Christian Science Monitor Doesn’t Actually Want You to Eat Your Babies

A sensational headline prompted the newspaper to issue an amusing clarification.

“Why do people want to eat babies?” a recent Christian Science Monitor headline asked. “Wait, that’s not a thing people want, right?” readers responded.

In the land of science journalism, heralding new discoveries without overselling their findings can be hard. “Admit it: When presented with a baby, you’ve experienced a fleeting desire to eat it. Now science has an explanation,” reads the Monitor‘s attempt.  Eoin O’Carroll, a staff writer for the Monitor, clarified in his second paragraph that he wasn’t making a Modest Proposal to actually consume children:

Not literally, of course. That would make us no better than hamsters or wolf spiders. But pretend baby-eating – that is, explaining to an infant that she is so cute that you just want to gobble her up, or, in extreme cases, gently grabbing a pudgy appendage and making Cookie-Monster eating sounds – is not unheard of among H. sapiens.

O’Carroll then reported on new research suggesting that the scent of a child triggered a response in the brains of mothers “associated with reward, such as food or satisfying a desire.” In that sense, smelling your baby can feel a bit like consuming good food. Fine. Other websites reporting on the same research went with headlines like “The Smell of Newborn Babies Triggers the Same Reward Centers as Drugs,” which, in addition to being more straightforward, is still kind of crazy.

But the Monitor headline, plus the incredible photo caption—”This delicious-looking infant is wearing a onesie from J. Crew’s new baby collection”—had people understandably confused. Here’s a sample of Twitter reactions:

This prompted what must be the most amusing clarification in Christian Science Monitor history:

Based on responses to this story, I should probably make something absolutely clear: You should never attempt to actually eat a baby.

The headline, subhead, and lead to this story are not meant be taken seriously. Together they are, in the parlance of journalism, “the thing that gets people to read the article.”

There is never any excuse to harm a child. The impulse that I described in this article does not take the form of an urge to literally bite, chew, and digest a small infant.

Rather, in my experience at least, it arises in utterances such as, “Your baby is so cute I could just eat him all up!” and in behaviors such as placing the baby’s toes against the lips and repeatedly uttering the syllable “nom,” in an attempt to elicit a giggle from the baby.

I realize now that such phrases and actions are not actually very common. Or normal.

Still, I hope that you will not only stand firm with me in refraining from infant cannibalism, but that you will also urge your friends, family members, and neighbors to do the same.

— Eoin O’Carroll, September 24, 2013

So there you have it. No matter how succulent your infant looks in that preppy J.Crew marinade outfit, the Christian Science Monitor does not endorse your attempts to consume it.