We have become barren

Mark Steyn, connecting the birth of John the Baptist to the West’s current demographic and economic woes:

Of the four gospels, only two bother with the tale of Christ’s birth, and only Luke begins with the tale of two pregnancies. Zacharias is surprised by his impending paternity — “for I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years.” Nonetheless, an aged, barren woman conceives and, in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, the angel visits her cousin Mary and tells her that she, too, will conceive. If you read Luke, the virgin birth seems a logical extension of the earlier miracle — the pregnancy of an elderly lady. The physician-author had no difficulty accepting both. For Matthew, Jesus’s birth is the miracle; Luke leaves you with the impression that all birth — all life — is to a degree miraculous and God-given.

We now live in Elisabeth’s world — not just because technology has caught up with the Deity and enabled women in their 50s and 60s to become mothers, but in a more basic sense. The problem with the advanced West is not that it’s broke but that it’s old and barren. Which explains why it’s broke. Take Greece, which has now become the most convenient shorthand for sovereign insolvency — “America’s heading for the same fate as Greece if we don’t change course,” etc. So Greece has a spending problem, a revenue problem, something along those lines, right? At a superficial level, yes. But the underlying issue is more primal: It has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren — i.e., the family tree is upside down. In a social-democratic state where workers in “hazardous” professions (such as, er, hairdressing) retire at 50, there aren’t enough young people around to pay for your three-decade retirement. And there are unlikely ever to be again.

Look at it another way: Banks are a mechanism by which old people with capital lend to young people with energy and ideas. The Western world has now inverted the concept. If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off? As Angela Merkel pointed out in 2009, for Germany an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. The Continent’s economic “powerhouse” has the highest proportion of childless women in Europe: One in three fräulein have checked out of the motherhood business entirely. “Germany’s working-age population is likely to decrease 30 percent over the next few decades,” says Steffen Kröhnert of the Berlin Institute for Population Development. “Rural areas will see a massive population decline and some villages will simply disappear.”

If the problem with socialism is, as Mrs. Thatcher says, that eventually you run out of other people’s money, much of the West has advanced to the next stage: It’s run out of other people, period. Greece is a land of ever fewer customers and fewer workers but ever more retirees and more government. How do you grow your economy in an ever-shrinking market? The developed world, like Elisabeth, is barren. . . .

For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for your country . . . A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present, and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words at the dawn of the “Me Decade,” “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.”

Much of the developed world climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: The state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool.

If you believe in God, the utilitarian argument for religion will seem insufficient and reductive: “These are useful narratives we tell ourselves,” as I once heard a wimpy Congregational pastor explain her position on the Bible. But, if Christianity is merely a “useful” story, it’s a perfectly constructed one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ’s divinity in the miracle of His birth. The hyper-rationalists ought at least to be able to understand that post-Christian “rationalism” has delivered much of Christendom to an utterly irrational business model: a pyramid scheme built on an upside-down pyramid. Luke, a man of faith and a man of science, could have seen where that leads.

via Elisabeth’s Barrenness and Ours – Mark Steyn – National Review Online.

I think barrenness is a profound metaphor for our contemporary condition in the West.  I would extend that to artistic barrenness; that is, a general lack of creativity in our art, literature, and music.  There is still interesting stuff going on, of course, but even the most radical-seeming is tired, as if we have seen it all before, and it doesn’t lead anywhere.  (The opposite of barrenness would be bringing forth new life.  One can “create”–making something new–without it being alive.)

For example, Hollywood has 3D and spectacular special effects technology.  But the movie industry keeps looking backwards–remaking old movies, re-releasing old movies, filming old comic books, rehashing old conventions.  There are few new stories to go along with the new technology.  So movie attendance has hit a 16-year low.  Barrenness.

HT:  James M. Kushiner

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    This post reminded me of “The Children of Men” by P.D. James. The novel was a chilling look at what happens to the outlook, philosophy, religion, government, etc of society when suddenly humanity inexplicably loses the ability to have children.

    What is even more scary is how much of the book actually has come true by one means or another.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    This post reminded me of “The Children of Men” by P.D. James. The novel was a chilling look at what happens to the outlook, philosophy, religion, government, etc of society when suddenly humanity inexplicably loses the ability to have children.

    What is even more scary is how much of the book actually has come true by one means or another.

  • Tom Hering

    China is ascendant, after a thirty-year policy of one child per couple. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, “For the past seven decades, high fertility and poverty have been strongly correlated, and the world’s poorest countries also have the highest fertility and population growth rates.” So maybe it’s not the quantity of children, but the quality. As Niall Ferguson asks, how many young people today have the concentration to read War and Peace? How many could place the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution in the right order of occurrence?

  • Tom Hering

    China is ascendant, after a thirty-year policy of one child per couple. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, “For the past seven decades, high fertility and poverty have been strongly correlated, and the world’s poorest countries also have the highest fertility and population growth rates.” So maybe it’s not the quantity of children, but the quality. As Niall Ferguson asks, how many young people today have the concentration to read War and Peace? How many could place the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution in the right order of occurrence?

  • Booklover

    “The problem with the advanced West is not that it’s broke but that it’s old and barren. Which explains why it’s broke.”

    The view of God’s Word that children are a blessing trumps the opposing view any day.

    Mark Steyn is an insightful intellectual who also happens to be very entertaining to listen to.

  • Booklover

    “The problem with the advanced West is not that it’s broke but that it’s old and barren. Which explains why it’s broke.”

    The view of God’s Word that children are a blessing trumps the opposing view any day.

