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What’s Missing From Conversations About Designer Babies

If we worry too much about genetic inequality, we risk overlooking all the inequality that is already here.

What if Blue Ivy were your very own? Or Suri Cruise? A fetching little Prince George in your fresh-painted nursery! In “Daffodil’s Baby,” Alyssa Virker taps into the deep fear and fascination we have with eugenic inequality, focusing on a particularly mesmerizing aspect of it: our obsession with children of the famous and talented.

The modern eugenics movement was born when Francis Galton mapped the close genetic connections between the most “eminent” men of England for his 1869 book Hereditary Genius. Ever since then, eugenicists have been scheming up ways to save society by getting the “best” among us to have more children.

And ever since then, those same eugenicists have been fretting that the rest of us—the pig-brained masses—have the wrong idea of who the “best” people are. In the 1930s, one Nobel laureate was certain that mass artificial insemination could ensure that every baby would be a Newton or Leonardo, but worried that, left to their own whims, women would pick celebrities as their sperm donors, leaving us with a trivial society of “Valentinos, Jack Dempseys, Babe Ruths, and even Al Capones.” Hello, Daffodil and Breadbowl!

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