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Women and children

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Hi all!

I'm new here and thought I should start my first thread with a question that has puzzled me a bit lately...

When meeting women a topic of discussion that has started to become more and more frequent is, well... children. This is of course not the first thing they will bring up and i'm mostly, but not exclusively, refering to female friends. So it's just that lately all women around me are talking about children.

I'm in my mid twenties now and most of the women i'm thinking about here are a few years older, so I suppose it's really nothing strange - although it is scary. My own position on this question is that, well... I would love to find a good woman and build a serious relationship, but kids? It could be a great experience, so maybe in a couple of hundred years when i've made my fortune and i'm ready to settle down...

I don't know if this behaviour is typical for women or if it's just the women i've met, but what really puzzles me is the whole psychology behind this. It seems so completely different for men and women. Of course the biology plays a big part in this, but what is it that drives women to want to have children?

I hope someone can help me understand this better because it's a bit of a mystery to me.

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I hope someone can help me understand this better because it's a bit of a mystery to me.

It would be far stranger and far more illogical if a living being (either female or male), the end product of billions of years of intense evolutionary selection and competitive survival, did *not* want to reproduce. That there are people who do not is basically about the power of human psychology and conceptual consciousness over more fundamental drives.

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If it's about evolution, then how exactly does it effect us - and are there male and female differences?

From an evolutionary perspective I have always equaled reproduction with sex. Thats sort of what happened before we had the means to enjoy sex without having children. However, I suppose it's a bit different for women since they have a different role. I would like to understand this more explicitly though.

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It would be far stranger and far more illogical if a living being (either female or male), the end product of billions of years of intense evolutionary selection and competitive survival, did *not* want to reproduce. That there are people who do not is basically about the power of human psychology and conceptual consciousness over more fundamental drives.

I'm not sure I'm following you, Phil. Are you saying that it's illogical for someone not to want to reproduce? I don't THINK that's what you're saying, but I'm unclear what you're driving at.

For the record, I have never had even the slightest interest in having or raising children. I am perfectly happy remaining an uncle.

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I'm not sure I'm following you, Phil. Are you saying that it's illogical for someone not to want to reproduce? I don't THINK that's what you're saying, but I'm unclear what you're driving at.

For the record, I have never had even the slightest interest in having or raising children. I am perfectly happy remaining an uncle.

I'm simply saying that it's more logical for a living organism to want to reproduce, than not, given the evolutionary selection for survival over billions of years. Most human beings do want to reproduce - but not all. The human mind powerfully differentiates us from non-conceptual animals and can re-prioritize values. Ayn Rand for example consciously chose not to have children so that she could fully focus on her career. And although it's not a subject that I know a lot about, based on casual observation and logic, I doubt that most homosexuals are interested in children - it does require a combination of a man and woman biologically, unless the child is adopted or artificially inseminated.

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[...] unless the child is adopted or artificially inseminated.

To correct hasty phrasing: unless the child is adopted or the result of artificial insemination.

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[...] unless the child is adopted or artificially inseminated.

To correct hasty phrasing: unless the child is adopted or the result of artificial insemination.

You could be right, but even before I was fully aware and accepting of my own sexual orientation, I never had the interest. Maybe that ought to have been a clue to me. ;-)

Joking aside, I have known my share of gay and lesbian couples who did want to raise children, but it does appear more the norm for heterosexual couples to want to raise children.

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I hope someone can help me understand this better because it's a bit of a mystery to me.
It would be far stranger and far more illogical if a living being (either female or male), the end product of billions of years of intense evolutionary selection and competitive survival, did *not* want to reproduce. That there are people who do not is basically about the power of human psychology and conceptual consciousness over more fundamental drives.

Do you mean to imply that there is an innate idea of having children that most people value as opposed to a biological sex drive for the physically pleasurable?

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Do you mean to imply that there is an innate idea of having children that most people value as opposed to a biological sex drive for the physically pleasurable?

Well, of course I reject the idea of innate concepts; that's exactly why human beings can *choose* not to have children, even if there's a subconscious drive to do so. At the same time, I don't think that the impulse to reproduce is solely tied to sexual pleasure in humans, for a number of reasons, but I need to clarify this with further thinking on my part before I post more about it. Certainly people can (and should!) consciously reason why they want children, and some do, though not enough. I will say that a desire for sex would not explain why animals, including primitive men, would desire to take care of, up to the point of actively defending with their lives, their young.

Regardless of the specific mechanisms, my primary point remains, evolution logically selects for organisms which desire to reproduce. It is known that sexual pleasure is the main evolutionary mechanism supporting a desire for sexual reproduction, but as I said above, I think it's more complex in humans than just sexual pleasure.

The fact of hetero vs. homo sexuality already shows that there is more complexity involved that just "a desire for sex", and contrary to the assumptions of many Objectivists (I am not ascribing this to ewv, I don't know his position on it either way), I do not think that it's based on experience/learning (generally).

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Do you mean to imply that there is an innate idea of having children that most people value as opposed to a biological sex drive for the physically pleasurable?

Well, of course I reject the idea of innate concepts; that's exactly why human beings can *choose* not to have children, even if there's a subconscious drive to do so. At the same time, I don't think that the impulse to reproduce is solely tied to sexual pleasure in humans, for a number of reasons, but I need to clarify this with further thinking on my part before I post more about it. Certainly people can (and should!) consciously reason why they want children, and some do, though not enough. I will say that a desire for sex would not explain why animals, including primitive men, would desire to take care of, up to the point of actively defending with their lives, their young.

Regardless of the specific mechanisms, my primary point remains, evolution logically selects for organisms which desire to reproduce. It is known that sexual pleasure is the main evolutionary mechanism supporting a desire for sexual reproduction, but as I said above, I think it's more complex in humans than just sexual pleasure...

In what sense could an adult want to have and care for a child as a value with no concept of it?

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In what sense could an adult want to have and care for a child as a value with no concept of it?

All, for example, mammals act to reproduce and care for their offspring, but only humans possess conceptual consciousness. My point here is that even though humans do have that type of consciousness, I do not think that humans are somehow completely detached from their evolutionary past. The contrary view is that humans who have an impulse to reproduce and take care of their offspring, are acting completely differently than all other animals. The fact of human conceptual consciousness is certainly a crucial difference, but there are also important similarities.

For example, it would not surprise me, based simply on personal experience and observation, if humans had some sort of built-in brain hardware that was activated by the sound of human babies crying (and not just to the volume level), and to images of infants generally (and if that hardware *differed* as well between men and women.) That would be the complement to the fact that basically pre-conceptual infants *do* cry in order to get attention. That is not "innate ideas", but it's also more complex than just the sensation of sexual pleasure or hunger. Of course at the human level, such hardware, perhaps evoking a certain emotional response, is also integrated with the conceptual mind.

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Could having children somehow be linked to womans sense of being a woman, that is to some of her feminine traits?

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For example, it would not surprise me, based simply on personal experience and observation, if humans had some sort of built-in brain hardware that was activated by the sound of human babies crying (and not just to the volume level), and to images of infants generally (and if that hardware *differed* as well between men and women.) That would be the complement to the fact that basically pre-conceptual infants *do* cry in order to get attention. That is not "innate ideas", but it's also more complex than just the sensation of sexual pleasure or hunger. Of course at the human level, such hardware, perhaps evoking a certain emotional response, is also integrated with the conceptual mind.

Does "cuteness" qualify as a survival trait? :wacko: I've wondered if babies (whether animal or human) appeal to adults of the species precisely because their existence depends on it.

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For example, it would not surprise me, based simply on personal experience and observation, if humans had some sort of built-in brain hardware that was activated by the sound of human babies crying (and not just to the volume level), and to images of infants generally (and if that hardware *differed* as well between men and women.) That would be the complement to the fact that basically pre-conceptual infants *do* cry in order to get attention. That is not "innate ideas", but it's also more complex than just the sensation of sexual pleasure or hunger. Of course at the human level, such hardware, perhaps evoking a certain emotional response, is also integrated with the conceptual mind.

Does "cuteness" qualify as a survival trait? :wacko: I've wondered if babies (whether animal or human) appeal to adults of the species precisely because their existence depends on it.

That's a really good question. I've read, in dog behavior and training books, mostly, that the rolling over and sticking their feet in the air -- presenting their soft underbellies and throats -- by puppies and kittens is a sign of submission that prevents the larger animals from ripping them to shreds, so, in a sense, yes, the behavior of pups and their parents has evolved to keep them alive. I'd guess it's the same for humans. I think if an infant swore and belched, hid the remote, and left the fridge door open it might reduce their survival rate, which is, obviously, why they don't exhibit this behavior until they are better able to defend themselves.

Your point is interesting: I think that it is why helplessness in children provokes a protective response in most adults. Maybe the on-board psychologists (Scott?) could add something substantive to the discussion.

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Could having children somehow be linked to womans sense of being a woman, that is to some of her feminine traits?

