"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Natural Fertility: How many kids will a woman have in her lifetime?

If humans are ever put in a zoo by an alien race, and we are left to our own devices with plenty of food, medicine, exercise and safety, and with an ideology that neither shuns children or demands loads of them, how many children would women have?

Well it turns out researchers have been asking this question for a long time.
The Amish

I just read an interesting research paper called Population growth and fertility paterns in an Old Order Amish Settlement. by L. P. Greksa.

It looks at 1,337 Amish wives in the Geauga settlement in Ohio from 1908 - 1993. The Amish are considered an ultra high fertility group (in today's standards) straight out of the 19th century in their breeding habits, yet they use modern medicine. This makes them perfect for studying and looking at what the rest of society would look like if we still had traditional 'pro-fertility' attitudes. The conclusion of the paper says that the women do not attempt to control their fertility either up or down in any major way. To the researchers, this means the group in question is a "natural fertility population", which they desire to define so as to have a benchmark to measure from.

So how many babies do you think these perfect specimen, natural fertility, married Amish women have? Are they all like Michelle Duggar with 19 kids per woman?

Is it more than 19? Does it round down lower to around 10? (that was my guess). Let's see:
The mean number of pregnancies per married woman was 7.7 (SD 3.6). Fifty-two pregnancies terminated  in a stillbirth and 41 women gave birth to one set of twins, four gave birth to two sets of twins, and one woman gave birth to four sets of twins, for a twinning rate of 13.9 per 1000 pregnancies [1.4% -DM] resulting in a live birth. Mean completed marital fertility was 7.7 (SD 3.6) births, ranging from 0 to 17 births. About 3% of these women were childless while 28% had 10 or more births.
The men get married at 22.2 years, women at 21.1 years. The birth of the first child is consistently a year later when the woman is 22.1 years. The second child is consistently born 1.5 years after the first, with subsequent births spaced just under 2 years apart. For the period studied ('08-'93), the age of the last birth has dropped from age 40 to 35, marriage age and first birth age both dropped by one year, and spacing also dropped slightly. The fertility rate also dropped by 1 child during this time.

In this study, the 7.7 children per woman is per married woman, and I am unclear if this study ever actually says what the Total Fertility Rate for the community is. It does give data on sterile couples (3%), stillbirths and twins though. After all that is factored in, the number is still 7.7 per married woman, and of those with children the average is 7.94.

Normal Fertility Rate

So what does this all mean? Almost all of these numbers were different than I expected. I expected them to be marrying younger, having more kids for a longer time, and I expected the natural infertility to be higher. Instead the study shows that

 normal human women have a very reasonable 7.7 kids within a 14 year timespan.

The biggest family of all 1,337 of these women had 17 kids (so even Michelle Duggar would have a big family in this Amish community). And only 28% of families had 10 or more kids, with ony 3% of couples being infertile (way lower than I thought). Another fun fact is that the 7.7 "completed marital fertility rate" is not comparable to the "Total Fertility Rate" we are used to seeing. Total Fertility Rate includes all women of childbearing age, which will include singles who will never have kids such as nuns, the severely disabled, or those who otherwise have a vocation other than marriage.

If 30% of our study population remained unmarried and childless, the Total Fertility Rate would be still be 5.4 children per woman! That is three times the U.S. Total fertility rate!

My take away from this is just how incredibly... normal... and natural all these numbers seem. As a father of 5 myself, who can easily imagine more kids in my home, but find it harder to imagine having 10+ kids, I took comfort that 7 or 8 kids is naturally where fertility will end up (on average) for people in a healthy marriage. It is so easy to believe our culture that says having 3 or 4 kids is "a lot". Well it just isn't. In fact those 3 or 4 kids are 
below the average for where a couple will naturally be.

Our American TFR of 1.9 children per woman is now "well below" the replacement level of 2.1 needed to just keep a population steady. And much of that number is from new immigrants, who quickly adjust their fertility habits in the first and second generation, and anyway the countries who have been sending immigrants are no longer doing so and will soon stop. The American middle class is down to a TFR of 1.6 and falling.

I am not saying couples with zero or 1 or 2 kids should feel second class. Unless they have that few because they have an unhealthy view of children and their place in marriage. Obviously couples can be infertile (even 3% of Amish are), can have vocations or health issues which make it prudent to limit the number of kids, even to zero potentially. But these exceptions prove the rule that families should naturally be much larger than they are in our culture.

