The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

DNA of the Doomed

Posted on | November 21, 2020 | 2 Comments

Let’s think about the word misbegotten. Originally, it implied bastardy — “a misbegotten child” was illegitimate — but attained also a connotation of deformed or defective, and the word was generalized to apply to anything “having a disreputable or improper origin.”

“Misbegotten” comes to mind whenever I think of Lena Dunham, the weirdly shaped potato-looking person who soared to celebrity status on the basis of the six-season run of the HBO series Girls. This series was sometimes described as a “comedy,” but after trying to watch a few episodes, I can tell you that this description was a lie. Anyone who found Girls to be funny is almost certainly suffering from mental illness and — oh, by the way — did I mention that Dunham suffers from mental illness? She was addicted to the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin, of all things. Like, if you’re going to be an addict, wouldn’t it be better to become addicted to something fun? Nobody ever took Klonopin for fun.

Lena Dunham made herself infamous in 2014, when she deliberately smeared a former Oberlin College student as a rapist. This heinous lie involved using the first name (“Barry”) of a student who was a conservative activist at Oberlin during Dunham’s years on campus, claiming in her memoir that this Republican student raped her. After John Nolte of Breitbart proved this to be false — the aforesaid “Barry” didn’t know Dunham at all, and she only knew him by reputation — Dunham apologized. What happened next was that a reporter from Gawker did a close reading of the draft proposal for her memoir and noted that the description she gave matched another Oberlin student, a Jewish Democrat who happened to be the son of a former NPR host. Because we have no way of verifying Dunham’s accusation against this former classmate (or anyone else, for that matter) it is simply impossible to know if Dunham was ever raped at Oberlin and, on balance, there are many reasons to surmise the whole tale was a lie from start to finish.

The “success” of Girls was also a lie from start to finish. Nobody ever subscribed to HBO because they wanted to watch Dunham’s lousy show. No, the reason Dunham and Girls got so much publicity was not because of the size of the show’s audience (its ratings were never impressive), but because the show had a special appeal to the Manhattan media elite, reflecting their peculiar sensibilities. Before he died in 2015 at age 58, New York Times columnist David Carr was credited with making Lena Dunham a celebrity because of his glowing 1,000-word feature review of Dunham’s 2010 film Tiny Furniture.

Carr’s name came to mind the other day because of something Ed Driscoll linked about Ta-Nehisi Coates, who considered Carr a mentor. If you follow back through some of Ed’s links — he is custodian of the institutional memory of the blogosphere — you will eventually arrive at a 2011 episode of Bill Maher’s program in which David Carr said:

“If it’s Kansas, Missouri, no big deal. You know, that’s the dance of the low-sloping foreheads. The middle places, right? …Did I just say that aloud?”

This phrase, “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads,” is one that Carr used repeatedly to describe Middle America, and this contemptuous disdain is a problem among our cultural elite that has drawn critical attention from the leftist journal In These Times. The idea that Americans in “flyover country” are inferior, so that their beliefs, aspirations and lifestyle deserve to be mocked and ridiculed, is so prevalent in the institutions controlled by the Democratic Party — including academia and the entertainment industry — that it is never even questioned, but rather taken as a self-evident fact. Our elite routinely disparage the intelligence of people in Middle America in a way that they would never disparage any other group, and why? Because the people in Middle America vote Republican. But I digress . . .

In the comments recently, someone called attention to the latest news about Lena Dunham — the good news that she will not be reproducing:

Lena Dunham is opening up for the first time about her journey toward motherhood via in vitro fertilization — and the difficult emotions surrounding the fact that it didn’t pan out.
In support of her candid new essay for the December cover of Harper’s Magazine, the writer, director and actress, now 34, talked exclusively with PEOPLE about why she decided to open up about her experience with infertility, particularly after having her cervix, uterus and one ovary removed at the age of 31 due to chronic endometriosis.
After first exploring adoption, Dunham was surprised to learn from a new doctor that she “might have a chance of harvesting eggs” with her remaining ovary, which could ideally be fertilized via donor sperm and transferred into a surrogate in the hopes of resulting in a healthy baby.
Unfortunately, the process didn’t go the way the Girls alum had hoped. “I learned that none of my eggs were viable on Memorial Day, in the midst of a global pandemic,” she writes in her essay for Harper’s Magazine.

