Perhaps earlier this week you saw the following headline: “The worst decision you can ever make is to have a child, according to science.”
Before we even dig into the reasons that allegedly support that headline, let’s talk about some category confusion. “Science” tells us what is, not what ought to be. Unless “worst” is qualified (e.g., the worst slope of a hill for achieving greater velocity when dropping a ball from the top), the phrase really has no meaning. Besides, the plain meaning of the reading is that it is “bad” for you.
Alright, let’s look at the reasons that SCIENCE says having children is bad for you. Here are the main points, distilled down.
- You will have $13,000 less money per year, a total of over $220,000 by the time the child is 17.
- You will sleep an average of 2.5 hours a night during the first two years of a baby’s life.
- Your marriage will struggle during the first few years.
- You will probably have less sex.
- If you’re the mother, you’ll probably make less money.
- Also, “Scientists predict that the world’s population will exceed 10.5 billion by 2050.” Which is obviously bad for you.
Look, I’m not a parent. But I’m pretty sure those reasons are just “Parenting 101”—but just the scary parts of the book. They managed to leave out the chapters on fulfillment, joy, love, and virtue.
This is all evidence of the poor way people currently think about science anyway. Somehow the phrase Science SaysTM has entered the cultural lexicon. There’s a weight to it, particularly among younger audiences, because they tend to think of science as objective. The real problem is that they don’t see science as a field of study rather than a field of answers.
The rub is that science doesn’t really say much by way of true conclusions; science is a field that offers our current best understanding of the natural world. But evidence changes, and if we assume everything Science SaysTM is correct, we commit the sin of historical arrogance. A hundred years ago, scientists may have all agreed to something that we now know is false. How confidently can we assert that our current evidence is enough to satisfy the demands of knowledge?
I guess the short version is this: Maybe we should have babies no matter what Science SaysTM.
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