We hear about this sort of thing in movies or on television, but could science and technology actually replace nature? In her book Like a Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning the Rules of Sex, Aarathi Prasad claims that science has become so advanced that it’s changing the rules of sex and reproduction. Below are some interesting arguments Prasad makes that may have you rethinking the family dynamic.
Advances in science and technology, Prasad claims, could change the relationship between men and women and how we think about roles in the family. Can a woman fertilize herself and have a baby on her own? Can a man carry a baby to term? Can there be such a thing as an artificial uterus so that a woman can avoid pregnancy altogether?
No need for sex
The U.K.’s The Guardian recently conducted an interview with Prasad, in which she said her book stems from her own wish to have a large family. After having only one daughter before her relationship with her child’s father ended, Prasad feared her goal to have a large family may never be realized, especially because her mother had experienced early menopause.
In her interview and her book, Prasad discusses the fascinating possibility of using one’s own stem cells for reproduction. Studies done on animals have shown that bone marrow from a female could potentially be used to generate healthy eggs for reproduction. Bone marrow from men could generate sperm and eggs since they have both X and Y chromosomes, while women have only two X chromosomes. On the other hand, manipulating DNA could also mean that babies could be created without fathers.
Creating an artificial womb to carry an embryo to birth is something that is being tested in the U.S. and Japan. Hung-Ching Liu, a reproductive researcher, claims her final goal is to make a child in the laboratory. In her book, Prasad notes that Liu has already grown the lining of a human womb. Of course, growing a fetus for more than 14 days in the lab is strictly prohibited.
Prasad is sure this technological possibility will eventually be realized. This could mean gay couples could have their own children, men and women could be single parents, and women could have children at any age since their eggs could be developed from stem cells and the embryo grown outside the body. Gender roles could also be turned upside down, as men and women could have equal parenting roles from the very beginning of a new life.
Revolutionary or unethical?
While this technology has potential to do extraordinary things, might we have gone too far? Would someone actually want to produce offspring on their own with their own DNA? Prasad told The Guardian, “It might sound weird, but is it? I think the real question is, is the baby going to be healthy? If the answer to that is yes, and the mother is able to look after it, then who are we to say?”
Technological limitations aside, regulations and ethical concerns arising from these scientific advances will likely mean that artificial wombs and reproduction via stem cells may be delayed, if ever realized. Prasad is insistent, though, that human use of artificial wombs will be realized within the next 40 years.
Can infertility be a problem of the past? Could sex be replaced by technology?