Young women are not taught that the “biological clock” ticks at different speeds for different women. Given her condition of chronic endometriosis, Dunham’s chances of reproduction were never very good, but the longer she postponed the attempt, the lower her chances became. All the shrieking hysteria about “teenage motherhood” ignores the biological reality that the 16-year-old who becomes pregnant may not have much chance of becoming pregnant later in life. Nowadays, it is almost routine for doctors to prescribe contraceptive pills to teenage girls as therapeutic treatment of menstrual problems, without much thought to the possible long-term consequences. Anything that prevents teenage motherhood is objectively good, according to the Contraceptive Culture, and if this means that a larger number of women never become mothers at all? Also good, because fewer babies reduces “overpopulation.”

Many years ago, Maggie Gallagher wrote a perceptive treatise called The Age of Unwed Mothers: Is Teen Pregnancy the Problem? Gallagher pointed out, among other things, that the rhetoric around teenage motherhood obscured the fact that most such births occur to women ages 18 or 19 who are legal adults. For propaganda purposes, however, proponents of Contraceptive Culture treat “teenage mothers” as a unitary statistical category, knowing that conjuring up the specter of pregnant 15-year-olds serves to increase public alarm, thus to generate donations to Planned Parenthood and promote electoral support for taxpayer-funded programs to address an alleged “crisis” of underage pregnancy.

What strikes me as ironic about this is that liberal “population control” enthusiasts all claim to be adherents of Science with a capital S, by which they mean the Darwinian theory of evolution. If you are a Christian who is skeptical toward Darwin (permit me to recommend Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education by Phillip Johnson), this is considered by liberals as evidence of your membership in what Carr called “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads.” That is to say, liberals believe Christians to be intellectually inferior because of our resistance to Darwinian dogma. Because low intelligence is an evolutionary disadvantage, one might suppose that people with higher intelligence would enjoy greater reproductive success. However, along with their embrace of Darwinism as Science with a capital S, liberals have also embraced a lifestyle that is incompatible with large families — or any families at all, in such cases as Lena Dunham.

Her father, Carroll Dunham, is the scion of an old New England family, being the son of Carroll Dunham IV, “a leading Connecticut realtor active in trade associations, politics, and civic affairs.” To get an idea of what kind of old money this involves, you must know that if you go far enough back along the family tree, the Dunhams were cousins of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of the jewelry dynasty. In 2011, the New York Times did a feature story about the Connecticut home Lena Dunham’s parents bought and restored; in 2014, when the couple sold their loft apartment in Manhattan’s trendy Tribeca district, it fetched more than $6 million.

Alas, all the money in the world won’t buy you any grandchildren, and this strand of Dunham DNA has reached its Darwinian dead end. Lena’s sister Grace is a non-binary transgender (pronouns “they/them”) and thus doesn’t seem very likely to yield any offspring, and Lena recounts getting the bad news from her IVF specialist doctor:

“We were unable to fertilize any of the eggs. As you know, we had six. Five did not take. The one that did seems to have chromosomal issues and ultimately …”

“Chromosomal issues,” eh?

Do you see why the word “misbegotten” came to mind?

Lena Dunham is genetically defective. The fact that her IVF treatment yielded an embryo with “chromosomal issues” is, we may surmise, more than coincidentally related to the gynecological disorder that led to her undergoing hysterectomy at age 31. Given that her father comes from such an eminent family — high-quality DNA, we may presume — what could account for his daughter’s defective reproductive system?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Dunhams did not conceive Lena until they were both past age 35. It is a matter of scientific fact that advanced parental age contributes to increased risk of birth defects. Quantifying this risk, as a matter of statistical probability, is a different matter than considering an individual case (e.g., Lena Dunham) and trying to figure out what went wrong. My point, however, is not to poke fun at this weirdly shaped potato-looking person, but rather to call attention to the behavioral pattern that leads to such outcomes.