    Mark Steyn is an insightful intellectual who also happens to be very entertaining to listen to.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I agree completely. A nicely gift-wrapped empty box is a good metaphor for our culture. We’ve become so enthralled with the packaging that it replaces the content in importance (contemporary services, anyone?).

    The barrenness with regard to people is more a matter of choice and convenience in many ways than it is medical infertility. A number of people simply don’t want to have children because it “interferes” with their chosen lifestyles. I’m personally acquainted with examples of this, and it’s a bit sad, because as a parent myself I know how wonderful it is to have children running to and fro through the house, especially after Christmas. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I agree completely. A nicely gift-wrapped empty box is a good metaphor for our culture. We’ve become so enthralled with the packaging that it replaces the content in importance (contemporary services, anyone?).

    The barrenness with regard to people is more a matter of choice and convenience in many ways than it is medical infertility. A number of people simply don’t want to have children because it “interferes” with their chosen lifestyles. I’m personally acquainted with examples of this, and it’s a bit sad, because as a parent myself I know how wonderful it is to have children running to and fro through the house, especially after Christmas. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  • CRB

    SimDan@ 1
    I thought the same about the James novel and yes, it certainly seems that this little tome was rather predictive of what is coming to pass.
    I also see a link to the vast falling away from the faith. Perhaps these two may be predictors of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ? As He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

  • CRB

    SimDan@ 1
    I thought the same about the James novel and yes, it certainly seems that this little tome was rather predictive of what is coming to pass.
    I also see a link to the vast falling away from the faith. Perhaps these two may be predictors of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ? As He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

  • Rose

    CRB, Yes the two are related.
    Gary Thomas provides the link in Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls. “Parenting is a school for spiritual formation—and our children are our teachers.”
    On marriage, Thomas wrote Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.

  • Rose

    CRB, Yes the two are related.
    Gary Thomas provides the link in Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls. “Parenting is a school for spiritual formation—and our children are our teachers.”
    On marriage, Thomas wrote Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@2: China is only momentarily ascendant. Its demographic unbalances are festering, doomed to ruin China’s prosperity within a few short decades. Fact. Unless they start having a lot of children. It turns out, however, that centrally-planned family-planning has set a demographic time-bomb in China.

    But yes, I agree with you when you argue that the “quality” of children is at least as important as the quantity. And, anyway, I doubt that one can convince happy-go-lucky/careerist yuppies that the reason they should have children is for national defense and the GDP.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@2: China is only momentarily ascendant. Its demographic unbalances are festering, doomed to ruin China’s prosperity within a few short decades. Fact. Unless they start having a lot of children. It turns out, however, that centrally-planned family-planning has set a demographic time-bomb in China.

    But yes, I agree with you when you argue that the “quality” of children is at least as important as the quantity. And, anyway, I doubt that one can convince happy-go-lucky/careerist yuppies that the reason they should have children is for national defense and the GDP.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, I don’t think the temporary nature of China’s ascendancy can be attributed to population issues (and I agree it’s temporary). Their problem is their institutions, or the rule of law, or the lack of intellectual property protections, or an environment that makes investment in innovation far too risky. Their success has come from copying the West’s innovations – and from providing cheap labor (an advantage that’s already passing).

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, I don’t think the temporary nature of China’s ascendancy can be attributed to population issues (and I agree it’s temporary). Their problem is their institutions, or the rule of law, or the lack of intellectual property protections, or an environment that makes investment in innovation far too risky. Their success has come from copying the West’s innovations – and from providing cheap labor (an advantage that’s already passing).

  • Mary

    @ Tom and Cincinnatus.

    Not sure we want to go down the “quality” of our children route do we? Sounds rather utilitarian. Who gets to decide which qualities to keep, and which not to keep. There is already an early blood test to check for Down Syndrome, and any number of other prenatal tests to “screen out” children deemed unworthy of being born. If we are only going to have one or two-three at the most children, they sure better be ones worth keeping!

  • Mary

    @ Tom and Cincinnatus.

    Not sure we want to go down the “quality” of our children route do we? Sounds rather utilitarian. Who gets to decide which qualities to keep, and which not to keep. There is already an early blood test to check for Down Syndrome, and any number of other prenatal tests to “screen out” children deemed unworthy of being born. If we are only going to have one or two-three at the most children, they sure better be ones worth keeping!

  • Tom Hering

    Mary, I agree with your concern. The eugenics movement never died, it just transformed. When I spoke of the quality of our children, I mostly meant their education. I wouldn’t like to see us return to the education system we used to have, training drones for our homes and economy. But I would like to see a system that gives children a good (and positive) understanding of Western culture and institutions, that trains them to think, and that gives them opportunities to practice innovation.

  • Tom Hering

    Mary, I agree with your concern. The eugenics movement never died, it just transformed. When I spoke of the quality of our children, I mostly meant their education. I wouldn’t like to see us return to the education system we used to have, training drones for our homes and economy. But I would like to see a system that gives children a good (and positive) understanding of Western culture and institutions, that trains them to think, and that gives them opportunities to practice innovation.

  • kerner

    First, let me point out that the lovely and gracious Mrs. K and I have five children and 4 (soon to be 5) grandchildren. I DO believe that national defense and an increasing GDP was one (among many more important) good reason for having childrne. And they are arrows in my quiver, every one of them.

    There are a lot of other Christians in this country who feel the same way we did, but we seem to be very much in the minority.

    But I will say that I believe that, historically, civilizations either grow or decay. What they almost never do is remain static. It sounds very principled to say that we should not want to grow. All we should want is to hunker down behind our baracades, maintain what we have and be left alone. It is my opinion that as soon as a civilization makes that decision, it has guaranteed that it will not maintain what it has, nor will it be left alone.

    If we cannot grow by reproducing, we will have to grow by recruiting, and that means immigration and assimilation. Immigrants who leave other cultures should not frighten us if they are willing to give up their old ways and adopt ours. The problem is that a good number of us are of a mind to give up that which has made us great in favor of that which is now making Europe weak. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the grow/decline department.

  • kerner

    First, let me point out that the lovely and gracious Mrs. K and I have five children and 4 (soon to be 5) grandchildren. I DO believe that national defense and an increasing GDP was one (among many more important) good reason for having childrne. And they are arrows in my quiver, every one of them.

    There are a lot of other Christians in this country who feel the same way we did, but we seem to be very much in the minority.

    But I will say that I believe that, historically, civilizations either grow or decay. What they almost never do is remain static. It sounds very principled to say that we should not want to grow. All we should want is to hunker down behind our baracades, maintain what we have and be left alone. It is my opinion that as soon as a civilization makes that decision, it has guaranteed that it will not maintain what it has, nor will it be left alone.

    If we cannot grow by reproducing, we will have to grow by recruiting, and that means immigration and assimilation. Immigrants who leave other cultures should not frighten us if they are willing to give up their old ways and adopt ours. The problem is that a good number of us are of a mind to give up that which has made us great in favor of that which is now making Europe weak. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the grow/decline department.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    I agree with your claim that China’s problems are multiplicitous. I was only noting that, despite their vast population, unfavorable demographic choices will soon be taking their toll on China as well–probably before it is able to assume its desired status as world superpower.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    I agree with your claim that China’s problems are multiplicitous. I was only noting that, despite their vast population, unfavorable demographic choices will soon be taking their toll on China as well–probably before it is able to assume its desired status as world superpower.

  • DonS

    Look at it another way: Banks are a mechanism by which old people with capital lend to young people with energy and ideas. The Western world has now inverted the concept. If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off? As Angela Merkel pointed out in 2009, for Germany an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it.

    This, of course, is what the eloquent and insightful Mr. Steyn meant by “barren” — our western culture has become too self-absorbed, temporal, and entertainment-oriented to care about the greater things, including the inconvenient and constraining job of raising and nurturing of the all-important next generation. In other words, it has become culturally barren, naturally resulting in physical barren-ness.

    Our older generation, rather than exiting gracefully from the stage, is leaving an immense debt because of its past addiction to government largesse, and growing hedonism, and is yet demanding more from its shrinking younger generations. And yet, our culturally barren social policy is increasingly to declare that even modest and long-standing incentives, such as the benefits of marriage for encouraging couples to procreate , are now suddenly unconstitutional.

  • DonS

    Look at it another way: Banks are a mechanism by which old people with capital lend to young people with energy and ideas. The Western world has now inverted the concept. If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off? As Angela Merkel pointed out in 2009, for Germany an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it.

    This, of course, is what the eloquent and insightful Mr. Steyn meant by “barren” — our western culture has become too self-absorbed, temporal, and entertainment-oriented to care about the greater things, including the inconvenient and constraining job of raising and nurturing of the all-important next generation. In other words, it has become culturally barren, naturally resulting in physical barren-ness.

    Our older generation, rather than exiting gracefully from the stage, is leaving an immense debt because of its past addiction to government largesse, and growing hedonism, and is yet demanding more from its shrinking younger generations. And yet, our culturally barren social policy is increasingly to declare that even modest and long-standing incentives, such as the benefits of marriage for encouraging couples to procreate , are now suddenly unconstitutional.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There are a lot of other Christians in this country who feel the same way we did, but we seem to be very much in the minority.”

    Yes, but what of their children? The 27% of women who have at least 3 children, also have over 50% of all the children. If their children are similarly disposed, the rebound from the birth dearth theoretically could be very durable. If the barren by choice disposition is not sufficiently contagious, we could see a strong secular trend of higher fertility. I just suggest that it is possible.

    If being highly family oriented is sufficiently heritable, then once those who can avoid procreation, do, we would be left with a higher proportion of the highly family oriented.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There are a lot of other Christians in this country who feel the same way we did, but we seem to be very much in the minority.”

    Yes, but what of their children? The 27% of women who have at least 3 children, also have over 50% of all the children. If their children are similarly disposed, the rebound from the birth dearth theoretically could be very durable. If the barren by choice disposition is not sufficiently contagious, we could see a strong secular trend of higher fertility. I just suggest that it is possible.

    If being highly family oriented is sufficiently heritable, then once those who can avoid procreation, do, we would be left with a higher proportion of the highly family oriented.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG said (@14):

    If being highly family oriented is sufficiently heritable…

    Yes, if. You definitely have a thing for assuming just about anything is heritable.

    But what evidence do you have for such an assertion? After all, most families throughout most of history had large numbers of children. And then … they stopped. My own family certainly bears this out, with my mom and dad both having fairly decent numbers of siblings. And then there’s me, their only child. Or consider that, while Kerner has five children, he also only has five grandchildren so far (not 25; though I have no idea if his kids are anywhere close to done having kids of their own).

    Point being, your conditional assumption seems rather baseless.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG said (@14):

    If being highly family oriented is sufficiently heritable…

    Yes, if. You definitely have a thing for assuming just about anything is heritable.

    But what evidence do you have for such an assertion? After all, most families throughout most of history had large numbers of children. And then … they stopped. My own family certainly bears this out, with my mom and dad both having fairly decent numbers of siblings. And then there’s me, their only child. Or consider that, while Kerner has five children, he also only has five grandchildren so far (not 25; though I have no idea if his kids are anywhere close to done having kids of their own).

    Point being, your conditional assumption seems rather baseless.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Point being, your conditional assumption seems rather baseless.”

    Baseless is an overstatement. I conceded directly that it was at most possible. Just because the overall trend is to smaller families doesn’t mean that the tendency to be highly family oriented can’t be influenced by heritable traits. It can be and even appears to be a small counter trend. However, it could by its nature and in the current context make a rapid impact. I just say it is another angle to consider. Discounting the effect of heredity is currently fashionable, but God created us with DNA to pass on our similarities and differences. 100% of who we are is genetically derived. There simply is no other source. That includes psychological traits and the extent to which as individuals we are able to exercise our will. I think we know this, but we have been taught to believe that we are more similar than we are and that our will is completely our own. Experience shows this is not the case. From there it is just a matter of how much our will is our own.

    Diversity is great, until somebody, is, does or says something different. Then the thought police emerge to shame the transgressor into compliance. I read recently that intelligence and compliance correlate. In other words, smart folks are more likely to know what the “correct” ideas are and repeat them and enforce them. Folks who have different ideas still have trouble even discussing them if they fall outside of the perceived “correct” territory.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Point being, your conditional assumption seems rather baseless.”

    Baseless is an overstatement. I conceded directly that it was at most possible. Just because the overall trend is to smaller families doesn’t mean that the tendency to be highly family oriented can’t be influenced by heritable traits. It can be and even appears to be a small counter trend. However, it could by its nature and in the current context make a rapid impact. I just say it is another angle to consider. Discounting the effect of heredity is currently fashionable, but God created us with DNA to pass on our similarities and differences. 100% of who we are is genetically derived. There simply is no other source. That includes psychological traits and the extent to which as individuals we are able to exercise our will. I think we know this, but we have been taught to believe that we are more similar than we are and that our will is completely our own. Experience shows this is not the case. From there it is just a matter of how much our will is our own.

    Diversity is great, until somebody, is, does or says something different. Then the thought police emerge to shame the transgressor into compliance. I read recently that intelligence and compliance correlate. In other words, smart folks are more likely to know what the “correct” ideas are and repeat them and enforce them. Folks who have different ideas still have trouble even discussing them if they fall outside of the perceived “correct” territory.

  • kerner

    This is purely anecdotal, but all of my children have stated a desire to have children of their own, and 3 of the 5 are pretty committed to having more than 2 children. My oldest daughter already has 3 children and my youngest daughter has 1 and 1 on the way. My oldest son has only been married a few months, so give them time. And the other two are still single, but there is no reason to believe that will last for ever. My younger son’s girlfriend comes from a family of 7 children, and both my son and she want a large family.

    I don’t know if that translates into heritibility, but there it is.

  • kerner

    This is purely anecdotal, but all of my children have stated a desire to have children of their own, and 3 of the 5 are pretty committed to having more than 2 children. My oldest daughter already has 3 children and my youngest daughter has 1 and 1 on the way. My oldest son has only been married a few months, so give them time. And the other two are still single, but there is no reason to believe that will last for ever. My younger son’s girlfriend comes from a family of 7 children, and both my son and she want a large family.

    I don’t know if that translates into heritibility, but there it is.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@16:

    I’m with tODD on this one. While it is certainly possible that certain traits conducive to stable family life are heritable–perhaps certain personality attributes, for example–I’m fairly certain that much of what it takes to be a “family man” (or woman) is learned, not inherited, a product of nurture, not nature. The massive moral crisis in the Western lower classes and the consequent implosion of their social structures, especially the family, is a consequence of a wholesale loss of the habits and virtues necessary to sustain a flourishing family life. These habits and virtues are, by definition, learned by example. One isn’t born with them. The problem isn’t that our lower socioeconomic classes simply rank closer to the chimpanzee on the genetic scale.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@16:

    I’m with tODD on this one. While it is certainly possible that certain traits conducive to stable family life are heritable–perhaps certain personality attributes, for example–I’m fairly certain that much of what it takes to be a “family man” (or woman) is learned, not inherited, a product of nurture, not nature. The massive moral crisis in the Western lower classes and the consequent implosion of their social structures, especially the family, is a consequence of a wholesale loss of the habits and virtues necessary to sustain a flourishing family life. These habits and virtues are, by definition, learned by example. One isn’t born with them. The problem isn’t that our lower socioeconomic classes simply rank closer to the chimpanzee on the genetic scale.

  • kerner

    I’ve got to say, though, that US culture is not presently organized for large families. When I was a kid, children were expected to organize their own play/social activities for the most part (i.e., pick-up softball or football, going swimming, etc. When my kids were young, it seemed like every child needed his/her own dayminder to keep his/her planned activities straight, and there were inevitable scheduling conflicts among a family as large as ours. There were other examples I could think of if I took the time of ways that America was just not set up for families with that many kids.

  • kerner

    I’ve got to say, though, that US culture is not presently organized for large families. When I was a kid, children were expected to organize their own play/social activities for the most part (i.e., pick-up softball or football, going swimming, etc. When my kids were young, it seemed like every child needed his/her own dayminder to keep his/her planned activities straight, and there were inevitable scheduling conflicts among a family as large as ours. There were other examples I could think of if I took the time of ways that America was just not set up for families with that many kids.

