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Custom bank withdrawals

Posted by Evan Hughes  February 20, 2007 08:11 AM

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An article in Sunday's Times is in one sense simply a report on a competitive market wherein competitors are fighting to provide what customers want. It's about the sperm donation industry, in which women now "want proof of perfection before buying a dream donor's sperm." Personality tests, voice audio files, SAT scores, not only baby and adult pictures but teenage ones (eek) -- you name it. "Intelligent, tall, and interested in music" no longer cuts it.

There is something uncomfortable about this, since it represents an attempt, clearly, to control nature, to see to it that you get a designer baby for your money. But the underlying assumption is that biology to a great degree governs human development. The article implies that one prolific donor would not be in business, so to speak, if buyers knew he was living in an RV, eking out a living from odd jobs (including sperm donation). As if genetics made him do it.

One remark from the blog Half Sigma, which calls itself "Neither Republican, Democratic, nor Libertarian":

I think this is highly ironic, because somehow one suspects that the women who use the services of sperm banks voted for John Kerry in the last election. Under normal circumstances, they'd agree with the following statement: "The Bell Curve is racist pseudo-science proven wrong by experts." But these same women become True Believers in The Bell Curve and eugenics when it comes to selecting genes for their own children.

That comparison is not quite well thought-out, but the writer is in the close neighborhood of a good point.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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