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Fetus Don't Fail Me Now: How Scientists Raise Children 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the double-blind-man's-bluff dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In the latest column from scientist, humor columnist, and stand-up comedian Adam Ruben, he examines his own umbilicus and considers how being a scientist will affect his approach to raising his only slightly post-fetal child. From the article: 'I don't know how other prospective fathers treat their wives' pregnancies, but I saw it as a science project. It had a protocol, parameters, a timeline, and even the one item that makes funding agencies happy: a deliverable. I found myself poking at my wife's abdomen, asking, "Who's Daddy's little gestating blastocyst? Who's recapitulating phylogeny?"'"
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Fetus Don't Fail Me Now: How Scientists Raise Children

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  • Icon: Darwin Award Boy?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:05PM (#36311936) Journal

    Data show that having children decreases happiness. They also eat a lot of your time (which could be better spent doing science) and they're extremely expensive (scientists don't get paid that much). Knowing this, why would anyone who respects data have children?

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:13PM (#36312034) Homepage

      Knowing this, why would anyone who respects data have children?

      Genital arousal combined with absence of contraceptives.

      • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:54PM (#36313178) Homepage

        Catastrophic failure of personal protective equipment. ("Wow, this feels really great all of a sudden!")
        Inconsistent test methodology. ("Hmm, I feel like I'm forgetting something. Oh well, it'll come to me.")
        Manufacturing defects discovered in product testing. ("You are? That's... amazing. Truly.")
        Unscheduled discharge during preliminary phase of operation. ("Oh shit.")

    • by LS1 Brains (1054672) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:15PM (#36312046)
      All I can say, is "they're doing it wrong." If a child doesn't increase your happiness, you either had the child at the wrong point in your life, you weren't prepared for the supposed negative aspects, you have spousal issues, etc. Sure, there's a lot of things that can drag a parent down that aren't the direct effect of the child him/herself. I've read the studies, they say parents THINK they're happier when in fact they're not? Sounds like the incoherent ramblings of someone with some pretty hefty baggage from their own youth.

      Take one look at any proud parent beaming when their child marks another achievement. Take one look at any parent boasting about how their child is so smart because they accomplished some task at an early age. Take one look at any parent when they arrive home from work, and walk through the door to be greeting with tiny feet and open arms. Take a look at all the videos parents post on YouTube!

      If anyone could think those parents aren't happy, I can't imagine what those folks think would improve a parent's happiness.
      • by gknoy (899301) <<moc.smetsysizasana> <ta> <yonkg>> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:19PM (#36312082)

        Amen to that. I'm tired all the time, my spare time is shot to hell. I can't schedule video game time reliably anymore, and travel is Highly Inconvenient. The house is a mess and I'm always stressed. All of that is worth it when my kid gives me a big squeezy hug, and watching my kid's joy unfold is pure magic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192)

        I've read the studies, they say parents THINK they're happier when in fact they're not?

        Yes, self deception is a common coping strategy.

        Take one look at any proud parent beaming when their child marks another achievement

        Sure, if you only look at the positive moments. The net balance swings towards the negative. Parents don't see it because of choice supportive [wikipedia.org] bias.

        If anyone could think those parents aren't happy, I can't imagine what those folks think would improve a parent's happiness

        Some free time and a

        • Yes, self deception is a common coping strategy.

          Looking at my own life as a parent, I have yet to feel like I'm coping. Rather, I find myself looking forward to the next opportunity to spend with my family. Judging by their reactions when I walk through that door, they apparently suffer the same coping strategy as I do.

          Sure, if you only look at the positive moments. The net balance swings towards the negative. Parents don't see it because of choice supportive [wikipedia.org] bias.

          The "negative" moments are no more troubling than those elsewhere in life. Heck, a lot of those negatives are a great source of amusement for my wife and I, and they make for some absolutely adorable photos. Work issues have been much

        • Not getting a good nights sleep is typically only in the first few months, or year. I have no problem with getting a good nights sleep because of my 9 and 12 year olds. Even when my wife has another child, I don't think I'll be missing much sleep due to her refusal to allow me to get up in the middle of the night to take care of the baby. Even if she does want me to get up, I did that for 2 kids before. It was a pleasure then, and will be a pleasure in the future.

          As far as free time, I have a lot of i

        • Self deception is what keeps us from being insane.

          You should read those studies too :)

          Being realistic about yourself and your surroundings rarely leads to happiness.

      • by MonsterTrimble (1205334) <monstertrimble@h ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:58PM (#36312562)

        Exactly. I can have the shittiest day ever, and when I walk in the door and my kid runs up to me excited to see me saying 'Dad! Dad! Dad!' everything else disappears.

