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Biological Essentialism and Parenting:

Chuck Colson's syndicated column is about the Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins case. I won't repeat the details here, though you can find them here; and you can find a broad response to Colson in this Overlawyered.com post by Walter Olson.

Here, though, I wanted to focus narrowly on a specific part of Colson's argument:

The subhead in the Post article says it all: "Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller got hitched and had a baby together." Together? Anybody who knows anything about biology knows that's impossible. But that's just how the courts are looking at it. As a judge in the case told Janet Jenkins's lawyer, Janet (the lesbian partner) "without question is presumed to be the natural parent ... by the basis of the civil union." So in the court's eyes, Isabella is the child of two women, something biologically impossible.

"Had a baby together" is impossible to "anybody who knows anything about biology" only if you think "had a baby together" must be a statement about biology. Yet the whole point of a civil union is to make a partnership through which you commit to do things together. And one of the things that people try to do together through a civil union (whether others approve of civil unions or not) is bring into the world -- or, with adoption, into their family -- a child that they commit to support together. In reliance on the mutual promises, they invest time, effort, money, and physical exertion. One is willing to invest some things and another some other things (as with a male-female marriage) precisely because they've committed to this project together.

In fact, this is precisely how a man and a woman can have a baby together even if infertility requires them to use another man's sperm. It surely is an impoverished conception of parenthood to say that it's "impossible" (or wrong) for a husband and wife to have a baby together when they together commit to raising it, and they together arrange for it to be born, but for biological reasons they have to use donated sperm.

Yet it turns out that this is the very conception of parenthood that Colson is pointing to -- later on he condemns the use of donated sperm as well:

How is it possible that laws and court procedures could have become so dangerously fantasy-based? Actually, we should not be surprised. Many modern parents have unwittingly been collaborating with the process for years. The Washington Post tells us how Judge Cohen explained it: "[C]onsider the situation of a heterosexual couple in which an infertile husband agrees for his wife to be artificially inseminated with donor sperm." In such a case, the judge stated, the husband would be presumed to have parental rights even though someone else had actually fathered the child.

It all ties together. Heterosexual couples have tacitly approved this practice of including a silent third partner in a marriage to produce a child. And then it makes it very difficult to cry foul when homosexuals do the same thing.

Isabella's plight shows us the tragic consequences of rejecting the biblical view of marriage, which provides for one man and one woman in the union to raise the child. Sure, there are extraordinary circumstances, and adoption is possible. But the norm is the norm, and the law has always recognized the natural moral order.

Even adoption seems to be, despite his assurances, outside his vision of "the biblical view": He says it's "possible," and appears to defend it simply on the grounds that it's an "extraordinary circumstance." But surely 120,000 adopted children per year are likely to be no more "extraordinary" than the children of same-sex couples. (If 3% of the U.S. population is gay or lesbian, and if every one of them ended up in a couple and each couple yielded two children over the members' lifetimes, that too would be about 120,000 children per year.)

I strongly suspect adoptions are less "extraordinary" than births using donated sperm. And if a birth of a child who's biologically unrelated to the mother's husband is against the "biblical view of marriage," then it seems that an adoption -- especially an adoption at birth -- would be even further from that biblical view. (I realize that Colson says "the biblical view of marriage ... provides for one man and one woman in the union to raise the child," but from the sentences before and the sentences after, I take it he means for the biological father and the biological mother to raise the child, since otherwise this sentence would be completely unrelated to his faulting of heterosexuals' using donated sperm, or his discussion of adoption.)

How did this supposedly religiously motivated fixation on the child's biological relatedness to both parents come about? Does the Bible indeed somewhere condemn, explicitly or by strong implication, the use of donated sperm? I know the stories of Hagar and Tamar in the Old Testament discuss what some people do when they can't have children naturally with their spouses (because of the wife's infertility, the husband's death, or the husband's refusal to impregnate the wife); but I take it that the moral message of the stories is not necessarily clear.

Is there something elsewhere that takes such a biologically essentialist view, to the point of prohibiting the use of donated sperm, and treating adoption as grudgingly tolerated in "extraordinary" cases? (I'm not speaking just of Catholic natural law reasoning; Colson is a Protestant who, I take it, focuses much more on the words of the Bible.)

Pendulum (mail):
Always nice to see Biblical literalism carry the day. When's the stoning for driving on the Sabbath, as should be done to preserve the Natural Moral Order?
3.6.2007 2:59am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Note to conspirators: The margins on your home page are messed up, you have to scroll side to side to read each sentence.
3.6.2007 3:15am
Glen Whitman (mail) (www):
Pendulum -- I think Eugene's asking whether there even exists a Biblical passage that supports Colson's view. If not, then the problem is not Biblical literalism, but that Colson is making stuff up and attributing it to the Bible. In that respect, Colson may be much like those linguistic prescriptivists (another of Eugene's favorite targets) whose claims about correct language usage aren't even supported by the traditional authorities.
3.6.2007 3:16am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Maybe Colson would be fine with it if the sperm donor had sex with one of the lesbians, following Genesis 38:9.
3.6.2007 3:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
When a couple uses donated sperm they are playing genetic roulette. Courtship provides a vital assistance to a couple—they know each other intimately before they procreate. As such they have some idea of what their offspring will be like. Adoption or using a stranger’s sperm is an imperfect substitute for the real thing.
3.6.2007 3:33am
theobromophile (www):
From my perspective (take with many grains of salt, atheist-heathen that I am), the Bible could be read either way on the subject of assisted reproduction:

"If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him....

If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.


(Deut. 21:15-17 and 25-5,6, if anyone is interested.)

Levirate marriage is for the express purpose of bringing a son into the world; presumably, if girls had been born, the brother would take them into his house - ergo, no adoption issues.

General references to both polygamy and remarriage indicate that marriage and procreation are tied into retention of the family name. Arguably, the requirement for levirate marriage could be to continue the dead husband's genes (via his unwed brother), but the focus on his family name seems to override that concern.

If you can have multiple mothers in a house, why not achieve the same through egg donation or adoption? If Sarai can ask Abrahm to sleep with her maid so she may have children (Gen. 16-2), then it's quite a stretch to prohibit the artificial version of the same - surrogate motherhood and egg donation.

Of course, the prohibitions against adultery (recourse of a married man whose wife has slept with someone else = stoning, forgetting the exact passage) indicate that the wrong is bringing another man's child into the relationship, not just the sexual infidelity.

Ultimately? Egg donation = good, sperm donation = bad.

Oddly, this reflects the latest in biotechnology: we can clone females without any male material (genetic or otherwise), but need the ovum to clone males (i.e. egg donation necessary either way).
3.6.2007 4:26am
Gregory Conen (mail):
Zarcov: Somewhat true, though most sperm banks provide at least some information about the donors, allowing a decision to be made on that basis. Plus, donated sperm is almost always free of out and out genetic diseases.
3.6.2007 4:31am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Gregory Conen:

I’m actually thinking more along the lines of inherited personality traits. We know from the work of Stephen Pinker (The Blank Slate) that most major traits have a high degree of heritability. If you want children that are compatible with you then it helps to have a mate that is compatible. For example if you don’t want shy children, then don’t choose a shy mate. Of course we have no guarantees, but it helps to improve the odds. The information we have about sperm donors is limited when it comes to personality.

Michael Crichton’s latest novel Next explores the possibility that a sperm donor might be liable for passing on a genetic predisposition to drug addiction or alcoholism. Then there is the possibility that a sperm donor could end up with a paternity suit on his hands. While California law provides pretty much ironclad protection for sperm donors, Pennsylvania does not. The veil of anonymity has been pierced there, and the next step is to hold the donor liable for support under the theory that a child is an innocent party.

My personal advice to men: don’t donate sperm-- ever. Especially to someone you know. There are guys who donate sperm to lesbian friends, and later find themselves liable for child support.
3.6.2007 5:24am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
People normally equivocate "have a baby" with "produce a baby." In that context, the two having the baby in either example are the ones supplying sperm and ovum.

If I adopt a kid that my hypothetical significicant other had with someone else, as in the case of the lesbian couple, I call it just that, and not "having a baby together.
3.6.2007 6:28am
markm (mail):
Is this Chuck Colson the bungling Watergate burglar? Can anyone find what the Biblical punishment for his crimes would be? If he'd been stoned to death back then, we wouldn't have to hear him insulting every adopting parent today.
3.6.2007 8:02am
MHeine:
And what about all the states that have laws stating that a child born in wedlock is the Husbands child regardless of paternity. Even if the mother had been separated from him for years before the birth.
3.6.2007 8:14am
Chris MM (mail) (www):
I’m actually thinking more along the lines of inherited personality traits. We know from the work of Stephen Pinker (The Blank Slate) that most major traits have a high degree of heritability.

First of all, Pinker doesn't do empirical research in personality psychology, so we don't know from his actual work. You know from reading his book. Second, while studies have shown the big five to be heritable at about .5, other traits rarely top .3 (which isn't "high"). Since the big five represent very broad but unspecific personality tendencies, and since the specifics are likely to be much less heritable, it's not really clear whether "most major traits have a high degree of heritability" is true. That said, even with the Big Five, the influence of the environment is equal or greater than the heritability. So the odds are on your side in the gamble.
3.6.2007 8:20am
Tom (www):
Very cute to mock the Biblical approach, but can we at least admit that the wholesale tampering with parenthood, as if it were a merely mechanistic process infinitely subject to human intervention, is a very very recent viewpoint, and one that would be condemned by the historical weight of human ethical thought, not to mention by 2,000 years of Christian teaching (if that means anything to anyone anymore)?

Anytime the link is severed between biology and love, the human person is cheapened by being reduced to a product to which the parents are somehow "entitled." Thus, when sperm donation occurs, the biological link between parents and child is severed-- the child is not the child of one of the raising parents, as Colson unremarkably notes.

Only a view that children are commodoties and that parents have an absolute "right" to obtain them by other than the natural process, can approve of sperm donation IVF. Not surprisingly, the same "commodity theory" is at play with homosexual adoption: the notion that any "committed couple" has a right children, regardless of the methods used to obtain them. Very little is mentioned of the foundational right of the child to have two biological parents raising him, a socially optimal outcome, by the way, which should not be derogated from except by extraordinary circumstance, such as the death of one or both parents. Anything less is to rob a child of his or her birthright.

This is just another step in the modern utilitarian reduction of the human person to a means to another's good, not as a good in se. On a broader level, this "commodification" has led to such pleasant practices as at-will abortion and even creeping infanticide (cf., partial birth abortion).
3.6.2007 8:30am
Elliot123 (mail):
We don't have to agree with Colson to maintain a level of precision and accuracy in language. A couple can have a baby together, which invlves biology. They can adopt a baby together, which involves an extnsion of love, care, and support. Then they can act as parents together, which can be a result of either biolog or adoption. Why strive to mask the distinctions? The view that a couple can act through biology or through adoption has nothing to do with being impoverished; it's just a reconition of two different processes that both lead to parenthood.

I'd suggest that pretending adoption is no different than biology is disrespectful to adoption and the thousands of parents who adopt. We have to be careful not to allow folks like Colson to define our modes of discourse.
3.6.2007 8:34am
Hebrew Atheist:
Click here for the link for the quotation below:

"In a number of famous (some say infamous) responsa from the late 1950's and early 1960's, the Orthodox Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (one of the foremost halakhic arbiters of the twentieth century, 1895-1986) ruled that artificial insemination from an anonymous donor is permitted (at least in the case brought before him where the couple's desire for children was great). He reasoned that such insemination is not adultery (no forbidden intercourse occurred) and that in America, the donors are likely to be non-Jewish (and therefore there would be no problem of sibling marriage, for reasons too complicated to discuss here). 3 This decision was fiercely attacked because of considerations cited above, for instance, that there is a difference between involuntary bath and sheet impregnation and voluntary artificial insemination. Some critics maintained that the purposeful introduction of donor sperm into a married woman is adultery. Others argued that in the places where Jews live and at the hospitals which they frequent, the donors are likely to be Jews, and, therefore, sibling marriage is a problem. Still others argued that if the donor were non-Jewish, artificial insemination would introduce "defective" elements into the Jewish people. Because of the outcry, Rabbi Feinstein eventually withdrew his permission, but he did not back away from his legal reasoning. 4 While there is no unanimity today among Orthodox rabbis, I would say that the consensus is to allow husband artificial insemination under certain circumstances with certain guidelines, but to prohibit donor insemination."
3.6.2007 8:46am
Aultimer:
Tom (and other fundies) -

We don't have hereditary kings. Not only are women not property, they can own and inherit equally to men.

If you're comfortable with those elements of American life (especially if you're going to take credit for them as enlightened Christian progress), you're going to have to get over all the anti-biblical artifacts of those changes in society.
3.6.2007 8:49am
Hebrew Atheist:
Click here for a more extensive, nuanced discussion of this issue from the book, Brave New Judaism by Miryam Z. Wahrman.
3.6.2007 8:50am
Oh my word (mail):
You are missing Colson’s point about the Biblical view of marriage. It is not that the Bible cannot sanction adoptions or artificial insemination. It is that thousands of years of teaching on marriage and sexuality have great wisdom that is due much deference. Consider it Chevron deference.

The point is that the Bible encapsulates great wisdom about the importance of children being raised in a home with a mother and a father. Trying to reinvent all the rules is going to lead to unintended consequences and is highly unwise.

That is the point.
3.6.2007 9:00am
Ralph Hitchens (mail):
I don't know if there are essentialist passages extolling the virtue of "normal" marriage, particularly in the Old Testament where polygamy was not uncommon. But of course there's the entire New Testament, based on a family union that was decidedly not normal -- Joseph's son came from "donated sperm," so to speak.

Colson's reasoning is not hard to fathom. Like so many in the Christian right he dislikes homosexuals, and he couches his distaste in "family" terms to avoid accusations of homophobia. He seeks refuge in the Bible, cherry-picking passages from, say, Leviticus to justify his beliefs. He says nothing about those other passages in scripture that tell him who he may lawfully enslave, or which would keep him from enjoying a shrimp cocktail. There's a word for this: hypocrisy.
3.6.2007 9:03am
Randy R. (mail):
Zarkov: Courtship provides a vital assistance to a couple—they know each other intimately before they procreate."

That's actually the funniest line here. Of course, there are no children as a result of one-night stands!
3.6.2007 9:04am
Oh my word (mail):
Ralph:

Total misunderstanding of Colson's argument and worldview.
3.6.2007 9:10am
Randy R. (mail):
Tom: Anytime the link is severed between biology and love, the human person is cheapened by being reduced to a product to which the parents are somehow "entitled." Thus, when sperm donation occurs, the biological link between parents and child is severed-- the child is not the child of one of the raising parents, as Colson unremarkably notes."

IF there were true, then the non-biological mother wouldn't love her child as much as the biological one. Any evidence to support that? In fact, the non-bio mother is the one suing for at least partial custody!
ARe you arguing that all adoptions 'cheapen' the human person, since the biological link is severed? If so, then of course Moses' life was cheapened, as he was not raised by his natural parents. But just try telling any family that has adopted kids that that their family has cheapened things for everyone else.

This whole argument by Colson &Co. has arisen as a response to gay marriage. It never existed before. Desparate to find some way to condemn gay marriage, this is the only one they can come up with, and it's been championed by Maggie Gallagher. Tom explains it well: That only natural children of both parents constituties a real 'family.' Anything else severs the biological relationship between parents, and somehow that's bad. They never explain HOW that is bad, but they just say it's unBiblical and hope that you will stop asking questions. If pressed, they will try to blame all of societies ills on this supposed severed link.

When you point to happy families that don't fit this mold, they simply ignore, or say that they don't count.
3.6.2007 9:11am
AppSocRes (mail):
Forget the Bible. Colson could have based his arguments solely on sociobiological and social science research. There's now considerable evidence suggesting that children raised by non-biological parents do conssiderably worse in life than other children. To cite but one example, Daly and Wilson's studies of family violence suggest that the level and lethality of violence against family members relates inversely to the proportion of shared genes, e.g., stepfathers and mothers are much more likely to assault and kill their children than are biological parents.

The legal problems raised by these grotesque social experiments are likely to be dwarfed by the human and social toll they will impose. My expectation is that these experiments will be self-limiting in the sense that they will tend to produce offspring so deeply disturbed as to be incapable of perpetuating the subculture that produced them. However, in the short term I expect that the children of these unions are going to impose extraordinary burdens on society at large.
3.6.2007 9:14am
Lazy (www):
Does anyone remember the Supreme Court Case from Con Law II where biological father sues wife and husband for parental rights to their baby because there is a 98% chance that father is the biological father (i.e. wife had an extramarital affair)? There, the Court denied father any parental rights saying that the law has long since presumed any baby conceived during a marriage is the baby of those in the marriage. I'm on spring break, so I don't have the analytical horsepower to figure out how this cuts against Colson, but I think it does.
3.6.2007 9:25am
Abdul (mail):

This whole argument by Colson &Co. has arisen as a response to gay marriage. It never existed before


I'm not sure that's true. A similar argument arose (albeit in different fashion) in Michael H. v. Gerald D., 491 U.S. 110 (U.S. 1989). The court held that the biological father had no parental rights because the legal doctrine of the putatiative father gave the mother's husband parental rights. It's interesting that in both of these cases--as Colson says-- the courts choose legal fictions over biolgoical reality.

I don't draw the same conclusion that Colson does, however. People have always used the law to arrange things in ways that are not possible in the natural world. Adoption is one example. To some extent, private property is another example. I couldn't "own" a house if there was no law because a stronger person could always push me out of it. With law, a frail old lady can evict a biker gang--a result that would not happen in the natural world.
3.6.2007 9:29am
Dave N (mail):
I suspect that Colson's point has to do with same-sex couples having children and some posters are reading more into it than that.

As an adoptive parent (though mine was a more classical "step-parent adoption") married to someone adopted as an infant, I find the distinction some people make between biological and adoptive children repugnant. In my mind, it is the love and the willingness to accept the responsibilities of parenthood that counts.

I am not biologically related to my son or my grandsons--and my response is, "So what?"
3.6.2007 9:33am
Gregory Conen (mail):
Zarkov: You have a point about the compatibility issue, though I agree with Chris that you may be overstating the case. So adopting or using a sperm donor is a second-best situation to being raised by natural parents, ceteris paribus. But single parenthood is certainly a second-best to having both parents, and being born into poverty is second-best to being born into at least moderate wealth, working long hours outside the home is second best to more parent-child contact, etc. Many of these are probably more detrimental than the biological/adoptive parent model. Not all children will be raised in ideal circumstances, certainly not in a free culture.

I don't know enough about the relevant statutes or case law to make a determination on the other issues (except if the donor lied about a [family] history of alcoholism or drug abuse, in which case there is certainly a possibility of liability).

Tom: You equate love with biological relation, somewhat absurdly. Do you deny that adoptive parents can love their children? Or, conversely, that all biological parents can be indifferent to their children? This would be news to thousands of happy adoptive families and thousands of deadbeat, neglectful and abusive biological parents.

As I noted above, children do not have the right to raised in ideal circumstances; that would be impossible. Even if you deny an inherent right to have children, surely a couple that wants a child enough to jump through the hoops required for adoption or sperm donation will be better able to raise a child than the idiots who forgot to use a condom.

Elliot: Having generally means "possessing" or being associated with or something similar. While a couple who adopt or use a sperm donor certainly don't conceive a child together, they could be said to have a child together on the grounds of shared responsibility for and association with said child. To use accuracy and precision in language.
3.6.2007 9:37am
Adeez (mail):
To the extent that any religion (or religious text) fails to promote selflessness and compassion, it fails.

It's fascinating to see someone using the bible to actually condemn adoption.

Adopting children is one of the most moral acts one can commit. Particularly when the adoption is done for no other reason than the parents' desire to care for an orphan rather than a substitute for a reproductive problem. But either way, I have nothing but a ton of respect for those who choose to adopt.

Just as it's better to adopt a shelter dog rather than pay a breeder to produce more puppies, I think it's morally preferable to adopt rather than procreate given that the world is vastly overpopulated and millions of children are w/o homes. Indeed, the decision to procreate is a bit narcissistic.

I'll probably get slammed for these comments. I do not mean to state that all biological parents are immoral, so please don't misunderstand. Reproduction is a universal human desire, and I don't knock it. But it's hard to say that it is the morally superior choice.
3.6.2007 10:03am
Oh my word (mail):
Colson's not condemning adoption generally, and most certainly not by heterosexual couples. That's inaccurate.
3.6.2007 10:06am
Houston Lawyer:
There is a difference between having a child and raising a child. Having a child is commonly understood to mean biologically producing a child.

From what I understand, sperm donors are in a legal limbo and any man whose wife gets impregnated by a sperm donor may also be in legal limbo. Many states have repealed their laws deeming the husband to be the father of his wife's children born during the marriage. Some husbands only find out during divorce proceedings that the child is not bioligically theirs. This fact will affect custody.

Meanwhile marriage continues to decline in the poorer social classes where it is needed the most.
3.6.2007 10:08am
Chris Bell (mail):

"Joseph's son came from "donated sperm," so to speak."

lmao

Reminds me of Dawkins' comment that 'Of course religious claims are scientifically testable. If we found the tomb of Jesus, presumably he would have no Y chromosome.'
3.6.2007 10:10am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"Is there something elsewhere that takes such a biologically essentialist view, to the point of prohibiting the use of donated sperm, and treating adoption as grudgingly tolerated in "extraordinary" cases?"

Well, I've been bemused by the Anna Nicole Smith stuff to the degree that all these potential "fathers" have been crawling out of the woodwork to get their hands on the 400 million dollar baby. The argument that seems to be accepted without a question is that whoever's sperm was involved in the creation of the child is the "real" father, and that the decision of Smith and her husband-like-entity to claim the child is irrelevant.

In the Smith case, it seems that this "biologically essentialist" view is accepted without question. If not, it would not matter who the biological father was.

billo
3.6.2007 10:23am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Tom,

Others have taken issue with your claim that non-biological parents are somehow worse or something that denies that child essential rights. I agree but I want to take issue with the way in which you are commodifying the production of children.

I agree that the way many people seem to view children as an accessory to their lifestyle is troublesome. The attitude of far too many people seems to be that they are entitled to be mothers or fathers just because they have the biological ability. If people thought more of the welfare of the child and less of their own parental aspirations we wouldn't have couples who are aware of serious genetic risks their child will bear (retardation/deformity not increased cancer risk) would not have children, at least in the natural fashion. The huge number of children born to parents without the money or time to raise them in the fashion they deserve is a result of the same attitude.

So yes, commodification of children is a problem but it is natural reproduction that is the problem not adoption or sperm donation. People who have children in non-traditional ways tend to do a lot of soul searching to see if it is right for the child as well as them. But for some reason people assume that just because they want a child and are married it's their prerogative to pop one out. So if anyone needs to be stopped from commodifying children it is the people who believe naturally conceived children are a right (or even duty) of every married couple.

If the potential for abuse was not far too high I would support a mandatory program to give all baby boys reversible vasectomies at birth (and offer free clinics where people could have it reversed). Given that such approaches are far too likely to be used to oppress unfavored groups I think instead we need to simply change attitudes. You don't get to have a baby just because you want one and your body will make one.
3.6.2007 10:23am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Oliver,

To be fair to biological essentialist's (like Tom I imagine) they should be perfectly fine with adoption. After all the problem is that you are denying the child the right to be raised by his biological parents when you use sperm donation. When adopting someone else has denied the child this right and you are just mitigating the harm.
3.6.2007 10:25am
Chris Bell (mail):
logicnazi, that may be the first thing you've ever said that I agree with.
3.6.2007 10:26am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"Reminds me of Dawkins' comment that 'Of course religious claims are scientifically testable. If we found the tomb of Jesus, presumably he would have no Y chromosome.'"

Only, of course, if we allow Dawkins to define what Christians believe. There is, in fact, a wide variation in belief, and has been so historically. One of the most silly things about fundamentalist evangelical atheists like Dawkins is that they have to misrepresent faith in order to promulgate their bigoted statements about it. It's no different than fundamentalist Islamofascists who justify the persecution of Christians in Moslem-dominated areas on the grounds that the people are not "real" Christians because they do not accept the view of Jesus as represented in the Koran -- and since they are not "real" Christians, they are infidels and deserve persecution.
3.6.2007 10:26am
Cornellian (mail):
You are missing Colson’s point about the Biblical view of marriage. It is not that the Bible cannot sanction adoptions or artificial insemination. It is that thousands of years of teaching on marriage and sexuality have great wisdom that is due much deference. Consider it Chevron deference.

I'd take the deference argument a bit more seriously when it comes from someone who supports the death penalty for women who have sex before marriage and for people who work on the Sabbath, just 2 among many Biblical injunctions that no one today will admit to believing.
3.6.2007 10:29am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Aultimer:

I don't think Tom is a fundie. Reads more like a Catholic to me.

As for Chuck:

"In 1974 Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Ellsberg case." He did 7 months in Maxwell.

I don't believe that obstruction of justice is punished in Leviticus. Not malum in se. You won't have to burn in Hell for all eternity for it (as you may have to for sodomy). In fact since it is not a Common Law crime, it is not binding on those who have not consented to being bound by Unnatural (legislated) Law.

As for Eugene's general question, religious law doesn't really disfavor adoption and adoption was much more common in eras with higher death rates. Chuck could have said that the law should not reckognize meretricious relationships and custody should be distributed as if the relationship didn't exist. As with same sex marriage, conservatives have tended to fall back on 'biological' and 'natural' arguments instead of straightforward religious ones (which had always been incorporated into Western dom rel law) because they feel that a purely tradition-based argument won't work.

If they would just adopt a solid libertarian anarchist voluntary law position (under which you choose the law that will bind you) they would avoid all those problems (and of course, encounter new ones).
3.6.2007 10:32am
Chris Bell (mail):

Only, of course, if we allow Dawkins to define what Christians believe. There is, in fact, a wide variation in belief, and has been so historically. One of the most silly things about fundamentalist evangelical atheists like Dawkins is that they have to misrepresent faith in order to promulgate their bigoted statements about it.

This is not the forum for it, so I will only respond by saying that it is impossible to describe faith in any meaningful way because you all believe different things. (As you seem to admit.) Even inside of one religion, there is such a wide variety of belief that as soon as you say something definite, half the people will say that's not what they believe.

When you believe in nonsense, you can define it anyway you want. It's impossible to come close to any sort of consensus when you try to intricately describe a figment of your imagination.
3.6.2007 10:34am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"I'd take the deference argument a bit more seriously when it comes from someone who supports the death penalty for women who have sex before marriage and for people who work on the Sabbath, just 2 among many Biblical injunctions that no one today will admit to believing."

This is, of course, a complete non-sequitur since Colson and those Christians like him explicitly do not accept the Old Testament laws because of the new covenant described by Paul. Your criticism might be valid if directed against a fundamentalist Jew, but it is nonsensical when directed against a New Testament Christian with generally orthodox views.
3.6.2007 10:36am
Kim:
But surely 120,000 adopted children per year are likely to be no more "extraordinary" than the children of same-sex couples.

Numerically, maybe. But I think the point is that adopted children already exist, and through unfortunate circumstance (not deliberate action) do not have their own parents to raise them - so adoption makes the best of a sad situation by bringing these children into homes where they'll have parents to raise them. Still, it is (or ought to be) an extraordinary circumstance when a child loses its parents through death, abuse, abandonment, desperate poverty or other terrible situations.

It's more "extraordinary" to deliberately create children who will never, by design, have even the chance of being raised by their own natural mother and father (which, as of now, every single human being created must have) - which is the situation with same-sex couples who use sperm or egg donors or surrogates. (It's also the case, fwiw, with single women who use sperm donation, and I'm sure Colson is against that choice too.) In any event, it just makes no sense to many people to say a same-sex couple "had a child" - they didn't, and they can't, in a biological or natural sense. It may be just a semantic thing, but in this debate semantics often matter a great deal. Newspapers that use this "had a baby" language are normalizing an abnormal process.

The Bible teaches, when read as a whole and in light of authoritative tradition, that marriage between a man and a woman is the natural order of things. Catholic theology teaches that sex within marriage has two inseparable aspects, the unitive and the procreative. Artificial contraception denies the procreative aspect; sex or conception outside of marriage denies the unitive aspect. (Btw, the Catholic Church is consistent against artificial reproductive technologies, which certainly predates the SSM movement.) I know EV just asked about the Protestant view of things, which I can't answer, but that's part of the Catholic answer.
3.6.2007 10:42am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"This is not the forum for it, so I will only respond by saying that it is impossible to describe faith in any meaningful way because you all believe different things."

Of course it's not impossible. You just have to be specific. You simply can't be so lazy as to try to describe all people of faith with one broad brush. I know it's inconvenient, but there you have it. You could, for instance, say specific things about Baptists or Methodists or Lutherans or orthodox Roman Catholics, or whatever. Different groups are very explicit about what they believe. That's why they are different groups. Don't pretend that you can't find that out.

Instead, evangelical atheists insist on arguing against this one monolithic nonexistent Christianity that they create from their prejudices to use as their straw man.
3.6.2007 10:43am
jim:

Reminds me of Dawkins' comment that 'Of course religious claims are scientifically testable. If we found the tomb of Jesus, presumably he would have no Y chromosome.'


Next on the Discovery Channel....
3.6.2007 10:47am
Waldensian (mail):

When a couple uses donated sperm they are playing genetic roulette. Courtship provides a vital assistance to a couple—they know each other intimately before they procreate. As such they have some idea of what their offspring will be like. Adoption or using a stranger’s sperm is an imperfect substitute for the real thing.

The couple that has courted may have "some idea of what their offspring will be like," but that increase in knowledge may well be completely insignificant. A number of devastating and poorly understood hereditary conditions simply cannot be predicted by doctors or geneticists, much less laypeople, ahead of time. For example, I doubt very much that there would be a statistically significant difference in autism prevalence between children born to "courted" parents vs. sperm donors and donees.

The fact is that we are ALL playing genetic roulette when we have kids. This is not something they tend to teach you in "prepared childbirth" class. It is, however, something that can be learned through experience. :)
3.6.2007 10:53am
CJColucci:
Isn't this the same Chuck Colson who said he would run over his grandmother for Jesus Christ? No, wait, he said he'd do it for Nixon -- at least back then. Has he changed his life, or just his boss?
3.6.2007 11:05am
Oh my word (mail):
"You are missing Colson’s point about the Biblical view of marriage. It is not that the Bible cannot sanction adoptions or artificial insemination. It is that thousands of years of teaching on marriage and sexuality have great wisdom that is due much deference. Consider it Chevron deference.

I'd take the deference argument a bit more seriously when it comes from someone who supports the death penalty for women who have sex before marriage and for people who work on the Sabbath, just 2 among many Biblical injunctions that no one today will admit to believing."

and William Oliver....

Deference does not mean complete, unthinking submission. Critical difference.

Also, Paul's point was that the old juridical laws were outdated for non-Jewish contexts, but not moral underpinnings for the law. Homosexual conduct is reasserted in the New Testament. There are good reasons to foster a man and a woman as the preferred mode of childraising and for sexual and spiritual health.

Denying that it is important for children to have fathers in the home is dangerous and deeply troubling.
3.6.2007 11:09am
Chris Bell (mail):
William Olliver:

As I said, this is not the forum. If you want to email me, we can talk further. I still argue that your definitions are ever-changing-nonsense, even inside of any specific religious subgroup.

"The Catholic faith is both simple and complex." ~ Catholic Statement

"God is Simple, without composition of parts, such as body and soul." ~ St. Aquinas

"God made Adam in his image" ~ Genesis

"[God] is infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure." ~ Pope John Paul VI
3.6.2007 11:19am
Justin (mail):
I'll just add my own .02 here - I think Colson, like some, but not all, conservatives, has gotten in the habit of using "Biblical" as simply a synonym for "conservative." I've seen this before, most extraordinarily in opposition to universal health care. I'm not sure if Colson himself was considering or looking to the Bible in making his judgments.
3.6.2007 11:20am
Walter Olson (mail) (www):
AppSocRes:
Colson could have based his arguments solely on sociobiological and social science research. There's now considerable evidence suggesting that children raised by non-biological parents do conssiderably worse in life than other children. To cite but one example, Daly and Wilson's studies of family violence suggest that the level and lethality of violence against family members relates inversely to the proportion of shared genes, e.g., stepfathers and mothers are much more likely to assault and kill their children than are biological parents.

The legal problems raised by these grotesque social experiments are likely to be dwarfed by the human and social toll they will impose.
At best, this comment confounds the behavior of adoptive or assistive couples, who deliberately pursue the role of parent to a genetically unrelated child, with that of stepparents, who arrive on the scene because they seek a relationship with the parent and may or may not be pleased that existing children come with the deal. IIRC, social science research suggests that the most notable risks of harm to the child come from cohabitative "step-parents", who could choose to marry the parent but don't. This tells us nothing about whether adoptive parents, or the non-genetically-contributing parent in a couple that pursues assisted reproduction, are more likely to abuse their children than conventional biological parents. AppSocRes offers no evidence along these lines, I suspect because there is no decent evidence.
3.6.2007 11:21am
Oh my word (mail):
But there is plenty of evidence that kids in single-mother homes do more poorly than in those with a mother and a father.

Adding an assistant mom isn't a replacement for a father.
3.6.2007 11:28am
Cornellian (mail):
Also, Paul's point was that the old juridical laws were outdated for non-Jewish contexts, but not moral underpinnings for the law. Homosexual conduct is reasserted in the New Testament. There are good reasons to foster a man and a woman as the preferred mode of childraising and for sexual and spiritual health.

Ah, I see, only Jews should be put to death for working on the Sabbath and only Jewish women should be put to death for having sex before marriage.

Take the stuff in the Bible that you don't like and call it outdated, and I'll do the same with the stuff I don't like and things should work out fine.

And what do you mean by "reasserted" in the New Testament?
3.6.2007 11:53am
A.C.:
There are a lot of single mothers out there, in a lot of different circumstances, and their children have a lot of different outcomes. I think we need to distinguish a few different components of single parenthood to have this discussion:

- The absence of a father in the home,
- The possible presence of a step-father,
- The economic insecurity of only one wage-earner,
- Possible low social class, even with that person's income,
- Mental stress due to divorce,
- Mental stress due to death in the family,
- Mental stress due to disruption (moving, changing schools),
- Stress on a lone care-giver causing stress for children,
- Effects of immaturity or inexperience if the mother is very young,
- Social stigma... and so on.

Not all children of single parents experience all these things, but people often talk about single parenthood as if it came as a unified package. It doesn't. In particular, I think that voluntary single parenthood by financially secure women is very different from single parenthood that comes about because a man abandoned a dependent wife and their children. The trauma and disruption in the latter case is obviously worse, even if the mother rises to the occasion and makes a good life for her family.

