As Francis observes:
On this sceptred isle the befrocked prelates are worrying themselves silly and profoundly irritating everyone else over government plans to regulate the use of hybrid embryos in medical research. Church-issued press releases are littered with words such as “monstrous” and “hideous”, and politicians are tying themselves in knots in a feeble attempt to accommodate Catholic prejudices.
Another juicy quote comes from one of the Church of England’s prize gobs – Bishop of Durham Tom Wright – who has accused ministers of pushing through legislation from “a militantly atheist and secularist lobby”. Christ on a fucking velocipede!
Ophelia notes the Bishop of Lichfield's comments against embryo research, in which he said:
It's a very important part of our society and a very important part of the Christian faith that you should have respect for human embryos.
And in what sense is that respect a very important part of the Christian faith? Where does that come from? Where is it written? How long has it been the case? What is it based on? Anything? Did Jesus say anything about it? Did (even) Paul? Did Augustine? Tertullian? Aquinas? Luther?PZ, experienced in these battles, also chimes in:
To be blunt, I don't think that is a very important part of the Christian faith, I think it's a recently invented rule that some Christians have made an enormous fetish of for the simple reason that there is nothing much else they can make a fetish of because they've been superseded. We don't need Christianity in order to work for human rights or equality or animal rights or justice or peace or benevolence. There is little room left for Christians to exercise moral scrupulosity, so they have to find little neglected corners that are neglected because they are in fact bogus. So the poor sad underemployed Christians trundle around finding embryos and cells to protect, since real people with real needs can be protected by atheists just as well as by theists. It's sad for them. Soon they'll be making ethical fusses about molecules and atoms.
I addressed this a couple of years ago when Bush wanted to ban this kind of research (by the way, we aren't ahead of the Brits in this game; they're at least discussing this, while our government has mostly acted to shut this work down, leaving little to argue over). This is not a science-fiction project to create half-human slave labor or anything silly like that — it is serious research in early development that puts human disease-related forms of genes into animal models so that we can try experimental treatments. "Monstrous" would be taking risks or doing experiments on Down syndrome children; humane would be inducing an analog of Down syndrome in mice so that we can figure out causes and treatments of health problems in an informed way. I would also put using ignorance and medieval dogma to prevent biomedical research in the "monstrous" category, but then, I put just about everything about the Catholic church in that bin.
I can't really say whether this should be a 'free vote' or not -- the latest news seems to be that this it will be, but the criteria for doing so seem to be very uncertain -- but in any case, it seems clear to me that the potential benefit from the research proposed clearly outweighs any of the rather vague oppositions to it.
It's irksome that 'conscience' is all-too-often equated with 'religious mysticism'.