As I see it, nature, generally speaking, provides women with the wherewithal to bear children, but the desire to bear or raise them is conscious and not gender specific. As has already been said here, there are many women who have no interest in bearing or raising children; their fulfilment in life comes from the their lifestyle and or career. Conversely, there are many men who have a strong desire to be a father and raise a family.

When a woman desiring to bear and raise children approaches age thirty and over, she feels a certain urgency about it because she hears her biological clock ticking. Some, who are not in a loving, secure relationship at this stage, will opt for single motherhood with the help from a sperm bank.

Psychologically, I suppose we all want to love and be loved but it's not always easy to achieve among adults. But creating children makes it possible.

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As I see it, nature, generally speaking, provides women with the wherewithal to bear children, but the desire to bear or raise them is conscious and not gender specific. As has already been said here, there are many women who have no interest in bearing or raising children; their fulfilment in life comes from the their lifestyle and or career. Conversely, there are many men who have a strong desire to be a father and raise a family.

Although there are too many neurotic reasons why people have kids, among the rational people I know, the desire to have children seems to correlate with having what I call "teacher premises." People who most want to be, or enjoy being, parents are very often educators, sales people, commentators, or others who enjoy demonstrating, explaining, and communicating what they know.

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For example, it would not surprise me, based simply on personal experience and observation, if humans had some sort of built-in brain hardware that was activated by the sound of human babies crying (and not just to the volume level), and to images of infants generally (and if that hardware *differed* as well between men and women.) That would be the complement to the fact that basically pre-conceptual infants *do* cry in order to get attention. That is not "innate ideas", but it's also more complex than just the sensation of sexual pleasure or hunger. Of course at the human level, such hardware, perhaps evoking a certain emotional response, is also integrated with the conceptual mind.

Does "cuteness" qualify as a survival trait? ;) I've wondered if babies (whether animal or human) appeal to adults of the species precisely because their existence depends on it.

That's a really good question. I've read, in dog behavior and training books, mostly, that the rolling over and sticking their feet in the air -- presenting their soft underbellies and throats -- by puppies and kittens is a sign of submission that prevents the larger animals from ripping them to shreds, so, in a sense, yes, the behavior of pups and their parents has evolved to keep them alive. I'd guess it's the same for humans. I think if an infant swore and belched, hid the remote, and left the fridge door open it might reduce their survival rate, which is, obviously, why they don't exhibit this behavior until they are better able to defend themselves.

Your point is interesting: I think that it is why helplessness in children provokes a protective response in most adults. Maybe the on-board psychologists (Scott?) could add something substantive to the discussion.

Thanks for the invitation! :wacko: However, I'm not sure how much I can add. The fact is that, at present, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to untangle these kinds of issues. It's hard to know how much a given behavior is rooted in genetics and what types of "triggers" or experiences facilitate the transformation of a genotype into a phenotype. No scientific theories in psychology or evolution that I'm aware of take things like free will or a conceptual consciousness into account, so there's a big gap there, too.

I've had the thought on multiple occasions that answering these questions takes us only so far. To me, it's similar to Dr. Binswanger's point in his Metaphysics of Consciousness lectures about the relationship of the brain to the mind. On the one hand, it's true that all conscious experiences have corollary brain processes. However, this fact doesn't ultimately explain consciousness, and if one were trying to explain consciousness solely in terms of brain processes, he would be wrong (it would be Materialism). Similarly, one can say that all behavior is rooted in genetics, but cannot say that all behavior is genetically determined. That behavior is said to result from a combination of genes and experience is true and tells us something, but there's too much that's unexplained.

As we currently exist evolutionarily, we use concepts to identify what is relevant, significant, meaningful, and valuable in our lives. Some or all of one's particular interests may have a genetic basis that gave him an initial aptitude in something. However, he still had to discover and identify it (conceptually), make choices about whether or not to develop the skill, put in the physical and mental effort to do so, and make the continuous choice to put forth that effort if he is comitted to it.

In short, if you want to understand any particular person's behavior, identify his concepts and premises first, then consider genetics afterward. (The exceptions are obvious cases of brain damage or diseases, many of which are rooted in genetics.)

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I'm not sure I'm following you, Phil. Are you saying that it's illogical for someone not to want to reproduce? I don't THINK that's what you're saying, but I'm unclear what you're driving at.

For the record, I have never had even the slightest interest in having or raising children. I am perfectly happy remaining an uncle.

I'm simply saying that it's more logical for a living organism to want to reproduce, than not, given the evolutionary selection for survival over billions of years. Most human beings do want to reproduce - but not all. The human mind powerfully differentiates us from non-conceptual animals and can re-prioritize values. Ayn Rand for example consciously chose not to have children so that she could fully focus on her career...