The exceptions that prove the rule.
3% infertile couples is... 3%. Get over it! That is a very small amount of couples! Yet if I had a nickel for every time I hear this as a reason why every family I see has only 1 or 2 kids, I could buy my own tropical island. Even factoring in infertility, the normal fertility rate for married women is still 7.7 kids

All parents have mental issues to some degree that having more kids may make worse. But are Amish women with 8 kids going insane by the truckload? I don't think so. Will having child number 4 really push most women over the edge? Or is it more likely that only a small percentage of parents have true psychiatric problems that make it unwise to have more kids? Even if I were generous and assumed that 30% (!!!) of women went clinically insane the day their third child was born, and never had another child, the Normal Married Fertility Rate would only drop by 1.41 kids per woman to 6.29.

Going to college extends time of marriage and first birth.
This is another very valid reason that a woman's fertility might be reduced. And using our Normal Married Fertility Rate of 7.7, with women becoming mothers at age 22.1, we could account for a generous 2 years of post college time to get married and conceive, and then she gives birth at age 24. That is a full six years after high school graduation, plenty of time for a college degree or two. So to account for this lost 2 years from her reproductive clock, lets deduct a full child from every woman in our study. That's right folks, we will assume universal college education from our women! They all lose one child and our average drops to 5.29.

Working outside the home. Some people say that families are so small because women have to work, and no longer have the time to give birth and to properly take care of lots of kids. To this I say... yep that is true. This is on the one hand a valid reason to reduce the number of kids you have, but at the same time is a bad excuse because it should not be happening nearly on the scale it is. Ask any woman to list the most fulfilling aspects of her life. If she has kids, she will have them higher on the list than a career. Yet the same woman will often say that her career is the reason she did not have more children. This makes no sense. If raising good human beings from childhood to adulthood is the most important job on earth, which we all agree that it is, then why do so many women choose something less fulfilling to fill their time? This one is hard to estimate, but my guess that in a healthy society no more than 30% of married women would want to work outside of the home in such a way as to reduce normal fertility. If these 30% each limited themselves to an average of 2 kids each, our average drops to 3.88 kids per married woman.

So assuming all the modern things we blame for our low fertility, we are still left with 3.88 kids per married woman in a healthy society.

Now let's take this society and assume that 20% of the women do not get married and become nuns or run businesses or whatever (20% seems like a lot by the way). After we factor that 20% in, we are still left with 3.1 as our total fertility rate. 3.1 is considered by demographers to be a high growth rate and significantly higher than the replacement rate of 2.1.
You might ask: Where the heck are you going with this you long winded weirdo?
Here is my point:
If we believe what our culture tells us, that it is perfectly fine that families come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and arrangements, with same sex parents or divorced parents, with any number of kids, with either mom or dad (or both) working and sending junior to the public school... if that is really true... and all that is just so *great* for families and we live in such a wonderful new springtime of humanity... then why do all the families I see buying into these modern notions look so much the same, with the same abnormally low number of kids (0-2), with most of the moms working outside the home and still doing the housework**, with 50% divorce rates?

Instead of being progressive and bold, our new culture is homogeneous and boring.

On a basic level using the simplest of math, think about it like this: Not every woman is called to marriage. And of those that do marry, I would argue that most married women will have various trials (described above) that prevent them from having lots of kids.
So if both of these things are true, and the replacement fertility rate is 2.1 children per woman in general, then how can we think that having 2 kids per married woman is healthy? Married people need to be having far more than 2.1 kids for a society to simply replace itself because they need to be having the kids to replace those who will not or cannot have them. As I have shown above, when we see a family with 3.88 kids we should be thinking "that is an average, healthy family size". And considering how conservative I was with my math (20% of women not marrying would be very high), we should consider the 3.88 to be on the low side.

So the next time you see a family with 4 or 5 kids, remember that that is a very average number. And a family with 8 kids should look no stranger to us than a family with only 1. We cannot let our suicidal culture dictate to us what a normal family size is. The simple, scientific fact is that a normal, healthy family size, even in the modern world with all its challenges, will be far larger than is culturally acceptable.

*If we were to translate the 7.7 married fertility rate into a Total Fertiltiy Rate, it can only go down because we are adding in non-breeding women. Let's pretend 10% of all Amish women never marry. If the married fertility is 7.7, then the total fertility would drop to 6.9. Married women would still have their 7.7 kids, but overall, the Total Fertility Rate would drop due to the 1 in 10 of all women that will never reproduce. If the number of unmarrieds rises to 30% of women in this population, the TFR drops to 5.4. If fully half of women in our naturally fertile society never marry and reproduce, then the total fertility rate drops to 3.85. 10-30% of women never marrying and procreating does not seem all that unreasonable. Particularly if marriage is seen as the important vocation it is, to not be entered into lightly. I think one thing that is perhaps not natural with our Amish case study is the high marriage rate, which I suspect is well over 95%. So although their family fertility is "natural", perhaps the number of families is unaturally high due to their anabaptist religion and a lack of vocational choice.