        • by mldi (1598123)
          Conversely, you could be having the greatest day ever, then when your kids come home from school and tear each other to pieces and call you whining about it in the middle of the afternoon... well, your day is shot to hell.

          I get no such lip from my fish, and they are also enjoyable to watch.
      • I've read the studies, they say parents THINK they're happier when in fact they're not? Sounds like the incoherent ramblings of someone with some pretty hefty baggage from their own youth.

        No, I don't think you have read the studies. The studies had people answer fairly standard questions about life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, mental well-being, etc. Then when the results were grouped by whether the person was a parent or not, the parental group averaged significantly less than the non-parents.

        There are lots of theories as to why there is such a strong and repeatable divide in self-rated happiness levels, but it doesn't really matter - no "hefty baggage" is required to see that the

    • by wurp (51446)

      You don't think your genes and memes deserve to live on beyond you?

      • by Hatta (162192)

        I don't think it's cromulent to say that genes "deserve" anything.

      • I fear that in the next decades we will hit deep, deep shit. I am at an age where I still have the option, but at the moment, I think that putting children into this world would not do them a favour.
    • by syousef (465911)

      Data show that having children decreases happiness. They also eat a lot of your time (which could be better spent doing science) and they're extremely expensive (scientists don't get paid that much). Knowing this, why would anyone who respects data have children?

      Because:
      - They don't believe the data
      - Scientists are curious and want to experience things for themselves
      - They or their partner have a biological urge that it would make them even less happy not to fulfil
      - They wish to pass their knowledge and expertise to someone
      - Even scientists are not entirely rational beings. We're all just a species of monkey in the end.

      If you can afford having children, the unhappiness comes from the overwhelming demands on your time. (Even that could be mitigated to a degree if yo

    • by DamnRogue (731140)

      Data show that having children decreases happiness. They also eat a lot of your time (which could be better spent doing science) and they're extremely expensive (scientists don't get paid that much). Knowing this, why would anyone who respects data have children?

      Just because there's an ongoing cost and time periods where the net return might be negative doesn't mean that the whole project isn't worthwhile. Driving to the store is less fun and more expensive than reading a book. Cooking is also work. However, after I've done both I get to eat a delicious meal. These studies also tend to only interview people who are in the immediate throes of child-rearing. It shouldn't be surprising at all that if you talk to people in the early stages of a project with heavy up-f

      • by Hatta (162192)

        They've actually done these studies. Child-free people are happier at all stages of life, including after the children are grown.

        When you think about it, this makes sense. They've been doing what they wanted for the past 20 years, instead of what they had to do. They're better off financially for it too.

        Sure, parents and grandparents will deny it. Self-deception is a common coping mechanism, and it's required for propagation of the species. You can't rely on self-reporting to measure differential happ

    • Biologists studying Pandas can appreciate successful and relatively effortless procreation.

    • Data show that having children decreases happiness.

      You have data? Does it show a correlation, or a causation (perhaps the parents need to refine their methods or their attitudes)?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html Let's talk parenting taboos: Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman

      here is a TED talk that takes that first data point on decreased happiness and digs deeper.

      • by syousef (465911)

        http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html Let's talk parenting taboos: Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman

        here is a TED talk that takes that first data point on decreased happiness and digs deeper.

        Yeah, the time and effort sucks. It ages you. It can make you unhappy. Now ask them if they could, would they give up their children for someone rich and successful to raise. I don't see them adopting their children out.

        There is value in their analysis but their conclusions are crap. The value lies in breaking the expected stereotypical social norms and allowing parents to say "no, it wasn't a fairytale romance the minute I picked up my son/daughter". "No it hasn't always brought me untold bliss. Some days

    • Given the usual reasoning as to why scientist do anything around here lately, they probably do it for the funding. Also, to establish a communist world government. Of course, taking your tax money is part of it, but that is a given. There might be some other conspiracies involved, but I am not enlightened enough to see through those. I am sure, though, that someone will open my eyes soon...
    • Data show that having children decreases happiness. They also eat a lot of your time (which could be better spent doing science) and they're extremely expensive (scientists don't get paid that much). Knowing this, why would anyone who respects data have children?

      Yeah, but that data showing children decreases happiness comes from "social scientists." There's data and then there's "data."

      PS. I'm sorry to any social scientists who were offended at that joke, but 100% of poll respondents found it was totally true and furthermore that you should all get real jobs and quit crying about it.

