CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Don’t Worry About the Evidence

Dec 18, 2007

Take any contentious social issue of the day, and you will find plenty of illogic, name-calling, emotional appeals, and confused thinking. All this is much easier than actually dealing with the evidence and facts. Facts can get in the way of a person’s ideology, so they are often kept at a distance, or ignored altogether.

There was a great example of this recently in a Melbourne newspaper. I had an article in it yesterday arguing that IVF for singles and homosexuals was not a great idea, given all the evidence we have about the importance of children being raised by their biological mother and father.

Sure enough, the howls of derision flew fast and furious. There was plenty of name-calling, attacks on my integrity and rationality, and emotional accusations. There was hardly anyone who in fact dealt with the actual arguments and the evidence involved. Indeed, this was mainly overlooked. Hysterical and abusive rants are always much more simple to run with than actually responding to the facts in an intelligent fashion.

A great case in point of not addressing the issue or the evidence can be seen in the same paper today. One of the newspaper’s leftist columnists had a column strongly attacking me for even making the suggestion that family structure matters. The entire article was one long exercise in emotive assertions and silly thinking, without any real appeal to facts or evidence. Indeed, it did not actually address my argument at all. This is just so typical of the radicals on the left.

My article dealt with the important need of children to be raised by their own biological mother and father. This may not always be possible, but it should be the ideal that we strive for, given all the evidence. But the evidence is exactly what columnist Robyn Riley refused to deal with.

Indeed, the best she could come up with was reckless accusations and ad hominem attacks. Consider this incredible remark: ‘The world according to Mr Muehlenberg seems to suggest that only biological parents can raise a family the right way, or at least that’s what his studies show.” So is it simply a case of “my studies”? What exactly does that mean? If I say the studies show that smoking leads to lung cancer, will she dismiss the research as merely “my studies”?

The studies are neither mine nor hers. They are simply studies that are in the public record, and available for full examination and assessment. They may be right or wrong, factual or mythical, accurate or sloppy, but they are not “mine”.

But in the postmodern world of Ms Riley, truth is evidently whatever what one makes it to be. Thus we have “my truth” and “your truth”. As if the law of gravity can be accepted or rejected depending on my or your version of reality. But if there is evidence on this issue, then it needs to be assessed on its own merits, not just dismissed because one disapproves of the messenger.

So what exactly is this evidence? Over three decades of social science research have made it crystal clear that there is no other outcome for children as positive and helpful as to be raised in a two-parent heterosexual home, preferably cemented by marriage. The data for this is massive.

Many years ago I foolishly assumed I could keep on top of this evidence, and gather for myself hard copies of all the relevant research, but that was a pipe dream. In reality I could never keep up with it all, or be able to easily store it all.

But I did try for a while. I spent countless hours in libraries, photocopying articles from the research literature. My file cabinets were bursting with hundreds and hundreds of studies by academics, researchers, social scientists and professionals in the field. I soon realised I just could not keep up with it all.

Indeed, today there are summaries of the summaries, with so much data around. All of this data is far too much to even begin to properly examine here. Indeed, neither my Herald Sun article, nor this website is the place to provide proper academic summaries of the data, complete with footnotes and references. That is why I am now close to completing a book on the topic. It will take hundreds of pages to fully allow the evidence to be presented.

But I can here nonetheless offer just some summary statements made by leading experts. People like Ms Riley may continue to dismiss this as merely “my studies” but that is her problem, not mine. If she insists on shutting her mind to the available data, and clings instead to her radical ideology, that is her choice. But then she should stop writing columns. Why should we bother to listen to her if she is just giving us her personal tastes, as in the choice of ice cream?

These issues are too important to be left to subjective tastes. They must be determined by the evidence. Here then are some generic quotes, dealing with this mountain of data. I simply offer a random sampling of what the experts are saying on the importance of marriage and family in the raising of children.

Armand Nicholi, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school who has studied over 40 years of research on the question of parental absence and children’s well-being said this: “What has been shown over and over again to contribute most to the emotional development of the child is a close, warm, sustained and continuous relationship with both parents.” He goes on to make this observation: “One other comment about this research. In addition to the magnitude of it, the studies taken as a whole paint an unmistakably clear picture of the adverse effects of parental absence. Yet this vast body of research is almost totally ignored by our society. Why have even the professionals tended to ignore this research? Perhaps the answer is, to put it most simply, because the findings are unacceptable.”

Professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University puts it this way: “Social science research is almost never conclusive. There are always methodological difficulties and stones left unturned. Yet in three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent families and step-families. If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.”

Sara McLanahan (herself a single mother) and Gary Sandefur put it this way: “We reject the claim that children raised by only one parent do just as well as children raised by both parents. We have been studying this question for ten years, and in our opinion the evidence is quite clear: Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background, regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries.”

Rebecca O’Neil from the UK makes this observation: “The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society. For many mothers, fathers and children, the ‘fatherless family’ has meant poverty, emotional heartache, ill health, lost opportunities, and a lack of stability. The social fabric – once considered flexible enough to incorporate all types of lifestyles – has been stretched and strained. Although a good society should tolerate people’s rights to live as they wish, it must also hold adults responsible for the consequences of their actions. To do this, society must not shrink from evaluation the results of these actions. As J.S. Mill argued, a good society must share the lessons learnt from its experience and hold up ideals to which all can aspire.”

