Search This Blog

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The cardinal and the scientists: why do they need to speak?

The Catholic cardinal who has stirred up most of the controversy over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (see earlier story), Keith O'Brien of Scotland, has now said he's willing to meet scientists to discuss the areas that bother him.

He'd been urged to do so by the MP for Livingston, Jim Devine, himself a Roman Catholic but a supporter of the Bill.

According to
this BBC story, O'Brien "has described legislation going through Westminster, which would allow the creation of animal–human embryos, as 'monstrous' ".

O'Brien is quoted in the story as saying, "I would be only too happy to agree to such a meeting and I am sure other Church representatives and leaders of other faiths would also agree. My only condition would be that the scientists were also willing to accept instruction from our Churches and peoples of faith on basic morality, on what human life really is, on the purpose of our life on earth and so on."

So there's a caveat. I'll talk to you if you "accept instruction" from the churches and "peoples of faith". Accept instruction? Why should any scientist worth his or her salt accept such a condition? What has a belief that a bundle of cells – no more sentient than an eyelash – is a human being with a soul got to do with humankind's efforts to further knowledge and, potentially, its ability to cure nasty illnesses?

How far down the road will we go towards appeasing the superstitious before we abandon science altogether? Is this the start of the proverbial slippery slope?

Professor Colin Blakemore (featured in that earlier story) is delighted, saying that he hopes the Church will accept that even scientists who don't have religious beliefs still have a moral code. But did Blakemore know about O'Brien's condition when he said that?

In his Easter sermon, O'Brien described the legislation as a "monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life", adding that it would allow experiments of "Frankenstein proportion". The worthy cardinal doesn't, it seems, stop to think about the monstrous attacks on the rights and dignities of actual, living, breathing, sentient, aware, conscious, thinking human beings when he supports his church's attack on condom use, for instance, and its antiabortion stance, even if an abortion could save a mother's life or prevent untold strife if an unwanted pregnancy – even one engendered by rape – were taken to its full term.

Then there is the attack on human dignity caused by an ever-increasing population, making huge demands on the environment, when populations could be to some extent managed sensibly with intelligent birth-control policies.

A date of 22 April has been pencilled in for a meeting. See the PTT's news release on the issue here.

No comments: