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Is there a moral obligation to adopt?


Mercurial

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There is a lot of literature out there on the morality surrounding procreation. It usually focuses on the extent to which parents can have duties not to procreate given certain likely facts about the child that would be born, or given certain facts about the capacity of the parents to care for it.

Obviously every thread has a life of its own and can end up in all sorts of places, but I'd like to begin by asking readers to consider one particular kind of decision when it comes to procreation – specifically the decision whether one ought to adopt rather than procreate at all.

I have in mind here both cases where you have a fertile couple who are perfectly suitable to be parents (however you want to flesh that out) as well as cases where you have an infertile or same-sex couple considering having a child via surrogacy or some other expensive method.

Of course there are practical reasons why adoption might not be an option for some of these couples, but we can set those cases to one side for the purpose of this discussion. Assuming no legal or other practical impediments, and assuming that in the case of infertile couples financially speaking it will be more costly to conceive a child than to adopt one, the only reason I can think of why one might not want to adopt is that we have a preference for raising a child who is genetically-related to us.

The question then seems to turn upon whether this preference is the sort of preference we can legitimately act upon by choosing procreation over adoption – whether we can use it to justify adding another person to an overpopulated world while also depriving an already-existing child of the upbringing they would otherwise have received.

The strongest way of putting this argument is to say that the genetic factor is merely a fetish on our part and one we ought to overcome in favour of the greater good of providing a home to an already-existing child who needs one.

Two caveats before I finish:

First, the question posed is not necessarily about what laws we ought to have. There are lots of reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea to enforce a moral obligation to adopt, even if such an obligation exists. But these would be pragmatic, practical reasons, rather than principled ones, if there is a moral obligation to adopt.

Second, the question does not assume that people are obliged to go out and adopt, even if they don't want children in the first place (although that's not ruled out by what I've said here). Rather, the question only applies *if* a couple decide they want to raise children at all. *Then*, so the argument goes, provided that certain conditions are met (that there are children in need of homes, that it's not impractical or illegal etc.) they have a moral obligation to adopt rather than procreate.
 
D

Dylan2010

In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules. Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved
 

bob3344

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No, and lets mention the elephant in the living room at this point.

AFRICA.
 

Mercurial

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In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules.
I did cover that in the first caveat in the OP. Even if it would not be a good idea to enforce such rules, or if nobody had the right to enforce such rules, that wouldn't preclude the possibility of a moral obligation.

Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved
It's not clear to me what interest is served by passing on one's genes. I agree that many, perhaps most people do care. But why should we care whether our genes are passed on or not? And are the reasons we have for caring so strong as to justify pursuing that interest by denying a family to an already-existing child?
 

Mercurial

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No, and lets mention the elephant in the living room at this point.

AFRICA.
You could confine the example to the borders of a single state. Many people think we have stronger duties to our co-citizens: maybe this includes an obligation to adopt them when necessary.
 

Riadach

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To be honest, as a gay man, I've considered whether in the long term I would go for adoption or try the clearly less parisimonious route of surrogacy. The latter doesn't appeal to me at all. I certainly think the most important contribution I could make to a child isn't my genetics, but rather the experiences I give him/her which will mould his/her outlook or personality. In such an instance, I would see it as rather vain to pursue a genetic inheritance, especially when there are thousands of children crying out for adoption.

That said, in the case of procreation, I cannot fault people who want their own children, if for no other reason than that it is far more convenient.
 

livingstone

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In principle, while there remain children in the world who are in need of a loving home, I think couples that adopt probably do more to improve the world than those who conceive a child. I don't think that necessarily translates into a moral obligation per se.

I also wouldn't say that aversion to adoption is just about genetics but also age. Most children who are placed for adoption tend to be older, while many people looking to start a family will want to start a family from scratch - i.e. raising a new born into a child into an adult. The skills someone has as a parent who can shape a child from birth are not necessarily the same skills as someone who can take a child from a very troubled background and who has already developed values and characteristics.

Certainly I don't especially care about having children who are genetically related to me, and as such, would plan most likely to adopt rather than used any form of assisted reproduction. But the age of likely children would concern me. And I say that in full knowledge of how selfish it may sound given that older children are often the ones most in need of a stable home of love and security - but I think what I have to offer and what my partner have to offer a child would be better suited to raising a child from as young an age as possible. I think it very much depends on the couple in question.
 

bob3344

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It's not clear to me what interest is served by passing on one's genes. I agree that many, perhaps most people do care. But why should we care whether our genes are passed on or not? And are the reasons we have for caring so strong as to justify pursuing that interest by denying a family to an already-existing child?
Intelligence is passed on.

The side of the debate that has some merit is whether morons should be having large families, though I would wager you won't be tackling that one.
 

bob3344

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You could confine the example to the borders of a single state. Many people think we have stronger duties to our co-citizens: maybe this includes an obligation to adopt them when necessary.
Nice try, but it wasn't racism, just an acknowledgement of reality. Why would europeans bother to try & control population when tinpot african countries are doubling their population every 25 years or so ?

As for 'our co-citizens' - heres another blast of reality - thanks to social welfare it is next to impossible to adopt an Irish child. Any irish kid that you are likely to be offered is bound to have been taken from his/her parents & will be traumatised.
 

Mercurial

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I also wouldn't say that aversion to adoption is just about genetics but also age. Most children who are placed for adoption tend to be older, while many people looking to start a family will want to start a family from scratch - i.e. raising a new born into a child into an adult. The skills someone has as a parent who can shape a child from birth are not necessarily the same skills as someone who can take a child from a very troubled background and who has already developed values and characteristics.
That's a fair point, but we could concede it and still end up with a potential obligation to adopt newborns (with older children being optional) which would still be relatively radical.
 

Tea Party Patriot

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In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules. Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved
Indeed intelligence is most certainly an inherited trait, as indeed are many others.

This argument that some on the left are now trying to put forward that genetic relationship to ones parents counts for naught is routed in their hatred of nobility. However much they dislike it they can pass laws to abolish monarchies, to strip away titles, to confiscate lands, but the one thing no matter the twisted philosophical argument they put forward that they cannot do is deny your blood. This is an inherent physical trait than no matter how they would like to change it they cannot anymore than they can change the sun, the moon or the stars.
 

EvotingMachine0197

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In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules. Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved
A moral obligation is not really a rule and I don't think enforceability applies.
 

Tea Party Patriot

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A moral obligation is not really a rule and I don't think enforceability applies.
I would always be suspicious of the moral obligations put forward by the left, give them a little bit of power and suddenly they become tyrannical laws.

One of the big B's the left have in their bonnets is the rights of inheritance of property through your offspring, they would love to break this cycle through a law forcing couples to adopt rather than through conceiving their own.
 

Mercurial

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Intelligence is passed on.

The side of the debate that has some merit is whether morons should be having large families, though I would wager you won't be tackling that one.
I started the OP, but I can't moderate it. As long as it doesn't veer wildly off topic (I take it that the topic is the morality of procreation) you can tackle what you like.

I would be skeptical of the claim that intelligence is inherited, rather than a product of biological and environmental and social functions. There's also considerable controversy as to how we ought to define intelligence in the first place.

Assuming for the sake of argument that intelligence was entirely hereditary, do you believe it would be immoral for a couple to procreate knowing that their child would be likely to be not very intelligent?
 

livingstone

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That's a fair point, but we could concede it and still end up with a potential obligation to adopt newborns (with older children being optional) which would still be relatively radical.
True, but at the point where you consider the moral obligation limited to newborns within the State, you whittle it down to such a tiny proportion of children that actually, there is never a problem in finding them a home and thus, arguably, if they are going to find a home anyway, a couple who unnecessarily adopts them merely deprives another family who cannot conceive of a child that would make their family complete.

Any moral obligation would have to be grounded in an excess of children seeking homes - if you remove that scarcity of homes then I think you necessarily remove any hint of a moral obligation.
 

Mercurial

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Nice try, but it wasn't racism, just an acknowledgement of reality. Why would europeans bother to try & control population when tinpot african countries are doubling their population every 25 years or so ?

As for 'our co-citizens' - heres another blast of reality - thanks to social welfare it is next to impossible to adopt an Irish child. Any irish kid that you are likely to be offered is bound to have been taken from his/her parents & will be traumatised.
It's possible to separate out the general principle from the additional factors which might influence the implementation of the principle.

For example, you might think that we have an obligation to adopt, but only if everyone else "plays fair" and doesn't exploit the fact that we're living up to our obligations.

If you said something like "well, yes we do have an obligation, but only to Irish citizens and only if there were actually any children who needed to be adopted" I take it that that would still be a radical claim.
 
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