Welcome, welcome, welcome to armchair expert experts on expert Dove Shepherd, and I'm joined by Monica Foxman, the Fox Higgins's Dove Fox is our guest and we've both incorporated some of his name now.
I love my part. Monica Foxman is a great name.
Really good, really strong. And Dov Shepperd's really good. Not as good as Donald Fox Foxwell. Don Fox is a professor of law and a Herzog endowed scholar at the University of San Diego Law School, where he directs the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard College, Yale Law School and the University of Oxford, where he received a doctorate in political philosophy. He has a new book, Birth Rights and Wrongs How Medicine and Technology Are Remaking Reproduction and the Law.
Now, this is a juicy ass episode because it's about this crazy story. Donor nine six two three, which he has a podcast entitled Donor nine six two three, which everyone should listen to. It's so fascinating about these people who got sperm, basically, and it was not the sperm they thought they were going to get.
It's a really interesting thought provoking topic.
It really is. And just to say, Audible just named it the number one podcast and submitted it for a Pulitzer.
So it's a damn good podcast. Everyone should check it out. Donor nine, six to three, please enjoy Donald Fox. We are supported by la la la la la Bumba.
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He's adoption's. How are you doing? Good, how are you? Such a big fan. Oh, get on that. Impossible to believe my self-esteem will not permit this compliment to make a case, though.
Make a case. Tell us why you love Monica. You can just keep it to Monica now.
She's true. Oh, there's no bullshit. Whether you were a guest tells it like it is.
I'll tell you what, she's not as a yes woman.
She is a no woman, not a housewife. Proudly, proudly. First of all, you're in a closet. What a privileged point of view we have of your life, because you can really learn a lot about someone from, of course, their closet.
Although now I'm starting to think maybe it's your wife's closet. Is it a shared closet?
Yeah, shared closet. But you got a division about right now because at first I was like, oh, I see. Maybe your dress shirt hanging and was like, well, those are definitely women's boots and that's definitely a women's pair of athletic footwear then I would say definitely.
Well, it's a beautiful white Nike with a peach swoosh. It's pretty.
I don't mean to profile, but let's just say this. I've got to bet my family's life on it one way or another. I'm definitely going. That's a female trainer.
When robbers get me set up in here, I hear them outside the room he announced to his first grade class, My daddy's in the closet.
And that's fantastic. Dove, you were born in Israel.
At what age did you make your way over here? I was three. And did you move in with Grandma and grandpa?
Yeah, my folks were American and they had gone to Israel. They try to make Aliya with the idea that they would immigrate there and didn't work out. My dad was pretty scary when he was around. And then he left and my mom brought me and my younger brothers to move in with my grandparents. And my grandparents were in Connecticut. So that's where I grew up. And that was an amazing house. My grandfather was a World War Two veteran.
He was a Navy lieutenant with underwater demolition team in the Pacific. Oh. And came back on the GI Bill, went to law school and then did a lot of pro bono work. So my earliest memories are holding his hand, walking around the supermarket and people just thanking him for the work he had done for them. Oh, man. Yeah, he and my grandmother had this incredible sense of gratitude and service. Is that generation?
Well, we probably grew up in the Depression or shortly thereafter. Yeah. Yeah. And then it was just the greatest generation.
We have a lot of similarities, it sounds like, because my father split at three and then I spent generally the summers with my papa Bob, who to this day is the best human being I've ever met in my life.
He was just this gentle giant that took such good care of my brother and I. And, yeah, he's probably my favorite male relationship I've ever had.
Whoa. So can I ask, have you talked to your kids about your dad? Our youngest just asked the other day about, you know, they got two grandmas and one grandpa. And what about your dad? I don't know what to say.
Well, I think this is where we do differ is that your father was straight out of the picture. Yeah. And remains out of the picture. So my dad was around. You know, he's supposed to have us every other weekend. He was an alcoholic. He did get sober when I was 13, 14. And then he got more involved for sure. But the every other weekend was really one week in a month. And he drove us straight to my Papa Bob and grandmas, which again, was fine by me because I loved it over there.
So but he did die right before my eldest was born. So there are a lot of questions about who he is. It's a great situation for me to go, like, what story do I want to pass on? Because I have a woe is me self-pity story about him. But there's also a story where he was incredibly loving and affectionate and I think was doing the best he could.
And I'm trying to come to terms with that, but mostly just serving my ego. I want them to know I'm doing a much better job than my dad did with me. I think that's probably my real motivation in all those conversations.
Can you relate at all to that? Oh, yeah.
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
So do you say, oh, you know, your grandpa was confused and had some struggles and some issues and he probably did the best he could and did a bad job. Or do you go you know, your grandfather was a piece of shit. Let's get this out on the table.
It's hard because if I'm channeling my inner Monica, I want to be really honest and straight with them, you know, and I don't want them to grow up with these secrets or these lies or just, you know, it's kind of like half truths, because I always thought about my relationship to him and his presence or absence in my life as my story and part of my identity. But now when you have kids, it's like it's theirs, too.
But then I do worry that. You know, the full truth at this age, our youngest just turned for our oldest is six, you know, could leave them feeling insecure or maybe like, well, could that happen to me, you know, like you said. So I want to leave them feeling like I said, it's like that's not going to happen to you, you know, like I'm here to stay.
Well, first of all, we have the exact same gap and same years. We're just one year ahead of you and both. And I've taken the path of I'm an alcoholic. Your grandfather was an alcoholic. There's a genetic component. There's a trauma nurture component. Like I go straight at it personally, for whatever reason, I tell him I was molested. I tell him every I just tell him everything. You're kidding? No. How did he do that?
That's heavy stuff for a kid that age. You know, they just deal with it like always.
My fear of how it'll go is either they're not even that interested, which is probably the majority of the time. But, you know, I'm regularly saying to them, you know, an adult should never have their privates out in front of you. You should never have yours. A doll ever wants to see your privates. That's a no go. If they tell you that they're going to kill me, don't worry. I can kill anyone. You know, I go through the whole shebang, and quite often they're just like, oh, OK, wow, I'm impressed.
It gives me more confidence in what they can handle to make me feel like I'm baby. I'm a little bit. Yeah. I mean, like I didn't know, you know, like when kids in cages, you know, and like they notice it, like me and their mom were stressed out, you know. Yeah. We didn't feel comfortable going there. I just don't want to, you know, just kind of explain like the world people are complicated and like the world can just suck sometimes.
Yeah. I don't know. I want to preserve a little sense of that, like fantasy happy land for at least a couple of years. But there was a recent occasion to let go with the idea like, I'm Superman. You know, one of the things I did know about my dad that I got was like ferocious bedwetting, like like my bar mitzvah and like, OK, don't be worried about that. I had it's OK, you know.
I think they feel vulnerable and scared about all the many things they'll have to eventually learn how to do. And I try not to give a list to them of my accomplishments, rather all the ways I failed at that age and how scared I was because they already see somebody who seems to be fearless. So I don't feel like I really need to tell them, you know, this is how you end up going to UCLA or this is how you blank like they already kind of think I'm that.
So I think the most comforting thing is like I wet the bed. I was scared and I used to ride my bicycle in circles because I didn't like the violence that was going on in my house. I found a way to escape. I was uncomfortable with my Christian friends, prayed at the table, and I didn't know what was going on. You know, I take that approach. I guess it's kind of probably an AA approach, huh?
All right. Might be time.
Well, each kid is different, too, so it isn't totally like, you know, I have no advice. I'm only saying what we do and it could totally backfire.
So we both had these single mom supermoms. Yeah. Yeah. But that's funny. My mom definitely did not hold anything back. Like she was like total. I heard everything. We didn't have a TV in our house, but we used to go to movies and she was totally fine with anything. We got to see, you know, I movie from a young age. And I it was that was a lot of learning.
Do you think maybe for our moms there was a sense of like, there's not a man here and the man, at least back then, is kind of in charge of telling the kids about the rough and tumble nature of life and death threats. And you got to learn to protect yourself and all that. And I wonder if some of these single moms are just like, well, shit, I got to tell them about the world. Like, I can't pull any punches because there's no one else here.
I can't just be solely nurturer. I've got to do it all.
I think so. I mean, things were a little different in my house. So my grandparents were amazing. But my family was in a car accident. It was Martin Luther King Day when I was in fifth grade and they were killed. One of my brothers had a traumatic brain injury and my other brother and I were knocked around pretty good and left my mom on her own without her parents and with a lot of medical bills. You know, there was no child support ever health insurance for my dad.
So she had to work three jobs pretty consistently and could only be home for a few hours at night. And I was the oldest and took that responsibility pretty seriously. I've listened to enough armchair episodes to know that that was you, too. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Time to be an adult. Yeah. So, you know, getting them up and out to school in the morning and in back home and helping them with therapy and homework and dishes and laundry meals and talking to them at night and leaving my mom and note.
So it was that sense of you know, here's the world kind can take responsibility and I have trust and faith in you to grow up quickly, be an adult. But I think it was more through just having that trust, leaving us alone, kind of, you know, me being in charge and you grow up quicker. I mean, that gave me a real sense of purpose in my life. Like I knew what I was for.
Yeah. Yeah. And it's also it's so. Confidence inducing, right, like you're actually handling things that, you know are supposed to be the domain of adults and really, again, there's some downsides, obviously. I think those are well documented. But the upsides are that and I'm wondering if when you took your first child home from the hospital, if your wife was much more nervous than you were. Ha, I think that's probably right, but maybe for a different reason.
Well, maybe not. I think it's just I have a real healthy self-esteem. There's no business having it right.
You're the best guy. Yeah, but I just kind of have, like, a silly sense, like, you know, maybe that's right. And maybe it does come from like a place when you're little, like, you know, kind of overcame a lot of adversity or you learn to abide it. And like now this stuff that you see, like, doesn't seem as heroin. Yeah.
I think I've so many of our friends have talked about the moment they put the baby in the car and you leave the hospital and they have this feeling like I cannot believe you guys are going to trust us to handle this. But I was like, oh, I changed diapers, cloth diapers with safety pins when I was six and a half. It was so nerve racking. I was so afraid to stab my sister. I was just like, oh, God, I did this at six and a half.
I'm quite certain I can do it at thirty eight with much better diaper technology.
Yeah. You know, I remember going to college and having like a little bit of an identity crisis because I had come from that place where home was everything and I knew exactly what I was doing and what my purpose was. And then it was like, whoa, now it's just me. And and I remember scaring away that early girlfriend because I just really wanted to have kids, like, I wanted to, like, form a new family. Yeah.
Like uncomfortably early age. We didn't really know. It didn't make sense to be thinking or talking about that. But and I think it was just kind of I wanted that back.
Well, you kind of had like reverse empty nest syndrome. Instead of them going away. You went away. Yeah. Inverted empty nest. I think you're right. And by the time, you know, the kids did come, it's like Manch been waiting for this now. Yeah, got it. I felt the same way and obviously was assuaged of that misconception.
Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. I guess I underestimated how much my mother was involved because I was like, oh no one comes in here to tap me out. OK, totally.
Now speaking of your school experience, you were quite successful. Monica's going to love these accolades.
So a Rhodes Scholar, we our list grows. Yeah.
It's also a feather in the cap to us that we have had so many Rhodes Scholar. I'm going to draft on your accomplish. We're going to make it. Ah. So it's now a shared accomplishment. So you studied at Oxford and then after that you went to Yale Law School, you became the editor of the Yale Law Journal.
And I thought I really, really wanted to do is follow in my grandfather's footsteps. And he was a trial lawyer and did a lot of civil rights work. And then I was really fortunate for a couple of years to go to Oxford and sit in my underpants and got to teach and research, you know, things I was really interested in and, you know, just made me realize, like, God, what an amazing life, you know, just to kind of be a student forever.
Yeah, very romantic.
If you're a daydreamer, like arrive at Oxford, that had to have been a fantasy and and then you're there.
Oh, I mean, it was awesome. But it definitely when I came back for law school, I had a totally different idea of what I wanted to do. I mean, I think that's what that time, you know, really gives you just like a gift of a break to, you know, just think about what you really want to do. You know, in the course of our lives, things are so busy and you're kind of jumping through hoops and then it's pretty rare.
Yeah, it's a really nice privilege to try on some identities, isn't it? Is I supposed to like going immediately to the factory in your town and then it's like, oh well, now I have a mortgage and now I have this family and now there's no time to evaluate. At that point the ship has sailed.
I think that's exactly right. You know, I remember in college just feeling like I was surprised that folks and I was among them, you know, we just like sleep deprived and really stressed out because these are kids who, you know, done really well and like, ostensibly, you know, made it. But it was I think it's like a nonstop hoop jumping, you know, took a psychological toll and ranking and sorting. Yeah. And you don't get a chance for that break.
Well, also, I would imagine you're really locked into an economy of comparing yourself to everyone else, which I find to be a dead end street ultimately.
So I remember that my first week in college, I was in the same dorm as one of your guests, Colin Jost, and he got into every group that I really wanted to get into. And he had come from his famous high school with a bunch of friends. I'd come from fat camp, OK, different feeder schools.
Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, I was just like I mean, I got cut from like the comedy journal and every improv group in like seventy three a cappella groups. And I think by the time it spits you out. It makes it easy for those who come out on top to believe that their success is their own doing. Yeah, yeah. And for people who lose, like to think there's like no one to blame but themselves or you blame the system and start believing in conspiracy theories is you got two options.
Either one of the two will suit your needs.
I left thinking like there are more than enough qualified people here for, like, either to, like, get in or to, like, be part of your special comedy group that you won't let me in.
Why not? I take those names and I put them in a hat and then just take them at random and give everyone an equal chance. Uh huh.
Well, the comedy performance might suffer a little bit from that. I don't think so. You don't think it's a meritocracy?
I think that we're not so good at predicting success around like 18, 19, 20 years old.
Well, that I agree immensely with. I think if you read Malcolm Gladwell, his last book, there's a couple of great chapters about people who do good on the LSAT and comparing that 20 years later with the outcome of their careers. And there's zero correlation, virtually, especially for law students. Right. Like what school you graduate from has pretty little relevance to how good your career will be as a lawyer.
So what do you think for comedy or for acting? I don't think you can outwork people. So I think in those other disciplines you can outwork people. But I don't think if you're not innately kind of funny, certainly you can better yourself through very hard work in the theater. I was involved with the Groundlings. There's a bunch of writing. So obviously the people that wrote more, we're going to have more up at bats. That's in the mix.
But, you know, some people are funny and they're not I don't really know. I think there's you know, it's the nature nurture thing.
So Tom Brady. Right. You make the Patriots look stupid now, huh? So he's like the greatest quarterback of all time by a lot. But even when he was coming out of Michigan, didn't the NFL teams or the powers that be pick like one hundred and ninety eight players ahead of him?
Yeah, and he was so embarrassing to watch in the combine. We interviewed him recently, so I watched all that stuff. He's so gangly and goofy and even he said, I can't run on a play. I'm the slowest runner on the whole field in any game.
And yet and now look, but you'd have to argue that a big part of that job was a despite him not be on the run far, he wouldn't be Tom Brady at five eleven. He has this great genetic advantage that he's six four. So he's going see above everybody. He clearly has some kind of chess level genius as far as strategy. So he's got some mental component. You know, he's an incredibly hard worker, but also at best, it's always going to be some proportional thing, right?
There's no way I'm going to have to say that's probably not going to happen. Yeah, but however many NFL teams, when it came down to it, they picked other people. Oh, yeah.
Yeah. They shit the bed for sure. So in college, it led me to do things that didn't require tryouts. So I met Adam Grant at a conference and we didn't know each other in college, but we realized that we had been there at the same time. We bonded over the fact we kind of gone outside the usual groups. You know, he became like a professional magician and I did stand up comedy. That was good.
But well, just really quick, if we can just say I find it very hard to believe that you didn't work as hard as every other stand up comedian. I'm assuming you have an incredible work ethic given your academic trajectory. So why weren't you great? I wasn't funny. I'm not joking.
So we're agreeing that. OK, ok, ok. Sorry. Adam Grant, we're talking about Adam Grant now, our very favorite person on planet Earth.
What I meant yesterday. Oh my God. He just lives to please slash shame other people for their lack of connectivity. It's a mess. That's your issue, not Adam. I don't know. I'm kind of with you. They're like he's one of the few people I've ever met who lives his philosophy. And like, it's a pretty tough philosophy to live by. Oh, yeah. So true. I do think when you email him and he responds in under 15 seconds, I do think when he hit send, he's like, fuck you, motherfucker.
Now I say that with love and I'm joking.
He's just the most beautiful person I can accept. Your brain doesn't know how to cope. I don't have that much faith in humanity that there's an Adam Grant on planet Earth. I've got to poke a hole in it.
So go to Oxford was a really kind of magical place. I remember getting off the bus with Jared Cohen. We were roommates and we were a couple of dorky Jews from Connecticut.
Oh, my God. You know, all of our guests. You should be booking the show. I don't know why I want to name drop it and try to make a connection. Oh, we love Jared. Yeah, he was just like the most curious person I know, like, he just has this incredible curiosity and I think we share that, but I feel really insecure about it. Like, I was always trying to hide it. I was kind of ashamed and he totally owned it.
Like whatever it was that he was studying, he would throw a house party with that Fien. Oh, wow. He was studying the Cold War and he put a wall like a Berlin Wall in the middle of our house and dressed up as Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark.
Wow, wow, wow, wow.
Was he already collecting presidential hairs at that point? Oh, that was from a young age. OK.
OK, so you end up teaching law down at University of San Diego where you still teach and you have an interesting focus, which is bioethics.
And you have this incredible I just started it today, donor nine six three to a podcast that is riveting. It's tasty like Dr Death was.
I can't wait for you to start it. No, it is really good. It's really, really well produced.
Like the music's great, the transitions are great. The way the dialogue is coming in and out, just very beautifully done. And then just a tasty fucking salacious story on top of it. So let's talk about that a little bit. And then we can go into like where laws are going to step in. What's the future of that? What are the things we now have to consider legislating that previously we didn't think we needed to do. But let's start with this juicy example of donor nine six three two.
So a couple of years ago, I got really interested in these headlines I was seeing of cases of reproduction gone awry. So things like freezer meltdowns, where we rob all these infertile or same sex couples over the last chance to have a biological kid or defectively package birth control pills and leave like hundreds of women with the child they'd been trying to avoid having or lab mix ups so a clinic would use sperm from a stranger instead of a person, spouse or an embryo with the very disease that an AT-RISK couple had used IVF to try to screen out.
Oh, wow. What struck me about I mean, hundreds of cases is it, however obvious it was that some medical professional was at fault for how much it upended people's lives. The courts, you know, just gave like a big fat shrug. That pink licious. That book was ever in your house? No, I've never heard of it. So we ran it twice last night and again this morning. There's a line says you get what you get and you don't get upset.
Now is basically the legal systems approach to these cases. So the book tried to introduce a new way of thinking and talking about these mix ups and you say driven a bit by Roe v Wade.
Right. This stuff all kind of starts. All this kind of fertility science and medicine starts just in the wake of Roe v. Wade, which is that why it's kind of complicated.
Yeah. So it's really unregulated because of complicated questions that go back. But even before Roe and since I thought after the book, I just kind of go back to my academic life, as usual.
But this one case, let me just say in the book you're talking about is Birth Rights and Wrongs, how medicine and tech are remaking reproduction and law. So after writing that book, you were like, did it next chapter of my life and no.
Well, there was just one case that I couldn't stop thinking about, and it blew the lid and multibillion dollar industry, if I'm honest, I spent a lot more time thinking about laws than people, but I was really lucky for amazing producers. Amy Standen, who's now the editor of IOR Hustle, is a podcast about San Quentin prison and are really gifted journalist Heather Won Tesoriero, who was herself adopted and had this vision for what this Project Audible Original could be.
Can I add one thing before you launch into it in addition to being a multibillion dollar industry? Also, I think it might shock people to know that one in 50 kids in the US are born in a petri dish. So might be a number a little bit higher than people thought that two percent of children are scientifically aided.
I was blown away those couple of years, my underpants before going to law school and deciding to write. I found out that I was born the same week as Elizabeth Carr, who's the first American baby conceived in a petri dish. Oh, wow. And since then, over a million American babies have been born through IVF alone, not to mention sperm or egg donation. So, yeah, that's a lot. And one in 50 today. And the US is actually on the real low end of developed countries that use this technology.
But, yeah, we're talking about a lot more than people may realize. Wow. So this guy was sold as the perfect donor. And for over a decade, scores of families from around the world picked him to have kids. So he was a neuroscience Ph.D., an internationally acclaimed drummer played by six sports and spoke five languages. His IQ was so high and his looks were so fetching. Let me think in terms of like recent armchair guests, we got cross between Tom Brady and Bill Gates.
Because he claimed that his closest celebrity look alike was Tom Cruise. Yet he was also six for these Tom Brady's height, but looks like Tom Cruise. And he's got a 160 IQ, which is what Einstein had just to add. He was ambidextrous, which. I am so I'm pissed he stole my thing, you're not is am, you are. Yes, I throw my baseball on my writing. That's not what ambidextrous strictly means. It just means you do things with both hands.
Yeah. It's not that you can do everything with both hands.
I know how Monica is your greatest heckler. Oh, she hates me. Yeah, but you'll fact check this. What we will learn the definition of ambidextrous.
I just know that the most impressive version of ambidextrous is being able to write.
I don't even remember. But we'll find out. We'll find out in the fact check.
You might claim to the end of the Dexters, but it's like a sucky watered down version.
You know, now, I would argue Monica's created her own definition. That's super impressive. But just general ambidextrous. Ambidexterity Ambidexterity, thank you. I think it's just fate. You favor both. You favor both hands. Go on. So sorry.
The sperm bank never checked whether any of this stuff was true and turned out like a lot of it was lies.
Stay tuned for more armchair expert, if you dare. We are supported by sleep.
No, Monica, my sleep number is 85 and my sleep I.Q. last night was ninety three.
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Good for the hair and reduces face wrinkles. Right. That's the theory. Yeah.
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OK, so I just want to add my own personal experience, so I was dead fucking broke for the first 10 years I lived in L.A. and I went to UCLA and I noticed in the Bruen, the school newspaper that they were paying pretty good amounts for sperm from the students.
And so I checked it out, I went to this sperm bank and I filled out a form, and if I'm being dead honest, mind you, I was 20. I was also a functioning addict. I definitely talked about my grades at UCLA, my impressive height, my blue eyes. I don't know whatever other things I thought were marketable. And I definitely downplayed the dyslexia, the addiction in the family. I don't think when I did the medical history, I was bulletproof.
I what kind of generation of diseases existed? Man, I just wanted that one hundred and fifty bucks. And I was quite desperate. And I don't know that they ever verified any of that stuff. Lucky for all people wanting sperm in L.A., I didn't have a high enough sperm count. So, you know, side story. You go into a room and they had every dirty magazine and they had porno playing on different channels. So you kind of pick your proclivity.
And I thought this is going to be awesome if this works. If once a week I can go get one hundred fifty bucks to have unlimited porn and jerk off, this is going to be the dream solution to my problems.
And again, unfortunately, my sperm count wasn't enough, but I could have almost been one of these guys were sure the baby would have been tall, but they were. This kid's an addict kid.
Can't read, can't write with both hands. So you knew that they weren't going to check on any of these things that you were suggesting about your like they really wanted it to be true?
I didn't know. But I thought I'm in a zero risk situation because if I check those things, they're not going to buy my sperm. And then if they verify it and they find out, then they're not going to buy my sperm. And there's some percentage chance that they're just going to take my word for it.
And this was before the boom in genetic testing. So was like who was ever going to find out?
Well, can I also make a defense for myself, which is I understand the unethical ness of what I just said I did. But at the same time, you have to imagine yourself going, well, I'm not that big of a piece of shit that if someone ends up with me, they're going to be furious, you know, like as low as my self-esteem is. I also think it's fine that I have dyslexia. It's fine. I have cancer in my family.
Everyone's got cancer in their family. Like, if you're mad you got me, then I don't feel that bad for you. So it's complicated. Also, I was 20.
So these sperm banks. Right, they have the ads all around, like elite university campuses, like UCLA, probably not Georgia, but yeah, continue because I know people are going to cheat the system.
