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Biotech Science

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

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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  • Re:Big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:44PM (#22250680) Homepage

    Who gives two shits what a kook who believes in invisible super-beings things[sic]?

    The majority of the human race who are not atheist? The vocal atheists here on Slashdot should realize that everything is not them.

    The man is irrational and would gladly have us living back in the dark ages.

    The current pope has a long career in systematic theology. A man who has spent so much time in the tradition of inquiry is not the type who sends people back to "dark ages".

  • Here we go again. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:44PM (#22250692)
    I have to admit, while the Church's stance on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research is not surprising (albeit as ridiculous as ever), but I wonder how did artificial insemination make its way to the hate list? I mean, isn't it just following God's degree to "be fruitful and multiply"? Sometimes I think the Church just compiles the list of the most important scientific fields that are likely to provide us with answers about the Universe, and flat-out denies them... for the sake of good old times.

    But then I realized that by agreeing to artificial insemination, they agree to extra embryos being created, which would then be used for stem cell research (or they'd have to willingly destroy them). Wow, to go against reason AND God's decree, they must really hate embryonic stem cell a lot... or perhaps they just want to rake in some more donation from crazy people who want to blame ESC for the moral degeneration of our society.
  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:45PM (#22250714) Homepage Journal
    This from a man who upholds the Inquisition's judgment upon Galileo, and was a member of the Hitler Jugend.
  • by jellie ( 949898 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:45PM (#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."
  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:46PM (#22250730) Journal
    What do the candidates say about these subjects?

    US citizens ... do you know?
  • by countSudoku() ( 1047544 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:58PM (#22250938) Homepage
    Good point. You never hear the people who go ahead with an artificially induced pregnancy thanking medical science when they plop out a litter of 6 kids, just their wacky, pointless, god creature. Their god didn't want them to have babies in the first place, according to them, and the selfish pricks did it anyway, no thanks to the science that got them there. Give credit where credit is due.
  • by Altus ( 1034 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:01PM (#22251008) Homepage

    we have had artificial insemination for a long time now. I don't recall any other popes calling it an affront to human dignity. Are test tube babies not allowed to be baptized because fertilization occurred outside the body? what about the natural children of test tube babies? Are they tainted as well?
  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:07PM (#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 Bigmilt8 ( 843256 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:17PM (#22251312)
    Should a church that profitted from the slave trade, collaborated with the nazis, hid the molestation of children, and is the main reason the US Constitution requires a seperation of church and state be condemning anything?
  • by RailGunner ( 554645 ) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:36PM (#22251752) Journal
    I thought you knew that sperm cells only contain half of a human DNA sequence.
    They also do not have blood.

    But, I think you did know that, but sadly chose to continue posting your bile and venom towards religion. The Grandparent posters asked what may have been a serious question - though it may have been a troll, so I answered the question.

    What's your excuse? Why so much obvious hatred of Christianity? What happened to the liberal notion of "tolerance" and "live and let live"?
  • by brentonboy ( 1067468 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:33PM (#22252852) Homepage Journal
    He didn't make a scientific point, nor did he claim to. He made a moral point, which is well within the realm of the church. Are you trying to say that anything connected to science is "untouchable" when it comes to morality? Perhaps you would have had a successful career in Nazi Germany, doing scientific studies on Jews.
  • by THE anonymus coward ( 92468 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:37PM (#22252932) Homepage
    As a Catholic Geek who is big into both (I am studying to be a priest and I write software that will serve me as a Priest), it is important to understand what is going on, the parallels to the Borg collective and what isn't parallel. In the case of the Borg collective, it is a community dedicated to unity through compulsive slavery. The difference is that when we chant our prayers in unison, we are affirming what we have individually chosen to believe (which ought to be in unison with every other Catholic). It is a large organization, but not one based on slavery (like the Borg) but one based on a personal choice. I personally thing that chanting psalms in community is awesome.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:50PM (#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 THE anonymus coward ( 92468 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:57PM (#22253412) Homepage
    Since nobody has answered your questions...

    Catholic teaching holds that life is good, and Human life is in the image of our creator in a unique way. This includes everything from how we come into being, through how we live, to how we die. The problem lies in the separation of the conjugal act from procreation, which is something that John Paul II harped on to no end... people just didn't get it.

    As far as those who are the result of artificial insemination (or other fertility aids), they're not tainted. They're just as baptizable as anyone else, and their offspring as well.

