There is no “scientific” argument for claiming deliberately childless people are failures
I was on CNN to talk about a piece I wrote for the Daily Beast about the pope shaming people for not having kids. As usual, I think the pope has an amazing track record of being wrong in nearly every utterance about child-bearing, marriage, sexuality, etc. So you can imagine my opinion on this.
But I wanted to add that, as I said on CNN, this isn’t just about the pope or Catholicism. Elizabeth Wurtzel, who is thrashing around in fear these days upon realizing the “train wreck” act stops being cute when you pass 40, spewed another piece of garbled nonsense claiming that “science” agrees with the pope, that having children is the most important thing you can do. (She can safely say that now that she’s only starting to consider trying at 46, making the likelihood that infertility beat her to the punch nice and coincidental.) A sample of her typing:
We are on this earth to keep on keeping on. We are here to reproduce. We are here to leave something behind that is more meaningful than a tech startup or a masterpiece of literature. Everybody knows this. The biggest idiot in the world who thinks he knows better—even he deep down knows this.
I will remind you that neither the pope nor Elizabeth Wurtzel has children. Also, off the top of your heads: Name Shakespeare’s children. Or Einstein’s. Yeah, didn’t think so. One of Charles Dickens’ descendants is on Game of Thrones, but he died in the first season.
But the argument that we are “here” to reproduce is nonsense. We aren’t here for any reason. We’re here because a series of accidents led to the development of life on this little rock we call “Earth” and it evolved and because those genes that propagate happen to continue to exist while those that don’t didn’t. But “continuing to exist” isn’t a purpose. Propagation isn’t a purpose. It’s a thing that happens. There’s nothing in my particular DNA sequence that is transcendent or meaningful. And even if there was, having children doesn’t really do much to preserve it. Each only will only be 50% me. Each grandchild, only 25%. And so until my magnificent, oh-so-important DNA sequencing is thoroughly reshuffled. The fact that propagation is a thing that happens has no more moral significance than the fact that gravity is a thing that happens. Just because we all walk around on the ground and always have doesn’t mean that you’re wrong if you suddenly start to fly.*
The fucked up thing is that, in the same paragraph where she writes that she is speaking “as someone who believes in science”, she also writes this:
Or as University of Washington psychologist and zoologist David P. Barash writes in the journal BioScience, “[L]iving things are survival vehicles for their potentially immortal genes. Biologically speaking, this is what they are, and it is all they are.” He adds, “For most biologists, the promulgation of genes is neither good nor bad. It just is.”
Emphasis mine. She quotes a scientist who says that reproduction is not a moral imperative in order to argue that science says it is. She may be stupid or high, but her editor, at least, should have caught that. Unless the point of publishing Wurtzel is because her writing is a train wreck that people point and laugh at.
I went to a party in Williamsburg, where I definitely do not live, and was 50 percent older than anyone else. When I told a gentleman that I am 45, he was shocked. He wondered what I know that Ponce de Leon did not. Mainly it is a refusal to be a grown-up. Or just having missed the leading milestones. I have never been married, which has spared me the unhappiness of that, and the misery of a divorce. Or two. Or three. I don’t have kids, so I don’t invest energy in telling people how gifted my children are, or in figuring out how deep into the spectrum of autism they fall—nor do I turn over my hard-earned cash to SAT tutors and Mandarin coaches. Of course, I have been deprived of the pleasure of breastfeeding my baby on a barstool in a Park Slope tavern while nursing a Campari and soda, but I will survive the privation.
It’s possible she changed her mind, but she never says that’s the case in this new piece. More likely, she’s just someone who just drifts around spouting whatever bullshit momentarily flits through her mind without a whiff of thought or consistency or care, and then sits around impressed with how awesome she is. It’s pretty gross.
But cats are pretty cool. If you are thinking of getting one (or two!), what are you waiting for? Add one to your life.
*And yes, I realize that flying objects are still affected by gravity. It’s a metaphor. Calm down, pedants.