Humanity in a Brave New World
At the risk of confirming suspicions of conservatives’ reactionary squeamishness, I have to admit to huge, visceral aversion to this sort of thing:
Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.
Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman’s bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.
The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.
But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters because the Y chromosome of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons. The latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer.
On first look, it would seem that neither the standard pro-life nor the standard secular community objections apply, but where does that leave one’s sense that we are on the cusp of changing human society in irrevocable ways and with barely a thought of the consequences. Of course, Christians believe, in the words of Mel Gibson’s character in Signs, “that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them.” The optimistic pragmatist, with whom I often feel a certain intellectual sympathy, might feel that nothing that is fundamental in humanity will change. And there are certainly liberals who, in their variously motivated advocacy on behalf of homosexuals, will throw themselves behind any “advancement” that allows those folks to more closely simulate normal lives.
Still, I can’t shake the sense that all of these modern permutations to society will fall on us all at once in their aggregate magnitude and our society will jerk and sputter in a new, disassociated direction — perhaps under constant attack from true reactionaries from foreign cultures. We who believe that humanity has long had all that it needed, really, no matter the comforts that progress might provide may find ourselves unable to avoid the tremendous questions that the next couple of centuries will pose. Properly seen, it seems to me that such a predicament is more a blessing than a curse.