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Preferring biological children isn’t ‘immoral’

There is nothing progressive about declaring war on the traditional family. Credit: Getty

September 1, 2023 - 4:40pm

Breeding is selfish. Having children who, let’s face it, probably won’t cure cancer but will drain our collective resources is an indulgence. But passing on one’s genes is also the most fundamentally human urge: if it weren’t for our ancestors deciding to do the nasty, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it.

Not so according to Leo Kim, a writer for Wired. In a piece titled “Preferring Biological Children is Immoral”, he argues that wanting a genetic connection to one’s offspring is not just a “vestigial remnant of a different epoch” but also that it is potentially bigoted.

Kim sketches a utopian vision in which parents use technological advances, such as gestational surrogacy, to bring up unrelated children, thereby strengthening bonds across society. Using the example of the Himalayan Na tribe whose members do not have a social category for biological fathers, Kim claims that a preference for genetic relationships reinforces “a dated conception of the family at odds with our hopes for a more inclusive ethics”. This is about as rational as rejecting clocks and calendars because the Amazonian Amondawa tribe has no abstract concept of time.

As with the best bad ideas, the reasoning starts with a laudable appeal to kindness. Kim points out that parents love their adopted children and that, as such, these bonds are possible regardless of provenance. Of course, no one wants to admit an adoptive child isn’t as loved as one who is biologically related. But nature isn’t kind and, like it or not, human beings are a part of nature.

Adoption, sadly, does affect a child’s life chances. Whether this is due to disrupted nature or nurture is unclear, but a report by Adoption UK revealed that adopted children are twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training (NEET) as their peers, while 16% of them have had contact with the criminal justice system and 39% have needed help from mental health services.  Meanwhile, the psychological impact on children born to surrogates is, as yet, largely unknown. Like adoption, though, it is unlikely to be consequence-free.

The instinctive reaction of those who proudly declare themselves progressive is that existing boundaries and bonds deserve to be broken. As Kim argues, “insisting that you’ll only be a parent to a related child will be seen as increasingly reductive and close-minded — a stance at odds with the momentum of our expanding ethics”. But morality does not expand at the same pace as technology.

Ultimately, right and wrong are not relative states. The idea that familial bonds don’t matter can be intellectualised and shaped into a compelling argument but, deep down, at the core of what it is to be human, we know that it is wrong.


Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Does anyone take any of this garbage seriously? Sounds like stream of conscious ramblings of a 21 year old progressive whose life experience consists of boarding school and university.

Graham Bennett
Graham Bennett
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He’s part of a seriously dangerous extremist left-wing ‘progressive’ movement beginning to manifest itself in places like universities, NGOs, and quangos. Whether people take them seriously or not does not concern them. They are concerned with raw power and they are beginning to make inroads in government and other key institions throught lobbying and ‘equality charter’ schemes. Unfortunately, governments, cultural institutions, and big business do take these people seriously – that’s the problem. It won’t be long before parts of the NHS begins to promote Kim’s ideas. Wait and see.

Last edited 10 months ago by Graham Bennett
Alan Gore
Alan Gore
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Wired used to be the go-to general culture magazine covering technological innovation. But now that it has turned off its article reader commentary – always a bad sign – it can push whatever woke ideology it wants and there’s nothing we can say about it.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
10 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

There may be nothing you can say about it, but you can certainly do something about. Don’t go there. Starve them of clicks.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well, you saved me from writing that. What a tool, eh

David Yetter
David Yetter
10 months ago

In answer to the question, “Why is it bigoted to want familial bonds?”: Because accusations of bigotry are one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal of the “woke” who want to destroy all existing and previously existing societies (at least since the rise of agriculture) to create whatever’s the current utopia du jour, and the natural, biological family stands in their way.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

One magical trick in the levelling of the spell is that we are intentionally ignorant of its content.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
10 months ago

“You are bigoted.”
“But why?”
“Because you’re a bigot.”
“How do you know I’m a bigot?”
“Because of what you said.”
“But I didn’t say anything.”
“See? You’re a bigot.”
Repeat until bored.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
10 months ago

My take away, from the article, is the possible conclusion, by Leo Kim, that multi-racial families are just not happening quickly, or wildly, enough for his, and his ilk’s liking and that the next logical step, to speed up the process of “dismantling white homogeny” is to supplant ‘white’ babies, in white families, with babies of a more ‘diverse’ complexion. Which strikes me, as fairly race-ist !

Graham Bennett
Graham Bennett
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

It’s also eugenics, a long discredited concept that we now tend to associate with the fantacies of fascists.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Agreed, however I would add that the author hasn’t experienced any form of parenthood prior to dreaming up his theory of parenthood.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
10 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I wonder what his own mother thinks of this. Mine would have throttled me if I ever came out with such nonsense.