  • kerner

    ANd on a third hand, I have two brothers and one sister, but none of them have any children. My wife was adopted, and her mother had no biological children. Her aunt had one child, who has no kids of his own. Her uncle had only one child, and I don’t know whether he has any kids or not (that cousin lives far away and we have never met). So, that is one ancestral line that may die out completely.

    As I said, this is all anecdotal, so I can’t really say what it means.

  • kerner

    ANd on a third hand, I have two brothers and one sister, but none of them have any children. My wife was adopted, and her mother had no biological children. Her aunt had one child, who has no kids of his own. Her uncle had only one child, and I don’t know whether he has any kids or not (that cousin lives far away and we have never met). So, that is one ancestral line that may die out completely.

    As I said, this is all anecdotal, so I can’t really say what it means.

  • Dust

    T. S. Eliot perhaps says something similar in “The Hollow Men”

    http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/784/

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    T. S. Eliot perhaps says something similar in “The Hollow Men”

    http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/784/

    Cheers!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The old declining birthrate argument always leaves out the fact that at least one Western, developed, technologically advanced and very liberal country has been able to turn their birthrate decline around: France. Stick that in your conservative pipe and smoke it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The old declining birthrate argument always leaves out the fact that at least one Western, developed, technologically advanced and very liberal country has been able to turn their birthrate decline around: France. Stick that in your conservative pipe and smoke it.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK: Um, France’s birthrate has risen slightly and gradually to 2.00/woman in metropolitan France. This is still below replacement rate. Moreover, much of the increase in the birthrate can be attributed to the almost 20% of French residents who are foreign-born immigrants. Indeed, across the whole of France, 28.35% of children are born to parents at least one of whom is an immigrant (that number is as high as 56% in some regions). I don’t mean to incite anti-immigrant rhetoric here, but you’ve hardly provided convincing evidence against demographic hysteria. In fact, you seem to have validated the “Eurabia” thesis, since most of these immigrants are from former French colonies which happen to be Muslim (cf. the violence in French suburbs).

    France’s birthrate is rising because immigrants (often impoverished and culturally alienated and separatist and sometimes anti-Western) are having more babies than native French. Stick that in your multiculturalist pipe and smoke it.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK: Um, France’s birthrate has risen slightly and gradually to 2.00/woman in metropolitan France. This is still below replacement rate. Moreover, much of the increase in the birthrate can be attributed to the almost 20% of French residents who are foreign-born immigrants. Indeed, across the whole of France, 28.35% of children are born to parents at least one of whom is an immigrant (that number is as high as 56% in some regions). I don’t mean to incite anti-immigrant rhetoric here, but you’ve hardly provided convincing evidence against demographic hysteria. In fact, you seem to have validated the “Eurabia” thesis, since most of these immigrants are from former French colonies which happen to be Muslim (cf. the violence in French suburbs).

    France’s birthrate is rising because immigrants (often impoverished and culturally alienated and separatist and sometimes anti-Western) are having more babies than native French. Stick that in your multiculturalist pipe and smoke it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies
  • Klasie Kraalogies
  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    KK, did you actually read the numbers in that report you linked? They seem to support Cincinnatus @23. This is where charts and tables of absolute numbers and percentages are particularly helpful. Selected data with different start and end dates and different populations none of it complete nor disaggregated leaves just a mess.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    KK, did you actually read the numbers in that report you linked? They seem to support Cincinnatus @23. This is where charts and tables of absolute numbers and percentages are particularly helpful. Selected data with different start and end dates and different populations none of it complete nor disaggregated leaves just a mess.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@24:

    My numbers are cribbed from Wikipedia–who got the numbers from the government of France. Conservative propaganda? I mean, I guess Sarkozy hails from the right, but still, I’m more inclined to believe France’s own demographers than Snopes.com.

    Fact: France’s fertility rate is still below replacement levels.

    Fact: A substantial numbers of French babies are born to immigrants. Immigrants are responsible for aiding the France’s birthrate.

    Fact: Many of these immigrants are poor, Muslim, and resentful against the West (unlike American Muslim immigrants, I would add).

    Snopes claims that Muslims aren’t on the cusp of “taking over” France. Fine. I didn’t argue that they were. The facts are the facts. France’s improving fertility rate, when examined, does nothing whatsoever to assure conservatives that European civilization can persist, etc., or that “demographic winter” is not, in fact, a danger.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@24:

    My numbers are cribbed from Wikipedia–who got the numbers from the government of France. Conservative propaganda? I mean, I guess Sarkozy hails from the right, but still, I’m more inclined to believe France’s own demographers than Snopes.com.

    Fact: France’s fertility rate is still below replacement levels.

    Fact: A substantial numbers of French babies are born to immigrants. Immigrants are responsible for aiding the France’s birthrate.

    Fact: Many of these immigrants are poor, Muslim, and resentful against the West (unlike American Muslim immigrants, I would add).

    Snopes claims that Muslims aren’t on the cusp of “taking over” France. Fine. I didn’t argue that they were. The facts are the facts. France’s improving fertility rate, when examined, does nothing whatsoever to assure conservatives that European civilization can persist, etc., or that “demographic winter” is not, in fact, a danger.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, it’s telling that even Snopes admits that Muslims in France are the ones with a fertility rate that ensures not merely population replacement but also growth (2.38). The native French population is shrinking.

    What were you trying to prove again, KK? Again, I’m not trying to incite racial/ethnic rhetoric here. I’m merely disputing your claim that France somehow proves that the demography prophets are mistaken.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, it’s telling that even Snopes admits that Muslims in France are the ones with a fertility rate that ensures not merely population replacement but also growth (2.38). The native French population is shrinking.

