10 May 2008

The Reville-led Counter-Reformation

If you pay the online tithe to Geraldine Kennedy you can see the latest offering from the Irish counter-reformation in the form of a letter to the Irish Times (under the title "Report on Stem Cell Research"). There are lot of impressive names at the bottom of said letter.

I wonder in what room they put this nonsense together? Smells very well organised. I betcha if you asked Opus Dei, they'd tell you they had nothing to do with it.

Would you believe them?

Leaving that aside, have you ever heard seen such bullshite published in a national newspaper before (excepting the musings of John Waters)?

Try just this: "Scientifically it is a fact that a new, unique, human individual comes into existence when the DNA from sperm and ovum come together at fertilisation." Well, your blogger's wife's an identical twin. Are her and her sister to be considered collectively a unique, human individual? On first consideration, this is quite an attractive prospect to a red-blooded Irish male like your blogger. I'd be married to both of them! But then, on second thoughts, since the other one's married too, they'd be bigamists, and poor Aggresso and his brother-in-law would both be cuckolds.

As for the fact that about two thirds of naturally produced zygotes die as part of the normal reproduction process, well that's hardly mentioned. Could that be because the letter writers are well aware that their stubborn "at conception" position would logically imply that medical science has an ethical responsibility to save such new, unique, human individuals? Where is all the medical work being done in catholic university hospitals, with catholic researchers selflessly and ceaselessly working on ways of preventing tiny, tiny, tiny humans from dying because of their inability to implant into the wall of the womb? Is this not a human disaster on a scale that dwarfs the terrible price of the western "culture of abortion"?

Well, no it's not. And it's not so, not because the processes involved in a zygotes failure to implant are 'natural' (children dying of smallpox is also natural), but because a zygote quite simply and clearly doesn't have the same status as either a new-born baby or my wife.

These absurdities are not resolved by simply denying their existence: "Neither the fact that many embryos die, nor that twinning can occur, changes the fact that destroying IVF embryos is destroying the lives of human individuals." Perhaps not -- maybe you can after all deal with the many objections to considering a zygote a human being. But you need an argument. A denial is not a refutation.

Now these people are clearly well-educated enough to know all this, and also know enough to be aware that there is no magical moment of conception (the process takes quite some time). The only reasonable conclusion to come to is that they are, of course and as usual, being disingenuous (a term generally used as a euphemism to indicate a desire on the part of the speaker to use harder words).

But the hottest quote your blogger can find in the letter is this: "The issue of the rights of embryos is often portrayed as a religious one, but our position is based on scientific principles and concern for fundamental human rights, not on religious dogma." Which scientific principles, they don't say. How their view can be described as scientific, they don't say either.

Perhaps they mean the position outlined by William Reville a few days ago in his "Under the microscope" column (available, again, only if you pay the Times Tithe), which turns out to be more of the same sort of claptrap.

What is clear from the latest flurry of catholic-inspired controversy is that this "at conception" stuff, while not quite as dishonest and crass as intelligent design, is not far off.

For a more detailed critique of Reville's view, have a look my post here.

1 comment:

3Finker said...

Thanks for highlighting this, i rarely get time for buying daily paper and refuse on principle to pay for online news. They are clearly taking a page out of the ID 'book of revelation' - dress up their religious piety with just enough scientific jargon to fool people without the requisite educational background. What chance do we really have for an informed debate with special interest groups using these methods.