“Fertility delayed is fertility denied,” to cite one of the basic axioms of population demographics, and reproductive success as a general matter is associated with earlier childbearing. Furthermore, it is important to think not merely of near-term primary consequences of our reproductive behavior, but also to carry our projections forward — thinking ahead, in the long term — of secondary and tertiary consequences. That is to say, we must not think merely of our own ability to bear offspring (the primary consequence of our choices), but also whether our children will grow up to successfully reproduce (secondary consequences), and whether our grandchildren will also reproduce (tertiary consequences).

Everyone who has ever been the parent of a teenager knows how difficult it is even to get them to think as far ahead as the day after tomorrow, so how could it even be possible to teach kids to think in terms of what the world will be like for the children and grandchildren that they might possibly have in some conceivable future? It is apparent that teaching evolution as Science with a capital S does not achieve such a purpose, or otherwise so many of the “elite” would not be at or near the precipice of Darwinian extinction. Rather, we should consider an observation by made more than 200 years ago by Edmund Burke: “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”

If young people are taught to consider their ancestors as worthy examples, it will not take too much research for them to discover that their ancestors generally had lots of children. My great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Bolt, born in 1806, was the grandson of Abraham Bolt, who served in the South Carolina militia in the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Bolt and his wife Permelia had at least six children, among them my great-grandfather Winston Wood Bolt, who served as a private in Lee’s army in the Civil War, and whose daughter Perlonia Bolt (b. 1884) married my grandfather James Robert McCain (b. 1882). They had many children, four of whom survived to adulthood, the youngest being my father, Bill McCain, who married my mother, Frances Kirby, who was one of three sisters. I am one of three brothers and, so far as I can tell from my genealogical research, none of my ancestors had fewer than three children. Let anyone trace their family tree back a few generations, and they will discover the same thing.

Students of evolution speak of “r/K selection theory,” which supposes a “trade off between quantity and quality of offspring,” with the “r” strategy being to produce more numerous offspring, while the “K strategy” seeks to maximize parental investment in fewer offspring. The controversial Canadian psychologist Philippe Rushton used “r/K selection theory to explain differences among racial groups,” which was condemned as racist, but let us set aside this objection for the sake of science. The problem exemplified by the case of Lena Dunham is that the “r strategy” (parents having fewer children, with the idea of more “quality” in their offspring) pursued past a certain point, involves an increased risk of eventual reproductive failure. This is what I mean by taking into account secondary and tertiary consequences, thinking forward to the third generation down the line. Suppose this hypothetical:

  1. John and Jane have two children.
  2. If both of their children have two children of their own, John and Jane will have four grandchildren.
  3. If all four grandchildren each have two children, then John and Jane will have eight great-grandchildren.

Now a slightly different hypothetical:

  1. John and Jane have three children.
  2. If each of their children have three children of their own, John and Jane will have nine grandchildren.
  3. If all nine grandchildren each have three children, then John and Jane will have 27 great-grandchildren.

In other words, increasing average family size from 2 to 3 — which is not much, really, in terms of r/K theory — produces a third generation of descendants more than three times larger. This fact is obvious from simple arithmetic, yet its social consequences are profound. The modern trend toward delayed childbearing and smaller family sizes does not merely produce slower population growth (which is what proponents of the Contraceptive Culture have in mind), but it increases the frequency of circumstances like Lena Dunham’s. The fewer the number of offspring, the greater the ultimate risk that you will have no grandchildren, if one of your offspring proves for some reason to be a reproductive failure.

This simple calculation does not even begin to include all the many potential consequences of pursuing the “r strategy” too far. For example, how many uncles and aunts and cousins will your grandchildren have? My wife and I have six children and, if all of them marry, then our grandchildren will each have five aunts and five uncles. So far, we have five grandchildren, which is a good start toward a large brood of cousins. These bonds of extended kinship should not be derogated as a source of social benefits derived from larger (“K-strategy”) family sizes.

Why isn’t this apparent to “elite” intellectuals? Why don’t the people who lecture us endlessly about science ever seem to mention the simple facts that I’ve described here? Why does the responsibility fall on me, a mere blogger, to point this out to you? I dunno. All I know is that there will be none of Lena Dunham’s defective DNA in the next generation.

Did I mention that Thanksgiving is Thursday?

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Can I get an “amen,” dear brothers and sisters?