Beauty and the breed

Culture | A sign that civilization is ova? Genetic engineering, e-commerce promote the survival of the prettiest

Issue: "Ken Starr: An honest cop," Nov. 13, 1999

In 1980, a California company started a "Nobel sperm bank," which sold sperm of Nobel Prize winners to help women give artificially inseminated birth to smart babies. Today the scientists with their genius IQs are getting sand kicked into their faces around the old gene pool by those same beautiful people who tormented them back in high school. The latest thing in eugenics is to breed for beauty, not brains. Ron Harris-fashion photographer, producer of exercise videos, director for Playboy TV, and, significantly, a horse breeder-has launched a website to allow people to bid for the eggs of beautiful models. The website ( shows the photographs of four glamorous women who are selling their ova to the highest bidder. The minimum bid is $15,000. Reportedly, he already has a bid for $42,000. (The usual price paid through infertility clinics is $2,500-$3,000.) The idea is that these eggs could be fertilized and planted in the womb of a woman-who is either infertile or, presumably, not so beautiful-as a way of breeding good-looking children. In addition, Mr. Harris plans down the road to sell the sperm of male models, with bids starting at $10,000. It would thus be possible for couples to purchase both male and female genetic material to breed a really good-looking child, who would, however, have no biological connection to them. Mr. Harris says, "It's the butterfly that's the prettiest that gets the guys." He maintains that society's obsession with good looks is part of evolution, which favors fitness and good health. Attractive people are more popular and more successful in life. "And of course we all want what is best for ... our children." Nevermind that, biologically, they would be the models' children. Already, sex has been divorced from procreation. Technology tries to prevent sex from resulting in pregnancy. At the same time, technology seeks to apply genetic engineering to perfect procreation, which takes place in a petri dish. The website gives us a glimpse of a brave new world, in which the masses are allowed to have children, but "reproduction" is reserved for a chosen few. This will not be a matter of coercion, but of consumer choice, as parents shop for the features they want in a child, like picking out the colors and options when buying a new car. And what about parents who prefer their child to be not so much smart or good-looking, but just good? If they listen to sociobiologists, who are portraying good and evil as a matter of genetic determinism, we will see a "Christian" site, from those whose theology teaches them to follow every cultural trend. Genes from good, nice, and godly people will be for sale. The ancient practice of venerating the body parts of saints will have a new application. The biblical genealogies will acquire new theological significance. The Bible teaches that all have inherited original sin, through the seed of Adam. Salvation comes not through genetic evolution but through Jesus Christ, who "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). Mr. Harris's website, however, demonstrates that genetic engineering will quickly become inseparable from eugenics, commercialism, and the skin-deep superficiality of popular culture.

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Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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