When you start making these distinctions, it seems obvious that the most important one is whether people are acting responsibly or irresponsibly. Efforts to reduce that distinction to "married/natural conception" versus "everthing else" seem to be overbroad, as they stigmatize people who are doing everything possible to be responsible given the circumstances they find themselves in. Isn't hassling irresponsible teens and deadbeat dads work enough, without going after people who want to care for a child and are capable of doing so?
3.6.2007 12:13pm
TomHynes (mail):
One of the lost parables of the bible:

Jesus was a teenager, and heading out for a night on the town. Joseph said "Make sure you are home by midnight". Jesus shot back "You can't tell me what to do, you aren't my real father"

Christians have a long history of tolerating families where the father is not the biological father.
3.6.2007 12:14pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Chris MM:

“First of all, Pinker doesn't do empirical research in personality psychology, so we don't know from his actual work.”

Go to Pinker’s website and you will see that he does do empirical research in personality. While he focuses on language and cognition, those subjects do strongly relate to personality. But we don’t need Pinker to learn that a lot of a person’s personality comes from his genetic inheritance. Many other researchers come to similar conclusions.

“That said, even with the Big Five, the influence of the environment is equal or greater than the heritability. So the odds are on your side in the gamble …”

Only with one biological parent—adoption is another matter. But you still do better with a mate whose personality you know. If you want a smart child pick a smart mate.
3.6.2007 12:21pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Randy R.

“That's actually the funniest line here. Of course, there are no children as a result of one-night stands!”

Your concept on “intimate knowledge” needs broadening.
3.6.2007 12:24pm
Chukuang:
My expectation is that these experiments will be self-limiting in the sense that they will tend to produce offspring so deeply disturbed as to be incapable of perpetuating the subculture that produced them.

Since when are infertility treatments that involve donor sperm their own subculture? An are you implying that these proceedures would be carried out primarily by people who were born from such proceedures in the first place? That's what the above seems to say and it's pretty doubtful.
3.6.2007 12:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
logicnazi:

People have children for the same reasons all other living things reproduce: to pass on their genes. No amount of sanctimonious moralizing is going to change that. Of course we can and should help couples avoid birth defects with genetic testing. We can encourage people to be responsible about becoming parents, but as we all know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Like it or not, people think they have a right to reproduce, and they’re going to go ahead and do just that absent the iron fist of the state.
3.6.2007 12:51pm
marghlar:
But there is plenty of evidence that kids in single-mother homes do more poorly than in those with a mother and a father.

Adding an assistant mom isn't a replacement for a father.


To some extent, using this argument involves assuming what you are trying to prove: that two parents of the same sex will not parent as well as two opposite sex parents. You assume that such a situation is necessarily parallel to a situation involving only a single parent. It could just as easily be argued that the situation is more parallel to a hetero couple raising a kid, that the key determinants of child welfare are in fact having multiple loving parents and the added resources they bring to a household.

Until we start seeing studies showing that committed gay parents tend to have children who are worse off than the kids of straight couples, this sort of argument really won't get you very far. There are two many variables that this sort of analogy fails to control for.
3.6.2007 1:00pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Zarcov: You're quite correct that no amount of "sanctimonious moralizing" is going to change the fact that people will want to have children in non-ideal situations. But the point logicnazi is making is traditional sexual child creation is at least as likely to lead create a non-ideal situation as adoption and sperm/ovum donation, eliminating those doesn't improve the general situation of children.
3.6.2007 1:20pm
Oh my word (mail):

Also, Paul's point was that the old juridical laws were outdated for non-Jewish contexts, but not moral underpinnings for the law. Homosexual conduct is reasserted in the New Testament. There are good reasons to foster a man and a woman as the preferred mode of childraising and for sexual and spiritual health.

Ah, I see, only Jews should be put to death for working on the Sabbath and only Jewish women should be put to death for having sex before marriage.

Take the stuff in the Bible that you don't like and call it outdated, and I'll do the same with the stuff I don't like and things should work out fine.

And what do you mean by "reasserted" in the New Testament?




Paul basically said that Gentiles don't have to follow the Jewish law, but that the moral underpinnings of the law remain important.

I am no Biblical literalist of any stripe. I am an Episcopalian. I am not defending that viewpoint. What I am saying is that Biblical moral teachings, which have been refined and sanctified over thousands of years, are due great deference. Just because there are some things we don't follow in the Bible anymore does not mean the whole thing is just an interesting novel. There is great wisdom in it, often far beyond what we can comprehend, and that is not even a viewpoint that requires a belief that it is all written from the hand of God.

It's not unlike Chevron deference, for legal weenies. A district court should not go around second-guessing the interpretations and regs of an agency, because the agency has great institutional wisdom and experience. This is quite similar. But it's not like the district court has no choice but to follow the agency, it's just that the agency is due great deference.

This is why many Christians hold the Bible with such esteem. Now, I could discuss with you for days about why I think it is important to place exceedingly high value on mothers and fathers together as the best way to raise children, and why consecrating homosexual practices is unwise. Likewise, I could say why the EPA has much greater wisdom with respect to environmental matters than the DC Circuit, even though it would take days of discussion.

This has little to do with whether Jews should still follow the Levitical laws, even if Christians do not follow them. If anything, the Christian view (if one can homogenize that) is that the Talmudic law should be transformed into understanding the moral purposes of it for all people, including Jews. That's a specious argument, and you're not engaging with my point sufficiently.
3.6.2007 1:39pm
BobNSF (mail):
AppSocRes:

Forget the Bible. Colson could have based his arguments solely on sociobiological and social science research. There's now considerable evidence suggesting that children raised by non-biological parents do conssiderably worse in life than other children.


In the context of this thread, that is a gross distortion. Couples that adopt together from the get-go and couples that use artificial means to produce a child together provide equal or superior care for their children. The problems you are referring to arise in cases of step-parentage.
3.6.2007 1:42pm
Oh my word (mail):
But there is plenty of evidence that kids in single-mother homes do more poorly than in those with a mother and a father.

Adding an assistant mom isn't a replacement for a father.

To some extent, using this argument involves assuming what you are trying to prove: that two parents of the same sex will not parent as well as two opposite sex parents. You assume that such a situation is necessarily parallel to a situation involving only a single parent. It could just as easily be argued that the situation is more parallel to a hetero couple raising a kid, that the key determinants of child welfare are in fact having multiple loving parents and the added resources they bring to a household.

Until we start seeing studies showing that committed gay parents tend to have children who are worse off than the kids of straight couples, this sort of argument really won't get you very far. There are two many variables that this sort of analogy fails to control for.


But neither are there studies that show that two moms are as good as a mom and a dad, either.

Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?
3.6.2007 1:53pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Chris Bell:

"As I said, this is not the forum. If you want to email me, we can talk further. I still argue that your definitions are ever-changing-nonsense, even inside of any specific religious subgroup."

Yet you continue to flog it in this forum. As long as folk decide to make ignorant bigoted statements about my faith in public, I'll continue to address it in public. The fact that you decide you can't be bothered to learn enough about Christianity to comprehend and address the basic premises of different traditions doesn't mean they're unknowable.
3.6.2007 1:56pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
logicnazi,

If the potential for abuse was not far too high I would support a mandatory program to give

Give! Mandatorily.

all baby boys reversible vasectomies at birth (and offer free clinics where people

People of the Y-chromosome persuasion

could have it reversed). Given that such approaches are far too likely to be used to oppress unfavored groups I think instead we need to simply change attitudes. You don't get to have a baby just because you want one and your body will make one.

Hey, cool! Mandatory genital surgery for half the population! And if you want it undone, you can always come to one of our free clinics and have some more genital surgery, on the house! The only bummer, apparently, is that the mandatoriness would be unequally enforced. So scrap that, and move on to "changing attitudes." Unfortunately we don't have the ability to make that mandatory yet. People go around thinking wrong stuff all the time. But when we have the technology, we can really get down to business, yes?

I really hope your post was meant as especially dry humor.
3.6.2007 2:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Gregory,

You provide a correct defnition for the word "have." However, usage is also important in meaning, and the usage of "having a baby" has meant using biology. Likewise, adopting a baby uses custom or law. I agree that after either event the couple does have a baby. There is no reason to do away with the distinctions in meaning.
3.6.2007 2:11pm
Ramza:

Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?

It is an important question. According to the scientific method, we would make a hypothesis, test it, and see if the testing helps confirm our inital hypothesis or if the hypothesis proves the hypothesis is wrong (note you can't prove a positive but you can prove your hypothesis is wrong.)

It is the question, anybody pretends they know the answer is fooling themselves.
3.6.2007 2:36pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?

We do not have sufficient information to answer that question at this time. And, of course, the situation for a same sex couple may be somewhere in between that of a single mother and a male/female parent couple. However, a growing body of evidence supports the idea that, same-sex pairs do just as well as male/female pairs. (Note)

Given the evidence that same-sex couples don't significantly harm children compared to male/female couples, I am disinclined to accept the contrary merely on deference to religiocultural traditions.

Elliot: True. But trying to use language precisely in a legal (or scientific) context based on common usage is fraught with problems. As others have noted, the legal meaning of having a child can have quite a different meaning than it's common use meaning. And the root meaning is something else entirely.
3.6.2007 2:52pm
Houston Lawyer:
As to Colson's point about adoption, the Bible says that those of us who are Christians are "sons" of God. This has been explained to me as applying to both men and women. Believers are therefore adopted into the family with full rights as heirs. Under the old law, daughters didn't have rights as heirs, only sons did.
3.6.2007 2:53pm
Seamus (mail):

"Had a baby together" is impossible to "anybody who knows anything about biology" only if you think "had a baby together" must be a statement about biology.



Well, that's how I'd read it. I think it's pretty odd to use "had a baby together" to refer either to adoption or to artificial insemination with a third party's sperm. It's like saying that in Waugh's Sword of Honor trilogy, Guy Crouchback and Virginia Troy, pregnant by her former lover Trimmer, are "having a baby together" when he marries (actually, remarries) her and undertakes to help her raise the child.
3.6.2007 3:05pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Gregory Conen:

“But the point logicnazi is making is traditional sexual child creation is at least as likely to lead create a non-ideal situation as adoption and sperm/ovum donation, eliminating those doesn't improve the general situation of children.”


Since children are in general robust creatures who can survive and even prosper with bad parents, I doubt whether we will ever be able to prove that the standard family provides a superior experience for children. Nevertheless I suspect most people believe that. After all men and women have different personalities, and a child should be able to benefit from the diversity of viewpoints. The very people who extol the virtues of diversity seem to make an exception when it comes to family. You are going to have a hard time convincing most people that having a mother and a father is not superior to having two parents of the same sex.
3.6.2007 3:09pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"But neither are there studies that show that two moms are as good as a mom and a dad, either."

Not true.

"Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?"

No, not freely exchangeable. But neither are any of the other various family arrangements that produce healthy, happy children. Nor is the presence of a dad, per se, any guarantee of a child's happiness and well-being.
3.6.2007 3:16pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"But neither are there studies that show that two moms are as good as a mom and a dad, either."

Not true.

"Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?"

No, not freely exchangeable. But neither are any of the other various family arrangements that produce healthy, happy children. Nor is the presence of a dad, per se, any guarantee of a child's happiness and well-being.
3.6.2007 3:16pm
Ramza:

Since children are in general robust creatures who can survive and even prosper with bad parents, I doubt whether we will ever be able to prove that the standard family provides a superior experience for children. Nevertheless I suspect most people believe that. After all men and women have different personalities, and a child should be able to benefit from the diversity of viewpoints. The very people who extol the virtues of diversity seem to make an exception when it comes to family. You are going to have a hard time convincing most people that having a mother and a father is not superior to having two parents of the same sex.

One thing I seen is people argue, that you need both sexes for how else can a child learn to be a man/be a women. Well one thing all the studies that have compared same sex parenting to traditional parenting, noticed was that parents who are same sex parents search vigorously and procure mentors and role models of the opposite sex. It wasn't naturally there in the family, thus they tried to find a similar subsitute good (to apply an economic term, and yes I know I caused bile to appear in some peoples mouths by saying children can be viewed as a good, even if they are not).

Whether these subsitute good be enough? Is there a harm for children in same sex parents households will be more illuminated years down the road with more research. Current evidence though suggest no harm. It may be similar to how people compare formula to breast milk, sure there are some differences in the short term, but in the long term the kids are the same.
3.6.2007 3:38pm
Latinist:
When a couple uses donated sperm they are playing genetic roulette. Courtship provides a vital assistance to a couple—they know each other intimately before they procreate. As such they have some idea of what their offspring will be like. Adoption or using a stranger’s sperm is an imperfect substitute for the real thing.

Okay: but of course, roulette might be a good gamble. Knowing what your own biological offspring will be like might make you MORE likely to risk using other people's genetic material, if you know, for example, that you carry the gene for some unpleasant genetic disease, or that you and all your blood relatives are mean, stupid and crazy. Predictable isn't the same as desirable. And that applies even if it's just a question of whether to get genetic material from a mate or an anonymous donor: of course you can choose a mate, but your choices are limited: you have to find someone willing to have a baby with you, and you might not be able to get a date with the Olympian-rocket scientist-philanthropist you'd prefer. Also, of course, even if you're just thinking of potential children's welfare (and in fact there are always other considerations), it's rational to take into account characteristics that aren't necessarily heritable -- wealth, social status, and life expectancy, to name a few.

AppSocRes: a lot of people have jumped on this, but a correlation between not being raised by biological parents and violence leaves out a lot: not only the specific situations and characteristics of step-parents, but the kinds of experience kids have often had before they end up with those non-biological parents -- foster homes or single parent homes, depending on which kind of non-biological relationship we're talking about. So there's a lot to control for, and it doesn't sound like your study even tried to control for it (or did they? Feel free to add more information to correct this.).

Finally, and I realize this isn't the biggest issue: that Dawkins quote. . . am I missing something? If we found Jesus' tomb, the big question would be "is there a body in it?", right? If his body is there at all, it would be small comfort to Christians to find that he had weird chromosomes.
3.6.2007 3:50pm
Latinist:
Oops: in my first paragraph, for "heritable", I should have said "related to genes."
3.6.2007 3:52pm
Ramza:

Finally, and I realize this isn't the biggest issue: that Dawkins quote. . . am I missing something? If we found Jesus' tomb, the big question would be "is there a body in it?", right? If his body is there at all, it would be small comfort to Christians to find that he had weird chromosomes.

Well Jesus's body could be in the tomb, or it could not. If we did find his tomb we can still view his dna even if he isn't there, due to hair, blood, skin cells, etc all giving the possibility of testing his dna.

Now would Jesus have a Y chromosone?
Now what would Jesus Y chromosone look like?

would be some intersting things if we could find such a tomb.
3.6.2007 3:53pm
marghlar:
Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?

I don't think it makes a significant difference. Frankly, I'm kind of puzzled as to why this would be a problem. But, I freely confess that I don't buy into the kind of socialization agenda that tells boys they shouldn't cry and tells girls they shouldn't strive to be engineers.
3.6.2007 4:11pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Zarkov: If children survive and prosper regardless, why worry at all? Given that we have been able to prove that children of single mothers, and children of teenage mothers, and poor children, and deaf children of hearing parents, and so on do worse in a variety of areas than normal children, your claim that it will "never be proven" strikes me as a cop-out. And appeals to authority of majority opinion don't carry much weight either, especially since the entire purpose of debate is to change opinions.
3.6.2007 4:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Gregory,

I agree trying to use common usage for legal or scientific ends can be difficult and sometimes very misleading. But, I'd say the broader social dialoge on the subject is based on the common usage. That simply means be have to be aware of the usage base.

The most interesting usage I have read on the Colson subject was Colson's quote of the judge in the case: "without question is presumed to be the natural parent . . . by the basis of the civil union."

I haven't read the opinion, acknowledge this lacks context, and don't trust elision. But, for fun, suppose the judge actualy said a natural parent was a function of the law? Would the woman in question be a natural parent in the absence of a civil union? This would set up two very different meanings for the term "natural parent." One meaning would be the common meaning that the natural parent is the biologcal parent. The other would be a legal meaning that the natural parent is a function of marriage or civil union.

So, I suggest EV is going a bit far by saying anyone who doesn't conform to one usage of the phrase, "have a baby," has an "impoverished conception of parenthood."
3.6.2007 4:23pm
Oh my word (mail):
Direct question: Is a dad important, or is a dad freely exchangeable with a second mom?


It is an important question. According to the scientific method, we would make a hypothesis, test it, and see if the testing helps confirm our inital hypothesis or if the hypothesis proves the hypothesis is wrong (note you can't prove a positive but you can prove your hypothesis is wrong.)

It is the question, anybody pretends they know the answer is fooling themselves.


First, I did not ask you whether there was a conclusion with scientific trappings that you could point to. I asked you based on your personal experience whether fathers are important. You are dodging the question.

Second, the idea that we should be experimenting with children is ethically highly questionable if not downright disturbing. Children are not lab rats, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that men and women are very, very different, and have different needs all through life that sometimes require some sex-specific understanding.

Girls need fathers to look up to and to see what is good in a man. Boys need men to follow, given their unique needs.

It is beyond scientific cavil that boys and girls are biologically different at the most basic psychological as well as physiological levels. Until one can even give a plausible basis for how a nonbiological second mom can act like and lead as a man and give the unique male perspective on life, experimenting with children should be flatly rejected as deeply unethical as well as breathtakingly unwise in the furtherance of a political agenda.
3.6.2007 5:04pm
Ramza:

First, I did not ask you whether there was a conclusion with scientific trappings that you could point to. I asked you based on your personal experience whether fathers are important. You are dodging the question.

My mistake I though you were refering from a societal perspective.

Well speaking as a kid raised by a single mom (divorced, Dad didn't have a relationship with me till adulthood) I would answer important, but not neccessary. But hey that is my personal opinion based off experience.

