Is Suppressing Scientific Research Sinful?

Or are biotech researchers risking their immortal souls?

A couple of weeks ago, the Vatican denounced "experiments [and] genetic manipulation" as "violations of certain fundamental rights of human nature." Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and absolutions, told the London Times, "You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbour's wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos." So what kinds of genetic manipulation might earn researchers consignment to the flames of Hell should they die unshriven?

First, the Vatican has not spoken with clarity on the issue of genetically improving crops. Back in 2003, the London Times reported that the Vatican would soon come out in favor of biotech crops as part of the solution for world starvation and malnutrition. A year later, a message from Pope John Paul II expressed reservations about biotech crops. Last year, Filipino Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales warned that "genetically modified crops and food products could be very harmful to the environment and to human beings." The Archbishop is factually wrong about the alleged dangers of current biotech crops. What are the divine penalties for the sin of scientific ignorance?

The Roman Catholic and generally free market think tank, the Acton Institute, notes that some religious thinkers believe that it might be all right with God for us to modify plants, but not animals. The distinction is based upon the idea that while God commanded Noah to save animal lineages, the Almighty said nothing about preserving plants on the Ark. As evangelical biologist Calvin Dewitt explains, "These lineages are creations of the Creator, and they are... gifts to the whole of creation."

However, the Creator doesn't seem to be much of a steward of His Creation, since an estimated 99.9 percent of all species that ever lived are now extinct. And of course, argument against genetically modifying animals overlooks the fact that the genetic lineages of all domesticated animals have been dramatically modified by people over the millennia. Perhaps the souls of some of our ancestors are roasting in the infernal abyss for the sin of turning wolves into dogs and aurochs into Holsteins.

Of course, modern scientists are constantly tampering with the genetic make-up of animals. Just this week, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York announced that they had used embryonic stem cells to cure Parkinson's disease in mice. The researchers, using a technique called nuclear transfer, isolated the nuclei from skin cells from the tails of mice that suffered from Parkinson's disease and installed them in mouse eggs that had been stripped of their nuclei. These eggs started growing into embryos that were genetic clones of the mice from which the skin cells were taken. The researchers then derived stem cells that were genetically matched to each individual mouse and in turn transformed the stem cells into dopamine producing neurons. These genetically matched neurons were injected into the brains of the mice.

The treatment worked. These perfect genetic cellular transplants basically cured the mice. As a control the researchers treated other mice with neurons derived from embryonic stem cells that were not genetically matched to each individual mouse. Those mice fared worse. This work is aimed at figuring out eventual treatments for the 1.5 million Americans who suffer from Parkinson's disease. Can research on mice designed to heal sick people really count as sinful genetic manipulation?

Also this week religious controversy broke out in Britain over new legislation that would allow researchers to combine abundant eggs from animals like cows and rabbits with human nuclei as way to produce stem cells. The BBC reported that Cardinal Keith O'Brien used his Easter sermon to condemn the bill as a "monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life." In contrast, some 200 British medical charities signed a letter urging Parliament to pass the legislation. "The bill will allow new avenues of scientific inquiry to be pursued which could greatly increase our understanding of serious medical conditions affecting millions of people throughout the UK," declared the charities.

Roman Catholic bioethicist Michael Cook, who also opposes the combining human and animal genes, asserts, "To envelop all that makes us human, our genetic inheritance, in an animal carapace is creepy and repugnant." I wonder how "creepy and repugnant" Cook would find the fact that out of the 23,000 genes that comprise the human genome as few as 50 to 100 genes do not have counterparts in other animals. Our genetic make-up has come down to us through the animal carapaces of our evolutionary forebears. Of course, while our genes are very similar to animal genes, it is differential regulation of those genes that accounts for much of what makes us distinctively human.

O'Brien and Cook clearly believe that in some sense the human genome is sacrosanct. But surely it is morally laudable to insert the human insulin gene into bacteria to produce a better medicine for 14 million diabetic Americans. Or what about cows with human genes to produce human antibodies to fight disease? Human skin color genes in fish? Human color vision genes in mice? I suspect that Cardinal O'Brien and Cook do not think such manipulations of single human genes are monstrous or creepy. It is true that the proposed human animal cybrids would contain mostly human genes, but researchers have no intention of creating cow/human or rabbit/human babies. So perhaps it is the quantity of human genes involved in experiments that provoke accusations of monstrous violations of human dignity. That doesn't seem to be the case.

For example, a number of prominent Roman Catholic thinkers recently endorsed a proposal by Stanford University bioethicist William Hurlbut to create human stem cells through altered nuclear transfer. The technique is essentially the same as regular nuclear transfer except that it uses RNA interference to disable a single crucial gene so that the stem cells cannot grow into a fully developed embryo. In altered nuclear transfer all of the genes involved are human, even the one that has been deliberately broken. But doesn't altered nuclear transfer circle us back to Bishop Girotti's denunciations? The technique could be interpreted as "genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos."

Finally, any genetic manipulations that aim to create human beings with diminished mental and physical capacities must be fiercely and relentlessly opposed. On the other hand, research whose goal is to reduce human suffering and increase our capacities should be vigorously encouraged.

In tracing these theologico-biotech controversies, many contemporary thinkers and leaders in the Roman Catholic Church appear to be haunted by the fear that scientific research will transgress God's will. It's as though they still find some wisdom in the old adage, "If God had meant for people to fly, He would have given them wings." But it could also be the case that "if God hadn't meant for people to fly, then He wouldn't have given them the brains to figure out how to do it." Finally, if the Vatican is looking for new sins, perhaps it would consider adding attempts to block important scientific research to the list.

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books.

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  • ||

    In another 2 - 300 years, we'll be looking back at the present as "the second Dark Ages".

    Assuming of course that paranoia, nanobots or the singularity hasn't already made us extinct.

  • jj||

    Ronald Bailey, thank you for a critical, but respectful article about religion. I'd say that most religious libertarians see eye-to-eye with you on this issue.

  • ||

    Should scientific research halt if it clashes with Catholic values?

    When people whose beliefs include a virgin giving birth, people physically ascending into heaven, the dead being raised, transubstantiation, et al give advice on scientific research, excuse me for not even listening to their reasoning. No I don't hate catholics. Like astrologists, Vatican pronouncements on morality vis a vis science are not worth my effort to read or rebut.

  • jj||

    The caveat being, of course, that anyone who disagrees with such research shouldn't have to fund it.

  • jj||

    When people whose beliefs include a virgin giving birth, people physically ascending into heaven, the dead being raised, transubstantiation, et al give advice on scientific research, excuse me for not even listening to their reasoning.

    Off with the heads of Socrates, Plato, Aquinas, Anselm, and all those other religious philosophers who gave us 'reason'!

  • ||

    It only took the Church 350+ years to take Galileo off the Index.

    Just give them a little time.

  • ||

    jj

    I don't believe that Socrates, Plato,or Aristotle (who actually did more than the other two to develop formal logic) ever received the Eucharist.

  • Thumbsucker||

    Aresen, because Stalin, an avowed atheist killed more people that probably anyone in history, would it be logical, or fair to conflate his actions with those of all atheists? I wonder if the same can be said for religious people?

  • nobody special||

    Bailey's obviously in the pocket of Big Dawkins

  • jj||

    Aresen

    Ahh, it's the Eucharist that's to blame. I'm sorry. I thought it was all relgious people, or at least all of those Christians. Sorry. My bad.

  • ||

    Pope Benedict XVI is a gay man... not that there's anything wrong with that!!

  • BakedPenguin||

    The caveat being, of course, that anyone who disagrees with such research shouldn't have to fund it.



    For once, I can agree with jj.

    Thumbsucker - FAIL.

    Athiesm ≠ Communism
    Christianity = Christianity

    Before the theist / atheist pissing match starts in earnest, why don't we go over what we can agree on - forcing people to pay for the promulgation of beliefs and ideas they do not share is wrong.

  • ||

    In another 2 - 300 years, we'll be looking back at the present as "the second Dark Ages".

    Certainly that is appropriate for those portions of the Islamist world groaning under the yoke of Wahabbism.

    For the secular West? Not so much. I'm not sure how much research the Catholics have actually been able to prevent, to tell you the truth. I do see lots of things being done in spite of their objections.

  • ||

    jj & Thumbsucker

    Nice non-sequiturs, but no bell.

    Plato and Socrates were not primarily religious philosophers. They did speculate on the nature of existence (and the Republic is the model for all totalitarianisms that have existed since that time), but they speculated on a great deal more than religious philosophy. jj's attempt to claim them as "religious philosophers" - and, in the context of jj's snark at JsubD - Catholic philosophers - was deceptive at best.

    And, Thumbsucker, where did you get the idea that I was "conflating" the ideas of the RC church with those of all theists? (Since that is the corrollary of your pathetic smear.) My point was that the RC church has rather consistently opposed contemporary scientific reseach, only admitting its errors centuries later.

  • Mad Max||

    From Ronald Bailey's article:

    "Finally, any genetic manipulations that aim to create human beings with diminished mental and physical capacities must be fiercely and relentlessly opposed. On the other hand, research whose goal is to reduce human suffering and increase our capacities should be vigorously encouraged."

    What principle makes it immoral to create human beings with diminished capacities? How does one distinguish between this and using genetic manipulation to "reduce human suffering"?

    Why not say that a human-animal chimera represents improving the nonhuman animal, not debasing the human?

    Anyway, what's so sacred about humanity? Mr. Bailey says there's only a few distinctively human genes. Why should some kind of superstition about human uniqueness get in the way of scientific progress?

    Imagine the new frontiers we can reach if (for instance) we create human beings with lower-than-average intelligence but higher-than-average physical stamina? We can put these new beings to work in the kind of unpleasant physical labor that unaltered humans just won't do! Just add in an obediance gene to avoid the risk of slave uprisings, and a pleasure gene so that they enjoy themselves while they work. What's the harm?

    I hope Mr. Bailey isn't flirting with fundamentalism with his views on human "uniqueness."

  • ||

    Catholicism took its cue from Plato, not the other way around.

    Why else do you think its structure is so authoritarian?

  • ||

    Before the theist / atheist pissing match starts in earnest, why don't we go over what we can agree on - forcing people to pay for the promulgation of beliefs and ideas they do not share is wrong.

