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The morality of Population growth control measures

rousseau

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Hard to get the gist of the entire conversation above without in depth reading, but the idea that the majority of humans aren't genetically inclined to want kids is untenable to me.

The simple proof is that those who don't want kids fall out of the gene pool. Only those who have (and presumably want) kids, reproduce, meaning subsequent generations will continue wanting kids. Even if we normalize for social norms, this is only going to weed out the people who didn't really want kids, leading to a population that more ubiquitously wants kids.

If that were true, then wouldn't we expect the proportion of humans who do not want to have offspring to be basically nonexistent at this point? The effect you suggest is exponential, in that each generation would be another round of weeding out those without the "gene" for wanting children. Yet, we see no evidence that today's population of humans is any more pro-reproduction than any past population. If anything, the acceptance of childlessness is at an all-time high at this point in history, which would be unlikely if every generation was subjected to a process of winnowing out those who are reluctant to be parents. Your argument is actually a good reason to believe that there is actually no genetic compulsion for kids, just for things that are sometimes associated with kids (like sex), and qualities that are regarded positively in others as a proxy (like cuteness or vulnerability). It's arguable that these traits are what our genes program us to pursue, and culture fills in the rest of the sentence. Otherwise, there would be no way to explain people who enjoy cute babies but don't want one of their own, or love sex but are staunchly antinatalist; their very existence means they had a long line of ancestors, which doesn't really fit with the stringent selection pressure mechanism you are proposing.

Here's some homework for you: try to pick apart your own post. Going to go enjoy my weekend.

Also: just place 'want' with 'have'.. same effect.

- - - Updated - - -

And it's not just not having no kids at all, it's also not having more kids. If we were 'genetically progammed' no one would use family planning, and its use is widely prevalent where it and information about it are freely available. This probably highlights the cultural and situational aspects of the issue, and we all understand how culture and attitudes can change with circumstances even when genes don't. Because, of course, nowadays it's understood that we are not progammed by our genes when it comes to this behaviour.

There is of course competing factors. It can be true at the same time that:
- someone wants kids
- someone doesn't want unlimited kids
 
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bilby

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Until very recently, there was no need for an evolved 'gene for wanting kids', because such a gene would have had little impact on total fertility rates.

As long as people have evolved to enjoy sex (and we observe thst they have), and as long as the difference between the preferred frequency of sex and the maximum rate at which children can be produced is large (people like to have sex at a frequency measured in days, but a woman can't have much more than approximately one child per annum), simply having a desire for sex is sufficient to cause large families - as we observe people have had throughout most of history.

The ability to have lots of sex, but to nevertheless safely and effectively choose whether or not to have lots of children, is very new, and represents a radical change to our environment. Evolution has had only one or two generations to react to that change, which isn't anywhere close to enough time for an observable effect to arise.

In the presence of a powerful sex drive, there is no selection pressure at all favouring a genetic predisposition to want children, and there is no reason to expect to find such a thing. And the evidence backs that up - women with access to the means to choose whether or not to have children typically have few or none - even in the face of familial and social pressures to have kids.
 

ronburgundy

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Hard to get the gist of the entire conversation above without in depth reading, but the idea that the majority of humans aren't genetically inclined to want kids is untenable to me.

The simple proof is that those who don't want kids fall out of the gene pool.

This is a circular argument. You are saying that the proof that people are genetically driven to have kids is that that those whose genes lead them to not want kids would be driven out of the gene pool, which only makes sense if you start with the assumption that variability in wanting or not wanting kids is genetically determined.

If differences in socialization and circumstances that are independent of genetic variation determine variance in desire for kids, then the differences in who has kids will have little impact on the gene pool.

In fact, the existence of and growing prevalence of people who do not want kids or who want fewer and fewer is a fact in direct contradiction to what would happen if the desire for kids was genetically determined. Thus, strongly supporting a cultural/socialized/context-based source of the desire for kids.
 

rousseau

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Hard to get the gist of the entire conversation above without in depth reading, but the idea that the majority of humans aren't genetically inclined to want kids is untenable to me.

The simple proof is that those who don't want kids fall out of the gene pool.

This is a circular argument. You are saying that the proof that people are genetically driven to have kids is that that those whose genes lead them to not want kids would be driven out of the gene pool, which only makes sense if you start with the assumption that variability in wanting or not wanting kids is genetically determined.

Nope. Phenotypic variation is a natural by-product of evolution. There will always be *more* people who don't want kids, but there will *never be no* people who want kids. Evolution tends toward there being a centre of humanity that is driven to produce children, with people on the fringes that don't produce. The directionality is toward children, it can never be to not have children.
 

ronburgundy

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BTW, this whole discussion of the basis for the desire to procreate is derail of no relevance to the OP. Unless we buy into the naturalistic fallacy, the prevalence and/or biological basis for the desire to procreate has no relevance to the morality of procreating or to efforts to restrict it. In fact, the derail should be moved to the "natural science" section b/c it has no moral implications.
 

rousseau

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The subtlety that's missing in some of the posts above is that there would most certainly not be a 'gene' for wanting or not wanting kids, but rather an entire genome of genes that are all oriented toward the end of producing kids. The end-goal of a living thing is to produce more living things, and so literally every gene in our body contributes to that outcome. Reproduction is the reason for every single one of our gene's existence.

And so it's not 'you have this gene you want kids' or 'you don't have this gene you don't want kids', it's way more complicated than that. It's 'you have a huge mess of interconnected genes that all interact to ensure you are interested in finding a partner to mate with'. This may or may not mean you 'want' kids, but the whole system will literally always be oriented toward the outcome of you 'having' kids, whether that's through a normalized social structure, or in fact, you actually wanting kids, or you just not realizing being childless is an option for you.

I'll grant that the current genetic system may be more oriented toward ensuring we have sex, and that reproductive technologies may have an impact. But even then, the people who still continue to reproduce are the ones who pass on their genes. Make sense?

The idea of literally any species ever not being oriented toward reproduction is absurd, because that's literally what life is. A group of living things evolving out of existence is a physical impossibility.
 

Thumpalumpacus

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The fundamental problem of population control is that the incentives and disincentives which guide people's choices, have no effect on the people who create the population problem, who of course are people have yet to be conceived and be born.

It's usually a petulant adolescent complaint, "I didn't ask to be born!", but true, none the less. If we want to decrease the rate of population increase, legal suicide(boy, is that a dumb idea) and euthanasia won't put a dent in the statistics. After all, what's the point of killing someone who's time to consume resources is near the end, anyway. How much could you save?

The only practical way to control population growth, without cutting back on vaccines or turning off the tsunami warning systems, is to make life for the currently alive, conducive to having a minimal number of children and for many people, no children at all. The best way to do this may sound counter intuitive, but reducing infant mortality is a good start. The second step is to raise the standard of living, especially for people who now subsist off the land, which for millennia have depended upon large families, simply to have a ready labor supply. Reduce the need for labor and reduce the population.

The inverse ratio between national GDP and national birthrates is pretty well-documented, and arises precisely because of the factors you mention. Additionally, to the desperately poor, surviving children represent a sort of retirement plan, and I think that factors in somewhere.
 

bilby

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The subtlety that's missing in some of the posts above is that there would most certainly not be a 'gene' for wanting or not wanting kids, but rather an entire genome of genes that are all oriented toward the end of producing kids. The end-goal of a living thing is to produce more living things, and so literally every gene in our body contributes to that outcome. Reproduction is the reason for every single one of our gene's existence.

And so it's not 'you have this gene you want kids' or 'you don't have this gene you don't want kids', it's way more complicated than that. It's 'you have a huge mess of interconnected genes that all interact to ensure you are interested in finding a partner to mate with'. This may or may not mean you 'want' kids, but the whole system will literally always be oriented toward the outcome of you 'having' kids, whether that's through a normalized social structure, or in fact, you actually wanting kids, or you just not realizing being childless is an option for you.

I'll grant that the current genetic system may be more oriented toward ensuring we have sex, and that reproductive technologies may have an impact. But even then, the people who still continue to reproduce are the ones who pass on their genes. Make sense?

The idea of literally any species ever not being oriented toward reproduction is absurd, because that's literally what life is. A group of living things evolving out of existence is a physical impossibility.

Human beings are absurd. We don't live in our environment; We modify environments so we can live practically anywhere. We have recently decoupled fucking from childbearing - and are the only species to have ever done so. All the assumptions grounded in the history of life prior to this development are void. All bets are off.

Most species go extinct - and the reasons for their extinction are many and varied; But humans could quite possibly go extinct because we decide not to have children. It's quite reasonable (and certainly physically possible) for a species to 'evolve out of existence' (for given meanings of that phrase). Extinction is a driver of evolution, as it opens up niches that would otherwise be unavailable. Dinosaurs had to go extinct before the mammals could take over the world.

Humans are not genetically oriented towards reproduction - like most mammals, we are oriented towards having sex, and sex and reproduction were so closely linked for all of history that that was sufficient. Evolution tends towards sufficient solutions for everything. It doesn't do perfection.

Sex and reproduction are no longer linked for humans. Wanting sex no longer implies having kids, and wanting kids is not a genetically driven imperative (unlike wanting sex, which appears to be).
 

rousseau

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The subtlety that's missing in some of the posts above is that there would most certainly not be a 'gene' for wanting or not wanting kids, but rather an entire genome of genes that are all oriented toward the end of producing kids. The end-goal of a living thing is to produce more living things, and so literally every gene in our body contributes to that outcome. Reproduction is the reason for every single one of our gene's existence.

And so it's not 'you have this gene you want kids' or 'you don't have this gene you don't want kids', it's way more complicated than that. It's 'you have a huge mess of interconnected genes that all interact to ensure you are interested in finding a partner to mate with'. This may or may not mean you 'want' kids, but the whole system will literally always be oriented toward the outcome of you 'having' kids, whether that's through a normalized social structure, or in fact, you actually wanting kids, or you just not realizing being childless is an option for you.

I'll grant that the current genetic system may be more oriented toward ensuring we have sex, and that reproductive technologies may have an impact. But even then, the people who still continue to reproduce are the ones who pass on their genes. Make sense?

The idea of literally any species ever not being oriented toward reproduction is absurd, because that's literally what life is. A group of living things evolving out of existence is a physical impossibility.

Human beings are absurd. We don't live in our environment; We modify environments so we can live practically anywhere. We have recently decoupled fucking from childbearing - and are the only species to have ever done so. All the assumptions and the history of life prior to this development are void. All bets are off.

Most species go extinct - and the reasons for their extinction are many and varied; But humans could quite possibly go extinct because we decide not to have children. It's quite reasonable (and certainly physically possible) for a species to 'evolve out of existence' (for given meanings of that phrase). Extinction is a driver of evolution.

Humans are not genetically oriented towards reproduction - like most mammals, we are oriented towards having sex, and sex and reproduction were so closely linked for all of history that that was sufficient. Evolution tends towards sufficient solutions for everything. It doesn't do perfection.

Same thing. Sex is the proximate cause of reproduction, but propagation is the ultimate cause. Our desire for sex ultimately exists because we are oriented to reproduce.

I would also question the assertion that 'sex' is the sole reason we reproduce. There are likely many causes, which include a subset of our species that actually does want kids (have you ever heard of women :D)

Sex and reproduction are no longer linked for humans. Wanting sex no longer implies having kids, and wanting kids is not a genetically driven imperative (unlike wanting sex, which appears to be).

No argument from me there. I had no real qualms with your post, just some of the fallacies about genetics that were being committed by others. I'll add, though, like I said above, once you start decoupling sex from reproduction, all this means is that future populations will become *even more* oriented toward reproduction. Because those who opt out are no longer forced to have kids.

That's not going to eliminate people who don't want to reproduce, but the direction is still going to move towards reproduction.
 
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fromderinside

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Just as there's advantage for cheaters there's advantage for rapists, the more obscene the more likely. It's always been a common tactic in warfare.

Forget about Wynne-Edwards sacrificing grouse. Such provides advantage to the the doer just as Williams noted back in the day way before Dawkions as kin selection.
 

