Slate Magazine has a piece today asking the question, "How Did Humans Figure Out That Sex Makes Babies?"
To me, a far more interesting question is when did we forget it?
1/11/2013 01:54:00 PM
The number one leading cause of babies is sex.
I heard a theory that primitive humans once thought that eating pork brought forth new human life in the womb of a mother.Which is as hilarious as it is stupid. It'd only take a human tribe that is, say, fairly atypically stupid to realise sex made babies after say, the first or second generation, so the answer to the slate magazine's question would seem to be: "Almost since Human beings had sex"
We wanted to forget it when the pill was invented, but when we couldn't completely forget, we continued to try more seriously in 1973. The question now is when will the human race once more treasure children?
Your question is more interesting, Matt.As a partially disillusioned former (perpetual) anthropology student, I have to say I've finally gotten sick of the "how/when did humans figure out...?" questions. Why do those most resolutely against human exceptionalism forget that humans are animals, most likely equipped with all kinds of cognitive patterns and urges that do not require learning? To add to this, primitive humans were probably every bit as clever as we are, and easily found causal relationships everywhere they looked.
@ Robin E.: True enough, but other animals don't know that sex creates babies, either. No other animal on earth knows it exists, they certainly can't abstract the reproductive act. So the question "when did people figure out X" is actually a legitimate one, but its answer is pretty much just "whenever they became sapient in the first place".Also, there are at least two human groups that don't know where babies come from. Namely, the Tiwi, and, well, us. After all, 40% of people polled thought abstinence was not the most effective form of birth-control (I guess the Virgin Birth wasn't as miraculous as we thought), and the Tiwi believed girl children had to be married at birth, in case they (spontaneously) became pregnant.You could probably chalk those instances, certainly in our case, up to, basically, deliberately self-induced mental illness, just like some societies have practiced sibling marriage in open defiance of instinct (pace Freud, there is an instinctive aversion to mating with people you were raised with, it's called the Westermarck effect). Nevertheless there are societies that really don't know where babies come from.
You missed a far more newsworthy article at Slate called "About That Overpopulation Problem..." It's one of the best explanations I've heard yet as to why families nowadays are having too FEW babies -- to the point that, IF present worldwide fertility trends continue unabated, world population could be cut in half within 200 years, and humanity could concievably (pardon the pun) be extinct within 300-400 years: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/01/world_population_may_actually_start_declining_not_exploding.htmlBearing in mind this is an article written entirely from a secular, scientific point of view, here is the author's startling conclusion: "As much as we adore our little guys, they’re a lot of work and frighteningly expensive. Most of our friends have just one or two kids, too, and like us they regard the prospect of having three or four kids the way most people look at ultramarathoning or transoceanic sailing—admirable pursuits, but only for the very committed."That attitude could do for Homo sapiens what that giant asteroid did for the dinosaurs. If humanity is going to sustain itself, then the number of couples deciding to have three or four kids will consistently have to exceed the number opting to raise one or zero. The 2.0 that my wife and I have settled for is a decent effort, but we’re not quite pulling our weight. Are we being selfish? Or merely rational? Our decision is one that I’m sure future generations will judge us on. Assuming there are any."Elaine