Doron is a bit of a star. He is the child of a an acknowledged genius (although not a Nobel Prize winner). The anonymous donor sperm that created him came from the notorious "Nobel Prize Sperm Bank" (officially called "Repository for Germinal Choice”) where the eugenic-minded California nutcase inventor Robert Graham recruited various scientific geniuses to donate sperm in order to improve the human race by making superbabies. Despite the notorious reputation Graham did not end up using Nobel Prize winners, as he decided they were too old for their sperm to be effective. Read a book on this subject by David Plotz, called "The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank" (2005), or read his online summary of the book in the making here. Some 240 children were eventually born using this sperm, but the majority are anonymous, although Plotz talks about several of the children in his online summary of the book.
One of the few known children from this sperm bank is Doron, who was the poster baby for this project to better the human race. His mother ("a middle-aged hippie and New Age psychologist living in Los Angeles") had him as she was nearing 40 and didn't have a suitable male partner in sight. Why should that stop a woman from having children these days? Rather than accepting her fate, she went to a clinic where she could "choose" the kind of baby she wanted - indeed, he would be the child of a genius!
Doron has an IQ of 180 and an extreme talent for music, as his mother had wanted. His mother has intentionally paraded him before the media since his wee years as a walking ad for what sperm donation can do, with all his accomplisments neatly catalogued for the public. When he was little he was on the cover of Mother Jones. He says of himself: "I was [Robert Graham's] emblem. I was the boy with the high IQ who was not screwed up. I was his ideal result."
His mother made him the center of her universe, induged and overindulged him. She even breast-fed him until 6 years old! Doron excelled in school, became a math prodigy, "qualified for a Los Angeles school for the gifted then won a full scholarship to Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire, one of the nation's best high schools."
But Doron was not automatically happy because of his privileged genetic parentage. In fact, quite the opposite. He says:
So, Doron has rebelled against this genetic determination, and against the parental and societal expectations that he must have felt all his young life. Doron is going to Reed College, not a top school by any means (the only school he applied to), and majoring in comparative religions, not a hard science like his donor father. His ambition is to be a high school teacher. "He has rejected studying elite subjects at elite universities. Instead, Doron is an introverted student of psychology who plays three different instruments but has few social contacts. Doron prefers to investigate the universe alone—and to find his place in it on his own terms."
"Most of being a prodigy was negative. People have always been saying 'prodigy sperm child' all my life. But I am not that wonderful at anything. You feel a lot of pressure because you don't want to let people down, or you don't really feel free to be what you want to be.
"I don't feel safe with people I don't know, and I don't feel very confident with others. That may be the effect of having things expected of me."
Indeed, Doron has learned a very important lesson about human worth the hard way. He says:
“It was a screwed-up idea, making genius people. The fact that I have a huge IQ does not make me a person who is good or happy. People come expecting me to have all these achievements under my belt, and I don’t. I have not done anything that special. I don’t think being intelligent is what makes a person. What makes a person is being raised in a loving family with loving parents who don’t pressure them. If I was born with an IQ of 100 and not 180, I could do just as much in my life. The thing I like best about myself is not that I’m smart but that I care about people and try to make other people’s lives better. I don’t think you can breed for good people.”See the full article.
By the way, it's interesting to see what happened as Plotz wrote the book I mentioned above. According to the Times Literary Supplement:
Doron doesn't seem to be very curious about his father, but he says that having a father would have helped him understand men. "I am not a masculine, macho guy. Maybe it would have been good to have more experience relating to men." Of course, Doron now knows who his father is. He says the media showed him an article about his father a while back (name John, a computer scientist of some sort) and he said he would not object to meeting him, but the meeting never happened.
Plotz soon found himself acting as detective and matchmaker, tracking down donors and brokering meetings with their offspring. These stories are the moral and emotional heart of the book. “Donor White” fathered nineteen children, but became deeply attached to the one whose mother sought him out. His reaction is the reason that sperm banks forbid such meetings; “donor offspring” become real children who laugh, play, have personalities, give you trouble, and make you proud. In this case, the father needed the daughter more than she needed him; she was a contented child who had no emotional void to fill.
Other children had a hole in their souls, and longed to find a “real” father unlike their distant stepdads, or to have any father at all. Many were disappointed. One young man, expecting to find a loving, genius dad, got Jeremy - “an obscure doctor”, Plotz writes, “whose notable accomplishment in life was leaving a wake of ex-wives and forgotten children”. Plotz also interviewed the faintly creepy son of a Nobelist who became a donor - the son, not the dad.
Courtney Ramm, who is 17 (maybe 18 by now), is another one of the Nobel Sperm Bank children. She is a ballerina in New York and in 2006 she graduated from the Laguardia High School of Music and Art. She also has a sister and a brother and both are sperm donor babies. Her sister Leandra is a talented and accomplished singer. Her brother Logan (sperm donor Fuchsia) has autism. Read about their family here, in a brochure featuring her family (pictured below left).
Where are the rest of the Nobel Sperm Bank babies now? Plotz writes the following:
There are no Nobels and no criminals. All of them seem smart and engaged in the world. Most write a good e-mail and talk a good game on the phone. Two are quite prominent. The rising young businessman became a fabulously successful middle-aged businessman. The emerging political activist has become a semi-famous, sometimes controversial political activist. The two promising graduate students are now junior professors at decent universities. One of the prodigies has retired from a successful career in the intelligence trade to do consulting and muck about with high I.Q. organizations (groups like Mensa, but higher I.Q.'s required). The Average Guy has returned to grad school, where he's finishing a degree in environmental policy. Most of the Slate Seven remain connected to hard science, which would please Graham, who valued science and scorned just about everything else.Sadly, at least some of these donor sperm children seem quite aware of their status as consumerized products, made-to-order for a certain feature: intelligence. One 14-year-old donor sperm baby writes of himself:
The second child prodigy, who has abandoned hard science, has transformed most radically. He donated in the early '80s when he was a math whiz. Today he writes, "In many respects I feel I am a failure. The closest I have come to conventional success was when I made my living writing term papers for rich kids at Columbia, NYU, etc." But I don't think he really feels like a failure: He has just discarded the notion that intelligence, especially analytical intelligence, is an important measure of life. He has abandoned math and academia to become an artisan. "I have gone from being an intellectual whore to … I dunno what … I will never win a Nobel Prize, but I don't care. I will never make any 'great' contribution to science. No matter. I have come to terms with myself and who I am. This is the best part of growing old."
Some other donors, too, seem to be grappling with the burden of expectation. Several seem conscious of how well they have done in their profession versus how well a "genius donor" ought to have done.
"the thought that I was genetically engineered to be intelligent might have provided further impetus to my drive to improve my grades, but I do not believe it was the main factor."