Human creativity is amazing

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Humans are amazing creators. Examples of this are all around us in art, music, literature, and in the everyday stuff of our lives that we take for granted.

Computers, cell phones, microwaves, and even huge, high definition televisions are all examples of human creativity. We like dreaming big, imagining what might be possible.

Of course, we also question most everything and often fear the changes we manage to create with our big dreaming. (On a personal note, some of stuff we’ve come up with might need rethinking, like computer viruses, campaign ads and weapons of mass destruction, but that is strictly my opinion.)

This week the Nobel Prize went to a man who dared to dream of creating life outside the body. That sounds scary when put like that, but call it by a name we now recognize, in vitro fertilization, and most of the fear goes away.

However, when Robert G. Edwards, an English biologist, and a physician colleague, Dr. Patrick Steptoe, developed the in vitro fertilization procedure for treating human infertility, it set off a firestorm of attacks from the press, from prominent Nobel laureates and from the pope. There was outrage and charges of playing God, but the two weathered the storm.

As a result, humanity witnessed the birth of the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, on July 25, 1978. A story in the New York Times describes the reactions to that birth.

“Though in vitro fertilization is now widely accepted, the birth of the first test tube baby was greeted with intense concern that the moral order was being subverted by unnatural intervention in the mysterious process of creating a human being.”

It’s funny how progress moves in stages from fear and outrage to finally acceptance. That is pretty much what happened with in vitro fertilization.

Interestingly, I wrote a story about the first baby in these parts born as a result of this leap ahead in the treatment of infertility. That was back in the late 1980s and I’ll never forget the joy on the faces of those parents as they held their new baby. How she got here mattered not one bit to them. They were simply happy to have a baby to love.

Recently, one of my daughter’s best friends and her husband celebrated the birth of twins thanks to this procedure, something they describe as no less than a miracle.

Coming face-to-face with the living, breathing results of in vitro fertilization and seeing the love it brought to these couples’ lives has a way of erasing all the arguments, at least it does for me.

Sadly, Dr. Steptoe died in 1988 and so he won’t share in the Nobel Prize. Even Dr. Edwards, who is 85, is, as the Times story said, “…not in a position to understand the honor he has received today,” said Dr. Michael Macnamee, director of the Bourn Hall clinic and a longtime colleague of Dr. Edwards. “He remembers the past very well, but not the present.”

So, the men who created something that changed the lives of so many people will never realize this recognition, but four million people, including the young woman about whom I wrote that story in the 80s and two toddlers born to my daughter’s friend, are alive today because humans dreamed about what might be possible, and dared to create.

Now that is what I call truly amazing.