Second, the idea that we should be experimenting with children is ethically highly questionable if not downright disturbing. Children are not lab rats, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that men and women are very, very different, and have different needs all through life that sometimes require some sex-specific understanding.
...

Experimenting? You make it sounds like a game, it isn't its called life. Having a child via adoption, artifical insemination, or the old fashion way with penis, vaiginal, and ovolation isn't a game. People don't just wake up and 3 minutes later while brushing their teeth say. Honey I want a baby.
3.6.2007 5:19pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: We're hardly callously experimenting with children to see the results. We're examining and comparing the results of children in certain environments, placed their by their parents/guardians.

I can say from personal experience that I feel my father was very important to my development as a child; I can also say I feel that my younger sister was important, and that my dog probably played a role, too. My younger sister was deprived of the experience of having a younger sister, but she gained the experience of an older brother, which I lacked. Different people have different experiences. Without growing up in an unusual family unit, I can't say from personal experience what it would be like. Nor, frankly, am I qualified to judge the role of various influences on my own life.

Even if you assume that children need (or benefit from) a good male role model in their lives, that doesn't need to be a father. As Ramza pointed out, the family can seek out other possible male role models. And, given that the average father is far from perfect, and a few are downright despicable, the automatic conflation of father with role model may not be particularly healthy.
3.6.2007 5:21pm
Randy R. (mail):
"It's more "extraordinary" to deliberately create children who will never, by design, have even the chance of being raised by their own natural mother and father (which, as of now, every single human being created must have) - which is the situation with same-sex couples who use sperm or egg donors or surrogates. "

Not really. There are plenty of kids who have never known their own natural mother or father, either because they died, left, or whatever. And many of them have turned out just fine.

Furthermore, every study that has been done on this subject has shown that children of same-sex parents do just as well, sometimes just a little bit better, than children of opposite sex parents, as measured by performance in schools, ability to get along with others, therapy and so on.

James Dobson has intentionally misquoted these studies and tried to twist them into saying that children of same-sex parents do badly. However, author Wayne Besen follows this, and he notifies the researchers who then contact Dobson and ask him to stop twist their findings. He refuses to do so.
3.6.2007 5:32pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Second, the idea that we should be experimenting with children is ethically highly questionable if not downright disturbing. Children are not lab rats... Until one can even give a plausible basis for how a nonbiological second mom can act like and lead as a man and give the unique male perspective on life

But this plausible basis could never be found because we should never experiment with children according to you. So, your preconceived notions about what girls and boys "need" would remain forever safe and unsullied by facts; a convenient outcome--for you, anyway.
3.6.2007 5:34pm
Oh my word (mail):
Greg, no one is conflating father as automatically a role model. That is an obviously absurd suggestion.

My point is that a father who does his job plays a uniquely beneficial role, that's more important than a sister or a dog or going to Disneyland. This is important, and saying that it is no longer important is messing with fire.

The question is not whether we should legally bar women who choose the lesbian lifestyle from having kids. It's their legal right, just as it's a single woman's legal right to inseminate herself. There are a lot of things that are legal but very unwise.

Colson's whole point here is whether we should be putting the imprimatur of state approval on lesbians thinking that fathers are no longer important.

Well heck, why not just have women just get inseminated by the best looking male out there and then use their voting majority to highly tax all the highly paid nerdy guys for social services and welfare and everything? That would be a female utopia, right? If men don't need to be in the home, might as well just do that! We already have the high taxation and welfare. Now all that's needed is lesbian marriage and there's no longer any need to settle for a homely guy at all.
3.6.2007 5:40pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Colson's whole point here is whether we should be putting the imprimatur of state approval on lesbians thinking that fathers are no longer important."

No one is saying that fathers are "unimportant." It's just that for some families they are not part of the immediate picture. This doesn't mean a child need be deprived of masculine influences or role models.
3.6.2007 5:58pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: You have no basis for your assertion that [good] fathers play a uniquely beneficial role in child development. In fact, what empirical evidence exists refutes that.

Speaking of absurdities, you come up with an example that ignores the fact that I'm still talking about raising children in stable, loving (in every sense of the word) relationships. Meaning 2 heterosexuals of different genders, or 2 homosexuals of the same gender. So unless you're afraid that a controlling majority of the population is going to turn homosexual, or heterosexuals will suddenly lose interest in raising children, plenty of children will be raised in heterosexual couples. In fact, since both heterosexual partners can pass on their genes as well as their memes and heterosexual couples have a leg up at making babies, the current state of affairs is probably fairly stable.

If you're worried about the collapse of society into a welfare state for breeders, single mothers should be rather more of a concern for you. This has the added bonus of targeting family units that are actually (apparently) bad for children.
3.6.2007 6:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The question is not whether we should legally bar women who choose the lesbian lifestyle from having kids"

And therein lies the crux of this argument. People who are against gays or gays adopting assume that we 'choose' to be gay. It is pure ignorance upon their part: I never choose to be gay, and none of my gay friends have ever said that they have. Indeed. all the medical research shows that sexual orientation is set at least as early at age 7, probably earlier (it's difficult to assess of the sexual orientation of babies).
3.6.2007 6:06pm
marghlar:
Girls need fathers to look up to and to see what is good in a man. Boys need men to follow, given their unique needs.

It is beyond scientific cavil that boys and girls are biologically different at the most basic psychological as well as physiological levels. Until one can even give a plausible basis for how a nonbiological second mom can act like and lead as a man and give the unique male perspective on life, experimenting with children should be flatly rejected as deeply unethical as well as breathtakingly unwise in the furtherance of a political agenda.


Sorry, I don't buy it. What are the "unique needs" of boys that won't be satisfied by being raised by two women? Please be specific. What exactly do you think will be the impact on girls raised by two women?

And I'm not sure I understand what the "unique male perspective on life" is. Can you help me out with that one? What is it that a male knows that a female necessarily does not?

Finally, I'd just like to note in passing that if it's a sort of standard cultural masculinity you are looking for in this male role model, plenty of lesbian women are far tougher, better with tools, more physically courageous, etc, than a number of straight guys raising kids. And plenty are not. But you are talking about characteristics descriptive of the median or even the extreme of each sex as if such characteristics defined the group as a whole, which is simply untrue. Shold highly effeminate men, or very masculine women, be forbidden to procreate as well? For that matter, if a woman is macho enough, can she then serve as a father substitute in your schema?

I'm just having trouble understanding what it is you find so different between male and female caregivers here.
3.6.2007 6:17pm
Ed Coke (mail):
Note bene, and savor the obliquity of the law, that whether or not you can get snagged for child support if you donate sperm to a lesbian actually devolves---in most if not all states---on the insemination being `performed' by a licensed physician.

The Supreme Court in MICHAEL H V GERALD D didn't exactly bless the venerable but obsolete husband as putative father doctrine: rather, in a Scalia plurality opinion they ruled that in their view at the time nothing in the US Constitution protects an undisputed biological father from a state that would hand over his child to another man, on the basis of the latter's particular relationship to the mother.
3.6.2007 6:30pm
Oh my word (mail):
Second, the idea that we should be experimenting with children is ethically highly questionable if not downright disturbing. Children are not lab rats... Until one can even give a plausible basis for how a nonbiological second mom can act like and lead as a man and give the unique male perspective on life

But this plausible basis could never be found because we should never experiment with children according to you. So, your preconceived notions about what girls and boys "need" would remain forever safe and unsullied by facts; a convenient outcome--for you, anyway.


It has nothing to do with me, but with children. Like I said before, it's not a question of banning lesbians from having kids and therefore depriving the evidentiary pool. If lesbians want to have kids, it's their legal right, and if they prove that they can stand in the male role, then we can start to look further.

However, there are things my father taught me that are very important and that no woman I have ever met could come close to teaching. That is very important.

Regarding the studies of gay parents, the linked study is remarkable in that it candidly states that most of the gay/lesbian parents that were studied had conceived kids in heterosexual relationships and then split off into a homosexual lifestyle (again, often in the same city or nearby, so the other parent is around). This is quite different from lesbians having kids, where the heterosexual father is likely never to have any role at all.

Also, for the record, that linked study was written in a way that strongly suggests that the scientists had very gay/lesbian-friendly personal attitudes. The ability to skew such psychological studies should be well-known to anyone who has worked in the social sciences (as I have).

I actually had a kid in my cabin years ago when I was a camp counselor who had a lesbian family. I didn't make the connection at the time, but the kid had almost no ability to "act like a guy" and to interact in a naturally male way with the other kids. He required special help the whole time. I remember that quite distinctly. One item of evidence does not a trend make, but his overmothering was unmistakeable.

I have yet to see any linked studies that two women can raise a boy from birth with the same upbringing ability that a man and a woman of the same socioeconomic class and otherwise equal. That is at issue here.

Likewise with girls. Girls need fathers. Can they live without them? Yes. But are fathers important? Yes. And not just some guy next door or down the street.
3.6.2007 6:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Gregory Conen:

“Given that we have been able to prove that children of single mothers, and children of teenage mothers, and poor children, and deaf children of hearing parents, and so on do worse in a variety of areas than normal children, your claim that it will "never be proven" strikes me as a cop-out.”

How do you prove something like that with observational data? At best you can show correlations, and correlation is not causation.

“And appeals to authority of majority opinion don't carry much weight either, especially since the entire purpose of debate is to change opinions.”

Do you think most people are going to accept the idea that the standard family is not the best way to raise children? How do you propose to convince people to reject an idea they find intuitive?
3.6.2007 6:46pm
Oh my word (mail):
Sorry, I don't buy it. What are the "unique needs" of boys that won't be satisfied by being raised by two women? Please be specific. What exactly do you think will be the impact on girls raised by two women?

And I'm not sure I understand what the "unique male perspective on life" is. Can you help me out with that one? What is it that a male knows that a female necessarily does not?


1. How do you ask a girl out.
2. How does a guy deal with rejection.
3. How does a guy learn how to "take it like a man" and keep ticking on the playground, on the sports field, among the guys, and so on.
4. How does a guy learn how to stare another guy down, play fair at the same time, and then be friends afterwards.

All of that kind of stuff, plus much, much more. Women are different than men. There is essentially no doubt about that. There are reasons for that and implications for that.

I know a lot of lesbian women, some of them well. Not a single one of them could come close to teaching a boy those things. And it ain't just oppressive, horrible cultural tradition. I know lesbian women who try to be like men and do power tools and whatnot. Sure, they can drive a nail and change their oil, but they are no more able to understand the male psyche than the most girly sorority sister--and probably much less. In fact, a lesbian who has not dated and married a man is probably far less able to understand the male psyche than a heterosexual woman who has done that. And often they have come into lesbianism, whether consciously or unconsciously, because of fear of men or dislike of men. That drives them even further from understanding the male psyche.

What is interesting is that folks out there in the real world understand the differences between men and women than some people who profess to spend a lifetime in academia trying to attain superior knowledge to the foolish Joe Six Packs!
3.6.2007 6:51pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: Given that the lesbians have a legal right to have children, and thus we have neither a moral or legal right to stop them, surely we have a moral and legal right to study the results (assuming consent). So, in fact, the "experimenting on children" thing is not an issue.

As you say, the current evidence for the strict case is somewhat thin. And the possibility of researcher bias is quite important (note that the study I linked is an example, not the sole study).

But I am unaware of any non anecdotal evidence that homosexual couples do worse than heterosexual couples at raising children. So, I'm not terribly concerned about it.

As for the anecdote, I'll point out 2 things.
1) "Over-mothered" children can arise from heterosexual parents, too.
2) Without more details, it's possible that he would be fine if it weren't for the confines of stereotypical cultural gender roles.
3.6.2007 6:54pm
marghlar:
1. How do you ask a girl out.
2. How does a guy deal with rejection.
3. How does a guy learn how to "take it like a man" and keep ticking on the playground, on the sports field, among the guys, and so on.
4. How does a guy learn how to stare another guy down, play fair at the same time, and then be friends afterwards.


Well, 1 is somewhat amusing, given that those lesbians have probably asked a few girls out in their time. I think both men and women have experience dealing with rejection, and I'm not sure why there is supposed to be a big dichotomy there. As to 3, both men and women need to learn to both control inappropriate emotional responses (no crying when working with a client, e.g.) and also learn not to repress emotions on their own time, so again, no dichotomy. I confess to be puzzled at why you think 4 is a skill that men need and women don't; do no women play competitive sports in your world?
3.6.2007 6:58pm
Oh my word (mail):
1) "Over-mothered" children can arise from heterosexual parents, too.
Yes, but it's a lot more likely if you have two mothers than if you have a mother and a father.

-----

Regarding asking girls out, there is a big difference between how lesbians like to be asked out and how a guy asks a girl out and seeks to fulfill her desire for a man through a relationship. Huge difference.

Regarding rejection, there is a difference between how women and men experience and deal with rejection.

Regarding playing like a man on the sports field or on the playground or anything else, there is a huge difference between how guys interact and how girls interact. Lesbians do not all of a sudden start interacting the same way that guys do. I do not interact with lesbians like I do men, because they don't expect that and would generally be uneasy about it. It's not a question of "not crying" when you get hurt or get rejected, it's a question of playing like a man, acting like a man, interacting with guys during guy time, and so on.

I repeat, no lesbian I have ever met could come close to imparting those guy skills--and it's not just teaching them, it's living them such that the young boy just follows in the footsteps. And yes, men are different than women in fundamental, unchangeable ways.
3.6.2007 7:12pm
Mark Field (mail):

Do you think most people are going to accept the idea that the standard family is not the best way to raise children?


They seem to have no problem with it. A great many Americans are being raised in non-standard families, whether due to divorce, death, never having been married, or other reasons. The more experience people have with this, the more they'll accept it.
3.6.2007 7:14pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Zarkov: You're right, we can't prove causation, at least not directly. But we can prove correlation, and with enough evidence we can do a pretty good job of removing confounding variables, and reverse causation is not an issue in this case. But without at least a correlation between the homosexual pair family structure and an inferior childhood experience, I don't see why the family structure should be condemned.

I do think that in the next few generations, the majority of people may realize that the traditional family structure is not the only effective way to raise children. The intuitive support for the traditional structure is based on personal and cultural experience, so as more of the non-traditional raise well-adjusted children, more people will come to accept them. If that happens; at this point we can't rule out that male/female pair is the most effective structure, we just can't assert that it is.
3.6.2007 7:24pm
marghlar:
I repeat, no lesbian I have ever met could come close to imparting those guy skills--and it's not just teaching them, it's living them such that the young boy just follows in the footsteps. And yes, men are different than women in fundamental, unchangeable ways.

I think the vast majority of such socialization happens not at home, but in peer settings and through culture. I really doubt that the minor differences between the behavior exhibited by macho guys and by butch women will override the multitude of social messages kids receive throughout their existence regarding the proper behavior of boys and girls. And I don't really see either set of stereotypes as inherently valuable; I know plenty of very confident, assertive, tough women who are as macho as any guy (and I love them for it) and plenty of men who exhibit all the sensitivity and grace associated with the best of the female stereotype.

Sure, they can drive a nail and change their oil, but they are no more able to understand the male psyche than the most girly sorority sister--and probably much less. In fact, a lesbian who has not dated and married a man is probably far less able to understand the male psyche than a heterosexual woman who has done that.

I call BS on this. I am a masculine man; I am good at sports, fairly built, assertive and all that. I know some butch women who could handily kick my ass, and who are more macho in every respect than I am. I don't know what this unique "male psyche" is suposed to be, but every aspect of masculinity I know of can appear in both men and women. I just flat out disagree that lesibans are inherently less able to understand me than straight women; in my experience, that's just not true.

On the whole, I just don't buy this gender essentialism you seem to espouse. People are people; some have vaginas and some have testicles, some are into sports and some are into shopping. Those traits correlate with each other to a degree based on biological gender differences, but a lot of the difference is just socialization. Just let people do their thing as long as their aren't hurting other people (and I just drastically disagree with you that kids are harmed by gay parents). If your worst nightmare here is that there will be some slightly queeny straight guys and some slightly butch hetero women (and I don't think you've even shown that that will be the case), I just don't view that as this big crisis. It's already true of the world, and it hasn't caused civilization to come crashing down yet. It arguably makes the world a more interesting place.
3.6.2007 7:33pm
Ramza:
There was an npr program a few years ago about "Kids with Gay Parents" I forgot to link it earlier so other people can hear it, audio for the program is available at the link page.

NPR:Kids with Gay Parents

Guests for the NPR program

Gary Gates: Talking about Gay Demographics, how many there are likely are, and how many kids are they raising.
Dr. Ellen Perrin: A pediatrician who talks about the studies of kids who are raised by gay parents, and the effect if any this causes on their development.
Maggie Gallagher:President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and who voiced similar arguements as Oh my word. Note Maggie Gallagher guestblogged at volokh and almost all the articles she posted or other volokh posters posted can be located here (some of them you have to view by date)

Maggie Gallagher Guest Blogs at Volokh

Note Volokh also allowed Dale Carpenter to provide a rebuttal/differing opinion as a guest blogger. His posts can be located here

Dale Carpenter Guest Blogs at Volokh

Dale Carpenter was later asked to join Volokh full time.
3.6.2007 7:33pm
jvarisco (www):
Gregory) "Oh my word: Given that the lesbians have a legal right to have children"

Where exactly does this come from? Everyone (Lesbians included) is permitted to have children, but that's quite different from asserting a positive right. Having a child is not something you do for yourself - it's a sacrifice you make (though often willingly and to great benefit). What matters is what is best for the child; it is wrong to use children to make a political statement. This works for single mothers too - the point is that unless there is a stable marriage, creating a child is a bad idea. Everyone child deserves the best chance to succeed - and that is the traditional family. Note that this is supported by quite a bit of empirical data.

As to this situation, I think the point is that biology matters. There is a reason that only a male and female can create a child. It's not some random accident. Some gay rights supporters seem to suggest that not only is thousands of years of evolution meaningless, it's wrong. There is a biological bond that parents have with offspring. I don't care what the civil union says, no non-parent can have that. We are hard-wired to have kids; in fact, from an evolutionary standpoint, that is our only purpose. That chance that evolution hasn't made us favor our own DNA is beyond miniscule.
3.6.2007 7:34pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: Again with the unsourced statements. Unless you have actual evidence that so-called "over-mothered" children are more common in lesbian relationships, I don't really care what your personal beliefs are.

And you denied that your conflating fathers and male role models, but you still haven't said why out of family male role models are not substitutes, other than saying asserting it. If father is required to teach children the listed things, how is that not conflating father with role model?
3.6.2007 7:34pm
marghlar:
There is a biological bond that parents have with offspring. I don't care what the civil union says, no non-parent can have that. We are hard-wired to have kids; in fact, from an evolutionary standpoint, that is our only purpose. That chance that evolution hasn't made us favor our own DNA is beyond miniscule.

Millions of adoptive parents who have healthy, loving bonds with their children show otherwise.
3.6.2007 7:38pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
What matters is what is best for the child; it is wrong to use children to make a political statement.

Do you seriously believe that gay couples have children to "make a political statement"? Do interracial couples get married to make political statements? Was it wrong for Oliver Brown to try to get his daughter into an all-white Topeka school?

There is a reason that only a male and female can create a child.

So what? We can't breathe in space, but that didn't stop us from going to the moon.
3.6.2007 7:47pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Wow, this is moving fast.

jvarisco: I agree with you about children as a sacrifice, not as a political statement. Lesbians have a right to have children in that it is not morally or legally permissible to prevent them from doing so.

As for the conflation of biological bonds with love, as I said earlier in the thread, thousands of deadbeat, neglectful, and abusive parents one one hand and thousands of happy adoptive families on the other stand ready to prove you wrong.

As for "I think the point is that biology matters."
1) The reason 2 sexes evolve is that it is a good way to ensure genetic variety and adaptation. Sexual dimorphism occurs in plenty of species where parental roles are quite different than in humans. In fact, "non-traditional" child rearing structures appear in human cultures.
2) Evolution does not provide a purpose for humans. It may give mental or physical drives towards certain ends, but evolution is just a process that occurs. We owe it nothing. If the drives of evolution are incompatible with modern civilization (as some are), we try to suppress them.
3) "Successful" genes tend to pass themselves along. So do "successful" memes. So we're culturally programmed to pass on our beliefs and ideals just as were biologically programmed to pass on our DNA. Passing memes on to a subsequent generation is a strong drive; witness the importance people place on educating children.
3.6.2007 7:53pm
jvarisco (www):
marghlar) I think you missed my point. Of course non-biological parents can be loving. But affinity for biological children is an obviously adaptive trait. If it doesn't exist, there would have to be some countervailing factor. Barring any such evidence, it is pretty safe to assume that it does exist. None of this implies that it is the only factor; obviously socialization matters. But take a population with two types of people, one who prefers his own kids and another who is ambivalent, let them evolve for a few thousand years, and guess what type everyone is?
3.6.2007 7:55pm
Ramza:
Of course affinity for one's children is an adaptive trait that was passed down. Affinity to one's children though still doesn't prevents thousands of parents beating/abusing their children. Additionally millions of adopting parents who love their children and raise them well show that "affinity to one's biology" is not necessary.
3.6.2007 8:00pm
Oh my word (mail):
Gregory: I am glad that you seem to acknowledge that male role models are important. That is a critical issue. It's not that outside-of-the-family role models are irrelevant or can't be a substitute, just that they are very likely to be imperfect substitutes, not necessarily that connected with the kid, and don't have a parental attitude. Now, as with anything, you can probably come up with an example of some guy who out of the kindness of his heart decided to be a male role model for a boy who had lesbian parents, but that ain't going to be the norm and it relies on a lot of selflessness from a guy who probably has his own family and mess to deal with--and wrongly assumes that lesbians are going to admit that boys NEED male role models. In my experience, the culture has grown up around the idea that male role models are kind of optional or what have you.

---

I think the vast majority of such socialization happens not at home, but in peer settings and through culture. I really doubt that the minor differences between the behavior exhibited by macho guys and by butch women will override the multitude of social messages kids receive throughout their existence regarding the proper behavior of boys and girls. And I don't really see either set of stereotypes as inherently valuable; I know plenty of very confident, assertive, tough women who are as macho as any guy (and I love them for it) and plenty of men who exhibit all the sensitivity and grace associated with the best of the female stereotype.

Well, every guy I know who has had a father has learned important things from his father and in a deeper, more familial way than he ever learned from his friends or other adult males. And I mean EVERY ONE. Fathers are important. Parents are important. I mean shoot, if kids at school are sufficient (lmao at that one during middle school--no, take that back, elementary school through college), shoot, there's no problem with foster kids in nice foster homes.

I have yet to meet a butch woman who truly understands the male psyche, even if she can bench 250.

And, like I say, no woman who has never dated lots of men and gotten married with a man can quite understand the male-female dynamic that is so important to learning.

Again, I love this idea that you can learn all it is about a guy from your buds. And the same with girls and their female friends. Any rake and a-hole guy will candidly say that the easiest female "prey" are those girls who had non-traditional homes and have real insecurities about it. That goes for a jerk father, a single mother home, and anything else. A girl who never had a father is going to be pretty far behind knowing what's good and bad in a boyfriend.

I once dated a girl who didn't have a father in the house growing up, and let me say, it was a tragedy. She had already been taken advantage of by two guys, and if I had been a jerk, I could have done the same thing. It was all I could to take care of her, and she was deeply distrustful of men due to not really knowing what to look for.

That kind of a thing. You can never really measure that in a study quantitatively, and certainly not objectively.
3.6.2007 8:01pm
Oh my word (mail):
I don't know what this unique "male psyche" is suposed to be, but every aspect of masculinity I know of can appear in both men and women. I just flat out disagree that lesibans are inherently less able to understand me than straight women; in my experience, that's just not true.

No lesbian can ever understand what acting like a guy among the guys is, because she's a woman. No lesbian can know what it means to discover your male sexuality during puberty, because she just discovered female sexuality. No lesbian I have ever met acts truly like a man, despite some trying to pretend to. If you asked 100 people on the street if there are distinct, immutable, major differences between the female psyche and the male psyche, I would be shocked if fewer than 90-95 said yes.

Regarding the reference to Maggie Gallagher, I sharply criticized her several times for poor argumentation. She was a poor debater and did not represent the viewpoint well.

Dale ignored most of my arguments, conveniently. Volokh is for gay marriage anyway, so it's not surprising that Dale joined the blog.
3.6.2007 8:06pm
Mark Field (mail):
Those demanding traditional families seem to be fighting a losing battle with the American public. Over 50% of all families are now "non-traditional". "A hair more than half — 50.3 percent — of households are headed by unmarried people, and 31.7 percent of American children are being raised in unmarried homes." Cite.
3.6.2007 8:09pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I once dated a girl...

I'll take your anecdote and raise you one, Oh my word: the lesbians I have known have had a much better understanding of how men and women relate than straight women, since their desires enabled them to recognize societal pressure to conform to stereotyped sex roles. What does that say to you?
3.6.2007 8:11pm
marghlar:
Any rake and a-hole guy will candidly say that the easiest female "prey" are those girls who had non-traditional homes and have real insecurities about it. That goes for a jerk father, a single mother home, and anything else. A girl who never had a father is going to be pretty far behind knowing what's good and bad in a boyfriend.

Um, my wife grew up mostly without a dad, (he was an abusive jerk, and out of her life by the time she was eight). She's the most confident woman I know, and she was very particular in terms of what she wanted out of a boyfriend. I've never known a woman who was less likely to be manipulated by men. I've known really gullible women with available, affectionate, caring dads, and women who grew up in single family homes who were tought as nails.

Likewise, I didn't spend much time with my dad when I was growing up, but it hasn't prevented me from learning all the masculine aspects of behavior I needed to socialize into the world.

Which just goes to show you why the plural of "anecdote" isn't "data."

I agree with you that parents are important, and give care in a different way from other people. Where I disagree is that one's genitalia doesn't necessarily make one a better or worse parent, or impart any additional or necessary wisdom to the process.
3.6.2007 8:12pm
jvarisco (www):
Gregory) Of course evolution provides no purpose; it's not a conscious process. But if you are going to try and repress something that is part of our nature, there should be a reason. It's not that much to assume something that has been adaptive for thousands of years is probably not a bad thing.

The problem with your argument is that non-traditional families have been empirical shown to be less good for children in our society. Some examples:
Here, here, here, etc.
Even the ACLU and NPR admit that two-parent families are better than single parent ones (here and here).

I don't know that certain types of families (same-sex etc.) are bad. But we do know that heterosexual ones work; the burden of proof should be upon those who want to try something new. Why experiment when we have something that works pretty well? What we do know is that men and women are both physically and mentally different. Don't pretend that has no effect on child-rearing. The difference might not be harmful, but it is certainly there.

Anecdotal evidence is of course weak. Exceptions will always exist. But there are trends, and those matter. If intervention makes it so more kids are raised within marriages, some kids might not turn out as well as they would have. But overall kids will benefit. And that's what matters.
3.6.2007 8:18pm
BobNSF (mail):

And, like I say, no woman who has never dated lots of men and gotten married with a man can quite understand the male-female dynamic that is so important to learning.


Hmmm... I suppose to truly understand the male/female dynamic, the average guy should get in drag and date another man, just to see what it's like. Ditto/vice-versa for the average gal.

On the other hand, I think Oh My Word has made a convincing argument that men and women are so utterly different and mutually inscrutable that any sensible person would logically choose a same-sex relationship so as not to wander about in a domestic fog all the time.

;-)
3.6.2007 8:28pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
But we do know that heterosexual ones work

"Work" is an awfully low barrier. Work towards what? What problems do they alleviate? What percentage of heterosexual parents are actually good at what they do, and by what metric?

the burden of proof should be upon those who want to try something new.

How do gay parents "prove" that they are going to be good parents without facing a catch-22 situation? Are hetero parents presupposed to be good parents simply because they can make a child together?
3.6.2007 8:28pm
Randy R. (mail):
1. How do you ask a girl out.
2. How does a guy deal with rejection.
3. How does a guy learn how to "take it like a man" and keep ticking on the playground, on the sports field, among the guys, and so on.
4. How does a guy learn how to stare another guy down, play fair at the same time, and then be friends afterwards.

This is really funny. do you seriously think boys learn this from their fathers? What culture are you living in? Boys learn all these points from other boys. Even your first question: Go ahead and ask any teenagers how boys ask out girls. You will likely get a stare in disbelief -- it doesn't happen any more. Guys 'hang' with girls. They have friends, and they have friends with benefits. All four points are vestiges of the 1950s, and if you try talking like that to your kids, they will simply roll their eyes at you.

You don't need a father to teach you these things: it's easier and way better to learn them on your own or from your peers.
3.6.2007 8:51pm
Randy R. (mail):
jvisco: "But we do know that heterosexual ones work."

No they do NOT work. Sure some do, and some don't. But we know that at least 50% or so of marriages end in divorce. So hetersexual marriage doesn't "work." We know that many children from heterosexual marriages end up on drugs, deadbeats, and so on. We also know that many turn out fine.

Sorta like the children of homosexual marriages. The best indicator of how well your children will turn out depends upon the education level of the parents, not their gender.

Look we can argue for days as to whether any particular set of parents are better than another. Are Greek parents better than Chinese parents? Are tall parents better than short ones? Rich ones better than poor ones? Select ANY two categories, and we will all come up with anecdotes and research evidence to show what ever we wish to prove.

What we do know for sure is that some families produce perfectly normal adjusted kids, some families turn out basketcases, and most turn out kids somwhere in between. In my family, I'm a successful lawyer, and my sister is a basketcase. You can't even get consistency WITHIN a family!

What we also know for sure is that some people are good at parenting, and some are not so good. Again, this is no category that you can find that will place all the 'good' parents in one, and the 'bad' parents in another.

And the state or the legislature has no business trying to determine who the good parents are and who the bad ones are.
3.6.2007 9:01pm
Randy R. (mail):
jvarisco: " the burden of proof should be upon those who want to try something new."

Agreed. And those who have tried something new, as you put it, are the gay families. And there have been no studies to show that the children of gay parents turn out any worse than children of straight parents. This is true in the US, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries where same sex adoptions exist.

Okay, fine, you'll say it's too soon, or too few studies. But so far, there have been none that show otherwise.

At some point, you will have to simply agree that the burden has been met. And at that point, you will have to agree that neither the families nor society has been harmed.

Aside from all this theorizing, I notice no one has shown any actual studies that have proved that any child from a marriage has been harmed in any way. AGain, at some point, you are going to have to rely on some stats and not anecdotal evidence, or 'what everone know is true.'
3.6.2007 9:07pm
Randy R. (mail):
Bob: I think Oh My Word has made a convincing argument that men and women are so utterly different and mutually inscrutable that any sensible person would logically choose a same-sex relationship so as not to wander about in a domestic fog all the time."

this is a bit off topic, but there is a reason why young gay men are so popular with young women. First, they both like to shop and the gays have impeccable taste. Second, the gay men know how straight men think and act and like. The girls often ask the gay men for instructions on how to give a really good blowjob, and when their man acts all weird and everything, the gay boi can gives insight as to what is really going on. So the bois are good as listening to the girl;s relationship problems.

If the straight boys were smart (which they aren't) they would likewise befriend the lesbians. They could learn a whole lot about how to satisfy a woman, and how she thinks from them.

My friend Alex Sanchez is a successful gay author, having written several books about gay and striaght teenagers. He used to be a counselor for teens, so he knows what is really going on. turns out his biggest fans are straight female teens, as they really want to know how what's really going on inside a guy's head, whether gay or straight, and his books are marvelous at that.

So you striaght boys out there: If your wife or girlfriend has a gay b/f, consider yourself very lucky. Please, no need to thank us!
3.6.2007 9:13pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
jvarisco: The studies you cite raise an interesting point, especially the second one (though seriously, Dr. Wilson, write a bloody abstract). The difference between stepparents and married biological parents is particularly intriguing.

I certainly don't deny that 2 parent families are better than one; I feel the preponderance of the evidence shows that.

I'm still not sold on the an overriding effect of biological relation. I do agree that a biological relation is an advantage, I simply am unsure as to the degree. A notable comparison would be nuclear couples that used a sperm donor v. fertile nuclear couples.

In any case, the real question is not if committed homosexual couples are an imperfect substitute for traditional couple, but rather if they are sufficiently imperfect to warrant condemnation.

Assume that a (male/female) nuclear family with at least one homosexual is inherently unstable (not a difficult assumption, I think), and that an unstable marriage is bad for a child (shown fairly well empirically). Therefore, it is impractical to force homosexuals who wish to have children into male/female nuclear couples.

As a practical matter, we don't strongly condemn children in other imperfect couples (one where one or both parents work significant hours outside the home, one where one or both parents may have a minor psychosocial issue like nicotine addition or temper problems, one in moderate poverty, etc). Does it make sense, then, to condemn a couple in a committed civil union for wanting children if the disadvantage is slight?

Particularly given that, since the degree of effort needed for a same-sex couple to "have" a child is significantly greater than it is for most heterosexual couples, the commitment to a child is likely greater.

Also:
If two parents (in a committed relationship) are clearly better than one (even if not all the parents are related to the child), doesn't it seem likely that 3 or 4 would be still better? So shouldn't we be looking seriously at legalizing polygamy and polyandry?
3.6.2007 9:21pm
Randy R. (mail):
You know, it's all very funny that this has generated such heated debate. The number of gay parents out there in a world of 6 billion people is completely insignificant. Even in the US, the percentage of gays having or wanting to have children is tiny, tiny, tiny. Yet THIS is the topic that generates such discussion?

Please. There are many more problems facing our nations children that worrying about who their parents are. If you are really concerned about the children, then save your outrage for those who go to bed hungry, who don't have health care, who are in foster care, who are bullied by the strong, who don't have access to a decent education, who live too much with guns or violence, whose parents are on drugs, whose parents are absent, whose parents are more concerned about material goods than spiritual ones.

THOSE are the children you should save your energies for. There is no question here that those kids need it. There is no question that those parents fail their kids. Debate all you want about gay parents, there are huge numbers of kids who are failed by their families and 'the system' already. (And might I add, virtually every single one of those failed kids have come from heterosexual parents).

So let's focus on a real problem, not an imagined one, okay?
3.6.2007 9:29pm
marghlar:
Well said Randy. I have spent a fair amount of time working with abused and neglected kids. I have seen a lot of kids in terrible distress. Not one of them was suffering as a result of gay parents. Rather, it was poverty, drug abuse, and careless hetero parents who didn't know how to use birth control or refused to stop having children, despite manifest inability to raise them and disinterest in doing so.

On the list of pressing problems in child welfare policy, gay adoption is about 478th on the list (if it is a problem, and not a benefit -- I tend to think the latter, given the shortage of parents willing to adopt tough cases).
3.6.2007 9:44pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Are there any anthropologists in the crowd? It seems to be an a priori among some that the nuclear, two parent, male/female family has been the norm in human experience. I question if this is the case.

Various primitive tribes today have men and women living in separate communal houses, with the kids staying with the mother until a certain age. Then the boys move in with the men. Some may object that we are not primitives. However, we were primitives for most of human history, and those who speak of the natural order have to take that full history into account. The primitives of today give a window to our common past.

