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Pope Denounces Some Biotech as Affront to 'Human Dignity' 1158

Posted by Zonk
from the weighing-in dept.
eldavojohn writes "Today in a speech the pope denounced human cloning, embryonic stem cell research and artificial insemination, citing them as a violation of 'human dignity.' That said, the pope did 'appreciate and encourage' research on stem cells from non-embryonic cells in the human body. The pope encouraged the Vatican to be a leading voice in the philosophy and discussion of bioethics. 'Church teaching certainly cannot and must not weigh in on every novelty of science, but it has the task to reiterate the great values which are on the line and to propose to faithful and all men of good will ethical-moral principles and direction for new, important questions,' Benedict said."
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Pope Denounces Some Biotech as Affront to 'Human Dignity'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:41PM (#22250610)
    Please listen to what the Pope is saying!!! I'm Catholic and I strongly believe the Pope is right! He's always right! Humans shouldn't play God. Please listen to the Pope and just stop what you're doing!! :(
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)
      First of all, I need you or the Pope to demonstrate that God exists. Then we'll talk about whether the Pope is any better informed on what this alleged being wants and demands than, say, your average auto-mechanic or a half-dead chipmunk.
  • Ethics? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Plazmid (1132467) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:42PM (#22250642)
    Ethics? We don't need no steenkin' ethics!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by orclevegam (940336)

      Ethics? We don't need no steenkin' ethics!
      Sure we do, I just don't think that the pope is in a position to judge the ethics of science. That's a job for the scientists that actually understand what they're doing.
      • Re:Ethics? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:59PM (#22250966)
        ehhh, that position is arguable. That's like saying we should leave it up to a bunch of cannibals to decide if we should be allowed to eat humans in our society. Or leaving it up to the IRA to decide whether more restrictions should be imposed on the sale of shotguns in the US. There's a huge bias involved in saying, "hey, let the scientists decide if we should allow science to progress unhindered or not." Science inherently comes with no ethics. Its a dangerous deal to say let science take care of it. I know my analogies are obviously extreme, but they focus on the point i'm trying to make. You're giving a very important decision to a very biased group. I'm not saying the church is the right one, but I know they at least consider that which isn't scientific (dignity for one is not a scientific principle).
      • Re:Ethics? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:18PM (#22251344) Journal
        That's a job for the scientists that actually understand what they're doing.

        Actually, as a scientist, I would disagree with that. I agree that ethics should be judged by someone who understands what the scientists in question are doing (which clearly excludes the pope) but it should be judged by someone with a little more distance from the issue. Otherwise you end up with a conflict of interest between wanting to see if you are correct vs. doing the right thing.
  • by jellie (949898) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:45PM (#22250716)

    "Church teaching certainly cannot and must not weigh in on every novelty of science, but it has the task to reiterate the great values which are on the line and to propose to faithful and all men of good will ethical-moral principles and direction for new, important questions."
    "Science certainly cannot and must not weigh in on every novelty of church teaching, but it has the task to reiterate the great values which are on the line and to propose to reasonable and all men of good will rational-logical principles and direction for new, important questions."
  • As a pope myself (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nimey (114278) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:46PM (#22250720) Homepage Journal
    I hereby excommunicate this very silly pope.

    PS: Every man, woman, and child is a pope. Non serviam.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:50PM (#22253252) Homepage Journal
      The Pope is a position granted by adherents of the Catholic Church. You can try to minimize its importance all you want but your declaration is irrelevant and immature.

      I certainly would not want his position, I am not as firm in my beliefs as he is. As such I am also not as trapped either. The Pope of modern days must first respect his fellow Catholics and that means staying the course with little deviation. He walks a fine line in that while he does have a great amount of knowledge; don't fool yourself in believing him ignorant, while that may offer you solace in your belief he is far from it. In fact I figure he is well educated in this issue and its that education which puts a great difficulty before him. The Church can no longer afford to ignorant of science but it does not have to sit idly by and allow science to run over man.

      The mission of the Church for some time has been directed to preserving the dignity of man. Yes we can dig up history and throw that in his face and the followers of any religion. The important issue is how it goes forward. What used to amaze me no longer does, people will flock to a politician offering a chicken in their pot, knowing full well its a lie, yet begrudge a man for holding to his principles. We will celebrate a whoring celebrity, a deceitful politician, and the almighty dollar, yet laugh at someone who is offers his beliefs to us.

      What does it say about us? What does it say about him? The Church will be here long after many of us. It is through declarations like this that give us insight into how its going forward. While all religions have their radicals the leader of any stable religion can no longer afford such. Still they cannot stand still. He has opened a large door and taken a big step but here many are chastising him for not taking more steps. Give them time. They are monolithic and essentially eternal. They cannot he held to the same clock we hold ourselves. We make a decision and it usually affects us solely, the Church makes a decision and it affects tens of millions. As such their steps must be much more carefully thought out and delivered. I think he has made a great opening. He has relieve many Catholics who are in this line of research of many choices of faith that burdens them. He has given them freedom that many felt they may not have had. While he still have put barriers up he has shown some flexibility which allows the Church and its followers to go forward.

      Rome was not built in a day, don't expect the Church to change in one either.
  • by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:46PM (#22250730) Journal
    What do the candidates say about these subjects?

    US citizens ... do you know?
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:47PM (#22250754)
    We listen to engineers and scientists when they have demonstrated some expertise in their fields of expertise.

    Considering how much scandal comes out of the religious leadership field, I'd say religious leaders are no more moral than ordinary people and have no better grasp of ethics than ordinary people.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:51PM (#22250810)
    If you don't like the research, refuse the treatments when you are sick in the hospital. Why do some religious types feel they need to impart their beliefs on everyone else?

    Don't agree with or like abortion - fine - don't have one. Don't like what you hear on the radio or see on TV - fine also, change the channel.

    Just don't tell me what to do - I have a brain in my skull and I know how to use it independently.

    -ted
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by n-baxley (103975)
      >> If you don't like the research, refuse the treatments when you are sick in the hospital.
      Well, okay I refuse all treatments derived from embryonic stem cells. Oh wait, there aren't any. Meanwhile research goes on with adult stem cells which have zero controversy around them and don't kill innocent embryos. How you make the leap from don't research embryonic stem cells to all medical research is beyond me.

      And by the way, what does a person like yourself who doesn't want to hear the pope's views do
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you don't like the research, refuse the treatments when you are sick in the hospital. Why do some religious types feel they need to impart their beliefs on everyone else? Don't agree with or like abortion - fine - don't have one. Don't like what you hear on the radio or see on TV - fine also, change the channel. Just don't tell me what to do - I have a brain in my skull and I know how to use it independently.

      While I agree with the sentiment that there are major problems with legislated morality (and the religious right's approach) - I need to point out the limits (fallacies) to your argument. The law, in every country, is legislated morality. There is a codification of right and wrong in the law. It is not simply the "religious kooks" that seek to impose their version of morality.

      Gay marriage is a good example. There are groups of people that are fighting for acceptance of the word "marriage" to be affixed

  • by nebrshugyo (1216152) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @02:55PM (#22250874) Journal
    Lets try a thought experiment: pretent that the Dalai Lama had spoken the Pope's words. Are those words more or less palatible based on who says them?

    You don't even need to be religious to see that the commodization of human life, to say nothing of unfettered transhumanism, are not, on their face, good things. Call me a pesimist, but I'm more with Bill Joy than Ray Kurzweil.

    A final thought: if there was the slightest chance that, by a snap of the fingers, I could remove all the harm to others attributed to the Roman Catholic Church, I'd do it - and I'm Catholic. Unfortunately, none of the evils attributed to Catholicism in particular or religion in general would disappear. So the cause must be elsewhere.
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:18PM (#22251320) Journal

      A final thought: if there was the slightest chance that, by a snap of the fingers, I could remove all the harm to others attributed to the Roman Catholic Church, I'd do it - and I'm Catholic. Unfortunately, none of the evils attributed to Catholicism in particular or religion in general would disappear. So the cause must be elsewhere.


