Information in Action: What is a parent?

I was just watching a season 2 episode of Castle called “When the Bough Breaks” and it annoyed me, by going along with a societal convention that annoys me.  In it, a young Czech immigrant is murdered and, after a convoluted investigation, it’s revealed that a doctor had switched his baby for hers in the delivery room.  The doctor’s child had an untreatable always-fatal condition and he couldn’t face it, so he changed the babies.  Eventually, she figured it out, arranged to get access to his son (which was in reality the child she bore), swap the boy’s mouth for DNA, and get a lab to confirm the identity.  The doctor panicked and killed the woman before she could tell anyone.

All well and good, and relatively well-written.  Here’s what bothers me: At the end of the episode, Detective Beckett makes a happy ending by connecting the doctor’s wife (who has just discovered that the child she’s been raising as her son is not the child she bore) and the woman’s estranged husband (whom she divorced because it was too painful being reminded of her “lost” child).  It’s very touching, with the man obviously overjoyed at finding his son and the mother asking about her child before he died.

Here’s what annoys me:  The man hasn’t found “his” son.  His son died of the untreatable disease three years earlier.  Sure, the kid in front of him shares his DNA, but he has had absolutely no role in that child’s life since birth.  Likewise, the mother wants to hear about “her” son before he died.  Does that lessen the love she feels for the boy in front of her, who calls her Mommy and knows none of this?  Will she tell him at some point that she’s not “really” his mother?  Should she?  Would that even be true?

Isn’t parenthood more than mere donation of genetic code?

The writers of Castle certainly haven’t invented this meme.  Indeed, it goes virtually unchallenged in all media.  It’s just another expression of a DNA-driven division of the world into “kin” and “other” — as if what most is what particular sequence of A,T,U, and G you possess, rather than what you do with it.  I think we’d all be a lot better off if we could shake this particular habit.  People are not defined by their genetic information.  People are information in action, and it is the actions that matter.ПРАВОСЛАВНАТА ИКОНА

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