Friday, June 16, 2006

And now that I've actually watched it ...

Well, it passed the time while I was doing the ironing. I watched the Horizon programme about the sperm bank.

The bank was started by Robert Graham to collect the germinal material of Nobel prize winners, scientists, artists ... all kinds of intelligent and successful people. He suffered a setback when the frankly barking and objectionable eugenicist (and inventor of the transistor) William Shockley came out in support of him, but otherwise did pretty well.

Ben says: it follows that if a successful, wealthy, white collar AB couple are unable to have children on their own, so resort to outsourcing, then they will want kids that are as close to what their own children would have been as possible - hence, will want the sperm of a successful, wealthy, white collar AB male. So, no argument there. (First parenthesis: I couldn't help noticing there were no black donors shown ... but that might be more a reflection on the US in the 70s and 80s when the sperm was collected. I honestly don't know if there were black American Nobel prize winners then, or have been since. A topic for later research.) (Second parenthesis: I can understand the parents' motivation, I can't understand the donors'. I can't see how anyone would want to let complete strangers have their kids without their knowledge.)

However, Graham's basic concept was surely flawed. Someone once suggested to Einstein that he should always carry a notebook so he could record his good ideas. He replied: "oh, I very rarely have any good ideas." Yes, the good ideas that he had changed the entire face of science and the world around him, but they were few and far between. So, chances of a kid from the bank coming up with a revolutionary theory about the time/space continuum ... quite slim.

Every one of the bank's children spoken to - four or five out of over 200, so, okay, not representative - agreed that even though they've done pretty well in life so far, and their DNA will have played a part in that, they owe just as much to the fact that they were raised in a loving and nurturing environment by stable, level headed parents. And indeed, Graham only ever sold the goods to couples from a well to do, secure and steady background. Which might raise the question - could he have done just as much good, if not more, by pouring his money and his considerable enthusiasm and energy into more socially useful programmes aimed at bettering conditions generally?

Funniest bit: the aforementioned Professor Jim Bidlack demonstrating the best way to masturbate in a motel bathroom ... at least, if you want to preserve the product for future use. Quite a big if. It reminded me of when US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign after suggesting that the subject should be covered in the school curriculum, and some wag remarked that only Americans would need lessons.

1 comment:

  1. What about the eggs of successful, wealthy, white collar AB females? The Nobel website says there have been 83 female laureates. Admittedly, they are likely to be over the age of prime egg ripeness by the time they get round to being top of the world in something, and the process is more complicated than a motel bathroom and a jazz mag, and, er, yes, why would they want to. Hmm, I seem to have argued my point out of existence.


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