Printed: 2020-08-06

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Does a child need both a mother and a father?

Russell Blackford

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club

January 23, 2010

Does a child need both a mother and a father? Apparently not, according to this report in ScienceDaily, which summarises a new article in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study suggested that “... the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well.”
All of which pulls out the rug from the already-incoherent claim that a child somehow has the “right” to a standard set of heterosexual parents. Of course, there was never any real evidence that there’s any harm in children being born into non-traditional family situations. From the beginning, this was a scare tactic by moral conservatives, usually grounded in their religious socialisation. The only possible harm that makes sense is that children from such families will be discriminated against, or harassed or victimised, by those very same moral conservatives.

This research should also make you wonder whether children from even less conventional families would suffer any harm from it. Once again, there is the possibility of harassment, discrimination, and victimisation of various kinds, but that doesn’t seem to have had a huge impact on the children of gay couples. I’m sceptical that it would have much (or any) impact on, for example, children born as a result of reproductive cloning. Admittedly, it might depend on the social milieu. Many choices are dangerous in an especially nasty and discriminatory social milieu, but that’s not a reason to have a public policy that discourages such choices. If anything, it’s a reason for a public policy of discouraging irrational discrimination.

Russell Blackford Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, an attorney, science fiction author and critic, philosopher, and public intellectual. Dr. Blackford serves as editor-in-chief of the IEET's Journal of Evolution and Technology. He lives in Newcastle, Australia, where he is a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle.


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