    The deeper understanding behind this is that sex isn't supposed an action of gratification for self, but it is a gift of self for the good of the other, and sex is such a profound gift of self (in the body) that through a direct act of God, it has the potential to create another. The ability to be a co-worker with God in His work of creation is a great gift; one that we need to use as is intended. For example, I don't think you would be too happy if you gave one of your kids a hammer as a gift and they decided to pound on the dog and not nails.
  • by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:07PM (#22253588)
    Well said lgw.

    One might also point out, that Christianity reformed itself away from the corruptions of the Dark Ages quite some time ago. Indeed, Modern Christianity has been at the forefront of many of our most celebrated movements. These include the fight against Slavery (started by churches) and the Women's Suffrage in America (Started by Christian Women).

    Meanwhile, Islam is still stuck in the 7th century, still talking about past glories, and still ignoring the horrifying state of it's own affairs. I'm sorry, but a "Religion of Peace" does NOT generate the Taliban, Al Quaeda, and the MILLIONS of other splinter terrorist groups that Islam has. These groups are indicative of a fundamental flaw in this religion, or a corruption of the original intent so massive and deep that it may not be reversible.

    I do hope for Islam that it may yet return to the glory days of Sufism. Outspoken Muslim women like Hirsi Anan and other outspoken Muslims do give me hope. However when they are under threat from fatwas issued by supposedly "moderate" Muslim leaders, that hope is seriously shaken.

  • by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @07:10PM (#22254680)
    Condoms can't stop spreading HIV 100% of the time. Abstinence CAN (at least sexual transmission). Plus, if you only had sex when married, it stops the spreading of HIV to only that one other person IF you have it. And then possibly to the child if there is one.

    Your third statement ignores that it may take 10 years to find out they are HIV+. If you want to have children and have sex, it will just as easily spread HIV. You can't make an argument that condoms are the only way to stop it unless you also want to assume that you can't have sex WITHOUT a condom because there's a 1 in 4 chance you'll impregnate the significant other and still a chance you'll pass it onto the child. PLUS if you follow his rules, you wouldn't have premarital sex anyway. The person is foolish if they are ok with breaking that one, but not ok with breaking another. If you follow his rules, you can ONLY spread HIV+ to at most 1 + n, where n is the number of children you have. Since he also says you should only have sex for love AND procreation (not an and/or) that number will still be small. And if you only have sex with one person, your chances of getting AIDS is dramatically reduced because you *can't* get it sexually UNLESS the other person has A) been raped, B) got AIDS some nonsexual way, C) Born with it. In the last case, you'd probably know about it through a test. If its the first, its a limited scenario to begin with and if its the second, condoms have shit to do with it.

    I just have to reiterate... condoms are NOT the only thing keeping people from unknowingly spreading a horrible, deadly disease. It can curb it, but abstinence is MUCH better (but even that doesn't stop it from being spread non-sexually).
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @07:28PM (#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.. We're not really talking about ethics. This is something else.

  • by Dolohov ( 114209 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @08:23PM (#22255634)
    The problem lies in the separation of the conjugal act from procreation, which is something that John Paul II harped on to no end... people just didn't get it.

    It's not that we don't get it. It's that we don't agree.

    A while back, PayPal made a rather drastic change to its policies -- so drastic, that they made all their customers go to a page with the new policy. Underneath were two checkboxes, "I read and understand the new policy." and "I accept all of the changes above." If you checked the first box but not the second box, it threw an error. That reminds me a lot of the way Catholic doctrine has been handled: the assumption is always that if you don't agree, you can't possibly have understood. There's never any serious consideration of people who understand perfectly, but disagree on the basis of the rationale presented.

    Oh, and it's also why I can't use PayPal anymore.
  • by OSXCPA ( 805476 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @08:34PM (#22255786) Journal
    Former Catholic here - it is difficult to impossible to exercise choice in the Catholic faith when one is raised in it, as any deviation from orthodoxy results in the promise of a Nice Hot BBQ with you as the main course. If one does manage to do so (I did), then actually disentangling oneself from the clammy embrace of the church is another battle. My mother made me go to church - I tried to bail out of first communion and confirmation, and I refused to continue as an alter boy (phew! good thing, too... that was the 1970's and early 80's, when the church was still DELIBERATELY CONCEALING ACTIONS OF KNOWN PEDOPHILES AS A MATTER OF OFFICIAL POLICY AND THREATENING ANY PARISHIONER WHO COMPLAINED TO ANYONE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH WITH EXCOMMUNICATION see [] for one example).

    I finally got out by getting my mom to agree I could stop going to church if I made my confirmation. I believe this qualifies as 'duress'. I didn't realize the irony until later.

