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Take My Ten Kids – Please.

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The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.

(From a New York Times article on parents abandoning older children pursuant to a law designed to prevent “dumpster babies.”)

Frequent abandonment of older children, considered by some to be an abuse of the Nebraska safe surrender law, is just another piece of evidence that children and their parents often have radically different interests. The most you can say about procreation is that it might, under very special conditions, be altruistic (unless David Benatar is right). Even heathen evolutionary biologists tell us that parents have a strong genetic predisposition to behave altruistically toward their children, once those children are born.

But, in practice, it is more complicated than that. Parents and children have somewhat overlapping, but largely opposed, evolutionary interests. Parenting is often far from altruistic. Parents abandon their difficult children. Parents maim, kill, and rape their children. In jurisdictions that allow it, they sell their children. Under conditions of starvation, they eat their children.

Are we really sure that parents, in general, have their children’s best interests at heart?

Written by Sister Y

October 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm