Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Darwinian outlook might increase fertility among elites

There is reason to believe that a Darwinian outlook increases fertility among elites.

Using GSS data, I formed two groups. The first is of math, computer, and physical scientists (n = 126). The second group includes biologists, agricultural and medical scientists, physicians, and veterinarians (n = 85). I followed this strategy on the assumption that the two groups are similar but that evolutionary realities are closer to the center of the latter group’s worldview.

Next, I calculated the mean number of offspring. I limited the sample to people between the ages of 45 and 69. For the first group, the average is 1.62 children. It’s 2.04 for the biological group. Confidence intervals overlap just a bit, so the difference is not statistically significant at the .05 alpha level (two-tail test).

I still take this as evidence that a Darwinian view might encourage smart people to have more kids. In an age where fewer and fewer elites find religion credible, we need to be Darwin’s evangelists. Of course, values cannot be derived logically from the fact of evolution, but I think natalism could be psychologically compelling to many if their worldview were Darwinian.


  1. What about sex? I'm sure the bio group was more female, are the numbers about the same for men & women in each group?

  2. The Undiscovered Jew5:13 PM

    Using GSS data, I formed two groups. The first is of math, computer, and physical scientists (n = 126). The second group includes biologists, agricultural and medical scientists, physicians, and veterinarians (n = 85).

    Two problems with your theory:

    1) Doctors are much more extrovert, charismatic and better looking than people in math and computers. Because they are more charismatic, doctors probably have higher levels of testerone than math nerds.

    2) Doctors also earn more than mathematicians.

    Because of these factors, Doctors have much better sexual opportunities and higher sex drives than math nerds do. Hence the higher birthrate among doctors.

  3. Why would a Darwinist WANT to have more kids than a NON-Darwinist? That's an important and unanswered question.

  4. This is a good idea, and I see that you need to pool professions to get large enough numbers, but pooling physicians and vets with bioscientists doesn't really make sense to me.

    I am a physician and a bioscientist, and the two groups are very unlike in personality - and the physicians marry more and have a lot more kids.

    In evolutionary psychology circles, the fertility is clearly very low - Richard Dawkins with three wives and one child, Steve Pinker with no children, and the younger generation seems even less likely to conceive (especially the women). There are exceptions, of course.

    My guess is that the low fertility is a consequence of atheism - 'Darwinists' are the most solidly atheistic group I have ever experienced.

    To be more accurate, it looks as if devout montheism is the only thing able to combat the fertility reducing effect of IQ, and anywhere you get a lot of high IQ atheists you get very few children.

  5. I am a physician and a bioscientist, and the two groups are very unlike in personality

    Right, doctors also have notoriously high rates of Creationism.

  6. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I think scientists, with all their peculiarities as a class in personality and obsessions, are likely to be a somewhat exceptional in what choices they make (or have made for them) regarding size of family.

    But I have often speculated that an acceptance of the Judith Harris point of view on child-rearing -- namely that parental influence beyond genes is pretty minimal -- might have a significant effect on size of family in many affluent families.

    The conventional affluent parent today is thoroughly convinced that the success of their progeny is highly dependent on precisely how much stimulation, encouragement, and overall attention is paid to them. It's clear that the amount of such attention is, roughly, inversely proportional to the number of children. Therefore, the fewer the children, the better chance each has to succeed and make mom and dad proud or smug (depending on their ultimate motivations).

    If these parents accept instead their own basic impotence to bring about any large effect on the success of their children (assuming that they simply provide an adequately stimulating environment), then the calculation changes dramatically. It becomes very hard to justify the absurd attentions typically lavished on their children, and the punishing schedules (both to child and parent) now common in many upper middle class families. In the less harried environment of a family not encumbered by a belief that environment is all, having more children may well seem a much more agreeable prospect. And if an affluent family secretly or openly wishes to have a child to distinguish the family name, that's more likely to come about if they have more children.

    In short, it strikes me that one way to achieve the "eugenic" effect of increasing the birth rate of the genetically more blessed classes is precisely to get those classes to understand the basic truths of human biology.

    I think that in general any form of eugenic policy is very likely to verge into something quite deplorable. But simple knowledge of how important the role of genes is, and of how the environment is far less critical than has been thought, will allow many people by their own choices to make more sensible and "eugenic" decisions.

  7. @Jason Malloy: Right, doctors also have notoriously high rates of Creationism.

    In my personal experience (after all, I'm not 'the inductivist'!) and speaking about the UK, where creationism is pretty rare; quite a significant and outspoken proportion of my med school class were 'evangelical' Christians.

    By contrast, I would guess there are approximately zero evangelicals among evolutionary biologists - doesn anyone know of any black swans?

  8. Anonymous11:34 AM

    "In short, it strikes me that one way to achieve the "eugenic" effect of increasing the birth rate of the genetically more blessed classes is precisely to get those classes to understand the basic truths of human biology."

    Unfortunately more educated people who should better understand the reality may actually be more likely to reject it.

    Also, environment is somewhat important. Kids who don't have at least reasonable access to education or have extremely chaotic homes will definitely be disadvantaged vs. those that have better opportunities.

  9. Anonymous11:50 AM

    "Also, environment is somewhat important. Kids who don't have at least reasonable access to education or have extremely chaotic homes will definitely be disadvantaged vs. those that have better opportunities."

    But the point is that the baseline of a reasonable and adequate environment is vastly easier to achieve than an environment in which each child must receive maximal attention and stimulation in order to be successful. If you are a parent, and particularly if you are one of two working parents, you are going to find it hard to provide the latter kind of environment for more than one or, at most, two children. If, though, you believe that it is only the baseline environment that's truly critical, then you can reasonably believe you can readily provide such an environment certainly for two, and very likely for three or even more children.

  10. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Just to add one small further point.

    I think the best way to understand my suggestion is that the conventional wisdom about how many children one should raise will likely change as the impact of genetics is better accepted.

    The conventional wisdom will likely reflect the kind of logic that I've outlined.

    And nobody falls in more abjectly with the pack mentality, and the conventional wisdom the pack adopts, than an affluent parent. I certainly don't so much imagine that affluent parents by the exercise of such individual judgment as they can muster up will come to the conclusions I've spelled out.

  11. "There is reason to believe that a Darwinian outlook increases fertility among elites... I still take this as evidence that a Darwinian view might encourage smart people to have more kids"

    I think Darwinism encourages atheism, and therefore decreases fertility. Since the GSS directly asks about evolution, you can test your theory directly; no reason to go by occupational proxies for evolution belief.

    Among people with WORDSUM 8-10, those who believe in human evolution (EVOLVED; asked in 93, 94, and 00) had 1.82 children compared with 2.07 children for those who did not believe in human evolution.

    (For WORDSUM 1-7, the numbers are 2.06 and 2.52.)

    Using a similar question (SCITEST4; asked in 06 and 08), smart people who strongly believed in evolution had 2.15 children, while smart people who strongly did not believe in evolution had 2.63 children.


  12. I think Darwinism encourages atheism, and therefore decreases fertility.

    Actually, it must be more than this; even looking only at those who believe in God (GOD(3-6)), belief in Darwinism decreases fertility: 1.85 children vs. 2.54. The relationship is the same for those who say they have no doubts whatsoever that God exists (GOD(6)): 1.82 vs 2.60!

    Variables: WORDSUM(7-10), EVOLVED, AGE(45-69), CHILDS

  13. generic commenter4:48 PM

    Nice try, but backwards. The ironic reality is that Creationists have a much higher Darwinian fitness than evolutionists.

  14. generic commenter4:54 PM

    "Backwards" refers to the conclusion of the OP, not to Malloy, whose results I have succinctly summarized.

  15. So it looks like I was just wrong about atheism. Taking atheists and agnostics out of the equation barely changes the effect: belief in Darwinism is associated with reduced fertility independently of theological opinions.