    What were you trying to prove again, KK? Again, I’m not trying to incite racial/ethnic rhetoric here. I’m merely disputing your claim that France somehow proves that the demography prophets are mistaken.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG said (@16):

    100% of who we are is genetically derived.

    And yes, I realize that it’s part and parcel of your thinking to say so — so much of your arguments here hinge on the notion — but, really, I can’t believe that even you really buy that claim.

    I mean, why have schooling at all, then — even private or home schooling? Kids are what they are, 100% genetically. No amount of education will change the way they think or act. Heck, for that matter, why bother disciplining our children? Sure, Scripture exhorts us to, but surely your 100%-genetic claim shows us a better way: kids are who they are, regardless of how they’re brought up. And hey, why even bother communicating with each other? Why are you even trying to change my mind with text, SG? Because you know that 100% of who I am — including how I think about this topic — is genetically derived. You’re simply wasting your time by communicating.

    I mean, honestly. You’d think that our brains’ only input was our genome, from the way you talk. Please.

    But I see how you’re going about this:

    Discounting the effect of heredity is currently fashionable…

    Oh, so you’re a rebel then, is that it? People who disagree with you are merely slaves to the latest trends.

    Then the thought police emerge to shame the transgressor into compliance.

    Brave, brave SG! You’re only being criticized because you bring light to the peoples — light that The Man doesn’t want you to use! Come on. Can we leave the histrionics out of it and just discuss ideas?

    Because, if you hadn’t noticed, you’ve completely failed to defend your idea (beyond a fairly lackluster “it was at most possible”). But you have held yourself up as some sort of hero for the modern age, a thinker among sheeple. Or something.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG said (@16):

    100% of who we are is genetically derived.

    And yes, I realize that it’s part and parcel of your thinking to say so — so much of your arguments here hinge on the notion — but, really, I can’t believe that even you really buy that claim.

    I mean, why have schooling at all, then — even private or home schooling? Kids are what they are, 100% genetically. No amount of education will change the way they think or act. Heck, for that matter, why bother disciplining our children? Sure, Scripture exhorts us to, but surely your 100%-genetic claim shows us a better way: kids are who they are, regardless of how they’re brought up. And hey, why even bother communicating with each other? Why are you even trying to change my mind with text, SG? Because you know that 100% of who I am — including how I think about this topic — is genetically derived. You’re simply wasting your time by communicating.

    I mean, honestly. You’d think that our brains’ only input was our genome, from the way you talk. Please.

    But I see how you’re going about this:

    Discounting the effect of heredity is currently fashionable…

    Oh, so you’re a rebel then, is that it? People who disagree with you are merely slaves to the latest trends.

    Then the thought police emerge to shame the transgressor into compliance.

    Brave, brave SG! You’re only being criticized because you bring light to the peoples — light that The Man doesn’t want you to use! Come on. Can we leave the histrionics out of it and just discuss ideas?

    Because, if you hadn’t noticed, you’ve completely failed to defend your idea (beyond a fairly lackluster “it was at most possible”). But you have held yourself up as some sort of hero for the modern age, a thinker among sheeple. Or something.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner said (@19),

    US culture is not presently organized for large families.

    Your phrasing here is a little odd. Who, exactly, “organizes” our culture … except for, well, us? That is to say, isn’t our culture just an expression of the choices we make in aggregate? You don’t have to play along, of course, but you know how going against the flow is.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner said (@19),

    US culture is not presently organized for large families.

    Your phrasing here is a little odd. Who, exactly, “organizes” our culture … except for, well, us? That is to say, isn’t our culture just an expression of the choices we make in aggregate? You don’t have to play along, of course, but you know how going against the flow is.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, KK, the UPI article is simply lying when it claims that the French population would still be rising even if immigrants were not having more children. With a fertility rate of 1.8, native French, by definition, will be shrinking in numbers eventually. If the actual population figures of native French are still increasing, it is because life expectancies are now longer and thus that older French citizens are simply sticking around with their (increasingly few) children for longer.

    The part of your implicit argument I agree with is that the prospect of “Eurabia” is unlikely because, like all “industrialized” (or, better, consumerized) cultures sated with the commodities of Western life, Eurorpean Muslim immigrants are also gradually having fewer children. Like native French, British, Russians, etc., they’ll probably extinguish themselves via failure to breed as well.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, KK, the UPI article is simply lying when it claims that the French population would still be rising even if immigrants were not having more children. With a fertility rate of 1.8, native French, by definition, will be shrinking in numbers eventually. If the actual population figures of native French are still increasing, it is because life expectancies are now longer and thus that older French citizens are simply sticking around with their (increasingly few) children for longer.

    The part of your implicit argument I agree with is that the prospect of “Eurabia” is unlikely because, like all “industrialized” (or, better, consumerized) cultures sated with the commodities of Western life, Eurorpean Muslim immigrants are also gradually having fewer children. Like native French, British, Russians, etc., they’ll probably extinguish themselves via failure to breed as well.

  • Cincinnatus

    And yeah, sg, I’m far from a “moderate” who jives with the ascendant multi-culti paradigm of “diversity” and white-self-loathing. But seriously. Nothing about a person can be attributed to something other than genetics? In proper measure, I agree with your argument which I shall summarize briefly: some people are just stupid. No amount of education, child-rearing, indoctrination, or re-programming can “fix” some folks. I’m even open to the notion, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, that, per The Bell Curve, genetic IQ distributions actually exist, and can actually be identified within the boundaries of specific ethnicities and races.

