One does not have to spend much time listening to the news of late to hear how our politicians will “follow the science.” Of course, this translates to “follow the science that promotes our agenda…”
Full disclosure, I am a chemist. I believe in the marvels and wonderment of science. I do not, however, have a “faith in science.” I remain skeptical of it – which is what a scientist is trained to do. We are to challenge science until it becomes a “Law.” That is, the “Law of Gravity,” not the agenda of global warming. I do believe with Pope Benedict (Caritas in Veritate) and Pope Francis (Laudato si) that we should be taking better care of God’s creation.
Science cannot be a “faith” for it has no “truth” to center such a faith. A true faith cannot move with the whims of the person. Such whims are open to the influence of money, power, and greed. They are corrupted by ambition, false gods and yes, even the Evil One himself. Evidence of the Enemy abounds. Simply look for “the Accuser…”
We have been asked to “follow the science” during the Covid-19 pandemic, yet few have challenged the models. This bad science cost humanity billions in wasted resources. Professor Yaneer reminds us “If you want to use science for policy, you have to check the assumptions. In this case (COVID-19), it is imperative to check the assumptions. It’s a responsibility.” (Forbes, 7 May 2020) While this would be good science, this notion of skepticism leads to poor viewing for what passes as “news” these days.
Don’t get me wrong – the coronavirus is serious and momentous steps need to be made to minimize the pandemic. However, we must challenge why, after spending millions, only 29 beds were needed in McCormick Place. Mandating that Churches in Chicago cannot use air conditioning while it is being used in Walmart and grocery stores is not the path to freedom.
The pandemic should wake us up to all the false notions of scientism. The coronavirus may have been produced in a lab. Was such an experiment worth the global risk? Recently, it was reported that a gene-editing experiment went seriously wrong on human embryos. To be clear, the Church never supports the unborn being “sacrificed on the altar of scientific research.” (National Catholic Bioethics Center, Catholic News Agency, 27Jun 2020)
OneZero, a publication on science and technology, reported that scientists in the United Kingdom recently conducted an experiment where they deleted a gene from human embryos using the CRISPR technique. CRISPR is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” The technique allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. In doing so, scientists hope to someday correct genetic defects, treat and prevent the spread of diseases and improving crop yields. However, along with this promise comes an array of ethical issues.
The Church is not against using gene therapy as a treatment. It is opposed to the use of unborn embryos in research. In the recently released Directory for Catechesis, there are new sections on bioethics. This Catechesis reminds us that: “bioethical questions challenge catechesis and its formative function…. Scientific research and its applications are not morally neutral, and that the morality of an action cannot be based on “technical efficiency alone, from utility or from dominant ideologies… With genetic experimentation and the risk of it leading to eugenic practices, stating that it is important to distinguish the difference carefully between therapeutic intervention and manipulation.” (Scanlon, CNA, 27 June 2020)
The danger in the recent UK experiment was that the scientists realized the edited embryos also contained significant unintended edits that could lead to birth defects or other major medical issues later in life. Because of this, the embryos were destroyed. Biology Professor Fyodor Urnov at the University of California, Berkeley, told OneZero: “This is a restraining order for all genome editors to stay the living daylights away from embryo editing… It’s really terrible, what they’re talking about, because gene editing for embryos, because it’s germline changes, meaning that if these children survive, their children, this will be passed on, it’s like changing the biology of the human being, the DNA of human beings,”
Dr. Joseph Meaney of the National Catholic Bioethics Center reminded us of why the UK experiment went wrong when he noted that “science, as it emerges into new areas, makes a lot of mistakes.”
There are ethical ways to do these experiments. We have to continuously remind others that just because the goal is good, the outcome does not justify the path taken to get there. In the case of human testing, some mistakes can never be accepted. The dignity of all human life must be always be safeguarded. In gene testing, some fear we are getting into regions of science that we know too little about in order to effectively manage the dangers. Our faith in science cannot put the human genome at risk. What used to be “science fiction” is, in some regards, becoming a reality today.
The creation of Chimeras, mixing human and animal cells where each population of cells keeps its own character and the resulting organism is a mixture of tissues, is creating new ethical discussions in “moral beings.” In other words, at what point do we consider these “creations” to be “human” in regard to ethics? That is, what if they can develop the ability to reason like humans?
The question has gone past whether these experiments are wrong or not. As evidenced in the UK experiment, that line is routinely crossed. In our society, the line for respecting life is routinely crossed for the convenience of abortion. With the “ethics” of science remaining unchecked by our false beliefs in scientism, it is only a matter of time before chimeras go too far and genetic mistakes go to term.
Pope Benedict, during the World Day of Peace celebration in 2010, reminded us that “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.” Lord, forgive us for not protecting your creation. We have not defended human dignity in the environment, in our culture, in the womb and until the tomb. This pandemic has reminded many of us of our neglected values. We need to spend time discerning this and, take this time to challenge the views of scientism as well.