Move over — old fellow!

By Ken Perrott 05/10/2010

As a kid I used to enjoy running. Even competed a bit. But this morning I was reminded of an incident from one of my competitions where I was in a 1 mile race – and doing quite well. Suddenly, as I passed one of the other competitors, who obviously fancied himself a bit, he grabbed me and tried to prevent me from passing.

Well, sometimes I think the relationship between science and religion is a bit like this. Almost always religion will take a conservative stance and will work hard to criticise or prevent scientific advances. This is particularly cruel when these advances enhance our quality of life. One calls to mind things like contraception, anesthetics for childbirth, etc. And fertility assistance.

So here’s how the Catholic church reacts to news of the Nobel Prize to British in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) pioneer Robert Edwards (see Vatican official criticises Nobel win for IVF pioneer):

Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the award ignored the ethical questions raised by the fertility treatment. Mr Carrasco, the Vatican’s spokesman on bio-ethics, did admit IVF had been “a new and important chapter in the field of human reproduction”.

But he said the Nobel prize committee’s choice of Prof Edwards had been “completely out of order” as without his treatment, there would be no market for human eggs “and there would not be a large number of freezers filled with embryos in the world”, he told Italy’s Ansa news agency.

“In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible.”

But this is milder than some of the Vatican’s previous criticisms (see Vatican Aide Says Medicine Nobel Winner Opened `Important’ Human Chapter at the Bloomberg News):

The Roman Catholic Church had condemned embryonic stem cell research and artificial fertilization, most definitively in a 2008 bioethics document released a month after Barack Obama was elected the U.S. president.

IVF violates ’the sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception until its natural death,’ according to the document, entitled ’Dignitas Personae’ or Latin for ’The Dignity of a Person.’

*Declaration of interest: A very early photo of one of my grandchildren

No mention of the nearly four million babies which have been born using IVF fertility treatment since 1978. Or the happiness this has brought to parents (and grandparents*) – and as Grant from Code for Life points out “the wider family.”

And ignoring completely the huge loss of embryos which occur naturally all the time.

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0 Responses to “Move over — old fellow!”

  • FWIW, the original draft of my post on the Medicine/Physiology Nobel briefly noted the Catholic reaction. As you say, their religious doctrine conflicts with the use of treatment. The award is for the science and the benefits it brought. Catholics might choose avoid IVF on the basis of doctrine, but objecting to the award seems rather churlish.

    I enjoyed running as a kid too! I keep saying one day I ought to get back to it. You’re doing better than me 🙂

  • Probably not doing better these days, Grant. Haven’t been able to run for a while because of cardiac problems. But do a lot of walking now, which I enjoy. Great chance to catch up with podcasts.

  • Freezers filled with embryos – talk about hyperbole 🙂 Ranks of eppendorfs in a few liquid nitrogen containers, perhaps.
    And further (no smiley this time): for that spokesman to say that “IVF violates the sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception until its natural death,” seems to me to be ignoring the mote in the RCC’s own eye – all those documented child abuse cases where children’s lives were not exactly being viewed as sacred.

  • Yes, Alison. The hypocrisy of situations like this make me angry. And I think more and more people are realizing this. An organization with this sort of track record has no credibility dictating morality to others.