Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin, from Choice Moms

As my daughter will quickly tell you, anytime I hear the terms "Darwin" or "evolution" or "DNA" my ears perk right up. I have so many unread books about evolution in my bedroom you would think it was my life's ambition to understand all the microscopic nuances of barnacles and birds that Darwin himself found so fascinating.

The truth is, however, that it fascinates me -- but I don't comprehend it. I just absorb the tidbits as they come.

One person who fuels my amateur learning is my high school buddy Troy, who is able to master technology and use it to spread news about anything from popular culture to science.

Here's what he passed along today that I thought Choice Moms like myself might find interesting:

Time magazine: "Human Evolution: Are Humans Still Evolving?"

"Sperm hold a much higher chance of carrying an error or mutation than an egg, especially among older men. "While it used to be that men had many children in older age to many different women, now men tend to have only a few children at a younger age with one wife. The drop in the number of older fathers has had a major effect on the rate of mutation and has at least reduced the amount of new diversity - the raw material of evolution. Darwin's machine has not stopped, but it surely has slowed greatly," Jones says. (See TIME's special report on the environment.)"

Something I've written about in my "Choosing Single Motherhood" book, but it's always interesting to see someone else reinforcing the us food for thought in how and why we bring men into our children's lives:

From LiveScience, "Dads Are Key to Making Us Human":
"While other primate babies can fend for themselves in roughly a decade, human childhood stretches 18 to 20 years, said David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of "Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences" (American Psychological Association, 1998).

Also, anthropologists speculate that the relative helplessness of human children has made multiple caregivers a vital necessity - that encourages bringing dad into the picture. Even today, in both traditional and industrialized communities, a father's presence correlates with improved health and decreased child mortality, Geary said.

Evolutionarily speaking, he added, the kid-phase probably lengthened as dads got more involved. With an extra person dedicated to caring for them, kids have no need to rush towards adulthood.

Perhaps out of worry for their kids' future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement, Geary said. But it is not all lesson plans and lectures.

Kids also learn from fathers during a unique form of papa play. Unlike mothers, fathers tend to roughhouse with their children.

"They rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down," Geary said.

This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions - a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers, he said."