Thursday, February 28, 2013

Giving kids Mom's surname endangers species הענקת שם משפחה של האם מסכנת את המין האנושי

A friend who took his wife’s surname (yay!) sent me this piece of drek parading as science. On the one hand, I hesitate to even dignify it with a response. On the other, just in case anyone out there is looking to validate their giving their kid hizzer father’s surname, I felt that Goddess has called me to disabuse any such individual of that notion.
So this piece comes from a site called BigThink, which seems to be a forum for science-based arguments for…well, lots of stuff. I admit to not being even a little bit tempted to extend my visit beyond printing the piece out and getting the heck out of there.
Its premise is that aside from a few species (the others being avian), humans are the only ones whose males invest in the upkeep of their young, so therefore they’re insecure about their paternity, not wanting to support some other guy’s young by mistake. So in order to convince human dads to invest in their young, we must give our young their dads' surnames, which will assuage their dads' (collective unconscious?) fears that the young they’re upkeeping aren’t actually theirs.
The piece concludes by claiming that 1) A system wherein children take their mothers’ surnames is doomed to extinction evolutionarily speaking, as in such a system, the males will not feel compelled to look after their young; and 2) Therefore, “most known human cultures practice patrilineal inheritance of surnames.”
While that last one may be numerically true (how does one count cultures?), I doubt it’s the case on a per capita basis. The members of the Chinese and Hispanic cultures alone probably exceed half the world’s population, not to mention other cultures with which I’m not familiar. As for the first claim above, here’s the conversation with my husband:

Me: Uh, I don’t even know where to start. How about now we have this thing called DNA testing?
Husband: How about now we have this thing called civilization?!

Hmm. Can’t argue with that.


  1. Picasso is the artist's mother's name because the Spanish custom of placing the father's name, Ruiz in this case, first before the mother's caused the French to call him by her's. In some countries, such as China, I think, t he reverse can be the custom. Anyway, why not use both parents' names? You can also change any name that pleases you. Most customs are silly. A begezunt! YYbYZhL

  2. I'm going to forward this to my friend whose husband took her name.

  3. Irv, the argument here is evolutionary. Picasso was Spanish. Did the Hispanics die out as a culture due to their naming practices? Seems not.

    Laurie, is your friend married to my friend?

  4. This was fantastic. I imagine this conversation with my wife (whose surname I took):

    Me: Welcome home, honey. Mind if I ask a question?

    Carol: Of course not.

    Me: OK. I'm a mammalian male, so I cannot be completely certain of the paternity of Angie, the baby you're carrying, and any other babies in the future. I'm being asked to invest very heavily in these offspring. Therefore, I need to be reasonably convinced that I am indeed the genetic father of my putative offspring. So, I think that our kids should have my last name because that social institution is enough to convince me that I am the father because it basically says, “The baby’s really yours, because it has your last name!”

    Carol: Our kids do and will have your last name. Your last name is "Tyler," remember?

    Me: Oh, right.

    Carol: Plus, we're married and a big part of marriage is trust. Trust me. You're the only one. I love you. Plus I'm too tired to fool around, even if I didn't love you. Plus plus, you can always have a paternity test done.

    Me: OK, OK, forget I ever brought this up.

    Carol: Deal. Now, mind if I ask a question?

    Me: Of course not.

    Carol: Have you invested heavily in making dinner tonight? I'm really hungry.

    Me: Of course. Ready in 5 minutes.