Jim M
Jim M
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Make white people extinct is part of the Marxist progressive project. They could not sell communism to the white working classes of Europe, so the Marxists, being of genocidal disposition, just want to get rid of whites period. Minorities, except asians, are of lower IQ and therefore are more malleable.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
10 months ago

The idea of Leo Kim are obvious nonsense – a complete abstract thought experiment in how a utopian society might look, if only we were free to design people with the right abstract sentiments. From the field of adoption much like the kind of person who convinces himself that he can love any child and bear any kind of difficulty out of pure selflessness, only to find out 1) that he cannot do it in practice, and that fooling yourself is not a solid basis for a relationship with anyone, let alone a child. 2) that children are probably not going to appreciate being dealt with as an exercise in abstract altruism rather than as a real person.

One correction, though. In the real world adopted children have as a minimum a history of having been rejected, and almost always interrupted key relationships, stays in instutitions, if not the experience of deep poverty, dysfunctional homes, or abuse. If adopted children have worse life outcomes it is likely to be because of what happened before the adoption. Indeed one analysis of adoption outcomes concluded that adoption ‘provided remarkable benefit to troubled children – sometimes at immense cost to the adopting family‘. As for the effect of surrogacy on children,it would be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of research.

Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well, one case I personally knew was of three children, from different parents, adopted almost at birth by a prosperous English family. The adopting parents were, from all I could see, decent people, prosperous Home Counties professionals with no skeletons in their closets, but all three children were, in different ways, visibly damaged. All their issues seemed to have to do with affectivity, One of the two sisters had a morbid and excessive obsession with the other, who used it cruelly, becase she had a strong streak of emotional cruelty. As for the brother, I remember him taking no more than two sentences to put my back up, with an insufferably arrogant and pretentious attitude. It was a pity, because both sisters, so far as I could see, were talented and promising. I became convinced that the adoption was a part, though not the whole, of the reason for their various affective flaws.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Using the example of the Himalayan Na tribe whose members do not have a social category for biological fathers

This kind of argument really is a fallacy in search of a name.

Pick some obscure tribe with totally idiosyncratic practices

Ignore all local context which might explain these odd practices

Claim it could be applied in the totally different context of a modern western society

Use it as an argument to support practices which you (personally or politically) favour which may, or may not, have much to do with the practices of the actual tribe

Last edited 10 months ago by David Morley
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
9 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

OH, and don’t check on the reliability of the reports. Margaret Mead convinced two generations of readers of an idea of Samoan society that had nothing to do with reality – if you want to see steam come from a Samoan’s ears, mention Coming of age in Samoa.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
10 months ago

It takes a well educated person to come up with such a stupid idea. Well, not just stupid but really rather cruel.
There is a genuine interest among these people in a year zero; throwing off all our ideas and adopting new ones some smarty pants has come up with. It’s not something I experienced earlier in my life.

Stuart Sutherland
Stuart Sutherland
10 months ago

Well educated? Over educated more like!

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
10 months ago

Well indoctrinated, surely?

David Hewett
David Hewett
10 months ago
Reply to  Russell Sharpe

and totally lacking in any meaningful experience of real life.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hewett

Perhaps these people are aliens who have come to tell us how much better they do it on Planet Melmac.

Bev White
Bev White
10 months ago

Where do all these altruistic gestators come from that are prepared to go through the medical processes of aligning their menstrual cycles, egg harvesting, implantation, pregnancy complications, birth etc to then hand over the resulting child for others to bring up?

Kim’s Brave New World is great for sci-fi and I have no doubt he’ll find supporters among the commercial sector who would be willing to profit from those willing to purchase humans but I can’t see the benefit for the resulting children.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
10 months ago

Preferring biological children isn’t ‘immoral’
I would say that it’s slightly less immoral than expecting strangers to take on the burden of raising your offspring. I mean, these kids have to have parents somewhere. Why don’t they sack up and raise their own damn kids?

David Yetter
David Yetter
10 months ago

Quite right, unless, of course the somewhere that the parents are to be found is the grave or an institution that cares for the severely disabled.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
10 months ago

Yet we must point out that in Socrates’ ideal regime no parent would know the child they conceived. The difference is that Socrates could suggest as much without expecting it to become public policy. The love of the good and the love of one’s own are both carved into every human heart, even if those loves are in tension. The truth is in the tension.

Waffles
Waffles
10 months ago

I thought we had reached Peak Wokeness with “what is a woman” but it seems the question of 2024 will be “what is a daughter?”. When will the insanity end?

Glyn R
Glyn R
10 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Never unless it is stopped.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
10 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

The insanity will end when there are fewer and fewer promoters and more and more people laughing. Then the Great Unwashed will pick up a club and the movement will be no more.

Fabio Paolo Barbieri
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
9 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

It will never end. Bad ideas are a part of the human experience. Didn’t someone upthread mention “Socrates” (in fact, Plato)? That was 2400 years ago.