That's a promise.
It's easy, anonymous way to make serious money. I mean, the ads say, you know, trading your Román for steak. Oh, right. And so you're a college age kid. You don't have much money or maybe even you're down on your luck and they're not going to check on this stuff and you're paying to go to the school.
So you kind of think, oh, maybe I could kind of balance out what I'm paying to be here by kind of profiting on being here.
Wow. So you have a real personal connection and insight into this situation.
I could be getting sued right now, but for not my low sperm count. So you really feel for the guy?
No, I think OK, so I did not add anything. I did not say spoke multiple languages. I didn't inflate. I admitted. So on the spectrum of, like, pathological liar, I'm certainly on it. But I think this person was a ten and I was I want maybe I'm being generous. I was a three know Monica. Oh, my God.
She's gunning for me today. You know why she's mad at me. Can I just tell you? Yeah, she clearly just woke up before she got here and I said, did you just wake up? She goes, No, I get up at nine. I said, Yeah, but did you go back to sleep? And then she said, No, but she did.
She's mad at me because he just makes all these assumptions. No wonder you want you walked into a minefield and I apologize for it.
So I had a personal connection to this story, too. And that, like you, I didn't know my dad. And when he left, it left me with a lot of questions about who he really was and whether I turn out like him. I think it's hard to tell your life story without knowing how it begins.
I think that's such a brilliant observation. And I wonder like me, because I did not respect the decision my dad made and I didn't really admire the lifestyle he had. I actually was trying to define myself in opposition of him and then just regularly finding out like, man, a lot of my genetics are him and I'm just becoming him despite my desire.
Oh, totally. I said we don't have TV. One of my mom's the movies and one of them we saw in the film theater. Seventy five cents was with honors with Brendan Frazier. That one you remember, that's a Monaca movie.
I feel like, OK, I didn't see it. So he grew up without a dad and he goes to Harvard and he writes a thesis that he loses, which is found by. Joe Paci, who lives in the streets of Harvard Square and holds his thesis hostage and. Everywhere I went there to, like I could find a dad I went at and I was always looking for that and I latched onto this. Incredible professor, like early on, it got weird.
I really want him to be my dad. He didn't know that.
Yeah, I have a friendship with my friend Tom. He's 70. And to him, we're friends. And I'm like, yeah, but you're my dad.
And he's like, you know, we're friends. You also went in search. Oh, God. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And he taught his class in the biggest classroom on campus. There's like a thousand kids and I read every one of his books went to every office hours and he taught we can know a good together that we cannot know alone. I was like just totally obsessed. He came to one of my comedy shows. I remember I was like so moved that he had, you know, come I leaned in for a hug and he leaned out.
Oh, it was like, there's the line.
You oh, you're not my dad. I was always looking for that father figure and like you said, just trying to define myself through them, but also through things I was doing or thinking. Right. In contrast, in opposition. Right. Right. Totally feeling like it was like, am I going to be like that? I said, the one thing I don't want to do, I want to care about people and be good to them. And I was just so worried that I was going to like I was fated.
I mean, that was one of the real takeaways for me for working on this project, was I had I mean, definitely grown up thinking about my dad and these binary terms as like this hero that I had wanted him to be in my mind. And then. You know, this villain or monster who had, you know, abandoned us and just left me with this person sized hole in my life story and yeah, having kids and getting to know this donor, actually.
Yeah, people are really complicated. Yeah. And they rarely fit into.
These stories, especially involving family secrets that are kind of woven into our greatest tales, like from the Bible to Star Wars and its villain hero, and no one's either.
It's really jarring when as an adult you find out, you know, about some family affair or, you know, adoption or rape or IVF or donor insemination.
And I think it can upend, like your whole story that you've told yourself about who you are and where you come from and what side you're on of that story and whether it's a lot more complicated than you had always assumed.
Yeah, we desire simplicity so much, and it's just it's very elusive. Unfortunately, I almost hope that if we don't imprint our kids with this simplistic thing, they won't be searching for it. They'll accept it much earlier that no, it's fucking complicated and no one is evil and no one's a saint.
And we're all on a spectrum. And you'll find yourself there, too, and you'll be disappointed in yourself. It doesn't mean you're evil if we only have this binary options. So when they fuck up, then are they evil because we've not told them about everyone else fucking up?
One of the things I thought, you know, when I heard from some of the families after they listened to the podcast, can you tell us about Wendy? Yeah, yeah. Tell us about Wendy. Wendy Norman had a child. She didn't know how many like her. You picked on her nine, six, two, three. And her kid had a lot of trouble from a young age, really lashing out was really violent, kind of kept to himself and had these problems that no matter how many doctors saw him and different medications they tried, nothing seemed to work.
He even just vanished from elementary school. Right. Like maybe second grade. She gets a call that the police are involved. They cannot find her son and he is just up and left.
School is two miles away. So he was diagnosed with things like ADHD or bipolar, but nothing fit and none of the meds worked. There's a lot of hope in it.
I'll just say, because as you're learning what Wendy's experience was when Alex was, you know, whatever, five through, I think eighth grade, she pulled him off.
All the medication eventually was just like, we got to go back down to baseline and just start over. But that whole period, if you're a parent, you are most certainly predicting doom. This kid's going to end up in prison. And his parents. I know I can relate to that. So you see one behavior for three weeks in your mind, just goes off to the races. Oh, my gosh, she's got some dissociative. You know, it's so scary.
You just want to know how you can fix it, make it better, what's going on. And they couldn't do that. They didn't have the information. Yeah. So when he pulled up, that article discovers all of a sudden at fourteen he's sitting with this information by himself. He found it. You know, Wendy, his mom didn't know, you know, it said that his donor had, you know, wasn't getting his PhD. He dropped out of college freshman year and he'd been convicted of felony burglary and he'd been diagnosed with really serious mental illness with a strong genetic component.
And so he went from his donor being this hero that he was so proud of to what do I make of that? And then. Coming around to the idea that, like you said, you know, like it would be a mistake to reduce the donor and these decisions about, you know, existence and nonexistence, how do you choose this person to be the biological parent gives half the genes to your child to reduce that person to one genetic red flag or, you know, any kind of worst moment in his life, but rather like a really complex person, you to get to meet him and know him.
The person I got to know is really complicated. Yeah, I thought I had a lot to apologize for, but he wasn't so bad a guy. I think it would be a mistake also from those headlines to think, oh, it's just an ego monster with a messiah complex who our kids are destined to be, you know, homeless and criminals and have no connection to reality. It's a lot more complicated.
And dozens of women receive this sperm, right?
We don't know how many. At least thirty six. Probably a lot more. Oh, wow. Wow. Among the aspects of this industry that are unregulated is that there are no limits on the numbers. I mean, sperm banks don't even track how many kids are born from any particular donor.
What's their defense of that? They can only do it for a window of time, though, correct? Because they couldn't get the same sperm donor from their first child because that had expired. Am I right in that?
There's no limit so long as the person keeps donating and they don't age out. My sperm can be frozen for a long time. This donor provided samples for almost 14 years and it won't be cryopreserved for a really long time. Each sample you can create eight kids and you can come in two or three times a week so numbers can get really high.
And the sperm bank was charging. They paid sixteen hundred for that sperm.
Yeah, it can be. It can be up to a thousand dollars per vial. And most people, you know, buy a few, you know, in case one doesn't work or they want to have other genetic kids from the same donor. Yeah. My own personal connection was I was just feeling so conflicted about the pull of biological ties. I think the biggest disagreement my wife and I ever had was we knew that we wanted to have kids and we definitely want to have more than one.
But we weren't sure how we were going to try to have the old fashioned way or just try to adopt. I'd inherited all these question marks from half of my family tree that were mostly scary or embarrassing. And and my wife's mom was the last Holocaust survivor of her family. And for her, that genetic connection was like DNA was like a repository of lost memories. It could be forgotten if you didn't connect like the past in the future that way.
Well, yeah, I imagine she would maybe feel like she's not fulfilling her obligation to her grandmother or her family to keep it alive. And in essence, yeah.
So I think the social meaning of genetics is just different for different people. And and it's just way more complicated than I appreciate it.