      PPS. I tease because I'm envious of your easy methodology that don't require working with dangerous chemicals or squinting at slides.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I have to disagree with your data. Children can cause happiness in many people. Yes they're expensive and they eat a lot of your time but that doesn't make someone unhappy. What the data does is take love out of the equation and substitute in the number of diaper changes over a lifetime.

    • by COMON$ (806135)
      Anyone who understands logarithmic expansion understands the impact of raising a child successfully will most likely far outweigh anything you will do in your lifetime. As well I am going to have to ask for citation on your "Data show that having children decreases happiness" Here is the first non-religious result in a google search for Children and happiness http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/11/the_effect_of_c.html [econlib.org] (There is a newsweek article there but it has no data).

      Being a childless couple tha

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Anyone who understands logarithmic expansion understands the impact of raising a child successfully will most likely far outweigh anything you will do in your lifetime

        What does that even mean? The impact to who? Positive or negative impact? Having a child certainly has a powerful positive impact on that child's life. That doesn't mean it has a positive impact on yours.

        Here is the first non-religious result in a google search for Children and happiness http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/11/the_effe [econlib.org]

      • by mldi (1598123)
        Speaking of logarithmic expansion, let's talk about overpopulation. We only have so many natural resources, and renewable resources have a limited renewable rate. You accuse people who don't have children of being selfish? I truly don't understand that logic. Why should anyone be judged on how much responsibility they want to take on? Maybe they're thinking of the greater good of the planet and/or the human population rather than their own limited circle of existence?

        As for the urge to procreate being ha
    • I still have the model from my kids first few months of time sleeping and time of pooping as a function of feeding where I achieved an ~80% success rate in predicting when he would wake us up and when we would have to change the diaper.
  • This reminds me of one of those "Autistic Reporter [google.com]" stories at the Onion News Network.

    Fortunately, nature generally is pretty good at stopping scientists from reproducing--which may ultimately be for the best. I can really only take so much of there pedantic over-analysis of even the most trivial things. I guarantee you that, even now, a scientist reading /. is furiously typing away at his keyboard to point out the fact that I misused "there" in my previous sentence.

  • 1) You never bug a pregnant, hormonal woman. EVER.
    2) You never refer to fetus as a blastocyst, parasite, or nickname him "blobby"
    3) The only acceptable response is "Yes dear, no dear, I will rub your feet right away dear".
    4) Never tell her that stretch marks are camoflauge to help her hide in the tall grass to escape predators.
    5) In the later stages of pregnancy, when she is immoble, that is not an opportunity to dutch oven or teabag her.
    6) Never refer to pregnant sex as "intercourse and a handjob all in one", otherwise you will not get intercourse OR a handjob.

    Learn from my mistakes young nerdlings. Oh, and if you'er wondering, I'm still married. Why, I know not.

    • by wmbetts (1306001)

      I wish I would have seen you're post 5 years ago. +1 informative!

    • by Intropy (2009018) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:27PM (#36312170)
      Agree with all of the above. When I referred to our "little blastocyst" my wife got upset and chided me for not knowing that by three weeks we most certainly had a gastrula.
      • by metrometro (1092237) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:52PM (#36313154)

        True, although in our case, my wife referred to our daughter affectionately as Blasty well into the pregnancy.

        She also sang Frank Sinatra ("I get a kick out of you") to the fetus every day for 7 months or so, so she could compare the response post-partum to a control (Dean Martin). Results were inconclusive. We're considering another trial.

      • by IorDMUX (870522)
        My wife and I called our youngest "Smudge" from the first smudgy ultrasound until birth. The nickname was picked up quickly and well received by our extended families.

        ...Though some of her blog readers were rather put off by our seemingly insensitive choice of name for a son.
    • by radtea (464814)

      You never refer to fetus as a blastocyst, parasite,

      No kidding! A parasite reduces the host's reproductive efficacy!

      You'd have to be a gibbering idiot or completely ignorant of the foundations of evolutionary biology to refer to a fetus as a parasite.

    • by Jiro (131519)

      7) Never assume that when a guy is a humor columnist and a stand up comedian he might not be intending things completely seriously.

      Sheesh.

    • 2) You never refer to fetus as a blastocyst, parasite, or nickname him "blobby"

      Totally. If you actually -do- have a blastocyst, you wouldn't know it. The blastocyst stage is over by two weeks after conception. [wikipedia.org] You can't tell if a woman is pregnant even via pregnancy test until the blastocyst stage is over. Calling it that would just be plain INACCURATE. I guess you could have sex and then start saying that 5 to 6 days later, but you wouldn't actually know for certain at that time. No self-respecting scientist would do that.

