Monday, November 23, 2009

Who's Your Daddy? One Pillar of Darwinian Psychology

In the seemingly never-ending battle between Darwinians and Creationists it is not difficult to side with the Darwinians.

Not so much because there is no validity to the notion of intelligent design, but because questions about metaphysical entities are best left to philosophy and theology. They have no place in biology classes.

The real issue, however, is that many of Darwin's staunchest defenders would never agree to the basic principles of Darwinian psychology. See my previous post on the topic.

To put the human in human sexual behavior Darwinians begin with two basic facts: human females do not go into sexual heat, that is, their biology does not advertise their fertility; and human males can never be completely sure that they are the father of their wife's children.

Men know that they are fathers because their wives say that they are and because they believe their wives.

Fatherhood must involve trust. Until recently it was impossible to verify. It was impossible to say that paternity was an objective fact; it always retained the possibility of being a fiction.

When a woman has a child, her husband is called upon to protect and support that child, as his own. Evidently, if his genetic self-interest involves propagating his own genes, he will want some kind of assurance that he is not working to support someone else's child.

Until recently, it was trust, but not verify. Now, with DNA testing men can find out with absolute certainty whether or not they fathered the children their wives said were theirs.

This new reality has elicited a long and fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine. Authored by Ruth Padawer, it is entitled: "Who Knew I Was Not the Father?" Link here.

Padawer does an excellent job of tracing the emotional turmoil that men have undergone upon discovering that the children they thought were their own were not.

And she draws a fascinating picture of the way the American legal system is attempting to weigh the different interests of the aggrieved parties when DNA reveals that the mother has defrauded the putative father.

Given the title of her article, Padawer focuses on the unfortunate men who discover that their wives have tricked them into supporting someone else's child. She offers little insight into the women whose behavior caused the problem in the first place.

More strikingly, however, is the picture of the rationality of the process by which our culture is trying to work through the difficulties that this new DNA testing provides. The man has surely been defrauded, but the child has interests also. Padawer leads us through the legal system as it attempts to balance these competing and complex interests.

Many cultures are far less sanguine about these matters. After all, the male anxiety about paternity, and about potential female perfidy, is responsible for many, if not all, of the most savage forms of misogyny.

Terrified men have made a fetish of virginity; have required that their wives be genitally mutilated; have refused to allow their wives to go out alone in the world; have treated women like chattel slaves; have prohibited their wives from being educated; and have murdered their daughters for the hint of an indiscretion.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that women living under these conditions are victims of a permanent reign of terror.

At root, these forms of misogyny derive from a single source: a failure to respect and trust women. As you know, they exist today within the Islamic world. Their persistence is one of the reasons we need to defeat terrorism.

As Padawer points out, our own legal tradition, based in the British common law, has always assumed that the woman's husband was the father, except in those cases where he was senile, impotent, or absent at the time of conception.

Just as the British common law respected and trusted women, it was also part of a culture that was the first to overthrow the custom of arranged marriage and to give women a free choice of husbands.

Clearly, all cultures are not equal in their treatment of women. For all the criticisms of the patriarchal nature of Anglo-American culture, we should note that this very culture has led the world in trusting and respecting women.

Unfortunately, multiculturalism has a pathological need to see all cultures as identical and of equal value. Thereby, it has distracted us from the fight against modern misogyny.

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