Human Exceptionalism

Taking the Intimacy Out of Family Creation

The intellectual class drives our public policy discussions. Perhaps that is why there is such a push for eugenics in reproduction.

The latest example comes from Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely, who enthusiastically predicts that future children will routinely come into being in the lab rather the bedroom.

Better, from his utilitarian perspective, parents will quality-control their children–discarding embryos deemed of lesser eugenic value. From, “Who Needs Sex to Make Babies?”

Stem cell technologies will bypass egg harvesting. Instead we will take a woman’s skin cells; turn them into so-called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (cells very similar to the famous embryonic stem cells but made from living people); turn those cells into eggs, and mature the eggs in the lab…

The result will be easy PGD. A couple who wants children will visit a clinic – he will leave a sperm sample; she will leave a skin sample.

A week or two later, the prospective parents will receive information on 100 embryos created from their cells, telling them what the embryos’ genomes predict about their future. Prospective parents will then be asked what they want to be told about each embryo – serious early onset genetic diseases, other diseases, cosmetic traits, behaviours, and, easiest but important to many: gender.

Then they will select which embryos to move into the womb for possible pregnancy and birth.

By then, perhaps we’ll have the artificial womb, so no morning sickness or interference with normal routine.

So much for romance. So much for unconditional love of children. So much for family creation as our most intimate endeavor.

The quest for perfection in procreation is ultimately self-destructive. Think of the kind of people who might not have been born if subjected as embryos to such a quality control inspection:

  • Abraham Lincoln, tall, homely, perhaps with a genetic disease.
  • Mother Theresa, diminutive, obsessive about religion. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh, clearly suffering from depressive disease.
  • Woodie Guthrie, Huntington’s disease.
  • Ludwig von Beethoven, early-onset deafness.
  • The people who will never be famous who have inspired us all struggling against congenitally-caused difficulties.

Once we transform family creation into an industrial technique, we shouldn’t be surprised that dehumanization and eugenic quality control become part of the package.

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