Stanford professor discusses 'biological equality,' dismantling of sex as primary method of reproduction

Stanford law Prof. Hank Greely said that in-vitro fertilization will allow the elderly, as well as gays and lesbians, to have children.

Greely said the procedure will be responsible for majority of births in developing countries in coming decades.

A Stanford University law professor discussed his vision of a society in which “biological equality”—the ability for gays and lesbians to have children composed of their genetic material—can be met by dismantling sex as the primary method of reproduction.

Professor Hank Greely, Director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences, touted the benefits of in-vitro fertilization [IVF] during his "The End of Sex" talk at Duke University two weeks ago. He sees a possible future for gay and lesbian families by producing gametes from the individuals’ skin cells.

According to The Chronicle, Duke’s official newspaper, Greely explained that “rather than having women undergo numerous harmful procedures—where a small percentage receiving IVF are hospitalized—embryos can be generated directly through adult skin cells using induced pluripotent stem cells”—a technology first reported in 2007, according to the article.

Greely firmly believes the procedure will be responsible for the majority of births in developing countries in the next 20 to 40 years.

The professor noted other benefits, such enabling all women to have a baby, despite current biological restrictions based on age.

“The biological clock could even disappear,” Greely said. “A 70 year old woman could have a child as easily as a [five] year old through the use of their skin cells.”

According to The Chronicle, Greely believes IVF would also allow parents to have limitless knowledge of their child’s genetic make up, including factors such as “early, serious diseases such as Tay-Sachs, to other early onset diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and color-blindness, to cosmetic preferences, behavioral traits such as intelligence, personality and social comfort, to gender.”

Despite Greely’s enthusiasm for the procedure, it is not the be all, end all solution in all areas of science. The professor stressed the genetic engineering of children is not within the premise or capability of the application.

“You are limited by what you bring to the table, or the petri dish in this case,” said Greely. “You’re not going to get superman, you’re going to get slightly healthier kids.”

Greely insists the moral premise of the IVF and whole genome sequencing, is based upon its ability to give just about anyone a child, regardless of age, gender, and innate ability to reproduce.

“We should do what we can to relieve human suffering. And one aspect of human suffering is that there are people who want to have babies who cannot,” professes Greely. “It doesn’t matter if it’s natural at that point or not.”

“So if it’s a question between human suffering on one hand and naturalness on the other hand, then that’s an easy one for me to answer.”

The End of Sex was an event open to Duke students and members of the public.

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