Well, what I was going to ask was in the wake of this big scandal, and I'm not sure how much press it got, I don't think I was necessarily aware of this case until I listened to your podcast. But did any legislation come out of this? Is legislation being written to address some of this stuff? So right now, these are cases in the courts and every one had been dismissed before the podcast came out, and now since then, there's going to be the first ever trial that's going to consider the facts of the case and let the families bring claims against the sperm bank for failing to vet the donor.
The question they pose is what's reasonable to expect of the fertility industry? Yeah. You know, is it like the health and safety that we insist on in the cars that we drive or the food that restaurants serve us or is making babies just a crapshoot however you do it?
Yeah, you pointed out in the podcast, like every virtually everything's regulated. Oh, everything else. Yes. I mean, virtually everything's regulated, but not this.
This is, I think, like a domain of life that we think of as distinctly outside of our choice and control that is subject to, you know, fate or God or chance or the randomness of genetic recombination that, you know, ultimately, you know, Pinkel issues. You get what you get. Yeah, yeah.
But it's naive because we're in an era of technology where that is not the case. It's not two people fucking under the harvest moon in a field.
You know, that was what drew me to this area in the first place. You know, when Elizabeth Carr came around, when I was born in that first IVF baby. And revolutionized not just how we had kids, but the kind of children we have. And to me, it sounded like science fiction. Yeah, you can combine sperm and egg in the laboratory and you get this eight cell organism that you can remove one or two cells, do a biopsy and then do genetic testing on that cell to determine a simple genetic conditions like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis.
And that organism grows back the cells like a salamander's tail. Yeah. You know, it's not like, Gatica, exactly where you choose for the odds of shyness or obesity.
Yeah, well, there couldn't be a harder probably set of guidelines to come up with because you get into trisomy 20 one Down syndrome. There's a lot of people that would there's people that want to you know, it's going to be nearly impossible for everyone to agree on what is worthy of selecting for.
Oh, so that's really hard, right? What's OK to want. Yeah. In a child, when you're in a position to choose and when does it cross the line between, you know, just wanted the best for your future kid to designing a child like suit your taste.
It's eugenics. Right. Could you tell us just a bit about what eugenics is and maybe a two minute history of it and how we're now? It's kind of possible again or there's a rebirth potentially of it.
So eugenics means choosing good genes and it's easy to forget that it started here. Right. We think we associate it with the Nazis in World War two, mass genocide. But they got the idea from us. And one of the first tests that Hitler had the Führer translate from English to German was in nineteen twenty seven. U.S. Supreme Court case Buck versus Bell is where Oliver Wendell Holmes said three generations of imbeciles is enough. And that's case held that states could sterilize anyone that it deemed feeble minded.
And they explained it like this, said, better than waiting to execute degenerate offspring for their crime or let them starve for their invisibility. We should just prevent them from continuing their kind. They're so manifestly unfit. And that case is like almost a hundred years old. It's still good law. It's never been overturned. So it's precedent for, you know, California prisons, ICE detention facilities to justify sterilizing people of color may have seen in the news.
But there's a very big difference, I think, between, you know, forced sterilization or antimiscegenation laws, immigration laws that deprive people of freedom and then having the government come in and choose for you or if not the government, some overarching agency or authority making the choice of what kind of people are worth creating or who's worthy of being a parent. The podcast tells a story of what is the earliest sperm banks is in Escondido. So a little north and the south of you try to mass breed genius kids from Nobel Prize winners to combat hordes of stupid people from degrading the American gene pool.
So in the 80s and 90s when we were kids, so it limited the recipients to straight white women who were married and were Mensa members and really smart. Yeah. And this eugenics vision, it turned out, was pretty unpopular. It shuttered its doors and ninety nine. So sperm banks stopped trying to engineer perfect babies from superior sperm, instead looking to cater to consumer preferences. And that's when they came up with these shopping catalogs with detailed profiles, you know, race and height, baby pictures, celebrity likeness, SAT scores, personality test religions, hobbies.
And that's what really raises this question about eugenics, is it eugenics in the sense of it's something bad that we want to avoid if instead of the government or the sperm bank or some other authority telling you what kind of people to create or who's worthy to come into existence or what sort of people should be parents or should pass along their genes, it's individual would be parents making these decisions for themselves and their families and their kids.
Well, it's interesting because they're working towards the same thing that they are antithetical. Right. So one is basically a genetics genocide. It's like this is undesirable. We're going to kill all these off. And the other ones, like preferred propagation, like we're going to bet on them. And so it's weird. It's like the outcome is similar, but they are also opposite. It's very interesting. Right.
So this one is like negative eugenics and one is positive. Yeah. Yeah. You think one is obviously bad and one is OK?
No, I think one is worse than the others. What I think.
Oh OK. So get rid of the hatred and the violence and the racism and the force. You still think that something is kind of unsettling about, you know, trying to hand-pick a child with these traits and those characteristics?
Well, I think this is why this is such a hard legal decision to make, because I think there's multiple realities going on on the surface as a philosophical question. No, I think we don't really know what's going to be a valuable asset, actually. So I think it's a little arrogant to think we actually know currently. I'm sure you could model it out. And right now you have an advantage to be a six foot three white dude. I'm sure that's an advantage.
Right. But we actually don't know if that's an advantage in 30 years. But I will go a step further, which is we live in a completely artificial world now to pretend we don't live in an artificial world where there is a billion times more stimuli daily than the hunting and gathering societies experience, and that we travel at speeds that we're not designed to travel at and that the result of which is probably mass epidemic level depression. You're getting into a pretty interesting zone of what is ethical then.
Should we not be favoring the people that can live in this artificial, bizarre and increasingly technological world, or should we castigate all of them to suffer? So, you know, I don't know.
There was a recent survey of a couple of thousand Americans that asked who should decide the genes that kids are born with? And nine out of 10 people said either God or nature, but definitely not parents.
Yeah, yeah, I agree. Those same people were asked if you could enhance your own child's resistance to disease. Would you like a prenatal coronavirus vaccine that was safe and effective? Yeah, and nine out of 10 said yes. Yeah.
So that doesn't bother me. This is similar to opt in. I have a political stance of I'm against the death penalty and a very common response to that. If I dare tweet it is what if your daughter was raped and murdered and I say I would go murder the person? There's no question I as an individual would murder anyone who fucked with my family. But I also know that me as an individual isn't nearly as good or ethical as the community thought.
And so I defer to community thought. And I also don't think people that were victims of such a heinous crime should be setting policy. So all things are true.
That's definitely a West Wing episode. Oh, no, I totally agree with you that it's not playing God because of where we are. I mean, recognize all the artificial aspects of our lives to make them better and not in a in a way is necessarily objectionable. I have a different take away from that survey, though, which is that health is different from other traits because it's not something that we're competing for. I mean, nobody's trying to be the healthiest man alive.
Well, maybe maybe Rob Lowe's character from Parks and Recreation, it's not something we're trying to beat other people at the same way. Sexiest alive or fastest or smartest. Yeah, you're not going to generate an advantage because you have longevity. There's really. Yeah. You're not going to earn more because you just lived longer. Yeah.
So for those kind of traits, nonmedical traits that are widely thought to be the raw ingredients of success, I do worry that if you replace the hand that fate or nature dealt us with the one that our parents chose for us, then it could make it harder to appreciate the role of luck in the way that our lives turn out, the sense that, like your adversity could be mine, you know, like there, but for the grace of God, go I or my child.
Oh, I have a personal example that just illustrates this. I grew up dyslexic. It was really hard. I felt alienated. I went to the special ed room. I've got all this baggage because of it. I knew that my odds of going to prison were twice as high. It's not until I read the Malcolm Gladwell book that I realized, oh, in your odds of becoming a CEO or twice as high. And now when we have kids, I actually remember thinking I hope they have dyslexia or at least one of them does.
I actually would prefer it. But yes, there was a period of my life where I probably if I had two eggs sitting in the Petri dish and they told me one of them didn't have dyslexia, I would have said, let's not have it.
It's that empathy that I think inspires social and economic support for those who are less fortunate. And also that more complex view you that you have of a trait that is widely stigmatized and leads a lot of people to hide it or shy away, maybe not to get treatment or not even tell their friends and family, you know, you were brave enough to open up about your relapse days before a presidential debate in which one dad mocked another for having a kid with a drug problem, as if that's such a unique experience in America.
