What about the more standard explanations, that industrialization removes the need for kids to help you, social security removes the need to have kids around when you are old, birth control, abortion, and modern mores make it trivial to have sex without kids, and the complexity of modern society has extended the parental responsibility for kids from ~12 years to ~30 years? Why build castles in the air when there are plenty on the ground?

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I once heard Drew Pinsky say that you were more likely to get infected from swimming in a pool containing one drop of hepatitis infected blood than injecting yourself with a full needle of AIDS-infected blood. And many IV drug users don't know that they are using AIDS-infected needles.

Possibly the biggest lesson Kleiman tries to impart is that increasing swiftness & certainty works much better than increasing severity. Hawaii's "H.O.P.E" program had astonishing success with meth addicts just by threatening them with a day in jail if they failed to call in to check if they were being drug-tested that day, or failed their drug test. Doctors who have gotten themselves addicted to narcotics had earlier designed a similar treatment program based on close monitoring of whether the addict was clean and prompt responses. Mao Tse-Tung angled more for the severity end of the spectrum, but he was also successful in stamping out opiod usage. Singapore has the death penalty for drug dealers and I believe it has been more successful than our drug policies.

I highly doubt if I aimed a gun at the head of a drug abuser and told them I would pull the trigger if they didn't put down the needle, they would respond by noting their life was as bad as death anyway and proceed to shoot up. The death penalty has been expressly permitted from the beginning of the Constitution, and even if you object that it doesn't apply to drug-users, just note how eager drug users in the H.O.P.E program are to avoid even a day in jail.

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TGGP, when a self-injected drug user willingly uses needles they know are likely infected with HIV (because an HIV positive individual just used it to inject drugs), what punishment are you going to threaten that self-injected drug users with that will "deter" their drug use?

The question isn't whether you or any other non-drug abuser thinks that drug abusers "should be" deterred, the question is whether self-injected drug abuses actually feel deterred. Since the lifestyle they are already living is worse than the worst punishment allowed under the US Constitution, how can you deter them with punishment?

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Oops. "actually be fully consistent" should read "actually may be fully consistent" ...(Hmmm. can we get a preview feature installed on this blog? Thanks.)

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Historically, and continuing in poor populations today, children are a form of weatlh. Having children improves your odds that someone will be around to take care of you when you get old. Hence the statement, "Bless you sir, may you have many children!" But nowadays, and in our more developed societies, children have instead become, in many cases, a huge expense. I think that children=wealth vs children=expense arguments go far to explain the number of children produced. That, and birth control. (Note: I realize that this actually be fully consistent with Robin's essay, but I must confess to not fully understanding it.)

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Deterrence can work, even in the war on drugs. If you don't believe me, ask Mark Kleiman. The problem is that the war on drugs generates a host of problems itself which just aren't worth taking on (though since I don't have a paternalist bone in my body, you'd expect my calculations to come out that way).

The question is not just how many breeding offspring, but how many offspring those breeding offspring have.

Alleged Wisdom makes a good point, though by the time women settle down they have often passed their peak fertility years.

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This theory does not explain why women have fewer children than they can afford after they become the overt mate of a high-status man. If it was all about delaying reproduction to attract such men, then we should observe that women have lots of children after they succeed in attracting such a man.

I think that the simplest explanation is that we never evolved a proactive desire to have children because it was not necessary. Remember that we are adaptation executors, not fitness maximizers The sex drive, and a strong instinct to protect children once they arrived, was sufficient. But then we invented birth control.

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I'm interested in the overt/covert part. It's surprising that 2 of our past 3 presidents had fathers who where rogues with both types of relationships.

1. Bill. Dad: either the bad guy they tell us about, or the guy with a complete and successful overt family and a covert son who became the most powerful man on earth.


2. Barack. Dad: a guy who had multiple families and at least two successful Western sons.

3. George W. Dad: a man whose accomplishments and size, if you didn't hear him speak, would have sounded like a member of an uber-class. That's ignoring the fact that he himself was a President and had a powerful father.

