Resisting Sparrow's Sexy Reductio : Selection Principles and the Social Good

American Journal of Bioethics 10 (7):16-18 (2010)
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Principles of procreative beneficence (PPBs) hold that parents have good reasons to select the child with the best life prospects. Sparrow (2010) claims that PPBs imply that we should select only female children, unlesswe attach normative significance to “normal” human capacities. We argue that this claim fails on both empirical and logical grounds. Empirically, Sparrow’s argument for greater female wellbeing rests on a selective reading of the evidence and the incorrect assumption that an advantage for females would persist even when a serious gender imbalance is obtained. Logically, PPBs cite only pro tanto reasons and allow that the good of an individual child could be outweighed by other morally relevant considerations, such as those which take collectively suboptimal outcomes into account. There is thus no need to attach value to the “normal.”

Author Profiles

Simon Rippon
Central European University
Thomas Douglas
University of Oxford
Katrien Devolder
Oxford University
2 more


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