DrZoidberg

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Yes it does follow from your argument. You said that that obeying our genes makes us happy and not obeying our genes makes us sad. That presumes that our genes our selected to promote behaviors that make us happy. And many people do not think they will be happier with kids and the prevalence of such a belief is not merely genes but massive socialization coercion to have kids. Also, the happier people are prior to having kids, the less likely they are to have them, because kids reduce one's ability to engage in other pleasurable activities. That is why it is mostly people made unhappy by poverty or by living in oppressive countries that are having most of the kids. And when people have kids, most of the time their happiness actually decreases, which is why most couples wind up having fewer kids than they planned.

No, it doesn't follow from my argument. I don't know if you're on purpose trying to misunderstand? Do you know how desire works in humans? "If only we have one more kid, then we'll be happy". When we think about getting kids we're rewarded. When we do things that might lead to having children (like sex) we're rewarded. But it's very short. Once we have the kid, that turns off. Because there's no point in placing someone in constant happiness. That's why people on heroin don't do shit.

That's why people who have kids are unhappier, even though they're genetically re-enforced for happiness whenever they do anything that promostes it.

I recommend reading Thomas Metzinger's, the Ego Tunnel, if you want to learn more about how we're genetically controlled to do stuff.

It is as much a choice as humans can possible make. People choose things that lower their happiness every day. Emotions are just one type of information that informs choices, and it's not just a matter of increases positive emotions and decreasing negative one's. People often act to do things that increase their sadness (like sticking with a miserable job or relationship) in order to decrease fear of uncertainty. Unlike most animals, humans do not simply react to immediate emotional states. We delay gratification and often reduce our net gratification for the sake of others. That's because people focus their attention of isolated features and isolated goals rather than their current or even long term net gratification. For example a mother who endures a life of abuse and misery on a daily basis resulting in a net reduction in positive emotion by every type of measure, b/c she focuses solely on an isolated goal of staying in the role she thinks is her duty.
Failing to optimize net gratification doesn't mean a choice has not been made, unless you use the tautological assumption that choices require optimizing net gratification.

You're confusing us choosing between different parallel emotional gratifications with other stuff. If dopamine isn't triggered when you make the less happy choice, you won't make it. As you seem to understand when you mention avoiding fear. So you seem to understand what I'm saying, agree with it... yet argue against it... for some reason? Very confusing.


No it won't. Plenty of people actually become unhappy, depressed, and even suicidal after fulfilling the evolutionary task of procreating. Societies have created cultural systems to shame and incentivize people into having kids, because plenty of people would not naturally choose the stress and other negative emotions often caused by procreating. Also, we only have one "happiness system". Any individual act only contributes a small % to overall happiness, and that contribution is itself multi-faceted because an act can have countless consequences, some of which reduce happiness and some increase it, and those effects differ in being long or short term. So, how any act impacts happiness is determined by how and what consequences a person chooses to focus upon. IOW, happiness is a choice and under a person's control, not simply an byproduct of genetically determined actions.

Again... I'm not, sure what you disagree with? You seem to be saying yes, we're genetically remote controlled by our genes, so therefore we aren't. It's quite confusing.

I am not arguing with the OP, but with assertions about "faux choices" and the role of emotions in those choices and in human evolution, which is irrelevant to whether our society would put up with controlling births, which in turn is irrelevant to the question of whether it would be morally acceptable to have such policies.

People in China kept having more children than they should. Kept making stupid decisions that led to children, and ended up being punished for it. There was mass abortions etc. China proved the degree of draconic measures that were needed in order to do this. This is strong genetic programming. People don't learn.

And the widespread view that having children is the greatest achievement in life is not simply genetically determines but the result of massive social coercion and indoctrination. There wouldn't be so much effort to promote that notion by every sector of society, pop culture, and authoritarian religion, if our genes were sufficient to dispose us toward it naturally. The more free people are to choose their actions without social coercion or being constrained by poverty, the fewer kids they have.

I think the social pressures about getting kids are about re-enforcing beliefs that are inherrent. Much like the Christian's claim that their morals come from the ten commandments even though they simply list stuff that's genetically pre-programmed into us, that we can't not agree to.