Matt M
Matt M
10 months ago

Leo Kim just wants to be famous.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
10 months ago

You have to cure cancer to deserve to live..? If you see humans as a drain on resources, how are you progressive? What drives progress but human creativity? Humanity isn’t a mouth to feed, humans are feeders of others. Humanity isn’t the consumer of resources, but the multiplier of it. This whole mess is also profoundly anti science. Values and choices turn on and off genes. You pass on values on both a physical and metaphysical level, leading to generational progress. Your progressive impulse actually leads to chaos.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
10 months ago

It hardly seems worth going to the effort to critique the notion that it is immoral for parents to love their own children more than other people’s. It is an idea as absurd as it is self-defeating.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
10 months ago

Is Leo Kim a NEET?

Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Buckley

I think he is actually a NOB

Glyn R
Glyn R
10 months ago

There appears to be no waking up from this woke cultural nightmare.
I believe i now understand the disquiet of many Germans of the 1930s as they saw the rabid National Socialists not sent packing as they first believed would happen but go from strength to strength and then domination.
The rank smell of cowardice that pervades our mainstream media and government and opposition political parties is palpable as terrified of being denounced as some form of ‘hater’ or other they bend over backwards to humour and enable the very worst excesses of this vile cult.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
10 months ago

Quelle tosh!

Mind you, many parents find that just coz a baby’s theirs, doesn’t make it easy to love them or relate to them.

By the way, we need to talk about Kevin (lol).

Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Have you been stalking my comments?! (joke)

John Tyler
John Tyler
10 months ago

Final paragraph is absolutely spot on.

Harry Child
Harry Child
10 months ago

Having never heard of Leo Kim, I looked him up on Google and got this interesting comment ‘ Kim is a writer based out of New York who spends his time overthinking contemporary media culture.’ Perhaps he should go and live in a Kibbutz in Israel

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
10 months ago

This is akin to the Communist view of human nature, but centering on family life instead of economic life. It replaces a truth of 100,000 years of human existence with the deranged ramblings of a naive contemporary clueless clunk. Parents prefer their own offspring, and will sacrifice for them, not for some person unrelated by blood.

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Thompson
Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
10 months ago

Transhumanism has been a slow tsunami, taking its impetus from birth control. Contraception gave way to mass terminations, and now gender can be surgically altered and now babies engineered in the manner of “Gattaca” and other futurist fiction.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

Many people see postmodernism as a romantic rebellion against reason, or against even the search for truth, and transgenderism as a rebellion against science in particular. But the latter is surely, in addition, a rebellion against nature, because reason is a defining feature of our species. Transhumanism is a rebellion of the same kind, even though it actually glorifies science as its method of leaving behind the human species. And those who focus attention on a need to “save the planet” are even more estranged from nature in one way, because they believe in doing so at almost any cost—including technological policies that would lead to the suffering or even elimination of countless people (who live, of course, within the natural order). In this context, denouncing people for wanting (their own) “biological children” is not merely one more irrational anomaly, among many, but the ultimate confirmation of how far Western societies have already gone in the direction of collective suicide.
 
As it happens, the West’s prevailing ideologies–notably wokism (including the slightly earlier ideologies that wokism has absorbed)—actively foster alienation from nature not only in a physiological sense but also in a temporal sense. The past is now, almost by definition, synonymous with societal, economic, political or even ontological evil. And yet the past, whether understood in mythical or historical terms, has always been intimately linked among humans with both the present (by learning from the past instead of reinventing the wheel over and over again) and the future (by assuming the continuity of new generations). To be alienated from past and future, whether personal or collective, is therefore to be alienated from a characteristic feature of being human. 

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
10 months ago

Leo Kim sounds like what you get when you take a not very bright person, give them many years of bad education, tell them they are wonderful, and send them out into the world.
In the immortal words of the California man trying to get a meal at Fawlty Towers, “What a bunch of crap!”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIVGX-IkVy8

Tim Parker
Tim Parker
9 months ago

I think the writer was going for shock value with the title of his essay.

j watson
j watson
10 months ago

As someone with biological and adopted children I read this with added interest and also the Wire article that prompted it.
I couldn’t find where the Wire Author used ‘bigoted’. And although I didn’t agree with large parts of that Article I did v much agree with one of the last statements ; ‘…<we> come to realize that our relations with each other are not defined by our rudimentary, mechanistic desire to pass on our genes, but rather our capacity for love and care’. I think that’s completely true but can take a lifetime to fully grasp.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I get your sentiment, but:

<we> come to realize that our relations with each other are not defined by our rudimentary, mechanistic desire to pass on our genes, but rather our capacity for love and care’. 

is not true (or even false) it’s simply a piece of crude and loaded rhetoric setting rudimentary and mechanistic against love and care.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes, we are living in a world where natural processes and relationships are being problematized in order to implement a statist agenda. I fear the big struggle for the 21st century will be about bodily autonomy – both of children and adults.