Today I have a social issue on my mind.
Did you know that in California it is illegal for workers at orphanages to hug the children? I was shocked to hear this. I’m no expert, but conventional wisdom is that children need love, hugs and caring touches (like being carried). Isn’t it obvious that children without any “parental” contact will encounter major obstacles to having healthy relationships when they grow up? Its as if you were to cut off their arm to save a finger.
I understand a small number of nasty people in the world target orphans who are among the most vulnerable in our society. But you have to be pragmatic. While it is awful to consider that some orphans will be abused, it is even more awful to contemplate orphans who don’t get any physical love for their entire childhood.
Feeling self righteous, I googled “hug an orphan” and discovered that in some foreign countries, orphan tourism is a favored pastime. Tourists volunteer at foreign orphanages to help out. This is bad for the children, because a steady stream of strange people does not give them a stable environment. They’re like animals in a petting zoo. Worse, some orphanages intentionally make their place look run down and mistreat the children to inspire greater pathos in the tourists. Aie!
OK, now for the science part. Writing a good law about this issue is not science, it is a value judgement. Those of us who enjoy numbers would like to do a risk-assessment, but the outcome will depend on what value you place on N loving hugs as compared to n << N nasty events. Unlike science, when it comes to values your mileage may vary (i.e. you might think I’m crazy, which is OK). My point is that you have to know where to use science (as in deciding whether or not climate change exists) and where we have to rely on moral judgements. To quote Saint Albert “The laws of gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.“