Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sperm-donor children greatly miss their fathers

Lesbians and some other feminists claim that fathers are unimportant -- but children see it differently.

I myself was recently in contact with a woman who never knew her father. He died some years ago. She had made huge efforts to find out more about him. As I had known him rather well, I was able to give her information for which she was very grateful -- JR

My colleagues and I decided to put together a study based on an online panel of over one million US households that had signed up to receive surveys on various things. From this large population we were able to assemble samples of three groups of people: donor conceived adults between the ages of 18 and 45, a comparison group of similar-aged people adopted as infants, and a group who were raised by their biological parents — with over 500 people in each group. So our study was unique in being large, representative and allowing for comparison with other groups.

In our survey we looked at identity, kinships, social justice and wellbeing. And, in summary, we found that donor conceived adults compared to those adopted or conceived by their own parents are hurting more, are more confused, are more isolated from their families when they grow up, and on several key measures they are doing less well than those raised by biological parents and adoptive parents.

MercatorNet: What are the issues for them?

Elizabeth Marquardt: For a start they told us, “My sperm donor is half of who I am”. They say, “I look at me in the mirror and half of me is a blank, I don’t know where half of me comes from and that loss matters to me.” It hurts, especially as others around them do not see it as a loss, and, if anything, think the donor offspring who see it as a loss are complaining. Everyone has pain, but what makes it especially painful is that others don’t recognise it or dismiss it.

They are saying, in effect: “That sperm donor is my biological father and the identity of that person and the possibility of being in a relationship with that person does matter to me. And I’m living in a society where people seem to think this loss is just fine, and doctors and lawyers are helping more and more people to be born this way. And that hurts.”

In the area of kinship or family, they are much more likely that those who are adopted to say that seeing friends with their biological mothers and fathers makes them want to know more about their ethnic background, their sperm donor’s family, their half siblings. They are very concerned about accidental incest — which is something that most people in the public debate haven’t realised at all, they haven’t faced what it might mean to have 25 or 50 or 100 or more half siblings who live near you.

MercatorNet: Does it make it better for them that they are “wanted” children?

Elizabeth Marquardt: That’s been the reassuring theme all along, of course. Those who defend the practice, the industry, will say, Well, these kids are 100 per cent wanted. There are no accidents among them. Their mothers, especially, but probably also others, wanted them to be here so why should we be concerned about them?

I was thinking about this in writing my paper and the fact that we have three groups — those raised by biological and adoptive parents — many of whom were probably the result of unplanned pregnancies — and yet we have these sperm donor offspring who were 100 per cent planned and wanted, so do we find they are doing better than the other two groups? No, we find that, on average, they are faring far worse.

And so it raises the question whether a society should orient its policy goals around having wanted children or intended children and whether that matters as much as we make out it does. Whether it matters more than what comes after the child is born: the structure in which child is raised; whether the father-child bond protected, the mother-child bond protected. Whether this thing called marriage, which helps to keep mothers and fathers together, is in place.

And the study also points to the fact that adoption is different from donor conception and adoption does appear to protect children better than reproductive technologies.

MercatorNet: And why do you think that is?

Elizabeth Marquardt: I think because adoption is an institution and donor conception is a market. In adoption we find an array or norms and laws developed over a long time In the US there has been at least a hundred years of professional adoption practice that seeks to protect the best interests of the child, although there is a debate around that concept currently.

In contrast, donor conception is a market designed to procure a child for the parents who want them. And money is traded — it can be in adoption, too, in way that reeks of baby selling and that is severely prohibited — but donor conception is baby selling; that’s what it is by nature. They sell the parts to make babies. And the impact on the children is different; they know about that — about 40 per cent of those in our survey said that it bothered them that money was exchanged

Furthermore, an adopted child knows that their biological parents actually met and knew one another — in the biblical sense and perhaps also in other senses — while those who are donor conceived grapple with the notion that their parents literally never met. About 10 per cent say they feel like a freak of nature or a lab experiment.


Six-and-a-half billion reasons to be cheerful

An antidote to the constant wails from the Left

Never has catastrophe seemed so mundane. The end, we are told, is always approaching. No sooner has one super-resilient-flesh-eating-virus been forgotten than an imminent ecological collapse or a new strain of influenza takes it place. All of which makes Matt Ridley – journalist, businessman and author of several books on genetics and biology – such a refreshing person to talk to. ‘Yes, we are too gloomy about the future’, he says, cheerily.

That’s the thing about Ridley: whatever else he is – diffident, humorous, engaging – he is also resolutely optimistic. And it is this, his optimism, which he has sought to justify, to rationalise, in his new book The Rational Optimist. Given today’s readiness to imagine the apocalypse, especially in environmental terms, being an optimist is a very unfashionable position to take.

‘The imagining of imminent catastrophe is a routine habit and it’s been going on all my life’, says Ridley. ‘And to start with, when I was younger, I believed it. I thought people had good reason to raise the possibility of these catastrophes. When I was first becoming an adult it was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and all this anxiety about DDT and other chemicals, and how they were going to cause an epidemic of cancer. Then it was the population scare. And then it was the oil running out. And then it was acid rain. And then it was the Ebola virus. And then it was global warming. And on and on it goes… I’ve heard enough cries of wolf during my lifetime to become sceptical about imminent environmental catastrophe.’

Ridley’s unwillingness to accept the doom-laden predictions of environmentalists is not just born of his own experience. Wider history, too, is testament to the unreliability of the catastrophic, morbid mindset. Just after the end of the First World War, Britain’s Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George lamented: ‘How can Britain run an A1 empire with a C3 population [medical categories for army recruits]?’ This was no isolated complaint – it was indicative of a wider sense of Britain’s national decline refracted through the prism of biology. ‘If you go back to the turn of the twentieth century’, Ridley says, ‘there was an absolute domination of the book-publishing world by “declinism” literature, particularly about the so-called “degeneration of the race”. In the view of many at the time, this was because “stupid” people were having too many babies, the lower classes were evil, nasty and full of tuberculosis, and didn’t have the requisite physical strength. All this ludicrous stuff was hugely dominant.’

The biological deterioration of the British never came to pass, but catastrophists are nothing if not persistent: they always return with a new scare, or an old one tweaked and updated. ‘You can’t keep banging the same drum, something that environmentalists seem to have learnt’, says Ridley. ‘This is why you get this succession of scares: the GM crops scare comes along in 1998 as the Ebola virus is fading from the news.’

Ridley experienced the life and death of a scare at first hand during the 1980s: ‘For me, acid rain was the most influential one, because I covered it very closely as a science correspondent at The Economist. And at the time, I was a routine alarmist, like everyone else. But gradually worries were forming at the back of my mind. Some of the things that were being said, such as all the trees were dying in Germany, just didn’t seem to be quite true.

‘And now the data’s in, both on the Eastern seaboard of America and in Western Europe, it turns out that forests did not retreat in the 1980s – they actually expanded! There were a few isolated die-offs from some local pollution incidents but none of these were due to acid rain. In fact, because acid rain contains nitrates, it actually proved to be a fertiliser and accelerated forest growth. That isn’t to say acid rain had no effect. It had some effects, particularly on the acidification of some water courses, but not as many as people said, and not as permanently. The acid rain story was a case of huge exaggeration.’

And the aftermath? Is there ever a reckoning with such ‘exaggeration’? ‘When one of these scares doesn’t pan out’, says Ridley, ‘you don’t get a great big, drains-up inquiry into what went wrong, like we’ve had with Iraq. It’s quite the opposite. The issue will simply be allowed to fade away. It will just stop being talked about. Acid rain, for instance, just drops out of the news around 1990, only partly because of the Clean Air Act just then passed, which people presumed was going to solve the problem – despite it largely being a non-problem all along.’

So what of the latest, most dominant form of catastrophism: climate-change alarmism? ‘The thing about global warming is that it’s all about things that are still to happen in the relatively distant future. Hence it is very difficult for people to grow sceptical about it because of the difficulty of falsifying it.’ This is not to suggest that climate change has been falsified by any means, Ridley stresses. ‘I’m not denying that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas – and I never have – but I do think that we are gradually seeing the public wake up to the fact that the empirical and theoretical study of climate supports a small degree of warming and not yet a catastrophic effect from that small degree of warming. A lot of people are wising up to that, particularly over the last year. And you’re seeing that in recent opinion polls.’

