Child Catchers – A Case of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to give imbalanced attention to data that supports a preferred hypothesis, while marginalizing evidence that might discredit it. A classic case of confirmation bias seems to be found in recent criticisms of abuses in evangelical adoption efforts.

A recently released book by Kathryn Joyce The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption criticizes the evangelical adoption movement, painting it as an “adoption industry” that knowingly traffics children and willfully separates families in developing nations at any cost for the sake of finding children for adoptive families. Others have added their own indiscriminate exhortations in light of Joyce’s ill-founded conclusions.

ethiopiaThere are certainly abuses in the world of global orphan care. There are documented cases and likely many more undocumented cases. However, abuses that occur do not jeopardize the legitimacy of adoption in general or inter-country adoption in particular.

Critics argue (with very little supporting data) that although unethical adoptions are not the norm, they do happen, and thus we should be on “high alert.” However, their selective data and exaggeration of data must put readers on high alert – not to human rights abuses but to journalistic statistic abuses.

I confess (along with John Piper), I am in no position to offer detailed statistical analysis of abuses within orphan care. However, the burden of proof lies with those who seek to “expose” the so-called adoption industry. At this point there appears to be little more than anecdotal support.

I appreciated Piper’s thoughtful disavowals and affirmations regarding orphan care. I’m no expert on the evangelical adoption movement, but Piper’s perspectives seem to be a fair representation of evangelical agencies I have researched.

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