In the early twentieth century, the Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski made an interesting observation. While studying Melanesian people living off the coast of New Guinea, he saw one a man came back from a year’s absence and greeting his wife and his new son, whom he embraced. Malinowski was surprised and asked another islander why the man wasn’t upset about his wife’s infidelity.

It turns out that the residents of the island had no idea that sex led to pregnancy. Teenagers had sex as soon as they could and would do so into adulthood. Some would get pregnant, but there was no way of knowing why. Besides, it couldn’t be sex that leads to children because after a young unattractive girl had gotten pregnant, all the men in the island had denied having relations with her!

Meisenberg reasons that, since some contemporary tribes never figured out the connection between pregnancy and sex, this understanding must have come very late in our evolutionary history. From there, we may assume that evolution never selected for a desire for children per se. Women desire sex and desire to mother once they have children, but don’t think ahead and desire the creation of the baby.

Evolution, according to Meisenberg, is like the military and works on a need-to-know basis. This helps explain the low birth rates in the modern world.


February 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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