Why Humans Are Born So Helpless



  1. Human adults have large brains capable of complex thought.
  2. Adult human brains are larger than the adult brains of most other animals.
  3. This means that more total brain growth will take place in humans than in other animals.
  4. So, by the time a human brain is able to control walking, for example, its brain will be larger than a calf’s at the same stage of development.
  5. The human brain is about on par with a newborn calf’s brain when the human is one year old.
  6. Since a one year old human’s brain (and face and skull) is too large to fit through a mother’s pelvis a human must be born at an earlier stage of development than babies of other species.
  7. Unable to walk, stand, or grab because their brains are so under-developed, human babies are helpless.
  8. Once humans reach 1 or 2 years old, they finally start to catch up with other animals.
  9. At this time other animals brains stop developing, while human brains keep growing.

Why Babies Are Born Helpless, Simplified:

  • Humans are smarter than most other animals.
  • This is because our brains are bigger.
  • But when you look at human babies they don’t seem smarter at all.
  • Why is this?
  • Well, to understand, let’s pretend for a minute that brains are like gardens.
  • A human’s garden has rows of carrots, radishes, lettuce, kale, and zucchini. A cow’s garden only has rows of carrots and radishes. They both have the same amount of carrots and radishes but the human garden has more types of vegetables.
  • Now, we need to fit both of these gardens into a small bag – that is, the skull.
  • Since the cow’s garden doesn’t have as many veggies in it, we can go ahead and add a little fertilizer. The veggies will grow a little bigger but they’ll still fit in the bag since there aren’t too many of them.
  • When we pick the two gardens and put them in their bags, the cow veggie bag will have just a few nice crunchy big carrots and crisp radishes. The human bag will have a whole lot of stringy roots and tiny little sprouts.
  • If we were to let the human’s garden keep growing to make nice big veggies, we wouldn’t be able to fit them all in the bag.
  • So the best way to keep the human’s garden small enough to fit in the bag is to not let it grow very much from the beginning.
  • So now let’s think of these gardens as brains again. When a cow is born it is able to walk. When a human is born it can’t walk at all.
  • This is because the part of the brain that controls walking is bigger in the cow’s brain (think crunchy carrots). But the same part of the human’s brain is just a little sprout.
  • It might seem like the baby calf is smarter than the baby human but he’s not really.
  • Someday, when the human’s brain (garden) has had a chance to grow more, it won’t just have carrots but it will also have kale and zucchini and all the other veggies. These extra veggies are like talking, going to school, and cooking.
  • So, we don’t get to walk as soon as we’re born like cows do but they won’t ever get to do homework and talk about gardens.


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  1. This isn’t a one day only discussion, also.
    Throw in marsupials next time too. We have a lot in common with them, really.
    And who doesn’t like kangaroos?
    We’re so helpless because we’re born early, half baked like how a steak is still cooking while it’s sitting on the counter. We’re born early so we have more time to look and think and learn. Wombs are lovely, but they’re kinda boring. ;-)
    Cows are born all done. Still little, but not fetuses. Cats are born just a little early, so their eyes are glued shut until they’re all done, but they’re more like steaks. Just a little cooking left. People are still fetuses when they’re born, like kangaroos, so they need to be carried, and fed right away, and can’t do very much, because they aren’t a baby yet.

  2. Hi Peggy!
    Thanks for the insight into your homeschooling efforts, I find them very useful (and used couple of them already before). I would like to add to your point 6. for adults, and perhaps this is something that kids may also easily grasp. I think it would also be interesting to say WHY a human baby’s skull cannot fit through the mother’s pelvis at a later stage and why the birthing process is so painful even at 9 months. I understand that this is all due to standing upright which then made women’s hips become so very narrow compared to animals that with time we just needed to give birth earlier. And so the 9 months is a compromise between what we can still endure physically and what is the minimum optimal for the baby to survive.

    My son is now 3 so we are at a different stage of teaching and understanding. What I often use is that I “group” concepts so that he understands similarities and differences between various groups and certain items within a given group. Like when we talk about vehicles we typically compare where they ride (water, land, etc.), what kind of energy they use (gas or electricity), how fast they move, how we would call the pilot and where that person would sit, etc.
    I also do “packaging” of concepts and my favorites in this respect are examples from nature. Like how the sun provides us with light, warmth, but it also ripens our fruits and vegetables, and is also a source of vitamin for humans/animals, as well as nutrition for plants, etc.
    It seems to me that with institutionalized teaching/learning kids often don’t get to see or understand the big picture and how all things interrelate. So my general approach is to ensure attention to detail but also to keep the focus on the wider concepts and interconnections.

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