  16. This finding is very similar to the previous thread where you found that belief in evolution (more accurately, belief in science) was far more predictive of pro-choice beliefs than religious or political variables.

    Similarly, belief in evolution predicts lowered fertility better than church attendance or faith in God.

    Religion is a misdirection. How trusting you are in science is more predictive about your reproductive behavior and beliefs than your religion or politics.

    Acceptance of science (including, if not especially, Darwinism) lowers fertility more than rejection of religion.

  17. So, just to reiterate, here are the logistic regression coefficients for pro-choice belief:

    Liberalism .271**
    Skepticism about God .298**
    Scientists don't pry .753**

    **p < .01, two-tailed test

    Support for science predicts pro-choice beliefs far more than religion or politics.


    And now here is the same analysis for fertility:

    Liberalism .032
    How often attends church .115**
    Scientists don't pry -.508**

    Again, the real predictor of fertility is science belief. Not religiosity.


    And now here is the same analysis for number of sex partners in the last year:

    Liberalism -.129
    Skepticism about God -.041
    Scientists don't pry .646**

    Science belief strongly predicts promiscuity, while religiosity and political affiliation does not.


  18. Oops, variables for fertility in the last post should have been: CHILDS, POLVIEWS, ATTEND, SCIPRY

    Also, 'liberalism' should be called 'conservatism' for sex partners and fertility.

  19. Sexual political issues can be compared with non-sexual political issues like views on crime.

    Pro-science and atheistic people tend to be against guns and the death penalty because they are liberal, not because they are pro-science. e.g. Pro-science conservatives are not against guns and the death penalty, etc.

    But on sexual issues like abortion, pro-science people are pro-choice because they are scientific. e.g. pro-science conservatives are for abortion, etc.

    That doesn't mean support for abortion is somehow "more scientific," it means some world-view with a strong pro-science identity is highly correlated with behaviors and beliefs (and it looks very socially liberal and secular) independently of religious belief, participation, and political affiliation.

    This world-view needs to be referenced instead of atheism/religiousness when speaking of trends in sexuality -- like fertility -- because it is more fundamental to the trends.

    Perhaps it should be called Neo-liberal Scientism.

  20. The "do scientists pry where they shouldn't" question (SCIPRY) was just asked in 1988. A similar question -- "do we trust in science too much?" (TRUSTSCI) -- was asked in 1998 and 2008. The dominance isn't so dramatic, but again this variable is more explanatory than religion or politics.

    Here is abortion:

    Liberalism .392**
    Skepticism about God .244**
    Trust in science .430**

    Here is number of children:

    Liberalism -.135**
    Skepticism about God -.177**
    Trust in science -.183**

    Here is promiscuity:

    Liberalism .007
    Skepticism about God .048
    Trust in science -.191**

    Science belief is the only variable that significantly predicts promiscuity.

    The pro-science correlations are not a proxy for intelligence or education. Intelligence and education do not predict abortion views, fertility, or promiscuity better than political or religious views.

    (The exception is for education and promiscuity. Religion, politics, and intelligence do not significantly predict promiscuity, while education predicts more sex partners slightly better than science belief.)

  21. Anonymous4:52 PM

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  22. I combined the 1988, 1998, and 2008 questions into one variable to boost sample size to 3,313: SCIFUND (scientific fundamentalism).

    Now we can include education in the regressions (intelligence has even lower correlations).

