Evidence that fatherlessness can have a bad effect on children is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Christopher A. Brown at the Huffington Post writers about a new review of studies on the effects of “Father Absence” which show that causation and not merely correlation is at work.
There's a lot of interesting and sobering stuff it it, most of it confirming the destructive effect fatherlessness often has on children. But Brown's concluding words particularly struck me:
"Despite all of this evidence staring Americans in the face, too many of us just don't get it, or worse choose to ignore the evidence. Our primary and recognized ignorance has to change if we are to make a real difference in the quality of life for millions of our nation's children living in father-absent homes, and the millions who will follow if we don't reverse this destructive trend."
“Epistemic closure” is a term coined by American blogger Julian Sanchez which refers to a particularly strong form of close-mindedness. Essentially, a person suffering from epistemic closure refuses to accept any facts, even empirically verified ones, that contradict their worldview.
In the 2012 US election, the term was applied to to the many Republican politicians and commentators who refused to acknowledge as legitimate polls showing that Barack Obama was set to win the election.
But epistemic closure is not tied to a particular ideology, and those of a more socially liberal persuasion are just as likely to exhibit it – and this is rarely clearer than in the debate about family structure.
There has been a supersonic rush to draw conclusions about same-sex parenting from studies with extremely small sample sizes and methodological problems.Yet studies describing the concrete impacts that the absence of a father can have on children are mostly ignored, even when they're based on vastly larger samples. Why?
All of us should be willing to question and re-consider our ideological beliefs in the light of the evidence. Facing the truth is often much harder than being confirmed in our own pre-existing beliefs. But it's also far, far better.