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Archive for the ‘Matt’s Blog’ category

OK, I guess it’s my turn. As the “Matt” character in Fallen Lake, I’ve relegated myself to lurking up until now, reading Adrienne’s posts with bemusement, especially as related to me. Unlike her, I don’t take offense at Laird Harrison’s whole enterprise in writing “Fallen Lake.” While he takes poetic license in his account of these events in my childhood, I think he describes the essential outline accurately.

But I now see the necessity to set the record straight because Adrienne has misrepresented some points from our discussion of the other day.

I’m not a genetic determinist. Human behavior clearly results from the complex interaction of genes and the environment. On a more basic level, we human beings are simply patterns of matter and energy that belong to larger patterns, influencing and influenced by other patterns.*

My wife, “Penny,” looking over my should tells me that I will have completely lost my audience with the previous sentence. The point I want to make is that Adrienne’s impulse to blame the decision of our parents to join in a “group marriage” for various behaviors of their children is misguided. Take for example the obsessive compulsive diagnosis I received at age 11. My therapist based it on theories with no experimental foundation that were slightly evolved from Freud’s concept of the “anal retentive” character. Recently gene studies have shown associations between variants in glutamate system genes and OCD  (including SLC1A1 in five independent studies). My mother needlessly blamed herself for my “condition,” which was merely the result of my rather unusual attempt to understand the world scientifically at an early age.

Forgive me if I continue in that effort.


*Seen in this light, the classic “nature vs. nurture” debate is resolved, since these are fundamentally cultural distinctions, with more metaphorical than material significance. Does this knowledge deprive us of what philosophers call “free will?” I don’t think that’s a very important question either. What’s important is that the pattern I call “me” is compelled to act on the other patterns around me in such a way as to try to preserve those patterns as long as possible in something close to their current form.

I can’t argue with Adrienne’s feelings that her emotions can’t be explained by biochemistry. But I disagree with her implication that the group marriage disrupted its progeny’s future. She writes:

I’d like to point out as well that none of the four children from that group marriage have not gone on to raise their own biological children with a partner. I don’t think that can be coincidence.

The traditional nuclear family — father, mother, children living as a separate unit — is the minority among US households, and a third of kids live under some other arrangement. As Darby herself has said, her alcoholism predated the group marriage by months if not years. And it was this struggle with addiction that prevented her from marrying and raising children with their biological father (assuming that’s what she wanted to do). Current studies show about a 50-60% genetic basis for alcoholism.

Ivor’s marriage ended after he discovered his homosexuality, or stopped resisting it. Not very many people still argue that child rearing determines sexual orientation. Increasing evidence suggests that genes and other biochemical influences, such as prenatal exposure to steroids, play key roles.

Penny and I have made the decision not to have children in order to focus energy on our work.

Adrienne can best explain her own decision not to have children until it was too difficult to have them biologically. But she is certainly not the only person who finally finished medical school, residencies and specialty training deep in debt and already past her prime childbearing years. So I’m sure these factors affected her decision to adopt, rather than bear her own biological children, more than her upbringing with multiple parents.

So it just may be a coincidence, but it’s not a very surprising one.

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