In Heinlein's METHUSELAH'S CHILDREN, well-meaning, godlike aliens on a colony planet redesign the DNA of a human embryo to produce what they consider improvements, such as replacing fingers with tentacles; Lazarus Long's people react with horror instead of gratitude and hastily leave that world. Recently on Quora, someone posted a question about what changes you would make to improve the human reproductive process, if you had that power. Some suggestions offered were: give women the ability to end a pregnancy at will (maybe by resorbing the embryo, like rabbits) or pause a pregnancy in suspended animation until convenient, like kangaroos; separate the sexual function from the excretory function (presumably referring to males—the idea of placing those organs in completely different parts of the body goes way beyond tweaking with the human blueprint to making our anatomy downright alien); getting rid of menstrual periods (only a few mammals menstruate, so why can't we simply absorb the excess uterine lining the way other females apparently do?); allow people to transfer the embryo to the father, like seahorses.
Some changes I would wish for in an ideal world: Not only for pregnancy, but for human comfort in general, it would be nice if evolution had done a more efficient job of transforming us from quadrupeds to bipeds. Imperfect adaptation to walking upright leaves us subject to many uncomfortable conditions such as back, joint, and foot pains, hernias, and organ prolapse. For reproduction in particular, voluntary control of the process would solve many problems. Suppose women could ovulate or suppress ovulation at will? And if conditions of the pregnancy or the environment turned unfavorable, in this scenario they could resorb the embryo by an act of will, as mentioned above. It would also be convenient if men could produce erections, or suppress them, at will. For both sexes, a lot of anxiety would disappear if we could simply decide to have orgasms when desired. I'd like to have labor pains reduced to mild cramps, just enough discomfort to alert the woman that she's in labor. Why does dilation of the cervix have to hurt so much? At the actual delivery phase, a sensation of slight pressure would be enough to tell her to start pushing.
That last request might be impossible without a total restructuring of the human body, because of the compromises we already make between the sizes of the baby's head and the mother's pelvis. But, again, in an ideal world where we have voluntary control over physical processes and sensations, we could mentally suppress most of the discomfort associated with pushing out a full-term infant. Those compromises make another possible wish, that babies not be born so helpless, out of the question. Human intelligence means our offspring have large brains and large skulls, and the human female's pelvis can't grow much bigger while still allowing her to walk upright. That's why human babies are born so undeveloped; the size and lifespan of our species would lead us to expect our infants to stay in utero about twice as long as they do. In effect, a newborn baby is an extra-uterine fetus.
Given absolute power to alter human anatomy and physiology, what improvements would you make to the reproductive process? Or any of our physical attributes?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Post a Comment