Discover more from Brave New Us: Catholic Bioethics
Huxley's Brave New World Is Here
How should Christians to respond in these dark and distressing times?
The family has been dismantled, monogamy is reviled, and promiscuity is the norm. Parents are obsolete; the government indoctrinates and raises our children, and keeps the population subdued through widespread state-sanctioned drug use. Reproduction has moved to the laboratory: new generations are genetically engineered into varying social classes and industrially grown. It might be the plot of a dystopian novel, but in the nearly 100 years since the publication of Brave New World, the details of Aldous Huxley’s dystopia have inched their way out of the realm of science fiction and into our headlines.
The Road to Human Manufacturing
While this description might appear to resemble a dystopian warning more than an accurate description of the society we inhabit today, a constellation of recent developments in medical research and technology has shocking implications: the science fiction of large-scale human manufacturing is a theoretical and potentially imminent possibility.
As to objections that sheer repugnance at the idea of laboratory grown children will be enough to deter any impetus in that direction, consider the ways in which the fertility industry has already reshaped our ideas of human reproduction. Big Tech and other corporations encourage women to freeze their eggs, putting motherhood on ice (a move heartily endorsed by the fertility industry on whom this “choice” renders them dependent). Women worldwide are being used as human incubators, the bonds and significance of gestational motherhood reduced to functions of capitalism or even erased. Despite exorbitant costs, abysmal success rates, and heartbreaking cases gone wrong, IVF is growing in popularity, and with it comes widespread societal acceptance of the idea that the realm of the genesis of new human life is somewhere other than the loving embrace of a mother and father.
Meanwhile, scientific developments are converging to make lab-grown children a reality. Researchers continue to grow embryos in the lab for experimentation, even creating their own “embryo-like” entities. The International Society for Stem Cell Research recently relaxed its 14-day limit on the growth of human embryos, a limit researchers and worldwide legislation have recognized since 1979. Although federal funding for this type of research continues to be prohibited in the United States, research in the private sector is unregulated.
Biden’s reversal of the Trump-era ban on fetal tissue research in early 2021 has widespread implications. As the medical interventions developed by means of this research expand beyond vaccines, people of faith will find themselves grappling with the dilemma of cooperation with evil in the treatment of eye diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more. We are headed for a darker fate than Huxley’s genetically-tiered society in which the “have nots” merely found themselves relegated to service positions. In this scenario, the “haves” benefit not from the fruits of labor developed on the backs of the “have nots,” but rather through the experimentation on and destruction of the bodies of the vulnerable and unwanted of our society.
Of course, if we decided to mimic Huxley’s genetically-tiered society, the scientific potential to create and manufacture a servant class is also within reach. Artificial wombs and in-vitro gametogenesis (laboratory creation of eggs and sperm) are in experimental development.
With the development of the genetic-editing technology CRISPR, “designer babies” have already been born. While it seems more likely that this technology will be employed by parents seeking to perfect their offspring than by governments seeking to restructure society, the fact is that all of these possibilities merit robust ethical discussion in advance of their implementation. Unfortunately, whatever humility and caution may be exercised by the scientific community at large, there are always individuals whose ambition drives them to define progress solely in terms of achieving new developments with little regard for whether those developments truly signify advancement for the human community.
The cultural groundwork has been laid, and the scientific infrastructure has reached the experimental stages. How many generations can we possibly be from arguments that removing gestation from the women’s wombs is the “safe” and “responsible” option?
Dismantling the Family
The answer might be fewer than we’d like to believe. Our culture already denies the unique contributions of motherhood and fatherhood, and the concept of the family as a community of love is being further undermined. Apps such as Modamily seek to apply the matchmaking prowess of dating apps to help singles select “parenting partners,” creating alternative arrangements to the traditional family that suit the lifestyles of these individuals. Promiscuity has become a cultural value. Mainstream media questions even maligns monogamy and women are being sold the lie that contraception is a human right, the implication being that sexual intercourse is a vital part of any adult woman’s life regardless of marital status.
Huxley’s vision of a world of promiscuity in which the state replaces the family in the raising and educating of children might not be so far off. The public school systems of some states have long touted sex education programs as necessary, even going so far as to promote sexual activity within the curriculum by offering explicit descriptions of masturbation to fifth graders and passing out condoms to elementary-aged students.
State of Indoctrination
After COVID lockdowns provided parents with deeper insight into what their children have been learning in classrooms, many parents have become concerned about the social values and principles being promoted by the public education system. As the state exercises increasing control over the education of our children and continues to prohibit discussion of religiously-based values, children in the public school system become recipients of an ideological indoctrination with values that, if not explicitly religious in themselves, reach levels of religious fervor flavored by the secular orthodoxy rather than theological principles. Meanwhile, parents find the realm of their authority shrinking as schools encourage social gender transition for students not only without parental permission, but intentionally withholding the information for the “protection” of their own children.
Our already alarming levels of distraction, alienation from one another, and complacency only stand to increase in the next several years. With billions of dollars being poured into creation of the “Metaverse” (which will undoubtedly support a new pornographic experience not unlike Huxley’s characterization of the “feelies”) looming on the horizon and the fast-spreading use of Soma-like drugs such as CBD, the potential for widespread cultural reflection on the kind of society we create by their implementation is already diminished.
The Christian Imagination
Under the crushing weight of each new distressing headline in the culture war, it can be difficult to believe Christ’s promise: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matt. 11:30). With conservative and Christian voices being silenced, deplatformed, and losing their livelihoods in a kind of postmodern martyrdom, that burden appears a growing crescendo. How are Christians to remain hopeful when the light at the end of our tunnel seems to grow ever more distant and dim? Does dystopia have anything to offer us, or is it merely synonymous with doomsday?
While a dystopian outlook can serve as a useful warning, the Christian imagination offers a far more lasting and valuable alternative. Dystopia paints a fictitious picture of a world absent the things that make human life worth living; the good news of Christ is the reality of his Kingdom is already here.
The Resurrection is not a pithy consolation prize or distant symbol of hope to be realized only at the end of Christian life. The reality that Christ has conquered death and lives in us is a present reality. We can bemoan the signs of the times with heavy hearts, and there is much in our society to lament, but our call is to be an Easter people, as Pope John Paul II reminded us in the midst of the Cold War:
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection.
We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song! We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the “fundamental duty of love of neighbour, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy. We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.’
The state of our world is not something to bemoan or escape from; it is the ground on which our own Fiat takes form. The Almighty Creator of the universe has chosen and called each of us to serve Him in these particular circumstances. The world we live in is begging for our prophetic response. If there was ever a time to rise up and proclaim that Christ is King, this is it.