    I mostly sgree. Should anarchists be forced to contribute taxes to a law and order campaign? Should creationists be forced to contribute to public schools? Should pacifists be forced to contribue to the common defense?

    Yes, I'm in a contrary mood, but those are valid questions concerning your statement, Baked Penguin.

  • Dave W.||

    1. As far as genetic experimentation that will "ruin[] the environment", I would hope that everybody is against that and not just Catholics. We can argue about the probability that the current bout of experimetation will or won't ruin the environment in some predictable or unpredictable way, but we should be able undersatnd the nature of the objection. If a genetically modified germ got loose, well that is one predictable way that genetic engineering can ruin the environment. If a genetically modified organism caused a new transmission vector for an old disease, well, that would be less predictable. It is not silly to worry that genetic experimentation could ruin the environment even if you ultimately come to the conclusion that genetic engineering is likely to help than hurt.

    2. Most people, religious and non-religious, seem to have limits to how much we should tinker with the DNA of people. If a "gay gene" is discovered, then do we screen embryos for that? Do we cure autism, deafness, etc., etc.? I mean, these moral dilemmas come up even here at the HitnRun -- and they are just that, moral dilemmas. If reasearch is limited to curing Parkinson's then I imagine most are cool with it. However, I think it is quite possible that human genetic engineering is being sold as a cure for Parkinson's and the like, and that the reality will be something quite different and uglier. I think the Church is right on the human stuff, at least given current controls and attitudes in the scientific community.

    3. The Church is just taking the long view. When those bioengineering stocks really collapse, the newly penniless will need some God to pray to. Looks like the Catholic Church is making a nice pre-emptive play for that future religious market.

  • T\'Surakmaat||

    The singularity is coming. Just ask Ray Kurzweil (and me).

    When it gets here, and the capacity of our comprehension expands by magnitudes, we will be able to use genetic manipulation to cure most, if not all, illnesses.

    Which means humans will live longer, and there will be more Catholics with more money to fund more arguments based on belief, not on fact. So they should really chill on this topic. Get riled up later, when you have more budget.

    I don't know about you, but i'll take "No Parkinsons" for $1000, Alex, and deal with any mythical supreme beings' views on my actions later.

    Should i actually ever meet one or more of them.

    Peace and Long Life,
    T'Surakmaat

  • ||

    There is nothing new with religion resisting scientific progress. After all, religion attempts to explain everything at once. Any time that something threatens their paradigm they proclaim it a sin. Everyone knows examples from history: Galileo, Earth being a center of the universe, spontaneous generation of all life in its current form, etc.

    I disagree that atheism necessarily equals to communism. Communism too, it seems to me, is a type of religion, except they believe not in Christ by holy trinity of Marks, Engels, and Lenin and the philosophy of societal progression to communism. Everything that they look at, at least in areas of history and economy, must conform to the paradigm of dialectic materialism. One can be an atheist and beleive nither in Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy and be a capitalist/libertarian at the sam time.

    Agnosticism, as I see it, is very different from atheism. It is the most natural state - it is an admission that we do not know exactly how the existence is constructed. We may know some small piece of it and try to learn more on the bases of what we already know. However, we are comfortable to leave some things as unknown.

  • ||

    I go back and forth between a very cold Deism and Atheism (not that it makes much difference in reality).

    If there is a God, I seriously doubt hes concerned about us anymore than we are concerned with microscopic organisms. The universe is a very, very big and lonely place and we're an ant hill.

  • NoStar||

    If those values are truly catholic, then no one would want to do that kind of research.

  • TallDave||

    Obviously, scientific research should only halt if it clashes with Islamic values.

    This also applies to art, drama, and free speech.

  • ||

    Nostar

    LOL

    That is easily the best "argument from definition" I have seen in a very long time. (And perfectly true, I might add.)

  • ||

    The universe is a very, very big and lonely place and we're an ant hill.

    Ant hill? We don't even qualify as a dust mote. On the other hand, we have every reason to believe the human mind is the most glorious thing in all the Universe.

  • ||

    TallDave - for trying to bait everyone with neocon junkn'stuff - DOUBLE FAIL.

  • TallDave||

    Just pointing out the double standard.

    I didn't realize science vs. religion was only for neocons.

  • ||

    Religion should not be forced on science anymore than science should be forced on religion.

  • ||

    TallDave, was someone arguing that we should heed Muslim clerics objections to research while ignoring the Vatican's? WTF? Did a woman in a veil scare you this morning?

  • TallDave||

    TallDave, was someone arguing that we should heed Muslim clerics objections to research while ignoring the Vatican's?

    Just pointing out it's easy to bash Catholics, since they don't blow people up.

    Looks like I touched a nerve there.

    Did a woman in a veil scare you this morning?

    Did a guy in a tall hat scare you?
    Oh, right, Catholics don't blow people up.

  • ||

    jj,

    Were Socrates and Plato "religious philosophers?"

  • ||

    """I disagree that atheism necessarily equals to communism.""

    It doesn't, but the American government would disagree since they put the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegience in the attempt to uncover the reds.

  • some guy||

    No.

  • ||

    TallDave,

    Just pointing out it's easy to bash Catholics, since they don't blow people up.

    Is violence the only tool by which adherants of an ideology (any ideology) can produce harm?

  • jj||

    Before the theist / atheist pissing match starts in earnest, why don't we go over what we can agree on - forcing people to pay for the promulgation of beliefs and ideas they do not share is wrong.

    Agreed.

    Athiesm ≠ Communism
    Christianity = Christianity


    I'm hoping you are just ignorant rather than being disingenuous?

    "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. If you're slapped on one cheek, turn the other. If someone asks you for your coat, give him your shirt as well. Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers..."

    Christian Fascism does not equate with Christian anarchism or Christian Libertarianism, or, even the Christian philosophy as defined by Christ himself.

  • TallDave||

    Is violence the only tool by which adherants of an ideology (any ideology) can produce harm?

    No.

    Did you know the Saudis have been publishing a beautiful, 400-page text on Creationism, full of colorful pictures and in a tasteful leather binding? They're giving them away free here in the U.S.

  • Thumbsucker||

    Is violence the only tool by which adherants of an ideology (any ideology) can produce harm?

    Spoken like a good socialist. According to the zero aggression principle, violence is the only "tool" that matters.

  • ||

    TallDave, Christians are something like 80% of the population in this country.

    Catholics are 40%.

    A large wing of one of our major political parties is controlled by fundamentalist Christians.

    Muslims are less than 1% (about 5 million) and thats a generous count.

    Who do you think has more influence?

    We aren't discussing it the same reason we don't discuss the threat of Hindu fundamentalist--because Hindus don't have any influence over this government.

  • Thumbsucker||

    Did you know the Saudis have been publishing a beautiful, 400-page text on Creationism, full of colorful pictures and in a tasteful leather binding? They're giving them away free here in the U.S.

    Your xenophobia is on full display. If you castigated the Saudis for incitement of violence, use of taxpayer funds, or some such sin, I'd applaud your little rant. The fact that you complain simply that they are exercizing freedom of expression in a relatively free country makes me wonder if your problem is with those religious darkies, rather than with fascists per se.

  • ||

    TallDave,

    So, what exactly is your point then?

    BTW, given how often Islam is "bashed" in the U.S. in the world of bloggerdom I don't think that the violence that Muslim's* commit really inhibits commentary about Islam, Muslims, etc.

    *I realize that there is a significant debate about whether these folks are actually Muslim, but I will sidestep that for the time being.

  • jj||

    Cesar's logic (or lack thereof):

    1. The GOP has fascist policies
    2. Most GOP'ers are Christians
    3. Therefore Christianity if a fascist religion

    Heard of the cow with four legs that was also a table?

  • jj||

    "if" should read "is"

  • ||

    1. The GOP has fascist policies
    2. Most GOP'ers are Christians
    3. Therefore Christianity if a fascist religion



    Uh, no, thats not what I was saying at all. So please go talk to the atheist in your head.

  • ||

    Oh, right, Catholics don't blow people up.
    Except in Northern Ireland.

  • jj||

    Cesar, I'm genuinely sorry if I misread your post. Please explain it to me:

    A large wing of one of our major political parties is controlled by fundamentalist Christians.

    Muslims are less than 1% (about 5 million) and thats a generous count.

    Who do you think has more influence?


    It seems to me that you are saying that Christians (not Christian Fascists) the bigger problem?

  • ||

    jj-

    Let me re-phrase. A large wing of the GOP is controlled by fundamentalist (fascist, whatever) Christians.

    The vast majority of Christians (even the vast majority of evangelicals), however, are decent and normal people who leave us alone and whom I have absolutely no problem with. Its the ones that want to impose their personal beliefs through politics I have a problem with.

  • TallDave||

    Who do you think has more influence?

    Here's a hint, involving a play that was cancelled:

    The controversy is over a scene in the epilogue, where Idomeneo, the king of Crete, comes on stage with a bloody sack in his hand. He pulls the heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed out of the sack and places them triumphantly on four chairs.

    Now, which part do you suppose was controversial?

    I don't think we should bash Muslims any more than we should Catholics, since most adherents of both faiths are generally pretty reasonable. OTOH, we also shouldn't reward thuggery from extremists of any stripe.

    I'm betting it's a lot harder to be an anthropologist in Iran than a stem cell researcher in the U.S.

  • Jennifer||

    It seems to me that you are saying that Christians (not Christian Fascists) the bigger problem?

    It seems to ME he's saying there's a perfectly good reason why, in America, Christian fundamentalist types are considered a bigger problem than fundie Muslims or fundie Hindus or fundie Zoroastrians.

  • darwinsape||

    Oh, right, Catholics don't blow people up.
    Except in Northern Ireland.


    We've had murderers that are Catholic, murderers that are atheist, and murderers that are muslim. Does that make all muslims, atheists, or Catholics murderers? I don't think so.

    I wonder why a point as obvious as this one draws such fire? Why the fuck can't people read jj's comments before shitting in his face?

  • ||

    I should add to my above comment.
    There have been plenty of cases of Catholics (and Muslims, and Buddhists, and, for all I know, Zorastrians) blowing people up. It's also true that Merton, who one of the most respected thinkers among Catholics wrote a book condemning the idea of murdering in the name of the state, or anything else. Yet the Catholic church has a long and complicated doctrine explaining when they think war can be justifiably waged. The church itself condemns birth control. Many Catholics ignore that condemnation.
    In other words, it's a bit silly to talk as though Catholics are monolithic. It's also silly to talk as though Muslims, or any other large group are monolithic.

