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If I have a child now, then it will have a substantially lower quality of life than a different child conceived when I am 25. Therefore, I’ll wait for a decade and create a better-off child instead. This is an instance of selective reproduction: choosing an apparently better off possible future child over one that would be less well off. Interestingly, there is very widespread agreement that this sort of selective reproduction (avoiding teenage pregnancy through abstinence or contraception) is not merely morally unproblematic, but to be encouraged.

 

Another kind of ‘low tech’ selective reproduction is where a woman chooses a sperm donor with certain desirable characteristics (or indeed chooses to have sex with such a man) in the hope that his advantageous features will be passed on to her children. A good example of this is the renowned Repository for Germinal Choice. This was set up during the 1980s and dubbed the ‘Nobel Prize Sperm Bank’ because it was thought to contain several Nobel Prize winners’ sperm. Similarly, in 1996, The Times reported that a sperm bank had been established for ‘members of MENSA who wish to help create a master breed of super-intellectuals’ (Rogers, 1996). Members of MENSA, ‘The High IQ Society’, are required to have ‘an IQ in the top 2%’ (MENSA, no date). In this section, I briefly explain two important distinctions.

 

First, ‘selective reproduction’ can cover both choices between different possible future children and decisions about how many children to have (if any). Choices of the latter kind have been termed different number (because we are choosing between one number of children and another) while those of the former kind are called same number (because we are choosing not how many but rather which possible future children to create).