Epstein reportedly hoped to develop super-race of humans with his DNA

Edward Helmore in New York
Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier accused of sex trafficking, planned to develop an improved super-race of humans using genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, according to the New York Times.

In the aftermath of his 2008 sex trafficking conviction, Epstein hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his ranch in New Mexico, one of his properties where young women, including minors, were allegedly abused, the newspaper reported in a major investigation.

Related: Jeffrey Epstein appears in court for first time since reported jail injuries

Though there is little evidence the scheme ever progressed beyond fantasy, prominent scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking, regularly attended dinners, lunches and conferences held by Epstein, the Times said.

Epstein has long been accused of sexually abusing underage girls. He also has purported connections to Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, and moved in elite social circles in New York, Florida and elsewhere.

He is currently in jail after being arrested on 6 July. He pleaded not guilty several weeks ago.

Epstein’s plans around his own progeny began to be talked about in the early 2000s, according to three sources contacted by the Times.

“Epstein told scientists and businessmen about his ambitions to use his New Mexico ranch as a base where women would be inseminated with his sperm and would give birth to his babies … Mr Epstein’s goal was to have 20 women at a time impregnated at his 33,000-sq-ft Zorro Ranch in a tiny town outside Santa Fe,” the Times said.

An aerial view of Zorro Ranch, near Stanley, New Mexico. Photograph: Drone Base/Reuters

Epstein’s field of study was labeled “transhumanism” but was an updated version of eugenics. Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who defended Epstein in 2008 and has been named in a civil suit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, told the Times he was appalled by the financier’s interest in genetic manipulation, given the Nazis’ use of eugenics in the 1930s.

“Everyone speculated about whether these scientists were more interested in his views or more interested in his money,” Dershowitz told the Times.

According to the paper, Epstein’s circle included the molecular engineer George Church; Murray Gell-Mann, the discover of the quark; the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks; and the theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek.

On one occasion, Epstein held a lunch at Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, a program he had helped fund with a $6.5m donation. In 2011, he gave $20,000 to the Worldwide Transhumanist Association, a project that now operates as Humanity Plus.

The Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker said he considered Epstein as an “intellectual impostor”.

“He would abruptly change the subject, ADD-style, dismiss an observation with an adolescent wisecrack,” Pinker told the paper. The virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier said Epstein’s ideas did not rise to science that could be subjected to critical analysis.

The scientific community, like Trump and much of New York and Palm Beach society, would sooner forget their association with Epstein.

Humanity Plus vice-chairman Ben Goertzel, whose salary was once paid by Epstein, told the Times: “I have no desire to talk about Epstein right now. The stuff I’m reading about him in the papers is pretty disturbing and goes way beyond what I thought his misdoings and kinks were. Yecch.”