August 21, 2013
Conscientious People Making Fewer Babies

Why bring babies into a world full of so many unconscientious people?

Men with neurotic personality traits are having fewer children compared to previous generations, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Personality. The study examined the effect of personality on how likely a person is to have children, using extensive survey and birth registry data from Norway. It also found that men who are extraverted and open tend to have more children, while women who rank as conscientious on personality tests tend to have fewer children, although these findings were constant across generations. 

The study could have important implications for population dynamics at a time when fertility rates across developed countries have fallen to below replacement rates. Personality effects may be one factor contributing to the decline of fertility rates in Europe, says IIASA’s Vegard Skirbekk, who led the study, but they have not previously been studied in detail.  Population changes are an important factor for projecting future changes in sustainability, climate, energy, and food security, IIASA’s core research areas.

Natural selection has accelerated in the human race. Some of the selective pressures have reversed since humans in developed countries left the Malthusian Trap. Fertility is rising. I do not think this ends well.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 August 21 10:16 PM 

James Bowery said at August 22, 2013 4:01 AM:

It's not natural selection if its not nature doing the selection.

Artifacts dominate the environment. Government policy is an artifact. The mere lack of stated intent is a silly criterion for applying the adjective "natural".

Which leads me to ask the obvious question:

What was the prevalence of "neurosis" among Norway's men in 1957 vs today?

OneEyedMan said at August 22, 2013 4:44 AM:

@James, human beings are part of nature and so is the social environment in which they operate. Seems like a sort of sexual selection where conscientious people fail to mate with mates that will produce a large number of offspring.

SOBL1 said at August 22, 2013 8:13 AM:

Seems that Audacious Epigone had a post a while back pointing out how most of the fertility is on the lower end of the African socioeconomic scale. It's UWestern aid and charity that enables the high birth rates. If present trends continue, it's just more cannon fodder for the eventual African setting of WW3 between China and the USA.

Nick G said at August 22, 2013 9:31 AM:

More than half of all kids are unplanned, courtesy of the religious right that makes contraception so difficult.

We don't have to force anyone to have fewer children - people are desperate to have fewer kids, if the larger society would just get out of their way.

Some groups have sharply higher fertility, like Mormons. I suspect that's selection not for fertility, but for authoritarian tendencies (i.e., oppression of women and parents).

Nick G said at August 22, 2013 9:34 AM:

women who rank as conscientious on personality tests tend to have fewer children

In this case, it sounds like selection against careful use of contraceptives...

Acksiom said at August 22, 2013 1:03 PM:


Oh, so you ARE paying attention! Good!

Now, where were we. . .ah yes.

>Fertility is rising.


And now, for the third time, I'm pointing out to you this solid and serious counterpoint:

>The only way I can see to prevent it: government-mandated genetic engineering of offspring to reduce the next generation's desire to have kids.

What about the coming RISUG/Vasalgel revolution in male birth control? They're expecting FDA approval for market release in the usa by 2015. I'm confident that a 99+% reversible MBC injection with a 10-year lifespan will be more than popular enough to throw off all their predictions. Did they mention that at all?

James Bowery said at August 22, 2013 1:43 PM:

OneEyedMan there is a reason the qualifier "natural" is applied to the word "selection" in Darwin's writings. The distinction between artificial selection and natural selection is not only important, it is essential to the quality of being Conscientious. The selective consciousness with which we have been saddled -- specifically by those promoting the idea that humans bear no responsibility for their cultures* --is a denial of humanity.

Culture is properly defined as artificial selective pressures resulting from transmissible norms and values.

For example, when we culture corn, wheat, cows, chickens, etc. it is agriculture. When we alter the natural environment in such a way as to alter the course of human evolution, we are engaged in human culture of humans.

OneEyedMan said at August 23, 2013 4:32 AM:

@James, I agree that not all human selection would be constructively thought of as natural. But there is no intent here to select for conscientious people, so in that sense the sexual selection he is no different then when peacocks and peahens do it.

Raritania said at August 23, 2013 1:44 PM:

Leftist talking points are surprisingly irrelevant in the real world, Nick, no matter how popular they may be in your echo choir. Unless by "religious right" you are talking about right wing Muslims, Hindus, or pagans. Someone forgot to tell Nick that Obama is president of the US now, not Reagan. Duh.

The reason Africa is undergoing a population explosion has almost nothing to do with lack of access to contraceptives. More like lack of motivation for their use. If goody two shoes westerner NGOs want to provide medicines, vaccines, food, infrastructure support, and monetary aid, just take the goodies and say "no thanks" to the condoms. African men don't like them.

James Bowery said at August 23, 2013 2:48 PM:

OneEyedMan, the ecological impact on sexuality of human eusociality is nothing less than devastating. This is not sexual selection we are talking about -- it is, ultimately, selection for asexual reproduction imposed by artifacts of human eusociality. Intent has nothing to do with the distinction between "natural" and "artificial". The only thing required to apply "artificial" is "artifact".

Anthony said at August 24, 2013 8:45 AM:

Raritania, no, most of Sub-Saharan Africa is Christian not Muslim. It is the Roman Catholic church which has said that "AIDS is bad but condoms are worse." It is the Roman Catholic church which has frustrated family planing in Africa and around the world because;

"Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found." - Monty Python

Phillep Harding said at August 24, 2013 9:23 AM:

Onan was killed for breaking tradition, for not fathering a child by his brother's widow so the brother would have an heir. This is often misread as punishment for birth control in general, or masterbation. Totally off base.

Men from several cultures go into spasms at the mere idea of using any sort of birth control; their manhood is tied up in fathering many children. What happens to the kid afterwards? Eh. Woman's work, woman's problem.

From what I've been able to gather, any excuse based on Christianity is just that: a modern justification for a long standing, cultural imperative.

Guernsey said at August 24, 2013 9:40 AM:

Evangelical religions are the hot christian faiths on the african contininent. Catholicism is passe'. Islam is hot to trot, moving down from the desert at warp speed. Spiritism is the root faith of africa, and will be around long after the middle eastern faiths have passed.

What kind of a nut gets exercised over religions anyway? I could see if a religion were blowing up buildings or cutting off people's heads. You have to know that religions get painted over the human soul like canvas, palimpsests. There is no pure religion, everything has to work through the jumbled chain of command, from old brain to new brain and back again.

The sex drive is primal and rules all.

Meme Platform said at August 24, 2013 6:24 PM:

Memes beat genes. They replicate and mutate several orders of magnitude faster. In places with the best communication technologies, they've managed to hijack most of the calories for themselves away from genetic replication. Also, some of the more virulent ones have managed the neat trick of building almost-autonomous drones that vaporize brains that won't adopt them.

It doesn't look good for the future of human biology, but, then, I'm sure that I'm infected by some rather awful memes.

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