Sex and Sexual Reproduction: What's Morality Got to Do with It?

Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics
Over a year ago

Harvard bioethicist Glenn Cohen knows in his gut that sex and sexual reproduction are areas of human life that involve moral dilemmas. But when it comes to resolving those dilemmas and taking action, he recognizes the need to "go beyond the gut."

The impulses we feel toward issues of sexual reproduction—whether it's abortion, sperm donation, or surrogacy—are undeniable. The true reasons we feel one way or another, however, can be complex, and not immediately available to ourselves, even if we perform introspection. Here Cohen discusses human reproduction, and the difference between our current moral concerns, and what kinds of concerns we may have in the future, mainly resulting from technological innovation.

Should a mother or father be able to select an intelligent sperm or egg donor for their future children? If so, why not allow parents to genetically improve the intelligence of their unborn children? We feel a distinction between natural methods and contrived methods in our gut, but what do those feelings really come down to? Are they just feelings? Is that a good enough defense of moral reasoning?

Cohen describes the hoops that ethicists jump through to determine the difference between right and wrong, or least understand why we feel certain behaviors to be right, and other to be wrong. Crucial to many disagreements over morality is the question of human agency. Explore that topic, and many others, with the fascinating and articulate Professor Cohen.

Glenn Cohen's book is Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law, and Ethics.