    Support for abortion:

    Liberalism .364**
    Church Attendance -.195**
    Education .394**
    Pro-Science .737**

    Number of Children:

    Liberalism -.083
    Church Attendance .143**
    Education -.097
    Pro-Science -.423**


    Liberalism .061
    Church Attendance -.022
    Education .252**
    Pro-Science .423**

    Approval of teenage sex:

    Liberalism .244**
    Church Attendance -.208**
    Education .095
    Pro-Science .580**

    Support for pornography laws:

    Liberalism -.180**
    Church Attendance .210**
    Education -.231**
    Pro-Science -.432**

    Support for extra-marital sex:

    Liberalism .221**
    Church Attendance -.202**
    Education .287**
    Pro-Science .729**

    Homosexuality wrong?:

    Liberalism -.448**
    Church Attendance .204**
    Education -.531**
    Pro-Science -.822**

    Evolution belief is closely related to Scientific Fundamentalism, so you can use SCITEST4 and get very similar results. For example "Is Homosexuality wrong?":

    Liberalism -.330**
    Church Attendance .148**
    Education -.410**
    Pro-Evolution -.561**

    Is teen sex wrong?:

    Liberalism -.256**
    Church Attendance .181**
    Education -.207**
    Pro-Evolution -.329**

    I wonder how many Creationists read this blog? They'd have a field day with this stuff.

    Nothing predicts support for sexual libertarianism/abortion better than Evolutionism/Scientism. Evolution belief is far better than atheism or leftism if you're trying to predict libertine values. You have a better chance of predicting someone's values if you know they believe in human evolution, than if you know they are devout Christians who go to church twice a week.

  23. Even though we see that scientism is associated with low traditional sexual morality, we've also seen that it doesn't increase support for violence. But does it increase dishonesty, as tolerance for extra-marital sex suggests?

    The GSS suggests it has a significant connection to honesty, while church attendance does not have a connection to honesty.

    CARDO asks if you'd lie to policeman after a friend recklessly injured a pedestrian with a car:

    Liberalism .072
    Church Attendance -.064
    Pro-Science -.717**

    TRUST asks if others can be trusted (somewhat an index of how much you yourself can be trusted). Science belief and evolution belief are associated with trust:

    Liberalism .030
    Church Attendance .042
    Pro-Science .675**

    Liberalism -.033
    Church Attendance .078**
    Pro-Evolution .270**

  24. @Jason Malloy

    Very interesting and worthwhile line of argument - but as things stand Science Belief is a post-hoc derived variable, the reality of which is conjectural.

    There is coherence to the idea of regarding religious belief as potenitally a unitary variable, e.g. something which causes itself and which causes other things - at present none for regarding Science Belief in the same way.

    Maybe Science Belief is a coherent psychological entity instead of being a confounder? Could be - stranger things have happened.

    As things stand that needs to be shown using other types of evidence; not just surveys.

    In cognitive neuropsychology people look at 'dissociations' at the level of individual case studies. This is one direction to go - because survey data are very approximate, self reported, and self-interpreted.

    We need a precise prediction about what psychological states are possible (according to theory) then precise information about whether any exceptions to this theory can be found.

    This is a step in the direction of elucidating causality.

    Longitudinal data on individuals (what state precedes the other state, and is therefore potentially causal) is another step in this direction.

    The first step is probably to elaborate an hypotheses about what Science Belief might be, how it arises and is transmitted, what causes it and what does it cause, maybe something about its neuroscience?

    The more complex and inter-related the theory, and the more exactly spelled-out are the causal pathways in the theory, the more implications the theory has in as many domains as possible (testable using as many methodologies as possible) - the easier and more rigorous will be tests of the theory.

    So, first of all, create a theory of the nature of Science Belief!

  25. bgc,

    Well, I'm not sure I believe that support for science, generally, or that belief in evolution, more specifically, causes sexual behaviors or values (as is the hypothesis of this post), just that they are highly associated (I would guess that a genetic personality variable, like openness to experience might underlie the constellation, while political and religious identifications are strongly influenced by shared family environment). What's worthwhile enough right now is that someone's beliefs about science or evolution appears to hold more information content about their (mostly sexual) values than their education, intelligence, religious beliefs/participation, and political self-identification. This much is not conjectural.

  26. This much is not conjectural

    That is, it is a statistical argument, not a theoretical one (such as a causal variable). It, of course, could still be spurious for a number of reasons.

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