But it is exactly how a lot of families in this story, I think, quite understandably, reduced the donor to this one aspect of who he was, you know, this part of his genetics or his life story, like the worst or lowest moments in a way that, you know, denies that richness that you just spoke to with your experience with dyslexia.
Well, and it's also telling of the values of our society that no one's in search of who's the kindest, most benevolent, generous, helpful baby. What are the markers of that? What are the metrics? That's what I want. I want my donor to have a history of volunteering at a soup kitchen. I promise no one screening for that.
Well, also, that's pretty genetically complex. I mean, not just genetically complex, but, you know, I mean, that's like gatica level, like trying to get, like, personality traits or behaviour. I mean, for those kind of traits. I mean, I totally agree with you. That's like awesome to want a kid to be like that and maybe to look for those kinds of qualities in a donor, if that's what you turn to.
But, you know, for compassion, let alone like intelligence or even height, I mean, what kind of like cakes? We're like the ingredients are those myriad genetic and environmental influences. And the recipe is, you know, they're complex interaction, like the. Processes of development. So you wouldn't expect a simple correspondence between, like a distinctive taste or texture and like any particular egg or flour or.
Yeah, and just to make that very digestible. So, yes, you could make twenty six cakes with the exact same ingredients if you add them in a different order, if you bake them at different temperatures, if you pull them out at different times, dramatically different cakes.
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Let me ask you, when you were dating Kristen, did this question ever cross your mind like not what you were attracted to or the chemistry that you shared?
I can tell you it was the only it was priority number one. It was priority number one for the very first time ever, dating someone where I was most interested in the thought that she would be a great mother.
So not just that she'd be a great mother and that I totally fell for that, too. Yeah. Yeah. But also what kind of kids? So a lot of that obviously comes from having a loving, awesome mom, too. But how your kids might be born, like, you know what, they would turn out like the mix of your genes and hers.
Yeah. So I guess I thought trait that I admired in her was that she was clearly very industrious. She was a very hardworking person. It wasn't like, oh, I hope my kids look like her. I hope they can sing like her. It was, you know, my value set. I want hard working kids and I want them to have a mother that is loving and patient and empathetic. That's beautiful.
And it sounds like you're focused more on, like, how she would raise your kids because those things aren't what she model. Now, what would you say at all? Is she going to sit around all day and be angry she didn't get X, Y or Z or she's someone who gets up and pounds the pavement.
So when you say you weren't worried about looks, it's not just like you're not superficial. You are looking more than skin deep, but like also you were less worried about the things that were more genetic and more the things you would like model in your behavior and like the home that you guys would make. Yeah. OK, so I wonder, though, when you were looking to have kids, had needed a donor, an egg donor or a sperm donor, and you were handed a catalog with hundreds of profiles chock full of physical features and personality quirks and the McNicholas medical history of every blood relative.
I know what I would do. I would be trying to get someone as identical to me as possible. I actually want to be trying to get someone better than me or different than me. I think my narcissistic and egotistical goal with raising kids is I want to provide the support I guess I wish I had. So I want someone who I understand and can help navigate the things I had to learn how to navigate.
I think that goes back to our shared history. OK, maybe I want to psychologize you, but like, same for me. Like, if anything, I felt a little alienated from my genes. Yeah. And for you, you want somebody similar, but only for that sense of like emotional bond or connectedness. But really your focus was on like the love that you would give in the home you would make. Well, I think I'm a little more egocentric than that.
I think I want to heal the child in me. I want to nurture the child. I was.
Oh, that is really self-absorbed. Yeah. So you're right. You really want to, like, relive your own childhood through that?
I think my desire is to be a great aid to a kid that might have my issues, but I think only another millimeter down in the site to reading would suggest I wish I could be there for myself as a kid. Oh, that is deep.
I think I haven't quite gotten to the point where I can admit that, but probably there's a lot of truth in that to my story, too. Well, we might have different philosophical views that I actually think there isn't an act that can be taken on planet Earth. That's not selfish. Hmmm.
It can have incredibly altruistic outcomes and seemingly selfless outcomes. But I don't really believe in a non selfish motivation.
I think that's never more true than when it comes to having kids. Like a lot of people will say, like I want to choose a donor who is really healthy or really smart because I want them to be better off. I want them to be healthy and happy. I think that will be good for them. But of course, there is no child yet who could be made better than he or she otherwise would. And it's about you. It's about enacting your vision for the kind of person you want to raise, the kind of parenting experience you want to have.
I mean, there is no other person yet to care about to. I mean, there's the idea of a person, but it really is really selfish. Yeah.
Yeah. And I think the quicker you own it and then you go, OK, well, what can be the best outcome of my selfishly motivated actions? Because part of my selfish motivation is also I'm telling a story about who I am as a person and I want to be a certain kind of person.
I think American courts are in denial about this exact idea and what led every court to throw out this case up until now. So the sperm banks and this one wasn't unique. I mean, what they sell is this is the top one percent that one CEO told me. He goes, our donors are. Creme de la creme. They only use Grey Poupon. I was thinking in three terms in a podcast, we hear the head recruiter who also recruited this donor.
Sweet talking him like you when you were at UCLA. You know, a guy was promised, you know, college age kid, you know, an anonymous way to make money. And you hear like in and kind of inflate his IQ and his advanced degrees. And I mean, they're looking to make the samples more pricey and more popular to sell more. And they're a little trying to have it both ways. So when they're selling the samples, they tell prospective customers these would be parents who say, trust us, like you'll know more about this donor than you could possibly know about your own partner.
But then if they get sued for misrepresenting those donors in serious ways, then they kind of throw up their hands and say, no, this is just random. Like, you get what you get. It's an honor system, like they're not required to run background checks.
We know from genetics that even if every statement that had been made about nine, six, three, two was accurate, that in itself is absolutely no guarantee that that will be that's not that those genes, those, you know, whatever dominant ones in him are going to be the ones that are passed. So they do have a little bit of a leg to stand on, which is also it's a lottery. That point is really well taken. But that's just not how they sell their donors, not what they represent.
Yeah. Yeah. They got to pick a lane. Yeah. Think they're given this exhaustively detailed profiles, but they're not required to run background checks or test for hereditary conditions or follow up with these young men like you were. You know, whether you know, in 10 or 20 or 30 years they learn that a parent develops breast cancer, heart disease. You don't limit the numbers or find out whether donors have provided sperm to other sperm banks. So the parents feel betrayed by the professionals.
But how can they complain? I mean, and that's what the courts say. Yeah, because if they were told the truth, then you'd have picked a different donor and that means you'd have a different kid. So suing is almost like saying you wish your own child the one you have now, you wish they had never been born.
It sounds like buyer's remorse. Yeah. On the surface, it sounds good. Yeah. Yeah. What did they say? That you can't be selfish in that way. They say like, you know, babies are blessings. How dare you. Yeah. You know, think about this child as opposed to recognizing what you were saying before. Like this is an inherently selfish enterprise and recognizing the harm that is like the kid you got, like the birth of your child.
But, you know, the thwarting of family planning, which is like a legitimate thing to want, like an interest to have now is the ease and cheapness now of mapping an individual's genome, aiding in this? I mean, obviously now all the donors, I have to imagine in this day and age would get like a twenty three on me test and they really couldn't lie about certain hereditary things.
So you asked about the unregulated nature of this market and it all goes back to before the invention of the Internet and, you know, explosion, you know, twenty three me ancestry.com, the testing where you could punch in a number or spit in a cup and send it away and find out all the people who have done that to all your blood relatives you don't know about. Yeah. A regulatory vacuum in assisted reproduction goes back to Elizabeth Carr and Roe v.
Wade. You know, liberals were worried about opening the door to restrictions on who could be a parent, what kind of people you can make. And, you know, conservatives thought it was a free market enterprise. That's good. And also worried that setting any kind of rules would confer some kind of implicit approval on something that a lot of their constituents regarded as playing God. Yeah. And so this industry developed under the shadow of stigma and shame and donor insemination.