I can't speak for Miss Rand, but in my case my lifelong total lack of interest in having a child at no time involved even the slightest resistance to or struggle against any such thing as a hypothetical inborn "drive" to have children. I don't believe there is such a "drive."

I spent many years as a Montessori teacher, have had many close friendships with children, and still love children very much. Once, working in day care, I even had the interesting experience of sudden bonding between me and a baby--one day we didn't love each other, next day we did (which is apparently not uncommon). From that day on, whenever little Sally caught sight of me across the room, she'd crawl to me; and everyone immediately knew there was a special bond between us. But at no time have I had even the slightest desire to have children of my own. I never resisted any inborn drive. There simply is no such drive.

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For example, it would not surprise me, based simply on personal experience and observation, if humans had some sort of built-in brain hardware that was activated by the sound of human babies crying (and not just to the volume level), and to images of infants generally (and if that hardware *differed* as well between men and women.) That would be the complement to the fact that basically pre-conceptual infants *do* cry in order to get attention. That is not "innate ideas", but it's also more complex than just the sensation of sexual pleasure or hunger. Of course at the human level, such hardware, perhaps evoking a certain emotional response, is also integrated with the conceptual mind.

Does "cuteness" qualify as a survival trait? :wacko: I've wondered if babies (whether animal or human) appeal to adults of the species precisely because their existence depends on it.

I'm not a biologist but I understand babies appeal to their mothers becuase of a hormone called Oxytocin which is present in mothers for about two years after birth.

For what it's worth, I don't care for other people's babies at all, yet I really do want my own children rather a lot.

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There simply is no such drive.

I'm not stating that it's universally true for every individual. My statements about such a drive are applicable in a statistical context. Stating that "men are sexually attracted to women" (and vice-versa) is not controversial and is true for the large majority of humans, but there are certainly exceptions to that, too.

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I would argue that reproduction has never, until humans, had anything to do with wanting children. Humans (at least the rational ones) reproduce when and if child raising is a value to them.

Animals reproduce because they don't have contraception. :wacko:

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I would argue that reproduction has never, until humans, had anything to do with wanting children. Humans (at least the rational ones) reproduce when and if child raising is a value to them.

Animals reproduce because they don't have contraception. :wacko:

And a very large number of humans have reproduced only because they were too irresponsible to use it.

But as for "the rational ones", clearly the desire to have children involves a conceptual understanding of an entire way of living over an extended period of time, not just "here now eject rug rat". Whatever evolutionary characteristics, which had to have been present in some way, led to the development of the human race, it is this conceptual understanding that people mean when they say they want to have children. The original question cannot be answered without addressing that as an essential feature.

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But as for "the rational ones", clearly the desire to have children involves a conceptual understanding of an entire way of living over an extended period of time, not just "here now eject rug rat". Whatever evolutionary characteristics, which had to have been present in some way, led to the development of the human race, it is this conceptual understanding that people mean when they say they want to have children. The original question cannot be answered without addressing that as an essential feature.

Animals don't plant crops, build restaurants, or go to them, either, but humans would do none of those things without the same need to eat to live (and the same sensation of hunger, which does not of course provide knowledge of its solution.) Human conceptual consciousness transforms everything, but it is nothing more than religion to dismiss the evolutionary roots of human existence and the nature of our physical bodies, including the totality of brain functions which include both volitional and non-volitional characteristics.

Another example: a romantic relationship between a rational man and rational woman is complex, far more so than between two non-conceptual animals, but at root it's still a relationship between a *man* and a *woman*. A heterosexual man could never have that relationship with a man because there is no attraction whatsoever, and that lack of attraction isn't fundamentally due to learning or the conceptual mind.

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... it is nothing more than religion to dismiss the evolutionary roots of human existence and the nature of our physical bodies, including the totality of brain functions which include both volitional and non-volitional characteristics...

No one has dismissed evolution and the nature of our physical bodies. It does not answer the original question, which involves much more.

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It does not answer the original question, which involves much more.

There were many possible things to discuss in the original post, including the differences between men and women, but I've been focusing on one particular question:

Of course the biology plays a big part in this, but what is it that drives women to want to have children?

I agree that a lot more can/should be said about the *conceptual* reasons why a rational woman wants to have children, but I've been focusing on what I consider to be a fundamental aspect deriving from evolutionary biology and how that affects even rational men and women.

I don't really have more to add at this point.

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