While climate change might not seem to be the inexorable disaster it was just a couple of years ago, Ridley has observed another, often related threat looming ever larger. And it’s not a new one. ‘The population bomb is one that still rumbles on, and as spiked’s Brendan O’Neill has pointed out, it is remarkable the number of people who are reviving it, in a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger way. They’ll sidle up to you and say “you know, maybe it’s not climate change that’s the real problem, maybe it’s because there are too many people” as if they were saying something new. One fact of which the population crew are seemingly unaware is that the rate of human population growth has been falling since 1967. It is now half of what it was in the 1960s.’

When it comes to this revival of Malthusianism, Ridley’s anger is clear. ‘There’s a general misanthropy to it’, he says. ‘If you read about the origins of the population movement, particularly in books like Fred Pearce’s Peoplequake, you realise how much of it was tied up with twentieth-century eugenics and concerns about IQ and the over-reproduction of people with low IQ. This had been a worry for many in the first half of the last century and it leaked into the second half, too. But it gradually changed from “there are too many poor people and stupid people having babies” to “there are too many people having babies altogether”. There’s such a misanthropic tone to it, even to this day.’

Listening to Ridley, it is clear that one thing he is not is misanthropic. Rather he seems animated and inspired by human achievements, by our collective, historically evident ability to continue to innovate, to change and improve the conditions under which we live. This is why overpopulation fears seem to Ridley to be such rubbish. ‘If we continue to improve agricultural yields at the rate we have been doing – and we have nearly trebled cereal yields from the same acreage in the last 50 or so years – then by the middle of this century we will not only be able to feed the nine billion people expected to be on the planet with the same acreage, we will actually be able to do so with a noticeably smaller acreage. So for the total farmed area allocated for cereal crops, you’d need roughly three quarters the size of Australia instead of roughly the size of Russia.

‘So, couple the population growth rate with the improvements in things like agricultural yields, and a fall in things like the amount of copper you need to provide a telephone wire or the amount of water you need for irrigation because of efficiencies, and it becomes possible to imagine a future in which more people have less impact on the planet. That’s exactly the opposite of what the environmental movement tends to say.’

The reason for environmentalists’ pessimism, Ridley argues, is that they unthinkingly extrapolate from the present state of society – the current means of production and so on – and project it into the future. In doing so, they fail to imagine the future in any terms apart from those of the present. So, assuming population rises, while the current means of production remain the same, the environmentalist concludes that we cannot go on as we are. ‘But’, Ridley points out, ‘we ain’t going to go on as we are’.

‘For the last 100,000 years at least, we have actually changed how we live on the planet in ways that are surprising and result from innovations that we can’t forecast’, he says. ‘So if you stand in the 1950s and ask “what’s the future going to be like?”, people extrapolate the improvements in transport that they’ve seen in their lifetime and talk about personal gyrocopters and supersonic transport and interstellar travel. Nobody mentions the internet and the mobile telephone. Likewise, you and I standing here will extrapolate into the future that we’re going to have even better mobile phones and even more websites. But I suspect that in 50 years’ time both of those phrases will be laughably old-fashioned. In the twenty-first century it might all be about bio-tech, or it might all be about something else. So while one can extrapolate just to see how much change can occur quantitatively, you’ve always got to bear in mind that qualitative changes will throw off those extrapolations.’

This is not to suggest that Ridley does not himself extrapolate. Indeed, some of his optimism is grounded in extrapolation. ‘I do believe in extrapolating – I already talked about if agricultural yields improve at the same rate as they have in the last 50 years we’ll be able to feed far more with far less. This is a big increase, and a big “if”, and there are times in history when trends don’t continue, so one mustn’t be a naive extrapolator. On the other hand, extrapolation does sometimes open up one’s mind to the possibility of how different the future will be.’

This openness to the future, to the possibility that life will get better, ought not to be confused with blind faith. ‘Rational optimism is not naive, personal and hopeful’, concludes Ridley. ‘It is something one arrives at by studying the facts. Moreover, rational optimism is based on the fact that there is a reason to be optimistic – namely that there is a grand theme in human history called the exchange and spread of specialisation, which, by enabling us to work more and more for each other, does raise living standards. So there is actually a rationale for my optimism. It is not just hopeful.’


It's always somebody else's fault if you do something dumb

The idea of personal responsibility is fading fast

A California woman is suing Google after she was hit by a car while following directions provided by Google Maps on her cell phone, according to AOL News.

Lauren Rosenberg says that the Google Maps BlackBerry application told her to use Deer Valley Drive -- a highway also called Utah State Route 224 -- to walk from one Park City address to another.

