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Visit Quentin’s personal web site at www.quentindelabedoyere.com. You may learn more about him than you probably wish to know.
As a fellow biochemist, and also as an adult convert – in 1951 which dates me! – I have no disagreement with Mark’s comments. There are things which can be added. We know God individually gives an immortal soul to each person at the moment of conception by natural processes. What about unnatural processes? Although they do not realise it, the perpretators of IVF are presuming on God’s Goodness in assuming that the babies resulting from IVF are identical to normally conceived babies. The behavour of IVF individuals as they grow up clearly shows free will. IVF embryos must therefore have immortal souls, whether or not their “creators” intend to kill them. At the opposite extreme we have bacteria with a single human gene. All insulin used by diabetics comes from growing bacteria who have been given the gene for insulin production. No-one supposes such bacteria might be human and the Church has never condemmned the practice. (I have been informed that the insulin gene comes from an adult. I have reason to believe the pharmaceutical industry attempted unsuccessfully to use a foetal gene) At what point in between will God decide not to give free will and an immortal soul? We cannot presume even to guess what He might do. Consider an embryo with a human nucleus and bovine cytoplasm. It is highly unlikely that one might be brought to term, but suppose it happened? There are three main possibilities 1. The adult might have human intelligence but no free will 2. It might have human intelligence but no original sin 3. it might be just like us! Atheist scientists will not accept this analysis, but that should not stop Catholic scientists and theologians carrying it out in more detail than practical here.
I recall being taught at school in the 1940’s that attempts to create human life “in the laboratory” were inadmissable.
Some infertility treatment methods are now approved by the Church but to what extent are conventional IVF procedures regarded as immoral?
There are a number of issues here. The Magisterium in no way prohibits a whole range of activities which assist a married couple to conceive. But these methods must be lawful. IVF procedures have three problems in particular associated with it: the obtaining of seed through masturbation, the divorce of the actual insemination from natural sexual intercourse, the production of surplus embryos which are not implanted so that their lives can continue.
You will find a full account of the teaching in Donum Vitae http://www.seminarianlifelink.org/biotechnology/donumvitae.htm. A much briefer account is given in the Catechism at 2373ff.
Implicit in Donum Vitae is the contrary argument which it resists. Briefly, this maintains that, since IVF is carried out in order to further an end of marriage (procreation), which would not otherwise be possible, the process should be taken as a whole and not be judged simply by its component elements.
Quentin, have we had a discussion about climate change?
There are three main views:
1. It is real, the major problem confronting the human race, and immediate action is needed to avoid disaster (Al Gore)
2. It is real, will cause some inconvenience, but is an expensive distraction from the real problems (Bjorn Lomborg)
3. It is a myth (Christopher Booker).
Some are agnostic: but increasingly the first view is gaining currency, to the extent that for the Church (or church members) not to adopt it may become a source of scandal. It would be good to know what you and your readers think.