    I found even at that time that while there were some good people in the church, the church itself had absolutely no basis for authority other than the fear they used to force its followers into line - I cannot count the number of times the priest would come up with some crackpot notion of 'how things should be in the home', particularly with regard to the place of women, and people in the congregation would discuss the subject rabidly afterward, yet it never occurred to them that the church was so wrong that they should think of leaving, and if the church was wrong on that score, what else could they be wrong on?

    Oh, right - as the Catholic who posted about Gallileo noted, a Catholic CANNOT interpret scripture on their own. I forgot that.

    Any organization that actually says "you cannot think for yourself, else you are damned" deserves no respect from me, and any organization religious, commercial or civil that actively protects child molesters as a matter of policy deserves to have any tax-exempt status it enjoys revoked and have the management prosecuted under RICO. Think about it - if a large US corporation concealed an employee pedophilia ring, what would happen?

    Finally, to those in the Catholic church who would claim that the amount of abuse in the church is the same as in other organizations, so it is not as big a deal as people have made it - the church put itself out as an authority AND put all it's clergy (and laity, really) in positions of trust - like a teacher, but more so. The Catholic church also claims to be a moral bastion. You can't claim that on the one hand, then claim that it is ok to wallow with the Sodomites, statistically speaking.

    If you are Catholic, and read this, you can get better - the first step is to leave. It is really less painful than you might think, and you won't miss it much. Your Catholic friends and family who may cut you from their lives will pretty quickly appear to you as they really are - I think of it as 'Taliban lite'. And not all of them will cut you off - just the idiots.
  • by gijoel ( 628142 ) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @09:01PM (#22256110)
    You claim you have a problem with artificial insemination because eggs or embryos become discarded or are lost. What are your opinions on miscarriages? Is the mother wrong for having one? Has she committed a sin even if she is unaware of the miscarriage? Is she committing a sin if she smokes and she is unwittingly pregnant?

    What about those who remain celibate or don't have children? They're wasting eggs and sperm, aren't they by their refusal to conceive a child causing life to be destroyed?

    And if life is so sacred to god why does he allow so many women to miscarry? Why do something like 50% of conceptions fail to implant themselves in the uterus properly?

    Your ideas on the surface at least seem as ludicrous as this song. []
  • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @07:16AM (#22259484)
    It is a large organization, but not one based on slavery (like the Borg) but one based on a personal choice. I personally thing that chanting psalms in community is awesome.

    Actually, the analogy is quite apt: initially, adults resist assimilation, while kids are just born into the collective. But once assimulated, the community of the collective, the closeness of other minds, is something they value greatly. And then the drones go out and assimilate more pepole into the collective.

    The Borg is an excellent metaphor for organizations like the Catholic church. And that's not an accident: after all, the Star Trek writers are not stupid, and they are using Star Trek to show us things about our own society.
  • by OSXCPA ( 805476 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @08:59AM (#22259828) Journal
    Same situation in the US - we have been importing priests from third world countries where the Catholic church sent missionaries back in the 1950's and 60's. Every time I go to a function in a church (I grit my teeth and sit through weddings and baptisms in the name of family unity) I am surprised to see deacons doing most of the services except the actual sacrament, and many priests who have hysterically thick foreign accents. When I grew up (1970's and 80's) the 'foreign' priests were uncommon (50%) and usually Polish, German, Italian or Portuguese. Now, it seems like they are Korean, Phillippino or African. Interesting to see - one wonders if the rise in prevalence of third-world priests will result in the church moving further 'to the right' - they seem to be much more doctrinaire and dogmatic than the free-spirited American neo-hippies I recall. Then again, most of the priest I knew growing up who were worth a piss left the priesthood anyway.

    I think leaving is easy for people with few family ties - my family, no big deal. My sister married into a nutball Catholic family who are generally wonderful people, but they are seriously unhinged about being Catholic - leaving offerings at the shrine to aborted baby's (seriously - a creepy statue outside the church), baking a 'Happy Birthday Baby Jesus' cake at Christmas and describing 'The Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests' as 'evil people who want to bring down the Church. I made the mistake of asking the Patriarch of the family (after a few too many at a family function - those fools can DRINK in the best Irish-Catholic tradition) what he would do if some priest buggered one of his seven grandsons (all under 12 years old). I got the fish-eye, but one of his sons, not a parent but a godparent to a couple of the nephews, piped up that he'd 'kill the sonofabitch'. His heart was in the right place at least. If one of them tried to leave the church, they'd be ostracized.

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