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Formula for Producing Super-Babies


"Super-" is our most hallowed prefix, for it announces the marriage of two qualities that the modern world venerates: new and improved. If we can produce superconductors, fly at supersonic speeds, travel along superhighways, and attend Super-bowl games, why should we not direct our resourcefulness to our offspring and turn them into super-babies?

There are, of course, cautionary voices against taking this additional step. Would it not be a fateful one if it meant surrendering our own progeny to scientific control and at the same time assuming the risk of converting our little children into objects of parental vanity? Caution, however, is a weak voice in the face of science's promise to make another thing new and improved.

The formula for producing super-babies is, supposedly, simple and straightforward give them a booster shot of genetic intelligence. In other words, a super-baby is super-intelligent. Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, and champion of evolution, advanced the notion that intelligence is a human being's most valuable attribute. There is a straight line that leads from this theory of Galton to America's long-standing love affair with the Intelligent Quotient.

William Shockley, known as the father of the transistor and the man who brought silicon to Silicon Valley, gave the notion of the super-baby an important quantum of respectability when he opened a sperm bank in California that was stocked with the spermatozoa of Nobel Prize winners. Shockley, himself a Nobel Laureate, made repeated and highly publicized personal deposits. Individuals with IQs below 100, he once declared, should be paid to undergo voluntary sterilization. Scientifically supervised insemination and sterilization appeared to Shockley as a more sensible way for people to think about their relationship with the next generation than through the haphazard and random method of marital intercourse.

The best of intentions

In 1982, Joyce Kowalski became the first customer at Shockley's Repository for Germinal Choice to bear one of his "Nobel Sperm Bank" babies. In an interview with the National Enquirer, Mr. Kowalski pledged, "We'll begin training Victoria on computers when she's 3, and we'll teach her words and numbers before she can walk."

Whether little Victoria was a super-baby was less in doubt than whether her mom and dad were super-parents. A Newsweek piece (July 26, 1982) revealed that the Kowalskis are convicted federal felons who lost custody of Mrs. Kowalski's two children from a previous marriage after allegations of child abuse. According to Mrs. Kowalski's ex-husband, the Kowalskis beat his children with a strap, sent his son to school in pajamas wearing a sign proclaiming him a bed wetter, and pasted the word "Dummy" on his daughter's forehead. The Kowalskis were parolled from federal prison in 1979 after serving one year for a scam that used records of dead children to secure loans and credit cards.

As a result of the disclosures concerning the Kowalskis' unlawful activities, a spokesman for the Sperm Bank informed the press that the Repository would start asking about criminal records of women who apply for insemination. If the expectations for super-babies are extravagant, then those for their parents should at least require that they not have a criminal record.

It would be an understatement of considerable magnitude to say that the desire for super-babies does not always reflect the best intentions of the parents or represent the best interest of the children. But there is something fundamentally wrong with the way in which the "super-baby" is conventionally understood.

Is intelligence or love the most valuable of all human attributes? Science seems paralyzed at the prospect of improving our capacity to love. Yet love is the attribute that we are most capable of expanding through our own efforts. Our IQ may be relatively fixed, but our capacity to love is not only increasable, it is virtually limitless. The human heart is a mystery and as such, the envy of science. What science cannot control, however, it often shuns.

Did Mother Mary have a super-baby?

"Super-" is our most hallowed prefix, for it announces the marriage of two qualities that the modern world venerates: new and improved. If we can produce superconductors, fly at supersonic speeds, travel along superhighways, and attend Super-bowl games, why should we not direct our resourcefulness to our offspring and turn them into super-babies?

Furthermore, should we expect parents to be able to recognize super-qualities in their super-babies? Albert Einstein was a poor student even by the time he was fourteen. And when he was twenty-six, was working as a clerk in a Swiss patent office. Winston Churchill's father thought his son was hopeless. Beethoven's father, hardly aware of his offspring's prodigious musical talent, would crack his son's hands with a cane whenever young Ludwig made a mistake as his tired fingers raced across the keyboard. The parents of Thomas Aquinas did everything they could think of doing, including imprisoning him and enlisting a prostitute to attempting to seduce him, so that their budding philosophical and theological genius would turn his attentions to more mundane matters.

Can we dare say that Mary, the Mother of God, had a super-baby? It would be a grave mistake to apply the super- prefix, as did Andrew Lloyd Webber in "Jesus Christ Superstar" to the Second Person of the Trinity.

"Superman" is a child's fantasy. The super-baby may be the fantasy of a parent who has not grown up. Christ wants to downplay His supernatural abilities. "Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart" emphasizes His desire to be with rather than above people.

The less society stresses the importance of loving babies, the more it stresses the desire for super-babies. But the supposedly ready-made super-baby negates the most creative role of parents. The best thing that parents can do for their children is to love them and, in so doing, help them to love others in their turn. Intelligence without love, as we all should know by now, is monstrous and calamitous.


Donald DeMarco. "Formula for Producing Super-Babies." Canticle Magazine vol 18.

This article is reprinted with permission from Canticle Magazine .


Donald DeMarco is Professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT and Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo Ontario. He has written hundreds of articles for various scholarly and popular journals, and is the author of twenty books, including The Heart of Virtue, The Many Faces of Virtue, Virtue's Alphabet: From Amiability to Zeal and Architects Of The Culture Of Death. Donald DeMarco is on the Advisory Board of The Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright 2001 Canticle Magazine



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