  • ||

    Dave-

    So we're better than Iran? Wow how impressive.

    You set a pretty low bar there.

  • ||

    Hey Dave, our economy is doing great. After all, its better than North Korea's!

  • ||

    Does this include stuff like cross-breeding? For example, seedless bananas are a result of cross-breeding.

    And if it does include cross-breeding, how far does this restriction go? Would a white dude impregnating a Chinese girl be "cross-breeding"? And are bees committing a sin by cross-pollenating plants? So many questions...so few answers.

  • ||

    Hey, Darwin: I wasn't shitting in anyone's face. I was pointing out that a the statement that Catholics don't blow people up simply is wrong.

  • Thumbsucker||

    It seems to ME he's saying there's a perfectly good reason why, in America, Christian fundamentalist types are considered a bigger problem than fundie Muslims or fundie Hindus or fundie Zoroastrians.

    By the same logic blacks, who supposedly commit more crimes than other groups in this country should be "considered a bigger problem" than whites?!

    Jennifer, I'm a "Christian fundamentalist type." I am also a zero aggression anarchist and libertarian. Does that make me "a problem."

    Why must libertarians who are so adamantly individualist fall for the socialist and bigoted practice of tarring entire people groups?

  • ||

    Its also worth noting, Dave, that silly things like that play are often done by overly-sensitive PC bureaucrats who know nothing about Muslims and just make assumptions.

    I remember two years ago a bunch of right wing blogs raised a stink because Christmas decorations were taking down in London because they might upset Muslims. It turns out, the Muslims had NO PROBLEM with Christian religious displays, but the government officials assumed they did.

  • TallDave||

    LOL Cesar, I always enjoy your non-sequiturs and misattributions.

    History is a science, too. Ask Salman Rushdie how investigations of Muhammed's are received.

  • ||

    Jennifer, I'm a "Christian fundamentalist type." I am also a zero aggression anarchist and libertarian. Does that make me "a problem."



    No. You can worship Santa Claus for all I care, just don't make your beliefs law.

  • ||

    RC Dean, I agree to a point, but genetic engineering, molecular science, and nanoscale technologies (event to this layperson) are still in their infancy and growing exponentially.

    The convergence of these when pitted against even Modern (read Victorian) tenets of religion means we are headed for one mother of a morality showdown - the created are already on the cusp of becoming Creator.

  • darwinsape||

    My apologies, Number6, I misunderstood you.

  • ||

    Dave, you're basically saying "Wow we're better than Iran!"

    I would sure as shit hope so.

  • Thumbsucker||

    No. You can worship Santa Claus for all I care, just don't make your beliefs law.

    Comment number 5001, and some sense. Please do likewise, and we'll all live happily in out little libertarian utopia. You smoke your pot, and read your Darwin. I'll pray to my tooth fairy.

  • Jennifer||

    Jennifer, I'm a "Christian fundamentalist type." I am also a zero aggression anarchist and libertarian. Does that make me "a problem."

    Climb the hell down off the cross before you crowd out your Savior. Look again at the context of this thread, and then read my statement again, and see if maybe--just maybe--it has a meaning beyond "the Christian are coming. RUN!"

  • jj||

    Jennifer. So you meant Fascists who are Christians are a bigger problem than Muslims who are fascists?

    Please explain instead of whining.

  • TallDave||

    Dave, you're basically saying "Wow we're better than Iran!"

    No, as I said before, I'm just pointing out there's a bit of a double standard: there's all kinds of resistance and mockery (often rightly) directed toward Catholicism in science and art, but by contrast Islam's much worse violations are often treated as, er, sacred.

  • Jennifer||

    Jennifer. So you meant Fascists who are Christians are a bigger problem than Muslims who are fascists?

    No, O Member Of The Oppressed Majority, I meant exactly what I said: "there's a perfectly good reason why, in America, Christian fundamentalist types are considered a bigger problem than fundie Muslims or fundie Hindus or fundie Zoroastrians."

  • ||


    No, as I said before, I'm just pointing out there's a bit of a double standard: there's all kinds of resistance and mockery (often rightly) directed toward Catholicism in science and art, but by contrast Islam's much worse violations are often treated as, er, sacred.



    Dave, there are entire blogs and books dedicated to mocking/trashing Islam. Certain people even make their careers off of it (i.e., Robert Spencer). Give me a break.

  • Thumbsucker||

    Jennifer, I was simply following your statements to their conclusion. Where did I go wrong?

  • misog.||

    Jennifer justifies the stereotype that women are overly emotional, methinks.

    (ducks for cover)

  • Jennifer||

    Jennifer, I was simply following your statements to their conclusion. Where did I go wrong?

    I'll ignore the many, many snarky answers I could give and instead point out in a straightforward tone that in a nation where the majority of people are either religiously or culturally Christian, the threat of an oppressive strain of Christian fundamentalism enforcing its will on the nation is far, far more likely than fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Hinduism or fundamentalist Zeus worshipers.

  • jj||

    No, O Member Of The Oppressed Majority

    Like all libertarians, yes, I consider myself oppressed: by too much government, neocon christian fascists, and a flood of silly laws. But that's not what you meant, is it?

  • TallDave||

    Dave, there are entire blogs and books dedicated to mocking/trashing Islam.

    Wow, entire books!

    there's a perfectly good reason why, in America, Christian fundamentalist types are considered a bigger problem than fundie Muslims or fundie Hindus or fundie Zoroastrians."

    Fundie Christians? You mean like the Amish? What are they going to do, churn butter at you?

    You may have noticed a small change to NY's skyline this past decade. It wasn't Buddhists that did it.

  • ||

    And maybe you missed, Dave, that the three most popular atheist authors who deal with the subject of religion (Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris) discuss (And yes, mock/tash) Islam right along with Christianity in their books.

  • Thumbsucker||

    Thanks for the explanation, Jennifer. It makes a lot of sense, and I agree with it. Christ warned about so-called Christians who would murder and oppress in his name. I agree.

  • TallDave||

    It's a good start, Cesar.

  • Jennifer||

    How do you guys even manage to type comments here without the weight of oppression weighing down your wrists? Being a Christian in America is indeed tough. But hang in there and don't give up hope--maybe, just maybe, you'll live long enough to see an openly practicing member of your religion elected to some high political office. Possibly even the White House! First, though, we have to find a way to end the death grip Islam has on modern American culture.

  • thoreau||

    Congratulations, guys. You gave TallDave his very own thread where he can pretend that he's some sort of brave freethinker for saying that he thinks Muslims suck.

  • TallDave||

    in a nation where the majority of people are either religiously or culturally Christian, the threat of an oppressive strain of Christian fundamentalism enforcing its will on the nation is far, far more likely than fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Hinduism or fundamentalist Zeus worshipers.

    Again, the cancelled play:

    The controversy is over a scene in the epilogue, where Idomeneo, the king of Crete, comes on stage with a bloody sack in his hand. He pulls the heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed out of the sack and places them triumphantly on four chairs.

    Now, which fundies do you suppose enforced their will here?

  • TallDave||

    Congratulation, thoreau. You attributed to me exactly the opposite of what I said:

    I don't think we should bash Muslims any more than we should Catholics, since most adherents of both faiths are generally pretty reasonable.

  • ||

    but by contrast Islam's much worse violations are often treated as, er, sacred.
    By who? I'm not denying that some Muslims have done some shitty things in the name of their faith, or that some forms of Islam are particularly virulent and ugly. But I don't see many people soft-pedaling that. If anything, the contention that Islam as a whole is somehow dangerous or that Muslims are all suicide bombers in waiting is more prevalent.
    Again, it's important to remember that making generalizations about a faith or its adherents is dicey at best.

  • TallDave||

    Hint: it wasn't the radical Posiedonists.

  • Edward||

    Hail Market,
    Full of Grace,
    Prosperity is with thee.
    Blessed art thou among systems,
    and blessed is the fruit
    of thy womb, Capital.
    Holy Market,
    Mother of Goods,
    pray for us consumers now,
    and at the hour of our bankruptcy.
    Amen.

  • Jennifer||

    Hint to TallDave: the terrorists who brought down the WTC are despised in America and will never, ever successfully convince a Congressman to push their preferred reforms into law. But Christian fundamentalists just might get lucky in that regard. You seem to confuse "people who commit acts wholly regarded as crimes" with "people who can bend the laws to the way they want them."

  • Radical Poseidonist||

    Hey, we had that tsunami.

  • thoreau||

    Edward, stay out of this. We already have enough trolling in this thread.

    FWIW, I think the Catholic church is fairly clueless on genetics, and I say that as somebody who took Communion last Sunday and put an envelope with a check in the basket.

  • thoreau||

    Radical Poseidonist wins the thread. Go home, TallDave.

  • TallDave||

    Jennifer,

    I guess you haven't been following the Canadian sharia debate.

  • ||

    Dave-

    If Canada didn't have an established religion (The Church of England) the "debate" would be moot.

    It would also help if they hadn't granted Orthodox Jews the exact same priveleges.

  • TallDave||

    Cesar,

    Hey, I don't disagree.

  • ||

    So, then, where was the outrage when Orthodox Jews wanted to have the same type of courts?

  • Edward||

    Okay, Thoreau, I'll leave if you tell me with all honesty whether you believe that in taking communion you consumed the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. I've long wondered how a scientist could embrace a goofy ideology like libertarianism, but you're a practicing Catholic to boot. How do you square it all?

  • thoreau||

    I believe that Jesus came to vanquish all trolls. Amen.

  • Radical Buddhist||

    We will continue to do nothing until our demands for nothingness are met!

  • ||

    There is no troll but Dan T. and Edward is his Prophet.

  • ||

    I say that as somebody who took Communion last Sunday and put an envelope with a check in the basket.

    No, No, No! It puts the lotion in the basket, or it gets the hose again.

  • Radical Buddhist||

    So, then, where was the outrage when Orthodox Jews wanted to have the same type of courts?

    Regrettably absent.

  • Edward||

    Who the fuck is Dan T?

  • ||

    So, there was no outrage against Orthodox Jews having these special courts.

    But there was outrage-a-plenty when Muslims asked for the exact same thing.

    Yeah, Islam really gets deferential treatment alright.

  • TallDave||

    Curses, foiled again by the Remember Me button.

    For the record, I was also Radical Poseidonist. We have weekly meetings at the community pool if anyone would like to join.

  • ||

    Who the fuck is Dan T?



    The Prophet who gave us your final revelation.

  • thoreau||

    OK, TallDave, I may not agree with you on the issues, but you get full props for that tsunami post.

  • Jennifer||

    Jennifer, I guess you haven't been following the Canadian sharia debate.

    I guess I also overlooked the story where Canada became an American province whose citizens allowed to vote in American elections. Either that, or you're changing the subject.

  • TallDave||

    But there was outrage-a-plenty when Muslims asked for the exact same thing.

    Probably because some versions of Sharia are viewed as extremely misogynistic.

    Yeah, Islam really gets deferential treatment
    alright.


    I haven't seen any art or plays cancelled out of fears of Jewish reprisals (except of course for certain vigorous forms of Paslestinian performance art).

  • ||

    Probably because some versions of Sharia are viewed as extremely misogynistic.



    If you don't think Orthodox Judaism and its laws aren't misogynistic, you clearly don't know much about it.

    Again, Orthodox Jews ask for special courts. No problem. Muslims ask for special courts, OUTRAGE!!!!

    What were you saying about Muslims getting everything they want again?

  • ||

    I haven't seen any art or plays cancelled out of fears of Jewish reprisals



    Well, Dave, there are all those anti-free speech laws on the books in Europe about the holocaust and anti-semitism. So, you're kind of wrong.

  • TallDave||

    Either that, or you're changing the subject.

    Well, first you said the issue was which was a a "bigger problem" then you changed it to "enforcing their will" then "passing laws" and have now finally arrived at "passing laws in America."

    Yes, I agree it is very unlikely funamentalist Muslims will be able to pass religious laws in the USA.

  • dhex||


    You may have noticed a small change to NY's skyline this past decade. It wasn't Buddhists that did it.


    yeah man, fuck ratner!

    oh wait, what?

    also, cesar, what could possibly be misogynistic about patriarichal monotheistic traditions? we have female priests and everything!

  • TallDave||

    Well, Dave, there are all those anti-free speech laws on the books in Europe about the holocaust and anti-semitism.

    Just as there are all kinds of laws against offending Islam. Just ask Oriana Fallaci. But those aren't "reprisals."

    The difference is that critics of Judaism generally aren't stabbed to death by fundamentalist Jews.

    What were you saying about Muslims getting everything they want again?

    That's a fine strawman and you've very successfully beat the hell out of him.

  • Jennifer||

    I agree it is very unlikely funamentalist Muslims will be able to pass religious laws in the USA.

    Excellent. And since this thread basically started about a very powerful and influential Christian organization attempting to use its influence to limit the behaviors of those who do NOT share their religious beliefs, WHY, exactly, did you decide to start frothing about those scary Muslim terrorists again?

  • ||

    Dave you brought up the "Sharia debate" as an example of Muslims getting what they want.

    I pointed out Orthodox Jews got the same thing many years ago and people said little about it.

    When Muslims asked for special courts, there was a firestorm.

    Using your logic, shouldn't the Muslims have gotten the special courts while the Jews were denied them?

    Dave if I put on a play that mocked the holocaust in Germany I'd be put in jail very quickly. I doubt there would be even a peep of outrage except by libertarians and civil liberties groups.

    If I put on a play that mocked Islam and got put in jail, there would be OMG OUTRAGE EURABIA IS HERE!!!!

    See the difference? The double standard exists but it often works in the OPPOSITE way.

  • highnumber||

    Awesome! I did not even have to read Bailey's article to enjoy the entertainment.
    Let's really mix this up:
    Should scientific research halt if it clashes with Black Liberation Theology?

  • TallDave||

    Because extralegal terrorism is a means by which religions impose their will too, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are sentenced to live under regimes which drastically limit their scientific freedom while we whine about relatively picayune matters like this.

  • TallDave||

    Cesar,

    Dave you brought up the "Sharia debate" as an example of Muslims getting what they want.

    No, I brought it up as an example of Islamic law being passed in a predominently Christian country.

  • ||


    No, I brought it up as an example of Islamic law being passed in a predominently Christian country.



    A country which also passes Anglican and Orthodox Jewish laws as well. I noticed you didn't mention that.

    So much for mocking all religions equally.

  • Jennifer||

    Because extralegal terrorism is a means by which religions impose their will too, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are sentenced to live under regimes which drastically limit their scientific freedom while we whine about relatively picayune matters like this.

    So the next time you complain about a matter you find important, if I can demonstrate that folks in another country have it worse you'll shut the hell up, right?

  • TallDave||

    A country which also passes Anglican and Orthodox Jewish laws as well. I noticed you didn't mention that.

    Because that wasn't the point. It was asserted that Islamic law wouldn't be passed in a country that was predominantly Christian. I gave an example where it had been.

  • TallDave||

    So the next time you complain about a matter you find important, if I can demonstrate that folks in another country have it worse you'll shut the hell up, right?