However, the directions did not tell her that there were no sidewalks along Deer Valley Drive, which, Rosenberg alleges, led to her being struck by traffic.

"As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle, causing her to suffer severe permanent physical, emotional and mental injuries," according to the complaint filed in Park County district court.

Rosenberg is asking for Google to pay her medical expenses in addition to punitive damages and loss of earnings. She is also suing the driver of the vehicle, Patrick Harwood of Park City.

Google Maps warns users about walking directions on its version for computers, saying that "Walking directions are in beta. Use caution -- This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths." However, the mobile version of Google Maps does not come with the warning.


Bigoted and brainless black on PBS

The head looks good. What's in it is the problem

PBS station managers made a big push last year to drive any trace of "sectarian" Christianity out of the taxpayer-funded broadcasting system, banning any church services or religious lectures that appeared on a handful of stations. They ultimately compromised and banned any new church programming. But on at least one program, PBS sounds like it's declaring war on Christianity, including smears on Christianity that are not based on reality.

If that sounds shocking, imagine what the average Christian PBS viewer might have thought as he watched Tavis Smiley's weeknight talk show on May 25. The guest was ex-Muslim and atheist author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there to promote her latest book, "Nomad." Smiley claims to be a Christian, but he attacked Ms. Ali for "idealizing Christianity" and recklessly turning people away from Islam.

Right out of the box, Smiley was out to make a point. "You say unapologetically and rather frankly that your mission here is to inform the West about the danger of Islam," he began. "What danger do we need to be made aware of?"

What? Did Tavis Smiley somehow sleep through 9/11? Is PBS keeping him locked in a closet where he remains unaware of the ongoing terrorist attacks on Americans -- successful and unsuccessful -- made by Islamic radicals? When Ali brought up the deaths of 13 at Fort Hood and the failed Times Square bomber, Smiley unloaded a literally unbelievable statement: "But Christians do that every single day in this country."

Ali replied: "Do they blow people up?" Smiley: "Yes. Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that's what Columbine is -- I could do this all day long."

Smiley is not only wrong, he's perversely wrong. The boys who shot up Columbine High School were not Christians; they were just violent psychopaths who, among other evils, mocked students who cried out for God to save them. There aren't Christians walking into post offices or schools every single day in America and blowing people up. Anyone in charge of journalistic integrity at PBS should see this as a blazing inaccuracy, in addition to a religious smear. Men this dishonest should be kept from microphones, not hired to speak into them.

But Smiley kept going, insisting Christians were far worse than Muslim terrorists: "There are so many more examples of Christians -- and I happen to be a Christian. That's back to this notion of your idealizing Christianity in my mind, to my read. There are so many more examples, Ayaan, of Christians who do that than you could ever give me examples of Muslims who have done that inside this country, where you live and work."

Who would have thought that anyone would outdo Rosie O'Donnell, who insisted radical Christianity was "just as threatening" as radical Islam?

Ali calmly explained that Christians are far more tolerant. They take abuse on television programs without threatening to blow up Comedy Central offices or promise Daniel Pearl-style decapitations for executives. She acknowledged "not all Muslims are terrorists, we must emphasize that, but almost all terrorist activities that take place today in our time are done and justified in the name of Islam."

This caused another burst of illogic from Smiley, who compared the Fort Hood attack to the tea party activists protesting ObamaCare on Capitol Hill. "There are folk in the tea party, for example, every day who are being recently arrested for making threats against elected officials, for calling people 'n----r' as they walk into Capitol Hill, for spitting on people."

Put aside the thoroughly unproven accusations, now that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver has backed off the story of conservative spitters, and there is no audio or corroboration of the accusation of N-words being thrown. Had those events actually happened, would they in any way have been comparable to murder?

PBS has an ombudsman now to receive public complaints. Michael Getler should hear from across the country, from Christians and non-Christians alike, that Smiley must provide a retraction and an apology for his scurrilous and bigoted remarks against Christians and the billions that practice that faith. PBS stations across the country accept millions in funding from good-hearted Christian taxpayers who don't deserve to see allegedly "public" broadcasting attacking their integrity.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans call themselves Christian.

People in public broadcasting boast in their pledge drives, direct-mail fundraising letters and congressional testimony that they are an oasis of civility and intelligent discourse. But they host and help fund the unintelligent, inaccurate garbage coming out of the mouth of Tavis Smiley. This trash belongs in the Dumpster.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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