On Tuesday, July 25, 1978, there were, roughly speaking, 214,000 babies born. Only one of them was a 5-pound, 12-ounce girl named Louise Brown.
But is was Louise alone whose arrival was annouced by satellite messenger to the whole world. It was Lousie alone, conceived outside her mother's womb, who has become a source of extraordinary international debate.
There is something symbolic in all this. Once again science has given birth to a new reality, and the public is left flailing out its conflicted responses. Once again technology has acted, and we are left to react. It seems that our scientific knowledge continually outspaces out philosophical grasp.
Dr. Patrick Steptoe, the creative force in this conception, concerned himself publicly with only a small aspect of the problem. He disclaimed, "We have not been concerned with anything else but helping an infertile couple."
But the rest of us are confronting more cosmic questions. Moral, ethical, social and even economic ones. We are the ones who often seem to be left with the extreme dilemmas - matters of life and death - that follow in the wake of so many "amoral" scientific discoveries.
Louise's existence, for example, challenges out notions of natural conception. But we have already been challenged in regard to our notions of natural death. While she was born in one hospital because of scientific know-how, tens of thousands of others were being sustained in other hospitals by and because of machines that breathe for them after their brains are dead.
In both cases, science leads us into untracked legal and moral areas. Indeed, "pulling the plug" is the technological name for a new ethical decision - a decision donated to our overloaded conscience by medicine.
Just a day after Louise's birth, another group of doctors reported that they can now identify a single gene among millions in a human cell. They can detect whether a fetus has such diseases as cystic fibrosis or sickly-cell anemia.
That fascinating piece of pure scientific research, however, adds another dimension to the endless, polarizing moral debate on abortion. We have new information, new choices to make. It seems sometimes that science goes forward, while people stand, debating its impact, with aching heads, in a quagmire of concerns.
Economic ethics enter the picture painted by technology. Each week, in some hospital or government chamber, we faces excruciating decisions about the distribution of expensive or limited resources - machines, or artificial organs, or sophiscated equipment and facilities.
Even in England, where millions were spent on the research that eventually brought this baby to life, a national health decision was made not to purchase enough kidney dialysis machines to sustain every patient. With available but "limited" technology, they must decide who lives and who dies.
So it seems that in the realm of bioethics, our most prized ideals often clash uncomfortable with each other and sometimes our entire value system threatens to collapse.
Who could, for example, doubt the personal value of this scientific breakthrough to Mr. and Mrs. Brown, or others like them? The desire to bear children is deep, and the inability causes some - like Doris Del Zio in the New York suit - enormous pain. Only the mean-spirited would fail to share the pleasure of the Browns.
Yet, we can still feel uneasy about the relative social vaue of this event. So much of our resources, and even attention, have been spent on a Technological Wonder Baby. Yet aren't the more crucial problems of the world those of fertility, not infertility? Aren't there, after all, thousands of babies facing death or half-life, for want of food, medicine or adoptive parents?
The gaps do seem to grow. Between the sophiscated things we are able to di and the basic things we don't do. Between our understanding of what we can do. We are left wrestling with life and death, with right and wrong.
Biological knowledge and medical technology have as great an effect on our world as mechanical inventions did on the 19th century. Again, science races ahead of us.
The questions seem to rise like the ingredients in a cake. But this cake comes to us in celebration of the birth of one of those 214,000 babies. The one named Louise.