TO THE EDITOR, CATHOLIC TIMES, CREDO FOR 28TH JANUARY
FR FRANCIS MARSDEN
“I’m a family man, a respectable man
A Christian man through and through
I go to church Sundays with children and wife
O vote for me, please won’t you too.”
But a family man, a respectable man
A Christian from head to toes
Must know that to legalise cloning of men -
‘Tis a monstrous thing you propose.
“But the medical men and the research men
Promise this is the cure for grave ills
A few cloned embryo stem cells won’t hurt
Though them in the process we kill.”
Should a family man, a respectable man
Let this nightmare scenario dawn
In thrall t’ the millionaire medical men
For whom legions of clones will be born?
“O the financial men and the bio-tech men
Urge this as the way to win all
To make Britain great, let us prosper and clone
So our Stock Exchange never may fall.”
Seems this family man, this respectable man
Anxious to please sundry and all
Will separate conscience and morals from votes
Provided he wins in the poll.
“The media men, and the BBC men
Keep them on side, o’er-rule the Lords,
With carrots and whips we’ll force ev’ry vote through,
To the chattering classes’ applause.”
When a family man, a respectable man
Thus ignores what Nature ordained,
The children conceived but to be sacrificed
Their vengeance will claim on that Day.
“I’m a family man, a respectable man
To Church Sundays with cameras and wife
I’m “the people’s choice” man and an ethical man
But religion is separate from life.”
It is hard to reconcile Mr Blair’s personal votes for abortion and for human cloning in the House with his affirmations of Christianity and “family values.” As G.K.Chesterton wrote in 1930. “It is possible to play an endless game with the word Christian and to perpetually extend its epoch by perpetually diminishing its meaning.”
If Parliament permits “therapeutic cloning” or “cell nuclear replacement” it is one more step along the pathway of abortion, embryo experimentation, IVF and the eugenic takeover of the springs of human life. It will mark the re-introduction of the death penalty – this time for innocent human beings, clones – who according to the proposed legislation must be killed and not brought to term.
Remedy for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases is more likely to be achieved by perfectly moral routes using material from the umbilical cord or placenta. Therapeutic cloning is unnecessary. It is a foot in the door, opening the way to full human reproductive cloning later. Do we want a society where many people are clones of others? Where Diane can clone her Dad and have him as a baby. More fundamentally, have we the right to tamper with the genesis of human life in this way?
The Catechism has some concise comments about the role of science.
“Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation.”
This harks back to when God commanded Adam: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it.” (Gen 1:28). Because man is made “in the image and likeness” of God, he can come to understand the way in which God has designed the material world. No other creature can do this. Man can “think God’s thoughts after Him,” uncovering and copying the mysterious mechanisms of Nature.
It is no accident that science took off in medieval European Catholic culture. The Chinese and Indian civilisations are much more ancient: the Arab Muslims had a head-start in algebra and medicine. Yet none of these capitalised on their advantages. Christian Europe became the cradle of modern science, precisely because it believed in one God who created the universe rationally, and wanted to use scientific knowledge for love of neighbour.
“Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves, however, they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress.”
Science is not a source of moral values. Values come from one’s anthropology, one’s vision of man and human life, from philosophy and religion. Why are we here? What can we hope for? Where is true happiness to be found?
Science can build me a computer or a sports car or an atom bomb, but it cannot prove that true happiness or the meaning of human life is found in playing with these.
Natural science tells us the “How?” of material processes. It does not answer the question “Why?” In Aristotelian terms, it deals only with material and efficient causes, not with final or formal causes. Moreover, science can treat the material aspect of being only when it behaves regularly. It cannot cope with the miraculous. Nor can it cope with the spiritual dimension in which free will is a deciding factor. Indeed, science has great difficulty with human psychological systems, in which spirit, psyche and matter intermesh.
“Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.” (CCC 2293)
Science is meant to serve the human person, in whom it originates. Science cannot be separate from the human person. It is never abstract, impersonal or value-free. Our perception of the objective is never totally free of the subjective. The observer influences the system he observes.
The scientist is, of his own nature, no more and no less moral than the bus driver, the orchestral musician or the binman. He has the same temptations to make a quick buck. He has more temptations to intellectual pride, to careerism and to delusions of the grandeur waiting for those who push back the frontiers of human knowledge. His white lab-coat does not miraculously protect him from sleeping with the lab assistants or the senior lecturer’s wife.
The scientist’s morals by and large, are those of his family, social and religious upbringing, probably tailored to suit his career choice. He has no specifically ethical or philosophical preparation for his scientific enterprise, unless he reads these subjects up in his spare time like any educated layperson.
Approximately half Britain’s mathematicians, engineers and physicists work in the “defence or defence-related industries.” They spend their lives researching more efficient methods of bombing, poisoning and shooting their fellow human beings into oblivion. Hardly the evidence of a refined moral conscience.
Our British scientist just gets on with the job. To keep his employer happy he has to show that his work has some real likelihood of earning a profit - that it isn’t solely an intellectual pursuit which runs up massive laboratory expenses. In the universities he is ever on the look out for the next research grant from an interested commercial client. When Dolly the sheep was cloned the stock value of PPL Therapeutics rose by over $60 million.
Dr Richard Seed raised $15 million investment for his first Japanese cloning lab. He declared: "God made man in his own image. God intended for man to become one with God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA are the first serious steps in becoming one with God." (Guardian 2 .12.1998). Sounds to me like “Listen with Lucifer.” Fortunately the Japanese government has now slapped a 10-year gaol sentence on anyone cloning human beings.
Even medical research enjoys no automatic benediction from the Most High. It is most worthy if it is performed genuinely for the good of one’s neighbour, and not for selfish gain or fame. When it goes beyond the limits of morality, exploiting or sacrificing human beings for other ends, it becomes dangerous to society and a veritable curse.
Destructive experimentation on human beings was a speciality of Nazi medicine. Nazi doctors gained a great deal of scientific knowledge about how long human beings could survive in icy water, or how various poisons killed their victims. Dr. Josef Mengele was obsessed with experiments on twins, whom he usually killed in the end with phenol injections. Phenol burns out the arteries and veins from within.
Experiments on human embryos have the same moral value.
To suggest that either scientists or medics should be left alone to devise their own morality and regulate their own ethics committees is therefore the wildest folly. It is far worse than suggesting that bank staff should invent their own working rules and have them enshrined in law.
Christians in Parliament should stop doing the tango with the eugenicists, and start marching like Christian soldiers.