Public discourse in recent weeks has increasingly focused on the “dangers of AI.” All sorts of leaders speak of the “risks” AI could pose.
I have to say, I’m glad people have caught up to me. I’ve been warning against AI for years. Sometimes, I even felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. (I’m glad my parents named me John.)
Except we’re talking about two different AIs. They’re talking about artificial intelligence. I’m talking about artificial insemination.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
For those interested enough to know where ideas come from, artificial insemination (AI, as I will hereafter use it) came from animal husbandry: how to improve your livestock.
Eventually, AI became a discreet workaround for sufficiently endowed (financially, at least) men with low or no fertility. Back then, nobody discussed those problems. Viagra didn’t come by mail, and erectile dysfunction ads did not populate prime-time programming.
The government was also in on the big secret. Many states enacted paternity laws presuming that a child conceived within marriage was the husband’s unless he actively disputed paternity. Men who resorted to artificial insemination by donor (AID) didn’t.
That governmental “presumption” will be important, as we shall see.
In the 1960s, when Cahal Daly (Morals, Law, and Life) was writing about AI, he pointed out the social injustice of governmental complicity in lying in its official documents (birth certificates) about parentage. Back then, when very few resorted to AI and nobody cared about children’s rights, his objections were dismissed by a kind of pragmatic wink-and-nod: this is a small problem for a few, poor men, so, get over it.
Well, Dorothy, we’re not in the 1960s anymore.
Far more men today suffer from low-to-no fertility, low sperm motility, impotence, low testosterone levels, and numerous other complications preventing them from being fathers. (Parallel phenomena can be found among women.)
We’re eight years after the Obergefell decision inventing same-sex “marriage.” Obergefell was argued on the basis that marriage and procreation had no necessary connection; hence, sexual differentiation was not essential to marriage. We’re in “Pride” month, a sexual ethic that necessarily denies any essential nexus between sex and procreation.
In the years since Obergefell, same-sex “marriages” have increasingly claimed that the “rights and privileges” of marriage extend to childbearing. Inasmuch as same-sex “marriages” are inherently sterile, realizing any “right” to childbearing necessarily entails artificial methods of reproduction, including AI.
When Indiana refused to list the second partner of a lesbian “marriage” as a “parent,” maintaining that she had no biological relationship to the child and should instead adopt the child, a federal court struck down the Hoosier State. It ordered it to lie on its birth certificate and certify parentage devoid of any biological foundation by applying the old AI “presumption” law: if the couple is in a valid marriage and the other “spouse” claims parentage, the Constitution supposedly requires recording the claim, notwithstanding its evident biological impossibility.
A 2017 U.S. Supreme Court, with Anthony Kennedy still on it, reached similar conclusions in Pavan et al. v. Smith. As one contemporaneous commentator noted, the information on an Arkansas birth certificate isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
Expect in the years ahead a concerted effort to redefine parenthood independent of biological relationships. We live in a gnostic world where thinking, not blood and water, makes it so. Don’t be surprised if parenthood “the old-fashioned way” will be denigrated as unconstitutionally “privileged” in law. Expect in the years ahead a concerted effort to redefine parenthood independent of biological relationships. We live in a gnostic world where thinking, not blood and water, makes it so.Tweet This
So, what are the dangers of AI? At least two:
First, its destruction of fatherhood. Unlike women, whose bodily investment in procreation is physically and temporally extensive (at least until artificial incubators replace gestational wombs for rent), men are absolutely necessary only to contribute a gamete. As the essential item is the gamete, not the man, fatherhood rapidly shrinks from personhood to functionality. Bottom line: paternity degenerates into a commodity obtainable by masturbation. Is that what we celebrated on Father’s Day?
Second, its social injustice. AI establishes relationships based on lies. Traditionally, AI children were often not told of their real paternity, and woe when that lineage was discovered accidentally. Human experience tells us that adoptive children search for their “real” parents. Are those children mistaken in their definition of “real,” or is this another instance of a society demanding children adjust their natural expectations to adult desiderata, what former Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit pejoratively called the “parental project”?
With the spread of AI (if reproductive technologies must be universally available to accommodate all modern concepts of “marriage”), how does one protect children against unknowing entry into incestuous relationships? What psychological games will need to be played to discover that “expert medical opinion” finds children have no need to connect to their biological sires, even the simple health and genetic heritage they inherit notwithstanding? And is society to lie by pretending paternity-by-intention trumps paternity-by-biology? Or is our definition of the modern “family” to become so expansive as to be meaningless?
We are on the cusp of a brave new world, a world in no small measure facilitated by some version of AI. We must not allow political correctness to silence discussion of it.