have to destroy that capacity?

          1. Very likely — else they grow up to become the kind of adult who looks at government statistics with a gimlet eye and starts sifting the data for the underlying reality.

            For example: the DOJ is trying to block employers; use of criminal background checks because African-Americans are twice as likely to have criminal records. Racism in the criminal justice system (as if the DOJ has any say in that!) or possibly a correlation to the fact that African-American families are at least twice as likely to lack a strong father?

            1. My AP US government students shot the contractor case down in a heartbeat. “Wait, that’s wrong. You require people to have background checks and then punish the contractor for doing background checks? What kind of security do you want, anyway? And isn’t that an ex post facto law?” I admit, I beamed while they steamed.

            2. I think it might be more of a case of them quickly becoming children who ask teachers questions they can’t answer. The fact that liberals, being idiots, require a certain level of idiocy in the electorate to wield power is probably just a happy accident.

          2. That’s a possibility. I went into first grade in the ’60s, knowing how to read. (My father would bring home science fiction from the library, things like the Lensman series, and Skylark of Space and the like, and I could read those.) So imagine my surprise when we were in reading circles, with those damnable Dick and Jane primers, and the teacher would punish me for reading ahead and not staying with the rest of the class!

            1. Only problem I ever had with a teacher about my reading level was my second grade teacher who didn’t believe that I actually had sounded out in my head, the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. She insisted that I saw that it was a big word that began with “Super” and guessed.

              1. Read To Kill A Mockingbird section on Scout’s first day of school for hilarious and sad description of that problem as far back as the 1930s. Those who praise it for the book’s stand on race tend to overlook its views of education. From the online Cliff’s Notes summary/discussion of Chapter 2:

                Dill goes back to Mississippi for the school year, and Scout turns her attention to starting first grade — something she’s been waiting for all her life. However, Scout’s first day at school is not at all the glorious experience she’d been expecting from the winters she spent “looking over at the schoolyard, spying on multitudes of children through a two-power telescope . . . learning their games, . . . secretly sharing their misfortunes and minor victories.”

                Scout’s teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, is new to teaching, new to Maycomb, and mortified that Scout already knows how to read and write. When Miss Caroline offers to lend Walter Cunningham lunch money, Scout is punished for taking it upon herself to explain Miss Caroline’s faux pas to her. (Walter refuses to take the money because his family is too poor to pay it back.)


                Scout is different from other children. Miss Caroline’s harsh reaction to the fact that Scout already knows how to read and write takes the little girl by surprise. Doesn’t everyone already know how to read and write? Scout laments, “I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers” — one of many humorous observations that Lee sprinkles through these two chapters and throughout the book. Even more astounding to Scout is the fact that Miss Caroline expects her to stop reading and writing at home now that she’s in school.

                Scout is all the more confused because her father is not like the authority figures she meets at school. Atticus is not a typical parent. Lee does an expert job of getting this message across to readers simply by having the children call Atticus by his first name. He treats his children as individuals and speaks to them in an adult-like manner. Scout accepts this behavior as normal, noting, “Jem and I were accustomed to our father’s last-will-and-testament diction, and we were at all times free to interrupt Atticus for a translation when it was beyond our understanding.” Perhaps if Miss Caroline had reasoned with Scout, the day would not have been so devastating for either of them.

            2. ISTR Madeleine L’Engle wrote about a related problem — in middle-grades math, not reading — in _A Wrinkle in Time_ (1962). In the introduction to _Perfectly Reasonable Deviations_ Michelle Feynman reports that something similar came true, with an impressive hubris-nemesis flourish which is vulgar enough that one would hesitate to put it in fiction, ca. 1981 (guessing from the adoption date given in Wikipedia).

              “When I was in high school, he [Richard Feynman] started showing me shortcuts in my math homework that diverged from the teacher’s methods. I was subsequently scolded by my Algebra II teacher for not solving the problem in the right way. My father found this ridiculous, as I had nonetheless arrived at the correct answer, and he dropped by the school to discuss the matter. The teacher did not know who he was and treated him as a bumbling idiot trying to make his life more difficult. The teacher finally accused him of knowing nothing about math. My father, biting his tongue the whole time, finally could not stand it any longer, and spoke his mind. The next day I was transferred to another class. The next year, solving problems without using the preferred methods yielded similar results, and so I ended up studying the material at home with my father and taking the exams at school.”

              Incidentally, if you read this far, maybe you just like hubris-nemesis stories. If so, see my comment elsewhere and look up “battle of Ain Jalut” (in any search engine) or search Macaulay’s history for the string “dispensing” (noting that the dispensing power is what a modern living-Constitutional Law instructor might describe as the power of the executive to change the law by systematizing selective enforcement). (“The Commissioners read and stood aghast. The very faults of their colleague, the known laxity of his principles, the known meanness of his spirit, made his defection peculiarly alarming. A government must be indeed in danger when men like Sprat address it in the language of Hampden.”)

              1. The teachers’ arguments were probably based on their goal being instruction in proper technique, without particular regard to arriving at the “right” answer.

                Process, not results, was their focus.

                1. I didn’t actually realize that the addition method I’d learned was New Math. For all the rage I’ve seen directed at New Math, I expected it to be more egregious. In that case at least, it seems just to move some of the computation from the person’s head to the paper. Are there more problematic issues, or is it largely a “that’s not how *I* did it!” kind of thing?

                  1. According to what I have been told (so weight it accordingly) the problem wasn’t actually with New Math (I had it in 7th & 8th grades and thoroughly enjoyed it, but then I am so odd I used to work ut prime numbers for fun.)

                    The problem was that the training given to teachers about how to teach New Math was inadequate and often lacked proper “buy-in” from the teachers. Like Chesterton’s great jape “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” the flaws of New Math were extrinsic.

            3. You too, huh? My first grade teacher decided I could sit in the back of the room… where I got bored and found ways to amuse myself…..

              1. Er. I only got in trouble when way to amuse self included paper airplanes and spitballs. I was brought up front with the studious students (from the back with the troublemakers) for the rest of my time at that school. (Second through fourth grade.) Also a complaint was made to my mom…

      3. Yes. It is. The soviets gave up on OUR system for precisely that reason. I heard this from a girl who imigrated from one of the Soviet feeder states in the Balkans.

    2. I picked up the Kobo Glo instead of the Kindle Paperwhite and am loving the front-lit screed. I’m with you about not using Wi-Fi — all my ebooks are maintained in my Calibre library which is therefore properly backed up, and I let Calibre plug-ins take care of casual EPUB/MOBI conversions as needed.

    3. With divorce rates at the level they are now, is there an increased reluctance on the part of a responsible man to knowingly create an extremely significant obligation with a duration possibly much longer than the underlying relationship it sprang from?

      Rates are actually dropping, as best we can tell. In spite of the “half of all marriages” claim, nobody’s ever been able to show me actual evidence of it. Closest anybody came was some that had half as many divorces (registered) as weddings (registered)…but it didn’t include several entire states, and there was a note that not all counties reported. The one I’d consider the most accurate was the survey along the lines of “Have you ever been married? How many years ago? How many years did it last?” The only group that got over 45% on the once-married-not-currently collection was women in the highest bracket, which I thought was horrible…until I did the math and realized that was after male life expectancy averages, and death does end a marriage….

      1. “Half of all marriages” would be skewed by people who repeatedly marry and divorce (c.f. Hollywood types such as the late Liz Taylor). Liz Taylor’s eight divorces would have to be matched by eight people not divorcing at all.

        1. Or the recent wedding where they bride and groom had eight and six prior marriages, respectively. Or the other friend who has been married five times– twice to the same woman. Or the OTHER friend who has married the same man three times.

          1. Three times?

            I’ve heard of couples getting a divorce, then figuring out that they both cared for each other and probably should work out their problems and try again, and remarrying. Sometimes it works quite well, if they have the clearsightedness to figure out the roots of their previous problems and the strength of character to do something about them, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve never before heard of a couple going through that process twice.

            1. I recall reading a book by a Vietnam sniper, who talked about getting together with some of his Vietnam buddies twenty-five years later, and he mentioned that one of his buddies had just remarried his second wife*… for the FIFTH time! I guess some people are just slow learners.

              *who he had divorced for the first or second time, while he was serving in Vietnam.

    4. Kindle paperwhite is front lit and I love it. Dan and I have diverging sleep cycles — I often wake very early or sit awake in the middle of the night. The paperwhite allows me to read with no issues.
      And gee, I HOPE my marriage is forever. Do you know what a pain it would be to figure out who owns WHICH books.
      I buy from Amazon. There’s plenty with no DRM.

  11. Fun fact: Reflecting on dying makes you more conservative. Like, writing a mediation on how your hands will one day be skeletal means you answer much more conservatively on questionnaires.

    Liberals, naturally, tend to spin this as “conservatism is fear of death” not “liberalism is delusions of immortality.”

    1. There is one who remembers the way to your door:
      Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
      You shall not deny the Stranger.
      —T. S. Eliot, Choruses From The Rock

  12. In those circumstances, we are told, elves had almost no children. So why would we be different?

    In the conversation a while back about believable conspiracies…. We Are Not The First to be prosperous!

    1. Not to mention yet another possible answer to Fermi’s Paradox — for a society to gain the level of technology necessary to travel between the stars, they must pass through a period in which the lifestyle benefits of those technologies provide a strong disincentive to childbearing and rearing, to the point there’s an enormous risk that populations collapse below the level necessary to maintain a technological civilization.

      1. Or simply fall below the level necessary to stimulate exploration / expansion.

        One of the most unworkable aspects of StarTrek tech was that if you could convert energy to matter of whatever pattern you pleased, what incentive would you have to explore, or trade, or anything other than cocoon on your own planet?

        1. Given Star Trek tech, such exploration becomes both easy and cheap. At that point, why not? Plenty of people nowadays do stupidly dangerous stuff for the fun of it, and most people like a fairly safe thrill (see amusement parks). When you can travel in style, at no expense, and see the Universe, there will be plenty of people who do it just because they can.

          I know I would.

        2. And it’s pretty obvious that the replicator technology was perfected and became widespread sometime in the 70 years between the original series and Next Generation. By that time the exploratory culture had been well established.

          To me the implausible invention is the holodeck. Why get in a ship and go across the galaxy when you could send a probe and explore far more diverse environments with the literal girl of your dreams in the comfort of home?

          1. It’s not really that much beyond video games and social media, though of course the physical involvement aspect is a major step. But I’d STILL want to go. Many wouldn’t care, but most of them wouldn’t anyway.

          2. Because once you get into the holodeck like that, you won’t breed. The world will be taken over by those souls who for whatever reason repel the holodeck as a lie.

        3. Boredom. Indeed, mankind would probably compel some souls to go explore.

          This realization comes considerably later to most of my intelligent patients, however, who complain in their thirties of a vague, persistent, and severe dissatisfaction with their present existence. The excitements of their youth are over: in the culture of the slums, men and women are past their prime by the age of 25. Their personal lives are in disarray, to put it kindly: the men have fathered children with whom they have little or no contact; the women, preoccupied with meeting the increasingly imperious demands of these same children, drudge at ill-paid, boring, and impermanent jobs. (The illegitimacy rate in Britain has recently passed the 40 percent mark, and while most births are still registered in the names of two parents, relations between the sexes grow ever more unstable.) The entertainments that once seemed so compelling to both men and women—indeed, the whole purpose of life—seem so no longer. These patients are listless, irritable, and disgruntled. They indulge in self-destructive, anti-social, or irrational behavior: they drink too much, involve themselves in meaningless quarrels, quit their jobs when they can’t afford to, run up debts on trifles, pursue obviously disastrous relationships, and move house as if the problem were in the walls that surround them.

          The diagnosis is boredom, a much underestimated factor in the explanation of undesirable human conduct. As soon as the word is mentioned, they pounce upon it, almost with relief: recognition of the problem is instant, though they had not thought of it before. Yes, they are bored—bored to the very depths of their being.

          Full text here:

          1. Always sad and scary to read a Dalrymple piece. An awful lot of people need better ideas more than they need better bank balances.

    2. Greece’s population shrank enormously after the classical era. Rome’s also was shrinking starting even before the empire. Some people blamed it on not wanting to produce soldiers for the civil war, but it continued into the empire, despite many incentives. Why, a woman who had three (or four, if she were a freedwoman) could be legally emancipated from perpetual minority without becoming a Vestal Virgin!

    3. Wait – Elves – a people with a reputation for being distant and cold, often meddling in local politics and society solely to advance their own ends, but rarely sharing their advanced skills and tech, who have very few children, incredibly arcane and convoluted internal politics, are incredible craftsmen and scholars, and incredibly deadly in battle but not a long term dependable ally, overall dangerous to accept gifts from and not to be trusted…

      Give it a few hundred years after American society has exited the stage and won’t that be the reputation of those darn ‘Mercans?

        1. The problem is, those Unseelie have no scruples about cheating in elections.

          Crap! It fits all too well!

            1. Are you saying that the folks in Zurich are actually gnomes? If we are Elves then who are the hobbits?

              Larry Correia’s reversal of views in his MHI ‘verse (Urks vs. Trailer Park Elves) is quite amusing.

              1. No, the banks in Zurich are actually owned by the nomes. You didn’t think they’d left forever, did you?

  13. Other factors affecting reduced child-bearing:

    Redistribution of basic functions from family to society (care of elderly, education of children) reduces family cohesion and directly perceivable benefits of child-bearing while increasing* the costs.

    Television. There be reasons why birth rates go up in the period subsequent to blackouts.

    Society has become significantly antagonistic to developing the kinds of bonds that let a couple build the strong relationships conducive to child-rearing. In sub-societies which facilitate such relationships, large broods are still common. (I’m looking at you, Latter Day Saints.)

    *Indirect costs become proportionately high because of bureaucratic infrastructure that accrues for state-directed child care. Putting kids in Day Care costs more than letting Granny watch ’em. Public schools are terribly cost inefficient for a variety of reasons (see: Detroit, NY and LA mayoral elections.)

    1. Possibly off topic, but this reminded me: I volunteer for a church-run food pantry. We recently received new regulations for handling, storing, and distributing USDA food (most food pantries in this area dispense USDA food and food donated by the churches). There’s a growing suspicion among volunteers who’ve seen the regs that the government really wouldn’t mind if the church groups got out of the food distribution business altogether. Personally, I wonder if they’d prefer all the various groups merge into one, with a single HQ, leadership, and distribution point. This would make us less effective (people who can’t afford food probably can’t afford gas, either, and the various groups cover a big area), but we’d be much easier to control.

      1. I am baffled why there is a suspicion. The hatred of the Federal bureaucracy for faith based groups is well established.

        1. You are too cynical. The bureaucracy is quite open to allowing the operation of faith based groups so long as they a) abide by federal guidelines b) do not compete unduly with bureaucratically entrenched interests and interest groups (it is one thing to make petty criminals pick up trash, it is another thing entirely when that interferes with the works of federally and state recognized “trash picker-upper” unions who might lose jobs to such unfair competition) and c) don’t actually take their “faith” too seriously and start advocating in ways contrary to the public (bureaucracy) interest, such as suggesting that the purpose of such food banks is delivery of food to the needy rather than empowerment of bureaucracy.

          You need to let go of your cynicism, Roman and stop to admire the wonders of the system.

    2. Speaking of public schools, sending your child there means that the government raises the kids, not you. Sending your child to private school means that corporations raise your kid. Large corporations are often in bed with government (who protects corporate market share through regulations), so it really amounts to the same thing.

      There’s a reason Germany bans homeschooling, you know.

      1. Sending your child to private school means that corporations raise your kid.

        Assumes facts not in evidence. What corporations would that be? Be specific. How many schools does McDonald’s own? Or Microsoft? Or Monsanto?

        While I probably agree with you on the undesirability of government regulations being used to keep competition down, your post sounded a bit too much like the unthinking “corporation = evil” knee-jerk reflex for my taste. I’d like to see you back up your statement with some actual evidence; then you’ll either manage to persuade me, or (which I think more likely) realize, as you try to gather the evidence, that it isn’t there.

        1. Fine, I retract my claim regarding “corporations raising your kid.” The larger point I was trying to make was that sending a kid to school outsources the child’s upbringing, since administrators and students spend more time with the child than you do. There’s also homework and the fact that you have to go to work.

          I’m not a knee-jerk “corporations = evil” type of person, but I am well-aware that large, well-connected companies use the government to quash competitors, usually through regulation. That being said, I don’t consider large profits or big bank accounts to be signs of malfeasance.

          1. Fully in agreement with you on the “outsourcing the kid’s upbringing” thing. The homeschooled kids I’ve interacted with have all* been well-mannered, able to talk and reason on a far more adult level than others their age, and so on. And with the test score numbers I’ve seen (homeschoolers averaging in the 80th to 85th percentile in all sorts of subjects, while public-school kids averaged near the 50th percentile as you’d expect from the group that makes up the large majority), even idiots or legislators (but I repeat myself) would eventually have to realize that it’s good for the kids. Which means that Germany’s effective ban** of homeschooling is not for the good of the kids, despite the lies the politicians are trying to sell their electorate.

            * With the possible exception of the one Asperger’s kid I knew in Dallas, for whom manners were a foreign language that had to be laboriously studied, but that’s the nature of Asperger’s. And besides, I don’t recall if he was homeschooled or not, so he may not even be a counterexample.

            ** As I gather, it’s not officially banned, just hedged around with so many regulations that it’s effectively impossible. Classic trick.

            1. The homeschooled kids I’ve interacted with have all been well-mannered, able to talk and reason on a far more adult level than others their age, and so on.

              An important point, because a common objection to homeschooling is that the children aren’t well-socialized.

              Even better, homeschooling is something that ordinary citizens can do right now to resist government encroachment into their lives.

              1. They’re not.

                By the way that the folks thinking about the claim mean it.

                The kids are taught how to interact with adults, not how to interact with a pack of 30 mostly uncivilized sociopaths whose biggest thing in common is “we were born in a random year or so’s span.”

                I went to public school, and they were so freaked out about my socialization that they had a very nice volinteer lady come in to do that “adult figure in your life” mentoring thing.

                I scared her off, because– I now think– she was expecting “troubled kid,” and got “geeky but well adjusted adult” from someone who couldn’t drive yet.

                (I was well adjusted… if you assumed that I was someone that was stuck in a job I hated, who got my enjoyable interactions after school. Polite, but I did not have friends in high school. I do, however, still keep in closer contact with my online friends from that point than I do with most of my relatives.)

                1. I’m well aware that they only have one model of “socialization.”

                  Also, that’s the other pernicious thing about public schools: students spend more time with other students than with the teachers.

                  I’ll save most of my thoughts for my blog, though.

            2. Not homeschooled, but my mom never missed a chance to try to teach us stuff, and my folks had no patience for folks treating us as anything but (ignorant but teachable) people– and all three of us out “so mature” compared to our cohort.

              Possibly it’s not exactly homeschooling, but constant, high level expectation, mature interaction with adults?

              1. One of the challenges we’ve run into with raising the minions to be self-sufficient and independent is that they *are*. If the two-year-old is hungry, he gets himself food, regardless of what shelf we put the food he wants on. If the five year old is bored, he *will* get into my tools, regardless of how many doors, locks, bolts, and guard animals we’ve placed between him and them. I don’t intend to change courses, but sometimes it’s frustrating when they do exactly what we’ve raised them to do. 🙂

        2. Actually corporations — the large ones Dan worked for, like MCI — always reminded me of Communist states or the politics of ancient Rome, so I’m not overfond of them.
          My problem with the private schools is more that the ones who cater to er… wealthier areas tend to go easier on the kids. this was a problem in Portugal and it’s starting to be one here.

          1. Even going easier on the kids they are more demanding than public schools. Have to get the graduates into those Ivy League colleges, after all.

            Few private schools are run by corporations sufficiently large and powerful to ignore their customers’ expectations for achievement. The most influential such schools are stand-alone institutions, although many — Sidwell Friends, Phillips Exeter Academy, Cranbrook (where Mitt Romney matriculated) — are operated more on the line of trusts or colleges, complete with endowments.

          2. I think that the problem is that once a corporation become old enough to outlive it’s creators it become an institution. Because they are institutions they hire the “professional” managers rather than somebody more entrepreneurial or creative from the same Ivy Covered Snob Factories that our upper level Bureaucracies do with the same Marxist professors and the same disconnection with reality.

  14. Yes! In complete agreement. Hell, I’ll go further: It wasn’t gay marriage, or no-fault divorce or the sexual revolution that killed traditional marriage. It was the industrial revolution with its washing machines, refrigerators (making it unnecessary to raise your own meat and vegetables), and child labor laws.

    1. not just that, but the feeling that “we’re better than this” — a fact of life is that females HAVE to bear the brunt of having kids. (I still want a wearable bio-womb!)

      1. Add in the fact that in “upper” society a woman who dedicates herself to raising her children is generally disdained and exploited by the other females in her social circle.

        “Since you’re home all day, would you be a dear and watch my Eloise today? She’s running a mild fever of 102 or so and the school is insisting on sending her home. I’ll call and tell them to expect you.”

  15. I read How Civilizations Die as well. Your blog post really puts a human face on all the big-picture theorizing that he does.

    Remember, with all this talk of ethnic proportions and birth rates and years of education, those are actual flesh-and-blood people, not numbers on a computer model.

    1. Do you mean, flesh-and-blood people in the sense that we should be careful of being too callous? But all the individual people die anyway. The death of a civilization is not necessarily about their dying any sooner or in worse circumstances. It’s about their way of life being so unsuccessful for other people that it’s not adopted in any way by the next generation. It may have been an extremely enjoyable way of life for them, though, assuming they don’t mind not having a legacy.

      1. Do you mean, flesh-and-blood people in the sense that we should be careful of being too callous?

        Yes, that’s what I mean. I was just praising Sarah for putting a human face on the trends Goldman discusses in his book.

        However, I do fully understand the need for statistics and generalization, especially when discussing broader social outcomes.

      2. One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a million tragedies.

        When using statistics it is a good idea to retain in one’s mind what (or who) the numbers represent.

        1. “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”

        2. The problem is that you can put only a handful of faces on it which can easily lead to sacrificing the faceless to the lucky ones.

  16. I suspect the biggest cause of the birth dearth is reliable birth control. God help us if they ever develop a male version of the pill.

    But yea, in the long run we’ll most likely end up with a Brave New World kind of system of babies birthed from artificial wombs and raised in creches, all run by big momma government. I can only hope that by then we have star travel because I’ll wanna blow this soda stand.

    1. That’s pretty much the world of Cherryh’s _Cyteen_. The vast bulk of the population who do most of the productive work are azi, born in the birthlabs, raised on carefully constructed psychset tape. Citizens do reproduce — Ari II has friends her age among the Citizen population, and it appears that they’re the product of the random combination of their parents’ genes, not clones like her — but generally have only one or two children, not the birthrate one would need to settle a planet.

    2. God help us if they ever develop a male version of the pill.

      There have been programs offering free vasectomies for ages. There are even billboards offering them. Male fertility is praised, while female isn’t– and they claim this is a feminist ideal…. *shudder*

      Seeing how uncommon it is for young idiots to get vasectomies, preferring to risk the woman being pumped full of chemicals that fail all the time, I don’t think they’d take a pill that did the same thing.

      1. To be fair, a vasectomy is a bit more of a commitment than the pill. Not only does it involve surgery on a part of the body that every man learns early on to protect, there is quite a bit more commitment involved. A woman using birth control can change her mind rather easily, while a man with a vasectomy doesn’t have that many options available.

        1. Minor quibble:

          A vasectomy is theoretically reversible, although the odds of success are not good.

          The birth control pill’s lack of side effects is more promised than actual.

          1. Depends on the surgeon and surgery used. The more modern techniques are very reversible but pricey.

        2. Would make sense, except that the same programs for women don’t have trouble finding women to fill the spots. (Please notice, California was sterilizing women, not the far more common male prisoners.)

          1. First off, leaving aside the ethics of the sterilization program (not because they should be left aside, but because I’m talking about something different right now). There’s a biological reason why sterilizing women is “more effective” than sterilizing men. If you have one man and a hundred women you can have, in principle, a hundred pregnancies (and the potential of a hundred offspring) at a time. If you have one woman and a hundred men, you can only have one pregnancy (and thus only one offspring) at a time.

            The limiting factor is the number of fertile women, not the number of fertile men, so long as there are enough.

            1. Also leaving aside the morality, you are much, much, much more likely to have men that will have children and abandon them go through jail than to have women who will have and abandon children in a jail.

              The limiting factor in practical terms isn’t the number of wombs, it’s males with limited legal income.

      2. There’s a huge psychological difference between temporarily blocking the capacity to produce children and having it blocked off with only a very iffy surgical procedure to be able to put it back. I know that this doesn’t prevent artificial insemination, but it’s still a psychological thing.

        1. The illusion of choice, yes– but women sure seem to get sterilized a lot more often, and that’s much less reversible.

          It still stands: the guys would rather risk having bastards from their “fun” than accept a free and generally reversible form of birth control.

          From talking to those guys who have had the more modern vasectomies, it’s somewhat less of an issue than an IUD. (I believe there was some form popular about twenty years ago that had a day or two recovery time; every guy I’ve spoken to that had one in the last decade says that it was a walk-out procedure.)

            1. IIRC, the old one– the very hard to reverse one– involved using a laser to burn the route. At least that SOUNDS scary.

              Possibly, they got smarter about providing drugs and anti-inflammatories. Comparing my c-section to that of women twenty years ago is a pretty big difference.

              1. I have a couple of friends who have gotten them in the last couple years. I would have to say SPQR is correct, and they must be very careful for the next week or two, sitting down on a stool wrong, or swinging to step up into the back of a truck will leave them curled up in a fetal position.
                I will agree however that a vasectomy is much less invasive than a hysterectomy, although most of the women I know who have had a hysterectomy had it done while having a C-section, so invasive only factored in when thinking, “well, it will be a lot easier to have it done now than to go back and do it later.” (totally leaving out the ethics of asking a woman while you have her doped to the gills and cut open, “while we’re here, would you like us to…?”)

                1. Except a more comparable procedure would be a tubal ligation, which is far less invasive than a hysterectomy, though still more than a vasectomy. But they are also far more reliably reversible.

                  1. IIRC, varies widely depending on how they were done– and has the possible side-effect of a pregnancy outside of the womb.

                  2. Tubal ligation is what I meant, I have no idea why I had hysterectomy stuck in my head, unless it was simply because it rhymes* with vasectomy.

                    Maybe our resident poet can write a poem about this, what do you say Cyn?

                    1. I was thinking hysterectomy, vasectomy, maybe mention of tubal ligation, I wasn’t aware that was the area in the body where the soul is kept, but possibly you can work in a verse about how the doctor must be careful to leave the soul intact when performing such operations.

                    2. Well– we think of our hearts when we talk about feelings, but other cultures think feelings come from the abdomen or the stomach… 😉 I would have to think about it longer. I don’t have anything tripping yet.

