I enjoy receiving interesting dissenting comments from readers. One female reader, calling herself Kate, wrote in to defend Laurie Penny's anti-maternalism
. Kate's argument, in brief, is that it is a sign of intelligence to be able to override natural imperatives to have children and that it is logical for intelligent women to seek to have the least number of children. Here is her comment:
Higher IQ and more intellectualism sharply, sharply decreases the likelihood that a woman wants to have any children, once you get into the high IQ categories:
Intellectualism/higher IQ increases the likelihood that one is capable of conceiving of the difference between their subjective individual interests and the interests of their genes. And high IQ also sharply increases the likelihood that one decides to serve their own subjective interests rather than mindlessly and slavishly serving the interests of their genes, like all other animals.
It's no surprise that men are less likely to recognize the discrepancy between their own interests and the interests their genes have in reproducing, since they're not generally at odds. A man experiences an orgasm and thus replicates his genes, thus serving both his subjective interests and the interests of his genes in reproducing in the same action, with no conflict.
On the other hand, reproducing and serving the interests of her genes is extremely detrimental to the individual female. She risks death, drastically decreases her future ability to attract mates, becomes extremely sick and physically vulnerable, and suffers a whole host of detriments.
In all species, investing in the individual comes as a cost trade-off with investing in reproduction, and in some species reproduction automatically means death, imposing the highest possible cost. Luckily that is not so for humans, but there is a HUGE difference between the natural costs imposed for men versus women. The law tries to even it out a bit, but it's clear that most women, when given the choice, choose to invest the minimum possible amount in reproduction in order to get one set of genes into the future, which is exactly what we would expect given the high costs nature imposes on her. Men are naturally capable of investing the minimum amount and therefore we don't see the same strong drive to avoid reproduction. The more intellect a woman has and the more self-awareness and control over her destiny, the more likely she is to not want to have children at all, and why should she?
Serious question for the author: would you still be so enthusiastic about serving the interests of your genes in replicating, if doing so would make you very weak and ill for months or years at a time, make you MUCH less attractive to women, present a 25% chance of death (we're talking pre-modern medicine), require a day of excruciating pain and ripping open your genitals, and require your constant attention and investment of resources and energy for two decades? I'm guessing you would not.
I mostly disagree with this. Kate has referenced research by an evolutionary psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa. It is true that Kanazawa argues that highly intelligent people are more likely to adopt evolutionarily novel values. At the same time, he argues in his paper that voluntary childlessness by intelligent women, though a novel value, is highly maladaptive. Kanazawa is particularly concerned that intelligence is largely inherited through mothers and that if the trend for the most intelligent mothers to be childless continues, that average levels of IQ will decline.
He could also have pointed to other reasons why the choice is maladaptive. German women, for instance, have a remarkably low birth rate and this speeds the process by which the existing German population and culture is replaced by a Muslim one. In other words, German women may not be thinking ahead clearly even when it comes to what Kate calls their "own subjective interests" - and foresight is surely an indicator of intelligence, is it not?
Here's a further problem. There is at least some evidence that feminist women like Laurie Penny are not so much pioneering "evolutionarily novel" values, as much as wanting a return to prehistoric ones. Civilisation was built on the monogamous family, as this was the model that gave to the largest number of men a high level of motivation to invest productively in society. But it required the suppression of other, more ancient evolutionary "values", such as female hypergamy, in which women were free to mate with the most successful male in the tribe.
The hypergamous instinct is going to be especially problematic for highly intelligent women, as the numbers of men more intelligent than them will be limited and as they will have to compete with other women for them. The problem is compounded by the fact that highly intelligent women in modern societies will have been indoctrinated with ideologies that are hostile to men, to femininity and to family life - making such women less attractive as mates to the men who might otherwise be their partners.
This might help to explain why highly intelligent men do end up having children at an expected rate, whereas highly intelligent women do not.
Just to underline this point, it does seem as if one element of the feminist sexual revolution was to free women to pursue their ancient hypergamous instincts, rather than having to "settle" for a man of middle-ranking or low status. But this too is maladaptive in various ways. It means that the highest status men are flooded with female attention; these men grow confident in having a surplus of female interest and have the upper hand in relationships. They do not need to settle anytime soon. So the hypergamous women are not exactly getting what they want either, i.e. commitment from a high status male. Many will spend their years of peak attractiveness managing only to succeed in coaxing short term commitments out of these men.
And this relates to my next point. It is a sign of intelligence to be able to order the different instincts and experiences we have in life. For instance, a young man might face a choice between his instinct toward promiscuity and his instinct toward love and fidelity with just one woman. He can't have both in full measure; most men for some centuries now have ordered their lives by giving preference to love and fidelity, though no doubt hoping that their sexual impulses might be at least partially met within marriage.
To me, it is a sign of intelligence if a person is ordered towards the higher goods of family life, as these have a higher quality than the other goods that are necessarily compromised. Within a well-functioning family life we are best able to fulfil our natures as men and women by undertaking the roles of father and mother, husband and wife; we create our own unique family environment, one that is hopefully founded on love and care; we are best able to transmit our own culture and tradition into the future, thereby acting in defence of our own inner identity and of the communities and culture that we love and wish to defend.
Another issue I have with Kate's comment is that she jumps between what exists in a state of nature and what exists within civilisation. For instance, the costs of having children in a state of nature might well be heavier for women than for men - until recent times, the risk to a mother's health was considerable.
But in modern times? I'm not sure it's true anymore. A man who commits to marriage and children locks himself into a relationship as much as a woman does. He takes on the main responsibility for providing, with all the investment of time and energy this requires. He is legally vulnerable if the marriage ends, and will have to accept most of the negative consequences of this outcome, including loss of home, children and income. He will be under considerable pressure to make the marriage work and his wife therefore has much leverage over him in the relationship. From my own experience, when the children are small it might be true that the mother is under more pressure, but at other times it is likely that the father will be the one taking on the heaviest burden.
Finally, Kate asks some specific questions to me at the end of her comment. It is a bit artificial answering these questions, because I am answering them as a man with a man's priorities. For instance, the idea of maintaining my own tradition is very important to me, so when Kate asks if I would be willing to undergo hardships in order to have more children, then the answer would be yes.
One question I can answer as a man is the one about pregnancy and attractiveness. Pregnancy does not make a woman ugly to men. There is something quite beautiful about a woman who is carrying a child. And afterwards women don't necessarily lose their looks. There are millions of beautiful mothers out there - believe me, the male libido is more than strong enough to render this issue relatively unimportant. The real issue is that many men are not keen on raising other men's children - that is what might make a woman with children at least somewhat less attractive to a new partner.
I suppose it all depends on what a woman sets out to do. If a woman wants to play revolving relationships, then having children might be detrimental to her interests. But if she expects to live within a stable marital relationship, then I don't see that children are as detrimental as Kate describes them as being.