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When a child asks a question like "Where do babies come from?", why do all

When a child asks a question like "Where do babies come from?", why do all parents consider giving an answer that is far from the truth? once on TV, a parent, in respnse to this very question raised by his baby, he stated:"When a father and a mother love each other very much, they close their eyes, and they make a wish.". For a child, that seems pretty convincing, but not at all truthful. My question is: is that really moral?

I don't think it's wrong to lie to children, if there's a good reason for the lie. I recall my daughter hearing the word "rape" and asking what it is at a very early age. I said I didn't know with a "that's not important" tone of voice. Sure, I could have made an honest statement about her being too young for the subject, but it seemed pointless to make her feel disrespected, or to let her go on wondering about the matter.

But does it make sense to lie about where babies come from? I frankly don't understand why parents feel so giggly and embarrassed about the subject. I told my twins the facts of life gradually, probably starting around the age of 3 or 4. When they asked how sperm gets into the mother's uterus, at about age 5, I told them the truth. (They thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard.)

If a parent lies about where babies come from, are they immoral? Some lies can cause children anxiety, and then there's reason to disapprove. For example, a friend of mine was asked by her 4-year-old how babies come out of their mothers. My friend couldn't bring herself to discuss the basics of female anatomy. So she said mothers push, without explaining the route of egress, or what pushing might mean in this context. I imagine the child may have found this image disturbing. Without knowing about, vagina...the child would have had strange images in her head. Maybe the baby crashes through the mother's side when she's done with all that pushing?

The "make a wish" lie you mention sounds sweet and innocent, but I'd worry about misunderstandings. "If Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, can they close their eyes and wish for just anything? And if so, why don't they get me everything that I want? Maybe they don't love me!"

I think there are necessary lies, but lying about where babies come from isn't necessary, and can be harmful.

Mary Warnock says we have a right to have children. It's a question I asked

Mary Warnock says we have a right to have children. It's a question I asked myself in the waiting room of a fertility clinic as I was registering for IVF treatment - it's a question I continuing asking myself as I see more and more gay fathers flying off to exotic lands for their offspring through surrogacy. How can we conciliate the right to have children with the exploitation of women? Best regards Pensiero Rome, Italy

The right to pursue certain goods (such as having children, or making money) does not justify using immoral means (such as exploiting women, or stealing) and does not entitle one to success (being a parent, or being rich). There are many ways to try to become a parent (or a wealthy person), some legal and some illegal, some moral and some immoral.

Perhaps you think that the right to have children is more of a right than the right to make money? (Like, for example, basic rights for food, shelter, education or health care.) Even if it was a universal human right to become a parent (which I doubt), it would not follow that there are universal human rights to be a parent by any particular means (such as IVF, surrogacy, adoption etc.)

There are many ways to become a parent, and as those in the adoption community often say, "second choice does not equal second best." I wish you the best.

Is a child's life more valuable than that of an adults? Let's say you are about

Is a child's life more valuable than that of an adults? Let's say you are about to be in a terrible accident (completely figurative) and you only have two options of ways to go. First, you could run into a construction area where there are five construction workers who are oblivious to the situation. Unfortunately, if you go this way all five will die. OR you could turn the wheel, but there is one single child playing which will be in the way and unfortunately die. Do you value the one child's life more than all five workers? Is it morally right to save the child because of its potential life?

Although I can imagine cases where comparing the value of lives might be the way to go, it's not obvious that this is one of them. Heading down a path where we value lives by discounting on the basis of the likely number of remaining years (which is all I see at work here) seems a very dubious idea, fraught with all sorts of moral peril. Although there is something particularly poignant about the death of a child, this doesn't simply translate into a case for saying that the best solution to the dilemma you pose is to give the child's life a weight greater than that of the five adults who would otherwise die.

All this said, there are some hard issues in the general neighborhood. Deciding how to use resources in end-of-life situations, for example, is a serious problem where some sort of discounting doesn't simply seem out of place. But the issues here are tricky, and it's hard to see how any simple rule will work.

I strongly believe in non-violence and I try to teach this to my 4-year-old son.

I strongly believe in non-violence and I try to teach this to my 4-year-old son. Nevertheless the result is that I reprove my son whenever he uses violence and at the same time their classmates hit him, probably because he is an “easy target”. Do I have the right to impose a “moral law” to my son, even though this law is not followed by most of the children and causes unhappiness to my son?

