March 22, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The statement “I’m not making this up” comes to mind more and more these days. The enthusiasm with which many people embrace the most absurd notions continues to amaze. Sometimes it seems as if there’s a contest for who can say the stupidest thing or come up with the most jaw-dropping idea. If so, I’d like to offer this article as a contestant for whatever prize is on offer (Aeon, 3/17/17).
On occasion, I write a piece on paternity fraud, the law on which never fails to astonish. In only five states is there any form of judicial remedy for a man who’s been denied knowledge of his child or the man who’s been convinced a child is his who’s not. Both men are harmed as is the child when it eventually learns that Daddy isn’t its father but a stranger is. In my more perfervid moments, I’ve been moved to ask, since the law doesn’t discourage mothers from lying about paternity and allows them to, in effect, choose pretty much any man they wish to be the “father,” why not simply assign fathers to children at random? Why not just draw the name of any man out of a hat and dub him Dad?
My goal in making such an extreme suggestion has always been to point out how nonsensical our legal approach to paternity fraud is.
Well, the linked-to article goes me one better. In all seriousness, it tells us that we should simply assign newborns to parents at random, i.e. when a child is born, hospital personnel should whisk it away and, once it’s ready to leave the hospital, be handed over to anyone who’s not its biological parent. Really, I’m not making this up.
Now the two gentlemen making this argument inform readers that it is intended to stimulate thought. Well, allow me to suggest to authors Howard Rachlin and Marvin Frankel that, since thought is their goal, maybe they should have put some into their article. Of course, had they done so, they’d never have written the thing and the world would be a slightly better place than it is now.
Amazingly for a couple of psychologists, Rachlin and Frankel plainly haven’t the slightest notion of the science governing parental behavior. To them, one adult is pretty much like another and any will do to care for pretty much any child. That massive volumes of science refute such an absurd notion never gets a mention from them.
No, to them, the entire matter of parenting and child well-being is not a matter to be understood scientifically, but politically. Indeed, throughout their piece, Rachlin and Frankel refer to the connection between parents and children as “genetic chauvinism.” (They once refer to it as “genetic narcissism.” I fervently hope these two don’t have clinical practices, viewing mothers and fathers as they do.) Needless to say, the idea that the desire of parents to care for their own children is at heart a political act – chauvinism - is just flat wrong.
It is of course a matter of biology. For every social mammal, the duty of caring for offspring constitutes a threat to the adult’s chances of survival. Infants of all species of social mammals are born immature, take a long time to become sexually mature and to be able to get as much food as they consume. Infants are slow and weak and therefore attract predators. Lactating mothers require up to three times the calories of other adult females. In short, the reality of those offspring offers no benefits to the adults of the group.
So how have social mammals evolved and survived, given the duties of care, nurturing, protection and socialization required of adults? Why don’t the adults just ignore the little ones and let the species die out? The answer is that, millions of years ago, the hormones that connect parents to their offspring evolved, making the existence of social mammals possible. Adults, principally mothers, alter their self-interested behavior in order to care for offspring. They do that because, during and shortly after pregnancy, their bodies generate a cocktail of hormones that have been demonstrated to produce parental behavior. Fathers also produce those hormones, but, at least in the case of oxytocin, they stimulate areas of the brain different from mothers’.
Amazingly, Rachlin and Frankel know none of this basic science of parenting behavior. The core assumption of their piece is that one adult is just like another, at least as far as his/her interest in raising children goes. But they aren’t. The entire history of human evolution and that of countless other species loudly and clearly rebuts the notion that any parent will do to raise a kid.
One of the comments makes the point in a very personal way.
[T]he writers / thinkers may have reserved their thoughts until speaking with women on the journey of pregnancy and the process of childbirth (one of the more extraordinary and painful events in the human experience). I don’t assume they didn’t consider this, but the nicely thought-out essay rings hollow without this topic being address. And terms like ‘genetic chauvinism’ feel manufactured, when at the heart of the matter, what mother with any heart would easily give up the child she just nurtured (biologically AND emotionally) and pushed out into his world?
But of course “speaking with women on the journey of pregnancy” would too closely resemble the scientific act of gathering empirical evidence for Rachlin and Frankel. To put it mildly, they are in no way about to let facts interfere with their ideas.
And it’s not just biology that reveals the fallacies at work in their article. Sociology does too. Amazingly, Rachlin and Frankel know nothing of that either.
I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.
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