Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Remembrance of Blogs Past

MrsDarwin and I were talking this evening (the 7th) about how long we'd been blogging. Like the old folks we are, we couldn't recall when exactly in 2005 it had been, but a quick search of the iPhone (something which had not yet been invented at that time) revealed that I put up the first post on DarwinCatholic on June 8th, 2005. This thus marks thirteen years that we've been blogging, and given that we are thirty-nine at the moment, we've been blogging a third of our lives. That a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then is highlighted by the description I wrote of myself in that first post.
I am first and foremost a Catholic.

Politically and culturally, I am a conservative.

My brief career as a published writer consisted of a couple SF/F stories and two book reviews in New Oxford Review in which I criticized creationism/intelligent design and defended the compatibility of Catholicism and evolution. Which I have the feeling is why I stopped being invited to write book reviews for NOR...

Professionally, I am a data analyst, web designer and all around entrepreneurial type.

I'm married to the beautiful MrsDarwin, and we have two little girls (monkeys?) aged 3yrs and one-and-a-half.

And I'm still under thirty.
The three-year-old mentioned there is now sixteen and learning to drive. We have seven children in all. A couple years later I moved from my data analyst job to a pricing analyst job, and now I'm a Direct of Pricing Analytics. We moved from Texas to Ohio, and we finally paid off student loans. When I wrote that, I was four years out of college. In two years, our oldest will be heading off to college herself.

Looking back, I know my young self was putting a bold face on having come out of a somewhat difficult several years. We'd left the Los Angeles area where my family lived less than two years before, because we could no longer afford to live there, and although we'd been fortunate enough to be able to buy a house with a payment less than our old rent (thanks to the extreme ease with which they were handing out mortgages pre-2008) my job situation had only just stabilized after an uncertain couple years of temping and doing freelance projects. What I couldn't know then was that although there were difficult times ahead (my father would lose his long fight with cancer seven months later) a lot of things would also come together for us in the coming years.

What's also interesting, looking back across all these years, is what I said about the subject of the blog:
Which brings me back to this blog's name: DarwinCatholic.

One of the things that really struck me was the cultural/demographic differences between my wife and me (and our friends from college) and most of the other people our age that we met through work.

My wife and I married a month and a half after graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville. (We had been going out for three and a half years.) Many of our friends also married within a year of graduation. Most of us also had our first child within a year of getting married, and our second within two years after the first. We got office jobs and middle class incomes. Some of our friends had degrees in majors, such as Computer Science, designed to win jobs. Others, like me (I majored in Classics), learned on the job and caught up fast. We bought houses before we were thirty. Several of us started businesses, with varying degrees of success. We became, in the buzzwords of David Brooks, exurban natalists.

Meanwhile, my co-workers (mostly several years older than I) dated, partied, and assumed that I must be over thirty. The idea of "settling down" in your early twenties was totally inconceivable to them, and when I mentioned that my wife and I hoped to have 5-7 children, everyone thought I was joking.

After several years, we moved to Texas, where we had a number of friends. Texas, even in the liberal Austin area, is certainly more family friendly than Southern California. However even here, hearing that someone has more than three children is almost a dead give away that they are religious and at least moderately conservative in their practice thereof.

Certain (admittedly tiny) subgroups present event more extreme examples. In the homeschooling circles that I knew during high school, families of 8-12 were not unusual.

Looking at all this, I can't help wondering: at what point does all this start to become statistically significant? My wife and I both know a lot of other alumni of the Catholic, large family, homeschooling environment, and most of them, like us, as still strong Catholics and look forward to having at least moderate size families. If this holds true for a couple generations, how will the Catholic and indeed the general American demographic landscape shift over the next 60-80 years? If liberals average 1.6 children (and based on European demographics that's pretty likely) and conservatives average 2.6 children, how long will it take the country as a whole to lurch to the right? Or will it?
This didn't end up being a heavy focus for the blog, though it looks like I wrote a couple dozen posts on topics relating to this over the following couple years. I also went through a couple years of writing about evolution and it's compatibility with Catholicism a great deal, which provided another twist on the meaning of the blog's title.

It's probably key to the blog's longevity that I was never all that committed to blogging only on these topics. It's hard to keep a topic specific blog interesting for years. But it's interesting to look back on this thinking from today's distance.