The short answer to your question is that, strictly speaking, parents have a right to teach their children whatever they want. My guess is that you are really wondering whether or not you ought to be teaching your son non-violence, or whether or not you are justified in doing so. The answer to these questions, I think, will depend on the nature of your belief in non-violence. If you believe in non-violence because you think it leads to a happier world, then the fact that your belief in non-violence causes unhappiness to your son should carry some weight. But if you believe in non-violence independently of its connections to happiness, then you may very well be justified in teaching this belief even if it does cause unhappiness to your son. You may determine that the central values to be learned through teaching non-violence are so important that they outweigh the temporary unhappiness generated by this commitment.


If 1) we are morally responsible for the foreseeable results of my actions and inactions and if 2) all human beings will eventually die can I derive that 3) biological parents are morally responsible for the death of their children? I would expect most people to agree with (1) and (2), and to be shocked by (3). In addition, life can be worth living (the beauty and the richness of its experience hopefully offset the pain and suffering that come with it), but this seems to be a personal opinion that I have no right to impose on others. So, what right do biological parents have to impose their views (on such important matters) on future human beings that don't yet exist? Thanks.

I suspect that most people would think, on reflection that principle (1) is too strong. For instance, if it foreseeable that, because of your bad character, you will free-ride on fair rules of cooperation that we establish, does that make us morally responsible for your free-riding? I doubt it. At most, we should be responsible for what we freely cause. But we are not the cause of everything that foreseeably results from our actions. So I don't see that A's giving birth to B causes B's eventual death. If B dies by drowning that is caused by his falling into the the river, being unable to swim, or being too weak for the current (etc) not by his parents conceiving him. The most that could be said, and I'm not too confident even of this, is that parents are a foreseeable cause of their children's mortality (as opposed to any particular time, manner, and place of death). As I say, I'm not even sure that's right. But, if it was, so what? That would mean that we were morally responsible for our children's mortality. That doesn't sound so monstrous.

A common moral argument made against sex or sexual relationships between adults

A common moral argument made against sex or sexual relationships between adults and minors is that there will always an imbalance of power between the adult and the minor involved. Because of this, such relationships are said to be exploitative, even if there is informed consent and the minor is not harmed either physically or psychologically by the experience. Assuming that such a scenario is possible - a minor gives informed consent to a sex act or a sexual relationship with an adult, and is not physically or psychologically damaged by what follows - is the imbalance of power between the adult and the minor really enough to render the adult's behaviour morally wrong or exploitative?

Lorraine ends with "which is why most people think sexual relationships between minors and adults are exploitive." Yes, but it is also the reason that some philosophers, legal scholars, and feminists think that heterosexual relations are also coerced and exploitative. Men have power, woman have less. Hence female consent is in doubt. Assuming women are subordinated, how do we then argue against pedophilia but for adult heterosexuality?

What is the best age to become a parent? I am 27 years old, married, and have no

What is the best age to become a parent? I am 27 years old, married, and have no desire to have kids anytime soon. I am aware that age is a factor though, so am I just being selfish?

Your question about "best age to become a parent" seems to be asking about what is in the best interests of the child. A comprehensive ethical assessment of this question may and should include the interests of the parents (as persons, their interests are worthy of moral considerations). As for the best interests of the child, age of the parents is not instrinsically morally relevant. Age may be relevant in some situations if it is a proxy for such things as likelihood of living to raise the child or giving the child a good quality environment (older adults may have greater financial resources, or contrariwise less energy). There are so many things to consider in timing the birth of a child--if, indeed, one has such a choice, which is a recent luxury--that it is often difficult to tell what is in the best interests of a child. It seems ethically reasonable to postpone parenthood in situations such as personal financial crisis, personal illness, temporary physical and political dangers, lack of a co-parent (if one thinks that having at least two parents is in the best interests of the child). Additionally, in this overpopulated world, there is no moral obligation to have children.

Perhaps you are asking the more general question, whether it is OK to live a selfish life e.g. spending one's money on luxuries for oneself rather than giving to others and/or making the world a better place? That's a great question. (In my opinion, some parent in a selfish way, viewing their children as extensions of themselves. There are many ways to be a parent.)

A personal addendum: I became a parent at age 41 (both parents and child, now age 8, are thriving!). "Being selfish" would be an inaccurate and overly negative way of describing my early adulthood, in which I was preocuppied with "finding myself" and did not have the emotional space to be a good parent.

