Anorak | IVF: An Elton John study in conformism that goes against human nature

IVF: An Elton John study in conformism that goes against human nature

by | 17th, March 2015

 Louise BROWN, born at Oldham Hospital near Manchester, Great Britain, is the result of the IN VITRO fertilization of her mother. The biologist Robert Edwards holds the baby beside the midwife and the surgeon Patrick STEPTOE, on July 25, 1978. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)


How does an orthodoxy take hold? When designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana shared their views on love, sex, romance, gay marriage, children, IVF babies and children of same-sex couples the media and celebrity voices united in condeming them, siding with Elton John, who expressed his displeasure with a shrill call to boycott the brand.

The Daily Mirror  has carried this news on its front page:

“Elton – I will never wear Dolce & Gabbana again after they dared call my kids synthetic”

Elton, who with his husband David Furnish is father to IVF-conceived sons Elijah and Zach, appeared over two more pages. It was “Elton’s fury” at an “astonishing attack”.

Elton said: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic?”

But they were synthesized? This is how the BBC explains IVF to GCSE students:

If a couple are having difficulty conceiving a child because the quantity or quality of the man’s sperm is poor then IVF can be used. This is where the egg is fertilised outside the woman’s body and then implanted back into her uterus. As FSH can also be used to encourage the production of several mature eggs at once, it is used as part of IVF to increase the number of eggs available for fertilisation.

Some people worry about the ethical implications of IVF. They are concerned that couples may want ‘designer babies’ with ‘desirable’ qualities, so may only want certain fertilised eggs. For example, they may want a girl if they have lots of boys in the family, or they may wish to avoid producing a baby with an inherited defect.

Elton goes on:

And shame on you for wagging your judgemental fingers at IVF… a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people both stright and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again.  #BoycottDolceGabbana.

At which point anyone not laughing or thinking Chris Morris was writing the news should dash out and buy armfuls of D&G schmutters. Do they do a kids’ range? If they do, buy that, too. Elton John wants people who are judgemental banned. And irony of irony many voices on Twitter, that paragon of intolerance and incoherence, agree.

It’s a good time now to see what Dolce and Gabbana actually said. They were talking with Italian magazine Panorama . Via Google translate the conversation’s choice cuts are these:

What is family for Dolce & Gabbana?
Gabbana: … the family is not a fad. It is a sense of the supernatural… you are born and you have a father and a mother. Or at least it should be so, why do not convince me what I call the children of chemistry, synthetic children. Wombs for rent, seeds selected from a catalog. And then go on to explain to these children who the mother is. But she would agree to be the daughter of chemistry? Procreate must be an act of love, now even psychiatrists are prepared to deal with the effects of these experiments.

You wanted to be fathers?
G . Yes, I am a son I would do it. D . I’m gay, I cannot have a child. I believe that we can not have everything in life… It is also good to deprive yourself of something. Life has its natural course, there are things that must not be changed. And one of these is the family.

You have many women who work for you and say that you are among the few in the environment to support them between children and career.
G . If I could, I would build a kindergarten in the company. We always joyfully accepted the pregnancies of our collaborators and noticed how some had so much love for their work to return even after a week. But this is a country doomed to fail if they do not change certain laws: women on the one hand complain about a disparity, but the other may be absent from the office for up to three years for a maternity leave and then come back and expect the same assignment before. In Hong Kong, a woman has to take his place 15 days after birth. Perhaps it is too little, but three years is madness.

You would have married if possible?
G . No, never. How can I swear to love and be faithful to one person forever? I never believed in marriage heterosexual or homosexual. It’s a promise you can not keep.

As you imagine, in thirty years?

…“You are born to a mother and a father—or at least that’s how it should be,” Dolce added… “I call children of chemistry synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

Archaic. Weird? Out of step with the times?

Are we living in the age of intolerance, where debate is shut down by louder, trendier voices and the consensus throttles free speech? If we are, then be afraid.  Any orthodoxy scared of challenge a dogma lacking the confidence to defend itself in reasoned argument – has serious problems. Beware the censors.

Again we’ll turn to the BBC, the State broadcaster is as close as any media to being the voice of the nation. In an online story entitled “I wish IVF had never been invented”, the BBC looked at the words of Lisa Jardine, then chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

She talked of how the birth of the first “test tube baby”, Louise Brown, in Oldham in 1978, did not end ethical, legal and moral issues around IVF.  She considered how the procedure came to be so regulated. She said of the  The Warnock Report  written by Mary Warnock now Baroness Warnock:

The task of the committee had been “to examine the social, ethical and legal implications of recent, and potential developments in the field of human assisted reproduction”.

The report highlighted the “special status” of the human embryo, and proposed the establishment of a regulator. The legislation derived from the report continues to govern In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in the UK 30 years later under that regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA.

Warnock’s report is one of most sensible and sensitive articles of legislation on the books. The Forward  is a masterpiece:

1. Our Inquiry was set up to examine, among other things, the ethical implications of new developments in the field. In common usage, the word “ethical” is not absolutely unambiguous. It is often used in the context, for example, of medical or legal ethics, to refer to professionally acceptable practice.

We were obliged to interpret the concept of ethics in a less restricted way. We had to direct our attention not only to future practice and possible legislation, but to the principles on which such practices and such legislation would rest.

2. Members of the Inquiry were reluctant to appear to dictate on matters of morals to the public at large. They were also keenly aware that no expression of their own feelings would be a credible basis for recommendations, even if they all felt exactly alike . As our reading of the evidence showed us, feelings among the public at large run very high in these matters; feelings are also very diverse; and moral indignation, or acute uneasiness, may often take the place of argument. But that moral conclusions cannot be separated from moral feelings does not entail that there is no such thing as moral reasoning. Reason and sentiment are not opposed to each other in this field . If, as we believe, it was our task to attempt to discover the public good, in the widest sense, and to make recommendations in the light of that, then we had, in the words of one philosopher, to adopt “a steady and general point of view”. So, to this end, we have attempted in what follows to argue in favour of those positions which we have adopted, and to give due weight to counter-arguments, where they exist.

3. Our emphasis on the arguments may make it appear that there was a uniformity of approach and moral feeling in the Inquiry. The reality however has been that our personal feelings and reactions have been as diverse as those presented in the evidence. Some members have a clear perception of the family and its role within society; in considering the various techniques before us their focus has been on the primacy of the interests of the child, and on upholding family values. Other members have felt equally strongly about the rights of the individual within society. Whatever our original feelings and reactions, we have all found that our feelings changed and were modified as work progressed and as we examined the evidence in more  detail. This has been a further reason for basing our views on argument rather than sentiment, though we have necessarily been mindful of the truth that matters of ultimate value are not susceptible of proof.

4. A strict utilitarian would suppose that, given certain procedures, it would be possible to calculate their benefits and their costs. Future advantages, therapeutic or scientific, should be weighed against present and future harm. However, even if such a calculation were possible, it could not provide

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Posted: 17th, March 2015 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink