Greatest invention/discovery in the last 500 years?

Is this remarkable? Is there any species in history that isn’t ambivalent about having children? That is, species reproduce because they had sex, and it’s the sex they wanted, not the reproduction. Even our own species only seems to have been aware that sex and reproduction were related for an evolutionary brief time. I’ve heard there are, or recently were, some societies the still have not accepted sex and reproduction are related, or that sex is a requirement for reproduction. And it makes sense – people go through various changes in adolescence, including size, secondary sex characteristics, shifting family alliances, having sex, and in the case of females, bearing young. It’s by no means obvious which of those are necessary for which other ones. Especially, in the many societies that have taboos about having sex, no doubt many of the people having young are also saying they didn’t have sex.

My answer to all of these sorts of questions is always “the mute button”.

If you are even partially correct here, that part of my post is wrong. But the point that evolution towards baby-craving will be slower than development of improved no-side-effects contraception still holds, making development of birth control the likely most consequential invention.

Looking into the specific question of whether awareness of the link between sex and reproduction has been known for an evolutionary brief time, I am now unsure. This claims at least 50,000 years of awareness, but the Neolithic art it references (Çatalhöyϋk archeological site) is from only 9,000 years ago. That’s brief. It looks like the real answer to when such awareness arose is unknown.

Your posts read as though you think that baby-craving hasn’t already evolved. But there are quite a lot of people who do want to have children; many of them badly enough that they feel like their lives are failures if they can’t pull it off.

There are enough people who want to have children very badly that the relatively small percentage who are unable to easily conceive is enough to support an entire industry and a whole lot of medical work built around helping those who don’t readily conceive to have children.

Yes, there are some humans who don’t want to have any children; but they appear to be very much in the minority. What’s going on isn’t that people don’t want to have kids. What’s going on is that most people don’t want to have more children than they think they can readily support: support financially, support in terms of available time, and support emotionally. Provide the support, and there’ll be plenty of children.

You’re right that in the current state of affairs governments aren’t about to step up and do this. But that’s where the problem is. It’s not in the existence of birth control, but in the fact that too much of society doesn’t support caring for children.

If I understand correctly, you are thinking there is a potential problem here that can realistically be solved, You could be correct. And if you are, while contraception is an important invention, it’s not the most important.

I’m thinking that:

A. Safe easy effective birth control is not a problem to be solved, but an individual human right (not necessarily a right that has to be free — just affordable),

B. Birth control is likely to, long after I and my kids are gone, lead to the terrible tragedy of the human species withering.

This Jonathan V. Last quotation may give an idea where I am coming from:

So my first thought with this thread was — which invention will lead to the greatest tragedy?

Kind of off from the question of what’s the greatest invention/discovery, but in reply to this:

Probably not generally in a conscious sense, but some sense of paternity appears to be much older than the origin of humans, or even of primates.

In a number of species, including primate species, adult males sometimes kill infants – infants who have other fathers. But they don’t generally kill infants who they fathered themselves.

Infanticide common among adult males in many mammal species | Reuters .

males kill babies fathered by others to make the dead infant’s mother available for mating. Huchard estimated infanticide occurs in about 25 percent of mammals.
[ . . . ]
Infanticide was found to be widespread, occurring in rodents including mice and squirrels, carnivores including lions and bears as well as in hippos, horses and even the white-throated round-eared bat. Many primates practice infanticide including chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons and langurs while others do not, including orangutans, bonobos and mouse lemurs.

The researchers said females of some species use strategic promiscuity to stop males from killing their babies. By mating with as many males as possible in a short time, they make it hard to discern infant paternity.

“Males stop killing offspring if there is a risk that the offspring might be their own,” Lukas said.

DNA evidence that the males are correct about whether they’re the fathers:

DNA analyses support the hypothesis that infanticide is adaptive in langur monkeys. .

Based on DNA analyses of wild Hanuman langurs (Presbytis entellus) we present the first evidence that male attackers were not related to their infant victims.

(They must mean the first DNA evidence; there appears to be quite a bit of earlier observational evidence.)

– so some sort of knowledge that an infant’s existence has to do with specific male(s) who its mother previously had sex with appears to be very ancient. If it weren’t, males would be just as likely to kill infants if they’d had sex with the mother as if they hadn’t.

Is it too far from the topic to suggest the greatest invention/discovery of this year?

A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems to Have Worked.

The widespread acceptance of the moral equality of everyone. This allowed us to increase our intellectual and economic horsepower by including everyone in society.

Yea, my first thought was vaccines. Along the same lines is the invention or modernization of sanitation & sewage systems.