Sunday, May 11, 2014

Aliens and Mothering/Parenting

It's Mother's Day today in the U.S. on the planet Earth. In honor of the occasion, I've been using the hand-decorated mug my son made for me (even though the marker ink came off on my hand) and thinking about alien parents. According to the "Your Inner Monkey" episode of the documentary Your Inner Fish (more influence from my son, as he was briefly obsessed with this series), humans are born with brains that are relatively undeveloped compared to monkeys. This is a feature, not a bug, since that means we have an extended childhood that allows our brains to develop over a couple of decades, giving us time to be socialized and educated.That means human children need more intensive nurturing than other animals that mature more quickly. A lot of this nurturing comes from the child's mother, though fathers, other relatives, teachers, and other adults can influence a child as well.

Do you think sentient life forms on other planets require this much nurturing as they develop? If so, do you think it comes from their mother, or whatever the equivalent is? Other life forms may have more than two parents, or may be raised by other members of their race besides their biological parents. No matter what customs apply, I expect natural selection would still favor parents who bond with their offspring--and offspring who form an attachment to their parents would get more support as they mature.

Here's a video featuring one of my favorite alien mothers, the Horta from the original Star Trek series:

You have to feel sorry for a mother who has to care for an entire planet's worth of offspring by herself.

And if I may insert a shameless plug, you can read about a human mother in my SF Catalyst Chronicles series.


  1. I would hate to make assumptions about probably alien biology based upon human/Earth biology where the paradigm is that the longer a creature takes to develop to maturity the more intelligent it is. Though that may not even be the case here if we ever find out that whales/dolphins are smarter than us.

    At any rate, this made me think of an alien species that propagates through mitosis. Each offspring actually has all the knowledge of the parent and no learning or maturation is required. That would be interesting.

  2. That WOULD be interesting.

    I have nothing of any worth to add to this, since you both out-thunk me today. So I'll just say: Can Vulcans feel emotions if they feel them through other people? (I know, Spock was half-human, right? But OTHER Vulcans?)

    Other animals teach their young, too. Cheetahs, according to the book Mr Bunches and I read the other night, teach their young to hunt. So apparently we need to be watching our backs for highly-advanced Cheetahs who will become socially evolved and start posting things on Pinterest. "Just hunted my first humans!" **SIX OTHERS FAVORITED THIS.

    See? Nothing intelligent to add.

  3. Andrew, I agree that yes, just because we see something on Earth doesn't mean it will be the same on another planet. The idea of being born with your parents' knowledge is also interesting. However, if there's no learning things directly, where does innovation come from?

    Briane, I think the animals who avoid using social media might be more intelligent than the rest of us. ;)

  4. Well, once they split, they would continue to learn new things; they would just have the benefit of already knowing all the previous knowledge. And, sometimes, there would glitches in transference of data.

    Briane, I don't know if it needs to be intelligent if it's funny.