The Future of the Family: Fruit or Product?

The metaphor of “bearing fruit” indicates something different than the mere production of something. “Production” is a manufacturing metaphor, but “fruit” is a metaphor taken from the world of living things.

Life has been traditionally defined as anything having a principle of growth, motion, and reproduction originating from within itself. That “vital force” is intrinsic, it comes from within, not from outside from some extrinsic force. It is from this unique kind of growth and movement found in the plant world that we get the metaphor “organic”. Something grows organically if it grows naturally from within, if it assimilates things into itself and where everything new that comes about is related to what came before.

When living things like plants and flowers bloom, we call it fruit.

But the way we bring things into being through our technology is much different. It is not organic. The process is something we have put together, it is not found within the materials that we use. It’s not the nature of silicon to act as a circuit board, we have to make it function that way. It is the nature of a cherry tree to grow cherries.

Life, and therefore fruit, is after all our technological progress, still a mystery. Even more mysterious is the nature of love, which involves freedom, knowledge, and choice. Love doesn’t produce things, it doesn’t make things, it bears fruit. “Love is diffusive of itself” the philosophers say.

Which metaphor is closest to the way the natural family comes into existence, the metaphor of fruit or the metaphor of manufacturing, technology, and production? Today, we can take the genetic material from two unrelated people, hire a surrogate mother, and give the resulting baby via adoption to gay men or women, and call that a family. Someday in the future, I’m sure we will have the technology to “grow” babies in artificial wombs. Then the government itself could regulate the population and could be called with even greater literalness a nanny state, raising its own children under the watchful eye of government employed “parents”, and this too would probably be called a family.

But how would this compare to the natural family? Is the manner in which these families come about organic? How does the unity of the natural family compare with the unity of a family thrown together through law and technology?

Would these families be equal, or would one be the mockery of the other?

Can technology reproduce the natural family? Can the natural family be “produced”?

Can technology replicate an act of love by human beings?

Comments

  1. Todd :

    Wow.

    There is a lot to think about here and more than enough fodder for a good night at pub with deep thinking friends.

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