"Knowledge is bliss"- Towards a society without paternity surprises
by Barry Pearson
[ Previous page | Title page | Next page ]

2020 Vision

The objective

The scale of surprising paternity in the general population is not known for certain. Some material later suggests that perhaps about 1 in 10 children have surprising paternity.

The proposed objective is that, within a generation, there will be few children born into a marriage or stable relationship whose paternity would be a surprise to the husband or male partner. Perhaps a useful target for the year 2020 would be to have no more than about 1 in 100 children born with surprising paternity.

This would be a good condition for nearly everyone. Even those who currently oppose unrestricted access to personal knowledge paternity tests are typically doing so in order to avoid the consequences of surprises, and so they should be in favour. In future, men, women and children will all benefit from such a change to society.

The only likely dissent would come from anyone who believes that women have an inherent right to give birth to children other than those of the husband or male partner and then hide the truth from the men and the children. That position cannot be sustained in a world that is increasingly concerned about genetic linkages. It is increasingly recognised that it is in the interests of children to be able to know of their biological parents, and the international trend is towards laws and court verdicts that enable them to do so.

Why 2020? Because that is the date when the UK government aims to have eliminated child poverty. Eliminating paternity surprises will help (a little) to eliminate child poverty. It will slightly reduce the incidence of broken families, and if they do break, it will increase the likelihood that the adults concerned will prove liable to pay child support.

What this vision is not

This is not a proposal to eliminate adultery!

The 6th Commandment failed to do this. Even the death penalty in some countries, including England at the time of the Adultery Act of 1650, failed to do this. Human nature appears to rule here. This paper is about having or not having children; it isn't about having or not having sex.

This is not a proposal for state compulsion.

The state could go a long way towards meeting the proposed objective within a couple of years, using mandatory paternity testing at birth. But wherever possible, adults should be treated as such, and left to make their own choices as long as innocent people are not harmed. Intrusion of that degree into how families manage their confidence and trust is not a responsibility of government.

This paper is about rights and freedoms: for men and children to learn more about themselves without hindrance, and to make informed decisions as a result. The responsibility of the state is for support and education, and to police general laws, and otherwise to stay out of the way.

This is not discrimination against women.

In fact, it proposes a new facet of equality between men and women. It proposes that paternity surprises should become as rare as maternity surprises. The maternity of children is rarely in doubt. The evidence is pretty obvious at birth! But paternity is rarely known for sure. This paper proposes that men and children should be free to find out for sure, without hindrance, what women typically already know.

This is not about punishing people for past actions.

Unfortunately, "punishment", (or rather, suffering the consequences of being "found out"), will happen in many cases anyway, simply because the "gene genie" is already out of the bottle. This paper is concerned with ensuring that this is the last generation that suffers these consequences to this degree, for the sake of future men, women, and children.

What are the alternatives to this vision?

Here are 4 possible futures for consideration. They are itemised here in order to make a case for trying to achieve the last one.

People may stop worrying about biological relationships

The indications are that this will not happen, so no further time is spent discussing it in this paper. Some children want to know who their biological parents are. Some men want to know the truth about paternity. It should be assumed that this would almost certainly continue.

We react to current problems without an eye on the future

This appears likely to result in the worst possible history of the 21st Century! We would repeat this debate every decade or two for the rest of the Century.

At least we need to identify the sort of societies that would be preferable in future. Even if we don't currently know how to get there, others might work it out in future.

We try to eliminate surprising paternity by active and intrusive methods

This approach is tempting. It would achieve the key objective of this paper faster than would be achieved by the method below.

It is rejected here because the damage done is likely to out-weigh the advantages of a more careful approach. But it is also rejected because it treats citizens badly, without giving them time to adapt their views and circumstances.

We adopt a supportive approach with our eye on the future

That is the proposal of this paper. No roadmap is presented here, just the vision.

[ Previous page | Title page | Next page ]
Page last updated: 2 July, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2002