      The reason I point out the Church's sins, and that of most religions, is because it demonstrates rather well that whatever the particular claims of divine inspiration and guidance, religions are like all other human social constructs. There's no effective difference, either in governance or in command structure, between the Roman Catholic Church, China's Peoples Liberation Army or International Business Machines. The only meaningful difference is the leadership's particular claims as to the origins of their authority.
  • Secular Humanism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by katorga (623930) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:01PM (#22251010)
    The "dignity of man" referenced by the Catholic Pope, regardless of modern religion, is the basis of the enlightenment and of all modern secular humanist societies and of the concept of human rights. Once the concept of innate human dignity is gone, you end up with societies where human beings are nothing more than raw material for the State machine. As the concept fades you see inhumane state practices appear such as denying health care to the obese in the UK or mandatory abortions in China. The needs of people can be ignored when they become inconvenient or expensive to the state if there is no innate dignity of man.
    • Re:Secular Humanism (Score:4, Informative)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:21PM (#22251390) Journal
      That's a lovely sentiment, but the idea of human dignity that most people find familiar does not have its origins in the Church, but rather in the Enlightenment, which was populated by more than a few great thinkers who did not find very much attractive in the Church's history, monolithic structure or its behavior.

      There were enough Popes directly or indirectly ordering the imprisonment and burning of heretics and other non-conformists that it's pretty clear that this modern post-Vatican II church is attempting to rewrite its own history to make itself into the champion of human dignity, when its real history shows it to have been a powerful political force quite willing to trample any notions of human dignity in the pursuit and maintenance of power and influence.
  • by ObiWonKanblomi (320618) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:03PM (#22251058) Journal
    It is odd, backwards thinking, and outright excessive for the vast majority of the posters who are stating the denouncement of artificial insemination is the only option for couples who can't have children.

    In many countries across the globe, there are large legitimate orphanages with many orphans seeking new parents. I find it closed-minded the posters here choose not to recognize many of these orphanages are backed by religious organizations including the Catholic Church. It's not like the Church denounces abortion and artificial insemination... they actually "walk the talk" when funding the alternative.

    In contrast to adoption, artificial insemination costs a lot of money and time. The procedure is not perfect, fails many times, and each time can cost in the tens of thousands of US dollars.
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:07PM (#22251128)
    I can't believe I am posting about this. I'm a Catholic, I'm a scientist, and my kids are the result of artificial insemination.

    In my local Catholic community, these things are not discussed. Instead I hear mostly about practicing non-violent conflict resolution and a life time of charitable endeavors. That all works for me on the local level. Beyond that, the Catholic hierarchy can go pound sand. The pope and most of the clergy that rank high enough to wear silly hats tragically waste their energy on needlessly divisive issues. I'd rather they worked on poverty and resolving conflict without war.
  • by Irvu (248207) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:47PM (#22251984)
    Artificial Insemination is an interesting one. Basically it is using externam equipment to produce a fertilized egg and then insert it into a woman who otherwize cannot succeed through normal means. It is a well-known practice and can even, for the squeamish, be performed for a married couple using only their eggs and sperm, no external players are needed.

    Interestingly this procedure, well-accepted in most western societies is banned in Italy even for married couples using their own genetic material thanks to the Church. The argument goes something along the lines of: "If god wanted them to have kids he would let them do it normally."

    It is interesting because most /.ers might scoff at the pope and in many countries even ones with large Catholic populations like the U.S. his claims don't carry the weight of law. But in modern democratic Italy he can still arrainge for consenting married couples who want to raise healthy children of their own to be denied it because the process is "an affront".
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:28PM (#22254906) Homepage Journal

    He says some good common sense, "scientific progress should not be accepted uncritically" and that he "wanted [scientific progress] based on 'ethical-moral principles.'" No problem. Not even controversial. But then we get to the nitty-gritty:

    Practices like freezing embryos, suppression of embryos in multiple pregnancies, embryonic stem cell research, the prospect of human cloning and artificial insemination outside the body had "shattered the barriers meant to protect human dignity," he said.

    "Meant." See that word? Convert the verb to active voice, and look at the subject.

    Aside from that..

    "When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure 'biological material,' how can one deny that they are being treated not as 'someone' but as 'something,"' he said.

    That's a fine thing to say, but based on the premise that embryos are people. If you can't find any support for the premise and reject it, then you're left with 'something' being treated as 'something' -- and technology that isn't conflicting with anyone's ethical principles.

    This doesn't mean he's wrong, but it does mean he's unpersuasive. Asserting that an ethical principle has been violated, without explaining that it is an ethical principle, says nothing.

    But he can't go beyond that, and show that an embryo is a person, because there isn't any information to support that. No one has communicated with an embryo, so we've been left with looking at their rather lumplike behavior, which different people subjectively interpret in different ways. Without information, that leaves..

    ..faith. We're not really talking about ethics. This is something else.

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