Babies: Why Aren’t They Cuter?
Amidst all the general handwringing about America’s falling birth rate, there’s one important question that no one’s asking: Why aren’t babies cuter? At best, human infants are well below average among mammalian offspring, mediocre compared to birds and even trailing some reptiles and amphibians. Instead of celebrating our species for eking out victory over the tardigrade (voted cutest of the invertebrates), we must admit the uncomfortable: we’re not winning in the adorability department, even if you momentarily put aside the whole being the most destructive creature on the face of the planet thing.
Just google “cute baby animals” and tell me, honestly, that the photos you find aren’t all cuter than baby humans. No, no, not *your* baby human, which is the absolute cutest, but like the average run-of-the-mill human sprog. This is science, folks. In studies, both adults and children have rated puppies and kittens superior in cuteness to babies. *Babies* prefer dogs to other babies. They may not be the cutest, but they know what’s what.
Want more proof? When was the last time you saw a duckling or a panda cub in a horror film? That’s right, never. But there’s a whole subgenre of infants and toddlers as spawns of Satan. Not for nothing is it Rosemary’s Baby not Rosemary’s Puppy.
As a woman at the tail end of her child-bearing years, I should be babies’ prime demographic. Babies should be so irresistibly appealing that my ovaries weep gametes at the mere sight of a stroller. Yet no, at most I feel bewildered admiration for a youngster’s progenitors who, presumably, stared into the same reality in which I live and were like “yep, we like those odds.” Now, if babies looked like kittens, well then you could sign me up for several years of watching the latest Pixar film on repeat and somehow not swearing.
Babies’ underwhelming cuteness is still stranger when you consider that many scientists believe our innate attraction to the cute derives from the evolutionary impulse to protect our progeny. Supposedly we find other animals – or Baby Yoda - cute because their features resemble those of juvenile humans. But why then do so many animals pull this off more successfully than our own young? Sure, dogs and cats have spent thousands of years plotting to supplant our own offspring in our affections, but the same cannot be said for hippos or chameleons or owls. Blame must fall squarely on babies for not living up to their cuteness potential. Moreover, according to science, the reason human infants need to be cute is because they’re so vulnerable for such a long time and must rely on adult sympathy for survival. But since a baby demands so much more work of its protectors than an otter pup or a cygnet, shouldn’t said progeny compensate by being just that much cuter? After all, bunnies and turtle hatchlings can take care of their own biological needs within weeks if not days and do not cost a cool 250k to raise to 18.
Come on, babies, it’s time to up your game.
If you enjoyed today’s moot, consider giving to KittyKind, Erika’s charity of choice.
*For each moot, we generate a cover image using DALL·E, an AI art platform that generates images using natural language processing. This image on the right was generated using the title, 'Babies: Why Aren’t They Cuter?’ in the style of J.J. Grandville, Erika's artist of choice.*