    But that’s a far cry from insisting that everything about a person is predetermined by genetics. The fact that I have a penchant for music may be genetic, but the fact that my musical preferences include Bach and classic rock but exclude Stravinsky and punk rock probably has more to due with the particular musical environment and education in which I was raised. The fact that I am white is genetic; the fact that I chose to pursue higher education is probably not (no one else in my family has). And, of course, we could employ tODD’s reductio ad absurdum: I certainly wasn’t born knowing ancient Greek or Plato.

  • Cincinnatus

    And yeah, sg, I’m far from a “moderate” who jives with the ascendant multi-culti paradigm of “diversity” and white-self-loathing. But seriously. Nothing about a person can be attributed to something other than genetics? In proper measure, I agree with your argument which I shall summarize briefly: some people are just stupid. No amount of education, child-rearing, indoctrination, or re-programming can “fix” some folks. I’m even open to the notion, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, that, per The Bell Curve, genetic IQ distributions actually exist, and can actually be identified within the boundaries of specific ethnicities and races.

    But that’s a far cry from insisting that everything about a person is predetermined by genetics. The fact that I have a penchant for music may be genetic, but the fact that my musical preferences include Bach and classic rock but exclude Stravinsky and punk rock probably has more to due with the particular musical environment and education in which I was raised. The fact that I am white is genetic; the fact that I chose to pursue higher education is probably not (no one else in my family has). And, of course, we could employ tODD’s reductio ad absurdum: I certainly wasn’t born knowing ancient Greek or Plato.

  • kerner

    If 100% of who we are is genecally derived, how could there be such things as fashion or trends?

    Yeah, tODD, I guess I was a little inartful. Society is, in fact, organized mainly by the choices that its members make in large numbers.

    But that is what I meant, really. Because so many American individuals have made the choices to have fewer children, and to micro-manage the lives of those children in such detail, it has become harder for those of us who want, or just have, large families to function by conventional means. Being unconventional already (by virtue of the comparitively large numbers of our children) we have to continue to be unconventional to prosper in a culture whose majority have rejected our way of life.

  • kerner

    If 100% of who we are is genecally derived, how could there be such things as fashion or trends?

    Yeah, tODD, I guess I was a little inartful. Society is, in fact, organized mainly by the choices that its members make in large numbers.

    But that is what I meant, really. Because so many American individuals have made the choices to have fewer children, and to micro-manage the lives of those children in such detail, it has become harder for those of us who want, or just have, large families to function by conventional means. Being unconventional already (by virtue of the comparitively large numbers of our children) we have to continue to be unconventional to prosper in a culture whose majority have rejected our way of life.

  • kerner

    I mean “genetically” derived. Geez! my typing today is even worse than usual.

  • kerner

    I mean “genetically” derived. Geez! my typing today is even worse than usual.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    100% of who we are does come from our DNA. There is no other source. However, that doesn’t mean that everything we know is stored there, which of course everyone knows and I credited everyone with understanding. It is a straw man to contend that folks don’t learn because DNA makes them who they are. DNA makes us who we are but it obviously doesn’t control things that happen to us. I am not sure why some think that a person’s nature means he doesn’t react to his environment. Of course he does. The way he reacts is a result of who he is. Just as different folks react differently to correction, or education, etc. Some react calmly and are open minded and try to clarify their position or ask questions to tease out a clearer understanding, others uh, react more emotionally and construct straw men to embarrass and shame the folks who suggest different ideas or ask how certain conditions may affect a situation. So, yeah, tODD, I think your reaction is gratuitously derisive. Anyway, environment is very important and likely accounts for about half of the variation we see. The other half, namely nature, is often overlooked or discounted entirely, which is why I throw it in when appropriate. There needs to be some acknowledgement that both aspects matter. We need to ask whether something that is necessary is also sufficient, because sometimes it isn’t. It is good to be able to look at it honestly.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    100% of who we are does come from our DNA. There is no other source. However, that doesn’t mean that everything we know is stored there, which of course everyone knows and I credited everyone with understanding. It is a straw man to contend that folks don’t learn because DNA makes them who they are. DNA makes us who we are but it obviously doesn’t control things that happen to us. I am not sure why some think that a person’s nature means he doesn’t react to his environment. Of course he does. The way he reacts is a result of who he is. Just as different folks react differently to correction, or education, etc. Some react calmly and are open minded and try to clarify their position or ask questions to tease out a clearer understanding, others uh, react more emotionally and construct straw men to embarrass and shame the folks who suggest different ideas or ask how certain conditions may affect a situation. So, yeah, tODD, I think your reaction is gratuitously derisive. Anyway, environment is very important and likely accounts for about half of the variation we see. The other half, namely nature, is often overlooked or discounted entirely, which is why I throw it in when appropriate. There needs to be some acknowledgement that both aspects matter. We need to ask whether something that is necessary is also sufficient, because sometimes it isn’t. It is good to be able to look at it honestly.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg, let’s be blunt here: where do you stand on the question of free will? I recognize that free will is always constrained (my possible range of choices is delimited by circumstances, by what is even conceivable or “thinkable” in given circumstances, and perhaps even by my genetic limitations). But a prominent trend in biological psychology these days posits, like you, that our actions and reactions in given circumstances are determined by chemical reactions in our brain, which chemistry is genetically predetermined and not a function of some abstract notion of choice. I’m oversimplifying a bit, obviously, but not exaggerating, because said psychologists then go on to proclaim that responsibility is meaningless and choice is illusory, with all the dangerous consequences that attend such ideas.

