Fanatical, Blind Faith . . . in Science | E. Scott Lloyd | July 27, 2006
"The moratorium has dramatically limited the development of possible treatment for millions of individuals who suffer from serious disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and leukemia. We must let medicine and science proceed unencumbered by anti-abortion politics."
"The Bush Administration is again wielding the anti-abortion club. This time its bias threatens access to . . . a potentially effective treatment for breast and brain cancer, Cushing's disease, glaucoma and diabetes."
One might think these two quotes are taken from the media coverage surrounding the President's veto of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research last week. But they're not. The first is from Bill Clinton, made on January 22, 1992, when he removed the ban on federal funding for farming tissue from aborted fetuses. The second is from Oregon representative (now Senator) Ron Wyden, in an op-ed column from the April 10, 1991, edition of the New York Times, decrying the first Bush Administration's import ban on RU-486.
We have yet to see the treatments promised in either of these pet causes of the Culture of Death. The enlightened mind might wonder why we should believe the latest promises coming from the realm where human life is a commodity.
I am one among the "Luddites" who oppose embryonic stem cell research for a couple of simple reasons: 1) it kills a human being; 2) adult stem cells are beginning to work already in humans, and you don't have to kill people to fund that. My objection to the research is not that it violates the Sabbath or some random cranny of canon law; my objection to the research is that it kills people. This isn't about religion as much as it is about basic issues of respect and decency. Over the past week I have listened to public officials and media commentators decry opposition to embryonic stem cell research as "foolish" and "absolutely ridiculous." But the life-respecting position is the only enlightened position to take.
Religion vs. "Enlightenment"
Catholics like myself have a lot to back up our beliefs. We have, as St. Paul pointed out, the majesty of creation. We have the intellect needed to contemplate it. We have thousands of years worth of well-documented, well-examined (especially recently), if not well-believed, miracles. We have the everyday miracles of those like myself who, when far from his faith was a loser, has become a new creation through his faith in Christ, with the help of His faithful clergy. We have the Eucharist, which anyone who participates and believes, knows has the power to transform.
Since the Enlightenment, these things don't carry as much weight, because people pay less attention to them, and because people have come to believe that they can understand and explain everything. With the stem cell debate, it's clear that many think we can control everything, as well.
Enlightenment thinking has added much to thinking about religion. It has led to advances that earlier generations never could have dreamed of. It sloughed off a form of fear that truly was unhealthy for humanity that is separate from religion, if not from the way some practiced it. But now, I fear, just as some Christians made a caricature out of the Faith during certain times of history, Enlightenment thinking is becoming a caricature of itself.
The scientific method, after all, has evidence, logic, reasoned judgment, and honesty as essential elements. All of these are absent, however, in the advocacy for embryonic stem cell research. For example:
Advocates for embryonic stem cell research do all but promise cures for Parkinson's, diabetes, paralysis, and nearly everything else, and the evidence they have for these claims is a hobbling rat.
Advocates are willing to take the leap from logic necessary to call frozen embryos "potential life," when, whatever else those embryos are, they are certainly alive. Logic also leads us to the conclusion that this is not zebra life, but human life.
Reasoned judgment would lead us to the conclusion that when you have something that logic tells us is human life, you shouldn't kill it, and that when you have similar research (adult stem cells) that is actually helping real people with real diseases, you put your limited resources into that first.
Honesty would instruct you not to characterize the President's veto as "dash[ing] the hopes of millions," when it's not even the end of this research. Billions of dollars are coming from states and private entities already. Honesty would instruct you to ask when polling, along with whether one supports embryonic stem cell research, if they understand the details of the situation.
But it should come as no surprise that some in the medical and scientific establishment and their political mouthpieces have little regard for evidence, logic, reasoned judgment, and honesty when they also have little regard for God, religion, other human beings, sex, and common sense. This is just the latest manifestation of a process that began when the medical field sold its healing soul for a new, abortive reality, when medicine taught women to rely on chemicals rather than their wills to avoid pregnancy, and men learned to expect (or even demand) them to do so, and when medicine invited us to trade sex and adoption for the Petri dish.
Although one might wonder why or how this happened, the answer is obvious. Chesterton has pointed out that the first thing to go when one turns from God is their common sense. The more important question to ask is to what end these technologies are oriented. In other words, if religious believers are anti-progress, please tell me what we are progressing toward. The answer is a certain demise--and it is certain even if months or years are gained through science and medicine. Lost in this debate is the fact that people who are cured from embryonic stem cell treatments for Parkinson's or Alzheimer's (if they ever do come along) will still one day be dead people who had once been cured from Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Their only concern then will be if they used those extra days to reflect, seek God, and repent.
The Religion of Death; the Religion of Eternal Life
When science and medicine ignore the principles at their core, they become something other than science and medicine--just as the religion of those who have killed unjustly in the name of Christianity were practicing something other than Christianity. As we listen to politicians and scientists fill our ears with all-too-familiar false prophesies of cures and miracles and of life that approaches everlasting; when they talk of the denial of federal funding being the denial of hope itself; when they demonize the decent, sincere, and better-grounded objections of their fellow Americans; when they refuse to compromise with reason; when they peddle false hope; when they kill for their ideology, then what we are watching is nothing less than the Party of Death becoming the Religion of Death, and we are entering its Dark Ages. If it continues along this path, it will receive a humbling worse than the Reformation.
Disease is not evil; it is an unfortunate fact of a life, and life is a terminal condition. Killing innocent human life, on the other hand, is evil. Just as science, medicine, and reason as we knew it are passing away before our eyes, we will all pass away. Some of us will die from Parkinson's, some from cancer, some from diabetes or old age, a few by stepping in front of a moving car, train, or bus. There is nothing wrong with wanting relief from disease, but there is something wrong with attempting to justify evil to obtain it. Those Christians and other religious believers who object aren't anti-science; they're anti-murder.
As strange as it may sound, I would encourage advocates of these technologies seek comfort in the fact that they will die someday. It is one of the few things we all have in common. Among the dead are some of the greatest hearts and minds in human history. Most important among them is Jesus Christ. But among the greats, his is the only story that doesn't end in death, but continues with resurrection, resulting in a true promise of Eternal life that is authentic to this day. In the stem cell debate, we see the lengths that those who are not truly with him will go to in order to cling to the only life they can have without him.
I just wonder why, if so many scientists are willing to believe in the improbable end to disease through killing innocent life, so many of them are not willing to believe in healing and eternal life through Jesus Christ. The evidence is all around them, and it is better than the evidence for their ideology. My guess is that many don't because it's not eternal life that comes through them. This is a temptation as old as time--men trying to become gods. The "Luddite" Christians in America--most of them, at least--understand this, and see it all over this debate. The flight from logic and reason belongs to those who call themselves Enlightened and reasonable, and they cannot claim they haven't been warned. But I guess when you don't believe the Creation "myth" doesn't make scientific sense, you don't believe in the transcendent truth it contains.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com/Insight Scoop Links:
President Bush vetoes embryonic stem-cell research bill | Carl E. Olson
Embryonic Stem Cells and the Calculation of Consequences | Carl E. Olson
Deadly Architects: An Interview with Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker
Related Ignatius Press Books:
Architects of the Culture of Death | Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker
Values in a Time of Upheaval | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Without Roots | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis | Robert George
Issues of Faith and Morals | George Cardinal Pell
Brave New Famil | G.K. Chesterton
E. Scott Lloyd is a co-founder of Americans on Call, is a law student at the Catholic University Columbus School of Law, and is shopping his novel. He can be reached here with comments or questions.
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