Well, just needing a donor like was this profound failure a personal failure, a sexual failure? Barredo and that gave doctors cover even before sperm banks came along to do really shady things. We know now that a lot of obstetrician gynecologist in the seventies and eighties used their own sperm without their patients consent to create, you know, dozens and dozens of kids and deceive people in other ways. The podcast is a story of the very first mention of sperm donation in an American medical journal.
It was nineteen nine and this Philadelphia couple. The guy was a lot older, goes his famous doctor called Pancoast, saying that they were having trouble having kids, and Pancoast, the doctor, looks at him and finds out that this older guy, his sperm didn't work. I guess he traced it back to gonorrhea he had had, but he didn't tell them that. Instead, he calls the wife back under the guise of a routine follow up and chloroform her in front of a half dozen medical students and tells the best looking among them to go produce a sample.
And he eventually the doctor told the dad, who is apparently pleased, but then no one ever told the mom or the kid until twenty five years later when the dad and the doctor were dead and one of those medical students published their story in that journal.
Oh, you know, in a bad story, I have to say, I did experience a moment of great relief that the handsome a student wasn't asked to mount the chloroform. And I thought that's where it was going.
So, you know, a little silver lining to a terrible story.
You know, these kind of secrets have been lurking. And I mean, I think one huge turning point was the genetic testing. Like you said, another one was the AIDS crisis, because before that, fresh sperm was predominantly used, cryopreservation is processed so that you mix the sperm with the glycerol solution and freeze it down to minus one ninety six centigrade. And that was invented in the 50s, but it was really only used for social insurance for infertile men, married couples who were straight after the AIDS crisis hit.
Then you couldn't detect the virus in sperm right away. So it had to be frozen so it could be retested a few months later and frozen sperm could be stored and banked. And you could offer choice among people that came from. And so that was really liberating because now once the stigma was lifted and you moved from this model where the medical doctors were the gatekeepers of straight, white married women, now the sperm banks could offer it to single women, same sex couples, and you could make nontraditional families.
But there also was this problem about regulation and lawmakers unwilling to put any rules in this industry that now creates human beings. And how could it be any higher stakes in that? Yeah, yeah.
Well, listen, I think you picked a great time in history to be interested in this because it's already a dense legal and regulatory issue. And then obviously with CRISPR, it's going to explode in so many other ways. And we already talked about the Chinese doctor who for some bizarre reason, edited in an anti HIV gene like you. So you're really in the catbird seat as far as something to be interested in and to be studying and to be thinking about legally.
So it's been so much fun talking to you. This is such a fascinating topic.
And I really look forward to your continued work in this world of, you know, designing babies.
Thanks for having me. You rolled the sound in the closet. It was the right choice. Everything is primo. And if you want to slide on your white and peach Nike's before we leave, we'll watch. But if not, you want to do it solo. We can also give you some privacy.
Thanks. All right.
I really look forward to talking to you again. I'm sure there's more fun stuff coming from you.
Thank you guys so much. All right. Be well done. And now my favorite part of the show, the fact check with my soul mate, Monica Berman, steady.
Are you ready, Jess?
What's going on? What's going on, guys? We have a buddy here visiting today. Long time no hear.
See, Jess, do you still love boys? I still love them.
And I talk to them all the time and don't mean any of them.
Can you believe that was this year? I can't. I really can't.
I was looking back at the guest list of this whole year, and it's a Monacan dress and and I was like, oh, my God, that feels like so long ago, so much has changed.
Really has nothing to do on my love front. Still chatting with guys, but like most people cancel dates because they're insecure, don't want to, but now they're canceling because of life.
So they're choosing why.
Yeah, they're choosing life and wearing masks.
Well, also, it made your last challenge, which was celibacy a lot easier. You didn't really have a choice of the masturbation. Well, that you break it.
I don't I think he I think he's fucking haunting. I, I did not last 90 days. I think I lasted twenty three days for masturbation.
Yeah. But you but you haven't fucked. No, no fucking.
Yeah no but masturbation was part of it and then covid happened and it's like oh that is really too hard.
Yeah. Very hard. Ding ding ding.
You guys get it. Ding ding. Yeah, yeah. That's why I said ding ding, ding, ding. That's how I let you know I got it.
Yeah. Everyone else is good.
I'm happy I, I have a new broad, a new addiction to the group which is called Spade's. That's right.
You guys play like three times a week during the week, maybe more. Four times a week. Yeah.
Monica doesn't really work on the show anymore. She's a professional spade's player.
Yeah, exactly. We might have some fun stuff coming up next year. We're going to see covid is always a, you know, a wrench. It's a barrier.
It's a barrier. So we have to kind of get through the vaccine and then we might see you again, folks.
Yeah, hopefully they get all the vaccines. You know, I'm into all the vaccines. Yes. Have you gotten the HPV vaccine? You were young, so that was out. Yeah, that's great. We didn't have that when we were growing up.
I love people that are saying, like, I don't want to put that in my body and then the cut to Meems or them like eating but. Or like doing.
Oh I know. Yeah.
Ones like if you a out of the ranch that in your dorm cafeteria. Sorry about the vaccine.
Well I certainly know what it's like to have a sliding scale of what would you call a hygiene shirt.
You know, like I would, I would like not want to shake someone's hand or I'd be nervous to shake someone's hand. And yeah, I've eaten strangers asses. And, you know, it's like when it's when it's convenient for me my my standard shift pretty dramatically. Yeah. Yeah.
That's that's common. Yeah.
But anyway, I just wanted you to pop in and say hi because we missed you and and I want the listeners to know that I'm still alive. You're alive and you know this won't be the end of you. Oh amazing. OK, let's go.
But stay right in this day and just for the rest of it. Yeah, sure. You have someone that you can't possibly have somewhere to be that's mean.
No, it's not. It's to use up work. Yeah, not by choice. No restaurant for me anymore. We're back on lockdown in L.A. No more outdoor dining. And you've worked out twice. I've sold twice already today.
That's a big update. Let's update that. Yeah, I got a little crazy there. I got up to two forty six pounds.
Yeah. So I've been a little bit of a little bit of a journey there and that's been really fun too.
I wake up early and you look fantastic. Thank you. You do. I sometimes don't want to say that because I don't want you to think that's what it's about but you do look fantastic.
Thank you so much. How much have you lost? I'm at twenty four pounds, but now I'm moving pounds to muscle where I can keep the same weight and still transform.
Should we meet at two fifteen Meenu.
Yeah I would, I would love that. That's my actually my goal is to fifteen. Oh yeah. Yeah. It'll be hard for me to get there but. Oh you want to to muscle me. Yeah I want to go up to two fifteen of muscle and you come down to two fifteen a muscle then we fuck all day long.
Two thousand one. Jess would love that.
I don't know if I can fuck my dad. Yeah. Yeah.
That's how we evolved. You are how you learned a lot this year.
OK, well Dove Dog Fox is who are fact checking today and he has an insanely interesting podcast about these people who bought sperm from a sperm bank.
And they were told that the person was a medical student expert, drummer, expert, this expert that healthy, healthy, healthy. Come to find out later, very severe mental health issues lied about most of the stuff.
It's. Incredible, incredibly, really thought provoking on what's ethical, what's not and what should be allowed and regulation and how much should you be able to design your child.
It's very tricky territory. It really is. And is it true, like they these babies are coming out like that, or is this all a hoax? No, no, it's true.
Yeah, yeah. These women who had had two children, the second one that they bought this sperm from this donor, he started having some very serious issues, violence, just leaving school at eight years old, like a lot of stuff.
He was he's now older and he's doing much better. And they, you know, tried every kind of medication route and that didn't help. And then that that boy learning what he thought was his dad and then learning about kind of the reality of what his dad was like.
There's every single philosophical question is embedded almost in that the dad was like presented as Superbikes for like the Tom Cruise phase genius level IQ speaking.
All these languages like that in the catalog is how he was listed. And then it turns out he was none of those.
And the little boy thought that like and he's having all these problems. So you could imagine, like what he must have thought the expectations for himself are going to be versus how life was going.
It's yeah. What what a story. Yeah.
And then, you know, the other element is that guy could have not been I mean, he was lying. We now know that the sperm donor, but he could have been 100 percent accurate and the kid could have been the exact same.
Yeah. Like it's not a one to one ratio. And it came out in there that I had lied when I tried to donate sperm. He donated sperm.
He lied about it because when I was at UCLA, I'd see all these ads in the Bruen like two hundred bucks or one fifty for a shot of sperm. I was like, I need that money.
And then when I went in there and I filled out the thing, of course I left out like my dad's heart disease and some cancer because I'm like, I wanted to sell that sperm and I was desperate.
I mean, I really I was going to UCLA, but that's about it. And I was really six to ish.
But you had a really good body then, too. I should have put that. I would have put that for you.
I would put it in quotes and then wrote a really good body. I was your Yes. Sperm donor, but he didn't have a high enough sperm count. So everyone's in the clear. His sperm did not get in it now.
Well, it's not that I didn't it's not that I had a low sperm count, but they are looking for people with high sperm count specifically. And I did not meet that expectation.
What's your sperm count or mine?
What I would know I don't know what's high, like forty or like seven hundred million's OK. Yeah, because there's like a billion little sperm and a billion sperm per load.
Well, why should I get my check. Real time factor. Yeah. How many, how much sperm is in per well for load. That's just absolutely.
It's a fertile male human ejaculates between two and five millimeters of semen on average a teaspoon in each milliliter. There are normally about a hundred million sperm.
If the concentration falls below twenty million sperm per millimeter, there is usually some trouble with fertility.
Yeah. So I've heard about these mega sperm donors and they're like, yeah, they have over a billion sperm per shot.
This guy that used to run a studio to a very weird guy at a birthday party, he told us this thirty minute story in the punch line was that he had one point five billion sperm per load.
It was a really lengthy Bragge real long way that the joke.
Yeah, just like at the end of the whole story, I was like, oh, the point of that story was you have a ton of sperm and it took twenty minutes to learn that. And you think that makes you super masculine, right. Yeah.
So OK, so Dov's said that his parents wanted to make Aliya with the idea to emigrate to Israel and I didn't know what it meant. So it means emigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel historically, which today includes the modern state of Israel.
So do you know what the diaspora is from the diaspora? Right.
So originally Jews were you could think of is an ethnicity. They were all coming from Mesopotamia. But over the centuries, you had people convert to Judaism in Russia, you had them convert to Judaism all over the the planet. So all those people that converted and aren't ethnically Jewish are called the diaspora. And they were invited when Israel became a state to have Israeli citizenship, even though they were born outside or they were ethnically the diaspora.
Wow. God, it will cool or not very cool. I'll forget it.
OK, but I was impressed by you as a dog mentioned pink.
Delicious. I do believe you guys own a pink delicious just as a fact check. What is Pinkert literals? It's a kid's book, and he has brought it up a couple of times, he said, has that made its way through your house? And you said, no, you didn't know it, which I'm not saying you did know it, but I think I've seen that in the household.
OK, it's a popular children's story about pink girls. What are pink girls?
They wear pink. Oh, I just from the title. I'm not drawn to it. It sounds like pink. They are. Yeah.
It sounds like these kind of.
There's one by the way, I think it's a good show but the title triggered me which is fancy Nancy. Oh yeah.
Fancy Nancy. Because I don't want my kids to try to be fancy. So I initially just thought like, oh, I don't know, I don't want them reading a book about being fancy.
I thought those gay guys are the other gay guys referred to as fancy. Nancy's definitely Nancys and they could be fancy. Yeah. Yeah, I get to watch it.
You might learn a thing or two. Do you like fancy people. Just. No, yeah, do you like Monica, fancy people? I don't mind them, you don't I don't have a chip on my shoulder about fanciness at all. I do like someone, an ascot or something, I'm like, oh, oh, oh, yeah, I mean, all I will have an issue with some Tinder pictures with certain way they dress like they're about to go on a yacht.
Yeah, a little bit. You would love to go on a yacht.
Well, sure, everyone would love it if the guy was challenged just for like sweats a lot.
I don't know, lying. I don't know what fancy means, to be honest. Well, exactly that I can interpretive fancy because there's can be really fancy people that are so down to earth. So it's about their personalities.
I'll do my can I do my stereotype of what the person I'm referring to. So I'm your guy on your. Let's start texting.
You saw me. Joe's not are to things that are nautical, not really, I mean, like, well, we're having a blast cashing in.
My father's my deceased father's for one K block a block block immediately block.
Where did you matriculate?
Just OK. Now that's fancy. I don't know. That's my stereotype cartoon of fancy. These people vacation down in Orlando.
Apparently there's some kind of amusement park down there that everyone just crawls around and shares germs.
Epcot. Yeah, it's funny, although it's Amcom. Yeah.
There's like outstand for and drink around the world and go to different countries. It's pretty fun.
I don't eat pork, which is an era of time. Oh wow. Is that have any bearing on that. Not really.
Just. Let's just fuck, I think I'm losing you big time, you hung. Yeah, OK. Marie-Jeanne five inches. Bergersen for generation never. BELOFF Twice. I've never blocked twice.
I think if you're going to have compassion for all types of people, you should probably have compassion for them. That's the life they grew up in.
Oh, I've been the first to admit on here my issues with fancy people are my insecurity that I'm less than right.
Yeah, it's all me has nothing to do with them. I felt less than around people with money when I was younger and and I have a chip on my shoulder about it. And even though I'm smart enough to know that I still am triggered, I see that ascott hear them talking, I bristle. Maybe I'll start using bristled instead of triggered in twenty twenty one. Do you think that. Oh that bristled me.
That sounds fancy. OK. Oh boy oh boy.
Before I get into this dacs don't say anything Jess. What do you think it means to be ambidextrous.
Ambidextrous means that you can write with your right hand in your left hand.
Yeah baby. So it does mean that you can do things with both hands.
But you were so outraged by the idea that I said mainly it's about writing and you said you thought I made that up. No. Yes, you did.
My issue with it then and now is that is a very narrow definition of ambidextrous. It's dexterity that's that's fine. OK, but that's not what it means.
It means you do things with both hands. It doesn't mean exclusively. Right.
It doesn't mean exclusively. But that is the most common version of it. And then you said you thought I made that up.
I don't think you made that up. I think a lot of people think that.
And you're saying people would hammer with their left hand as much as they were with the right. So I'm ambered. I'm ambidextrous because I throw a ball with my right hand and a football and a hockey stick and I write with my left hand. I eat with my left hand. I brush my teeth with my left hand, but I favor some my right hand sometimes in my left hand sometimes, which is ambidextrous. But Monica was saying, because I don't write with both hands, I'm not ambidextrous.
And I was saying, that's not true.
Technically, Ambidexterity means being able to do things with left and right hands equally. So I do think it means like anything you can do with your right hand, you can also do it with your left hand.
Yeah. So we still disagree about that. It means you do things with both hands. It doesn't have to be the definition.
Nobody on planet Earth can throw a ball with their left and right hand the exact same.
That's that's not possible, right? Yeah. You read me the definition again.
Ambidexterity means being able to do things with left and right hands equally.
Yeah. So I, I just named three things I do with my left and I name three things I do with my right.
We're probably going to have to agree to disagree and. OK, great. I thought it means having sex on land and in water. It also means that.
Can you do that. Websters in water.
Ambidexterity aside, I'm not a big shower. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Using both hands with equal ease or dexterity. Webster's definition. This is a you have to do the same task or doing one thing with both hands, which is you use both hands.
All right, that's a tie, guys. It's a tie. I'm here for a tie breaker. Tie breaker. Let's see. You said that. You said that something was a little lower on the what you say side to reading, set you reading. Oh yeah. What is that insight to? Is is how you when you're doing on an archaeological dig, you do insight to read. And so you go down like a millimeter and you're you're digging in a perfect box.
So you have a grid. And so you'll say basically what coordinates and how far down. And that's the insight to reading. So if you found a coin, you would know exactly where in three dimensions the coin was found.
Oh, interesting. All right. Well, that's it for Tom Fox.
It was very interesting. I can't wait to check out his podcast. I'm going to do it over the holidays.
The holy days we're in the high holy days in the horror era, we decided yet Jess and I decided yesterday it's full swing. Yep, yep, yep, yep.
Well, just thanks for joining us. I love you guys. Thank you so much. Love you. Love you.