    So, your thoughts? Personally, I find such ideas repugnant. But I could be missing something.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg, let’s be blunt here: where do you stand on the question of free will? I recognize that free will is always constrained (my possible range of choices is delimited by circumstances, by what is even conceivable or “thinkable” in given circumstances, and perhaps even by my genetic limitations). But a prominent trend in biological psychology these days posits, like you, that our actions and reactions in given circumstances are determined by chemical reactions in our brain, which chemistry is genetically predetermined and not a function of some abstract notion of choice. I’m oversimplifying a bit, obviously, but not exaggerating, because said psychologists then go on to proclaim that responsibility is meaningless and choice is illusory, with all the dangerous consequences that attend such ideas.

    So, your thoughts? Personally, I find such ideas repugnant. But I could be missing something.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Eurorpean Muslim immigrants are also gradually having fewer children. Like native French, British, Russians, etc., they’ll probably extinguish themselves via failure to breed as well.”

    Ah, yes, western consumer culture, where genes go to die. The thing is as long as the population is shrinking, and they need a growing population to keep the economy and welfare state going, there will be a giant sucking sound pulling in ever more immigrants. So, it is still a race to the bottom. It isn’t some bright future on the horizon. This is not a winning strategy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Eurorpean Muslim immigrants are also gradually having fewer children. Like native French, British, Russians, etc., they’ll probably extinguish themselves via failure to breed as well.”

    Ah, yes, western consumer culture, where genes go to die. The thing is as long as the population is shrinking, and they need a growing population to keep the economy and welfare state going, there will be a giant sucking sound pulling in ever more immigrants. So, it is still a race to the bottom. It isn’t some bright future on the horizon. This is not a winning strategy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    a prominent trend in biological psychology these days posits, like you, that our actions and reactions in given circumstances are determined by chemical reactions in our brain, which chemistry is genetically predetermined and not a function of some abstract notion of choice. I’m oversimplifying a bit, obviously, but not exaggerating, because said psychologists then go on to proclaim that responsibility is meaningless and choice is illusory, with all the dangerous consequences that attend such ideas.

    Yeah, they overstate the case, a lot. While the chemical reactions in our brain do in fact exist and do influence how we react, so the genetic disposition to x behavior is not zero, it also is not entirely determinant either. My objection is in reducing the genetic disposition to zero and assuming that social engineering can somehow be equally effective for everyone. It can’t. While everyone will be affected by a specific set of conditions, the mileage will vary. So the pressure to have smaller families affects some folks more than others. Since the environmental factors are controlled, the next obvious question (but not necessarily the answer) is whether there is a natural but heretofore unexamined factor that may have some influence. It is worth asking because it may have some effect. If there is an effect, it will be only a partial one, not an absolute one, but it will be measurable and real, and natural in origin. I don’t know why that is so threatening, but apparently it is whenever the discussion involves psychological traits, as though evolution/selection can’t affect modern humans from the neck up, but can affect every other organism brain and all.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    a prominent trend in biological psychology these days posits, like you, that our actions and reactions in given circumstances are determined by chemical reactions in our brain, which chemistry is genetically predetermined and not a function of some abstract notion of choice. I’m oversimplifying a bit, obviously, but not exaggerating, because said psychologists then go on to proclaim that responsibility is meaningless and choice is illusory, with all the dangerous consequences that attend such ideas.

    Yeah, they overstate the case, a lot. While the chemical reactions in our brain do in fact exist and do influence how we react, so the genetic disposition to x behavior is not zero, it also is not entirely determinant either. My objection is in reducing the genetic disposition to zero and assuming that social engineering can somehow be equally effective for everyone. It can’t. While everyone will be affected by a specific set of conditions, the mileage will vary. So the pressure to have smaller families affects some folks more than others. Since the environmental factors are controlled, the next obvious question (but not necessarily the answer) is whether there is a natural but heretofore unexamined factor that may have some influence. It is worth asking because it may have some effect. If there is an effect, it will be only a partial one, not an absolute one, but it will be measurable and real, and natural in origin. I don’t know why that is so threatening, but apparently it is whenever the discussion involves psychological traits, as though evolution/selection can’t affect modern humans from the neck up, but can affect every other organism brain and all.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Ah, yes, western consumer culture, where genes go to die.”

    Which leads to the question of which traits in individuals would cause them to reproduce robustly under the conditions of western consumer culture? Does any particular group possess these traits in a greater abundance than any other group? If such heritable traits do exist, we will see more of those folks because they reproduce robustly under these conditions. I think it is unlikely that all people react exactly the same nor that the differences are entirely random. Would the effects attributable to the will of individuals form a random pattern or a pattern that conforms to a natural explanation, an environmental one, or a dynamic natural/environmental one? I doubt that pure randomness would emerge because it never does. Finally, where does nurture come from? Isn’t it created by people? So, where did they get it?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Ah, yes, western consumer culture, where genes go to die.”

    Which leads to the question of which traits in individuals would cause them to reproduce robustly under the conditions of western consumer culture? Does any particular group possess these traits in a greater abundance than any other group? If such heritable traits do exist, we will see more of those folks because they reproduce robustly under these conditions. I think it is unlikely that all people react exactly the same nor that the differences are entirely random. Would the effects attributable to the will of individuals form a random pattern or a pattern that conforms to a natural explanation, an environmental one, or a dynamic natural/environmental one? I doubt that pure randomness would emerge because it never does. Finally, where does nurture come from? Isn’t it created by people? So, where did they get it?


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