The latest episode of the Mere Fidelity podcast has just gone online. This week Matt, Derek, and I discuss the final chapter of Oliver O’Donovan’s Begotten or Made? Among other issues, we address the ways in which we should approach such questions as IVF, contraception, and even owning a TV, in a manner that attends to the moral significance of discrete acts, but also recognizes the way that they fit into our larger cultural picture. We begin with the following quotation from O’Donovan:
It may, of course, be wondered whether such subtleties are beyond the understanding of most couples who participate in the IVF programme, and whether such a practice can only have the effect of enforcing the widespread view of procreation as a project of the will.
It may even be thought that the cultural influence of the practice is likely to be so bad that IVF should be discouraged for that reason alone. To such a suggestion perhaps we are in no position to put up a strong resistance. After all, the experience with contraception makes it highly plausible. It is possible that a wise society would understand IVF as a temptation; it is possible that a strong-willed society would resolve to put such a temptation aside.
But this takes us beyond the scope of our fairy-tale, in which no cultural consequences need be feared. These cultural questions are different from the question of whether there is something intrinsically disordered about IVF… And to that question we have not found reason (speaking simply, of course, of IVF as practised by fairy-godmothers in fairy-tales) to return a negative answer.
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