Also, what percentage of children prior to modern medicine lived with both parents until age eighteen? Given the high incidence of maternal death in childborth, I suspect many kids grew up without both parents. Perhaps a social historian can comment?

Finally, what percentage of humanity has actually lived in the two parent nuclear family? What percentage lives that model today? Extended families under one roof are the norm in many societies, and once pevailed in many others that have now adopted the nuclear model.

I suspect some people are taking their modern ideal and imposing it on the past with no real justification.
3.7.2007 12:08am
jvarisco (www):
Elliot) It has been the norm in our society. You can't simply take a model out of context and ask if it works. How exactly would you fit communal houses into our current society?

Gregory) "In any case, the real question is not if committed homosexual couples are an imperfect substitute for traditional couple, but rather if they are sufficiently imperfect to warrant condemnation."

This is true. But are you willing to stipulate that while homosexuals can have kids, they are not the ideal? I don't especially mind homosexual adoption, I just think everything else being equal a heterosexual couple would be better.

"As a practical matter, we don't strongly condemn children in other imperfect couples "

Don't we? I think it's the height of immorality to smoke when one has young children (asthma anyone?). If you can think of a way of preventing certain other problematic parents from having kids, I would love to implement it.

I don't think polygamy is disallowed because of children.

Randy) I don't see how that is relevant. The people who are making this an issue are the ones who want to change the status quo, not those who oppose the change. Of course there are other problems, and they are hardly being ignored. If everyone ignored homosexual adoption, would we be closer to stopping gangs? Winning the war on drugs? Stopping poverty?

Personally, I think the relevant studies are not so much about parents but sexuality in general. Once we understand how/why sexuality happens, we can make empirically grounded judgments about it. In twenty years I expect we will be able to manipulate sexuality, which means society will have to decide if they want to embrace such diversity or not.

Heterosexual families work. By that, I simply mean that they are what we have today, and our society, despite its shortfalls, is not doing that horribly. And I doubt many problems can be ascribed to the lack of same-sex parents. The problem with experimenting is that it is a one-way street. Once you allow something new, it is hard to reverse course. If it turns out that condoning non-traditional families causes problems, we can't just turn around and get rid of them. So we'd better be quite sure before we take that risk. If someone has never had a right, keeping it that way until there is more empirical data is hardly such a bad thing.
3.7.2007 2:46am
Adopting Parent:
Many on the Religious Right are needlessly insulting millions of infertile married couples. By focusing on the production of a child as the be-all-end-all of marriage, people like Chuck Colson argue that the marriages of infertile couples are trash.

Jvarisco spews rhetoric that repulses anyone who has formed a family by adoption. "There is a biological bond that parents have with offspring. I don't care what the civil union says, no non-parent can have that." He also suggests that adoptive parents are "ambivalent" to their kids and lack "affinity" for their children.

Given the amount of effort it takes many couples to biologically produce a child, biological parents don't really have to show much dedication to make a baby--a few minutes in the back seat of a car, and don't abort for 9 months. That's pretty much it (especially for the men). Yes, many women take the responsibility to eat right, get visit the doctor, etc., but many don't. All most bio parents really have to do is have sex, and that doesn't take any commitment.

By contrast, it takes a lot more dedication to become an adopotive parent. Many biological parents have told me how much more work I have had to go through than--document gathering, invasive social worker interviews, home inspection, physicals, financial statements, CPR training, fire inspections, parenting courses, long waits, etc.

Once our child is placed in our arms, we adoptive parents know that we have to constantly earn the titles of "parent," "mom," and "dad." Too many biological parents take that for granted.

When our daughter arrives, my wife and I will "have a baby together." It would be unwise for anyone to try to test whether I feel "affinity" or "ambivilence" towards her. Bigots like Colson (as well as political parties, religious faiths, and other organizations that welcome his beliefs) can go to Hell.
3.7.2007 5:01am
Adopting Parent:

Many in the religious right talk about liberals as "attacking the family" when in reality, the liberals only want to allow gay people to form families. There is no attempt to destroy any biological family.

By contrast, Colson and his ilk are making a direct assault on the families of infertile couples and other families that have chosen to adopt.

And which side did you say was "anti-family"?
3.7.2007 5:20am
Oh my word (mail):
I'll take your anecdote and raise you one, Oh my word: the lesbians I have known have had a much better understanding of how men and women relate than straight women, since their desires enabled them to recognize societal pressure to conform to stereotyped sex roles. What does that say to you?

I think everyone on this planet is acutely aware of sex roles and culture!

There's so much above that it's now kind of impossible to sort out what to respond to and what not to, but I do want to respond to the idea that we learn how to "act like guys" mostly from our friends. First, learning how to act like a guy from your middle school buddies, with no fatherly guidance, is pretty much a playbook for the mess so many guys are in--which is why, at some level, I can’t blame some girls for saying the heck with it and mowing grass. Fathers don’t always, or even often, teach us how to ask a girl out or how to act in this or that guy situation. They DEMONSTRATE it and lead by example. And they show us how an adult man acts, not the 9th grade culture that loves the Beastie Boys. Now, I ain’t hatin’ on the Beasties too much, but playground/high school guy culture is chock full of knotheads. Your father is who mediates that and shows you the way to manhood.

The decline of fatherhood in this country is exhibit A for so many of the problems in this country and so many of the problems young men get into. The absence of fatherhood can be reasonably expected to make matters worse.

For the record, Colson is making no attack whatsoever on infertile couples or adopting heterosexual couples. That is plainly inaccurate and a distortion of his viewpoint.
3.7.2007 9:18am
Randy R. (mail):
"Heterosexual families work. By that, I simply mean that they are what we have today, and our society, despite its shortfalls, is not doing that horribly"

Since we have many thousands of families with homosexual parents, by your own definition, homosexual familes 'work.'
3.7.2007 9:44am
marghlar:
Well, OMW, now you are contradicting yourself. The kind of stuff you listed above (how to ask girls out, deal with rejection, be sportsmanlike, etc) is exactly the kind of thing that kids do learn from peers and culture. I know of literally no one who learned this from their fathers, so that can't be the essence of masculine whatever that we need fathers to transmit.

In the quest to keep your argumentative position, you've gone all ambiguous again.

So, no you are saying that:

Fathers don’t always, or even often, teach us how to ask a girl out or how to act in this or that guy situation. They DEMONSTRATE it and lead by example. And they show us how an adult man acts, not the 9th grade culture that loves the Beastie Boys.

Well, I hope that few enough of us have watched our fathers demonstrate how to ask a girl out...that would be a pretty bad example to be setting. We certainly have numerous examples of how "adult men act", some good and some bad, and I'm not sure how critical dads are in any of that. Most of the guys I've known who were raised by single moms did not end up as hyper-feminine weenies, so they seemed to get those messages from somewhere.

In short, you keep retreating to abstraction whenever people try to pin you down, which tends to suggest that you don't know what you are talking about. Now we need fathers to teach boys how "adult men act"; how much of this transmission is of useful info, and how much is perpetuation of harmful gender stereotypes?

Until you bring to the table an example of something concrete that boys need to learn from their fathers, and not from another source, it's going to be hard to take your argument seriously. Up until now, every concrete example has really violated people's intuitions about how boys actually acquire masculine habits.
3.7.2007 9:56am
Ramza:
Oh my word:
Concerning, boys learning to ask girls out, and similar items on your list. Other responders pointed out that kids learn these from their peers and not their fathers. You then say this is a bad thing and is responsible for the current mess in the status quo. By saying that you have just moved the argumentative goalpost. Now you are saying kids raised by lesbians or gay men have to be better than kids raised by homosexual parents currently, not the same but better than the current status quo. You can't have it both ways in this argument, pick a position and stick with it.

Now you can argue in another argument, that boys need to learn more things from their fathers, and society will be better off if we do so, but please don't try to change the goalpost of an argument mid argument and hope nobody notices.
3.7.2007 10:34am
Randy R. (mail):
This just in: According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of households that are married couples with children has hit an all-time low: 23.7 percent. That's about half what it was in the 1950s. Which means even in the mythical 50s, only about half of all households fit the "ideal" model of a family.

So....if this is the 'ideal' family, then why has it been declining in popularity over the last 50 years?

Answer: Because the 'ideal' is not ideal for everyone.
3.7.2007 10:49am
Mark Field (mail):

Also, what percentage of children prior to modern medicine lived with both parents until age eighteen? Given the high incidence of maternal death in childborth, I suspect many kids grew up without both parents. Perhaps a social historian can comment?


I've done a great deal of genealogical research on my own family. Based on that, I'd say you're absolutely right -- many, perhaps most children prior to the modern era lost one or both parents.


Finally, what percentage of humanity has actually lived in the two parent nuclear family? What percentage lives that model today? Extended families under one roof are the norm in many societies, and once pevailed in many others that have now adopted the nuclear model.


Take the English nobility as an obvious example. The children were often not raised by the parents. In the usual case, a tutor or servant would raise them up to a certain age. Thereafter, the boys, at least, would be sent to another noble household until they were adults. I personally wouldn't recommend this system, but it lasted for hundreds of years.


I suspect some people are taking their modern ideal and imposing it on the past with no real justification.


Exactly right.
3.7.2007 11:25am
Gregory Conen (mail):
jvarisco: I'm not willing to concede that homosexuals couples are inferior, ceteris paribus, but I'll stipulate it for the time being.

You may choose to condemn people who smoke around young children (and note that smoking parents can avoid doing it in the child's presence and, if applicable, while pregnant). But what about everyone else? A college education is undeniably an enormous benefit; would you condemn a couple for having a child if there's a good chance they won't be able to afford one? What about if the mother has a family history of haemophilia? What about a family history of alcoholism? No nearby extended family? Poor parental education (regardless of socioeconomic status)?

All those things are potential detriments, and some of them are proven. There are many more.

Shall we condemn everyone who meets even one of the criteria?
3.7.2007 12:01pm
Seamus (mail):
I think it's the height of immorality to smoke when one has young children (asthma anyone?).

Well, then, since Hitler was a non-smoker (and therefore never smoked around kids), at least he didn't reach the hight (depth?) of immorality. (On the other hand, Stalin (who smoked a pipe at home and elsewhere) and Mao (who chain-smoked cigarettes) look like they win the immorality prize: mass murder *and* smoking when they had small kids.)
3.7.2007 12:05pm
Oh my word (mail):
Well, OMW, now you are contradicting yourself. The kind of stuff you listed above (how to ask girls out, deal with rejection, be sportsmanlike, etc) is exactly the kind of thing that kids do learn from peers and culture. I know of literally no one who learned this from their fathers, so that can't be the essence of masculine whatever that we need fathers to transmit.

In the quest to keep your argumentative position, you've gone all ambiguous again.

So, no you are saying that:

Fathers don’t always, or even often, teach us how to ask a girl out or how to act in this or that guy situation. They DEMONSTRATE it and lead by example. And they show us how an adult man acts, not the 9th grade culture that loves the Beastie Boys.

Well, I hope that few enough of us have watched our fathers demonstrate how to ask a girl out...that would be a pretty bad example to be setting. We certainly have numerous examples of how "adult men act", some good and some bad, and I'm not sure how critical dads are in any of that. Most of the guys I've known who were raised by single moms did not end up as hyper-feminine weenies, so they seemed to get those messages from somewhere.

In short, you keep retreating to abstraction whenever people try to pin you down, which tends to suggest that you don't know what you are talking about. Now we need fathers to teach boys how "adult men act"; how much of this transmission is of useful info, and how much is perpetuation of harmful gender stereotypes?

Until you bring to the table an example of something concrete that boys need to learn from their fathers, and not from another source, it's going to be hard to take your argument seriously. Up until now, every concrete example has really violated people's intuitions about how boys actually acquire masculine habits.


Both of you misread my argument completely in trying to catch me in logical contradictions. Listen to what I am saying.

Look, in order to ask a girl out well, you have to know how to be a gentleman. Gracious, yet masculine. Your father, not your peers, shows you how to be a gentleman and how to act appropriately given your masculinity. I.e., be strong and confident, but don’t act like a douchebag. Most of this is done by example. These traits are by far the most important parts of asking a girl out and treating her correctly during the dating process. Not what you learn on your Beastie Boys CD or what have you.

Now, sure, you learn more about the specifics of when you ask a girl out from your social setting, given that these things kind of morph from about 7th grade to adulthood, and it’s not dad’s job to put words into your mouth or learn how things grow and evolve year by year. You pick up a good deal of that from your peers. HOWEVER, the fundamental essence of what it means to be a gentleman most guys learn from their dads. Some of them are good at it in 8th grade. Most of them, because they listen more to their peers than emulate their dad, act like knotheads until well past age 20. And those without a dad are more likely to be substantially behind the curve or never quite reach their potential on these important issues. Or worse. There are large stretches of America in which single moms are the norm. The young men that populate the non-nuclear family world are generally not the types you'd want your daughter hanging out with on Saturday night. That is pretty much the rule, not the exception, in my experience. And shoot, I live in a poor neighborhood. I see it first-hand.

That is my point.
3.7.2007 12:26pm
Ramza:

HOWEVER, the fundamental essence of what it means to be a gentleman most guys learn from their dads.

So people can learn it from other "fatherly figures" (such as mentors, uncles, grandfathers, etc) and it doesn't have to be "there father." Thus two lesbians who can raise a male just need to make sure there are several good fatherly figures that the child can learn from by emulating them?
3.7.2007 12:35pm
marghlar:
I wouldn't even grant that much, Ramza. All "being a gentleman" amounts to is not treating people shabbily. You can learn that from women as well as men. Gracious behavior is not a gendered trait; women as well as men need it to function well in life, and women as well as men can teach it.

Care to try again with a characteristic that we need to learn from fathers, and only fathers, OMW? Try to be careful here; you need something that people can't adequately learn from other role models (male or female) or from peers and culture. "Behaving like a gentleman) certainly doesn't cut the mustard.
3.7.2007 2:30pm
jvarisco (www):
Randy) As you said, it's still much too early. If there are negative effects, we may not see them for several generations. Heterosexual families have worked for all of our known history.

Where did 'ideal' and 'popular' become the same? College education is the ideal; half of this country will not get that far. Making money is the ideal; most people are not going to be rich. The fact is that married families on the average raise more successful children. If there is a decline, that's a problem that needs to be addressed. Are unplanned pregnancies the ideal too? Those have certainly been going up. As has been drug use, especially among teens.

Comparing things that are morally wrong does not change anything. It is wrong to cheat. It's much worse to murder. Would I rather cheat than be a murderer? Of course. Does that in any way make it all right to cheat? Of course not. No one is perfect, but when having kids we should try to fit the ideal as much as possible. The fact is that kids suffer when their parents smoke, if they can't afford college, etc. And they should not have to. Homosexual couples do not need to have children, and should only do so if it is in the best interests of the prospective child.

I think OMW is suggesting that biological fathers offer a unique type of role model to children. I'd be interested to see some data on this either way. Do those whose role models are their fathers do better than others?
3.7.2007 3:15pm
Colin (mail):
The young men that populate the non-nuclear family world are generally not the types you'd want your daughter hanging out with on Saturday night.

I agree - those children would be better off with two mommies.
3.7.2007 3:24pm
Colin (mail):
Dammit - misquoted. I meant to quote OMW saying, "There are large stretches of America in which single moms are the norm. The young men that populate the non-nuclear family world are generally not the types you'd want your daughter hanging out with on Saturday night."
3.7.2007 3:28pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
jvarisco: Heterosexual couples don't have a need for children, either. No one has a need for children. And there's probably something wrong with every family.

So think marital rights should be denied to people below a certain income threshold?
And people with any family history of genetically linked disease who don't consent to a test to be proven perfectly free of disease?
And people who work outside the home for more than a certain number of hours per week?
And people who smoke?
Or who don't have a college education themselves?
Or drink heavily or often?
Or have a criminal record?

All of the above are more clearly disadvantageous than a homosexual pair.
3.7.2007 3:40pm
Ramza:

I think OMW is suggesting that biological fathers offer a unique type of role model to children. I'd be interested to see some data on this either way. Do those whose role models are their fathers do better than others?

You are confusing an important issue. "Unique rolemodels" has multiple definitions and contexts.

If unique means influential then there will be no disagreement from anybody here at volokh, of course fathers are influential on their children it is self evident.

If unique means having a secret knowledge that only they can impart into their children, then fathers are fundamental to children. That is what Oh My Word is arguing and other commentators disagree on.

If Oh My Word is correct, than a lot of children are screwed (now and hundrends of years ago) for a lot of parents die, divorce, or leave their children before their children become adults (18 or whatever we define as adult)
3.7.2007 3:43pm
Oh my word (mail):
The young men that populate the non-nuclear family world are generally not the types you'd want your daughter hanging out with on Saturday night.

I agree - those children would be better off with two mommies.


But far better with a mother and a father.


Care to try again with a characteristic that we need to learn from fathers, and only fathers, OMW? Try to be careful here; you need something that people can't adequately learn from other role models (male or female) or from peers and culture. "Behaving like a gentleman) certainly doesn't cut the mustard.

I’m being careful, you don’t need to warn me about that. You are misrepresenting my point. It is not that if a guy has no father, he is doomed to a life of wussy suckitude. It is that he is much more likely to be behind the curve, because by far the best, most consistent way to learn about mature maleness is from your father. You’re around him a lot, he cares for you like no other man, you look up to him like you don’t look up to any other man, and he is there for you from start to finish. It is, practically speaking, highly unlikely that even an uncle or a next-door neighbor will fill that role. Every once in a while, it happens. Mostly, they are not anywhere close to being a substitute for a father. That is critical to understand.

