Diana Fleischman: Are Designer Babies The Future?

Evolutionary psychologist Diana Fleischman discusses IVF, artificial genetic selection, and her unique take on the Ethan Hawke/Uma Thurman movie, Gattaca.


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Are embryos people? And are there downsides to designer babies?

Earlier this year, Alabama's Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision declaring that frozen embryos should be treated as children, and therefore their destruction treated legally as wrongful deaths, leaving in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics with a big problem. Less than a month later, the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed into law a bill protecting access to IVF treatment in the state. As Reason reported at the time, the court ruling had "caused near-immediate chaos, with three IVF providers in the state shutting down operations." Widespread backlash ensued, including from conservatives like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who told CNN, "We want to make it easier for people to be able to have babies, not…make it harder….And the IVF process is a way of giving life to even more babies."

Today's guest is not only pro-IVF as an infertility treatment but also as a way for parents to select desirable genetic traits for their offspring. Diana Fleischman is an evolutionary psychologist, a regular host of The Aporia Podcast, and creator of the Dissentient Substack.  

Watch the full conversation on Reason's YouTube channel or the Just Asking Questions podcast feed on AppleSpotify, or your preferred podcatcher.

Sources referenced in this conversation:

  1. "Alabama Governor Signs Bill Protecting IVF Treatments," by Emma Camp
  2. Alabama Supreme Court Ruling
  3. Polygenic Embryo Screening: High Approval Despite Substantial Concerns from the U.S. Public, published in medRxiv
  4. Boston Globe article on "the manosphere"
  5. Gattaca
  6. Diana Fleischman: Does Evolutionary Psychology Really Cause Mass Shootings?
  7. "Embryo Selection: Toward a healthier society," by Diana Fleischman, Ives Parr, Jonathan Anomaly, and Laurent Tellier


  1. 00:00 Introduction
  2. 01:59 Are Embryos People? Exploring Sentience and Moral Value
  3. 04:40 Sentience and Utilitarianism: A Deep Dive
  4. 09:28 The Wisdom of Repugnance and Moral Disgust
  5. 14:55 The Alabama Case: Legal and Moral Implications
  6. 21:10 Designer Babies and Genetic Screening
  7. 23:36 Gattaca and the Ethics of Genetic Engineering
  8. 28:08 Public Opinion on Polygenic Embryo Screening
  9. 38:22 Catholic Objections
  10. 41:21 Ethical Dilemmas in Genetic Selection
  11. 45:17 Religious Perspectives on Genetic Engineering
  12. 46:58 The Future of Reproduction and Society
  13. 52:54 Personal Reflections on Parenthood and Genetics
  14. 01:08:12 Defending Evolutionary Psychology
  15. 01:12:51 Final Question