If some people develop a revulusion to contraceptives and it's genetic they'd over time out compete the rest of us.

But that is a big improbable "If", because Lamarck was wrong and traits do not appear in the genome just because they would be evolutionary useful. Odds are low that such a genetically determined revulsion would ever appear in the genome, because of the infinite things that could be useful, only a tiny fraction of a fraction of a percent of them ever appear in the genome. What appears is a small subset of random alterations constrained by the biochemistry of what is in the genome already. Sure, given infinite time, it would happen, but there is not infinite time in the future of humans who will be extinct before such a variant has the chance to arise. Betting on what genetic variations will arise in order to be selected for is a sure fire way to lose.

Again.. you agree with me. Not sure why you keep doing this.

One of the most common female sexual fetishes is the feeling of being ejaculated inside. Nature can be quite intricate in how it programmes us

And evolution is extremely sloppy, and has equipped the human brain with capacities that regularly undermine the goal of procreation and make things like that fetish less likely to lead to procreation. Many of the women with that fetish also have an instinct to rid themselves of threats to their well being, and as a byproduct of evolution there are many activities that increase their well being which are hampered by a child, thus making a child a threat to well being and the desire to get rid of it a byproduct of evolved traits.

Again... we seem to agree.
 

aupmanyav

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Well, neither over-population nor zero population growth are beneficial to any country or even worldwide, unless that society is looking for world domination (let the population grow and spread. They would themselves find ways to sustain themselves. The middle path is probably the best so that the ration of old and young people is manageable.
 

steve_bank

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A native or aboriginal population lives in balance with the local food and water supply. They don't have much but do have a decent diet of fish from a lake and farming and a few cattle.

A well meaning organization comes in and provides prenatal care and vaccinations that reduces infant mortality and youth mortality.

Population grows beyond local resources Fish is wiped out, not enough water for people and farming. Population once healthy gets sickly.

Was the addition of vaccinations moral or immoral?

If you think you have god like wisdom of some kind then IMO it is immoral. Meddling with uninyended consequences.

China tried population control with limits to children perfamily and forced abortions. Culturaly it led to infanticide. Parents killed female babies hoping to get a boy next time. It led to an increase in males and a decrease in females leading to social problems.

Unintended consequences.

It has to be rational voluntary population control for it to work. In the USA post WWII birth rate declined with increa sing education and economic growth. People married with no intention of having kids.
 

DrZoidberg

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A native or aboriginal population lives in balance with the local food and water supply. They don't have much but do have a decent diet of fish from a lake and farming and a few cattle.

A well meaning organization comes in and provides prenatal care and vaccinations that reduces infant mortality and youth mortality.

Population grows beyond local resources Fish is wiped out, not enough water for people and farming. Population once healthy gets sickly.

Was the addition of vaccinations moral or immoral?

If you think you have god like wisdom of some kind then IMO it is immoral. Meddling with uninyended consequences.

China tried population control with limits to children perfamily and forced abortions. Culturaly it led to infanticide. Parents killed female babies hoping to get a boy next time. It led to an increase in males and a decrease in females leading to social problems.

Unintended consequences.

It has to be rational voluntary population control for it to work. In the USA post WWII birth rate declined with increa sing education and economic growth. People married with no intention of having kids.

The story of how we became farmers is fascinating. After farming started life got worse for humans in almost every way conceivable. Certainly for the next 9 000 years. So why did humans almost universally switch to farming? Numbers. Once a population switches to farming there's soon a lot more of them. They'll beat the hunter/gatherers in a fight. Even if most of them are chronically malnourished and sickly. It's a one way street.

A big problem of hunter/gather vs the farming lifestyle is space required. A hunter/gatherer tribe needs a hell of a lot more space to roam around if they're to stay healthy. I've seen some numbers on it. If all humans would be hunter/gatherers the carrying capacity of this planet would be something like 20-100 million tops. It's a question of fairness. Nearby farmers have no reason to put up with the relatively more destructive or wasteful hunter/gatherers. Oh, yeah... the hunter/gatherer lifestyle is a hell of a lot more wasteful than the farming lifestyle. Any notions of the contrary is Noble Savage pseudo-science... or stuff that somebody just made up. The idea that hunter/gatherers live more in harmony with nature than farmers is really really dumb.

