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How We Got Here: A History Of The Natural Family

 

 

Allan C. Carlson Ph.D.

  BIO

Remarks for the Opening Ceremony, The World Congress of Families V, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 10 August 2009

Greetings to you all!  I am delighted to see this Congress take form. I also want to welcome the thousands watching and listening in via live-stream video on the Internet.

The year 2009 is notable in several ways relative to the natural family.  To begin with, it marks the fifth anniversary of the Doha Declaration, a splendid presentation of family principles and policy guidelines that has informed international law.  It grew out of the Doha process, which was actually launched at our Mexico City World Congress of Families.

“2009” also marks the 15th Anniversary of the Inter-national Year of the Family, 1994:  a recognition created by United Nations resolution.  As it turned out, this launched a series of UN conferences on issues related to family life, around which coalesced a new, international pro-family movement.  Many persons involved in that movement are here today.

And, while I have to bend time a bit here, we are also only a few months past the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Article 16 reads:  “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.”  From this document we derive the phrase, the “natural family.”

How did the word “natural” become a modifier to “family” in this important declaration?  Close study of the legislative history of Article 16 reveals the driving influence of two men:  Rene Cassin of France, a specialist in international law; and Charles Habib Malik, Ambassador from Lebanon to the United Nations.  Cassin himself was Jewish; Malik, a Greek Orthodox Arab.  Both, however, had been influenced by the recent flowering of Christian Democratic ideals in the immediate post-World War II period.  As Cassin explained, individual rights and liberties must be understood “as embedded within social groups and bonds” such as “family, household, vocation, city and nation.”[1]

Among Malik’s tasks at the UN was to serve as Rapporteur—or Secretary—of the Commission on Human Rights.  In his minutes covering debate on Article 16, Malik explained his own views on the family, here in “third person”:

He [Malik] maintained that society was not composed of individuals, but of groups, of which the family was the first and most important unit; in the family circle the fundamental human freedoms and rights were originally nurtured... He also contended that the family was endowed with inalienable rights, rights which had not been conferred upon it by the caprice of men.[2]

In the end, Malik’s views won out.

The power of the term, “natural family,” also derives from the sciences.  Regarding child well-being, the common lesson taught by social science research over the last quarter century is this:  children living with their two natural  or biological parents in a married couple home are most likely to live healthy, happy, and enriching lives, and to grow into good citizens.  Any variation from this model raises the probability of negative outcomes.

Some might reply that the “natural family”—defined as “the union of a man and a woman through marriage for sharing love and joy, propagating children, providing their moral education, building a vital home economy, offering security in times of trouble, and binding the generations”[3]—that this actually is a religious concept.  In a way, this is true.  Certainly, the great monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—understand the family to be rooted in the Creation events told in Genesis; that is, in a law of nature.

And yet, evolutionary scientists report something quite similar.  The paleo-anthropological record actually shows that the pairing off of male and female “hominids”—or early humans—into something very much like marriage reaches back over three million years, to the time when our purported ancestors left the trees on the African savannah and started walking on two legs.  Put another way, the human species succeeded primarily through the discovery of monogamous marriage and social fatherhood.  The evolution of marriage occurred—but only once—3 to 4 million years ago when “to be human” came to mean “to be conjugal.”  “Change” is the mark of cultural strengthening or weakening around a constant, natural human model, built on marriage and childrearing.[4]

Some are discouraged in this time about the prospects for the natural family.  They see a retreat from marriage, low fertility, and other signs of decay.  I want to urge you to be optimistic.  As G. K. Chesterton once said, the family is the one reliable source of social renewal, because it is the only human group that renews itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state.

In this light, I will close with a paragraph from the book, The Natural Family: A Manifesto which I co-authored with Paul Mero:

Our vision of the hearth looks forward, not to the past, for hope and purpose.  We see the vital home reborn through startling new movements such as homeschooling.  We marvel at fresh inventions that portend novel bonds between home and work.  We are inspired by a convergence of religious truth with the evidence of science around the vital role of the family. We see the prospect of a great civil alliance or religious orthodoxies, within nations and around the globe; not to compromise on doctrines held dear, but to defend our family systems from the common foe.  With wonder, we find a shared happiness with people once distrusted or feared.  We enjoy new friendships rooted in family ideals that cross ancient divides.  We see the opportunity for an abundant world order built on the natural family.[5]

Endnotes:

[1] Rene Cassin, “Historique de la Declaración Universelle de 1948,” in Cassin, La Pensee et L’Action (n.p.: Editions F. Lalau, 1972), 105-08.

[2] From:  Johannes Morsiuk, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); 255.

[3] Allan Carlson and Paul Mero, The Natural Family:  A Manifesto (Dallas: Spence, 2007), 13.

[4] C. Owen Lovejoy, “The Origin of Man,” Science 211 (Jan. 23, 1981): 348; Phillip L. Reno, Richard S. Meindl, Melanee A. McCollum, and C. Owen Lovejoy, “Sexual Dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis was similar to modern humans,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 100 (Aug. 5, 2003): 9404-09; and Ronald S. Immeruian,,” Perspectives on Human Attachment (Pair Bonding):  Eve’s Unique Legacy of a Canine Analogue, “Evolutionary Psychology 1 (2003): 138-54.

[5] Allan Carlson and Paul Mero, The Natural Family, p. 26.

 

 

 

 

 

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