**The studies I read on European demographics last week had hard evidence of this. Unfortunately I cant recall where the data is located. But it was astounding how even in northern Europe, where women are supposedly so advanced in equality, they still do most of the housework.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

71 people were murdured in Massachusetts, not 3.

The bombs at the Boston Marathon killed 3 human beings. Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University student from China; 8-year-old Martin Richard; and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell. More than 170 people were injured. (source)

God rest their souls. And I wish nothing but God's comfort to them and their families.

But the frenzy that has surrounded these deaths is outrageous. 68 innocent babies are slaughtered each day in Massachusetts through legal abortion. Think about the 68 other innocent human beings being slaughtered that day of the Boston marathon. Then 68 the next day, then another 68 the next day, then 68 today... and 68 every single day of this year, and every day of next year... all last decade, and all this decade... 68 per day. And those 68 are just in Massachusetts.

Fenway from Legend's Box.jpg

Imagine Boston's Fenway Park filled to 70% capacity (25,000 souls) for a Red Sox game. Suddenly a terrorist blows the place up and all the people die. That is what is happening every year in Massachusetts already. 68 souls per day murdered as they sleep in Massachusetts and not a peep from the media, politicians, or nearly anyone. Even Catholic leaders who have expressed sympathy for the victims of the marathon bombing (the ones I have heard) have generally failed to mention the 68 babies murdered every day.

Where is the outrage on a daily basis for the 1,200,000 people legally murdered every year in the US? That is more lost than were on 9-11 on every day of every year.

More deaths than 9-11 every day of every year in this country!

Where is the outrage?

H. P. Lovecraft: Not skeptical enough.

I was reading some quotes from H.P. Lovecraft, who was a fantasy/sci-fi writer in the 20th century. This was my first brush with him, and at first, I liked what I saw. He seems like the type that when he sees a rock, he wants to look under it, then crack it open and wonder why it isn't filled with chocolate. I like that. And so Lovecraft speaks some truth by accident (so does the devil). But in the end he does not believe in a distinction between truth and falsehood, good and evil, beauty and ugliness.

Truth Goodness and Beauty are the same thing, they are being. Truth is being as seen by the intellect, goodness is being as seen by the will, and beauty is being as seen by the senses. And of course God is being and the source of all being. So when a clown like Lovecraft believes there is no distinction between good and evil (and ironically, makes distinctions to do so), or believes there is no difference between truth and falsehood (proclaiming his opinion to be true), and says beauty is merely in the eye of the beholder (yet strives to write beautiful literature), I get very tired of it.

"If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences." -H.P. Lovecraft And if irreligion were true, it's followers wouldn't teach it to their children... right Mr. Lovecraft? Because something is true because of how those who believe it act? Is that what you believe? -D.M.

So here is my examination of one of this man's statements:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.

"The most merciful thing in the world,..."

How does he know what mercy is? In relation to what? What is the world? Does it have boundaries? Is it a shared reality that both you, me and this man inhabit? Is it real? What is real? What are the words he wrote with and why can I read them? Why did he assume I would be able to read them? Is there a reality that existed when he wrote the words that he is assuming will still exist when I read them? Why would he assume that?

"I think, ..."

Why did he think this and not some other thought? Perhaps because it is better to have though this thought than other thoughts? And if so, would that not mean that he thinks this thought to be closer to something like the 'truth'? And if so, doesn't that mean there is a distinction between 'truth' and 'not truth'?

"...is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

If it is unable to correlate all it's contents, then how can he be sure it is able to know that it is unable to do so? Why not be sceptical and assume it is able to correlate all it's contents? Why does he chose one view over the other? Is it because he believes one to be objectively more true than the other? And if so, hasn't he correlated knowledge to come to that understanding? And if so, doesn't that refute his thesis that knowledge cannot be correlated?

"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity,..."

The fact that he mentions an island in a black sea of infinity implies a finite arena in which the island exists, with a separation of "island" and "sea", otherwise he would have said "we are a black sea of infinity". therefore the situation he describes with an island is actually one of knowledge, not ignorance. Knowing one is on and island in a sea is actually to know quite a lot. In some ways it is to know everything.

"...and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

Why? I see no reason to believe this statement. And as I said, knowing you are on the island is to already have correlated knowledge and made a very specific statement about not only the island, but about an area that is "infinitely" far away (the black seas of infinity), and even to have gone so far as to claim to know that it is infinite and black is a very bold statement based on knowledge. So this very statement is refuted by the statement itself. By claiming knowledge about the far away thing, it is silly to say you werent meant to go far away to get the knowledge. A tight little circle like a snake eating itself into nothingness.