The problem here is that it is difficult to analyze in short sentences the extremely subtle and deep ways in which men and women interact differently. I am trying to encapsulate it all in a word or two, such as “act gentlemanly.” You think that it just means acting nice. That is most definitely not my experience in dating, just as an example (and we can only really talk from our own experiences in many ways). If I’m just nice, that’s great, I can form lots of good friendships with men and women. If I want to inspire a woman romantically, I succeed when I thrill her inner desire for a guy who acts in a manly way yet caring for her. It is a deft trick that took years to figure out—part of which was certainly emulating my father. It is way more than being nice and courteous and saying please and thank you. It’s ways of looking at her, manner of speaking, manner of interacting with other guys while she’s around, manner of acting around her friends, all of that.

And yes, you can get a girlfriend by just being nice. But it helps tremendously to find one who really works for you by knowing how to thrill her inner desire for a mature gentleman. You know what I mean. Heck, just watch movies. There’s a reason why some actors drive girls wild. It’s not just the looks and not just that they say please and thank you. It’s the total package.

Likewise with “hanging out with the guys.” First of all, most of the lesbians I know don’t even try to act manly. Maybe 1 in 5, probably a lot less when you really get right down to it. And even the ones that try don’t really interact in the same way that guys I know do when we are hanging out. It’s not just being competitive or combative—that’s lame. It’s knowing how to be competitive with style and all of that. It’s hard to explain, but like I say, I have NEVER see a lesbian who was anywhere near like how most guys tend to be when out on camping trips or on the basketball court or watching a game.

Guys and girls are different in fundamental ways—psychologically, emotionally, physiologically. Culture adapts to that reality, not the other way around. The science is overwhelming on this point.


The problem here is that it is difficult to analyze in short sentences the extremely subtle and deep ways in which men and women interact differently. I am trying to encapsulate it all in a word or two, such as “act gentlemanly.” You think that it just means acting nice. That is most definitely not my experience in dating, just as an example (and we can only really talk from our own experiences in many ways). If I’m just nice, that’s great, I can form lots of good friendships with men and women. If I want to inspire a woman romantically, I succeed when I thrill her inner desire for a guy who acts in a manly way yet caring for her. It is a deft trick that took years to figure out—part of which was certainly emulating my father. It is way more than being nice and courteous and saying please and thank you. It’s ways of looking at her, manner of speaking, manner of interacting with other guys while she’s around, manner of acting around her friends, all of that.

And yes, you can get a girlfriend by just being nice. But it helps tremendously to find one who really works for you by knowing how to thrill her inner desire for a mature gentleman. You know what I mean. Heck, just watch movies. There’s a reason why some actors drive girls wild. It’s not just the looks and not just that they say please and thank you. It’s the total package.

Likewise with “hanging out with the guys.” First of all, most of the lesbians I know don’t even try to act manly. Maybe 1 in 5, probably a lot less when you really get right down to it. And even the ones that try don’t really interact in the same way that guys I know do when we are hanging out. It’s not just being competitive or combative—that’s lame. It’s knowing how to be competitive with style and all of that. It’s hard to explain, but like I say, I have NEVER see a lesbian who was anywhere near like how most guys tend to be when out on camping trips or on the basketball court or watching a game.

Guys and girls are different in fundamental ways—psychologically, emotionally, physiologically. Culture adapts to that reality, not the other way around. The science is overwhelming on this point.
3.7.2007 4:01pm
Aleks:

Re: But affinity for biological children is an obviously adaptive trait. If it doesn't exist, there would have to be some countervailing factor.

I think you are missing a rather crucial fact: humans did not live in isolated nuclear families for the bulk of our long history. The socially isolated nuclear family is an artifact of a fairly high level of civilziation. Pre-civilized humans lived in clan groups ranging in size from a few dozen members to a few hundred. Infants of course were generally tended by their mothers (with some assistance from other women in the group-- "mutual mothering" in common in many mammals, found even in minimally social animals like housecats). But older children became the responsibility of the entire clan. And in fact we still have this pattern in our own culture when we send our five and six year olds off to school. In fact the point could be made that it's the homeschoolers who are going against nature.
3.7.2007 4:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
OMW:

"I agree - those children would be better off with two mommies.

But far better with a mother and a father. "

Or perhaps this: A child would be better off with two mentally, physically and financially stable mommies, than a with a mother and father who are abusive, or alcoholics, or unable to otherwise care for their children properly.

Can you agree to that? Or do you think that in ALL cases, a mother and father is always better than two mommies or two daddies?
3.7.2007 4:19pm
adopting parent:
For the record, Colson is making no attack whatsoever on infertile couples or adopting heterosexual couples. That is plainly inaccurate and a distortion of his viewpoint.

Colson is attacking all parent-child relationships where the children are people raising the kids did not create the kids by having sex. Almost all of his arguments have equal (in)validity when applied to heterosexual couples who adopt and/or cannot biologically create kids. For example:

Colson writes: The subhead in the Post article says it all: "Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller got hitched and had a baby together." Together? Anybody who knows anything about biology knows that’s impossible. . . . So in the court’s eyes, Isabella is the child of two women, something biologically impossible.

My daughter will be of a different race than my wife and I. It will be clear to "anybody who knows anything about biology" that it's "impossible" that my wife and I produced her by having sex. And yes, we will say we "had a baby together."

Colson writes: Sure, there are extraordinary circumstances, and adoption is possible. But the norm is the norm, and the law has always recognized the natural moral order.

So, adoption is not "the norm" and parent-child relations that are not "the norm" should not be "recognized (as part of) the natural moral order." Nice.

Colson writes: If Janet Jenkins wins her case—which may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—Isabella may be taken from her biological mother to live with a woman she barely remembers. And not only Isabella; many other children would also be threatened by this waving of the judicial magic wand to produce legal parents out of nowhere.

So, children are "threatened" when they are raised by legally-recognized parents who actually did the work of parenting? Who's the kid's "real" parent? The legally-recognized parent who supported her, changed her diapers, disciplined her, fed her, clothed her, bathed her, and took care of her when was were sick? Or the sperm donor?


By attacking parent-child relationships when those relationships come from actual work as parents (as opposed to a few seconds in the backseat of a car or a few seconds with a porno magazine and a cup in a fertility clinic), Colson attacks pretty much every family formed by adoption.

The adoption community is strong and getting stronger. Maybe I should be glad that the religious right wants to alienate us. Reading adoption list servs, it's clear that many adoptive families do so out of conservative Christian values. Let's see how long those families stick with Colson and his ilk.
3.7.2007 5:45pm
Oh my word (mail):
OMW:

"I agree - those children would be better off with two mommies.

But far better with a mother and a father. "

Or perhaps this: A child would be better off with two mentally, physically and financially stable mommies, than a with a mother and father who are abusive, or alcoholics, or unable to otherwise care for their children properly.

Can you agree to that? Or do you think that in ALL cases, a mother and father is always better than two mommies or two daddies?


I absolutely agree with you on that point.

I also believe that homosexual partners who basically have their mess together are better than foster homes. If homosexual partners recognize that their union is lacking in an important part of a child's upbringing (father or mother), it would be a lot more humanitarian to adopt a foster kid than to leave the foster kid in a home and bring a child into the world knowingly without a father (or mother)--which is a very serious handicap.
3.7.2007 5:58pm
Ramza:

I absolutely agree with you on that point.

I also believe that homosexual partners who basically have their mess together are better than foster homes. If homosexual partners recognize that their union is lacking in an important part of a child's upbringing (father or mother), it would be a lot more humanitarian to adopt a foster kid than to leave the foster kid in a home and bring a child into the world knowingly without a father (or mother)--which is a very serious handicap.

Okay would you say two lesbians with PhDs and an income of 200k+, one of the parents stays home to raise the kids, are as good if not better parents than two heteros who make 30k, and the mom stays at home? Time after time it is shown that Money and education of parents are the best predictors of success for the kid.
3.7.2007 6:18pm
jvarisco (www):
Ramza) By unique, I mean more effective. Others can be role models, just not as good ones. Note that I'm not advocating this, but it seems quite plausible.

Gregory) I don't really see practical ways of doing so. But yes, I would favor such things for drinkers, smokers, criminals, etc. As I have pointed out earlier, having children is not a right - it is something you do for the child, not yourself. Not everyone is capable of raising a child well, and so not everyone should be permitted to do so. Think of it as a privilege that is extended, but can be revoked.

Let's take the hypothetical farther. It's 30 years in the future, and we have a way to make people heterosexual without significant side effects. Thus you have a woman with income of $200k who wants a child. Should she marry a man or a woman? I think it's clear which is best for the prospective child.
3.7.2007 7:11pm
marghlar:
I also believe that homosexual partners who basically have their mess together are better than foster homes. If homosexual partners recognize that their union is lacking in an important part of a child's upbringing (father or mother), it would be a lot more humanitarian to adopt a foster kid than to leave the foster kid in a home and bring a child into the world knowingly without a father (or mother)--which is a very serious handicap.

I would take this farther, and posit that there are serious ethical issues with any person procreating when there are children who will suffer for not being adopted instead of the child they would create. It's not an issue of the gender of the parents, but an issue of passing up on a key opportunity to remediate a significant chunk of suffering in the world.
3.7.2007 8:07pm
marghlar:
It is that he is much more likely to be behind the curve, because by far the best, most consistent way to learn about mature maleness is from your father. You’re around him a lot, he cares for you like no other man, you look up to him like you don’t look up to any other man, and he is there for you from start to finish. It is, practically speaking, highly unlikely that even an uncle or a next-door neighbor will fill that role. Every once in a while, it happens. Mostly, they are not anywhere close to being a substitute for a father. That is critical to understand.

Wow, that is really laden with assumptions about how capable and involved most parents are; I suspect very few fathers in two parent families match the sort of ideal you describe, or even approximate it closely.

I agree that it is possible to get some good messages from your dad, just like it is possible to get them from any loving parent. But I guess I'm less reverential of "mature maleness" than you; I think most of the main differences between men and women are fairly innate, and many of the rest are harmful as much as beneficial. I think that the things we need to pick up, we tend to pick up pretty well regardless of our parental situation. I haven't noticed that my friends from stable, happy childhood homes tended to grow up better at gender relations than those with a rougher background.

And this goes to something deeper that I feel is a pathology in American culture: we have this view that children are these incredibly fragile things, and that if we don't give them ideally perfect environments they will end up messed up for life. Well guess what: kids who grow up in the same home often have vastly different outcomes. Often, the people raised in the most "ideal" homes end up nuts, and people from really shitty situations are wonderful people. In fact, I'd go farther, and say that we have removed too much adversity from many children's lives, and that the adults I've known who've had rough childhoods are often better people than the one's who grew up in an upper-middle class paradise.

I don't take this to mean that we ought to abuse our kids to make them better adults; the world will often supply enough abuse even if parents are doing everything right. But I've seen too many twins turn out with opposite personalities as adults to feel that the subtle details of parenting are nearly as important as you suppose. People will turn out how they turn out. We shouldn't abuse kids or treat them cruelly; but if we treat them with love and care, almost everything else gets ironed out in the wash.
3.7.2007 8:17pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
jvarisco: If that's the case, we may have a fundamental disagreement on the degree to which people should be allowed to have children.

There are practical problems with preventing heterosexuals from having babies, at least in a free society, where universal mandatory medication/surgery would be frowned upon. Of course, you may also have problems preventing "informal sperm donation" in lesbians.

Given that having children under your model is a privilege, we could require couples to receive a license to have children legally. Incarceration or fines for defiance are obviously counterproductive, hurting the new child. But surgical sterilization as a punishment for an unlicensed baby might be justifiable. Somewhat less extremely, implants (IUDs or hormonal implants like Norplant) or mandatory courses of hormonal contraceptive (eg DepoProvera), could be used to temporarily prevent further violations. And surgically reversible sterilization methods are probably closer than treatments to change sexual orientation.

Obviously you'd need exceptions for special cases, most notably rape. But with suitable special case exceptions, would you go for a licensing regime with violators punished by temporary or permanent sterilization?
3.7.2007 9:28pm
jvarisco (www):
Gregory) There are in fact practical problems. I'm not sure what the right answer is; I don't think mass sterilization, even if it would work, is the answer. Perhaps for some egregious cases, e.g. using hardcore drugs while pregnant. But I do feel that it's a problem to allow so many children to be born into situations in which they won't have a chance. There are much worse things than gay couples having children, I agree. I just don't feel that having children qualifies as a right. Ultimately the question is, would a given policy end up causing more good than harm? If one could come up with a way of restricting children that did such a thing, I would be all for it. Right now I don't see much of a legal remedy; what we can do is encourage situations (e.g. marriage) that tend to result in good outcomes. And obviously attacking poverty, and trying to discourage casual and unprotected sex.
3.8.2007 12:54am
Randy R. (mail):
jvarisco: " As I have pointed out earlier, having children is not a right - it is something you do for the child, not yourself."

Well, THAT's obviously not true! Just about any male/female couple can make children, and once born, they have a right to those children. No one asks them why they had the child, and as long as they provide a minimum of care, they keep the child pretty much until he or she reaches maturity.

"Not everyone is capable of raising a child well, and so not everyone should be permitted to do so. Think of it as a privilege that is extended, but can be revoked" Revoked by whom? Again, there are minimum levels of care, there are plenty of children who are mentally abused or emotionally abused, but as long as the scars are not visible and kid is getting enough food and clothes, there is no one around to take them away from you. The bar is really pretty low.

"Let's take the hypothetical farther. It's 30 years in the future, and we have a way to make people heterosexual without significant side effects." If that were the case, than we can make people gay without significant side effects as well.

Whoo-hoo! Finally, we can have a population that wears DECENT clothes and don't live in tacky suburban houses!
3.8.2007 12:57am
Gregory Conen (mail):
jvarisco: I'm not talking about sterilization for everyone, of course. Just people who have children without properly getting permission. Ideally, this would be a small group. It can't totally prevent inappropriate people from having children, but it serves as considerable deterrence, and obviously prevents them from having more than one.

Any such law is certainly unconstitutional under current jurisprudence, but those same cases affirm that having children IS a right (Skinner v. Oklahoma).
3.8.2007 8:20am
Oh my word (mail):
Okay would you say two lesbians with PhDs and an income of 200k+, one of the parents stays home to raise the kids, are as good if not better parents than two heteros who make 30k, and the mom stays at home? Time after time it is shown that Money and education of parents are the best predictors of success for the kid.

Depends on what you mean by "success." Also, those studies do not really account for whether lesbians can do as good a job as a traditional family, so I doubt that evidence really applies to your hypothetical.

I would personally much rather be raised in a family with a decent father, even if he doesn't make money, than two rich lesbians. Money and financial success are not everything in life. I'm not saying that's not important, but it's not the most important.
3.8.2007 10:34am
Gregory Conen (mail):
Oh my word: So what you're basically saying is you don't care about the actual evidence. Since, as noted, numerous studies have shown that good parental education and moderate wealth (200k is moderate, immoderate would be millions) are the best predictors for the success of children. Whereas there are no studies point to problems with in families with two committed homosexual parents.

Glad that we're clear.
3.8.2007 1:34pm
Randy R. (mail):
Furthermore, note that the vast majority of children of gay parents say they actually LOVE their parents, and when queried as to they think they are missing out on something, soundly reject the notion. They realize their family is different, of course, but they say it's different in a good way.

Furthermore, there was a recent study of foster care children. When asked would they prefer being adopted by gay parents or stay in the foster care system, the vast majority said that they would rather be adopted.

So: Gay parents want kids, kids are happy to have gay parents. What's the big problem?

of course, if you say that they shouldn't be having these kids, then you would naturally be the worst type of liberal, since it is only liberals that seek to tell us how to lead our lives. It's conservatives and libertarians who say that you let people alone to live their lives as they see fit.
3.8.2007 3:10pm
Oh my word (mail):
Oh my word: So what you're basically saying is you don't care about the actual evidence. Since, as noted, numerous studies have shown that good parental education and moderate wealth (200k is moderate, immoderate would be millions) are the best predictors for the success of children. Whereas there are no studies point to problems with in families with two committed homosexual parents.

Glad that we're clear.


That obviously is not what I am saying at all. Reread the post.
3.8.2007 3:38pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Depends on what you mean by "success."
True, but most of the studies use a variety of objective measures which are all fairly important. Perhaps you feel they miss some important factor, like this "manliness", but I'm not particularly concerned with that unless you can show an actual problem.

Also, those studies do not really account for whether lesbians can do as good a job as a traditional family, so I doubt that evidence really applies to your hypothetical.
Because they're studies designed to measure the effect of education and income level. Which is what they do.

I would personally much rather be raised in a family with a decent father, even if he doesn't make money, than two rich lesbians. Money and financial success are not everything in life. I'm not saying that's not important, but it's not the most important.

You personal feelings aside, the studies show that money and finacial success are larger predictors than the gender of the parents. You disagree, so you ignore the studies.
3.8.2007 4:19pm
Canadian Yankee:
Oh my word: Colson's whole point here is whether we should be putting the imprimatur of state approval on lesbians thinking that fathers are no longer important.

Actually, Colson is arguing that the state should actively damage these sorts of parental relationships by refusing to honor custody agreements. If you believe that kids in a same-sex relationship are disadvantaged, then why on earth would you want the government (or the courts) to make them even more disadvantaged? If two women raising a child together carry a heavy burden, then why make their burden even heavier by throwing legal obstacles in their way?

If you believe that having two same-sex parents is a disadvantage, and recognize that these families already exist, then you should be fighting to reduce their disadvantages, not to pile more disadvantages on top of them.
3.8.2007 4:24pm
Randy R. (mail):
"If you believe that having two same-sex parents is a disadvantage, and recognize that these families already exist, then you should be fighting to reduce their disadvantages, not to pile more disadvantages on top of them."