                    3. I think of the heart in relation to emotions because that’s where I feel them, which has always struck me as odd. Why should my chest cavity manifest physical pain when I’m lonely or rejected? Why should it feel pleasant (as I imagine it would) were I to feel joy? If emotions happen in the brain, why do they manifest elsewhere? Is it purely culturally generated, and people from other cultures “feel” emotions in other parts of their bodies? “My spleen is alight with ecstasy! My Achilles Tendons burn with passion!”.

                      Anyone know?

                      And on an unrelated note, these comments don’t leave enough space to the right. I had to use the “reply” button in my e-mail to reply to the above comment, because the “reply” link in Miss(Mrs?) Bagley’s comment was not visible.

                    4. Re: other cultures and emotions,

                      I’ve heard of one that talks about feeling things in the liver, not the heart. “I love you with my whole liver.” “That book really touched my liver.” That sort of thing. I don’t remember what the name of the group was or where they live (not even which continent!) but the phrases stuck in my head.

                  3. Severe shocks can indeed cause heart problems. People who have just gotten very bad news are in danger of heart attacks.

            2. *snort* Ow, hot tea in the nose, ow. Geeeez, SPQR, you just had to go there, didn’t you?

  17. Just a note for those who love pre-1950’s literature: most of it’s available on Gutenburg for free, including most of the Bronte sisters’ writing, Dickens, even Gibbons’ “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. There’s also quite a bit of science fiction. What’s not there is usually available from Freebooks.

    Does anyone have a secret for converting books from Word or PDF to epub or mobi without losing the formatting? All the formatting is fine in Word or PDF, but it ALL falls apart when they’re coverted.

    My genes have been passed on. Yesterday was my great-grandson’s first birthday! I can’t wait to introduce him to Science Fiction. 8^)

    1. Any recommendations for sci-fi — that aren’t Jules Verne or H. G. Wells?

        1. I was frankly amazed to find out how much there is by H. Beam Piper out there. Reading quite a few of his works now.

          There’s also some E.E. Doc Smith that they got around copyright for by reproducing the serials from magazines, instead of the books, plus Murray Leinster, Edgar Rice Burroughs, some Clifford Simak, and I’m sure there are others.

      1. Can you further refine the question? Are you asking SF in general or vintage SF in particular? If the latter, I recommend the early Tom Swift books for several reasons. They offer a surprisingly challenging vocabulary and grammar, they remind that what was once wonderful is now commonplace (we can build the future) and they present ideas, concepts and social mores that remind us that what we consider eternal is often merely fashionable. And yeah, some of the language is clunky, Tom said awkwardly, but that is evidence that wonderful adventures do not have to be spectacularly well written.

        For more “ordinary” vintage SF, the pre-1960 Heinlein, Jack Williamson (With Folded Hands ought be in everybody’s library), Ted Sturgeon, Poul Anderson come to mind as well as those mentioned by Bob.

        As with anything of this sort, read to the kid and find what holds interest. Although not SF, the Oz books and Andrew Lang’s Fairy books are excellent stimulants to young imaginations and surprising fun for adults.

        1. Thanks. I meant vintage SF, as I have a strong feeling that it isn’t as awful as the Enlightened say.

          And you made a good point about the cultural assumptions about progress and the future; I wrote a bit about that on my blog recently.

          1. Nice blog post. Hard for me to remember that O’Neill’s book was 34 years ago. Of course, that was right before Reagan reminded the nation that a barn full of manure meant there was a pony in there somewhere.

            It is always easy to look at the Tails side of the coin of technology while forgetting that there is a Heads as easily within reach.

            1. Thanks a lot. Reading the opening chapters of O’Neill’s book almost brought tears to my eyes. An America that was confident and strong actually used to exist. Now, the technology and the techno-optimists who champion it are like islands in a sea of cynicism and despair. They exist, but they don’t cover the social fabric like they used to.

          2. I’m reading the Gutenberg Science Fiction section in order. I’m at Robert E Howard, just now.

            1. Speaking of Robert E. Howard, I find that John Carter of Mars is often short on description and character development. It strikes me as almost pure action, as much action as a book can be.

              Then again, it was from an era before television.

                1. True. Too much description bogs a story down. Sometimes, you have to let the imagination work.

                    1. It does make sense. Prose takes place in the mighty shadow of visual media.

                      In fact, I’ll do a blog post on the differences between how prose and visual media convey information after I do my space colonization post next week.

                  1. “Too much description bogs a story down. ”

                    Zane Grey, I absolutely can’t read him for that reason. Lots of action, while being sparse on character development and description was a symptom of a writer who had learned the trade writing for pulps. Above all else when writing for the pulps the story had MOVE, it had to grab the readers attention and keep it. The easiest (and usually most effective) way to do this is with lots of edge of your seat action.

                2. What description she does give goes a long way, but she really gets the good stuff out through that wonderful dialogue and the zingers packed into her narrative voice. There’s just no one like her. I read and re-read her six novels constantly, just letting a few months go by so they get fresh again.

              1. In my opinion the works from 20’s and 30’s tend to be more like melodrama, long on action at the expense of character development, and the characters tend to be stereotypes. But that was typical, I think, for mass entertainment in general at that time.
                I suppose that in a story format of 28 pages at the most you’d have to focus on the plot, the science trick, or the character development. Otherwise, you have so much going on it is hard to pay attention. Later when specific genre memes had been institutionalized, an author could depend on them to carry the overall universe while working on the character development to move away from the stereotypes.

                1. And in the modern era, that quick-stereotype storytelling has moved to television, film, and video games.

                  1. There’s nothing wrong with an action flick/game. Character development is nice but not always necessary.

                    1. Twenty-four year old Blonde”Emo” McBusty gazed out over the city, wondering where her life had gone wrong. She’d gone to all the right schools. Her family had insisted on it. She’d gone to college, not sure why. Her family was footing the bill, why not? Now she had a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving, Indigenous specialization, but that killed no vampires. And did nothing for those you wished would be thrusting a spike into you, if you know what I mean.

                      Like that?

                    2. Kevin J. Anderson — “My guy with a sword punctures your well-rounded character.” 😀

                      Pretty cruel, but I understand the sentiment. It’s especially true in visual works, as spectacle is more visceral.

                    3. I must be important, then, because I’m certainly a character, and I’m well-rounded. 😛

      2. Stanley G. Weinbaum. Leigh Brackett, but most of her stuff’s still in copyright. Fredric Brown. I’ve liked some of Edmond Hamilton’s.

        I haven’t read most of the Laurence M. Janifer stuff on Gutenberg, but I liked what I bought decades ago.

        Samuel R. Delany I like inconsistently, and I haven’t read the works up on Gutenberg yet. I’m very fond of The Ballad of Beta 2 (chilling) and Empire Star, which are still in copyright.

        Dunno whether to recommend A Voyage to Arcturus or not. The philosophy behind it is deplorable; it still has its points of interest.

        Keith Laumer. Henry Kuttner. C. L. Moore.

    2. I love Project Gutenberg and want to have its babies. 😉

      I haven’t had any problems with conversions using Caliber (with Word, first open in Word then save as an .rtf.

    3. Does anyone have a secret for converting books from Word or PDF to epub or mobi without losing the formatting? All the formatting is fine in Word or PDF, but it ALL falls apart when they’re coverted.

      I usually use Calibre as an e-whatever conversion tool, but then I’m not looking for perfection (or even decency) in formatting – usually just looking to slap something I find online on my kindle for later reading.

  18. “Suffice it to say that so far from being the only racist country in the world, the US is the only country in which racism is utterly unacceptable not just in material stuff like hiring (the rest of the anglosphere at least also seems to find this unacceptable) but in the sense of being a thought crime, so that it has almost vanished from jokes, conversations, and even in most cases thoughts.”

    I must disagree with you. It seems that the current administration and their media supporters are openly racist, and it could be argued that they delight in fanning the flames of racial hatred. Read Thomas Sowell:

    “I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.”

    For example read Massad Ayoob (an American of Lebanese descent, policeman, and one of the foremost firearms instructors in the world) on the Zimmerman trial:

    “a majority of Americans seem to be ignorant of the facts and still convinced that a self-appointed vigilante racially profiled a black child and murdered him. Never mind that the facts in evidence clearly showed otherwise.”

    The current “Justice Department” (the same folk who canceled the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers after the case was won by default) are ignoring death threats made by the NBP while looking for a way to try Zimmerman on Federal charges.

    As a white guy who was practically adopted by a black man and his German wife when I was 10, and mentored leading me towards my current profession, I hate what is happening to our country.

    1. Ah. Sorry. You are absolutely right — racism has been made permissible by the victimhood pimps in the US — but I meant white racism. Sorry. Should have specified.

  19. I’m not worried about the Human species going extinct. Most species facing extinction have some notable characteristics. (1) small population size (2) limited physical distribution and/or (3) limited food source.

    Given human distribution across six of seven continents, numbers in the billions and omnivorous (and often weird) eating habits, we may face a drop in population, but it’d take a asteroid hit to kill all of us.

    On the other hand, one wonders who the survivors will be, and what sort of society their descendants will build.

    1. To be fair, I don;t think it’s the supposition that the species will become extinct (absent a really big icy rock with Earth’s name on it, which happens by before Elon Musk gets his Mars colony going, but that’s without relation to the fecundity question Dona Sara highlights above), it’s this worldwide civilization, with the high likelihood that the successor will not be any improvement.

      To misquote Sir Winston, our current beleaguered Western civilization is the worst form yet tried, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

  20. Mark Steyn:

    The Graffiti on the Wall
    National Review’s Happy Warrior
    July 23, 2013
    Timing is everything, even in apocalyptic doom-mongering. When my book America Alone came out in 2006, the conventional wisdom was that its argument about Europe’s demographic death spiral was “alarmist” (The Economist). Seven years on, it’s so non-alarmist that even the Washington Post is running stories about the Continent’s “plummeting” birth rates. The Post‘s focus was on a small corner of the Portuguese interior, wherein their reporter met Maria Jesus Rodrigues, 87, who recently moved into the old folks’ home from her nearby village. The youngest resident is 57. Not in the old folks’ home, but in the village. That’s to say, the entire parish qualifies for membership in the AARP, which regards you as a potentially “retired person” from the age of 50.

    “Retirement” is an invention of the 20th century, and will not long outlive it. When everyone’s a senior, nobody is — because, if there are no young people around to pave the roads, police the streets, weed your garden, fix your roof, give you a bed bath, and change your feeding tube, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
    [MORE: ]

    Emphasis added

  21. What? A hundred and forty-something comments, and I’m the first one to compliment Sarah on that “marital combustibility” phrase? I’ve never heard that one before, and I like it — very clever.

      1. Not quite a precise quote — Adams, singing:

        Mr. Jefferson, dear Mr. Jefferson
        I’m only 41; I still have my virility
        And I can romp through Cupid’s Grove with great agility
        But life is more than sexual combustibility

        Approx. 4:30 — sadly, not up to William Daniels’ (or even Brent Spiner’s) performance.

          1. Congrats on finding the item. You’ve just increased my frustration over failing to locate it.

  22. [i]My guess is that our way of life will over the next couple of hundred years either suffer massive impoverishment with attendant increase in births, or that we’ll figure out some technological way around this mess.

    Which in turn will bring about OTHER issues.[/i]

    Hmmph. I’ll take those other issues please, good and hard. My main hope for the future is that technological innovation can continue producing surplus/extending and improving lives faster than government idiocy and a ballooning political aristocracy can destroy it/them.

    Paraphrasing Peter Thiel, our civilization is in a deadly race between politics and technology. The news out of any of the worlds governments is the same old dark story of one tribe struggling for dominance and slavery of another, threatening to drag us all back to the bronze age. The news out of science and technology development is usually a much brighter and more hopeful thing.

    1. It brings uncomfortably to mind the old predator-prey curves studied in my undergrad diffeq class: exponential growth of both until something hiccups in the prey population, then a sudden overshoot and crash.

      1. Ah, yes – ONeil.

        I am a techno optimist. As an engineer/scientist, it’s part of the job description – if you don’t believe that you have a shot at improving the world, or at least understanding it more deeply, then what were all those all-night cram sessions and years of studying for?

        I wrote this a while back when in one of my more optimistic moods: – it is on a similar theme of techno-optimism vs. pessimism.

        As for technology with respect to our current vantage point:
        Yes, it can be misused, or ignored and abandoned. Today we’ve got Predator drones assassinating whoever the political class wants to target, and we have the NSA surveillance programs. But we also have the internet, and hard encryption methods that almost anyone could use. We have backslid from space. (Space travel, and space colonization is a hard problem. Even back in von Braun and Heinlein’s day it was obvious that chemical energy would only get us so far). But efforts in the direction of nuclear rocket engines haven’t died, they’ve just gone underground. In a recent AIAA conference, I was listening to people from NASA Glenn talk about mars mission architecture, and it was pretty much universally agreed that nuclear-thermal engine development had to be restarted. They have a laboratory where they are testing aspects of the engine design substituting electrically heated elements in for the nuclear material. The loss of the shuttle has opened up a market for several companies which now have actual vehicles in test. SpaceX of course, but also Sierra Nevada (they have an Atlas launched lifting body), Orbital Sciences, and Boeing. They are all building up to launching people into orbit to meet the manned space-launch need.

        There is a lot of experimenting with 3d printing these days – I’ve seen sintered metal micro-turbine wheels and other experimental things on display at several of the booths and display cases at the conference.