Skepticism always ends in this hypocrisy. Skeptics are never skeptical enough, but are always selectively skeptical about things. They should be skeptical of their skepticism, but they never are.
There is much we don't understand, but we have the ability to recognize truth, goodness and beauty, and to work towards understanding more of them. The fact we can do this implies we are made in God's image and our goal is union with our creator. We are not on the island he describes, but in a valley. We can reach the mountaintop, but it requires work and a greater understanding of 'being', not a dissolution or blurring of it. We need greater participation in real being, aka- greater participation in the source of being, aka- theosis. Authentic theosis is not the melting of distinctions/knowledge into a black sea of ignorance, but the refining of distinctions/knowledge so we can participate in the love within the Trinity.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jesus Didn't Write a Book

The only time Jesus is described as writing, we don't know what he wrote.

Jesus didn't write a book.

Think on it people. He could have easily done so. Why didn't he? If you find yourself wishing he had, or wishing perhaps his apostles had written more -in general or on your pet topic- then your paradigm is wrong. Find a paradigm where it make perfect sense for Jesus not to write down his teaching, and not to write it down in such a way that would supposedly clear up misinterpretations of future Christians. You should find that paradigm because that is what happened. Jesus actually didn't write anything down, and his apostles wrote shockingly little. And we don't even know if he told his followers to write anything down, and often it seems they dont expect it to be scripture anyway. Did the apostle John think 3rd John would be scripture? Did Paul know Philemon would be read by people 2000 years later as scripture? And if Jesus had intended the future Church to be guided solely by a book, we should expect the apostles would have written much, much more! would have written on some very basic topics like.. oh... what do we do when we gather on Sunday morning for instance. Yet they apparently didn't think it was necessary to write that down! That makes no sense at all in scripture only Protestantism. Did it skip their mind? Do you find yourself wishing they had spelled things out better on topic X? If so, you may be assuming that the text was meant to explain topic X. But if Christ left everything this Church needs, yet forgot to leave them a way to sort out topic X, then there is a problem. And in the Sola Scriptura paradigm, that is a problem.

But for Catholics, we know he didn't write a book because he sent men. And he told us that if we have a problem to "take it to the Church". We can affirm that the bible consistent with everything we need to know, and that Christ left us with everything we need, but that includes successors of the apostles authorized to rightly interpret scripture.

So if you find yourself wishing more were written down to explain something, or wishing perhaps Jesus had personally written down stuff, you need to change your paradigm. Go to the Church. Those men Jesus commissioned commissioned other men, who in turn did the same, all the way to the present day, and their identity is not mysterious or controversial.

If the bible were meant to be the sole authority in the Church, shouldn't there be a heck of a lot more info in there? And shouldn't it be a heck of a lot clearer so there perhaps would be just a few dozen Protestant interpretations, rather than thousands?

It really is this simple folks.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Orthodox Demographic Winter

Global Orthodoxy will steeply decline in numbers this century. Just my opinion, and I am no expert, but the data seems to point to this outcome.

I asked the guy who knows about this stuff, the very competent Eric Kaufmann, whose book Shall the Religious Inherit The Earth has captured my attention for quite a while, this question on Facebook:

"I am interested in how the demography of Eastern Europe will affect the global Eastern Orthodox population (230 million). 93.2% of Eastern Orthodox live in 20 countries of Eastern Europe and Greece. The average TFR of these 20 countries is 1.37. The top 82% of Orthodoxy is located in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Greece, Belarus, and Bulgaria, which also have a combined TFR of 1.37. With fully half of the world’s E.O. in Russia (TFR 1.42).

What I am interested in is if there are higher fertility groups of Orthodox within these nations that will outbreed their low fertility neighbors? The data is hard to find though. Orthodoxy seems set for an unusually steep decline in population compared to Catholics, Protestants, or most Muslim groups. Am I right about this?"

Eric Kaufmann:
"Yes, I think that's right. Though I believe Orthodox attenders have, as elsewhere, somewhat higher fertility than seculars or nominals (see Tom Frejka's work[*] on European survey data on this). What they are lacking is a closed, fundamentalist group with high fertility a la Dutch Calvinists or Finnish Laestadian Lutherans or Orthodox Jews."

Eastern Orthodoxy has it's population center of gravity in Eastern Europe (including Russia) and Greece. So the demography of Eastern Europe will affect the global Eastern Orthodox population (230 million) in the future quite heavily. This is of course assuming there are no large sub populations of Orthodox with high fertility rates. I had not heard of any, and Kaufmann seems to confirm that there are not.