But what fun is there in that? If we did what you suggest, how on earth could anyone feel morally superior to gay people?

We've already proven that people are much more interested in piling on disadvantages to children of gay parents than actually helping truly disadvantaged kids. You know, the ones who go to bed hungry, or are abused, or live in poverty. The ones Jesus probably would be concerned about.

No, no, no. If you have gay parents, there MUST be something wrong with you. What, we just don't quite know yet. Something to do with not knowing how to ask a girl out on a date. And knowing how to 'stare down' other guys. (No really, this is so useful to know. I know that if I never had a dad who could teach this trick to me, I would never be able to cut into traffic during rush hour.)

You see, It's much more fun to fantasize about what the perfect family ought to be for everyone.
3.9.2007 1:12am
jvarisco (www):
"since it is only liberals that seek to tell us how to lead our lives."

Focus on the Family is a bunch of liberals, huh? I don't claim to be a libertarian in the slightest. I think government not only has the right but the responsibility to tell us how to live our lives. Unless you have a better solution for fixing the problems in our society? I'd much rather try and fail than not try at all.

I would be curious to see the data on what adopted children of gay families feel. The question is not if they love their parents - obviously besides flagrant abuse just about every kid loves their parents - but how such feelings compare to those of biological and/or heterosexual adoptive parents.
3.9.2007 2:32am
Oh my word (mail):
Depends on what you mean by "success."
True, but most of the studies use a variety of objective measures which are all fairly important. Perhaps you feel they miss some important factor, like this "manliness", but I'm not particularly concerned with that unless you can show an actual problem.


I have already discussed at length the unique aspects of growing up to be a man and why a father fulfills a very important, and usually quite unique, role. There’s no “perhaps” about what I think; I’m being as clear as I can. If you do not think men are different than women or that boys can figure out things just from their school buddies, then that is most definitely a factual point on which we would differ. The idea that dispensing with the father as not really any more important than a nonbiological second mom is a good, solid game plan is deeply irresponsible and factually dubious in the service of a political agenda.

Also, those studies do not really account for whether lesbians can do as good a job as a traditional family, so I doubt that evidence really applies to your hypothetical.
Because they're studies designed to measure the effect of education and income level. Which is what they do.


You ignore my point. These studies do not include as a dependent variable whether kids are raised from birth in a lesbian household. Therefore, there is no justifiable basis for the proposition that they can account for this issue. Moreover, I will reiterate that earning potential is not the most important thing in life. There is no way you disagree with me on that. Your only response is to dismissively refer to “manliness” and say I haven’t shown a problem, despite having written at length on the subject above, mostly without response from you.

I would personally much rather be raised in a family with a decent father, even if he doesn't make money, than two rich lesbians. Money and financial success are not everything in life. I'm not saying that's not important, but it's not the most important.

You personal feelings aside, the studies show that money and finacial success are larger predictors than the gender of the parents. You disagree, so you ignore the studies.


This is, again, an obvious misrepresentation of my argument.
3.9.2007 9:29am
Gregory Conen (mail):
I have already discussed at length the unique aspects of growing up to be a man and why a father fulfills a very important, and usually quite unique, role.

You've asserted, again and again, how important it is. You talked about acting manly and gentmanly, and how important those things are in relating to other men and to women, respectively. Assuming that manliness isn't an inherent virtue, it should show up in something that can be tracked.

So, what variable are the studies missing? Should the studies track the children's participation is sports? Their popularity among peers? Their ability to deal with adversity? The ratio between their male and female friends? How many marry? You've stated repeatadly that it's important, but you haven't done a particularly good job of explaining how.

What's more, since levels of happy children, ceteris paribus, do better in the objective areas (academic success, etc.) and some studies measure happiness directly (via self-reporting), the children haven't been shown to be troubled by their alleged "problems".

You ignore my point. These studies do not include as a dependent variable whether kids are raised from birth in a lesbian household.
Very few of those studies would include many homosexual couples, and most probably have none. In fact, the studies of married couples obviously have none, as homosexual couples, in most places in the US, are not legally married.

Also, those studies found, ceteris paribus, that high income and high parental education are well-correlated with success. In order to draw conclusions, they have to eliminate hidden variables that affect the results. If homosexuality is somehow a confounding factor, then it invalidates the WHOLE study, not just the way it applies to homosexuals. Do you claim that?

You could potentially claim that these measures don't hold for a population that wasn't studied in them (homosexual households). But given how it holds in both male/female, single male, and single female households it would be kind of strange if it didn't.
3.9.2007 10:29am
Oh my word (mail):
Cite a study so I can analyze it. At this point, the conversation is grasping at straws.

I have done a pretty good job of explaining how masculinity and understanding that is important. I disagree with you on that point. It is obviously in your interest to characterize my explanations as muddled or otherwise inadequate, but I doubt that's the case. Most people understand me quite well, and see the points I make, even if they disagree with them.

Regarding how a study would track that, I agree it would be difficult to track. You can't very easily measure wisdom or character or understanding of one's maleness or femaleness with a number. But that does not mean that it's not important. I have spent some time in the social sciences and know enough to know that most studies are fatally inhibited by a paucity of data, an inaccuracy of data, or the omission of critical variables. I'm not saying it's worthless in toto, but the shortcomings have to be understood.

I.e., wealth ain't the sum total of life.

I reiterate my point that character and understanding of self, which includes understanding of one's masculinity or femininity, is more important than wealth ever could be. So, you have to remember that is a very important bottom line, even if one could demonstrate (and I'm guessing no study has any such conclusion) that children of lesbians grow up to make more money than children of poor nuclear families of a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, I reiterate the point that fathers generally fulfill a role for a boy that a nonbiological homosexual mother is highly unlikely to be able to fill, if not impossible, and relying on school peers, or even an occasional neighbor, to fill the gap is a ridiculous notion.
3.9.2007 2:34pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Relevant studies: There are quite a few. If you actually want to contest the finding that socioeconomic background is linked to success, you can start with "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings" R Haveman, B Wolfe, 1995 and "Rags to Rags" M Corcoran, 1995.

I concede that there are values which can't be measured easily by these surveys, which might be correlated with the presence or absence of a father. That said, the things which are studied by the surveys DO still have value. Furthermore, these intangible qualities are likely correlated with many other things, like the degree of parental involvement, commitment, and character.

Thus, while the hypothetical perfect family would not be a lesbian couple, lesbian couples need not be significantly worse than heterosexual couples. Especially given that, as others have noted, the degree of commitment required to have children is greater for lesbians than heterosexuals.

Finally, I suspect that you are overstating the positive effects of fathers, while downplaying both potential substitutes for fathers and the potential disadvantages. As you have noted, fathers have a unique ability to be role-models, both good and bad. Any negative traits possessed by the father are more likely to be assumed by the child, without examination, because of that role.

To use an anecdote, as you are fond of, I share with my father, along with his intelligence, manliness, etc., both a fast temper and an instinctual condescension for people I perceive to be less intelligent (you may have noticed this). Would I have those things had my primary male role model(s) been selected for their merits as well their blood relation?
3.9.2007 4:04pm
Colin (mail):
relying on school peers, or even an occasional neighbor, to fill the gap is a ridiculous notion.

On the contrary, it's patently obvious that it is not a ridiculous notion. Many, many children grow up without a father--biological or otherwise--in the home. There is no indication that they don't know how to ask a girl out, stare down another man, mow the lawn, drink a beer, or pee standing up.
3.9.2007 4:41pm
Oh my word (mail):
Relevant studies: There are quite a few. If you actually want to contest the finding that socioeconomic background is linked to success, you can start with "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings" R Haveman, B Wolfe, 1995 and "Rags to Rags" M Corcoran, 1995.

I concede that there are values which can't be measured easily by these surveys, which might be correlated with the presence or absence of a father. That said, the things which are studied by the surveys DO still have value. Furthermore, these intangible qualities are likely correlated with many other things, like the degree of parental involvement, commitment, and character.


You are misunderstanding my point. I am not contesting that finding. I expressly said so otherwise. It’s hard to see my posts as saying anything else. What I said was that we are grasping at straws if I say that studies you are referring to don’t take into account x or y variable and you say that they generally mean a or b. Even though neither of us is probably terribly interested in delving into the specifics of the studies in detail, the conversation ceased to have any value at that point.

At any rate, I don’t know what source those articles are in. If you had a link that would be great, but I do not think it’s necessary, because I am obviously not challenging that success breeds success on average. My point is that those studies are (1) peripheral to my argument that there are things much more important than material success, and (2) they don’t really say anything about whether rich lesbians do better than poor straight couples. They might, they might not. It’s hard to know exactly what kind of financial impact that has. It would be absurd to say, hey, I’ll trade getting another $50,000 of income from my parents to throw out a dad and trade an extra nonbiological mom. My point is that this would be a ridiculous trade.


Finally, I suspect that you are overstating the positive effects of fathers, while downplaying both potential substitutes for fathers and the potential disadvantages. As you have noted, fathers have a unique ability to be role-models, both good and bad. Any negative traits possessed by the father are more likely to be assumed by the child, without examination, because of that role.

Well, negative traits possessed by the second mom are likely to be assumed by the child, also. That’s not really a good argument.

If anything, Greg, I think I am not advocating the importance of fathers strongly enough, just because I’m chatting on the side at work. And, we haven’t even gotten into the gifts that fathers uniquely give their daughters, and what mothers can give their sons. I’m not saying without a mom and a dad, kids are all dead in the water. You know that.

To use an anecdote, as you are fond of, I share with my father, along with his intelligence, manliness, etc., both a fast temper and an instinctual condescension for people I perceive to be less intelligent (you may have noticed this). Would I have those things had my primary male role model(s) been selected for their merits as well their blood relation?

You would probably still have them, but if these traits weren’t tempered by your father, then you might have ended up in a pretty sorry state. As I’m sure you know, men are competitive to the hilt. We share that as a member of the exalted male fraternity. Having the dad around who knows how that works on a deeply personal level and can channel and properly grow and discipline that testosterone and what have you is absolutely, utterly invaluable. Without the father, any number of things are comparatively more likely to go haywire or off in some problematic direction in a young man. We all go haywire enough as it is.
3.9.2007 4:46pm
Oh my word (mail):
relying on school peers, or even an occasional neighbor, to fill the gap is a ridiculous notion.

On the contrary, it's patently obvious that it is not a ridiculous notion. Many, many children grow up without a father--biological or otherwise--in the home. There is no indication that they don't know how to ask a girl out, stare down another man, mow the lawn, drink a beer, or pee standing up.


Disagree. Being a mature man is a lot more than those things you stated (and yes I see your sarcasm), for the reasons I have previously given.
3.9.2007 4:50pm
Oh my word (mail):
Oh my word: Colson's whole point here is whether we should be putting the imprimatur of state approval on lesbians thinking that fathers are no longer important.

Actually, Colson is arguing that the state should actively damage these sorts of parental relationships by refusing to honor custody agreements. If you believe that kids in a same-sex relationship are disadvantaged, then why on earth would you want the government (or the courts) to make them even more disadvantaged? If two women raising a child together carry a heavy burden, then why make their burden even heavier by throwing legal obstacles in their way?

If you believe that having two same-sex parents is a disadvantage, and recognize that these families already exist, then you should be fighting to reduce their disadvantages, not to pile more disadvantages on top of them.


That is an interesting argument, but the point about not granting state benefits and putting the state seal of approval on them is to minimize the number of children born into that lifestyle and family structure.
3.9.2007 4:57pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
You would probably still have them, but if these traits weren’t tempered by your father, then you might have ended up in a pretty sorry state. As I’m sure you know, men are competitive to the hilt. We share that as a member of the exalted male fraternity. Having the dad around who knows how that works on a deeply personal level and can channel and properly grow and discipline that testosterone and what have you is absolutely, utterly invaluable.
So fathers pass on good traits, but not bad ones? Isn't that argument kind of absurd?

Equally absurd is trying to pass this off as some definite consequence of my gender. Most men I know are quite a bit less arrogant and short-tempered than I am or my father is. But you do have the point that these are traits particularly associated with men, like your positive traits. When I admire a teacher or a neighbor or a friend and try to emulate them, I can at least try to distinguish between positive traits to be imitated and negative traits to be avoided. But I imitate my father simply because he serves, on some level, as a baseline for "normal" behavior. For the same reasons why fathers are uniquely suited to teach gentlemanly behavior, they're uniquely suited to teach arrogance.

This is not to say that having a father is a net minus. It certainly better than nothing, it's probably better than unrelated male role-models. But it's not the unvarnished, supremely important positive you make it out to be.

It would be absurd to say, hey, I’ll trade getting another $50,000 of income from my parents to throw out a dad and trade an extra nonbiological mom. My point is that this would be a ridiculous trade.
Of course it's ridiculous stated like that (though this, more often or a trading the biological parent for a non biological parent of the same gender, happens fairly often from divorce and death). Few people would want to "trade out" part of their childhood, it's what makes us who we are. Would I throw out my father for some other guy who didn't have a temper problem? Hell, no. But would is a child worse off if his father has a temper? Probably.

For a new child, though, I think we can both agree that trade offs among options are viable and important. Should a family trade half or a third of the household income to have a stay-at-home parent? More parent-child contact is good, but there are definitely situations where the economic strain counteracts that. Are children better off with a split household, or parents who are constantly fighting?
It's clearly possible to make judgments about which situation is better for children.

There's plenty of studies that show lesbian pairs do better than single heterosexual mothers (we both would expect, I think). The difficulty is in comparing lesbian couples to heterosexual couples. This article deals with it to some extent, though I recognize that it hardly addresses all your concerns, particularly those that may arise in teens.

However, all available evidence points to no significant differences, or even slight improvements, for lesbian couples over heterosexual couples. While there are certainly reasons why they MIGHT do worse, there's not any non anecdotal evidence to support this. Conversely, there are reasons why the MIGHT to better, and even some studies to bear that out.

With that in mind, I don't see any reason to condemn homosexual relationships versus heterosexual relationships. Particularly when the form of that condemnation (not recognizing marriage/civil union rights, custody rulings, etc.) do actively disadvantage the children.
3.9.2007 10:34pm
marghlar:
You would probably still have them, but if these traits weren’t tempered by your father, then you might have ended up in a pretty sorry state. As I’m sure you know, men are competitive to the hilt. We share that as a member of the exalted male fraternity. Having the dad around who knows how that works on a deeply personal level and can channel and properly grow and discipline that testosterone and what have you is absolutely, utterly invaluable. Without the father, any number of things are comparatively more likely to go haywire or off in some problematic direction in a young man. We all go haywire enough as it is.

And this is the kind of silly reductionism that really deprives you of credibility. Some men are very competitive, others less so, and some indeed are very passive. The same is true of women. Men might be statistically more likely to be competitive, but it is simply false that all men are competitive and all women are not.

For instance, in my own family, my mother is far more competitive than my father.

So, the argument you should be making, I suppose, is that fathers are statistically more likely to raise kids who can deal well with competition, because they are statistically more likely to be competitive. Well, even if we take that as a given, there are surely harms that come from having a more competitive parent as well, which needs to be balanced into the mix. But leaving that aside, if the goal is to encourage competitive people to be parents, we should license people to raise kids based on how assertively they play games, not based on their gender. Otherwise we risk losing really competitive gay women who would do great on this score.

You continually err by assuming that the archetypes associated with a gender define each individual member of that gender (or even a large majority of that gender). In this particular instance, I don't even really buy the distinction very much; I'd hazard that men and women are both very competitive, just often (but not always) about different things.

You need to take such important distinctions into account when constructing your arguments. You need to distinguish between traits that are innate in all fathers and traits that are only associated to some degree with fatherhood. You need to realize that there are costs as well as benefits to having fathers raise children (men, after all, are also statiscially far more likely to be violent and abusive towards both their spouses and their children). I'm not saying that we shouldn't have dads raising kids, just that the costs and benefits of having two moms vs a mom and a dad are far less obvious than you suppose.

Unless you start paying attention to these sort of factors, and unless you start bringing forward more persuasive reasons that we need fathers than competitiveness-management-training or lessons in how to ask out girls, you are very unlikely to convince anyone who disagrees with you to come over to your side.

If you actually want to convince people of things, you could start by addressing some of the hard questions. To wit: even assuming that fathers are statistically more likely to train their sons in the "mature maleness" that you say is so important, and assuming that such training correlates positively with happier adulthoods for men raised by both a mom and a dad, how can you be sure that such a benefit isn't outweighed by the fact that men are statistically far more likely to physically and sexually abuse their families than are women? Especially given that exposure to such abuse as a child is certainly and positively correlated with poor outcomes later in life?
3.9.2007 11:56pm
Ramza:
Oh my word

I know this thread is winding down but one last question. What happens to the kids of a male who was "fatherless"? The original son didn't have a father due to death, divorce, one night stand, not physically being there, or being raised by lesbians. Thus according to you he misses out and he doesn't learn valuable information.

What happens when it is his turn to raise a son? Is he still the fatherly figure that you say all children need, if he himself didn't receive the fatherly nutrition but he deserved? How can he teach what he himself doesn't know?
3.10.2007 3:03pm
Randy R. (mail):
My uncle lost his father when he was very young, about 3 years old. He grew up, somehow learned how to ask a woman out on a date, got married to her, raised three kids, including one son. That one son is now married with two children. EVeryone is happy, relatively successful and producing tons of kids.

I have no idea what my uncle missed in terms of learning how to be masculine, but he never complains about it, no one has ever mistook him for a gay man, and he even knows how to change the oil on his car.
3.10.2007 4:44pm