        I still think that, on the whole, technology is empowering. Who it empowers depends on who decides to acquire and use it, but I think the totalitarians attempting to use it as a means of top-down control can only ever partially corrupt something that, un-twisted, is a generally good thing.

        (Example: Without cheap computers, which can be used by anyone for all sorts of productive and creative things, the NSA couldn’t possibly attempt it’s total surveillance gambit. Without the internet, there would be nothing to spy on.)

          1. There’s something to be said about a less hyper-close-tolerances approach to launching satellites, probes, and other things that don’t require humans to be aboard. Some things could be treated this way even for manned launches, and some others would even benefit overall from this approach, such as building larger fuel pumps which run less closely to their design limits (I remember reading about the fuel pumps for the Shuttle engines way back in the early days of the program, and it made me shudder to think how fast those things turned).

            However, each pound of added weight added by using a production method that doesn’t shave everything it can is taken from the final payload amount, with the exception of early stage parts, where you only lose part of the extra weight in payload. If not careful, you can lose so much payload capacity that it offsets the benefit in manufacturing costs saved.

            Right now, with the Shuttle, with its emphasis on lowered weight and everything, is capable of injecting approximately 10% of the launch weight into LEO – and that weight includes the orbiter. One thing that always irritated me was that they didn’t build a disposable launch sled for missions that didn’t require humans, and that would have tripled the mass that it could have carried to orbit, plus lowering the overall cost of the mission by eliminating all the safety checks for the human contingent.

            1. I remember reading that. I’m not a engineer but I always liked that idea. I thought besides orbital access it would be a good precursor for ultrafast package deliver or antipodal transport a la Heinleins Skyways.

          2. The mass-produced rocket/big-dumb-booster concept is something I’ve advocated in the past. What really costs money in the limit of zero-unit-costs is engineer/techician-hours – time spent fiddling with the rocket prior to launch, time spent building it, the fixed design costs and spaceport operation costs.

            Of course, we aren’t quite to where the costs of materials or certain things like the engine turbomachinery can be neglected. Machining some of that is pretty involved.

            Of course, there may be better ways to do reusable launch vehicles. The shuttle had some decent ideas – propellant is cheap. Drop tanks are (or should be) cheap. The main engines / vehicle core / (astronauts) are what you want to bring back if you can. But certain things just get eaten up with space operations. The heat shield gets worn down. The main engines *should* be easily removable/swappable so you can inspect/repair/service them while swapping in a replacement. The SSMEs, in order to wring the last half-second of Isp from the reaction were made extremely complicated. Rather than have a once-through gas generator that threw the generator gas out as steering, like most other engines, the SSMEs had a dual-precombustor system requiring four times as many moving parts, so they could shove the generator gas back into the main combustion chamber. That sort of complexity is expensive – trading it for more fuel in a drop tank would probably be a better idea.

            Anyway, something shuttle-like (smaller for crew) might still be something to try for, along with everything else, not as a one-size fits all, $800M/launch monster.

            1. Anyway, whatever the answer is, if we seriously want a space-faring civilization, it has to be a workhorse, not something that thousands of technicians spend millions of man-hours swarming over, taking apart, reassembling, babying, etc. Mass produced big-dumb-boosters that use lower performance engines/ sane once-through gas-generators/ easier to handle propellants such as LOX/RP-1 might be one way to go.

              A two-stage shuttle-thing with drop tanks might be another way to go. The nice thing about our current situation (other than not having a manned space-launch capability – that is unfortunate) is that if these launch companies can sell their services (for 1/10 the cost of the shuttle) we’ll have multiple launch vehicles being tested. If NASA becomes a customer, then one of these companies with a less paralyzed design process might look into developing more reusable vehicles eventually.

        1. I tend to be an optimist where technology is concerned because technology is almost purely an expression of creative people. In my experience creative people can’t stop being creative and will go to almost any lengths to feed their obsession whatever it may currently be. Our typical Marxist/Progressive type just doesn’t get creativity. They insist on trying to bottle it up which only tend to distort and destroy.

        2. Regarding this post, I understand your sentiment.

          However, the link you posted didn’t take me anywhere, and I couldn’t pull it up on the Wayback Machine.

          Good to know that someone is at least trying to provide new rockets; I only wish they retired the Space Shuttle when they had a replacement for it.

          1. Odd, the link works fine for me. Try searching for “A Rocket a Day
            Keeps the High Costs Away”, that’s the title of the essay.

              1. Hm, I thought you were having trouble using the link I’d provided. Didn’t realize you were trying to read MadRocketSci’s link. Mea culpla.

        3. Finally read it. That attitude is precisely the one I referred to.

          I believe the main fear is that all those techno-wonders will simply be used for evil, as tools of control rather than liberty. Also, most people, in their current situation, see a bleak picture. They’re out of work, out of money, and out of luck, and talk of a bright future just strikes them as the cruel gloating of the privileged.

          Mind you, I’m not dismissing it as cruel gloating, merely seeking to explain one reason why we’ve lost the Futurist mode of thought.

  23. Another goodie from VDH:
    “Life in the Twilight”
    the human psyche is a strange thing. It needs to feel transcendent, either spiritually or by confidence in children or through the reputation of a life lived well. Crush that spirit through government obfuscation, and the people become the walking dead of a dreary Warsaw Pact Budapest or Prague, given that there is no hope for those who follow.

  24. On stress and pregnancy— there may not be studies, but my first OB/GYN told me the reason I wasn’t getting pregnant was because BOTH my husband and I had really stressful jobs, which put our bodies into ‘unsafe to reproduce’ mode.

    A year later, with DH in grad school and me at a low-stress job, Poof! I got pregnant.

    So… anecdotally, there’s a strong link. It makes sense. I mean, in the past, stress probably meant famine or war, neither of which was good for babies.

    I also wonder about secondary infertility and the Muslim world. I’d imagine women there don;t have as much access to medical care as we do, so there must be infections that go un-caught, or metabolic issues that go unnoticed.

      1. I don’t if this is an urban legend or not, but, I’d heard that some tribes actually sewed the vagina shut. With those kinds of practices you’ve got to wonder how they had enough healthy women to give birth to enough babies for replacement.

        1. It’s not an urban legend. It is the form practiced in parts of tribal North Africa. Richard Francis Burton was the first to describe both the procedure and the results for the woman. He was not a fan.

            1. Its called Intafibulation IIRC and some people in the deep bowels of the .alt community do this sort of thing and a male cousin of it for S&M kicks.

    1. I read these comments about stress making pregnancy difficult and all I can think of is Todd Aiken and his “rape is so stressful that women who are raped don’t get pregnant from it”. I have no doubt that stress will cause physiological difficulties, and I’d not be surprised to find that it impeded fertility. I do doubt that the stress of a rape would be enough, in an of itself, to prevent pregnancy, but I can see how someone aware of the stress/infertility link might think so.

      My uninformed layman’s guess is that the stress would have to be ongoing before it would start to have serious physical effects.

      1. Depends on how stressful it was. At the extreme end, some Nazi scientists rounded up some women in the concentration camp who were about to ovaluate and told them they were going to the gas chamber. That was enough to entirely suppress ovaluation in all of them.

      2. I do doubt that the stress of a rape would be enough, an of itself, to prevent pregnancy, but I can see how someone aware of the stress/infertility link might think so.

        According to my ~1997 Washington State sex ed class, forcible rape– that thing folks usually think about when they say “rape”– tends to cause so much damage that conception is very, very unlikely. I don’t have the details, but it involved collecting post-war information. The cases of pregnancy-via-rape TEND to be long term abuse or when chemicals alter her will.

        (Given the folks here: think of the spikes after an invading force show up, barring moral qualms. Now consider the huge downward rate of conception per incident. Try not to be sick on your keyboard.)

        Look, I don’t want to overshare, but… foreplay is a good thing for more than being a decent guy type reasons. If she ain’t into it, it can seriously hurt a woman on accident. There’s a reason that recent post-pregnancy paperwork is so sex obsessed, and it’s not just our culture.

        1. I suspect that it is chronic stress that messes up ovulation. I haven’t a clue how long it takes to tweak the hormonal system enough. IIRC, the Pill needs a three month lead time, but my experience is back in the Neolithic.

          Could a short duration trauma cause ovulation to cease? Possibly, but I suspect it depends on when in the cycle of maturation and release of the ova it occurs.

      3. ” Todd Aiken and his “rape is so stressful that women who are raped don’t get pregnant from it”.”

        I believe what he said was not that they DON’T get pregnant from it, but that they are much less LIKELY to get pregnant from forced rape. It was impolitic and perhaps stupid of him to say so; nevertheless it is a scientifically proven fact.

        1. I admit that I never looked up the exact quote. Unfortunately, having *any* opinion about women or pregnancy (other than “her body, her choice”) is likely to be impolitic nowadays, or sold as such by the media anyway:-(.

          1. Yes, exactly. He was clumsy, but he was right. Pregnancies from rapes are relatively speaking rare (and abortions of those even rarer.) They DO happen, throughout history, of course. We’re all descended from rapists but… shall we say the conditions aren’t… ideal.

            1. One point most politicians are unable to make (and this is at the core of Gov. Christie’s appeal) is to tell an interrogator that their question is a) dumb b) irrelevant c) predicated on a falsehood d) all of the above. It is a critical skill that all conservative politicians must master, the turning of the question back upon the questioner.

              Back in the 90s I was wont to defend my state’s sending Jesse Helms to the Senate by pointing out that nothing he advocated could become law without at least fifty other senators agreeing, but his willingness to block bad laws, even if he was made to look stupid in the process, was invaluable.

              Democrat pols, OTOH, benefit from an agreeable media echo chamber which will proclaim their wisdom and beauty and just general all around specialness no matter what kind of incompetent ineffective boob* they are, creating an environment in which smart pols must be very cautious about believing their press coverage.

              In neither case, Republican or Democrat, is the media serving the public’s interest. Shallow, breathless coverage of politicians as if they were mere celebrities is destructive of all this nation represents. But golly, it sure serves the interests of the media, saving them the onerous burden of actually understanding the issues confronting the nation. That they leave to talk radio.

              *Which brings to mind a categorization paradigm of political coverage: think of the Republican pols as the flat-chested girls and the Democrats as the bodacious ones. Expand upon at your leisure.

            2. The thing was, the media and Demo spin wasn’t about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the claim. No, they grabbed onto the words “legitimate rape” (in context in the sense of “real” as opposed to “I later regretted having consensual sex and so decided that I must have actually been raped”) and spun it that he was considering rape to be “legitimate” in the sense or “acceptable.”

              In short, they were lying through their teeth. There’s not really much you can do about that.

              1. And of course ignored Whoopi Goldberg and her “It wasn’t rape-rape” about the S.O.B. in Europe who drugged the young teenage girl and raped her.

          2. Exactly – it is not a scientifically proven fact until the MSM agrees it is a scientifically proven fact. (See: AGW)

            In the context of a declared “war on women” (by which I mean the Dems and their MSM propaganda arm declared the Republicans were engaged in one) facts, scientific or otherwise, are of no importance. When the MSM has declared a person a witch there is no response but to flee.

            “Well, we did do the nose.”

    2. I had an OB tell me that her patients who were career women usually had a harder time conceiving than the ones who were homemakers. Now that raises the question of self-selection by reason of mothers staying home already … but the Dr. was convinced of it.

  25. “And because of our peculiar condition as a nation of Intent and Belief, we of course don’t consider ourselves a “race.” In fact we confused my mom greatly by being “all sorts.” And there hinges the thing most Americans can’t and don’t get. Portuguese and Spaniards can tell between themselves on sight. Despite all the interbreeding that two near neighbors much at war couldn’t avoid, they can (I REMEMBER) tell which one people are. In the same way they can distinguish between French and Germans, English and Irish, and a fine degree of permutations within for the larger countries. (I could never distinguish between Swedes and Norwegians to their chagrin – or not to any degree of certainty, though I could guess with some confidence.)”

    Entirely this. My in-laws can tell you what village someone from their region comes from on sight, and what region anyone from their country comes from. My husband can tell you which tribal grouping (in-laws were missionaries) for both the area his folks come from and the (entirely different country, same continent) area he grew up in. I can now, after some years of practice, pick out whether someone has Bantu ancestry or not. And most every American-born American I know can only point out white/black/asian.
    Obviously this wasn’t always the case or there wouldn’t have been signs like “Irish not allowed”. I wonder what it’s going to do to us, being essentially tribal creatures, yet not being able to recognize a newly met individual as being part of our tribe by physical features. I’m sure that’s where the certain groups dressing in certain ways comes in, but it’s awfully easy to pass (which may be a good thing, or not, depending on individual intentions) that way. I’m afraid the potential for things getting quite nasty in a catastrophe for people who enter an area they aren’t known in is high.

    1. When I studied abroad in Greece I was flabbergasted by how the Greek guys talked about Turks and Gypsies. “I will die happy only if I have died killing a Turk..” etc. etc. I mean, yes, there’s a whole mess of bad history between those nations BUT….it’s still an alien idea to an American, that certain people ‘need killing’ solely because of where they were born….

      1. For the most part, to an American for a person to ‘need killing’ usually requires them to have been elected to office, and even then they would have had to go off to a capital.

      2. Is gypsy a nationality thing, or a culture thing?

        Because if it’s a culture thing, considering the usually interaction of “everybody outside of the tribe is there to support the tribe” mentality evidenced by stories out of the EU, it’s more understandable. I wouldn’t be very nice about roving bands of effectively sociopathic folks, either. *considers the way that illegal immigrants drive drunk, are in hit and runs, break into houses, commit tons of fraud, kill folks that catch them breaking into their cars, etc* Frick…..

