According to Satoshi Kanazawa, in his new book, The Intelligence Paradox, smart women have fewer babies: the higher the IQ, the less inclined a woman is to give birth. Well, I always knew a woman’s brain was good for something. And here I have been taking credit all these years for being a bachelor without children, when all along it was the intelligent women I dated that saved me from the blessings of fatherhood. Actually, I should have figured this out for myself, because while it is undeniably true that intelligent men don’t want to have children, it is just as true that the dumb guys pretty much don’t want to have them either. Clearly, the differentiating factor lies with the females. In my case, however, it is hard for me to tell whether the women I dated were too intelligent to have babies, or whether they were just too intelligent to have them with me.
As we all know, we have to be suspicious of any causal inference from a positive correlation. In particular, is it that smart women successfully avoid having children, or is it that having children takes its toll on intelligence? I was in the grocery store one day, when a woman and two children moved down the aisle past me. The little boy was in the basket seat, while his slightly older sister was walking along just ahead. Apparently they had been talking about something, to which I had not been privy, but I did hear the mother say, “Mommy used to be really smart until she had you two.” Just as stress fractures will weaken a steel girder, and render it unfit to support the weight of the floors above it; so too will the antics and chattering of a couple of children fracture what was once a powerful intellect and render it unable to support the heavy load of philosophical reflection.
But let us accept Kanazawa’s thesis that it is the IQ that is causative of a lower birth rate. He then goes on to say the following:
If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness. All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence.Now, just as we often speak as if the earth were flat, though we know it to be round; and just as we sometimes speak geocentrically, though we know that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun: so too do we allow ourselves the luxury of discussing biology in teleological terms, even though we know that life evolved by natural selection, without purpose or design. We do so, because avoiding these fictions and expressing our thoughts in a manner that is strictly correct is just too tedious to be endured. Unfortunately, sometimes a manner of speaking misleads us into confusing fiction with fact, and this seems to be the case with Kanazawa. Moreover, as if one fallacy per paragraph were not enough, he manages to lump in the naturalistic fallacy for good measure, arguing that if something is natural, then it is good. And then, going for thirds, he commits the fallacy of division, by inferring from what is “good,” so to speak, for the species, to what is good for the individual. After all, if having babies were good for the individual, it would not be necessary for sex to feel so good in order to get us to have them, and not having them would not be so often condemned as selfish.
As for this business about not having babies being selfish, as argued by Mike Huckabee and Tucker Carlson, I suppose I could respond by pointing out that the world is overpopulated. Think of how many problems, environmental and otherwise, that would be solved merely by reducing the population down to about one billion. Of course, the only way this planet will ever undergo a population reduction of that magnitude will be if a comet slams into it. And why is that so? Well, in no small measure, because people like Huckabee and Carlson selfishly have children at the expense of what would be best for mankind.
I could respond that way, but I won’t. Because my not having children was indeed selfish, and not motivated by the noble purpose of saving the world. It took three billion years of evolution to get to me, and it all stops here. But, by the same token, the tacit implication of the remarks of Huckabee and Carlson is that their having children was a noble and selfless act. Let’s face it. Most people have children because they have sex, and they have sex because it feels good, especially without wearing a rubber. For those who want to have children, it is for the pleasures of hearth and home, and not some self-sacrificing concern for the future well-being of the human race. In the end, one is almost tempted to employ Nietzsche’s theory of ressentiment in our understanding of moral values: they envy those who live the childfree life, and thus condemn it as evil, while declaring their own domestic drudgery as man’s highest calling.
Dubious claims of altruism aside, let us return to the subject of smart women not having babies. Prior to the twentieth century, and especially prior to the 1960s, it was very difficult to avoid having children. In fact, not a single one of our ancestors was able to avoid having a baby. No wonder we find it difficult to do so. In fact, before we give smart women too much credit for a lower birthrate, we have to acknowledge that not even a 180 IQ would likely be enough to avoid giving birth, were it not for the availability of effective birth control and legal abortions. Even with birth control and legalized abortions, it takes a smart woman to avoid having children; without these things, it takes a really, really smart woman to do so.
In fact, to get to the heart of the matter, really smart people don’t just avoid having babies—they don’t have sex at all.