I don't quite understand what the obsession with modifying the human creature is. It comes in various kinds, but particularly among those who spend much of their day sitting in front of a computer, the future is imagined to be one in which the old flesh and bones will be significantly improved. We'll upload our brains into vast cyber networks, or we'll have implanted computers that will allow us to google obsessively everything we see, or we'll reproduce only via in vitro fertilization and artificial wombs.
Yesterday, I had someone suggest to me that Aldus Huxley's Brave New World provided a good template for how we could soon be liberated from the tyranny of reproducing. He later followed up with, "So what's the problem with cloning or in vitro fertilization? Why is humanity condemned to reproducing itself the same way hamsters reproduce, even though we have the intellect and resulting technology to do it otherwise, if so desired?"
I don't want to claim that MrsDarwin and I are some sort of sexual superheroes, our experiences far beyond that of the common man, but I have to say that getting children the traditional way is not so bad. The hamster is a lowly creature, and I'm not sure to what extent he enjoys his little roll in the wood shavings, but the mere fact that as humans we have sex according to roughly the same mechanics as all other mammals doesn't strike me as being a reason to abandon the practice.
There's a strong Gnostic streak in modernity and futurism. It seems odd that in a culture which constantly attacks Christianity for having too dour a view of sexuality, sex itself is so often scorned -- even by its advocates. I was struck by this when, months ago, I was arguing with someone who described herself as "sex positive" and who insisted that sex wasn't the sort of thing it was possible to have moral rules about, because anything done by consenting adults was just a means to pleasure and fun.
One of the ways she expressed this, however, was, "I can't imagine that God cares what we do with our dangly bits."
Now, I've been around the block enough times to know that there's an element of absurdity in sexuality. The gap between how we think of ourselves and what we look like is doubtless large. But I think it's indicative that, in the attempt to make the case that all things are lawful when it comes to sex, the approach taken is to make it sounds like our sexual organs are some kind of deformity too trivial to have any moral implications.
Whatever the mild absurdities which come from the physicality of sex, it's actually an important and beautiful thing. It's a way that spouses express their love for each other. It's the way that new human beings are created. And human beings are pretty amazing things. Creating them is of no mean import.
Sure, we can imagine high tech and expensive ways of conceiving a child in a lab rather than through a man and a woman having sex. But think about the amount of work, money and sterility that's necessary in order to achieve the same effect that two teenagers in a meadow can without even thinking about it. Dystopian or utopian, reproducing via methods other than sex is always going to be a first world problem. The fact is: the human organism comes equipped to reproduce itself, and the process is not only very pleasurable in parts, it's fundamental to who we are.
So while futurists will continue to dream of not having to have sex in order to make babies, or getting rid of that pesky human experience of maternal attachment and love, these things are so natural and so basic to what we are, they will never go away. Nor should they.