      Oh, also it might annoy your wife/baby mama, but that

    • by feufeu (1109929)
      7) Don't tell her that *she* wanted a baby during labor pains. I did this and almost got killed on the spot...
  • by lennier1 (264730)

    Slashdotted within 5 comments.

  • At times like this I wish that I was a stupid, shallow person rather than a scientist -- just so that my children don't end up with the long list of psychoses that that child will end up with.

    (Don't get me wrong: it is important to raise creative and rational children. But treating them as a science experiment, even in good humour, is going to be damaging.)

    • by wmbetts (1306001)

      Have you done any experiments to prove this?

      • by MacTO (1161105)

        As an astrophysicist, I'm an observationalist and not an experimentalist ...

        I do a fair bit of work with children in the arts and the sciences. Even though there are some truly splendid geek-children out there, I've found that the ones who are engaged by the arts are better adjusted socially, emotionally, and intrapersonally. Of course, the ones who express enthusiasm on both sides are the most interesting and seem to have the most constructive behaviours.

  • It had a protocol, parameters, a timeline, and even the one item that makes funding agencies happy: a deliverable.

    So does sex. Note that scientific jargon doesn't usually make good pillow talk.

  • by mrnick (108356) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:16PM (#36312058) Homepage

    while (1){ fork(); ); // Hope derivatives will achieve far more success

    • while (1){ fork(); ); // Hope derivatives will achieve far more success

      That's the way it all feels sometimes, isn't it?

    • by RMingin (985478)
      I think you have a syntax error. Your curly brace is open. (For those wondering, I have reproduced. It did not affect my pedancy.)
    • while (1){ fork(); ); // Hope derivatives will achieve far more success

      That won't compile. You didn't put a closing bracket, and there's an errant close parenthesis in there.

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:29PM (#36312200) Homepage

    Ummm... nobody actually. I'm always amazed to find that people are still taught that and believe it. Haven't they ever heard of DNA? Perhaps his joke went "wooosh". I sure hope he was joking.

    Recapitulation Theory [wikipedia.org]

    • Haekel's specific theory of recapitulation was wrong, but mammals, including humans, do generally recapitulate the physical traits in the order in which they appeared evolutionarily. I'm not sure to what you are referring to with the "Haven't they ever heard of DNA?" remark, but DNA merely provides the guidelines for development which we see adjusting the length of time for certain traits to develop in the womb, not the order of development. For example, the minor DNA differences between humans and chimps m
      • by CODiNE (27417)

        I mentioned DNA because I've talked to people who believed that during development the fetus literally does a fast-forward playback of evolution and actually IS changing from one species to another. As if a premature baby would come out all furry and have a strong craving for bananas.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:31PM (#36312214) Homepage

    Without RTFA, I guess there isn't much here in terms of humor or science. I mean talk of an experiment with "protocol, parameters, a timeline, and..a deliverable," but no control?

    Weak sauce.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @04:46PM (#36312398)

    I tell my girlfriend that I want twins, that way I can name one "Control". With Triplets you'd even be able to do 2 different studies.

    • by NoMaster (142776)

      Sure, if all you want to do is toy high school science fair fiddling and not real science.

      Every proper scientist should know that you need at least 3 replicates per treatment...

  • I think I may once have referred to my daughter, before I knew she was a daughter, as a zygote, and I did often refer to her as a fetus. However, my wife did the same. Also, since my wife has various health issues (celiac disease and tyroid problems), we were always treating it as a schedule to follow with milestones and all sorts of measurements. None of this seemed conspicuously unusual to either of us, except perhaps for a combination or envy and pity for those people who people who know nothing about

  • Is a scientist got laid. And his partner kept it.

    Which puts her in a group of 2, not since Kathleen Fent has a woman loved such a humongous geek. :-)

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@nOs ... t-retrograde.com> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:25PM (#36312848)

    My first word was "Light", not Mama or Dada.

    As a 6 year old boy I black-mailed my parents into subscribing to scientific journals and magazines (discovered via articles referencing them I read in the library). Ethics be damned, I knew all about many of their embarrassing secrets, esp. their gossip of others -- Someone had to take charge of my learning. In their ignorance, they couldn't see the value in feeding a young mind's thirst for knowledge with anything other than Sesame Street, Legos and 3-2-1 Contact. Money was not the issue, I saw many purchases attributed to leisure, and offered to give up my own current & future toys in exchange for knowledge.