        1. The gypsies I met in Brasil were a racial group, and fiercely tribal. Also, they had a horribly messed up culture, essentially the opposite of the Enlightenment: superstitious, negative work ethic, an *actual* abusive patriarchy (think a lion pride made human – women work, man drinks), and utter disregard for honesty and property rights. Oh, and the worst fashion sense on earth. The stereotypes about gypsies and color are inaccurate only because you can’t truly convey just how eye-searingly bad it is. The Romani bands are amusing from a distance, but I wouldn’t want a gypsy camp in my neighborhood.

    2. Obviously this wasn’t always the case or there wouldn’t have been signs like “Irish not allowed”.

      Culture markers.
      Remember those old cartoons with the bulldog cop whose Irish accent you can cut with a knife?
      That Irish.
      Contrast with, say, my half-or-quarter Indian/English grandfather who use to hit the KKK recruitment banquets… apparently it took the KKK years to figure out that folks would show up for free food, and listen politely, but wouldn’t join up. (To forestall hollywood style farce, granddad looked very English…but his dad WAS an immigrant, which should’ve made him anathema, as much as the nice third generation Catholics who also showed up for free food.)

  26. Talk about “Breaks my mind”. Little children dying is something I just cannot wrap my mind around. I study enough history that I know the horrors that lie beyond the gates, at least on an intellectual level, but emotionally? I just can’t wrap my head (or maybe it would be better to say that I can’t wrap my heart) around it. Something in me just shuts down.

    And then along comes events like the recent wholesale murder of newborns (I will not dignify that person by naming him) and . . . I just can’t deal with it.

    And I know that’s not where you were going with the blog, but it’s what came to my mind on reading that part.

    1. People who kill newborn or other children should be killed in a cruel and unusual fashion. They deserve the worst death possible.

    2. If it is any comfort, the MSM gave his trial nearly half the coverage they gave state senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster to protect the women of Texas from the horrors of abortion clinics held to the same standards as other outpatient surgery providers.

  27. The problem is that there’s strong disagreement about what constitutes a child, or whether people who lack certain brain functions are actually human. (Paging Peter Singer.)

    Actually, I had an acquaintance try to argue that passage through the birth canal magically turned someone from not a person into a person. She was a bit disturbed when I pointed out that, by her logic, children born by C-section are inhuman monsters walking among us.

    But hey…. C-section people ARE different. Ask MacDuff.

    1. Isn’t there always disagreement on who’s a human?

      This tribe, that tribe, your mom was a slave, etc….

      Christianity (I think Judaism, too, not sure of my theology) is really flippin’ odd for holding that all humans are human.

      1. Jews are the Chosen People, not the Only People.

        This is the sort of distinction that often escapes the types of people who avoid this forum.

        It should be noted that being “chosen” is not generally asserted as a way to win friends and influence people (unless by “influence” you mean provoke irrational hatred.) This is yet one more element brought forward to Christians who were advised by their messiah that as the world treated Him so would it treat His followers.

        1. So…. “Yes, Christians and Jews both recognize other homo whateverthefrickthisweek are people.”

          Thank you.

          Calling my knowledge of history “spotty” would be an insult to honest laundries everywhere… it’s only very lightly dusted with knowledge….

        2. unless by “influence” you mean provoke irrational hatred

          Truth BITES, don’t it?


          Refusing-to-sleep baby on lap for hour.. um… lost track. Thus, sense of gallows humor is marred. As evidenced by spending the last hour raging against Jew hater ignorant slandering blanking bleepers on various traditionally Jewish (largely defined by “doing music video parodies while wearing a scullcap”) youtube videos.

          Not idea where all these slander-to-illegitimate-children-to-call-them-Bastard folks came from.

          1. Anti-semitism is on the rise as the Left struggles to find a good conspiracy theory to explain the failures of their policies.

            1. I sometimes think Jews were chosen to be the “canary in the coalmine” of irrationality. One of History’s surest indicators of “bad scheiss gonna happen is a step up in Anti-Semitism. Jews (and, these days, Christians) are singled out for “not getting in step” with the uber-culture, for implicitly not agreeing* that the uber-culture is “right.”

              There really isn’t any point arguing with the haters; the gravitational force of their monomania enwraps them in a closed system, a black hole of hatred. Challenge them and they will denounce you as a hater. You might just as well argue with devout practitioners of Astrology. The key point to take away is that when people are no longer ashamed to reveal such aspects of themselves they’ll soon be letting out the even darker elements of their maggoty minds.

              *I have long assumed it is because Jews keep their own set of books, so that when the overlords tell us “things have never been this good” there is somebody standing there to say: “Umm, well, not quite right.” Because Jews and Christians have their own History books and hold to an eternal standard rather than present fashion they make the fashionable uneasy.

              1. I recommend Thomas Sowell’s Race and Culture. He observes that “middleman minorities” who take up the jobs of small trader, small money-lender, etc. in cultures are often the butt of this kind of hatred.

        3. When I was a kid I was taught that God made the Jews the “chosen people”, it meant He was using them as an example for the rest of mankind. It didn’t mean dad liked them better and they got all the cool toys while we were to be left with the scraps. A quick look at their history shows no one in their right mind would want to be that kind of “chosen”.

      2. Well to say if something is human you have to be able to define human, and some of the greatest minds of our species have been wrestling with that for millennia to little positive effect.

          1. I really like the biology one too– however, it means that many of the animals that we don’t consider human (uses tools… btw) would be human under the biology definition. For instance ravens, dolphins, and some apes. 😉

              1. Well– I added them because they are pretty smart… I haven’t heard anythingthisweekeither. But I did read some interesting things about dolphin training over a decade ago and that the dolphins trained for military use did have PTSD. –Idk if that is still considered good research though.

                  1. Well– I saw a documentary in what lives in the open ocean and I am pretty sure I am not smart enough to survive there. If it was for thinking only, well– yes, we are much smarter in comparison.

                    1. Elephants MIGHT actually have a complex human-like language. That’s something… well… Robert should do a post about it. (He has dislocated species identity. He’s an elephant inside 😉 )

                    2. I think nearly every woman I know likes elephants. What’s up with that?

                    3. Have you see the picture with the wall of elephants and the baby one peeking around their legs? AHHHHH … actually they are protecting the baby, but it is still a cute pic.

                    4. Cat society is also matriarchal. As to your son’s liking I have but one fleeting answer: FREUD!!!!! (gallumphs* away)

                      *running is for those with functional knees.

                    5. Ride the Elephant Once More

                      Gray monstrous beast
                      wrinkled skin
                      coarse black hair
                      rubs my thighs

                      High on your back
                      behind frond-like ears
                      sway to the rhythms
                      of your distant walk

                      Exult in past glories,
                      I want to wear the turban.
                      Be well again–
                      touch the gentle finger
                      of your trunk.

                1. Classifying something as homo sapien is different than classifying something as sapient.

                  “So smart we really ought not kill it and eat it, because it’s sort of a _person_” is something I can understand.

                  1. I was getting the intelligent and human definition mixed… although I haven’t heard that any animal has reached (supposedly) our level of intelligence. Although they do use close to age 3 or age 4 lol

              2. BTW one of my biology teachers (did his PhD thesis in training chimps and other apes to rehabilitate after being in the labs– interesting btw… gave the apes an animal to care for) and he when he was teaching biology he was straight down the line biology– i.e. animals don’t feel pain, or not as smart, etc. etc. When you talked to him outside of the classroom, he had different opinions about certain animals. 😉

                I still have problems with scientists (until recently) deciding arbitrarily that animals didn’t feel pain. IMHO it seemed like a way to make their consciences feel better. And yes, I understand that some of these experiments and many that are happening today have helped with longevity and crushing disease. Still I believe in taking responsibility for my actions even if I have to do evil to do good. I expect the same from scientists or anyone else who has to do this type of thing.

                1. The biological definition is “all humans are people.”

                  I can’t say I’ve ever run into anybody dumb enough to try to tell me animals can’t feel pain; that would take a great deal of education to deny reality like that, or possibly a lot of trying-very-hard-to-avoid-traditional-Catholic reasoning about animal spirits and such.

                  …Feeling the urge to go into how animal experimentation isn’t inherently evil, will go drink coffee and hit head against wall until it passes.

                  I haven’t trusted any of the “animals are people, too” things since I discovered that the folks telling me their studies indicated it always withheld information. (Like the signing chip…where they didn’t show that she did signs pretty much at random, they only showed “give me cat” instead of “give cat me” and “me give cat,” etc. Torn if the experts were lying for fame, or just loved their animals so much they believed it.)

                  1. Eh, one doesn’t expect a chimp to have UG (universal grammar) the way humans do. The impressive thing is that the chimpanzee understands those three symbols and how to use them, not the word order.

                    Also worth noting: Human languages often have a specific word order, but this isn’t always the case. Oh, we pretty it up by saying “Give cat -to- me” and “Give me -the- cat” but the point is that we are awfully free with order in English.

                    Besides, that’s a standard we’d never use on a kid. (If a child says “Spoon” or “Spoon gimme” or “Give me other one spoon,” you don’t assume the child has no idea what “give” or “spoon” or “me” mean, do you?) If the chimp wants a grape and asks for a rhinoceros, then that’s a clear case of “doesn’t understand the symbols.” If a chimp asks for a “toy red big” or a “red big toy” instead of a “big red toy”, and there’s a large red plushie nearby, the meaning is still clear.

                    1. A child can and will learn that there’s a difference between “give me cat” and “give cat me.” We are pretty loose on word order, but there’s a reason they chose the “give me that” example. It would be impressive evidence if it were true as portrayed.

                      Please note, I didn’t say it wasn’t impressive that the ape learned “I make these symbols, I get that,” I said that it isn’t language.

                    2. Dogs speak, and we don’t listen. In fact, I am pretty sure that dogs and cats consider us maimed. If we could only read their signposts we might know as much as they do about the natural world lol (signposts).

                      I found it interesting that dogs largest area of the brain is smell whereas our largest area of the brain is for speech and language centers.

                    3. Pixie had… 10 or so human words he could make. He never made sentences, but I still smile remembering him running down the stairs when Robert entered the house, screaming “WOWET, MINE.”

                    4. We might need to start this comment thread over again, in order to discuss this:

                      Is your dog happy to see you? Look at its eyebrows to find out
                      Dogs use specific facial expressions to show how happy they are to see their owners, scientists have found.
                      By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
                      While most dog owners will recognise their pet’s wagging tail as a sign of joy, they may also want to pay more attention to their animal’s face the next time they walk in through the front door.

                      Animal behaviour experts have found the animals’ emotions are betrayed by specific facial movements that can reveal whether your dog really is pleased to see you.

                      Using high-speed cameras, the researchers tracked the changes in the faces of dogs in the moments they were reunited with their owners or when meeting a stranger for the first time.

                      They found that the dogs tended to move their left eyebrow upwards around half a second after seeing their owner.

                      When the animals were introduced to someone they had never met before, they moved their left ear back slightly.

                      If they were presented with an object they didn’t like, such as pair nail clippers, the animals moved their right ear instead.

                      Dr Miho Nagasawa, from the department of animal science at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, said: “It is difficult to explain this difference in movement between the ears and eyebrows. “Dogs’ ears are prominent features used to convey emotional expression, therefore our results suggest that dogs were more cautious toward unfamiliar people.

                      “In contrast, eyebrow movement might indicate a visible response where by dogs attempted to look at their owners more intently.”
                      [MORE: ]

                    5. Ah, okay. The line “Torn if the experts were lying for fame, or just loved their animals so much they believed it” combined with your description of random signs seemed to indicate that you attached no significance to the chimp’s ability to sign, rather than issues with the particular language claim. Sorry about that. I agree it’s not human-caliber language, but I don’t know that we really have a word for “between language and not”. “Symbol use” perhaps?

                    6. RES – I saw a TV show once demonstrating the dogs wagged their tails in different quadrants to show different reactions, though I forget which was which.

                  2. I remember what you said about (can’t remember her name– lucy?) and how she was a random signer. I am not saying that they are people too– ding dang. But, they have their own instincts, thinking patterns, and communication skills… plus many species use tools. So by definition they could be partly human? … *raise eyebrow Anyway, when people anthropomorphize their dogs and cats, I find it kind of sad. However, cats and dogs have learned to use our “culture” to get food, shelter, and affection. How can they be “dumb” animals? (not dumb as in can’t speak because they do communicate).

                    I am a meat-eater, but I am grateful that an animal was sacrificed so that I am able to live (same with plants and other life that I use to keep myself healthy).

                    1. That would be a…what, anthropology definition of human?

                      I think animals are animals, but the way your guy is described sounds like they think they’re MACHINES.

                      Takes a lot of education to believe something that silly. Kind of reminded of the big study where they discovered that ravens (I think) can tell a big pile of food from a small pile, as evidenced by being willing to go further for the big pile. How on earth did they not already know animals will do that, and not JUST clever ones? Assuming they don’t think the food will be taken….

                    2. Yes– and they are not machines or should be treated like machines. *sigh

                      It makes me wonder how smart our scientists (or even the first scientists were) or if they were just arrogant. It brings me back to the anecdotal– scientists should listen at least once in awhile to the stories about what animals do…

                      I remember one story from the biologist. They had heard that certain animals were really good at counting. But when they tested the animals w/o their owners, the animals lost the ability to count. Instead of changing the experiment then and ask about the bond between the animals and owners, the scientists decided that it was all in the owners head even if the animals counted perfectly when the owner was in the room in the back corner.

                      Blind as bats, I say. 😉

                    3. Yes– I think I was thinking of the biology definition of intelligence instead of humanity… *sigh Everything before chemo gets tangled in my brain… I used to have such a nice orderly brain…

                      I agree– scientists need to reality check the theories…..

                    4. Heck, I still write “person” half the time when I mean “human,” and the other way around– and I’m a second generation Trekkie!

                    5. lol I met a Russian Blue named Jeffry … there are a lot of Jeffs in my life– He decided that I belonged to him and even played feathers with me. I think I am now a member of his pride. 😉

                    6. The cases I heard of, the researchers were able to replicate the success of the owners, after they had studied the owners’ body language and used that to cue the counting, but when they had the owners right there, but behind a sheet or something, the success went away.

                    7. I hadn’t heard that part of it… or maybe that part of the experiment came later… who knows… but yes, the animal was reading the human 😉

                    8. Yep, that’s my understanding of “counting animals”. The animals were getting clues from their owners about “when to stop counting”.

                1. Heheheeee…. THERE is a story nut, a definition of person where a species has to do something really creatively evil….

                  (Even has some background– the Catholic definition is moral being, and you gotta be able to choose evil to choose good.)

                  1. No more strange than the story where the aliens decided humans were sapient because they kept pets.

                    1. Don’t ants keep pets? Or at least farm animals.

                      On Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > Wayne Blackburn commented: “No more strange than the story where the > aliens decided humans were sapient because they kept pets.” >

            1. An argument might be made that those species are “intelligent” (for certain values of intelligence), but not that they’re “human”. Human means a member of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. One of the defining characteristics of which is genetic compatibility wrt breeding. I’ve yet to hear of a successful (as in producing fertile hybrid offspring) mating between a human and a raven, dolphin, or ape.

              1. Oh well– if you add breeding to the mix– ummm… I remember some Indian gods with strange shapes 😉 But for us– not happening… most likely result– sterility. In the back of my damaged mind, I thought that even DNA swapping through science caused sterility too… might be wrong about that.

                  1. Since I forgot to reply to our Hostess, there’s this on the human/person logic thing:

                    Good to keep in mind that it’s with the assumption that there ARE non-human persons. (rather famously, the Three in One and One in Three; less famously, all the little messengers….)

                    Oh, and search for “Theology of the Living Dead”– with “Jimmy Akin” if needed– he did a great job breaking down the types of intelligence!

                1. I think people are conflating “human” with “person”. It’s easy to do, but they’re not necessarily the same thing. I don’t think we’ve encountered any non-human people yet (clever animals, yes, but not “people”, though I admit to not having a rigorous definition of “person”…I know it when I see it:-P).

                  Many of the problems we encounter is when humans are defined, for whatever reason, as non-people (or fractional people). That tendency generally leads to atrocities of one sort or another (eating Pygmies, Action T4, chattel slavery, etc).

                  1. “not having a rigorous definition of ‘person'”

                    I highly recommend the late H. Beam Piper’s book “Little Fuzzy.” The story was largely about that. The main conflict revolved around whether or not the Fuzzies were “people” (“sapient beings” in Piper’s Universe). If they were, certain things would happen that would be good for one side and bad for the other. If they weren’t, then certain other things would happen that would be bad for one side and good for the other.

                    It’s available at Project Gutenberg:


                    1. After several false starts (which I cannot explain – I just kept trying to start it and then going on to something else), I’m reading that right now.

                    2. I’d really like to find an ebook version of Fuzzy Sapeins and the postumously published (not to be confused with the “sequel” written by somebody else) Fuzzies and Other People.

                      I thoroughly enjoyed all three of those books.

                    3. Just looked on Amazon – Fuzzy Sapiens and Fuzzies and Other People are there, as well as a single book with all three.

                      Also, there must be a half dozen OTHER Fuzzy books written by other authors, including John Scalzi.

                    4. Bah, I missed the eBook part. At least they have Fuzzy Sapiens for Kindle

                    5. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve heard of the book, but never read it (AFAIR anyway). It’s on my phone now though, so I can peruse it while ellipticizing the weight away:-).

                  2. Oh, yes. In Gunnerkrigg Court once, Antimony asked Jones whether Zimmy is human, and someone indignantly pointed out in discussion elsewhere that Zimmy is a person (listing evidence), only to have others counter that there are lots of people in Gunnerkrigg Court that aren’t human — Coyote, for instance — and Antimony was only trying to establish what sort of person Zimmy was.

                    (Incidentally the answer was, “For all practical purposes.” Personally, I would think “Yes” or “No” would have been more comfortable, regardless.)

                    1. Have a book somewhere….
                      “Is Data Human?”
                      Answer: no, but he might be a person. It’s a sign of my geekery that I answered that before I bought the book…and bought it anyways.

                      I blame the episode where Riker mass-slaughtered unauthorized clones and the one where they decided Data wasn’t a person for my personal mythology of the Federation being a really pretty dystopia that suppresses religion…..

                    2. Don’t get me started on Trek. I used to be quite the fan…. the running joke used to be that I’m a second generation start trek fan (I am) I even have green blood…

                    3. I watched TOS when I was just a toddler.

                      On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 2:38 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > Draven commented: “Don’t get me started on Trek. I used to be quite the > fan…. the running joke used to be that I’m a second generation start trek > fan (I am) I even have green blood…” >

                    4. As did I, first episode I can remember really watching and paying attention to was ‘City on the Edge of Forever’. The animates series was actually on when I was a toddler, first run, but I only have vague memories of it.

                  3. Many of the problems we encounter is when humans are defined, for whatever reason, as non-people (or fractional people).

                    If the fractional people thing is about the compromise for slaves, keep in mind that the folks who recognized them as fully people wanted the number to be less— slaves can’t vote, but they were going to be counted in the relative power of the states. Those who viewed enslaved persons as sub-human wanted them counted as a full person.

                  1. Folks are already trying to recruit women to carry “Neanderthal” children…to be made by basically force-mutating human DNA.

                    And the UK already had their blowup about making human clones in animal eggs. Unlike all the scifi I’ve seen, but exactly as anybody who paid attention to Christianity would expect, the Church and churches said that any resulting creature would be morally human.

                    1. Of course. But that might still NOT be the understanding (including of the person or lower ranks of the church) in the future. I.e. read in the archives my short story Angel in Flight, even though in Ganymede at least one order is convinced they’re not human. 😉

                    2. It’s a pet peeve of mine that, every bleeping time, if there’s a possibly non-human but definitely person– The Barely Repainted Catholic Church will say they’re animals that should be wiped out. Come on, really?!?!? AAAARGH!!!!

                      Of course, I also yell about some of the plot induced morons in X-Men, on both sides… (No way is a normal person going to consider “makes pretty light and has bad luck with computers” to be the same as “causes massive property damage on accident” or even “has knives shooting out of his knuckles.”)

                    3. well, no, in my case a branch of the church thinks they’re soulless — to be honest, I’ve read apologetics by learned theologians NOT EXCOMMUNICATED saying that about children conceived by artificial means. And no, I’m not misinterpreting. In a very large organization, some will be nuts.

                    4. That can’t become a majority teaching.

                      It’s directly opposed to binding teachings.

                      Same way abortion can’t become OK.

                    5. Eh. These were “real” theologians who publish books. You know what I mean. I’ve been trying to remember names, and of course failed, but I KNOW two were French. Eh.
                      To be honest, I’ve met Catholics — and protestants, and Mormons (!) — who think I’m going to burn in eternal fire for writing fantasy. It gives me a terrible temptation to start saying really crazy things…

                    6. Just because they get paid for saying stupid stuff doesn’t mean they’re right, or even theologically defensible.

                    7. Of course. I just meant it wasn’t my aunt Mimmy. Actually given the theological confusion in my family, the things family members say and believe range from the “believable, profound and I need to track it down through several learned writings to get what they got from their grandparents” to the “OMG in WHAT world?”

                    8. Unfortunately, that shows up in paid theologians, too! I just use the “my aunt says” example because that’s usually the route I hear about it. I think there’s one guy who’s big on “if there are dragons that aren’t evil, the book is evil”? (SuburbanBanshee had a post on dragons-as-good symbols a while back and reminded me of it… I want to say “Landscape with Dragons” but I don’t care enough to research it!)

                      Part of why I like the Catholic Church is that you can look at the justification folks offer, and say “well, that’s defensible, but I don’t agree,” “huh, that’s actually a teaching I didn’t know about,” or “you’re a moonbat, you know? That directly contradicts binding teaching.”

                    9. Yep, just look at the junk that “serious” publishers print. [Frown]

                    10. I’d love to introduce those Mormons to Larry. Or OSC. Or mention to them that Brandon is a full professor at BYU. Or point out how many times their church leaders have quoted that “hell-bound” fantasy writer C.S. Lewis. *shakes head*

                    11. I’ve met [those] who think I’m going to burn in eternal fire for writing fantasy.

                      Imagine their shock when they discover they aren’t the ones who make that decision.

                    12. Odd, considering that Tolkien was Catholic (and possibly still is).

                      Then again, so’s Pelosi.

                      On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 11:39 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > Foxfier commented: “My arch-nemesis, “my aunt says” theology…. (See > also, Catholics can’t play D&D, read Tolkien, etc.)” >

                    13. Jasini, I have actually had people say that Narnia means C.S. Lewis wasn’t a real Christian……

                      “It’s time to thin the herd.”

                    14. There are PRIESTS that claim Jesus wasn’t God, and that’s a basic teaching. “Some people area idiots” is different than “this entire group is so dumb they need cheat sheets to remember how to breath.”

                    15. Oh. I’ve heard worse… And yep.
                      It amused me to make the heroes in Angel in Flight evangelical Christians because I knew (and I was right) that immediately people would start dismissing me with “She’s an evangelical Christian.” Which I’m not. (Though I have tons of friends who are.) BUT evangelical Christians would TOTALLY risk their lives to help/free/enoble manufactured people (as would some Catholics, Jews and various flavors of protestants.) We know that from their behavior during slavery. And I was sick and tired of people assuming “religious people will hate these.”

                    16. I need to stop reading this stuff in the morning, I’ve already figured out the probable route they’re using for that claim, and it’s crazy-easy to counter– short form, kids are supposed to be given two parents who create them via fully giving of themselves to each other.
                      Various artificial means aren’t that.
                      However, neither are those born of rape.
                      If you’re willing to claim those folks are soulless too, neither are bastards.
                      If you’re willing to claim those folks are soulless,
                      then so is everyone who had even one parent that was conceived in less than absolute mutual giving of self.

                      If they’re willing to go along with all of THOSE, then you hit ’em with the reducto-ad-even-more-absurdum of kids losing their soul if one or both parents dies before they’re adults, or maybe married….

                    17. For that matter, don’t get me going with Marvel’s “mutants = gays” thing. Magneto is a “harmless victim”? No way. [Frown]

                    18. X-men is not about persecution. It’s about persecution complexes. Or, if you prefer, it’s about adolescents.

                      My mother was working on correcting tests when I popped the DVD in one Christmas, but she had finished and was watching by the end — I know because she asked how Rogue’s parents had changed her diapers. I explained about how they kick it. Her extensive work with the age group — high school chemistry teacher — made her quite familiar with the type. Indeed, she had subsequently used the movie to explain the age group to a fellow teacher.

                    19. No. No. No. The unattractive ones hid in the sewers and we just never _saw_ them until recently (for “recently” read mid to late 80’s).

                      Which, if you think about it, says some pretty disturbing things about Professor Xavier and his school.

                    20. Especially since one of the “unattractive ones” looks like a little girl, and another is a totally stacked babe with an eyepatch….

                    21. Depends on the artist. When I first saw the Morlocks introduced (right before I gave up most of the Marvel Universe as being too depressing*–I missed out entirely on the clone saga) Callisto was often portrayed as, well, gaunt, would be putting it kindly. I suppose to many that would qualify as “unattractive.”

                      So if you were “unattractive” your options were either to go underground or become an evil mutant (Toad, Blob).


                      *I had enough problems with depression back then. It finally dawned on me that the direction my chosen entertainment was going–and both Marvel and DC were moving that way–was making it _worse_. I’ve occassionally dipped back into the form but, well, with the exception of the short Superman Adventures and Batman Adventures have seen little reason to go back–Comics are no longer Human Wave. (What can I say? I _liked_ the Silver Age.)

                  2. One notes the positively savage conception of soul that is under discussion. They think it’s some detachable thing — with feathers no doubt — that does not constitute part of a human being.

                    The rational soul is the animating principle of the person. The technical term for a child born without a soul is “stillbirth.” The technical term for an adult who loses his soul is “corpse.”

                    Poul Anderson is one of the few writers I have known to use soul correctly in this sense. In Three Hearts and Three Lions, the nymph casually observes that the savages practice human sacrifice, rather uselessly since she’s not a cannibal. She does not care; she lacks the moral capacity to care; she has no soul. (Technically, she lacks a rational soul and has a sensitive one, like any animal.)

          2. Maybe it’s because I consumed too much Asimov and Heinlein growing up, but I think that’s too limiting.

            1. For person, yes– being human is sufficient, but not required, to be a person. IMO, of course, but I’ve got good company in the great thinkers. (Mr. Flynn has a really good post titled “Return of the dog heads” with a lot of detail.)

        1. Well, when we discovered the Americas, there was a bit of bafflement, because these beings we found over there — could they really have stemmed from the same origin as us? if not, they would not more be human than Vulcans and Klingons. . .