Such quotations could be multiplied at length. They are part of a huge body of evidence which makes a very strong case that family structure certainly does matter. It tells us clearly that to deliberately bring a child into the world without two biological parents is really a form of child neglect, if not abuse. Singles and homosexuals may very well want to have children. It is a normal and natural desire. But if they do want children, then they should have them in the way that is in the best interests of the child, and not just seek to satisfy their adult whims and desires.

In something as important as begetting and raising the next generation, adult selfishness must always give way to the rights and wellbeing of the child. And the most fundamental right of every child is to be born and reared by his or her biological mother and father.

www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22938896-5000117,00.html

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13 Responses to Don’t Worry About the Evidence

  • Great piece Bill. Those quotes are very provocative.

    I, for one, am very pleased to hear that you are coming out with a book that chronicles all the evidence. I certainly will pre-order one.

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien

    Of course a number of similar books already exist, mainly in the US and UK. My book will look at both Australian and overseas data. I will let people know when it is available.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill, thanks for the evidence and the analysis. Both evade Ms Riley. Excellent piece.
    Stan Fishley

  • Hi Bill,

    One point that is really never spoken much about is role models within the immediate family group. I know family values is always tossed around but I think role models are equally as important. I know this does not only apply to gay people but also to single people. I am not sure how these people meet the needs of a role model for a child. Of course we have grandparents, friends, relatives etc and in some instance that maybe enough but why would you knowingly put a child into that position where the child has the job of trying to find a proxy. I know the world is not perfect. Parents split/die which is always a tragedy. I am also aware that some parents are very poor role models but generally speaking most are good. There is more to bring up children than just applying some form of family values. There is always a risk of something going wrong when a couple have a baby but I feel that to deliberately produce single/same sex parent children increases that risk and that is for me potentially cruel to that child.

    Ben Green

  • Thanks Ben

    Let me reinforce this point before our critics go ballistic. In a fallen world, the ideal is never fully obtainable, but we nonetheless should strive for the ideal. In this area, the ideal is for every child to have his own mother and father. Of course this is not always possible. But there is a big difference between cases where circumstances are outside of one’s control – as in the death or desertion of a spouse – and the deliberate creation of children, knowing that one of the two most important persons in a child’s life will not be there.

    Single parents, often through no fault of their own, need all the help and support they can get. But to choose to bring children into the world in conditions that will disadvantage the child has little to do with love, and much to do with selfish adult interests. That is the fundamental issue at stake here. The rights and interests of the child are being overlooked in order to placate noisy minority groups and radical social engineers.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I look forward to buying your book Bill. It is interesting to note when people are trying to push an agenda as is commonly the case in media, facts are never really important. Rather sensationalism in an effort to appeal to the human emotions is the key to gaining readership, and thus profits.
    Teresa Binder

  • Thanks Bill for the comprehensive work that you put into your articles. You put some of those journalists to shame. Good journalism will usually present the facts as you do and then the public make an informed decision. Keep up the good work.
    Michael Bourke

  • Many thanks Michael.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, Thanks for this excellent response. Always refreshing to read your articles. Robyn’s article is so empty, given the ‘altruistic surrogacy’ she advocates. Sounds like an oxymoron; just adult selfishness, with no regard for the child’s wellbeing.
    Henry Lim

  • “If she insists on shutting her mind to the available data, and clings instead to her radical ideology, that is her choice.”

    And if we were talking about evolution, that sentence would describe most of the people who frequent this website.

    Massive amounts of evidence seem fine when they suit you Bill, and you yourself just ignore evidence when you don’t like the results.

    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris

    All evidence is interpreted through one’s worldview. Thus I prefer the version of events as described by some of the more honest evolutionists instead of yours. As but one example, the words of Richard Lewontin are representative: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Chris Mayer said:

    “If she insists on shutting her mind to the available data, and clings instead to her radical ideology, that is her choice.”

    And if we were talking about evolution, that sentence would describe most of the people who frequent this website.

    On the contrary, that sentence perfectly sums up the typical evolutionist – clinging to their ideology whilst shutting their minds to all the contradictory evidence.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Hi Bill,
    Your comment “Hysterical and abusive rants are always much more simple to run with than actually responding to the facts in an intelligent fashion” is interesting to me.

    I posted on one of several websites over which I have control the following which I believe says the same thing. I was discussing the various interpretations that exist on end-times theology and made a point about ridicule, which is the bedfellow of what you discussed.

    “I know some who have scoffed at those who hold to that belief; I choose not to do so, because I think that any form of ridicule of a person or their beliefs is not just hurtful, but shows arrogance on behalf of the scoffer.

    Ridicule is also a wonderful weapon used in the hands of the bureaucracy to intimidate people into changing their views on anything, because it eventually attacks the person’s integrity as perceived by their peers, their family, their workmates… without actually providing any evidence that the claim or comment was wrong.

    This is very useful for conveying misinformation about something the bureaucrat wishes to just become a fait accompli without the troublesome problems of defence!”

    I would be happy to provide you with the url of that page should you or your readers wish.

    Sincerely,

    Richard Ashton, Adelaide

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