    Well, I'm not asking anyone to shut the hell up, so I'm not sure how that follows.

  • dhex||

    talldave is clearly an apologist for the zionist occupied government.

  • ||

    TallDave - Go here. You'll find somebody compatible with you politically and intellectually.

    At your service,
    J sub D

  • ||

    """Because extralegal terrorism is a means by which religions impose their will too, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are sentenced to live under regimes which drastically limit their scientific freedom while we whine about relatively picayune matters like this."""

    What the hell is extralegal terrorism?

    You make it sound like islam is not a choice, maybe in a few places it's not. But the majority of Muslims are not "sentenced". I call shananigans on that hundreds of millions number.

  • Kolohe||

    God, Smod. I want my monkeyman!!

  • ||

    """Yes, I agree it is very unlikely funamentalist Muslims will be able to pass religious laws in the USA."""

    Unless they start a home owners association. ;-)

  • economist||

    Can we change the Vatican law to allow genetic research?
    First We must ask the highest authority.
    *chanting in unison, Giant Spider appears*
    Queen Spider, can we allow genetic research?
    Of course not, manipulating genes is evil.

  • ||

    The Catholic Church asks that we avoid what it regards as moral errors. It also demands that members who wish to remain in good standing with the church do not participate in the research. It is voluntary. Compliance is not required like in many Sharia ruled counties. I even agree with some of the restrictions, at least for now. We should proceed very slowly with things that could effect the fundamental nature of man. The long term effects are not something we can predict.

  • dhex||

    on the other hand, you don't find out until you get there, one way or the other.

  • ||

    "We should proceed very slowly..."

    Says someone without a life threatening disease.

    "...fundamental nature of man"

    Definition please.

  • ||

    This is why Hitchens can't quit smoking! It
    can go so much further to benefit us all.
    E.g., isolating the sequence that causes the
    human brain the crenulate efficiently, which
    could raise intelligence among all animals;
    isolating CF and sickle cell genes and eliminating them while preserving the child; and, of course, the signal that auto-corrects mitosis (i.e. the cure for cancer). Church is boring!

  • Mad Max||

    "Says someone without a life threatening disease."

    I would agree that, if I had a debilitating illness, and some scientist promised to cure or mitigate my condition at the expense of killing some human being I didn't even know, the temptation to say "go ahead" would be very great.

    Maybe I'd try and think up some rationalization to justify the proposed course of action. Best of all would to say that the victim "isn't really human." For instance, if the scientist promises to cure me by giving me a heart transplant, the heart in question being forcibly extracted from a member of a racial, religious or political group other than my own, I could say, "it's OK because only my own racial/religious/whatever group is fully human, and other human beings exist to serve us and have their organs harvested." Similarly if the victim would be at an earlier stage of human development than my own (eg, an embryo).

    I would like to think that, God willing, I would be able to overcome a temptation like that, but what do I know, I don't have a deadly disease.

  • TallDave||

    You make it sound like islam is not a choice, maybe in a few places it's not. But the majority of Muslims are not "sentenced". I call shananigans on that hundreds of millions number.

    Islam isn't really the point; around 1300 AD some of the finest science was being done by Muslims. The problem is the illiberal attitude of many current Islamic leaders.

    In Saudi Arabia, some enlightened Muslims have realized how ridiculous it is to assert all knowledge comes from Muhammed and the Koran (or must comply with them), just as some enlightened Christians once realized the Bible wasn't an infallible source. These rational-minded followers of Muhammad are proposing to build a university which will explicitly fall outside Islamic jurisdiction, so studies can be carried out absent review of whether Muhammad would approve of the subject matter.

    Islam is going to have its Enlightenment. We in the West need to encourage it, though.

  • ||

    Athiesm ≠ Communism
    Christianity = Christianity


    So, Christian libertarians get thrown in the same bucket with Christian totalitarians -- but atheist libertarians don't get thrown in the same bucket with atheist totalitarians? Nice double standard.

  • ||

    "It is true that the proposed human animal cybrids would contain mostly human genes"

    Oh, that's ok then!

  • ||

    "Finally, any genetic manipulations that aim to create human beings with diminished mental and physical capacities must be fiercely and relentlessly opposed."

    Now aren't you committing the sin of attempting to block important scientific research? Why should we follow your antiquated moral precepts?

  • ||

    """"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. If you're slapped on one cheek, turn the other. If someone asks you for your coat, give him your shirt as well. Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers...""""

    It's funny how, during our time of war, I can't find many Christians that believe Jesus was this kind of man. In my many conversations with Christians over the last 4 years or so, almost all of them have said Jesus is a man of war, and point me to some passages about the last days when Jesus will lead his followers to victory. You can imagine the blank looks I got when I commented that those victorious in war are not meek, and if Jesus does not lead the meek, then who inherits the earth?

  • ||

    It is very telling that all discussion centers on defining morals in light of perceived "truth", each "educated" opinion reflective of nothing more than the degree of light given at this particular point in space and time. Ah, yes, the freedom, the exhilarating omnipotence, of defining good and evil for ourselves - from an eternal perspective, of course. I suppose that makes us all self-proclaimed popes in this day and age, no?

    Tell me, does it not take reason AND faith to switch on a light?

  • Athletic Shoes||

    very good

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    is good

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