British biologist Robert G. Edwards won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Medicine for developing the technique of in vitro fertilization. Beginning in 1978, some 4 million children were born who were conceived outside the womb.
Robert G. Edwards’s breakthrough development of in vitro fertilization, which led to the birth of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978, gave humanity the power to do what previously was considered the province of God: create and manipulate human life.
In the ensuing decades, the pioneering techniques that won the British biologist a Nobel Prize on Monday have played a part in controversial scientific advances such as cloning and the creation of human embryonic stem cells while redefining fundamental social roles such as what it means to be a parent or a family.
“The impact on society has been profound,” said Lori B. Andrews of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, who studies reproductive technologies. “The creation of a child outside the body for the first time has had scientific and personal implications far, far beyond the 4 million children who have been born through in vitro fertilization.”
With birth control technology, people can have sex without procreation. With in vitro technology, people can have procreation without sex. Does this render the family technologically obsolete? With no necessary natural function, is it reduced to just a companionship group?
Mental experiment: An artificial womb is invented. Will women still want to go through pregnancy and labor? (Would you?) Or will society take advantage of the opportunity to manufacture whatever children are needed and no more? Would we still take care of them in family units, or would this task fall to a state institution? Or would everything just go along as it does today, with marriage and parenthood, but without the unpleasantness of childbearing?