And another aspect is that theologically, the Orthodox appear to accept contraception, so even the more religiously conservative Orthodox fertility in these countries, while higher than their secular neighbors, will still be tempered by these factors. If significant sub-groups of high fertility endogenous growth sects of more conservative Orthodox were present in these nations, then these groups would be the future of Orthodoxy in these countries. But it appears there are not.

Of the factors that affect religious population positively the 2 biggest are:

1. Growth from within. Religious populations within countries with high fertility rates due to prolonged demographic transition, eg. Africa and Latin America. In these societies, large, young populations of adherants (even nominal ones) will still have a  much higher fertility rate than their counterparts in countries further into their demographic transition.

2. Endogenous growth sects. These are the groups Eric calls "closed, fundamentalist groups". So this is not only the Amish, Hutterites, and Ultra Orthodox Jews, but less closed (yet still self consciously seperate) groups like the Mormons, Quiverfull type Protestants, and conservative Catholics. Each of these groups is closed to some degree from worldly influence and has intentionally high fertility rates while rejecting contraception.

On the flip side, nations who are far into the demographic transition have very low fertility and high secularization, with aging populations and actual population decline... right now. Not future decline, but right now decline due to people not procreating.

 The other major Christian groups have eggs in all of the above baskets, and have more geographic diversity as well. Orthodox have none. Somehow Eastern Orthodoxy has managed to be most populous in the lowest fertility countries on earth, So while Catholics in Italy (1.4) and Spain (1.48) do have a fertility rate just as bad as in Ukraine (1.29) or Greece (1.39), there is the crucial difference that Catholics are not only in Italy and Spain, while demographically, it can be said  that Orthodox are only in Eastern Europe. Sceptical? Look at my research in this chart:

93.2% of Orthodox live in Eastern Europe and Greece.

That chart is staggering. 93% living in Eastern Europe and Greece?? None of these contries have anywhere near the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman. Compare with this chart from the Pew Research center of the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics:

 Here are maps showing the same data, although keep in mind they do include Oriental Orthodoxy, which I did not.

The Orthodox:

The Catholics (from Pew Research):

Comparing these charts and maps we see not only a geographic isolation in Orthodoxy, but the countries it is isolated to are among the lowest fertility in the world. Protestantism and Catholicism on the other hand are diverse in geography and fertility.

If 92% of Catholics were located in Italy, Spain and Brasil (TFR 1.82), I would be predicting that there would be a huge plunge in the number of Catholics in this century. But the Catholic Church is spread wider and has a significant presence in high fertility Africa the Phillipines and other high fertility areas of the globe, and looks ready to keep growing significantly alongside Pentecostalism.

It would not be shocking if Eastern Orthodoxy, which is now second in numbers to Catholicism as a "denomination" (for lack of a better word), will be overtaken within a couple generations by an actual denomination: the Assemblies of God. Pentecostalism as a movement (279 million) is already larger than Orthodoxy. But if we nail the Protestant jello to the tree for a moment and count denominations before it falls, we see there are 64 million Assemblies of God members currently. Given their expansion rate and the swift contraction rate for Orthodoxy, they could easily switch places within a generation.

So what does this mean? Just as with historical recurrence we say with confidence with Mark Twain that "history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme", we can say with equal confidence that demography is not destiny, but it is pregnant. And we can look at the parents and reasonably expect what the child will look like.

We know that religion in general will gain in strength both of numbers and of force in the coming century. The future is one of religious fundamentalists gaining prominence, while the candle of the secular enlightenment is slowly suffocated and extinguished in the early 22nd century. The future of Christianity is going to look Catholic and Pentecostal, while Orthodoxy, sidelined by demographics, will implode alongside secularism until a core of true believers is revealed. Oriental Orthodoxy will grow during this time, thus increasing their percentage of global Orthodoxy. I am not sure what this will mean for Catholic Orthodox reunion efforts, or for Oriental Orthodox reunion efforts with each group. Unfortunatly my suspicion is that once the nominal Orthodox in Eastern Europe have left this earth, having aborted and contracepted  themselves into the grave, the higher fertility attenders who are left will be the ones sending their children to Mount Athos, and thus Orthodoxy will go from being 230 million and willing to discuss reunion, to being 40 million and hardened against it. Who knows. But one thing is certain, and even Eric Kaufmann agreed with me, that Eastern Orthodoxy looks set to decline dramatically compared to other religious groups. It will be interesting to check back in 10 years and see where things are.

*This is the article he is referring to possibly.