It’s “Brave New World,” “The Matrix,” “Gattaca” and “Attack of the Clones” all rolled up into one dystopian nightmare.
On Friday, Berlin-based biotechnologist Hashem Al-Ghaili released a video debuting his concept for EctoLife, “the world’s first artificial womb facility.”
The computer-animated video shows rows of pods (the proposed facility can grow 30,000 babies at a time) while a narrator assures us that the incubators are far more hygienic than a human womb. If this all sounds too impersonal, don’t worry. You can use an app to view a livestream of baby’s development and talk to Junior through your phone speaker. For an extra fee, they’ll even let you genetically engineer the lil’ guy.
This facility must never be built.
In his 1922 book “Eugenics And Other Evils,” G.K. Chesterton describes a class of “idealists” who believe progress will never cross the line into dystopia. They themselves might insist on certain constraints, but they mistakenly assume they can “be responsible for a whole movement after it has left their hands.”
Such people, Chesterton writes, “do not understand the nature of a law any more than the nature of a dog. If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours.”
A hundred years later, this same error crops up again and again in debates about bioethical issues.
Sensible, empathetic arguments carry each new innovation into the public consciousness. We need abortion for 10-year-old rape victims and women facing life-threatening complications. We need physician-assisted suicide for terminal cancer patients in excruciating pain. We need surrogacy for couples who are tragically unable to bear their own children. We need gender-affirming care because dysphoric people will kill themselves otherwise.
EctoLife’s version of this is that we need artificial wombs because 300,000 women die every year from pregnancy complications. This is absurd on its face. 94 percent of those deaths take place in impoverished areas, and baby pods would be, at least for the foreseeable future, exclusively a plaything of the rich. For some reason, they don’t bother pursuing the far more compelling idea of using artificial wombs to save babies born prematurely (probably because it would be less lucrative and has a clear limiting principle).
EctoLife also suggests that the proposed facility could produce children for women who’ve undergone hysterectomies due to cancer. As we’ll see, though, the purpose of such justifications is merely to get a foot in the door. After that, like Chesterton’s dog, the technology pursues its own agenda. (RELATED: Gizmodo Attacks Artificial Womb Technology, Claims It Threatens Women’s Rights)
Soon the limits implied in those early arguments are gone. The United States permits hundreds of thousands of purely elective abortions each year. Canada euthanizes impoverished pensioners and traumatized veterans. Commercial surrogacy turns thousands of poor Ukrainian women into meat incubators for rich Western Europeans who’d rather skip the stretch marks and morning sickness. Confused children are fast-tracked into cross-sex hormones and sex-change surgeries in a system that increasingly views medical barriers to such treatments as bigoted.
It’s no accident that these practices smashed through all the guardrails. It was inevitable. Because behind all the sob stories lies a single unstated premise: “Existence precedes essence.”
The phrase originated in 1945 with French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and means simply that there is no such thing as “human nature.” There is no binding set of instructions — divine or natural — for how to be human. We make it up as we go along. We claim an us-given right not only to do what we want with our bodies, but to augment and alter them as we see fit.
Previous generations of scientists took it as given that human females carry and give birth to children. They used their skills to help mothers have safer pregnancies and healthier infants. To modern scientists, it’s a mere accident (or even a blunder) that women have babies the way they do. A sane, humble doctor will fix your broken arm. A forward-thinking doctor will saw off your un-broken arm or sew a third one between your shoulder blades.
The motives that led us to remake humanity may have been noble, but once we started down that path, there was no way to stop. Abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy, and transgenderism could all be considered tentative first steps. The ability to grow a child from conception to birth in some warehouse would be one giant leap.
Not for mankind, though. We’d need a new name. We’d have become something else entirely.
Grayson Quay is an editor at the Daily Caller.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.