Nothing I know of about RMN's father, RR's father or JEC's father. But JFK's fits.

Best qualification to be President: have an alpha dad who is also smart.

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Russel, how does a woman increasing her status increase the number of surviving and breeding offspring she has? Over evolutionary time, the average number of surviving and breeding offspring the average woman had was 2. We know it was 2 because if it was greater than 2 the population would have reached levels we know did not happen. A woman with 3 surviving and breeding offspring would be 50% more successful than the average woman, a gigantic increase.

A man increasing his status may increase the number of children he has by a lot because he has more females and so conceives more children. The number of surviving children a woman has depends more on how many survive childhood than on how many times she gets pregnant. The number depends more on her health, her access to food, her ability to protect her children from harm, and whether she has someone to care for her children if she dies in childbirth.

It is not at all clear to me that increased status improves the survival of a woman's children.

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In cultures where the top man has many overt mates, the top man's sons are more likely to become victims of fratricide. Joining a harem is not a clearly dominant female reproductive strategy.

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That's not really a rebuttal. It says ev-psych theories more weight than should be warranted and people unduly consider certain things to be "iron clad certainties". But Robin made plain this is a hypothesis he developed with an associate during a car ride. You might as well have just linked to this as your rebuttal, which would be even stronger since he hasn't published this in a peer reviewed journal!

Additionally, the complaint that evolution didn't stop at the pleistocene explicitly does not apply to Robin's hypothesis (which distinguishes farmers from hunter-gatherers). And the point that the evolution exploited outdated gene-environment relationships is made by pretty much all evolutionary psychologists, most especially those that focus too much on a single homogenous Evolutionary Adaptive Period as the font of all modern psychology!

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Interesting theory, but I don't believe it. Too elaborate, too many variables would have to be just so, to produce anywhere near the observed effect.

Here's my alternative, simpler theory:

In the ancestral environment, opportunities to raise your status were few and far between. So evolution essentially told us: any time you see an opportunity to raise your status, take it, put everything else aside for the moment if you have to, because it's the one thing that won't come again.

In the modern environment, there is such a glut of opportunities to raise your status that you can spend the entirety of what should have been your reproductive life doing nothing else. Therefore, many do.

I don't think this is a complete explanation, but I think it's at least partly true. In particular, it addresses the question of why both male and female plans to have children always tend nowadays to be "maybe after I finish high school/graduate from college/get my Ph.D./get my career on a solid footing/have enough money for a mortgage, in a decent area of course/oops, too late".

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"...male selectivity is invariant to group size, while female selectivity is strongly increasing in group size."


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Robin, those two are coupled but not completely. Reduced desire is readily apparent in the modern world, and artificial contraception makes the desire to not have children a reality. In the "wild", a lack of desire may not have been effective. Even now, the conception rate during rape (presumably in rape, if there is no desire to have sex, there can be no desire to have children with the rapist) is remarkably high.

For some women, their desire to have children fluctuates with their cycle. Why wouldn't that desire also be coupled to their ability to raise an infant until it is weaned? In the "wild", if an infant could not be sustained until it was self-sustaining, then it would die of starvation. Any interruption in the chain of continuous daily feeding and the chain breaks and the reproductive cycle needs to start over.

Modern conditions are too new to change the evolved paradigms which are from deep evolutionary time.

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floccina, "consistently" doesn't mean "always." I'd like to see someone expand an "urbanization" theory into more evolutionary detail. Same goes for Tim's meme and K-strategy theories. As I hope my post suggests, it takes a lot to work out such detail. Bock & lior, you have clearly never observed a very high status man seeking a wife.Michael, I didn't say women don't compare themselves to other nearby women.Doug, are you really suggesting no one should ever suggest an evolution-based theory of any human behavior?Gareth, I suggested an explanation for delayed fertility. daedalus2u, it seems fertility is reduced mainly due to lower desire for kids, not lower ability to have kids.

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men compete on resources, females compete on altruism.

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