Legal Scholarship, Humility, and the Scientific Method

David J. Herring, University of Pittsburgh

Published in 25 Quinnipiac Law Review 867 (2007)


This article discusses two studies of evolution and human behavior addressing child-adult relationships and explores implications for policies and practices surrounding placement of children in foster homes. The first study indicates that men favor children whose facial features resemble their own facial features. This study may justify public child welfare decisionmakers in considering facial resemblance as they attempt to place children in safe foster homes. The second study indicates that parents are likely to invest more in children who are biologically related to them, thus enhancing their longterm well-being. Among other implications, this study may justify public child welfare decisionmakers in attempting to preserve biological families and avoid the removal of children from biological parents. It may also justify maintaining contact between biological parents and children even if removal is necessary.

Although this article recognizes that the studies do not provide for comprehensive decisionmaking rules, the article articulates how the studies can be used to incrementally construct, test, and improve policies and practices in a specific area of public activity.