What to think about age-old arguments

As I realized reading Silas Marnier (and wrote about here) the arguments about who is a parent and why may seem new and startling, but in fact they are not.  Contexts change, of course.  The rise of lesbian parenting and the growing use of sperm donors via commercial ART centers means that the issues arise in new forms. But the claims of the genetic parent vs. the social parent are essentially similar.  Surely new understandings of DNA offer new arguments, but these are mostly variations on the (it turns out, ancient) themes.

Perhaps this is no surprise.   Like the apparently eternal nature/nurture debate, it seems to me obvious that these are old questions.  Look at the story of the judgment of Solomon–where the wise king is challenged to determine the “real” parent of the child.

So apart from recognizing ancient roots, is there anything else to be noted from this (admittedly late) recognition? What comes to mind for me is this:  Arguments could not be so enduring if they did not both have merit.   So for example, there must be something to both nature and nurture, or we couldn’t possibly still be going round and round on that question.   And in the same way, both Godfrey and Silas must have points to make or we couldn’t not sustain this debate over countless generations.

This does not mean (to me, anyway) that there can be no resolution of the debates.  In individual cases (as in Silas Marnier) we need resolutions.  It’s not enough to say “both people have some good points to make.”.  Someone has to raise the child.   And so we must decide.   (A nice process question here:  how do we decide? Vote of legislature?  Decision of judge?  Ad hoc?).

But even as we decide (and you know I’ll be arguing for one particular side) perhaps it is worthwhile to recall that each side DOES have its points.  There’s a reason the arguments persist and will persist.  And while we can decide individual cases (as we must) or set legal rules (as I think we should), we won’t totally resolved the underlying tensions.

Will we ever?  If we clearly came down on one side would that, ever time, create it’s own reality? I rather doubt it.  But perhaps it would.

As you all may know, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written here and, while I haven’t changed my fundamental views, perhaps I have come to see an even greater need to give weight to both sides arguments, even if one must choose.  What does that look like? Perhaps it means acknowledging that Godfrey certainly believes he has a claim, as does his wife. This is genuine and real–as real as Silas’ claim.   That one must be preferred does not erase the other.

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3 responses to “What to think about age-old arguments

  1. Glad you’re back Julie – have read all three posts…

    Nurture/Nature – I think every individual will have a different % on each side. I do believe that Nurture teaches you how to live your life, your moral compass that guides your decision making, how to judge appropriate responses, how to avoid the pitfalls. I think Nature can and may overwhelm the Nurture, especially with mental health challenges, and as you age, I think nature becomes stronger. Nature is a funny thing, something that can be deeply missed both when you have nothing, and, when you have it, but are on the outside looking in at the place you would have had, but don’t…neither here nor there…

    As to how you decide the individual cases, you put wise souls on the bench, ones who will dig deep for that individual child for the outcome that works for them, first. And they have to be very good at the law, so there’s no way the loser can appeal, appeal, appeal, perhaps even allow not sending the verdict back to the prior court to make the change, at some point where it’s gone on to long, just make the change…one case is now 8 years in, 8 years.

    And whenever you can, those wise souls should work to avoid the outcome of either/or and to gain both for the child. There’s no reason why a child can’t have both – if the adults, adult…

    • I don’t really know enough about the nature/nurture stuff to generalize. Surely on some things (eye color) nature prevails. And as you suggest, the moral compass stuff seems to be very likely nurture. But so much seems to be complicated and likely somewhere in the middle. And there is much we do not know.

      The wise judges points I’m going to think about in my next post, which I’ll turn to momentarily.

  2. I’m very much pro kinship, but a child can’t wait for their biological parents to decide if they want/can parent. Volunteering foster care for six years now. Parents who have a substance abuse problem, is the usual cause for removal. We always make the point of engaging with the father early on once a case is opened. Even if dad can’t parent, there good chance we can find a paternal relative as a resource if no one from the mother’s side can not. Parents though have six months to make substantial progress to reunification or else the goal is changed to care with kin (adoption within the family) or adoption to non-relatives. I’m very pro parental support, but kids just can’t wait. Kids need stability. It’s great if parents can get better and have relationship with their child later in life, but they just can’t walk in and get their child after the child has formed a stable bond with relatives or adoptive family. But I believe if a parent is in a good place in their lives, a relationship should exist between biological parent and child, even if the parent’s legal rights and obligations were terminated.

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