I have a daughter that is 14 years young. As a mother I understand that

I have a daughter that is 14 years young. As a mother I understand that teenagers in her age grow up and they want to have fun, most of them with the guys. But still I can't let her go out. I think it's wrong. But my question is, Is that really wrong? Because I remember myself in her age... I also see the friends around her, they don't go out... well she's the only one. But she suffers because of me not letting her to have a boy-friend. Do you think I should let her? Because I'm really confused...

Just three quick afterthoughts, to add to Nicholas Smith's and Jyl Gentzler's wise but perhaps slightly daunting words.

First, remember most teenagers do survive just fine (with a bit of a close shave here, and an emotional storm or two there): it is our burden as parents to worry far too much. So when your daughter tells you to lighten up, she's probably exactly right!

Second, in any case, the big things that matter -- like your daughter's level of self-esteem, her self-confidence, how she regards men, and so on -- were shaped years ago. It's too late to do very much about them, and being over-protective won't help one bit. So the best thing you can do now is to be positive and supportive in her next phase of growing up.

And third, to get back to the question originally asked: is it wrong to let her go out? Well, how could it possibly be wrong, if she's an ordinary girl wanting to do ordinary things? I can't see any compelling moral principle that has that implication. So just set some sensible ground rules and insist they are stuck to ... and enjoy watching her become a young woman.

My husband and I are agnostic. His ex-wife is Christian. His children (ages 7

My husband and I are agnostic. His ex-wife is Christian. His children (ages 7 and 11) go to church with their mother and very religious stepfather. She has told them that she divorced their father because he wasn't Christian and that it's not okay to not be Christian (she left out the part about her adultery, but I digress). They have learned in church that all non-Christians go to hell and are not loved or forgiven by God. We found a worksheet from church with a list: Christian/Non-Christian. Under the Christian list, there was a glistening gold heart. Under the Non-Christian list, a flat black heart. Under each was a list describing the wonderful things that happen to Christians and the horrible things that happen to Non-Christians. You get the picture. The oldest son believes that my husband's grandmother, his great-grandmother, will go to hell when she dies because she is Jewish. They have been told not to question the Bible (or their church's interpretation of the Bible) because they are...

"In some ways one might welcome the fact that they are being brought up by one parent in such an unusual and distinct manner, as compared with the majority of their peers." Oh, really? I think not. The kids are being subject to child abuse of a rather nasty kind (how else should we describe telling children that their greatgrandmother is going to be damned to hell?).

Of course, saying that doesn't settle how you should respond to the abuse. I agree with Oliver Leaman at least in this much: future influences are likely to counteract some of the effects. A healthy teenage dose of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll will probably do wonders.

Still, you don't want your kids getting too caught up in some superstitious farrago in the meantime. What to do? I'd suggest some cheerful urbanity and gentle mockery (after all, kids rarely like to think that they are being uncool and rather silly). But why not try some philosophy too? Press the obvious questions with wit and good-humour when the occasion arises: "Oh really? How do you know?", "But don't people from other religions say the same about their beliefs?", "You really think that a God who would send greatgrandma to hell is good?", and so on and so forth. In the circumstances where they are being subjected to infantile fantasies, they might well appreciate some grown-up conversations.

Nowadays the things I thought and said when I was younger seem to be silly and I

Nowadays the things I thought and said when I was younger seem to be silly and I am ashamed for it. On the other side we admire the child's purity. So is it the education or our origin which is "good"? Why are we educated when everyone loves children and their attitudes?

First, I would advise you to let go of the shame you feel for what you thought or said when you were younger. We can all look back and wince at such things, but this is part of growing up and (we hope) gaining some wisdom along the way.

I, for one, do not admire what you call "the child's purity." I think I understand what it is in children that you refer to here. But I do not find such "purity" (AKA innocence or ignorance) admirable--after all, it is not something they have achieved with effort, and the older they get, the less charming it will be, if they don't "lose" this "purity." It is just part of what it means to be an immature child--and we can understand how this can be spoiled, in a way that is damaging both to the child and to the adult the child will become, if this "purity" is taken from them too soon or too harshly. So we value it as an important part of what it is to be a child. But that is not the same as admiring it.

What is good for a child, then, is not the same in every case as what is good for an adult. Both phases can be good in their own ways, but these are not in every aspect the same: childish ignorance, for example, is usually a bad thing in an adult and that is why we value the education that helps us to have more mature outlooks and make more mature judgments in the adult world. Because there are endearing traits that go with being a child, why should we not take joy from seeing these traits in them? From the fact that we do so, it does not follow that the traits we cherish among adults have to be the same as those we enjoy in children, or that the way we value childish traits in children shows instability in the way we judge adult values.