          So some Zuni were brought to the Pope, and convinced him of the sincerity of their conversions, and he issued a Papal Bull in which he decreed that a being capable of becoming a Christian was human.

        1. No, Islam most certainly does not.

          Islam teaches that anyone who is not a Muslim is the Muslim’s lawful prey. See Dar al Harb.

          1. Once you become a Muslim, then you’re the same as other Muslims.

            1. Christianity as Christ taught it doesn’t require conversion before granting humanity.

              Islam as Mohammed taught it DOES.

            2. You may want to check some of your assumptions and review against the recent history of Shi’a / Sunni / Baha’i as well as the experience of various sub-groups like Kurds.
              I forbear to make an _Animal Farm_ statement in this context because of the hostility it might engender

                1. And the Baha’i is problematical since it is syncretic and isn’t really a good example.
                  but still, really?

                  1. Think of it this way: Christians are Jews that believe the promise has been fulfilled. The Church of England are Catholics that decided they didn’t need the Pope. Pretty obviously different religions, though, yes?

                    1. Protestants and Catholics are different religions? I have always heard Christianity described as those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, by that definition Protestants and Catholics (and for that matter Mormons, although I view them as somewhat of a cult offshoot) are Christians, ie. the same religion. Different strains or sects, yes, but not different religions.

                    2. Sorry, must have misread that, I thought you were using that as an example explaining their beliefs were just like ours that Catholics don’t believe Protestants are Christian and vice versa.

                    3. *sigh* and the response doesn’t seem to have posted….

                      Trying to make the point that “they are a different religion” is subjective when it gets to cousin-religions.

                      On a side, there’s a blipping REASON I don’t buy into the “Muslims worship the same god as Jews and Christians.”

                    4. No, Catholic think (most) Protestants are Christians, even if not in full communion. As long as you were baptized with water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the person baptizing you meant to perform the baptism Christ instituted.

                      The last is why Mormons don’t qualify, and why I qualified my first sentence. Despite Acts specifically differentiating between the baptism of Christ and the baptism of John, and only the first will do, they insist that baptism was instituted with Adam and did not change with Christ. Also, they may say the right formula, but their beliefs about the Trinity are so different that they are referring to a different Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

                    5. I don’t really have enough knowledge of the Mormon religion to have an informed opinion (somewhat intentionally, there are aspects I do know of it that I don’t agree with, and I have friends and family that are Mormon, so it is agreed we don’t talk religion) but that is pretty much my take on it Mary. I have heard it argued both ways however, and even heard on pastor (not one of mine) state that some Mormons were Christians and would go to heaven, while others were not. I really would have liked to have gotten the chance to pigeonhole him and have him elaborate on that statement.

                    6. *wry* Kind of the point I was going for– I consider Mormons Christian because they believe in The Christ even though I think they’re doing it wrong; various flavors of Muslim– as we’d define them, using a similar “Followers of Mohammad” definition– don’t share the “well, they’re wrong, but they’re still kinda following the same faith” any more than Christians/Jews do.

                      It’s kinda a translation problem– ‘heretic’ is kinda a big deal with some religions….

                    7. “If Harry Reid goes to heaven…”

                      I look at it this way. If he makes it to Valhöl, why I get an eternity (provided I make it) to beat on him every day.

                      There are certain people who are marked for special attention if I meet them at Odin’s table. I have a list; I do. 😉

                      (Not intended as theology, just humor.)

                2. In any case, what I was referring to is the idea that Islam is a “uniter of tribes”. Prior to Islam, tribal bounds were all important in the Arab lands and anybody outside of “your” tribe wasn’t human. After Islam, a person from another tribe could still be seen as a fellow Muslim and thus “worthy”.

            3. Unless you’re a woman or a eunuch. Slaves are also inferior but can be freed by conversion — if they are male.

  28. A trial from the future?

    Of course we have the Club Of Rome types who just revel in the decline:
    Personally I would like to see the kind of society where the kinds of stresses we are seeing don’t happen. Frankly I think that far too many of those stresses have been caused by the wonderful world the Progressives have created for us since the beginning of the 20th Century. Ever since WW1 they’ve been playing with their managed society in one form or another and it hasn’t worked the way they wanted. The biggest problem is that their sterile and inhuman thinking has built sterile and inhuman communities. Just look at public housing in any city. The old slums were bad, but they weren’t sterile. People could and did build real lives out of them. Just look at old photos of places like NYC.

    1. Thomas Sowell observed (in Race And Culture again) that tenants sometimes violently resisted being ejected from “substandard” housing.

      One reviewer said she couldn’t imagine it wasn’t better for them.

  29. People are often spectacularly uniformed about the past. Sometime after the Rodney King riots a African American I was friend with at work said something about Race Riots and how there hadn’t been any before the 1960’s.

    I told him to look up the Civil War Draft Riots. To my surprise, he did. It really startled him, too. It hadn’t occurred to him that a race riot could go the other way.

    Then, after 9/11/2001, multiple people jabbered at me about how America had never suffered a terrorist attack before.

    I told them “Never mind the 1993 attempt to blow up the towers; go look up the Molly Maguires, and get back to me.”

    Since most of them were Lefty twits who were trying to make some point about how easy America has had it, very few of them came back.

  30. Since it’s too deep to reply, going down here:
    Cyn Bagley | July 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    Also–language is a human thing (lips, throat, mouth ability)… everything including plants have a kind of communication imho.

    Communicate, sure! I grew up “talking” to the coyotes, I am teaching the girls how to understand what animals “say” when they do stuff, I talk to the cats with some vocalizations. (Including what I call ‘cussing them out’ where I hiss and bare teeth.) While I don’t much care for a lot of what Mrs. Lackey does in her books, I thought she was brilliant with her translation of what animals say– chickens that walk around saying “hey” in different tones, deer that yell “run” and flee…when they’re alone….

    Communication is part of what makes things that are alive different from stuff that isn’t– hard to reproduce if you don’t communicate.

    1. yep– I do enjoy listening and watching the birds in my area. They have a few vocalizations that cross species… for instance the danger signal.

  31. “Dogs use specific facial expressions to show how happy they are to see their owners, scientists have found.”

    It took scientists to figure this out? Okay, I admit to always seeing it as a head cock instead of an ear shift, but that is probably just my person unscientific observation. The strain of dogs I raise has a tendency (and it is a genetic trait) to grin at their owners, many of them accompany this with a quiet, “woo-woo”. They cock both their head and their ears at things they find curious also.

    1. While I admit it took a couple of years for me to figure out how I could tell a dog was “smiling” and when it wasn’t, must second the “they had to study this?” type question.

      1. A lot of studies of the “Why did they need to study this? Doesn’t everybody know?” type are for two reasons: 1) No, not everyone knows, and perhaps the researcher is one who is frustrated by the lack, and/or 2) They are trying to quantify things that, “everybody knows”, so that when you bump against that person who doesn’t, you can explain it.

        This is very helpful for people like me, who tend to blend everything into a Gestalt, and often don’t see the details that someone else is reading to recognize something.

        1. Those reasons would be nice, except they’re more likely to get things wrong because they’ve got cruddy preassumptions. (like the study I mentioned that was shocked an animal could tell “more” from “less”– they assumed that the only reason an animal would take a smaller pile of food is because they couldn’t tell it was smaller, not because there’s a Really Big Predator over there who might make it so they don’t get anything if they don’t take the closer one. Translating it into human terms makes anthropomorphism a bit too easy…..)

        2. Thank-you, Wayne — I had been meaning to make that point as soon as I got caught up on the Chinese marchers.

          Yes, it is the difference between formal and informal knowledge. Such studies quantify and correlate specific patterns which have long been recognized but not measured. Think of it as writing down the grammatical rules as opposed to just knowing them.

          And sometimes a thing what “everybody knows” is not known by a surprising number of people. In related vein, note the reason for this study:

          Why cats claw and bite when you rub their tummy
          Rubbing a cats chin

          Guide released to help cat owners understand pet body language.

          By Richard Gray

          Animal behaviour experts have worked with Cats Protection to produce a guide to help pet owners know what their cats want.

          It helps explain often contradictory behaviour by these precious animals – like why they often scratch and bite when they appear to want their stomachs rubbed.

          The guide also includes advice about how to respond to these signals and common misinterpretations made by cat owners.
          [MORE: ]

          1. Yes, it is the difference between formal and informal knowledge. Such studies quantify and correlate specific patterns which have long been recognized but not measured. Think of it as writing down the grammatical rules as opposed to just knowing them.

            Thing is, they try to JUSTIFY what happens–rather than recording what happens, they try to say WHY it happens, and that’s usually where they screw up.

            Like the cat article– sometimes cats “attack” your hand when you rub their belly because they’re playing. That’s easy to see if you watch them with another cat.

            1. I merely attempted to describe their intent, not evaluate their success. Sometimes, in an effort to be “meaningful” researchers get carried away. Just because a thing is good does not mean you can’t have too much of it.

            2. Or they bite your hand when they have had enough. Kittens are petted… adult cats (who have not been tamed) allow a pet or two… but do not like to be petted continually. After all they are adults…

              1. To be fair, most cat dialogue has to be taken in context with other behavioural cues (a “smile-when-you-say-that” circumstance.)

                For example, one of the neighborhood cats who frequently comes around to check how the tenants are keeping up the place will occasionally invite us to pet him, and in context his flattening of his ears is a cue to pet him in a particular manner, rather than the meaning asserted in the article.

                1. Yes– each cat communicates slightly differently. Plus don’t forget we are clueless to many body cues… so they exaggerate the cues for us 😉

                2. One thing I found common with all cats who have a territory. 1- when you walk into the territory, they go around and check the house (usually around the edges of the room and corner. 2. then they will sit in their favorite place, chair, whatever and watch you for awhile. 3. One of the cats will check you out… that cat will mark you (scent glands in cheeks) 4. If you worry them (notice them or try to pet them before they are ready) they won’t come near you.

                  Protocols for meeting a new cat. 1. don’t look directly in the eyes (blink) 2. ignore the cat 3. Wait for the cat to greet you.

                  Basic, simple, and works. 😉

            3. Yes, they often try to go too far and explain things that they don’t have actual evidence for, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are also measuring things that other people are at a loss to explain how they know something when asked.

              No one is a perfect observer. We need to remember this any time we read such things, and focus on the evidence beyond the conclusions.

              As far as cats go, even I know that, if you don’t need stitches, the cat is playing, but some people think they are actually attacking.

  32. On the subject of what makes a human/person I like the definition given by the webcomic “Quantum Vibe” at least on the subject of “right” (in the sense of “human rights”):

    “The rule is anyone who can understand what rights are and can both respect them and demand them has them.”

    I consider that a sufficient, albeit not necessary condition. (A young child may not understand the concept of rights, but they still have them. Someone who has suffered an illness or injury to the brain may no longer understand the concept, but still retains them, and so on.)

      1. Thanks for the link; I’d never heard of Quantum Vibe before, but after reading and the two following comics (a very short Socratic dialogue on gun control and the hypocrisy of gun-banners who hire armed bodyguards), I think I’m going to have to check out the whole thing now.

          1. Yeah, I’m picking that up from the fact that “Lieberman” and “Pelosi” seem to be used as swear words by the protagonists. 🙂 Funny, that sort of thing usually throws me out of the immersion, but this time it’s sliding by since it matches my prejudices. (Though there’s one aspect to it that’s still a teeny bit jarring: I do have some respect for Lieberman, so he’s not remotely in the same mental category as Pelosi for me.)

  33. with apologies for the flurry of posts . . I discovered this post last last night and its a topic I studied at length, almost enough to write a bleeping book on it. Sigh maybe after I finish the novel.

    Anyway I think the assumption that a birth dearth is bad might be wrong.

    Sure in the short run it plays havoc with growth based system and in the ultra long term (as in centuries) it could clearly be a problem but a shrinking population once its over the humps isn’t really a catastrophic issue.

    Lets say the US dropped to 60 million, that’s a catastrophic 80% + decline.We would still have twice the population of Canada and about as many young people as Canada in the 1960’s more than enough to sustain a 1st world civilization and a culture.

    Other groups will not do as well but dropping to say the population of 1800 isn’t awful. Great civilizations were formed with much less.

    1. a birth dearth is BAD. REALLY BAD. The population of 1800 is awful at our tech level. For one getting there means dropping house values, generations with nothing, dropping innovation, dropping wealth.
      The idea that a dropping population is good comes from after the black plague, but that was because teh society before was “subsistence” and people left their good behind. It was a sudden drop, not a slow bleed. What we’re seeing in natural sclerotic societies is REALLY bad.

      1. Short term? Sure, Its one of the issues . I don’t see a longterm bad side to it. In fact as s a Conservative I find this social stability to be POSSIBLY a good thing and more important than rising incomes, To quote Edward Abbey (yes a radical I know) growth for the sake of growth is the creed of the cancer cell. Social stability is more important.

      1. Yes but …

        Much of our problems are actually caused in part by the same technology that makes us prosperous. Its an issue of the lack of demand for labor and the ease of wage arbitrage. heck I lost track of how many job categories have shrunk or vanished and as the tech improves. more will happen. It is happening right now and we can’t all be “creation entrepreneurs”

        Family formation for the bulk of humanity demand stability and while people can and did put up with natural flux and the occasional war, through most history life was pretty unchanging . it often sucked but it sucked for Da, Ma, G-Pa, and G-Ma the same way. The modern system treated people disposable people and a liability and denies and destroys the foundational fabrics of culture. Identity matters ., Charlie Stross (far to the left of either of us so be warned) likened it to an alien occupation

        JMO but I suspect in a few decades the normative unemployment rate minus government created “Jobs” note the quotes will be around 50% . If you count jobs that don’t pay enough to buy the basics (technology adjusted) of what 1975 people would consider middle class adjusted for productivity and on one salary, it will be 80-90% . Given the circumstances I can see why more than a few people are opting not to have as many kids or any. Smart people see whats up and say “nope”

        And before you mention hope,remember Pandora’s Box . The last thing in the box was hope. Not to help humanity but because to the forbears hope was the greatest ill.

