Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Fall 2020 issue of Eikon.
In his book Begotten or Made?, Oliver O’Donovan sets about excavating the epistemological foundations that undergird the modern conscience. Originally delivered as part of the London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity in 1983, O’Donovan’s book is a response to a government-sponsored inquiry into the social, ethical, and legal questions surrounding the then-burgeoning field of assisted reproductive technology in the United Kingdom.
O’Donovan’s response, however, is more than a theological roadmap through the Wild West of medical bioethics. O’Donovan takes his reader underneath the ethics of reproductive technology and plumbs the depths of the human psyche, pinpointing a structural defect pervasive throughout contemporary ethical reasoning.
For O’Donovan, what underwrites the modern approach to these questions reveals a much wider ethical error: the relatively new penchant for…