Overall, I'm less optimistic now about the ideas I laid out back then. Demographic shifts are slow, and the speed at which schools of thought can destroy their credibility is much faster. I don't think that the demographic point is totally without merit. I saw a young person recently tell a Christian, "Purple-haired, transsexual teenagers will dance on the graves of you and your religion," with a similar confidence to that which I displayed back then, but I think that there are certain ideas and modes of life which just lend themselves well to passing down through the generations. Just ask the next Shaker you run into. I continue to think that some of the weirdest social and moral excesses of our time are so out of sync with human nature, and so allergic to bearing children, that they'll probably wane in the coming years as they fail to reproduce their own subculture and fail to attract converts from others.

And yet, it does seem a clear lesson of the last decade that groups can quickly squander their moral and cultural credibility much faster than they can build it.

The fact that same sex marriage has undergone such a complete change in cultural acceptance so quickly is in part a result of the fact that many people who claimed to hold to traditional morality in fact held to not much more than an "ewwww" reaction. Time, media, and an educational and cultural establishment deeply committed to be "allies" were easily able to move many young people away from their parents and grandparents beliefs, when many members of the previous generations holding those beliefs were unable to convey their beliefs in any convincing rational form.

Often truth is badly served by it followers. Back when I started the blog, a few months into Benedict XVI's papacy, it seemed as if for twenty years or more Catholicism in particular had been on a long slow road back from the excesses of the '70s and early '80s. We had the catechism, which had been an international best seller, and so it was easier than ever to for a faithful lay person to look up what the Church taught on a given topic. The "JP2 Generation" had been busy giving talks and starting ministries, and it seemed as if those who remained with the Church at all would be those who believed in it fully.

Since them, I've seen more and more people (particularly younger ones) react against the excesses or failures of that JP2 Generation: React against the 'chastity talk' approach which at times strayed into error and exaggeration; reaction against NFP boosterism and the excessive promises that at times came with it; react against liturgical rigorism; react against perceived discounting of "women's voices" in the Church. Sometimes it seems almost as if we are re-inventing many of the errors of the 1970s all over again, just as it seemed that generation was fading away.

Outside the Church, if there was one thing which I would have thought thirteen years ago was a dead ideology, it was Marxism. A true child of the Berlin Wall's fall and the end of the USSR, I would never have imagined that there would be a "give Marx a chance" movement among young people.

I should have recognized that while history does seem to have a center of sorts in human nature, it is a pendulum that swings back and forth around that center. One excess generates it's opposite, and then back the other way again. And so, in many ways, in the seeming advances of what I thought of (in that innocent, pre-President Trump time) as conservatism lay the seeds of the opposite swing of the pendulum, back and forth as long as history continues.

Still, it's been an interesting thirteen years, and I hope that we will continue to come up with interesting things to say for many more.


Michael said...

In 2009, three weeks after our honeymoon, my wife sent me Mrs. Darwin's practice-makes-perfect post. It facilitated some interesting discussion, and I've read your blog regularly ever since. We are seven years younger than you, have five children now, not homeschooling, but I feel nevertheless to be following a kindred path. I enjoy the reflections and I'm glad you've kept it up.

Darwin said...

Thanks, that's good to hear.

Foxfier said...

"Purple-haired, transsexual teenagers will dance on the graves of you and your religion,"

Dang, I wish I had a picture of that picture of Batman by his headstone-- or Harry Dresden, with "He died doing the right thing."

In both cases, the grave upon which they danced was...extremely premature.

And seriously, it's amusing to think of someone dancing on the grave of a faith where God Himself died, it just didn't stick. Poor long term planning, let's say.

Anonymous said...

I'm not Catholic, I'm not religious at all really (lapsed Jew) but I've enjoyed your blog for years.

I wish your family the best and I hope you two don't stop blogging anytime soon.

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks, guys! I hope we'll never stop blogging; it's part of our lives now. We're grateful for all our readers.

Elizabeth said...

I've been reading your blog for around eleven years, and though I don't often comment, I really enjoy reading. Thanks for blogging about such a variety of interesting topics for such a long time!

Agnes said...

Congratulations on your blogging anniversary! A third of your lives is significant.
How true about history's pendulum and that natural processes won't bring about the triumph of the conservative ideal or that of Christianity (and the implied thought that faith isn't hereditary, each person in each new generation has to find their own mature faith, even with the best of their parents' efforts to help it).
I have been enriched by the thoughts on your blog many times during the years, and by finding comradeship of shared thoughts and beliefs across the great distance between us. Thank you!

Julie D. said...

And we're glad you're still here ... dropping bits of wisdom (and also just plain fun) on us. :-)