Science gained tremendous regard in the last few hundred years because the knowledge thereby gained allowed us to improve the lot of the human race in ways few would have ever conceived in all of previous human history. But a hubris has crept in — the mad scientist syndrome, if you will — that sees the method as enabling an anything goes agenda in which the only limitations are those placed on scientists by themselves.
It has also become a front for radical ideology. As in the call by one scientist to use our growing prowess in the field of reproduction to open the door to procreative anarchy. From the Daily Mail story:
Like so many scientists, Aarathi Prasad believes long-held taboos and traditions should be cast aside in the name of progress. She wants us to drop all our prejudices about sex, sexual difference, reproduction and foetuses, and to allow science to develop in any way it chooses. ‘Why can’t a man be a mother?’ she asks. ‘Why do we care so much about what it means to be a ‘mother’ rather than to be a ‘parent’? By all reasonable estimates, in the near future we will conquer the tyranny of the womb. The question remains if we can also conquer the tyranny of human prejudice, too.’
Of course, she is being contentious so that her spirited book will sell. But Prasad is not a neutral research scientist: she is an out-an-out liberal campaigner in favour of taking research on human embryology and fertilisation as far as it will go. In her vision of the world, it is only fuddy-duddies who would question why anyone — elderly women, men, you name it — should not become pregnant if they choose to indulge the whim.
Prasad is not the first to make such arguments. Joseph Fletcher, for example, called for implanting wombs in men so they could gestate and give birth way back in the 1980s.
Still, such arguments — even if just to sell books — are playing with fire. Prasad’s advocacy sees science in the service of the atomized individual. But the family is the fundamental unit of society. Weaken it, and you harm the whole as well as its constituent parts, e.g., our capacity for connubial attachment — which requires thinking in the plural first person rather than the singular — and the welfare of children, etc. There are — still — important purpose for “normal” in family life and, within broad parameters, adhering to biologically-determined gender roles.
Science advocates who worry about the public’s loss of respect and trust in the sector, please take notice.