Well isn\’t this a surprise to everyone who understands evolution?

Grandparents \’better than nurseries\’ for young children\’s development
Young children looked after by their grandparents often develop better than those placed in expensive nurseries, a study has found.

No one would ever think that some 4 billion years of evolution would lead to such a result, would they?

The idea that children are better cared for by those with whom they have a genetic relationship than by those who don\’t?

Which brings me to one of the amusements that I note in political life.

Broadly speaking (not entirely, but broadly) denial of evolution is something associated with the right, with conservatism. Derision of those who deny evolution is something very much associated with the left.

And yet when we come to public policy proposals the positions reverse. Roughly, the more conservative one is the more likely one is to insist that children are best brought up within the family, where that very idea of evolution would place it, while the more lefty one is the more one seems to advocate State Podding Hutches for the little blighters (see Polly passim on how every child should be in a State nursery where everyone has a Masters in child development).

That\’s possibly where it is at its most extreme, but it extends outwards too. The essentially conservative view that people are as they are and the aim is to make a society work with them as they are, well, we\’re interested in constraining what evolution made us. Further left (even without getting to New Soviet Man etc, much the same is true of the Green idea that we can all be re educated to be less consumerist) we get, as we go further left, more into the idea that humans are a blank slate upon which society can write what it wants. An idea really not consistent with even the basics of Darwinian evolution (although entirely consistent with Lamarckian which is, as we all know, actually wrong).

As I say, it is an amusement watching this, what people actually do, what they recommend, seems entirely at odds with the stated views they purport to hold on evolution itself.

Pleae note, I do not say that this is an immutable truth, only a tendency.

18 comments on “Well isn\’t this a surprise to everyone who understands evolution?

  1. Stretching the notion of evolution somewhat, I feel, Tim – I think it’s attitudes to the importance of family ties and, indeed, heredity, that you are speaking of.

  2. I guess in the bible belt they would claim that families work best because God designed them.

    Such logic doesn’t work when it comes to the choice between legs designed by the almighty and SUV’s designed in Detroit however.

  3. Puts me in mind of those swathes of Working Class Warriors with a seat in the House who ensured their offspring never saw the inside of the sort of proletarian swamp they legislated for the poor.

  4. As an American friend said: “Conservatives don’t believe in evolution. Liberals don’t believe in the implications of evolution.”

    This is why my children attend a parent-run nursery when they are not with me. Obviously OFSTED have difficulty comprehending how a bunch of 30-something middle class parents can possibly provide care of the same quality that a batch of NVQed-up 18 year olds on minimum wage would do but for some reason the parents at this nursery are more positive about the care their children receive than my friends who send their children to regular nurseries.

    Life certainly is a mystery.

  5. @Glenn Haldane

    No absolutely not stretching the notion of evolution.

    If you think that the theory of evolution by natural selection does not predict that grandparents will behave in ways that correspond to them having a huge vested interest in their grandchildren surviving and thriving then you do not understand the theory of evolution.

  6. @Helen

    “@Glenn Haldane…you do not understand the theory of evolution.”

    Absolutely. Isn’t this essentially the message of The Selfish Gene?

  7. Perhaps the Telegraph subs should be sent to join the Guardian’s for retraining. Because the story doesn’t match the subhead:

    Another set of data collected from children born in the year 2000 appears to show that those looked after by their grandparents “experience slightly higher vocabulary development in the early years”.
    The report adds: “There is also evidence of a positive association between socio-emotional development and being looked after by grandparents among more educated families.
    “This was still apparent when the children reached age five.”
    But the opposite appeared to be the case among children from disadvantaged backgrounds who benefited overall from formal childcare.
    While being in formal childcare did appear to make children initially more “school ready”, the researchers added: “We should note that being cared for by grandparents did not significantly put children at a disadvantage in school readiness compared to children not in formal childcare, but rather that it provided no advantage, while formal childcare did.”

    There are evolutionary arguments for various forms of social co-operation, including over childcare. We don’t actually know what prehistoric human childcare arrangements were, what with their being prehistoric.

  8. “The idea that children are better cared for by those with whom they have a genetic relationship than by those who don’t?”

    Where does adoption fit into this?

  9. The menopause suggests the care of grandchildren has been selected for.

    Liberals understand the implications of evolution. It’s Marxists, including those who mysteriously call themselves liberals, who don’t.

  10. “denial of evolution is something associated with the right, with conservatism”: in the US. Not in my experience in the UK. I’ve never met anyone in Britain who denies evolution, though I have an acquaintance who taught in Roman Catholic schools in London in the 50s who said that the topic was avoided.

  11. Or there could be a much simpler explanation, which is that young children benefit from the amount of adult stimulus and attention they receive, which by definition is going to be greater from two full-time carers (i.e. their grandparents) than from being in a larger group of children being tended by a comparatively small number of carers.

    This benefit would of course cease to apply in a situation where the family carers are neglectful and uneducated – “disadvantaged” in Telegraph-ese – compared to benign and well-resourced formal childcare, a result which this report confirms.

    Simples – and nothing to do with evolution.

  12. Liberals understand the implications of evolution

    Helen’s example is a comment from a Yank. The common meaning of “liberal” over there bears even less relationship to its original meaning than does it’s use with regard to the Cables and Featherstones we are inflicted with.

  13. I read somewhere (sorry, no link) that hss beat the neanderthals precisely because of increased life expectancy, i.e. grandparents.

    Without 3 extant generations at a time, apparently, language would change too fast, thus impeding the transmission of culture.

  14. But nuseries HAVE to be better than families doing childcare themselves: with nurseries there is job creation, which means regulation to be done (ie more job creation), there are NI and income taxes to be collected, and standards to be invented and enforced and reported on.

    Altogether vastly better than DIY – for the state ….

    Alan Douglas

  15. Also, four billion years of evolution produced solar power in the form of … trees.

    And yet the political left is broadly in favor of 1) substituting silicon generation for tree generation, and 2) suppressing the freeing of unused energy stored in dead and decomposed … trees.

    Go figure.

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