The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Are fathers necessary?
Tom Smith

Social science is having a hard time proving fathers are a net good.  My guess is this is because the researchers are inclined to want to show fathers are entirely dispensable.  Alas, this is just a guess.

Back in the bad old days before blogs, I was on some law prof email list where I ended up getting into a fight with this unbelievably unpleasant academic from Cambridge UK who held most violently that there was absolutely, positively no reason to think that fathers added anything to a family that could not be added by another caretaker, for example another woman in the case of a male child. He might have even been saying a single parent who had the income of the missing father replaced was just as good;  my recollection is imperfect. This seemed to be his area of research and all I had was a profound skepticism that this could really be the case.  But it was one of those revelations for me, like listening to the very smart, highly educated feminist concede that she thought mentally retarded kids should, like defective dogs, be put down, when I realized there really are people out there who see the world very differently than I do, and who, if they had their way, would take the world to a very dark place.  There really are people out there who have a deep grudge against the, call it traditional, two parent (one dad, one mom) family.  I don't know how many of them are doing this social science, but I think at least one is.  This is different from the idea that two people of the same sex, who as a matter of probability are both professionals and live in some urban area on the coast, want to live as spouses and adopt a baby or two.  I have my reservations about this, but basically I think it is probably the break of a lifetime for the baby involved.  I don't know many gay couples but the ones I have met strike me as people who would probably make good parents.  They definitely don't freak me out.  But I am freaked out by the people who really do seem to have something against the traditional model.  I don't understand the animus and I have gradually come to the view that it is naive to think they don't exist.  My guess is that is has something to do with hating one or more of their own parents and wanting to avenge themselves against the family as as institution, along the lines of how people who were abused by priests would like to see the Church destroyed.  Understandable perhaps but a bad deal for the rest of us.

This deserves a post of its own, but as it is father's day, I will just mention that rarely a day goes by that I don't reflect on how lucky I was to have had my dad as my dad.  He was responsible for most of my accomplishments by what he taught me and did his best to protect me from my follies, which were surprisingly many.  He also gave me that precious thing, what I realize now was an unusually happy childhood.  I can't do him justice now and won't try.  I am sure many reading this feel the same way about their own fathers.  All I have to do is recall any of countless memories of fishing trips, endless rides on bad mountain roads, earnest arguments, little league football games, or long quiet days in the mountains to realize how lucky I was.  Social scientists can ask if they like if fathers are necessary, whatever that is supposed to mean.  Next they can ask if love or life are necessary. Let the freaks go running off in their long white coats.  I would rather go fishing with my dad.

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Tom Smith


When I was a fresher, I used to demand of every socialist I met whether it was his parents or his school that he hated. The question wasn't original but it was effective.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 20, 2010 3:51:20 PM

It should be obvious that dads are irrelevant. Just look how well the US blacks have fared since the Great Society programs largely eliminated dads from the family in that demographic. Well, maybe that isn't the example folks will want to use to prove that point.

Posted by: km | Jun 21, 2010 8:59:08 AM

For another example of how personal social "science" often is:

Posted by: Dan Simon | Jun 21, 2010 10:07:22 PM

For another example of how personal social "science" often is:

Posted by: Dan Simon | Jun 21, 2010 10:08:47 PM

Fun, fun, fun! These are amazing! I'm going to come back and vote after I've really absorbed each one, just wanted to say how much I love them all. So inspirational!

Posted by: Jordan Jumpman | Jul 23, 2010 8:55:00 PM