Artificial Wombs and the Abolition of Woman

A post of mine has just been published over on the Gospel Coalition website. Within it I discuss the developing technology of artificial wombs and some of the reasons why we might be concerned about their long term potential.

It’s important both to consider that ectogenesis would represented a critical step in the shift from begetting children to making them, and that we are already some way down this path on account of our cultural acceptance and normalization of contraception, abortion, IVF, and same-sex marriage. With each step, the associated logic carries greater power. For instance, natural sexual relations, conception, and gestation—within the context of a committed relationship—aren’t merely something we do in light of our beliefs about the humanity of the unborn. They are also means by which we perceive that humanity in the first place. The more that embryos are produced outside the intimacy of the woman’s body and outside the context of a loving interpersonal act only indirectly aimed at the end of procreation, the easier it is to view the embryo as mere biological material to be treated accordingly.

As I’ve maintained elsewhere, progressivism is transhumanist in its logic and fundamentally conflicts with nature. As the technology catches up, and its logic further leavens the social imaginary, we should expect progressivist ideology to yield ever more intimate assaults on human nature itself.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Science, Sex and Sexuality, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Artificial Wombs and the Abolition of Woman

  1. Geoff says:

    What an excellent full article on TGC site.
    In the light of your last article it is interesting to note that the Lamb fetus photo is not present in the TGC version. Why have you included it here.? The full essay is robust and will upset many steadfast in their ideologies. But no doubt they will pick and chose points to futher their pre-existing stance. In my view the lamb fetus photo adds a repugnant poignancy absent from TGC.
    You have not held back, but are you freer here, less concerned about what people may think of you, than on TGC? Yes, it may have been a TGC editorial decision to omit, or an after thought by you, to included it here. You obviously don’t have to answer this.

    • The lamb fetus image was found in the article I linked to in the original post. I chose the original video included in the TGC post to highlight the intended end of providing for premature infants, moving the post in the direction of my analysis. I chose the video for this post to introduce the news story that prompted the article in the first place.

      I have never had to be reserved in the content of any of my TGC articles, although there are certain more controversial issues that I tend to prefer to keep to my own blog or to blogs like Mere Orthodoxy, where the site is more geared towards argued opinions than direct Christian teaching. For instance, my post on social sensitivity really wouldn’t belong on a site such as TGC: it is designed to advance a more personal opinion and to provoke conversation.

  2. quinnjones2 says:

    Alastair, your article is brilliant! It is very thought-provoking and you envisage very real possibilities of the effects on men, women, children and society if human embryos are ever gestated in artificial wombs. I cannot begin to do justice to your article in a comment here, but I will comment on an aspect of your third point in your section entitled ‘Seven Dangers of Ectogenesis’. You wrote: ‘Ectogenesis …is…divorced from the context of a relational bond. ‘ It certainly is.
    An unborn child in a mother’s womb can hear the sounds in the external environment. Significantly an unborn child can hear the voices of both mother and father and of other people who are in regular contact with the couple. These voices become familiar to the unborn child and, when the child is born, he/she is born not into a strange world, but into a familiar world – into a family.
    An unborn child just does not belong in a plastic bag in a laboratory!!
    Christine

  3. Physiocrat1 says:

    You note that artificial wombs could lead to same-sex relationships becoming more normalised however it could do the opposite. If homosexuality is partially genetic and in particular realised by particular hormone shots whilst in the womb (I don’t remember who theorised that), it could be abolished. Although we could end up with the bizarre situation where you can control the eye colour, sex etc of the child but it would be illegal to choose for your child to be heterosexual.

    • I see two possibilities here. First, like abortion, same-sex relationships might be made obsolete (through the control of the environment of the womb), while their fundamental logic is victorious and absolute. Second, as reproductive technology renders relationship form a matter of indifference, as we can produce gametes from somatic cells and sex is no longer the normal way to make babies, homosexuality will, along with sex and race, be a protected characteristic in the realm of child production. Rather than allow the ‘cultural genocide’ of abolishing the gay community, government will be pressured purposefully to maintain a gay population and perhaps increase its numbers in the general population. Or parents might intentionally select gay children to signal their social justice or perhaps also because gay children are less sexually different more generally.

  4. A Pilgrim says:

    I’m a simple guy. Given that I think most of what you present as possible is almost certain to come about, I really don’t think we should pursue this and similar technologies. Is that your position, or would you say pursue them, but keep the risks in mind?

    • I think we should establish some very strong legal restrictions on their use, but should research technologies to help premature infants. Unfortunately, I am almost certain that we won’t place such strong restrictions, as progressive values will naturally move us in a transhumanist direction.

  5. Eric says:

    Just a brief point but one that is often ignored in debates of this sort – we don’t ask the question ‘What would it be like to grow up knowing oneself to have been so ‘made” Like the children of divorce, and latterly those brought up by parents of the same gender, children are required to carry an extra burden in regard to ‘accepting a narrative thrust upon them’. In the first two, already becoming part of our societies, the child is required to agree to some or other narrative for the good of the happiness of those who bring them up. In the case you outline here, it pushes that narrative even further. (Of course we must also I think acknowledge that the shift to a consumer attitude with regard to children in implicit in the normalisation of contraception? ) Whilst this acceptance of parental narratives, has always of course been the case to a degree (no child grows up in separation from parental hopes and dreams), in all three eventualities listed here, to my mind it takes a more deterministic twist. Person as pure object.

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