Men on a slippery slide in future hermaphrodite worldJulia Medew
Aug. 28, 2008
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ARE men the new endangered species? According to a Melbourne bio-ethicist, they're way up there with pandas and polar bears.
In a speech titled Should human beings have sex?, Dr Robert Sparrow yesterday told the Australian Medical Students Association convention that females could soon rule the world as hermaphrodites without any biological use for men.
With the help of some frozen sperm at first, females could procreate on their own until stem-cell technology meant bone marrow and other human tissue could be converted into sperm, the senior lecturer at Monash University's Centre for Human Bioethics said.
To reach this post-sex world, Dr Sparrow said parents wanting the best for their children should start choosing baby girls through IVF because they live longer and have more opportunities in life.
"There are significant restrictions on the opportunities available to men around gestation, childbirth, and breastfeeding, which will be extremely difficult to overcome via social or technological mechanisms in the foreseeable future. Women also have longer life expectancies than men," he said.
Dr Sparrow said his somewhat "tongue-in-cheek" argument was based on a line of thought about medical ethics that suggests medical technology should be used to serve the welfare of individuals and remove limitations on the opportunities available to them.
"I argue that, if these are our goals, we may do well to move towards a 'post-sex' humanity. Until we have the technology to produce genuine hermaphrodites, the most efficient way to do this is to use sex selection technology to ensure that only girl children are born. Girl babies therefore have a significantly more 'open' future than boy babies," he said.
The argument, Dr Sparrow says, started developing in his mind after the professor of practical ethics at Oxford University, Julian Savulescu, suggested in 2005 that "designer babies" should be created by enhancing their DNA before birth.
When asked if people should act on his suggestion, Dr Sparrow said he didn't expect many people would take up the challenge just yet.
"I don't think we're seriously looking at a world of only girl children just yet, but I do think that when philosophers start talking about using medical technology to achieve things that aren't about health, so increasing people's IQ or life expectancy for example, you have to ask why we shouldn't all be girls," he said.