    I eventually came to respect my parents, but not until they had respected me as sentient member of the family (not an unquestionably obedient pet to be amused with mere toys). "Because I told you to, and I'm your Parent!", was never a logical argument -- It was tyrannical, and I revolted as any free-thinker would to tyranny. They eventually learned that respectfully explained commands worked far better: "Go to bed early so that you'll be refreshed, we have an earlier schedule than normal tomorrow morning." or "Go to your room, I'm upset enough to be irrational!" or "Mom and Dad need some alone time -- could you go play outside or at the neighbors?"

    Perhaps having to explain yourself to a child is outrageous -- I say that to do otherwise is to foster ignorance, misunderstanding and thus irrational anger.

    For my initial "insolence" and "ungrateful" attitude I suffered copious amounts of corporal punishment (it had little to no effect on my mind -- only reasoning did), but my unlucky parents suffered too under the burden of psychological warfare as I pitted one side against the other; Eg. placing Dad's porno under Mom's pillow, or putting things from Dad's wallet into Mom's purse -- there are so many little things that irritate adults.

    My parents finally came to realize that they should also be grateful that they didn't have to talk down to me, or worry about censoring the world for me -- I knew what not to say and when not to say it, and right from wrong because they told me these things. They became grateful that they could simply say: "Sorry, that's too expensive, or dangerous I won't change my mind", and I would understand -- instead of arguing, whining, or throwing a temper-tantrum in public as other children sometimes do.

    If you are of a strong scientific mind and high intellect: Toss out everything you know of the parent / child roles. Treat your children as you would like them to treat you, or as adults treat each other -- With respect. If they disrespect you, discipline them, but if you disrespect them, they will discipline you (what do you think an embarrassing fit of kicking and screaming is?).

    A wife would be outraged at being sent to her room by a Husband, or vise versa. -- Indeed it may be best at times to calm down after a bit of distance and time, tell your children this, they will be less prone to irritate you if they can tell what's irritating. Oft times the whole issue can be avoided with a bit of communication: "Please stop that, I don't like it when you do that." You do not have to abandon your role as parent -- "Trust me, son, I can't explain why but you shouldn't do that" or "I need you to do this for me..."

    Scientists beware -- Your genes may cause you to spawn a "monster" such as me -- A thirsty mind frustrated by its role as a child.

    • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:36PM (#36312958) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps having to explain yourself to a child is outrageous -- I say that to do otherwise is to foster ignorance, misunderstanding and thus irrational anger.

      I encourage my daughter to disagree with me if she thinks she's right and can support her claim. I frequently point out that mindless obedience is not encouraged either. That said, she's very respectful and treats others well, including teachers who've claimed she doesn't know what she's talking about when she does.

      A personal moment of pride was when she wrote a note to get herself out of after-school care. She wrote it first person, not claiming to be from her parents, included my cell phone number on it as back-up, and left it with a friend and took off. My phone rang with a panicked teacher explaining that she had this note I obviously didn't write and I told her it sounded fine to me.

      Watching other parents raise mindless blobs is very frustrating.

    • "Go to your room, I'm upset enough to be irrational!"

      I'm curious, why did you accept this answer when it's a variation of "I'm not going to rationalize my anger, just gtfo?" The way you describe your precocious self, this shouldn't have been a acceptable response.

      For what it's worth, it's great that you were able to an understanding with your parents at a young age. I know I was too hedonistic and self-centered to ever act the way you did. Not saying your methods of child rearing are wrong, just noting, it's not a surefire thing. Sometimes no amount of rat

    • Depends how young.

      When you're less than 6 years old, you don't have enough reasoning to be able to really accurately argue with your parents. At that age, kids need to know that parents are God, and to go against God is a near death sentence. Otherwise you end up with the screaming, yelling brats you see at supermarkets every day. I mean, Christ, if a parent says "No I'm not buying you chocolate" you don't run around the shop throwing products on the floor and screaming for 15 minutes (happened a few days a

      • I don't think you need to use a "wooden spoon" to raise children.

        My Dad had a fairly novel solution to the "temper tantrum in the store" problem. He simply ignored my tantrum and walked away. Once I realized that I was by myself I got scared and ran to the next aisle to find him. Of course, I immediately started my tantrum again, but he just walked away again. Once I learned that throwing the tantrum wouldn't get me what I wanted, I stopped throwing them -- no "wooden spoon" required.

        The research shows that

  • Babies and children are natural born scientists. They are born a blank slate and they learn, through trial and error, to walk, talk, predict and reason about the world around them. Everyone is born a scientist. The real mystery is at what point do people lose their inner scientist and is it squeezed out of them by society?

    Every kid repeatedly smashing an object out of curiosity is a miniature particle physicist - putting energy into a system to see what happens.

Vax Vobiscum

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