Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paging Dr. Frankenstein

I shamelessly stole the title of this blog post from my friend Ed Shuman, who emailed the links to this story to me:

Scientists in Newcastle claim to have created human sperm in the laboratory in what they say is a world first.

The researchers believe the work could eventually help men with fertility problems to father a child. [...]

They began with stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following IVF treatment.

The stem cells had been removed when the embryo was a few days old and were stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen.

The stem cells were brought to body temperature and put in a chemical mixture to encourage them to grow. They were "tagged" with a genetic marker which enabled the scientists to identify and separate so-called "germline" stem cells from which eggs and sperm are developed.

The male, XY stem cells underwent the crucial process of "meiosis" - halving the number of chromosomes. The process over creating and developing the sperm took four to six weeks.

Just how evil do you have to be to kill children in order to create sperm cells that could theoretically be used to make more children--children whose father was literally murdered before he could be born? Or worse--children whose "father" was a female embryo altered and processed to produce male gametes?

I recently read Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, and was surprised that I'd never gotten around to reading it before. Less surprising, sadly, is how close we already are to the consumerist, anti-family "paradise" envisioned in the novel, where children are manufactured in a laboratory and raised in institutions, and where the mantra "everybody belongs to everyone else" signals the hideous shallowness, infantilism, and emptiness of the lives lead by all. Scientific "progress" of the type described above just brings us closer to the sort of world where words like "mother" and "father" stand for obsolete social constructs, and mean nothing more than some temporarily significant adult figure in a child's life--if the child is lucky enough to have such a figure, called, most probably, a "parenting partner" to remove any heterocentric notions about who that person ought to be.

We're rapidly on our way toward creating a world where Dr. Frankenstein would feel right at home. Of course, it's entirely possible that the terrible evil of destroying living humans as the mad scientists in the article do for fun would be too much for good Dr. Frankenstein, who had the decency to conduct his experiments on the dead.


LarryD said...

Not only would Dr Frankenstein feel at home, but Dr Moreau as well.

Melanie B said...

"Dr. Frankenstein, who had the decency to conduct his experiments on the dead."

He also had the decency to be horrified at the abomination he'd created, to recognize it as a mockery of life. And Shelly had the decency to recognize the suffering he'd inflicted on that poor innocent soul he'd brought forth in that terrible way and to pity the poor creature.