Gene Expression

Jamie Lynn Spears: it runs in the family?

Hometown Reacts: Residents Respond To Pregnancy News in relation to Jamie Lynn Spears & Casey Aldridge’s impending parenthood:

But we did manage to talk to a few locals, who, quite honestly, weren’t too shocked to learn that Britney’s little sister was pregnant, either because teen pregnancies aren’t all that uncommon in Kentwood, or because, after all, she is Britney’s little sister.

“They tried to keep it secret, I don’t know why. In Kentwood, everything gets out. You got kids who are 13 or 14 and pregnant in Kentwood, we’re about used to it around here,” Donald Church said. “But it seems like a big deal around here. … A lot of people can’t believe it. I used to work with her dad, and I couldn’t believe it. You know, little Jamie … it’s kind of freaky.”

“I heard about it on the radio, they were talking about it. It’s real popular down there. Everybody knows about them,” Raynard Norman laughed. “It’s embarrassing, kind of. If it’s not her, it’s Britney, so at least it’s not Britney this time. But I’m not surprised, not really. … Nobody’s surprised because it’s not uncommon with her family. Next time, use a condom.”

In The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection R.A. Fisher offered up a reason why long term decreased fertility was never going to be an evolutionary problem for the human race: if any fertility was in any way heritable the proportion of the population which exhibited traits resulting in relative fecundity would slowly increase and replace those disinclined toward reproduction. Evolution is often characterized as “Survival of the Fittest.” First, that is actually simply even metaphorically corrected in regards to evolution driven by natural selection. But second, it is probably more accurate to say it is survival of the fertile. Physiological fitness may not correlate with reproductive output. Remember antagonistic pleiotropy?

Note: It could of course be cultural heritability. Fisher elucidates that argument as well, arguing that pro-natalist religions will promote the increase of their flock. In Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity he makes the argument that the sects opposition to infanticide and communal support networks were critical in allowing it to marginalize paganism in part through procreation.


  1. #1 Biff
    December 23, 2007

    The advent of modern birth control is probably one of the most significant events in human evolutionary history. Current circumstances confer a strong fitness advantage not only on those who have an especially powerful desire to have children, but also upon those who are too impulsive to use birth control. Both those traits will likely become more common in our descendants.

    It is an illustration of how we humans are co-evolving with our technology – sometimes in ways we might not choose. And since most people seem to think that evolution magically stopped 50,000 years ago, it is a process that humankind is largely oblivious to.

  2. #2 dougjnn
    December 23, 2007

    What’s remarkable to me is not that she’s having sex at 16, and probably a whole lot of it, particularly given her showbiz/Hollywood sex kitten persona, but that she chose not to have an abortion.

    In the 1970’s when this boomer was in college, or sixties when I was in HS, that would have been just about unthinkable for someone like her. I take the point that her ancestors were not exactly illustrious or paragons of virtue, but she has enormous amounts to lose. She would have aborted – probably on a very hush, hush basis (which might well have leaked at least as an unconfirmed rumor). Her Hollywood handlers would have all but forced her to. They would have prevailed on the parents, etc., etc.

    Actually a good part of what this saga illustrates is that in the current climate she probably WON’T lose much. It’s certainly not certain that she will. If she plays it right, she doesn’t have to.

    I think a great deal of the increase in teen and young unmarried pregnancy is due to a combination of the strong pressure to use condoms and usually only condoms exert4ed especially by women’s groups since the late 1980s AIDs scare (and aging boomer feminist backlash against casual sex) and especially beginning in the 1990s, and the STRONG efforts of both feminists AND the religious anti-abortionists to destigmatize illegitimacy. Indeed there’s now a stigma attached to using the word “illegitimate” – it’s been virtually banished from the media – not to mention “bastard”, which absolutely HAS been banished. Instead “being brave and keeping your child” is what Hollywood celebrates all over the place. While obviously the women’s movement fights fiercely to preserve a woman’s right to choose abortion (and I agree), there’s also strong social pressure not only to not abort but especially for a woman to not give an out of wedlock child up for adoption. Countless movies and tv shows make young women who decide to “keep their (unmarried) babies” “brave heroines”. If feminists weren’t ok with this, it simply wouldn’t be shown, or anyway, not with any frequency.

    There may possibly have been somewhat less sex back in the sixties and 70s between high school kids than now (and maybe not, there was a lot in those early pill years, esp. among the fairly affluent), but I don’t think there was less among the college aged. Virtually ALL the women I hooked up with then (or talked to etc.), unless it was a sort of “slumming” encounter, were on the pill with the rest using a diaphram w/spermicide. Since then depo shots and Norplant and it’s successor have been invented. But most intelligent / high achieving women now use nothing other than their partner’s condoms (the least reliable method) – and abortion seems MUCH less favored as a backup solution than it was.

    What seems to me to have gotten much more casual now is the attitude towards having outside of marriage children, and secondarily using the most reliable birth control (with some attendant side effect costs, often highly exaggerated by feminists), rather than a big increase in pre marital sex.

    Or to boil it down, the birth control pill and legalization of abortion caused an enormous tidal loosening of previous social controls on non marital sex from the early 60s onward, from the top down – and then by the late 80s women decided they didn’t want to take the pill or other forms of female birth control, and a lot decided they didn’t like abortion. So now the white out of wedlock birth rate is only a little below 25%, while the black rate is 70%.

  3. #3 Caledonian
    December 23, 2007

    Current circumstances confer a strong fitness advantage not only on those who have an especially powerful desire to have children, but also upon those who are too impulsive to use birth control. Both those traits will likely become more common in our descendants.

    Well, not necessarily our descendants. But in those who come after us.

  4. #4 dougjnn
    December 24, 2007

    This phrase ine second to last paragraph above:

    and secondarily using the most reliable birth control

    should read least rather than most.

  5. #5 dougjnn
    December 24, 2007

    Actually, no, it was right the first time.

    God it’s frustrating to not be able to edit one’s own comments. Why not allow it, at least for say a couple of hours?

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