(Roughly) Daily

Firing blanks…


Since the early 70s, academics and NGOs concerned with population growth have understood that the single most effective “lever” a society can pull to achieve population “control” (short of authoritarian birth bans, a la China) is the enhancement of women’s roles in the economy and society– the better educated, the more engaged a country’s women, the lower its fertility rate– and almost always, the more robust its economy, the more stable its polis, the healthier its environment, etc., etc. [c.f., e.g., here].

While experience continues to support this understanding, research is also suggesting that there may be another, complementary force at work; Pacific Standard reports that “French Semen Is Not What It Used To Be.”:

French men are losing sperm, and not in the fun way, according to a new study in Human Reproduction. Researchers examined semen samples given by 27,000 French men at fertility clinics, and found that the average sperm concentration fell more than 32 percent between 1989 and 2005.

Those findings echo a growing heap of research going back to the 1970s suggesting that the semen quality of men in industrialized countries is steadily declining. The most commonly-cited explanation is chemicals in the environment. Bear in mind, though, the supposed sperm-concentration drop is not a settled matter – many of the studies over the years were poorly designed, had overly-small sample sizes or were otherwise flawed. But if the ranks of men’s sperm are being thinned, for whatever reason, it could have serious implications for couples’ chances of conceiving.


As we ponder potency, we might send biological birthday greetings to Erasmus Darwin; he was born on this date in 1731.  Erasmus was an accomplished doctor (he declined an offer to be personal physician to Charles III), but is better remembered as a key thinker in the “Midlands Enlightenment”– a founder of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and author of (among other works) Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life, which contained one of the first formal theories of evolution… one that foreshadowed the theories of Erasmus’ reader– and grandson– Charles.





Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 12, 2012 at 1:01 am