Thinking about things is both easy and hard. It is easy to sit around, like the mass of our academics, frittering away the day dreaming of nonsense that is of no consequence to anyone. If you are, for example, Leah Lowthorp of Harvard University, thinking about the world is easy. She is the Harvard College Fellow in Folklore & Mythology so she spends her days thinking about elves and sprites.
If on the other hand, if you wish to understand something about the real world, thinking about the stuff you see and hear for the purpose of discovering truths about the world is hard. The world is complicated. There are easy to recognize trend lines, but seemingly infinite variables underlying them. Even the stuff we think we now can be turned on its head quickly.
I would imagine that most of my readers have heard about the many worlds interpretation and some of you may even know the math. I used to have a reader who was a doctoral candidate in physics, but I have not heard from him in some time. Regardless, this is extremely tough stuff that is well beyond what most of us can comprehend. I suspect most people reject the “Big Bang” because it makes no sense to them. It does not make that much sense to physicists.
Anyway, this came to mind when reading this post by Steve Sailer today. Sailer is a smart guy, but he has his blind spots and knowledge holes just like everyone else. My first reaction was to jump on the fact that political parties are not very good proxies for ideological groupings. One of my pet themes is the broader, more subtle cultural groupings that define American political life. Somewhere in the comments I make that point.
In those comments is something that got me thinking about how hard it is to think about this stuff in a clear way.
Worth reading all of the posts Jayman links to. He has written on this extensively.
It is also worth considering how much the political orientation gap among white Republicans and white Democrats has widened over time. In the mid-seventies, white Republicans were only slightly more likely to self-identify as politically conservative than white Democrats were. That difference has trebled in the last four decades to the point that white Republicans are now far more likely to identify as conservative than white Democrats are.
Political orientation is probably more heritable than partisan affiliation. I’d guess the gap will appear wider on the liberal-moderate-conservative spectrum than on the Democrat-independent-Republican one.
Two variables that are stronger predictors of fertility than political orientation or party affiliation are educational attainment (inversely correlated, especially for women) and religiosity (positively correlated–to the extent that high IQ people who attend religious services regularly outbreed the irreligious at every level of intelligence, social class, race/ethnicity, etc.
Parenthetically, educational attainment looks to be the driving force, not intelligence. Fertility by wordsum score varies little once educational attainment is controlled for, but educational attainment is a strong predictor even after wordsum score is controlled for–put more clearly, educational attainment is 5x as strong a predictor of fertility as IQ is.
The strong inverse relationship between education and fertility shows up strongly on the international level as well.
For as long as I have been alive, the official religion has claimed education results in fewer children. Specifically, educated women have fewer children. Even more specifically, stupid uneducated women have litters of rugrats because they are too dumb to work a rubber. This is the automatic response from Progressives anytime the topic of fertility comes up. I have heard it since forever.
That’s always struck me as ridiculous. Stupid teenage girls know where babies come from and how they are made. Humans have understood the mechanics of baby making since the dawn of time. The ancients knew about the use of Silphium as a contraceptive and abortifacient. The women of Rome were not heading off to the university to study folklore, yet they seem to have known where babies came from and how to prevent pregnancy.
Further, there are plenty of examples to the contrary. In the English speaking world, there was a time when the upper classes had loads of kids as a way to signal their success and intelligence.Then we have modern Iran where women don’t have ready access to formal education and their TFR is below replacement. The connection between education and fertility, if one exists, is not necessarily causal.
That’s where things get hard and maybe why the official response is the official response. There’s something that drives women to seek out credentials and it also may drive them to avoid motherhood. In other words, there’s some third element that explains the correlation between education and fertility. But, thinking about that is hard and it may reveal things that are unpleasant. Best not to get too close to those truths.
Watching the iceberg of life is easiest from a distance. Get too close and you discover unpleasant things, like there is a big portion of it under the waterline ripping a hole in the hull of your ideological ship. Everyone on the Titanic was wiser about the human condition after the ship started taking on water, but it came with a dear price. Most people are happy to not know and you can’t blame them for that.
Even so, fertility rates tend to fall when a society’s prospects are on the wane. In times of stress, we typically see a spike in religious observance. Yet in the West, church attendance has collapsed along with fertility rates. At the same time, the quest for credentials by women is at an all-time high. The women of the West are telling us something through their behavior, but no one seems all that interested.