So if it's a question of habitat protection the hunter/gatherers need to go. That's why Borneo spends so much efforts to civilise the "savages". It's to protect stuff like Orangutans.
 

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It turns out that the best means of population control is letting wealthy people have all of the money. Many poor and middle class people will decide that they can't afford to have kids and decide not to have kids.

Late capitalism and high income inequality is great for population control!
 

DrZoidberg

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It turns out that the best means of population control is letting wealthy people have all of the money. Many poor and middle class people will decide that they can't afford to have kids and decide not to have kids.

Late capitalism and high income inequality is great for population control!

That's not hos the causality works. Poor people have lots of children. The reason western poor people have stopped having kids is because they are historically wealthy. If your calory intake is reliable in life you're historically wealthy. That's why.

Also... it used to be a hell of a lot more unfair. If you count how close the poor was pushed to the brink of starvation instead of absolute numbers today's rich seem generous. We've a society right now that's extremely efficient at producing wealth. That's why wealth is so concentrated today
 

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Bronzeage

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Or how about this theory? Children are just a bad investment today

https://qz.com/231313/children-arent-worth-very-much-thats-why-we-no-longer-make-many/

I'm sceptical though. It doesn't explain why we have more kids when we're insecure financially. This would suggest the opposite. I don't think humans have kids for any rational, nor conscious reason. The article suggests we do

There is a finite amount of actions any human can perform, but there is no limit to the motivation behind any single action. One person may have a well reasoned and sound basis for doing something and someone else can do the same think, but based on poor perceptions and false logic.

"Financially insecure" is a very subjective term. I doubt any 10 people will have the same definition.
 

steve_bank

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More kids always meant more family security. Security for old people and a resource pool.\
 

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It turns out that the best means of population control is letting wealthy people have all of the money. Many poor and middle class people will decide that they can't afford to have kids and decide not to have kids.

Late capitalism and high income inequality is great for population control!

That's not hos the causality works. Poor people have lots of children. The reason western poor people have stopped having kids is because they are historically wealthy. If your calory intake is reliable in life you're historically wealthy. That's why.

Also... it used to be a hell of a lot more unfair. If you count how close the poor was pushed to the brink of starvation instead of absolute numbers today's rich seem generous. We've a society right now that's extremely efficient at producing wealth. That's why wealth is so concentrated today

So, poor people are just a bunch of animals who will have as many kids as possible regardless of their ability to feed them?

Nice.
 

DrZoidberg

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It turns out that the best means of population control is letting wealthy people have all of the money. Many poor and middle class people will decide that they can't afford to have kids and decide not to have kids.

Late capitalism and high income inequality is great for population control!

That's not hos the causality works. Poor people have lots of children. The reason western poor people have stopped having kids is because they are historically wealthy. If your calory intake is reliable in life you're historically wealthy. That's why.

Also... it used to be a hell of a lot more unfair. If you count how close the poor was pushed to the brink of starvation instead of absolute numbers today's rich seem generous. We've a society right now that's extremely efficient at producing wealth. That's why wealth is so concentrated today

So, poor people are just a bunch of animals who will have as many kids as possible regardless of their ability to feed them?

Nice.

We're all animals. Yes, that's exactly how it works. For everybody. I think we have children according to our genetic programming. And we just use our reason to justify it after the fact
 

steve_bank

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6-10 kids in a family used to be common. Post 60s white educated couples with a decent income had a drop in birth rates. It became common to get marries soley for tax benefits and have no kids.

On th other hand Latino families primarily Catho;loc have higher birth rates.

It spawned the 'replenishment' movement among white Christian Evangelical types. Get to makin' bacon to keep up with minority growth.

There is a stereotype of the large Irish Catholic family that is not all stereotype.

We are programed to mate. Sconce has taken us out of any population checks and balances. Abundant food 24/7, no predators, climate controlled dwellings.

The question is if we can get wise enough soon enough to make changes.
 
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