        Now I know we can easily materially support many people , this isn’t a Malthusian issue but a social bottleneck. We can’t even understand the problem space enough to change it and people are that increasingly superfluous to the system.

        No one sane wants to be the poor guy in lockdown nation

        Besides society doesn’t have a right to the fruits of a parents labor on the cheap anyway. Child rearing is twenty years with huge economic and opportunity costs. As a parent if I do the right thing I expect the businesses who are hungry for my cheap social capital to do their part and not sell me out for a 50 cents an hours labor in Africa all the while making everything far more expensive s they can profit even with lower demand) well I owe them nothing and myself everything,

        So people again are behaving soundly. No one has any idea how to fix the system and can’t act to do it anyway many even those who have an income (many peak young reproductive age people have no income) simply opt out.

        In the end if society fails, the human species will probably be fine and while I’d like to preserve my culture I suspect its too late for that.

    2. Shame on you for using the phrase “over the humps” in this context.

      I think one aspect you overlook is the demographic make-up of the populace. That, more than total number, seems critical. The trendline is pushing us to a population in which something like 50% of us are over sixty. Such people are far more risk averse and prone to breakage.

      1. I agree with you on the demographic make up issue. This does matter.

        Still mankind survived many centuries with little or no progress, Assuming the bulk of the population lives to be say 80, as much as any group ever has or will, with one key exception (asteroid defense) it matters not one bit of the technology never improves or even regresses a bit.

        An older society offers more than a few advantages over younger ones as well . Its certainly going to be far more conservative and less inclined to large scale wars. Caution is not overrated,

        And yes I know there are suggestions that a lack of prosperity might create more wars. I don’t find it very convincing.

        Don’t get me wrong there are big issues ahead but long run, a smaller population so long as it stabilizes is not a bad thing.

        1. Except that stability is not really possibly. Stasis doesn’t work on living organisms, and it certainly doesn’t work on societies. Time cannot stand still, and things will never stay the same. Either we’ll grow or we’ll die off, but it is impossible to manage people to the point that they are staying the same beyond nomadic tribes. (and even they gained and lost territory, and grew and shrank as the weather, trade routes, and food supply waxed and waned.)

          Eactly when and where has “Still mankind survived many centuries with little or no progress,”? Please provide examples.

          1. Sure, life from I dunno 300 BC to 1800 AD (or later in some places was pretty much the same and while there was some technological improvement, most people basically were farmers and I suspect with a little education could easily use the slightly better tools and methods his decedents had.

            There was social change and all the things you are talking about but the rate was very slow compared to now .. Also in broad sense human societies are never static, people are born and die,sometimes come and go and the pattern of life goes on. However till recently they rarely grew economically or in population. The recent human population growth is only a product of our technology. Population shot up from around 1650 ish AD prior to that all growth was very slow

            Neither economic nor population growth is a given or even a necessity to species survival (extro-solar or asteroid activity exempted)

            heck a wild example, Indigenous Australians may have lived for up to or more than 50K years with little change (till the British took Australia) thats a long long time.

            I am not saying its all that,its not a nice life and I like technology (mostly) but the preservation of the technological West is not the same as the whole species. I want US to survive and thrive but for that to happen we have to fix the things and right now for many its seems impossible.

            1. Larger stretches of Europe could not be farmed at the beginning of that period, and were all farms a few centuries in. The massive deployment of the watermill saw it put to uses that the Roman Empire never dreamed of.

            1. Progress is a funny thing. Technology changes a bit but the way people live not as much . 90%+ of the population from the Migration Era till the 17th century or so basically were farmers. There were some welcome technological improvements but on the whole it was a life with patterns that would be recognizable many generations back.

              Population certainly increased a bit, in fact you could argue the early 13th century was overcrowded (this was a warming period) for its technology and culture to the point of not functioning especially as well as it could However the little ice age and the Black Death put the population on a new course.

              I concur the Renaissance made social and technological, changes but Joe and Jane average didn’t see that much from them. Even the inventing of the printing press and it becoming common did not make as much change as say the modem has to our society.

              Structurally it was still “dirt farming” and high infant mortality with a strongly tradition based society for most people probably till the 19th century

              Disruptions? Heck yeah, rebellion, war, weather changes all that but the actual large change wouldn’t happen till what we call the early modern era.

              It wouldn’t truly hit speed ill the 19th century and cheaper energy and its peaking well now, with the proliferation of powerful computing and communications technologies. Yes including TV and such

              I’d argue change from heck 1995 or so has been greater than most generations in the past would have faced

              This will upend industrial civilization as we know it, on a scale not known since the somewhere between the printing press and the Black Death.

              This will have greater social consequences than we can imagine, for good or ill depending on how things go.

              I will say though that people opting out of reproduction is not entirely new, Its never happened on a global scale but it has happened before in a Rome under Augustus who tried pretty much the same things we have tried (taxing/spending.agit-prop) to little avail. hey also fails the same way we seem to an inability to actually address “why” with policy.

              1. Progress has, for more than 200 years, been on a geometric, though recently more closely to exponential, curve. This makes any progress before that time look molasses-slow by comparison.

                What we see as slow progress over centuries during the Middle ages was actually a rather normal rate, and any appearance of faster progress before that tends to be an artifact of distance in time, making centuries appear like decades.

              2. Modern farming would be recognizable to ancient folks– the only difference is we got better at it, so not everybody has to be a farmer. A guy with a stick digging holes for a seed would– after he got over freaking about the monster– recognize my dad’s nice, air conditioned tractor that has dozens of teeth digging holes and rattling seeds out to be smoothed under by a net of chains. Heck, someone poking holes with their fingers would recognize it.

                My folks still use animal husbandry stuff based on things that predate history, because animals and plants have the same pattern.

                Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been insane levels of progress, including technological– you seem to be using a definition of technology that is very, very modern? I want to type “gadget-based,” but that’s not right– the difference between one type of smelting and another is incredible, and it bumps out to everything made with the metal gained that way. It’s like… you’re looking for really obvious changes, like the difference between a vacuum tube and a transistor.

              3. Progress is a funny thing. Technology changes a bit but the way people live not as much . 90%+ of the population from the Migration Era till the 17th century or so basically were farmers. There were some welcome technological improvements but on the whole it was a life with patterns that would be recognizable many generations back.

                Okay, this I can’t leave alone.

                Patterns that would be recognizable many generations back? Patterns that would be recognizable today. The “look and feel” of farming has been, and is, driven by the nature of the plants being grown, by the nature of weather, well, by nature. That hasn’t changed. That’s not going to change until maybe we start building space colonies and the “natural environment” is what we decide it is.

                That doesn’t mean that dramatic improvements weren’t made within that general look and feel. Yes, grain was ground into meal by rubbing it between two stones but if you don’t think changing from kneeling in front of one stone while rubbing another back and forth to to round stones driven by muscle power (human or animal) with the grain poured in a hole in the middle and the meal coming out at the rim, to having those round stones driven by wind or water power, I suggest you try it.

                Likewise, you might want to compare the cost of iron and steel tools hammered by hand early on, to that of tools where the basic forming was done using water-powered trip hammers.

                Or take the spinning wheel compared to the earlier drop spindle. Cloth becomes an order of magnitude cheaper. People could have more clothing giving them, if nothing else, a bit of color to brighten their lives. (BTW, before the invention of the spinning wheel, the concept of “rags” would have been an alien thought. Cloth was too dear to discard. Clothes would be mended and patched pretty much indefinitely until you ended up with nothing but patches stitched together. This may, in fact, have been the origin of “parti-colored” clothes. But once the spinning wheel came into being, cloth became much more available. Now, a side effect of this was that when Gutenberg came up with his printing press, more rags meant paper was far less expensive than thin sheets of split sheepskin–parchment–so more books and broadsheets could be printed allowing for the spread of literacy beyond the priestly class.)

                Little change? By the Nine Worlds, just about everything changed.

                  1. I strongly recommend that anyone interested in worldbuilding get and read a copy of James Burke’s “Connections” (based on his TV series). I don’t always agree with Mr. Burke, but he illustrates quite well that you can never only do one thing. Even the simplest of changes can have profound and far reaching effects.

                    Oh, and Connections and the volumes/series that followed, plug one of the gaps I’ve seen in most history books: how technological changes affected society.

                    1. DUH — never read connections, but to me that’s the difference between good sf and blah. Bad — waterworld. WHY IN HECK IS HE FILTERING HIS PEE WHEN SALT WATER IS EASIER TO FILTER? WHERE DID THE GAS COME FROM? and HOW DO MAGAZINES SURVIVE THAT LONG UNDER WATER.
                      It’s clear they took a present day adventure and said “but the world is covered in water” and then failed to think it through.

                    2. Its actually “the world is covered in water from global warming cause the ice caps all melted nevermind that there isn’t that muhc water on the planet”

                      and “dryland is the peak of mount everest! nevermind that if that much of everest is exposed, so would several nearby peaks, amd mount McKinley, and…”

                      or that the ‘solution’ to ‘save humanity’ is everyone having gills.

                    3. Or read Vathara’s “Embers.”

                      All it took was a slight tweak in genera– from “Kid’s Show” to “interested in history College Kid’s Show”– and holy CROW did the changes domino!

        2. Where do you get that conservative will be more disinclined to wars? Remember fundamental Islamists are ‘conservative’. Our conservatives may not want wars, but they are also the ones who support the military, because they understand that if you want peace you have to be willing to fight for it, otherwise the only peace you will find is the peace of the grave.

          1. The Islamists are reactionaries or radicals since they do not preserve the existing culture (in most places) Also that area is in the midst of its demographic dividend and has “peak young people” there will always be trouble

            With population aging and shrinkage there will be less young men and less resource demand this probably means s less wars.


            1. “With population aging and shrinkage there will be less young men and less resource demand this probably means s less wars. ”

              You have entirely too high an opinion of peoples innate goodness and lack of greed. This statement smells entirely too much of Ron Paul’s (who incidentally I like and agree with on many subjects, but on this one he is a loon) idea that if we just leave everybody else alone, they will leave us alone.

              Young men may be those who fight wars, they are not those who start wars, those in power who declare wars are generally ‘aging’, and when it boils down to it, technology will aid in older populations fighting wars, after all it doesn’t take much strength to pull a trigger, and with planes and tanks and MRAP’s it is considerably less physically arduous to travel to the battle field than it used to be.

              1. We’ll have to agree to disagree I think. In terms of large wars the world has been pretty peaceful of late, the biggest having been fought between the US and a couple of low tier economies. The big boys are nuclear (at least for now) and have many better ways to resolve disputes than a holocaust

                This doesn’t preclude civil wars in Europe over the economy Islam or immigration or something , one in the US over any number of things or the general small wars that seem to always be going on of course

                Still a large war is pretty unlikely. China being the wild card though and there is a conflict window as societies readjust to the new normal, TANJ how I hate that term .

                Also its highly dependent on what technology is available. If drone technology or robotics keep improving we may not bother with sending our rare and precious offspring to some low tier rat hole. We’ll just send a lot of autonomous kill vehicles. a few soldiers and slaughter many people than call it good relying on a nuclear deterrent to keep them from doing it to us.

                Also if the worst happens and populations decline by some arbitrary huge amount, the pressure forces that create wars won’t be there, Its hard now to actually gain anything save deficits from wars and with no surplus people and more per capita land means less conflict. We might not even need as much oil or anything else.

                That said a “Camp of the Saints” style invasion is a slight possibility if Africa and or Mongolia or wherever has a huge population surplus and the West looks weak.


                I can’t say yay or nay to that idea and such a war would be on par with WW2 Its not a big possibility and I suspect that sooner or later Africa will stabilize and they may even join the rest of the world in gradual population decline

              2. Yes — my belief in the “if we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone” died in 9/11. It should have died in kindergarten. People are going to be hurting. If you’re relatively prosperous you get hit.

                1. I agree that no matter what we will still have to have a strong deterrent both nuclear and conventional. War, War Never Changes

                  OK to be upfront here I am generally a Paleocon on most issues except sexual morality and some substance use where I am pretty Libertarian

                  The TL: DR our hostess needs to work version, had we minded our own business, managed our affairs better and not allowed poorly screened people from unfriendly regimes on our lands we’d have many fewer problems

                  Assuming a Manicheistic us/vs them or even a greed only motive is a bit naive IMO. Its partially correct but almost every fight save against Totalitarian Communism and maybe WW2 (this might have been avoidable had we stayed way from WW1) it was a good chunk blowback for our own bad actions.

                  Almost every problem we face including population decline is our own fault

                  We were shafted by the Lefts multi-cult (this helped destroy social comity and community pressures to have kids) and the hunger Conservatives have for cheaper labor and more markets (nuking peoples earnings)

                  The fires of terrorism are fed by an unwillingness to not meddle (Google US policy vis a vis Iran in the 50’s ) unwillingness control our borders (no foreigners in a nation, much less terror) manage trade (gutting the economy) and energy use better as well as honest mistakes mistakes and unavoidable choices.

                  1. Try a search engine for something like “libertarian problem children”– not trying to be dismissive, I just do not have time for beating that dead horse. I believe it was done here, too.

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