Ever since DNA testing has allowed us to find out who the father of a baby really is, we drive by huge billboards telling Dads they should get their babies tested before paying child support. There’s a reason for this: British researchers have discovered that about 4% of fathers are supporting a child who is not their own.

“At the moment, people are often receiving the results of paternity testing through e-mail and post,” says researcher Mark Bellis. This can be an unwelcome surprise. Have you got a family member who looks very different from everyone else? Another dad could be the reason. One problem is that so many diseases have been identified as being genetic, that not knowing who one of your real parents is can compromise the medical care these children will receive in the future.

In ancient societies, you were identified as a family member through your mother. Many Native American people still use this system, and you’re not officially a Jew unless your mother (not your father) was. This was obviously done because everyone knew that the real father could not necessarily be identified.

Bellis says, “Genetic testing has provided the power to lift a lid off Pandora’s Box. It will take something other than power?namely wisdom?to respond productively, fairly and compassionately to all that comes flying out.”

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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