January 3, 2011

Volker ter Meulen

Dear Volker ter Meulen:
I read the heartening article Cultivating Young Academics Volker ter Meulen and Gǖnter Stock SCIENCE vol. 330 no. 6010 December 10, 2010 page 1455.  It is good to see that things are so well in hand.

I am writing you because it appears that you have an interest in the careers of young scientists and in broad social issues particularly relating to understanding science.

As you must know, the birth rate in Germany is very low and has been for some time.  What is less well known is that over the past thirty years or so the birth rate has remained fairly stable but the age at which the average women marries has risen dramatically.  This is fairly standard for developed countries; the birth rate declines and then appears to stabilize just at the time marriage age begins to rise.  At this rate – and the rate is not constant but accelerating – by the time women now being born reach 40 the age at first marriage will have been above 40 for some time.

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is not whim but a biological process having to do with social changes inherent in affluence.  Miserably poor people must marry within walking distance, while the rich can use a jet plane to socialize with whom they choose.  And of course the poor have bigger families. 

I understate the case a bit.  There is no need for a jet.  A bicycle appears to be quite capable of eliciting the effect.  

All this is properly published science.  Perhaps the easiest access to the key papers is through the Christmas Eve entry at nobabies.net, where I post whatever evidence I run across along with letters like this trying to get the attention of authorities such as you who can look at the information and say, “Yep.  It’s real all right.  People need to be told.  It’s a matter of their health and incidentally of the public welfare.” 

Or if there is a serious problem with the evidence or my interpretation, I would be eager to learn it.  After all, if I am wrong I need to know. 

The young people you are interested in helping with their careers are of course most vulnerable.  They are investing their best years preparing for a future that may be quite different from the present and not in a good way.  Since you are encouraging them, it would seem proper that you check the matter out.  They are trusting in you. 

Please let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD

There have been 8,877 visitors so far. 

Home page.