It’s been a while since I’ve done a post, but the comments have been active and thought provoking and I have had a few thoughts rattling around in my head. An article in this morning’s Science Times section of the New York Times has put me over the edge, however. It’s about free will. I think it helped me understand part of what troubles me about defining relationships based on genetic links (or the absence thereof).
I believe in free will and what I think to be its counterpart–personal responsiblity. I think I am able to make choices and it is therefore appropriate that I be held accountable for those choices. Similarly, I choose the actions I engage in and can therefore be held accountable for those actions.
The idea that various things are dictated by our DNA takes them out of the realm of free well. So, for example, I have no control over the color of my eyes–that is genetically determined. It therefore seems to me ridiculous that anyone would hold me accountable for that.
Of course, the picture is complicated. I may have genetic tendencies to some things (particular illnesses or susceptibilities) that I cannot control, but I can control how I deal with those illnesses or susceptibilities. So it’s not like I think everything is either pre-determined or free choice.
Perhaps this seems inconsistent, but I suppose I’m a bit of a romantic, too, I think. So if you go read the third hypothetical in the Times piece (the one about Bill and the secretary), I am inclined to believe that one does not exercise a choice to fall in love. What one does about it, though? That’s choice, from which moral responsibility follows.
All that, I think is in the nature of disclosure. I don’t for a minute think everyone will agree with me on these points, but you could think about where you stand on them and which ones you do agree/disagree about. (And then we could think about why we agree/disagree and whether that is a matter of free will or choice…..uh oh—not going there.)
Anyway, defining legal relationships of caretaking by where you find genetic links seems to me to put these relationships in the pre-determined side rather than the free will side. You say to those who would raise children they are not related to that they cannot really be parents. It is predetermined that the parents are whoever the DNA matches with.
I understand that those who choose to raise children without a genetic link will never have the genetic link, and so in that sense, I’m quite willing to acknowledge that the existence or non-existence of the genetic link is determined. But what you do with the existence or non-existence of that genetic link? That’s free will. You may choose to think it important and defines you as a parent (0r not-a-parent) or you may choose to say it’s just a bit of information and your performance as a parent is up to you.
Thus, I think that people can choose to be parents without having any genetic relationships and that we should honor those choices as recognize those people as parents every bit as much as we should do that for people who act with genetic relationships.
Which brings me round to my refrain–actions (and actions that I think are the result of free will) are what matter.