“Are you my mummy?”*: Diverse notions of “motherhood” in the IVF era

Back in autumn 2017, I was asked to be a contributor at the Edinburgh Biomedical Ethics Film Festival on the Ethics of Surrogacy. As part of the weekend we watched the 2016 documentary Future Baby, and the 1990 film version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

It was during my preparation for that event that I found myself ruminating on the diverse tasks that constitute being a mother. The anniversary of IVF brings this back into my thoughts.

There are, in essence, three contributions that a mother would naturally make:

  • producing the egg which provides half of the chromosomes for the resulting child (plus nutrients and some other genetic material via the mitochondria),
  • offering the womb in which the baby will develop (whilst receiving both nutrition and epigenetic influence on gene expression), and
  • caring for the infant after birth, and as they grow on to eventually attain their own independence.
motherhood too

Motherhood can now be subdivided into different roles (cartoon inspired by Morparia original)

These phases could be summarised as the genetic, the gestational and the nurturing dimensions of motherhood (the term “social” is sometimes used in the literature to cover this third category, but I prefer to the notion of nurture). Continue reading

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Cybermen and Transhumanism

There has been some controversy in the last 24 hours about the early release by Amazon of the much anticipated Grand Theft Auto V. In a less newsworthy, but personally more exciting, way I also seem to have been the beneficiary of a premature dispatch by the online retailer. Yesterday I received a pre-ordered copy of New Dimensions of Doctor Who: Adventures in Space, Time and Television: Exploring Space, Time and Television even though it is not officially released until the end of the month.

New Dimensions of Doctor Who is one of several titles due out as the 50th anniversary of the iconic TV series approaches

New Dimensions of Doctor Who is one of several titles due out as the 50th anniversary of the iconic TV series approaches

The book includes a chapter The Cybermen and Human.2 written with my former research assistant Bonnie Green. The first version of the chapter was written some while back, so I am delighted that it has finally seen the light of day. In the chapter we reflect on the Cybermen as upgraded versions of humans, and therefore how, within this speculative fiction, they can serve as examples for consideration with regard to the views of transhumanists who are in favour of directed evolution of Homo sapiens beyond our natural capabilities.

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